Hitter of the Day:
Zach Shepherd, 3B, Detroit Tigers (High-A Lakeland): 2-3, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, K
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi! Signed by Detroit as a 16-year-old from Sydney, Shepherd announced his stateside presence with authority during a stellar GCL debut back in 2014, but has failed to move the needle much since. He hit a whopping .186 in his first go against High-A pitching last year, but so far, so much better in 2017, as a return engagement has brought a .306/.400/.556 line through his first 20 games this season. There isn’t a carrying tool here, but the glove is decent at third and there’s some intriguing raw material with the bat.
Pitcher of the Day:
Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga): 4 IP, 2 H, BB, 7 K
I was at this game, and Alvarez was straight-up dealing. For the second consecutive start he worked 96-98 with ease, and this time he commanded the fastball much more consistently. His off-speed stuff all blends together, with cut changeups, and sliders, and hard curveballs – all of which feature some primary manner of downer action and wear velocity readings that start with eight. He’ll add, subtract, and manipulate movement at will, and nobody came close to squaring him up in this one. He remains on a 60-pitch limit for the time being, and perhaps most importantly, this start marker a really nice step forward in him moving through a lineup for a second time. It remains relatively early in his development, but this is one of the premier pitching prospects in minor league baseball.
Others of Note:
Adam Engel, CF, Chicago White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte): 3-5, R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K
The power outburst isn’t typical to the profile, but after a brutal start to the season it’s a most welcome sign of life. Engel’s game is predicated around contact and speed, which makes a strikeout rate sitting north of 30 percent across more than 200 Triple-A plate appearances fairly disconcerting. His 70-grade speed and plus glove give him big-league tools, but consistency with the bat continues to be his white whale in the high minors.
Josh Hader, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Triple-A Colorado Springs): 4.2 IP, 5 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 2 HRA
It’s been a rough April for Hader, who has struggled to find the strike zone so far. Yesterday’s three-walk affair was the fourth time he’s issued at least that many free passes in five starts, and he’s yet to walk less than two in a start. The delivery and arm slot has always been on the funkier side for a starter, and after pushing it a bit with his walk rate last year, the wonky control weighs at least a little bit heavier here in the early going.
Mark Appel, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley): 5 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, HRA
Recent reports on Appel’s stuff have been…less than glowing, and he again struggled yesterday to work through a Triple-A lineup efficiently. The logic of “toss him in the ‘pen” is a bit dodgier here than it would otherwise be for most other pitchers in similar starting limbo to boot, as Appel’s struggles in the stretch have continued to plague him. What to do, what to do…
Isan Diaz, SS/2B, Milwaukee Brewers (High-A Carolina): 3-5, 2 2B, RBI, SB, K, E
Speaking of slow-starting hitters showing gradual signs of life, Diaz is up to six straight with a hit now. Mau’s (#RIP) main man has split his time 50-50 between second and short thus far after a roughly 70-30 split at short last season.
Franklyn Kilome, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (High-A Clearwater): 7 IP, ER, 7 H, 5 K
Gaining consistency and falling into an early rhythm in his starts, that’s the ticket for Kilome. And so far he’s been able to harness the stuff much more consistently than he did at point last year. He’s walked just three hitters in his last 19 innings, and given the stuff if he’s not beating himself it’s hard to figure who’s going to do it.
Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona): 5 IP, 3 H, 7 K
Cincinnati gave the Cuban-born then-20-year-old $4.75 million last summer on the strength of a nasty mid-90s fastball and power curve. A reliever in Cuba, the Reds are running him out there as a starter in the hope he can add a decent changeup and round out his arsenal. So far he’s shown quality control and strikeout stuff, with yesterday’s start the best of his four stateside turns.
Jairo Beras, OF, Texas Rangers (High-A Down East): 3-4, R, HR, RBI
Beras has shown precious little growth over the past couple seasons, culminating thus far in a near-40-percent whiff rate in his second go against High-A pitching. The arm is top-of-the-scale, and the raw power isn’t far behind, but extreme swing length and an approach showing few signs of calming down handcuff the offensive projection.
Joey Wentz, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome): 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K
While Wentz may be the only teenaged pitching phenom in the Atlanta system who is not dominating Double-A at this point, he’s doing just fine at Rome. He’s about as projectable as any young left-hander in the low minors, and he’s made a smooth transition to full-season ball through four starts.
Juan Soto, RF, Washington Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown): 2-4, R, HR, RBI
Soto is doing unspeakable things to Sally pitcher so far, as yesterday’s multi-hit performance pushes his line in 84 plate appearances to .378/.452/.554, with 10 walks and only five whiffs. He’s only 18 and all, but he’s going to start forcing some issues pretty quickly at this rate.
Desmond Lindsay, CF, New York Mets (Low-A Columbia): 2-3, BB, HR, HR, 5 RBI, SB, K
Lindsay is really still in the fighting-to-establish-a-rhythm stage of his young career, as persistent hamstring issues nagged him across multiple seasons and cost him a ton of time. He’s healthy now, though, and while the numbers haven’t been there in the early going, he’s been working counts and showing flashes of the kind of potential this box score hints at.
Bernardo Flores, LHP, Chicago White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis): 8 IP, ER, 2 H, BB, 6 K
Flores is an intriguing arm, and one without a lot of miles on it after he spent most of his college career at USC coming out of the bullpen. Credit the South Side scouting department for this one: after taking him in the seventh round last June, the team overhauled his mechanics, altered his repertoire, and turned him into a legitimate starting pitching prospect.
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