Hitter of the Night: Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, HR.
No, one hot week doesn’t make up for six horrendous weeks, but it looks like Baez is officially out of his funk. He’s now 12-for-his-last-28 over his past seven games, and the power has returned as well, with five doubles and three home runs in that stretch. The most important indication that he’s turning things around, however, is that he has just five strikeouts over that span, and three of those came on Wednesday. For a player whose free-swinging ways are what gets him in trouble, putting the ball in play is half the battle, because when he does, he usually does it very hard.
Pitcher of the Night: Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Cardinals (Peoria, A-): 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R (0 ER), BB, 9 K.
Kaminsky’s big-time curveball has the ability to rack up strikeouts by the bunches when he’s throwing strikes, which he hasn’t done enough this year in his full-season debut.
Best of the Rest
Nick Tropeano, RHP, Astros (Oklahoma City, AAA): 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Tropeano continues to offer proof that a plus changeup can make up for a lot of other weaknesses, including a lack of premium fastball velocity. Tropeano doesn’t light up a radar gun, but there’s no better combination in the game than fastball command and a good changeup. Parents, teach your kids a changeup.
Kentrail Davis, OF, Brewers (Huntsville, AA): 4-6, 3 R, 2B, 3B, HR, CS. Yep, that’s a cycle. If Davis were more of a prospect, this would probably be our hitter of the night, but Davis loses out to Baez because he’s 25 and has essentially stalled at Double-A while waiting for his power to kick in.
Paul Blackburn, RHP, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. The Cubs need pitching help now, and Blackburn won’t help with that, but if they’re patient, they could watch him develop into a mid-rotation starter. The former supplemental first-rounder is throwing a ton more strikes this season and his sub-1.00 WHIP shows the difference.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs (Tennessee, AA): 3-3, R, 2B, 2 BB, SB. No one has ever hit over .300 with more than 190 strikeouts (which Bryant would be on pace to break if he were playing a 162-game season), so something has to give, but I wouldn’t count on it giving way in Double-A. The swing-and-miss in his game figures to be an issue at some point, but not a big enough one to keep him from being an incredibly productive player and cornerstone piece for the Cubs.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (New Orleans, AAA): 5 IP, 7 H, R, 0 BB, 7 K. Perhaps in preparation for a call-up next month once the Super Two deadline passes (pure speculation) now that they are without ace Jose Fernandez, Heaney was promoted to Triple-A and had no more difficulty in his first start at the minors’ highest level than he has during his journey to get there.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (St. Lucie, A+): 2-4, 2 R, HR, K. Nimmo has extremely advanced plate discipline for a relatively inexperienced player, and I believe the hit tool will play at the top of a lineup. The question is about how much power he will develop. He doesn’t look to drive the ball or extend himself, so it’s probably going to limit him to a leadoff profile, but he has the frame that could support more power.
Willy Garcia, OF, Pirates (Altoona, AA): 3-4, 3 R, 2B, 2 HR, K. The jump to Double-A has been rough on the extremely free-swinging Garcia, but the power tool is still there when he can manage to square one up.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Pensacola, AA): 6 IP, 2 H, R, 4 BB, 6 K. Stephenson is getting away with far too many walks, something that his power arm can do in Double-A, but won’t be able to get away with for much longer.
Phillip Ervin, OF, Reds (Dayton, A-): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 K. The powerful Ervin finally got on the board with his first home run of the year after being held back by his free-swinging ways in his first full season. He’s not controlling the strike zone nearly as well this season as he did after signing last year.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies (Tulsa, AA): 6 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 4 K. You almost get the feeling that Gray is just getting his work in until he finally gets promoted and gets a challenge. Throw a ton of strikes, miss enough bats and meet all expectations. Lather, rinse repeat.
Adam Brett Walker, OF, Twins (Fort Myers, A+): 2-4, R, HR. Few can hit a fastball better, farther, or with more ease than Walker, but a terrible approach and difficulties with pitch recognition will continue to hold him back unless major changes are made.
Fight Another Day
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (Albuquerque, AAA): 0-4, 2 K. Some players strike out a lot because they have holes in their swing while others strike out a lot because they are patient hitters who work a lot of deep counts. Pederson is a little bit of both, but he walks enough that he’ll be plenty productive despite the strikeouts.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox (Pawtucket, AAA): 3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 K. Barnes has always missed a ton of bats, but his strikeout totals this season are down to almost half of what they have been in his professional career.
Notable Pitching Performances
- Dylan Covey, RHP, A’s (Beloit, A-): 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K.
- Lucas Sims, RHP, Braves (Lynchburg, A+): 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.
- Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins (Rochester, AAA): 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, R, 2 BB, 5 K.
- A.J. Cole, RHP, Nationals (Harrisburg, AA): 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 5 K.
- Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Orioles (Bowie, AA): 5 IP, 2 H, R, 2 BB, 2 K. **First start back off the DL following a knee sprain.