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4/28 Minor League Wrap-Up (And More!)

Thank you, Opera:  I had written a lengthy introduction on the post screen, and a slip of my left ring finger suddenly closed my browser.  And now I get to start over.  So, a shorter intro:

Along with the wrap-up, I'm gonna take a look at where the org's teams stand statistically relative to their respective leagues.

So anyway, High Desert blows up on San Jose pitching in the later innings... Anthony Butler's wildness finally bites him against Fort Wayne... Robert Rohrbaugh shuts down Chattanooga and the bullpen nearly coughs it up... and Tacoma opened up a bucket of whoop ass on the 51's, because a can just wasn't enough.

A:  High Desert 6, San Jose 4

Paul Fagan:  6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 walks, 7 K
Juan Zapata:  1.1 IP, 2 K
Austin Bibens-Dirkx:  1 IP, 2 H, (2 R) 1 ER (HR)
Casey Craig:  2-5, R, K (.277)
Michael Saunders:  1-5, R, RBI, 2 K (.244)
Jesus Guzman:  1-4, R, walk, K (.311)
Johan Limonta:  2-4, double, R, K (.319)
Jeff Dominguez:  1-3, 2 RBI (.293)
Travis Scott:  0-4, 3 K
Jeff Flaig:  2-4, R (.186)
Chris Colton:  2-3, double, R, walk (.264)

The little Giants popped in two runs in the 1st off Paul Fagan, but Fagan held court the rest of the way until High Desert finally answered in the 6th.  Jesus Guzman drew a one out walk, then after a Reed Eastley flyout, Johan Limonta doubled the slowpoke to 3rd.  Jeff Dominguez grounded to the right side and it found the hole to score both runners, and we were tied!  Travis Scott watched one of his 3 K's but that's neither here nor there.

The little Giants sent Anthony Moreno in to pitch the top 7th after Jeff Flaig led off with a single down the middle.  Chris Colton's grounder found a hole into RF to put runners at 1st and 2nd.  Casey Craig bunted to the pitcher, who couldn't get Craig in time and the bases were loaded, no outs.  Michael Saunders roped a single to left to score Flaig and Colton, 4-2 Mavs, Saunders and Craig taking another base after LF James Simmons misplayed the ball.

Jesus Guzman grounded to 3rd but 3B David Maroul couldn't get a hand on it in time and Craig scored as his late throw went YIKES AND AWAY.  5-2 Mavs.  Saunders took 3rd and runners were on the corners... no outs.  Reed Eastley showed mercy and flew out to left, but Saunders tagged up and scored, as Guzman tagged up and hauled himself to 2nd.  6-2.  Moreno finally got Limonta and Dominguez, but a disastrous inning for San Jose, that they could not recover from, even after battering closer Austin Bibens-Dirks with a leadoff homer and another run in the 9th.

Also, I think we can cool off on the whole Travis Scott For Catcher thing, as after a hot start in his return, he has considerably cooled, as evidenced by his narrowly missing the Golden Sombrero.

Looking at the Cal League stats, the Mavs, holding the 2nd worst record in the league, are in the middle of the pack on just about every stat despite playing in that bandbox of theirs, attributable to the slow starts of some of their regulars (who are now starting to turn around).  Michael Saunders' early propensity for walks inflated this hacking squad's OBP just a bit.  Meanwhile, their fine 5.11 ERA (4.76 FIP) is 2nd to last (to Bakersfield's atrocious 6.59), in a league where the median ERA is in the low 4's, thanks to being tied for the most HRs allowed on the year, and their K:BB of 2.41 (181/75) in league where the average K:BB is around 2.0 indicates it's not necessarily poor pitching, so clearly, the home park has affected the pitching.

A:  Fort Wayne 9, Wisconsin 3

Anthony Butler:  2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER (HR), 3 walks, K, 5 more outs than Jeff Weaver
Natividad Dilone:  3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 walks, 4 K
Steve Uhlmansiek:  2 IP, 1 H, 2 K
Justin Souza:  1 IP, 1 H
Joseph Kantakevich:  1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, walk
Greg Halman:  2-5, K (.250)
Kalian Sams:  2-4, double, triple (!), 2 R (.286... heating up!)
Leury Bonilla:  1-2, double, 2 RBI, 2 walks (.326)
Jair Fernandez:  1-2, left game one batter into top 6th for unspecified reasons (injury?)
Carlos Triunfel:  Did not play.

No analysis of the T-Rats Midwest League situation, as they had several games snowed out and are still shaking things out statistically.

Speaking of getting snowed, Anthony Butler was his usual wild self, and the Wizards absolutely hammered anything over the plate, for 5 runs in the top 2nd.  Butler got a quick hook, and despite Fort Wayne squeezing another run out of an erratic Natividad Dilone (a walk and wild pitch facilitated two singles for another run), the T-Rats bullpen clamped down and slowly clawed back into the ballgame.

