A name you should know
Simon Castro, RHP, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Thursday’s stats: 6.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K
I was talking to a scout on Tuesday and we started talking about the best pitchers we saw in the Midwest League this year. Detroit’s Casey Crosby (who got shelled last night) was the first to come to mind, but both of us agree the Castro deserves to be in the argument for number two, and he certainly showed why in the Wizards playoff opener. A 21-year-old Domincan with serious heat and plus command, he finished the year with a 3.33 ERA, but the numbers that really stand out are the 157 strikeouts against just 37 walks in 140 1/3 innings.
Kind of not fair, but what can you do?
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Thursday’s stats: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K
In the end, you have to at least empathize with Winston-Salem manager Joe McEwing. He busts his hump to get his team into the Carolina League playoffs and then, for the opener, his team of players in their first or second full-season as pros get to face a rehabbing Matsuzaka. It’s understandable certainly, as the minors are designed to get guys ready for the big leagues, and that takes precedence over all else (as it should). However, this is a good lesson that even winning is secondary once you get below the big leagues.
Lots to like, lots to wonder about
Juan Francisco, 3B, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)
Thursday’s stats: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, K
Francisco hit 27 home runs this year, including a .359/.384/.598 line in 22 Triple-A games at the end of the season. As a 22-year-old, one would think he’d be a monster prospect, but there are still a lot of questions about his game, particularly an aggressive approach that led to just 19 unintentional walks and the fact that defensively, he’s well below average and destined for a move to first. It’s an odd combination of incredible strengths and glaring weaknesses that makes him difficult to rank as a prospect.
Continuing the surge
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays (Triple-A Rays)
Thursday’s stats: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 12 K
In his last five regular season starts, Hellickson struck out 48 over 34 1/3 innings while giving up just 12 hits. He kept that going on Wednesday by recording 12 of his 17 outs via the strikeout, although he did give up a pair of bombs, including one to Francisco. He’s not overwhelming physically, but he’s a heady pitcher with a variety of plus offerings, almost in the mold of a Zack Greinke lite. Note to the world: I did NOT just say Hellickson is going to be as good as Zack Greinke, I just noted some similarities.
Not a big prospect, but what a game
Anthony Lerew, RHP, Roylals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
Thursday’s stats: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Once a hot prospect with the Braves, Lerew’s lack of overpowering velocity caught up with him at the upper levels, and then Tommy John surgery all but removed him from the prospect radar. Now two months short of 27 and pitching in Double-A, he’s little more than an organizational soldier, but you have to give him credit for Wednesday night’s performance. Not only did he shutout Springfield, he did it on just 73 pitches in one of the most efficient performances you’ll ever see, as he averaged 8.1 pitches per inning and 2.5 per batter.
Ben Snyder, LHP, Giants (Double-A Connecticut)
Thursday’s stats: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K
This is kind of the opposite of the Dice-K situation. Connecticut gets to the playoffs, gets ready to start their ace, left-hander Madison Bumgarner, for game one, and the next thing you know, Tim Lincecum says “Ouch!” and they need a replacement. Snyder spent much of the year in the bullpen, but he pitched well as a starter at the end of the year and gave the Defenders an outing every bit as good as they could have expected from Bumgarner on Wednesday. A big, physical southpaw with solid velocity and a bit of deception, left-handed hitters can’t touch him (.146/.198/.197 this year), so he’s a future LOOGY at the very least.