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July 22, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of Monday, July 21

by Jeff Moore

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Hitter of the Night: Rock Shoulders, LF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-2, 2 R, HR, 2 BB.
Shoulders has struggled in the Florida State League this season against pitchers with a more advanced plan to attack the holes in his swing. Still, the power is very much intact, and his home run on Monday got out of the park before Shoulders had even left the batter’s box. He’s patient and looks for his pitch to hit, but he can be exploited on the inner half and struggles with decent breaking stuff once he’s behind in the count. He’s also not a left fielder, though he’s playing there some of the time. A massively built human being with some of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen, Shoulders will have to make adjustments quickly to continue to get at-bats in a stacked Cubs farm system, but his power potential remains enticing.

Pitcher of the Night: Taylor Cole, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 12 K.
Maybe this will be the start that gets Cole out of the Florida State League. At 24, he’s old for his level, but his strikeout numbers have spiked this season to almost double his career norms. He’s also throwing a ton more strikes. He doesn’t have a power fastball or overpowering secondary stuff, so his strikeout totals may be a bit of an aberration, but he’s kept them up all season, so there’s something there. It’s time to find out if he can carry it over at the next step.

Best of the Rest

Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 3-4, R, HR, BB. Nunez continues to put up impressive power numbers, only part of which can be credited to the California League. He’s a legitimate power hitter and has improved his control of the strike zone. His defensive home remains up in the air, but if he hits for this kind of power, he’ll be adequate as a first baseman. Within the A’s system, the jump from Stockton to Midland tends to be even tougher on power hitters than the jump to Double-A is for most players, so it will be a good test when Nunez finally gets the call.

Lucas Sims, RHP, Braves (Lynchburg, A+): 7 IP, 6 H, R (0 ER), 2 BB, 9 K. Sims has had a disappointing season, failing to miss bats at anywhere near his career norms for the majority of the year. He improved that on Monday, though our own C.J. Wittmann, who was in attendance, pointed out that he got a ton of help from opposing hitters. He also noted that Sims’ stuff is good despite mechanical issues, that his curveball was good but inconsistent, and that his secondary pitches are ahead of his fastball command.

Taylor Williams, RHP, Brewers (Wisconsin, A-): 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, R, 2 BB, 9 K. Williams is having a strong showing in his first full season, striking out almost a batter per inning. He’s undersized and old for a Low-A prospect, but an arm with a plan works against lower-level hitters.

Aaron Blair, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, A-): 6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K. Blair has given up his runs this year, but the Diamondbacks have looked past that and seen the strikes thrown and the bats missed as they’ve continued to promote him aggressively. He rewarded their faith with a stellar Double-A debut and continues to progress toward a future as an innings-eating mid-rotation starter.

Reese McGuire, C, Pirates (West Virginia, A-): 3-5, R, 2B. It’s going to be tempting to knock McGuire this off-season for what appear to be disappointing numbers in his first full season, but let’s appreciate for a second the difficulty of developing young catchers and the responsibility they have to take on behind the plate. McGuire isn’t hitting for much power, but that may never be a strength of his. It’s the glove that is going to carry him, and there are no questions about that or his leadership or handling of a pitching staff. The bat will come around, and while he’s not showing a ton of hard contact just yet, he’s still just 19 and is still growing into his body. It’s not the breakout season that some had anticipated, but there is little luster lost off of his prospect status based on this season alone.

Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Royals (Wilmington, A+): 3 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. Finnegan is still working back into game shape after time off between the end of his college season and the start of his pro career, but he has yet to allow a run now in three appearances, with this start marking his longest outing. Our man Witt had the outing covered.

Peter O’Brien, C, Yankees (Trenton, AA): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, K. O’Brien is already 24, isn’t likely to stay behind the plate, and does not control the strike zone well, keeping his on-base percentage low and his batting average lower, but 29 home runs at this point in the season are difficult to ignore.

Fight Another Day

Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Astros (Oklahoma City, AAA): 4 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 3 K. A rough season in the Pacific Coast League got even rougher on Monday as Foltynewicz saw his ERA climb over the 5.00 mark. For a player who touches 100 mph, Folty misses his share of bats but not an exceptional amount. His command is still not where it needs to be as a starter and his secondary stuff still lags well behind despite a long track record in the minors. If we’re not seeing more strikes at this point, it’s probably not going to happen, and it’s probably time for the shift to the bullpen that many felt was inevitable anyway.

Dylan Covey, RHP, Athletics (Beloit, A-): 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, BB, 7 K. A repeat of the Midwest League hasn’t gone as planned for Covey, who was expected to move more quickly than this after spending time in college. The former first-rounder (by the Brewers, not the A’s) doesn’t have a power arsenal or miss a ton of bats, but his stuff suggests that he should be more effective than he has been in full-season ball thus far as a professional.

Notable Pitching Performances

  • Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers (Albuquerque, AAA): 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K.
  • Edwin Escobar, LHP, Giants (Fresno, AAA): 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.
  • Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 5 2/3 IP, 8 H, 3 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 3 K.
  • Marcos Molina, RHP, Mets (Brooklyn, SS): 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, BB, 8 K.
  • Christian Binford, RHP, Royals (Northwest Arkansas, AA): 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R (1 ER), BB, 7 K.
  • Rafael de Paula, RHP, Yankees (Tampa, A+): 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, R, 3 BB, 7 K.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Minor Leagues

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