But down 6-3 in the top 9th, after Justin Souza threw a good inning for a change, Joseph Kantakevich came in and did his Bad Souza impression, giving up in order: Texas Leaguer, single, wild pitch, lined single, well hit fly out, wild pitch, well hit sac fly, before finally getting the next two batters on groundouts, three runs too late.  What was a potential 9th inning rally situation became a wash in a 9-3 deficit, and despite a couple of hits and some bad fortune for pitcher Rolando Valdez (who also balked and hit a batter), they went quietly.

AA:  West Tenn 3, Chattanooga 2

Robert Rohrbaugh:  6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 walks, 8 K
Juan Sandoval:  1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER (HR), walk
Michael Wagner:  0.2 IP
Craig James:  0.2 IP
T.Marshall Hubbard:  2-4, solo HR, R, 2 RBI, K (.276)
Matt Tuiasosopo:  1-3, R, walk (.358)
Rene Rivera:  0-4, only hitter that did not get a hit (.226)

Except for Rene Rivera, the entire lineup managed a hit, but only Marshall Hubbard had more than one, as they slowly but surely ran up 3 runs on Camilo Vazquez over his 5 innings.  Meanwhile, Robert Rohrbaugh shut down the Lookouts over 6 innings, though the overworked Juan Sandoval, after a scoreless 7th, nearly gave away the lead in the 8th.  Thankfully, Michael Wagner came in and got the last out in the 8th with the lead 3-2.  The inexperienced back-end scrub got one out before ceding to closer Craig James, who got the last two outs without incident to seal the win.

Looking at the stats, West Tenn's .228 team average has them among the Southern League's worst: only Huntsville's .226 is worse.  The DIAMOND JAXX'S 94 walks, however, is the league's best total, and the resulting .317 is league average (literally, there are only 25 points separating Mobile's .336 OBP (2nd in the league) from Chattanooga's .311 (dead last).  The key separator then, aside from Average's indication of hitting consistency, is slugging, and West Tenn sports an atrocious .312 SLG, good for dead last in the Southern League, where the median SLG is in the .360-.370 range.  The resulting .629 OPS is also dead last, by far.  In a league not know for its offense, the DIAMOND JAXX need to do much better than that, not just if they want to stay competitive, but if they want to develop their hitting prospects.  The atrocious numbers are WITH the efforts of Tui, Marshall Hubbard, Brent Johnson's empty 271/338/357, etc.

It'd be easy to pin all of this on Rene Rivera since he's a giant black hole of suck, but it's not all his fault.  Jeff Frazier, an offseason throw-in, has been even more disappointing than he was with his past org, having done absolutely nothing in 87 ABs in AA (184/250/218).  The supposedly big bat of Ron Prettyman has been mostly impotent despite a good eye: 250/368/281, as he has clearly hit a wall at the AA level.  Ditto Luis Valbuena, whose 177/253/316 shows a lost single A caliber bat hitting the wall at AA.  And need we go into detail about Michael Wilson, whose numbers would be printed here if they didn't turn you into stone upon making eye contact?  Notice that he's been disappeared from the lineup.  His replacement, Prentice Redman, hasn't been much better despite flashes of quality (182/308/182).  Sebastien Boucher has also failed despite drawing a team leading 14 walks in 101 PAs (172/291/195).

There are some signs of hope.  Chris Minaker's 235/278/306 isn't good enough even at shortstop, but a hot early bat from the returning SS Alex Meneses shows signs of hope.  Marshall Hubbard has not been part of the problem for sure (276/360/402).  Luis Oliveros has shown a capable bat when spelling Rene Rivera: perhaps swapping the backup-incumbent roles at catcher or at least splitting time between the two more evenly could help out a terrible offense.

And the obvious diamond in this pile of trash, to paraphrase Emmitt Smith, is the big bat of Tui (358/449/494), clearly not a flash in the pan given his consistency (lots of 1-3 and 1-4 games surrounding those big performances, rarely wearing the collar) and status as the only real threat in the lineup: he is pounding the ball despite teams pitching around him.  You have to wonder if maybe leaving him in AA for the year would actually be a good experience for him, in terms of being a lineup leader, opposing pitchers bullseyeing your name in the lineup and pitching to you accordingly.  The tougher it is on Tui, and the more he succeeds despite it, the better it will be for his development as a hitting prospect.

AAA:  Tacoma 15, Las Vegas 1

Jorge Campillo:  5 IP, 5 H, (1 R) 0 ER, 4 walks, 5 K
Renee Cortez:  2 IP, 1 H, walk, K
Brad Thomas:  1 IP, 1 H, 1 K
Jason Mackintosh:  1 IP, K.  Is his callup for real?
Jeremy Reed:  2-5, 2 doubles, 3 R, walk, K (.259)
WLAD:  3-4, 2 doubles, 3 R, 3 RBI, walk, K (.378).  WLAD is a monster in 2007.
Mike Morse:  3-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, K (.313)
Jeff Clement:  3-5, double, GRAND SALAMI HR, 2 R, 6 RBI (.225)
Jon Nelson:  2-5, 2 doubles, R, 2 RBI, 2 K (.296)
Rob Johnson (DH):  0-5 (.230)  UH OHS, Rob, Jeff's coming to get you!

