Hitter of the Night: Elier Hernandez, OF, Royals (Lexington, A-): 2-5, R, HR, K, SB. Pitchers exploiting aggressiveness from young hitters is becoming a theme tonight, and we can add Hernandez to the list. The 20-year-old is repeating Low-A ball after hitting just .264/.296/.393 there last year, but his 25/4 K:BB ratio tells the story. Hernandez’s calling card is plus raw power, but it has yet to manifest itself in game action on a consistent basis because of his approach.
Pitcher of the Night: Robert Gsellman, RHP, Mets (St. Lucie, A+): 8 IP, H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. I wrote up Gsellman last week and was pretty aggressive in my assessment of him. Frankly, after seeing him again on Monday night, I might have been low. Gsellman carved up Palm Beach hitters by commanding a hard-running two-seamer and his plus curveball, but in this outing, he also showed more comfort with the changeup, which he used more frequently and more effectively. His polish and plan was no match for Florida State League hitters, and despite being just 21, he could be pitching his way into a mid-season promotion.
Best of the Rest
Justin Twine, SS, Marlins (Greensboro, A-): 4-4, 3 R, 2B. It’s been a rough first month of full-season ball for Twine, a second-round pick last summer, as the South Atlantic League has exposed his inexperience. He’s yet to walk on the season, and pitchers have exposed his aggressiveness. He still has the talent that got him selected 43rd overall last year, as evidenced by nights like Monday, but assigning him to Greensboro was a risk by the Marlins.
Michael Chavis, SS, Red Sox (Greenville, A-): 2-5, 2 2B. Full-season ball has been a challenge for Chavis as well, as last year’s first-rounder has also been exposed for being over-aggressive. After splitting time between shortstop and third base last season, Chavis has played primarily at the hot corner, a spot where his thicker lower half profiles better. There’s a lot to like about Chavis’ ability with the bat, but as Tucker Blair pointed out after seeing him this weekend, he’s having issues with his timing.
#RedSox Michael Chavis has a deep load and leg kick on swing; timing issues; hands burst thru zone; displays bat speed and barrel control
— Tucker Blair (@TuckerBlairON) May 2, 2015
Travis Jankowski, OF, Padres (San Antonio, AA): 2-5, R, 2 SB. Carrying the torch for guys from mid-major schools everywhere, Jankowski fell off last year while battling a wrist injury that zapped his bat speed. With no power to begin with, Jankowski’s game is based solely around speed and his ability to get on base. He’s doing that again this year as a 24-year-old in Double-A, with more walks than strikeouts on the young season.
Jake Thompson, RHP, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, BB, 12 K. It’s been an up-and-down season thus far for Thompson, but he’s always one start away from an outing like this. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and an even better slider, Thompson has the ability to miss bats in droves.
Austin Barnes, C, Dodgers (Oklahoma City, AAA): 1-3, 2 R, HR. It’s difficult to envision where Barnes is going to end up on a major-league field, but he does enough things well that he’s going to find his spot. He’s already 25, and now that he’s with the Dodgers, he’s back to catching full time, though there are questions about whether or not his frame can handle that role every day. He also has experience at second and third base and controls the strike zone exceptionally well for a player with decent pop. It may be as a utility player, but there’s a role for Barnes in the majors, and he’d be knocking on the door in an organization with more room on their major-league roster.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 3-5, R, 2 2B, K. After a slow start, Nimmo is getting his timing back and has finally adjusted to Double-A pitching, hitting .343 over his last 10 games. The trademark patience is still there for Nimmo, but he’s finding the balance between being patient and passive.
Spencer Kieboom, C, Nationals (Potomac, A+): 2-3, 2 2B, BB. Kieboom is old for the Carolina League, but he shows some pop and a good presence behind the plate. He’s also shown a more patient approach at the plate this season. He’s likely a mistake hitter, but he can drive those mistakes more than most catchers. He profiles as a backup, but potentially a solid one.
Rafael de Paula, RHP, Padres (Lake Elsinore, A+): 5 IP, 4 H, R, 0 BB, 7 K. de Paula has been inconsistent throughout his four-year professional career, but the one thing he’s done consistently is miss bats. He’s still in High-A ball at age 24, but he offers a fastball/slider combination that can be very tough on righties. The Padres are using him as a starter, but he profiles as a reliever and could move quickly if and when they make the switch.
Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates (West Virginia, A-): 1-3, 2 R, HR, BB. I could go into detail about the Pirates first-round pick from last year, but Tucker Blair talked about him at length on the first edition of Raw Projection, the Prospect Team’s new podcast. You should just go listen to him talk about it here.
Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Modesto, A+): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, CS. Minor-league stats have to be taken with enormous grains of salt, but certain things stand out, like when one guy consistently hits well over .300 at every level. Tapia isn’t old for his level, he’s not an over-powering hitter that pitchers fear and avoid, and while he runs well, this isn’t a situation of a player’s numbers getting juiced because of crazy BABIP or fluky hits. Tapia simply hits his way on, and he does it as frequently as anyone. As a great scout once told me, “hitters hit.” Tapia simply hits.
Fight Another Day
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (Corpus Christi, AA): 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 7 K. After a pair of strong outings to begin the season, Appel has had a couple of rocky starts in a row, although seeing him miss bats at this rate is a positive sign given that his strikeout numbers this year were well below where a player with his stuff should be. These aren’t the same as the struggles he had last year by any means, but he’s not exactly taking the Texas League by storm either.
Chi Chi Gonzalez, RHP, Rangers (Round Rock, AAA): 4 2/3 IP, 10 H, 7 R (5 ER), 2 BB, 3 K. Gonzalez’s appeal as a prospect has been as more of a high-floor pitcher than a high-ceiling guy, with the thought being that he’d be ready to offer the Rangers depth this year when needed. That’s likely still the case, but the Rangers would certainly like to see him pitching with more success in Triple-A for if/when they need to call upon him.
Derek Hill, OF, Tigers (West Michigan, A-): 0-5, 2 K. The top prospect in the Tigers system and 23rd overall pick from last season, Hill was jumped straight to full-season ball to begin this season. That kind of a move is always a risk, and Hill has met the challenge with mixed reviews. The athleticism stands out, and he’s using his speed to wreak havoc on the base paths. He’s also generally controlling the strike zone well, Monday notwithstanding. There’s a lot to like about Hill and not too much reason for concern with a tepid start thus far.
Notable Starting Pitchers
· Tyler Beede, RHP, Giants (San Jose, A+): 5 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 3 K.
· Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies (Reading, AA): 7 IP, 5 H, R, 2 BB, 3 K.
· Trey Ball, LHP, Red Sox (Salem, A+): 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 K.
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