Welcome to Week Three of State of the Farm. Fun fact: the little ball of hair pictured above is a civet, an animal whose stool is essential in the production of the incredibly expensive Kopi Luwak coffee. I would love to dive deeper into how a cat-like animal’s poop is related to your morning beverage of choice, but I’d really rather talk about baseball prospects for now.
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 10-8, second in Pacific Northern Division, Pacific Coast League
Team Hitting: .239/.328/.366, 3rd-lowest OPS in PCL
Team Pitching: 8.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.47 ERA. 3rd-best ERA in PCL
The Rainiers have been visiting the hitter-friendly parks this past week and have experienced up and down results. They dropped the opening two games in El Paso, but big offensive performances helped them to a series split in the four-game set.
- LHP Dillon Overton had a rough first start with the Rainiers, surrendering five earned runs on six hits over 2.1 innings in Thursday’s 6-5 win over El Paso. Overton gave up multiple home runs, one to Jamie Romak and another to Dusty Coleman. He’s a fly ball pitcher and El Paso is a lot like batting in a large Anti-Gravity Machine, so interpret it as you will.
- LHP Dean Kiekhefer continued his scoreless streak, running his season total up to 5.1 innings over 7 appearances. He hasn’t been overwhelming hitters or anything, his xFIP currently sits at 4.58, but he’s been fantastic at his main job: getting lefties out. He’s walked three, but is yet to surrender a base hit to a lefty.
- RHP Dan Altavilla made his Tacoma debut last night, allowing two runs on four hits in one inning.
- Speaking of scoreless streaks, RHP Ryne Harper had also turned in a clean start to the season, spinning 6.1 innings of his own before finally giving up a run on Monday night. During the streak, he struck out ten while walking five and surrendering three hits.
- Several hitters in the Rainiers’ lineup are in the midst of a brutal early season slump. Top prospect Tyler O’Neill is slashing .208/.266/417 while running a 27.4% K-rate. Dario Pizzano is rocking an 11 wRC+. Zach Shank is at .190/.300/.310 but has shown signs of life in recent days. Boog Powell was slugging .225 before a 4-for-5 performance on Monday night.
- It’s not all bad, however. Gordon Beckham has come alive, putting up a 205 wRC+ over the last week, hitting three home runs over that 25 plate-appearance stretch.
- Other hitters holding their ground include OF Ben Gamel–who has been the steadiest presence in the lineup this year (121 wRC+, reached base in all but one game)–and SS Tyler Smith (.311/.373/.393).
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record: 8-9, second in North Division, Texas League
Team Hitting: .256/.326/.335, lowest OPS in Texas League
Team Pitching: 8.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 3.52 ERA, lowest ERA in Texas League
So-so week for the Travelers, who went 3-3 over the last seven days. Rehab assignments for RHP Steve Cishek and SS Jean Segura highlighted their week.
- RHP Andrew Moore had his first ‘rough’ outing of the season, getting tagged for three runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings. It honestly wasn’t a very bad start and Moore’s numbers for the season are still hilariously good. Perhaps the most impressive aspect has been the jump of his strikeout rate up to 8.76 K/9, the highest it’s been since he was with the Everett AquaSox.
- RHP Max Povse also had a ‘rough’ outing on Tuesday, surrendering four runs in six innings. The standards have been set very high for the two pitchers.
- RHP Thyago Vieira is putting up one of the odder starts to a season you’ll see. In all of his outings, he’s been either lights out or a mess, with not much of a medium to be found. He has a 15.43 K/9 and an ERA of 10.29 (3.26 xFIP). It has been a wild ride.
- LHP Zac Curtis was the last man standing on the team with a 0.00 ERA before surrendering three earned runs last night. During his scoreless stretch, he surrendered just five baserunners in 6.1 innings, striking out six and running a 3.80 xFIP along the way.
- RHP Peter Tago has been arguably the most dominant reliever thus far. He has nine strikeouts in 5.2 IP and his 2.49 FIP is the second-lowest on the team (Ryan Horstman is at 2.14). The 24-year-old with a mid-90s fastball and big slider has a chance to put together a big year if he can keep command issues under control.
