We now return to your regularly scheduled programming with a double dose of the Minor League Update.
Tuesday, July 7th
Kelly Dugan, OF, Phillies (Reading, AA): 3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, BB, SB. Dugan has shown some power in the past, which he’ll need to play a corner-outfield position, but he hasn’t shown much this season, once again in limited playing time. The biggest culprit for Dugan has been his lack of playing time due to a career thus far riddled with injuries. When he’s been on the field, however, he’s played well, almost well enough to project an everyday player. More than likely, however, he settles into a bench role, which could also help to keep him healthy.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays (Buffalo, AAA): 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K. Norris wasn’t that bad in his short stint in the majors this season, and he’s been back to his old self in the minors, making him very much an option for the Blue Jays rotation whenever they decided they need him again.
Yoan Moncada, 2B, Red Sox (Greenville, A-): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, BB, 2 SB. It appears Moncada may be closing the window on the adjustment period to which we’ve previously attributed his sluggish start. Fans and scouts alike got a glimpse of the full Moncada package, and he’s now hitting .368 with seven stolen bases over his last 10 games (before Wednesday, when he recorded two more hits and stole another base).
Kyle Schwarber, C, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, HR, 2 K. In case you weren’t sure, Kyle Schwarber wants you to know that he can hit. Like really hit. His stint in the majors seems to have only strengthened his resolve on the matter, as he’s now terrorizing the Pacific Coast League much like he has every other minor league he’s been in (and interleague play, for that matter). The jury is still very much out on just how much he can catch, if at all, but that bat is going to play at any position.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 3-4, 2 R. Nimmo gets a bad rap for not being a power hitter despite his size, but that’s not his approach. The extent to which it’s disappeared this year, however, is slightly concerning. What’s not is the way his hit tool is playing in games, thanks to an advanced approach at the plate. He’s not drawing the ridiculous amount of walks that he was at lower levels, but he still gets himself into strong counts, helping to make up for what many scouts believe is just average bat speed. He’ll never be a big power hitter, but as he continues to find the happy medium between patience and passivity, his power should tick back up a bit to a more respectable level.
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies (Albuquerque, AAA): 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Missing bats is a good sign for Gray, whose strikeout numbers have been on a steady decline as he’s moved up the minor-league ladder. The ability to miss bats—something that once came easily to him with his plus-plus slider that has since taken a step back—will be essential for pitching in Colorado, where balls in play find grass more frequently than anywhere else in baseball. If he can do that, either because he’s regaining the bite on the pitch or because he’s learning how to thrive without it, he can get back toward achieving the ceiling he once had in front of him.
Matt Olson, 1B, Athletics (Midland, AA): 2-4, 3 R, 2B, K, SB. It’s going to be interesting to watch Olson’s development from here. Much of what we knew about him remains true even outside the hitter-friendly California League: He has holes in his swing that cause low batting averages and high strikeout totals, and he’s maintained strong on-base skills. We knew the power would drop off from Stockton to Midland, but I’m not sure anyone expected this kind of dropoff, especially since he’s hit just two home runs since the end of April after a hot start. His season hasn’t been a complete loss, but the power outage is surprising, given that it’s his only real plus tool.
Notable Prospect Starters:
- Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees (Scranton/W-B, AAA): 4 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K.
- Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals (NW Arkansas, AA): 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K.
- Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 5 K.
Wednesday, July 8th
Javier Guerra, SS, Red Sox (Greenville, A-): 4-5, R, HR, CS. Geurra is going to end up being an amazingly frustrating player. He’s completely unrefined at the plate, struggling to control the strike zone and at times to identify breaking pitches. His swing works, however, and he’s got good power for a skinny 19-year-old. He’s also a fantastic defender at a premium position. The result will be flashes of brilliance with both the bat and the glove, but possibly an inconsistent output within seasons and across his career.
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Phillies (Lehigh Valley, AAA): 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 BB, K. I’d like to attribute this in some way to it being Biddle’s first start in Triple-A and the competition level requiring an adjustment of some sort, but the truth is that Biddle has been, for a long time now, maddeningly inconsistent from start to start. When he’s missing his command like this, he becomes very hittable.
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates (Altoona, AA): 3-7, R, 2B, HR, 2 K (DH). First basemen needing to homer is becoming a bit of a theme on this list (and it’s only going to get worse), but that’s exactly what Bell needs more of. He’s shown power in the past and continues to flash plus hitting ability and plus-plus contact skills, limiting his strikeouts with tremendous success for big hitter. The Pirates would accept more swings and misses, however, if they came with more power production, especially now that they’ve shifted him to the infield. He’s not a strong defender at first, nor is he great in the outfield should he head back out there (he was moved more because of organizational depth than skill), so his bat will have to carry him, and while the standard for power is lower than it’s been in decades, it’s still a necessity at first base.
Trea Turner, SS, Nationals (Syracuse, AAA): 3-5, 2 R, BB, SB. Turner has improved his stock since his college career, though it wasn’t terribly low considering he was drafted 13th overall just a year ago. But with scouts having been split on him coming out of NC State, there were some questions about his bat. He’s answered a lot of those as a professional, though some still see him as more of a second baseman than a true shortstop, potentially limiting his future value. Either way, he’s shown that he has a major-league bat and is on the doorstep of contributing, potentially factoring into the Nationals plans for next season.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Louisville, AAA): 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K. This is what Stephenson is capable of when he’s throwing strikes, and why he continues to feature prominently in our rankings despite some legitimate control issues. He’s one of the few guys in the minors who can offer (at times) a pair of plus-plus pitches, but they only work to that level of effectiveness when he commands them, particularly the fastball. Without the command, they play down and both become hittable, but when he puts them where he wants them, he can dominate.
Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets (St. Lucie, A+): 2-3, R, 2B, HR, BB. Smith is undoubtedly having a better season than he had last year, which is progress. His home run on Wednesday gives him three on the season, and as Mets fans are quick to point out to me, that’s three times last year’s total. What he’s also doing is walking less and striking out more, and while his BABIP should be higher as he hits the ball harder more consistently, no one can assume it’s going to reside at a .360 level at the majors given his speed, or lack thereof. Lastly, this home run, much like his other two this year and his single blast last season, left the park to the left of center field. He’ll run into one every now and then going the other way, but with that approach, his potential homers will continue to result in doubles. When he starts pulling home runs with any kind of consistency is when it’s appropriate to start notifying me on Twitter.
Notable Prospect Starters:
- Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (Fresno, AAA): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K.
- Braden Shipley, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, AA): 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
- Grant Holmes, RHP, Dodgers (Rancho Cucamunga, A+): 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 4 K.
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