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July 8, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of Monday, July 7

by Jeff Moore

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Hitter of the Night: Peter O’Brien, C, Yankees (Trenton, AA): 2-3, 4 R, 2 HR, BB. O’Brien has split time behind the plate, at first base, and in right field since being promoted to Trenton. He has struggled to make the contact he was making in Tampa, but he’s hit for plenty of power nonetheless, which is why the Yankees continue to find opportunities to get his bat into their lineup. His right-handed power is legitimate, but his extreme 14-to-86 BB:K ratio is worrisome and has been exploited by Double-A pitching.

Pitcher of the Night: Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants (Richmond, AA): 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 10 K.
The ability to miss bats is what makes Crick so enticing and why the Giants continue to keep him as a starter, though even on his best days, needing 99 pitches to get through just five innings leaves his bullpen with a lot of outs to get.

Best of the Rest

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 3-4, 2 R, 3B, HR. He’s been aided by a hitter-friendly environment, no doubt, but Hernandez has made some notable improvements in plate discipline to go along with his loud tools and up-the-middle profile.

Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR. Nunez is beginning to become something of a regular in these parts, hitting home runs in bunches. He’s a player who probably needs an entire season at each level to continue to refine his approach, and he’s young enough (20) to warrant that, but it will be interesting to see how much of his improved production he can take with him when he eventually moves on. He wouldn’t be the first guy to see his power challenged when heading from Stockton to Midland, but Nunez’s raw power is legit, so he could survive the transition.

Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-3, 2 R, HR (Game 1); 1-4, R, HR, 2 K (Game 2). Almora has watched his batting average jump 21 points over his recent hitting streak, which reached seven games on Monday night even though he left early after fouling a ball off his leg. He’s hitting .517 over the stretch as he tries to salvage what has been a struggle of a season.

Roman Quinn, OF, Phillies (Clearwater, A+): 2-3, 2 R, 3B, K. You never know how a player will deal with something like a position change, but since moving to the outfield, Quinn has posted a .365 OBP (compared to just .317 before that). That may just be a coincidence, but at the very least, the shift hasn’t hurt Quinn’s offense, and perhaps it’s even cleared his mind to worry more about his bat than his glove.

Larry Greene, Jr., OF, Phillies (Lakewood, A-): 3-5, 3B. Greene is magnificently built and looks like he ought to be an impact talent, but a swing that fails to make any adjustments and can only hit one pitch in one location has led to a complete lack of production in his second go-round in Low-A ball.

Joey Gallo, 1B, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 2-4, R, 2B, HR, 2 K. Gallo hit his 10th home run since being promoted to Double-A, and he’s done more than hold his own at the new level despite a much more extreme strikeout rate that’s more on par with last year’s. Also, in a new twist, Gallo got a start at first base for the first time as a professional. It’s not something that should imply any long-term shift, as reports on Gallo’s defense have actually been quite good, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Jabari Henry, OF, Mariners (High Desert, A+): 4-5, R, HR, K. Henry is following up an interesting 2013 season with an impressive 2014 campaign, though most of it will get discounted because he’s not on a lot of people’s radars and because it’s coming at High Desert. Still, there’s a lot to like here with power production coming without big strikeout numbers and with plenty of walks. It’s a tough profile being in left field, but power production doesn’t go unnoticed for long.

Fight Another Night

Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Astros (Oklahoma City, AAA): 3 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 6 BB, 2 K. Perhaps disappointed about being just barely left off of our #BPTop50 yesterday, perhaps not enjoying being on the back end of the Astros piggyback system, or perhaps as a part of a larger problem (I’d go with the latter), Folty battled himself and his control more than his opponent on Monday. His walk rate remains too high, and if we’re going to dismiss players like Kyle Crick as being destined for the bullpen based on a lack of control, we have to do so with Foltynewicz as well.

Aaron Blair, RHP, Diamondbacks (Visalia, A+): 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R (4 ER), BB, 3 K. This was the second poor start in a row for Blair, who had been hitting his groove for the first time in the California League before his last two outings. Still, with a prototypical starting pitcher’s frame and arsenal, and a K:BB to kill for, he’ll be just fine.

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 4 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 6 K. Don’t read too much into Giolito’s numbers these days, as the tall right-hander has been backing off of his curveball in favor of throwing more changeups, his least-refined pitch. In the last start before this, his curveball went virtually unused, save for two-strike situations, while he leaned heavily on his changeup for development’s sake, a strategy that will pay dividends down the road but may cost him a little in the ERA department in the meantime.

Notable Prospect Starters

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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