Eight extra base hits.  Seven runs before the end of the 3rd.  Five more in the 7th.  Looks like Eric Stults won't get called up anytime soon: 2.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 walks, K.  Positively Weaverlike, except he recorded outs.

Answering doubts about his ability at the AAA level, the big star of the day was Jeff Clement, who absolutely blew up like a warhead on 51's pitching for 3 hits, a double, and a grand salami for the hell of it in the 7th.  Suddenly, he goes from being the dubious 2nd fiddle to Rob Johnson in their catching platoon, to at worst being on par with the veterna prospect, if not on a higher level.  Sure, he still needs to come out and do it again tomorrow, but Jeff Clement took a huge step back to PCL relevance last night.

Oh yeah, and others obviously teed off on Vegas pitching, including WLAD who had another big night with 3 hits, 2 of them doubles, and drove in three runs to up his average to a measly .378.  I think this kid needs more seasoning :P  Jon Nelson hit a cold stretch but is now turning his hot/cold bat back on with two doubles and a couple RBI last night, getting back up to .296.

Mike Morse also had three hits, and the lost story in Tacoma is that he's been a solid, capable bat.  Unlike LaHair, who's been inconsistent (and was ONLY 1 for 3 last night), and Clement, who needs to prove more, or Jeremy Reed, who also had a good night with 2 doubles but has struggled... Mike Morse is showing that he can still provide a competent bat if the Mariners decide to call someone up.  Morse's 2005 callup was dubious back then, but he is slowly cementing his status as a capable AAAA bat, solid in a AAA lineup and a useful bat off the bench in the bigs.

Unlike in the big leagues, where a blowout means to let the starter go as long as possible and give the bullpen some much needed rest... in the minors, a blowout means you give the starter a minimally capable amount of work, and then you give some of the relievers some work as well, since everyone in theory needs the work to develop.  Campillo, a bit off with 4 walks but still effective, put in his 5 innings, striking out 5 while only allowing 5 hits before ceding to the pen.  Renee Cortez gave it two scoreless innings, while Brad Thomas got a much needed shutout inning and Jason Mackintosh, called up a few days ago to spot Cha Seung Baek in the rotation, worked a perfect 9th.  Interesting to see what the Rainiers will do with Baek's spot in the rotation, now that they used Mackintosh in mop-up relief.

So now, the Rainiers' place in the PCL... the Rainiers hitting as a team is middle of the pack, leaning towards the lower half of the PCL.  Their team ERA is 6th worst in the league at 4.55 and they also allow the 2nd most walks in the league, but also strike out the 2nd most batters.

Since the hitters are doing mostly well, I'll focus this discussion on the pitching.  The ERA is primarily the fault of:

  1.  Jim Parque (6.53)
  2.  Ryan Rowland-Smith (7.90)
  3.  Jon Huber (7.43)
  4.  Brad Thomas (9.82)
... as the rest of the staff has been pretty solid.  Jorge Campillo and Ryan Feierabend have been capable, though not necessarily blow-away arms that demand to get called up.  Jorge Campillo's 20/10 K:BB in 30 innings indicates a heavy reliance on his defense, and his 2.70 ERA will inevitably rise by about a run as he continues.  Feierabend has shown an ability to strike out AAA hitters but his 3.9 BB/9 shows he has persistent control issues, and his 2.84 ERA should also jump as he continues.  Justin Lehr is in a similar boat, and with only 6 Ks/9.

Another guy whose ERA appears a bit deflated is the Rainiers very physically inflated closer, Byron Embry.  The 12 K's in 10.2 IP are good news, but the 6 walks are not.  However, most of those walks came in 2 early season appearances, and he has since straightened things out.  The Big T-Bone would warrant a callup if he were on the 40 man.  Another month of this and the Mariners, with their limited bullpen, may have little choice.  He could be the lockdown setup man the Mariners desperately need.

Now, is Jim Parque as bad as his numbers indicate?  Well, a semi-competent performance in his last start shows faint hope, but a 6.70 FIP and 4 HRs in 20.2 IP do not.  Don't be surprised if Jim Parque hangs it up after this year, if not before.  He just is not showing any sort of uncanny ability to get out top level professional hitters.

One guy who is not nearly as bad as his numbers indicate is Brad Thomas.  A 14/5 K:BB and only 1 HR allowed in 11 IP indicate a pitcher whose ERA should be in the mid 4's, not threatening 10.00.  He has had serious control issues but he can also strike batters out at a serious clip, and if he can corral his stuff, you should see a whiplashic rebound.  Given they promoted Jason Mackintosh, I wouldn't think it too out of line to send Brad Thomas to West Tennessee to sort himself out.

I'll go into some more detail on things later, as this has gotten pretty long, but there you go.