Minor League Recap: We're into June

Have fun back in Vegas, Eric. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

It's been a busy week for me, so I've not been able to recap our minors much, but here's an update for you! As we're now in the month of June, I'll look at how our prospects progressed in their first two months.

Las Vegas:

Las Vegas' number of interesting prospects has been hurt by the short promotions of Eric Thames and David Cooper, and now Brett Lawrie will probably soon leave the team as well. The Canadian phenom obliterated PCL pitching in May, increasing his patience, power and contact. His .361/.404/.588 April line was kind of impressive, but nothing compared to the .349/.424/.746 he hit in May. We just need to wait a little longer...

David Cooper did not hit very well in his short Major League stint, mainly because he hit too many popups. He did show some patience and contact, and he hit an important home run against Boston. In Vegas he's shown very good BB/K rates but the power is pretty disappointing considering the environment. Cooper hit .395/.438/.617 in April and .398/.463/.552 in limited May at bats.

Eric Thames did show some solid contact in his short stay in Major League Baseball, but he swung and missed very often. People will also overrate his eye at the plate, simply because he took a lot of balls. But the reason he took a lot of balls is because pitchers pitched out of the zone a lot against Thames. He did show some potential but he may never make enough contact to utilize his power. And without a solid defensive game, Thames needs that power. I hope he gets another shot after some more development time in Vegas.

Adam Loewen hit just .237/.286/.368 in April but got going in May with a .358/.429/.698 line. He does strike out too much to make me believe he could cut it in the Majors, even if there's a lot of power there. Loewen also doesn't have much defensive value, and Snider/Thames/Cooper/McDade should all be ahead of him on the list of LF/1B/DH options.

Speaking of Travis Snider, how's our favorite lunchbox-slugger doing? Not too well, unfortunately, as he hit just .276/.350/.370 with 1 home run. According to reports his swing is progressing, but it's obviously not where we all want it to be. I hope he doesn't get frustrated and comes back a better hitter.

Brad Mills posted a 3.63 ERA in May after a 2.18 ERA in April, but he actually improved in every important category. He struck out a tiny amount of batters per inning more, he decreased the walks, and improved his groundball rate a bit. He has never had a prolonged chance to show he can cut it at the major league level, and with Drabek struggling, now is the time for the front office to give him that chance, in my opinion.

Brett Cecil posted a 4.28 ERA in May with 33 Ks in 40 innings, to go with 11 walks. He's off to a good start in June, pitching a complete game allowing just one run on six hits and three walks, with six strikeouts. The Toronto Sun has a reaction from Farrell:

"The reports were very good," Farrell started off. "Up to 94 (m.p.h.), nine innings, complete game, still in the low 90s in the ninth inning. This is a much improved outing over his previous starts with Las Vegas.

So Cecil is showing improvement and if he keeps it up, could be back with the big club before long. I'm sure Brad Mills wouldn't like that, though.

New Hampshire:

Adeiny Hechavarria put the winning run on base with a fielding error in extra innings yesterday, but his bat had been showing some signs of life lately, as he's hit .318/.354/.614 with only 4 strikeouts in his last 10 games. His .250/.277/.414 in May was definitely an improvement over his .229/.247/.301 in April. In 4 June games he has just 3 hits, but one was a homer, another a triple, and the last one a double. He could become an Alex Gonzalez type with bad discipline but some decent power for a shortstop, coupled of course with good defense.

Anthony Gose made some real strides in May, hitting .296/.417/.472 after a disappointing April in which he hit just .238/.307/.288. With great patience and surprising power, the one knock on Gose is a high strikeout rate. Still, as a plus defender in center, his hitting is showing some amazing promise, especially considering Gose is young for the level. There's no real question to me that he's our number 2 prospect behind Lawrie.

One who might challenge him for that place is Travis d'Arnaud, who hit .410/.532/.689 in an injury-shortened month of May. He hit just .188/.235/.313 in limited April at bats. It will definitely be interesting to see if he can get anywhere near that crazy May line in June.

Mike McDade also improved in May, as he hit .330/.403/.565 with a 10/24 BB/K rate after a 4/20 rate in April. He also hit for a lot more power in May. The plate discipline does still worry me, however, and his limited defensive value puts him quite a bit behind guys like Gose, d'Arnaud and Sierra in my opinion.

Moises Sierra, the one with the golden throwing arm, was probably NH's best hitter in April, when he hit .300/.358/.450. Still, he took it upon himself to improve as well, and he hit .319/.375/.526 in May. Moises leads the team in home runs with 8, but is off to a rough start in June (just 1 hit in 18 ABs).

Zach Stewart had a rough May, with a 5.56 ERA, even though he improved his peripherals slightly. His first June start wasn't much better though, as he allowed 4 runs on 11 hits in 5 innings with 1 walks and 5 strikeouts. A highly rated prospect simply has to strike out a lot more batters than Stewart is doing. Perhaps he'll figure it out somehow, Ricky Romero-style. But the Ricky Romero example is quite unique, most pitchers who don't strike out a lot of batters in the minors simply do not succeed in the majors.

Joel Carreno was off to a rough start in April, but became unhittable in May, with a 1.14 ERA, striking out 41 batters in 31 2/3 innings while also walking 21. With Carreno often starting out great and then fading later into games, he screams bullpen to me, he doesn't seem to have the control to be a starter at the moment. He struck out 9 in 5 innings to begin June, but did give up 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in a start much like Brandon Morrow's last start (also 5 IP, 2 BB, 9 K).

