To distract myself from thinking about the major league team (because really, who wants to do that right now?) I thought I'd have a look around the minor league system for interesting performances. And by interesting I mostly mean good - I'm going for relentlessly positive here, though I'm sure my natural depressive streak will interfere at times.
Warning: this is all stat-based, so don't expect any information on who's added a new pitch or reworked their swing - maybe Rick will come by at some point and fill us in. Also, small sample size warnings apply to practically everything.
Nick Franklin was killing the PCL, but he's been promoted and contracted the infectious case of not hitting that's going round the Mariners. Ji-man Choi was at least maiming the PCL, but then a steroid mysteriously entered his system and now he's suspended. That leaves Chris Taylor as the most interesting hitting performance with his .364/.400/.636 line. So far 50% of his hits have gone for extra bases, which explains why his ISO is three times higher than it was in AA. He probably can't keep that up, or the .400 BABIP, but it's fun while it lasts. The more sustainable good news is that his contact rate has jumped from 75% in Jackson to 85% in Tacoma, which shows up in his reduced strikeout rate. His walk rate has been cut in half, but I'll start worrying about that when he's not slugging .636. Cole Gillespie, meanwhile, thinks a sub-.700 SLG is for wusses.
On the pitching side, Anthony Fernandez has turned from a decent control/mediocre stuff pitcher in AA to a wild strikeout machine. He's struck out 25 hitters in 20 innings, but he's also walked twelve in that time. His contact rates and swinging strikeouts are quite similar to his 2012 stint in Jackson, but hitters are swinging a lot less often and he's picking up called strikeouts as a result. The worrying thing is he's getting hit hard, with a 34% line drive rate, a .385 BABIP and three homers so far. That makes me wonder if hitters are being patient because they think there's a good chance they'll get a fat pitch and are accepting the called strikes as the cost.
The star of the hitting show in Jackson is Jabari Blash, with a line of .254/.442/.524. You don't see triple-slash lines with nearly 200 points of isolated patience very often, but that's what happens when you have a strikeout rate of 21% and still walk more than you strike out. He's not hitting homers at quite the rate he did last year in AA, but as we're in the coldest part of the season I think I'll forgive him that. His contact rate is scarily low at 70% (which is still a major improvement over last year); he's got the power and patience to compensate but if it drops as he climbs the ladder it could be a major problem.
The other hitting prospect putting up good numbers in Jackson is the one I didn't expect to be there: Ketel Marte. He's hitting for contact as you might expect, with a strikeout rate that's almost unchanged from last year despite starting two levels higher. He's not hitting for any power, which again is as you'd expect, but he has doubled his walk rate from last year. He even got his first professional intentional walk, which must have been nice. You do have to expect his numbers to come down a lot though, as neither his 30% LD rate or the resulting .431 BABIP are likely sustainable. Still, he's a 20-year-old shortstop who's holding his own in AA when I was worried he was going to hit like Gabriel Noriega.
Mayckol Guiape, Jordan Pries, Stephen Kohlscheen and some guy named Walker have all put up good numbers in Jackson, but they all pale in comparison to Stephen Landazuri. He had a good first start, with 4K and 1BB in 6 IP, but since then he's struck out 26 and walked two in 17 innings for an overall line of 20 IP, 30 K, 3 BB, 12 H, 2 HR, 5 ER and a 1.96 ERA. And unlike Anthony Fernandez the extra strikeouts are mostly of the swinging variety, backed up by a 71% contact rate. I should probably also mention the 50% groundball rate. I don't know if this is a small-sample-size fluke, a real change in skill, a devastating new pitch or just the sheer joy of getting out of High Desert, but he was one of my favourite lesser prospects coming into this year so I hope it continues.
Speaking of High Desert, they have the usual collection of .900+ OPS batting lines, but only one over 1.000: Patrick Kivlehan. I thought the playing time clash between him and D.J. Peterson would be resolved when Peterson was promoted, but right now Kivlehan looks the better candidate. His strikeout rate has dropped by a third from last year's A+ stint, he's hitting a homer once every 13 PAs, and his four-figure OPS doesn't even have the benefit of a high BABIP.
Tyler Marlette got off to a bit of a slow start, and because he's sharing time with Steve Baron (why??) his samples are even smaller than everyone else's. Going 5/9 with two homers in his last two games helped, and he's now one of the .900+ OPS club. He also has one fewer error than Baron in three more games, so take that Mr Defensive Catcher!
This being High Desert it's hard to combine talking about the pitching with my aim of relentless optimism. Um, Tyler Pike has a low ERA to go with his horrendous walk rate? Jochi Ogando had a couple of nice starts before being promoted to AA? Some of the relievers have good numbers, but I find it hard to get excited about low minors relievers who've thrown half a dozen innings.
Marcus Littlewood has had a disappointing career so far, but he started to hit better towards the end of last year and he's turned it up a notch this year. He's cut his strikeout rate in half and he's already two thirds of the way to last year's home run total in 20% of the PAs, all of which results in a better OPS than anyone on the High Desert team right now. He does have a .417 BABIP that's not really backed up by his batted ball numbers, but if he keeps up the power and plate discipline he'll look too good for Low A even with a more normal BABIP. There's a bit of a logjam ahead of him with Marlette in High Desert and Hicks in Jackson, so I'm not sure what'll happen at that point.
Edwin Diaz has been striking people out (surprise!) and has a very nice 1.42 ERA, though he's also been a bit wild with eight walks and two hit batters in nineteen innings. He's had some good support from Carlos Misell and Jake Zokan too: the two of them have combined for 30.2 innings in six starts with 26 strikeouts, just five walks, one homer and a combined ERA of 2.05.