Hitter of the Day: Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (Oklahoma City, AAA): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, BB, K.
There’s not much left for Seager to prove in the minors, nor is there much blocking him in the majors, other than the respect for a veteran like Jimmy Rollins. That shouldn’t be dismissed, but it also shouldn’t stand in the way of a championship team. Seager is the best position player remaining in the minors after this first half’s run of prospect promotions, though he’s not atop the list on the merit of attrition alone. He’s a stud in the making, especially for as long as he can remain at shortstop. Many believe he’ll eventually have to move to third base, and they may well be correct, but in the meantime he’s more than capable of handling the six spot and is ready to take over in Los Angeles.
Pitcher of the Day: Colin Kleven, RHP, Phillies (Clearwater, A+): 5 2/3 IP, 2 H, R, 3 BB, 8 K.
Kleven is repeating the Florida State League and is already 24, and thus his success needs to be taken with massive caveats. But his velocity appears to have ticked up this season, from comfortably sitting at 91-93 last season to 93-94 this year and touching 95. Coming from a three-quarters armslot with a crossfire delivery and a big, sweeping curveball, he still struggles to combat left-handed hitters. Still, with an extra tick on that fastball, he could be a late-blooming middle reliever.
Best of the Rest
Alex Blandino, SS, Reds (Daytona, A+): 1-3, R, HR (Game 2). Highly touted by more teams than just the Reds entering last year’s draft, the former Stanford shortstop got a taste of two levels last year, enabling the Reds to push him directly to the Florida State League this season. The tough hitting environments have been a challenge for him, but he’s maintained strong contact rates and good control of the strike zone while handling a premium position, none of which should be easily dismissed.
Jose Peraza, 2B, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 2-5, R, K, 2 SB. There’s not much left to question in terms of Peraza’s ability to hit. The question is how much else he has to offer. He’s a strong up-the-middle defender, one who is only playing second base in deference to the best defensive shortstop of our generation in Andrelton Simmons. He offers no power, however. We’re talking a Ben Revere-type power outage, and we’ve seen how difficult it is to make that work at the major-league level. It puts all of the pressure on the bat to hit well over .300. Peraza may be capable of reaching those levels, but it doesn’t leave much of a safety net beneath him if he isn’t able to pull it off.
Stephen Piscotty, OF, Cardinals (Memphis, AAA): 3-5, 2 R, HR. The knock on Piscotty last year was that he didn’t show the power traditionally required at a corner-outfield position. This season, while repeating the same Triple-A level, he’s already surpassed his 2014 total of home runs. He’s done so at the sacrifice, to a certain extent, of his hit tool and his contact ability, but the sacrifice is well warranted, as he’ll have to show at least moderate power in order to be an everyday player in right field. The bar there isn’t what it once was, but it still requires clearing a bar in the power department, and Piscotty is beginning to show he can do that.
Joe Wendle, 2B, Athletics (Nashville, AAA): 4-5, R, 2 2B. Wendle is already 25, but such is a typical path of a player coming from a Mid-Atlantic region Division II school (West Chester). The path has always been an uphill one for Wendle, who has shown a strong bat at every stop along the way. The A’s acquired him in the Brandon Moss trade this offseason, but he was immediately blocked by Ben Zobrist. If the A’s unfortunate struggles continue this season, Zobrist could be moved, which would open an immediate spot for Wendle, who profiles as a potential offensive-minded second baseman.
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 3-4, R, HR. Cecchini has always been lauded for his athleticism, and the praise has been warranted. For the first time as a professional, he’s turning that athleticism into offensive production, allowing his hand-eye coordination to translate into strong contact skills. What he isn’t, however, is a shortstop—at least not long term. His actions there simply don’t match his athleticism. He can remain up-the-middle on the diamond, but he shouldn’t be considered in the Mets never-ending quest for a shortstop of the future. Still, for the first time, he’s hitting enough to be considered a part of their future in some capacity.
Fight Another Day
Tyler Beede, RHP, Giants (Richmond, AA): 5 2/3 IP, 10 H, 7 R, BB, 0 K. Beede was drafted based on his polish and high floor rather than his upper-echelon stuff, and he’s fit that mold thus far as a professional. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but he generally knows how to pitch and does so quite well, this clunker aside.
Notable Prospect Starters
- Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays (Buffalo, AAA): 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, BB, 9 K.
- Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 4 IP, H, R (0 ER), BB, 4 K (rehab assignment).
- Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies (Lehigh Valley, AAA): 7 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), BB, 7 K.
- Luke Weaver, RHP, Cardinals (Palm Beach, A+): 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), BB, 4 K.
- Luis Heredia, RHP, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 5 IP, 3 H, R, BB, K.
- Sean Manaea, LHP, Royals (AZL Royals): 5 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 6 K (rehab assignment).
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Now some pure stats guys would have you believe that there is absolutely no merit to big game performances or being "clutch." Having played and coached with hundreds of different very talented players, I won't go that far. Some guys are just better than others at controlling their heart rate or mental state in big spots, and you'll never convince me that that doesn't help give a player the best chance to succeed in a big spot. It also, however, doesn't translate into automatic success or making somebody "clutch" or "choke." There are far too many other variables. It's about 1% as important as it's made out to be.
In the case of evaluating a prospect, I put absolutely no stock in it. In fact, despite seeing around 50-60 FSL games a year, I couldn't tell you a single thing about the standings. I can't even tell you who won most games I'm at as I'm leaving the ballpark. It simply isn't relevant to the evaluative process. If it was something like the clinching game of the College World Series, then I might put some stock in seeing how a kid's makeup was in a really big spot, but in general, no it's not something I consider and certainly not based on minor league first half standings.
I certainly do agree with the idea that some players are just better than others at keeping their cool in big spots but ultimately, it's the talent that wins out over and over again. I follow the Phillies minor league affiliates pretty closely and Kleven has never really stood out to me so this one outing won't change anything even though it was a "big game" in the FSL standings.