Hitter of the Day: Matt Olson, 1B, Athletics (Midland, AA): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, BB.
I touched yesterday on the importance of Olson’s power and its absence this season up until the past few days. Following up a few home runs this week with a multi-homer game is an extremely positive sign (could it be anything else?) for a player in desperate need of one. The raw power has never really been questioned, though its utility at the upper levels has been in doubt thanks to average bat speed and holes in Olson’s long swing. The adjustment from Stockton to Midland has taken players more talented than Olson longer than four months to make, but Olson could be turning a corner just in time to salvage his season.
Pitcher of the Day: Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K.
Jenkins has always had the stuff to start, though he’s lacked the command and consistency in the past to project there long term. It’s improved, though not substantially, and his strikeout rate remains below par for someone whose fastball can touch 95 mph. His fastball/slider combination can be potent against right-handed hitters, and while he may be able to stick in the back end of a starting rotation, he won’t dominate there the way he potentially could in a relief role, where he could be matched up more effectively. Either way, this is a good live arm, and the Braves will find a way to use it best.
Best of the Rest
Nick Longhi, 1B/OF, Red Sox (Greenville, A-): 5-7, 3 2B. Longhi’s power potential has long been touted, even back to his amateur days, but it hasn’t manifested itself as quickly as the Red Sox had hoped, especially for a player resigned to first base or a corner-outfield position. He’s hitting well, which is a good sign for a 19-year-old, and he’s shown some gap power, which can sometimes be a sign of better power production to come. But he hasn’t, to this point, been the kind of power hitter that the Red Sox envisioned. Still, he’s young, and there’s plenty of time.
Ketel Marte, SS/OF, Mariners (Tacoma, AAA): 4-5, 3 R, 2 2B, 3B, SB. After a few games moonlighting in center field last week, Marte is back at shortstop for the time being. Long and still quite lean, Marte offers no power to speak of in his speed-based game. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get on base a ton either, meaning he’ll have to max out his hit tool to reach his offensive potential. As an up-the-middle athlete, he’ll bring more to the game than just his bat, but even at the shortstop position in Seattle, he’ll have to hit some to play. He’s done that throughout his professional career, but the eventual jump to the big leagues will test his approach.
Jose Peraza, 2B, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, 3B. Speaking of offering no power, Peraza is the poster child for a player trying to get by on the strength of his hit tool. Sure, he’s a strong defender, but the Braves have shifted him over to the lesser side of the keystone, diminishing his value. Sure, he’s a fantastically fast runner, but as we’ve seen time and time again, that doesn’t work if you can’t get on base. Which isn’t to say that Peraza can’t. He rarely strikes out, embraces his powerless game with a contact-oriented approach, and has made the most out of his skill set by refining his hit tool. It’s worked in the minors to the point that he’s been a productive player, though still not impact level. But if he can’t hit .300 in the majors, he brings little else to the table, leaving a lot of pressure on his hit tool.
Alex Blandino, SS, Reds (Daytona, A+): 3-4, 2 2B. A first-round pick last year out of Stanford, Blandino has taken well to pro ball, showing a strong all-around game despite being thrown into a tough hitters’ league in his first full season. The combination of patience and strong contact skills has led to a lot of hard contact, and he’s got enough power to play well up-the-middle. There’s a lot to like with Blandino, who could move quickly next season.
Tony Kemp, 2B, Astros (Fresno, AAA): 3-4, 2 R, 3B. Kemp is short. There’s really no avoiding this fact, though his limited stature doesn’t imply a lack of overall size. Kemp is built like a house and very strong, which allows him to have some pop despite his lack of leverage. He embraces his skill set with a patient approach at the plate and strong contact skills, and unlike a player like Peraza, he has enough pop to keep pitchers honest.
Fight Another Day
Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals (NW Arkansas, AA): 0-4, 3 K. It’s so difficult to get a gauge on Mondesi because he’s spent his entire professional career playing at least one level too high. Extremely talented with a glove in his hands and once on the run, he’s never hit with any authority or consistency despite having the physical tools to do so. A lack of any semblance of an approach doesn’t help, and it keeps his hitting skills from playing in games. He’s still a fantastic talent, but at some point he’s going to need to repeat a level and actually have some success.
Notable Prospect Starters