- The offense continues to largely be carried by CF Ian Miller (.356/.373/.443), C Tyler Marlette (.317/.378/.439) and OF Kyle Waldrop (.286/.379/.518). The trio has received some help in the form of OF Chuck Taylor, however. In his nine games since arriving from Extended Spring, Taylor has slashed .300/.462/.600 with a home run and a stolen base.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record: 11-7, first in North Division, California League
Team Hitting: .262/.338/.391, third-best OPS in California League
Team Pitching: 8.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 3.91 ERA, second-lowest walk total in California League
Unless some guys in Tacoma turn things around soon, it looks like Modesto is going to be the affiliate-to-watch in the first half of the season. They have multiple intriguing pitching prospects (of various levels, obviously) in Nick Neidert, Pablo Lopez, and Joe Pistorese and the bats have caught extraordinary levels of fire.
- RHP Pablo Lopez finally found his footing in the California League on Sunday. After slouching through three rough starts, Lopez hurled a beauty, surrendering just three hits and one run over six innings. It’s something to build off for one of the bigger sleeper prospects in the system.
- OF Eric Filia is alive! After getting BABIP’d to death the first couple weeks of the season, Filia exploded, slashing .375/.400/.542 over the last week. His strikeout rate is still astronomically low at just 7.4%.
- INF Joe DeCarlo is back with the team. He went 2-for-5 with a home run in his first game of the season.
- OF Braden Bishop just won’t stop. We’re closing in on 100 plate appearances for him this season and he’s still running a 174 wRC+ and absurdly impressive walk and strikeout-rates. It’s the California League, sure, but it’s the first sign of life Bishop has shown with the bat since college, and that’s pretty neat.
- The Nuts’ biggest weapon out of the bullpen so far has been Joe Pistorese, a lefty out of Wazzu. In 9.1 innings, the converted starter has struck out eleven and walked only two. His fastball-curveball combination is legit.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record: 8-10, 5th in Western Division, Midwest League
Team Hitting: .235/.300/.354, fifth-lowest OPS in Midwest League
Team Pitching: 8.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 3.85 ERA, fourth-lowest walk total in Midwest League
It’s been a rough stretch for the LumberKings, who’ve gone 2-5 over the last week. They received a bit of a boost in the form of Nick Zammarelli and Joe Rizzo (more on that later), but it’s still a team that is struggling to get the arms and the bats on the same page consistently.
- Nick Zammarelli provided an instant boost after arriving from Extended Spring Training, going 2-for-4 with a home run in his first game back. He went 1-for-5 with 2 RBI in his second contest. In both games, he’s played first base.
- Joe Rizzo has slotted in as the third baseman for the LumberKings since being called up. So far, he is 5-for-8 with a double. He got out to a bit of rocky start with the glove, committing two errors in his first game back.
- Multiple regulars have struggled at the plate for Clinton. Luis Liberato, Kristian Brito, and Rayder Ascanio have all flirted with the Mendoza Line early on, and the team as a whole ranks near the bottom in several offensive categories.
- RHP Ljay Newsome continued his excellence on the mound, twirling 6.1 innings of one-run ball on Saturday. He’s currently sporting a 2.93 xFIP, 9.43 K/9. and 0.43 BB/9.
- A whole bunch of LumberKings pitchers appear to be due for some positive vibes fairly soon. Be it awful defense or just plain bad luck, multiple guys have ERAs drastically higher than their FIPs.
- LHP Matt Clancy, a St. John’s product, showed an impressive ability to miss bats in Everett last year and that has very much carried over into 2017. Through eight innings, Clancy has struck out 11 and walked just two.
- INF Conner Hale – released. Hale was a 9th-round pick out of Louisiana State University in 2015. His bat was well-regarded coming out of college, but he never managed to put it together in professional ball. Hale spent all of 2016 and the first couple weeks of 2017 with the Clinton LumberKings.
- RHP Rohn Pierce – released. The 19th-round pick in 2014 made it up to Advanced-A ball, but the results were never stellar.
- INFs Nick Zammarelli and Joe Rizzo – transferred to Class-A Clinton from Extended Spring Training. Rizzo is one of the top hitting prospects in the system and Zammarelli impressed after coming over from Elon in the 8th-round of last year’s draft.
- INF Nelson Ward – signed, assigned to Double-A Arkansas. Ward was drafted by the Mariners in 2014, but was sent to San Diego in last year’s Joaquin Benoit trade. He has struggled to perform against Double-A pitching.