Henderson Alvarez came off the DL and was promoted from Dunedin to NH after just two starts. In three starts in Double-A he has pitched 18 innings with a 1.50 ERA, 13 strikeouts, 4 walks and 56% groundballs. A promising start to the season for the hard-throwing youngster (he's just 21).

Dunedin:

Dunedin didn't seem to have many exciting position players, but Justin Jackson has turned into one quite rapidly. After hitting .310/.423/.381 in April, he turned in a .323/.417/.505 May. Can he hit after all? If he still plays a good shortstop, Jackson could return to being a good prospect in quite a hurry with this kind of hitting.

A.J. Jimenez missed a big part of May, but he has started off June with a 4 game hitting streak, including his 3rd home run of the season. He has now hit .358/.393/.511 this season.

Asher Wojciechowski had a very bad May, with a 6.06 ERA over 32 2/3 innings, during which he collected 29 strikeouts to 12 walks. His first June game yesterday didn't treat him any better: 8 runs (5 earned) in 4 1/3 innings with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts. He has very big splits: against right-handed batters he has 24 Ks and just 3 walks, while versus lefties he has 20 Ks but 18 walks! He has also allowed 6 homers versus lefties, and 2 versus righties. The scout reports that said he needed to work on his changeup were probably spot on.

Deck McGuire had a 1.88 ERA in May with 13 walks to 27 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. He did start off June by giving up 5 runs in 5 innings on 8 hits, 4 walks and 6 strikeouts, so we'll need to see if he can keep his ERA low. The low groundball percentage (34.8%) does worry me a bit, as he apparently was prone to give up long fly balls in college as well. He could be in the running for a promotion to AA by mid-season.

Chad Jenkins had a 2.50 ERA in May, but he's repeating the level and still not striking out as many batters as a good pitching prospect should. His groundball rate of 54.9% is good, but not elite. I fear Jenkins will not fare well in AA, but who knows, maybe he suddenly increases his strikeout rate. Like Wojo, Jenkins has a pronounced platoon split in terms of BB/K ratio.

Nestor Molina then, has been my favorite pitcher in Dunedin to keep track of. He was even featured in John Sickels' minor league notes recently:

Originally an infielder, he converted to pitching in 2008 and was originally a reliever before moving to the rotation this spring. Molina has a good splitter and cutter, and has boosted his velocity his spring, reportedly into the 92-94 range. The results are undeniable, but with all the right-handed pitching the Jays have collected in their system of late, his long-term destination may still be the bullpen.

I don't agree with Sickels here. Molina has posted strikeout numbers that are downright sick, while almost not walking anybody. Oh, and his groundball percentage is above 50% too. If Molina keeps these numbers up there's no reason any other right-handers should keep him out of the rotation. Molina's May ERA, at 3.03 was higher than his April ERA (2.29) but he did improve his strikeout rate and walk rate. Actually I think he got more groundballs too, but I don't know for sure. I have yet to find a Jays pitching prospect who ever had a strikeout% close to Molina's. Brett Cecil in AA comes closest.

Lansing

Lansing's game yesterday was the most exciting minor league game for the Jays, because of the resurgence of Doctastic Hutchison. Doctastic Hutchison had gone missing after striking out 11 in 7 innings (1 walk) in Hutchison's first start of the season. However, yesterday Doctastic Hutchison was back with a 6 inning, 9 strikeout, no walk, 2 hit, no runs performance. Yeah, never mind that his opponents were the Burlington Bees, who have by far the best record in the Midwest League. Hutchison's May was a bit disappointing, but if he keeps pitching like this he'll be a good one.

Jake Marisnick has just come off the DL to start June, and will hope to improve upon his disappointing May, which was cut short after he hit .262/.329/.385 in 65 ABs. His April had been very promising with a .325/.422/.545 line.

Carlos Perez also had a tough May, hitting just .253/.295/.368 after a .319/.377/.420 April. he had a really rough stretch where he was striking out a ton, but is now hitting .310/.347/.452 with 4 walks and 6 strikeout over his last 10 games. Has so far been the most disappointing behind Zach Stewart, I think.

Marcus Knecht, however, has been anything but disappointing. After a .378/.451/.622 April shortened by injury, he hit .297/.395/.485 in May. In 4 June games he has already hit 4 extra base hits, including his 6th homer of the season. Knecht, who is supposedly at least average defensively in LF, would make quite an interesting story as a local Torontonian boy with big league potential.

Michael Crouse is Canadian as well, and offers more in terms of tools, but he's also quite raw. He'll strike out a lot, take some walks and he has a lot of raw power. That power didn't show up much in May unfortunately, and he is now without an extra base hit in 9 games. Crouse has some time to translate his tools into performance at the plate, and he is the kind of high upside player that you'd like to have a lot of in your farm system.

While most Lansing players had better numbers in April than in May, Bryson Namba's April numbers didn't figure to get much worse in May. In fact, he hit .333/.421/.576 with 9 walks, 15 strikeouts and 3 homers. We'll see if Namba can keep this up, because that was quite the breakout month for the third baseman.

K.C. Hobson also improved in May, hitting .333/.367/.441. While he's supposed to have raw power, it has not showed up in games yet. The first baseman will hope to continue to hit for average while taking a few more walks again.

Sean Nolin piqued my interest by starting the season really well, but he's been roughed up in his last two starts, in which he was tagged for 9 earned in runs in just 5 and a third innings (yes that's two starts combined), walking four while striking out just two. I wonder if it's a mechanical or injury issue, because Nolin was very good before these disastrous last two starts.

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