Minor League Recap: Who's in Beast Mode?

I've been away for a while, hopefully you didn't miss the minor league recaps too much.

Las Vegas (won 6-2)

Brett Lawrie has been in #beastmode all year long, and he went 1-for-3 with a walk yesterday. He hit two liners, but got only one hit. His .344/.417/.625 line since returning from injury is about as beastly as one can get. John Farrell has said that Lawrie will be up before the quality of pitching is reduced in September, but we don't know when exactly. Let's hope Brett doesn't get hit again before that happens. We've waited long enough...

David Cooper (2-for-4, K) has been in #beastmode all season long, recording an OBP over .435 in each of the four months he's played. He finished July with a .371/.457/.577 line, improving his OBP compared to June, though with a little less power (.206 ISO). While we may have thought in May that his strong start was a fluke, his consistent hitting should by now have convinced us Cooper can hit PCL pitching. But can he hit major league pitching or will he top out as a quadruple-A player?

Adam Loewen's July line of .327/.407/.510 looks pretty beastly, until you realize that it's the PCL, where LF/1B/DH types need to hit better than that. His 14/22 BB/K rate was a big and important improvement over the previous seasons, but it came with a drop in power. I'd like him to succeed of course, but given that Loewen's out of options and behind Lind/Snider/Encarnacion/Thames/Cooper on the depth chart, that may be unlikely to happen with the Jays.

P.J. Walters had a definite #beastmode outing yesterday, striking out 7 hitters in 4 innings of one-run ball. He was probably on a pitch count, leaving after having thrown just 64 pitches. I'd have been fine with him in the bullpen, and maybe that's ultimately his best spot with the Jays, but they want to either try him out as a starter, or fill a need in Vegas right now. I feel he's an underrated aspect of the Rasmus trade, as he might turn out to be a serviceable reliever.

New Hampshire (won 7-6)

With two doubles and a homer, the #beastmode of the day came from Travis d'Arnaud. When Lawrie loses his prospect status, d'Arnaud will be a fine #1 prospect to have. After a disappointing and strikeout-filled June (.258/.314/.433), Travis put up an impressive .392/.441/.676 line in July. He'll need to watch his strikeouts and he should probably draw more walks, but it's really hard not to get overexcited at the idea of d'Arnaud hitting like Brian McCann while hopefully providing good defense behind the plate. I don't want to lose Arencibia, but J.P. will get another year to prove himself offensively and defensively, while d'Arnaud will likely be destroying Triple-A.

Anthony Gose's July was secretly very good, with a .371 OBP and a .198 ISO. But while Gose has been very good at drawing walks, he's been even better at striking out, which is a concern and could indicate an exploitable flaw in his hitting. However, he's just 20, and even if there's something exploitable there, he could very well improve and become a great hitter who plays great defense. I liked the Wallace-Gose deal when it was made, and I like it even more now.

Deck McGuire pitched 6 innings, striking out 5 and walking one, but he did give up 2 homers and 3 runs total. A very positive sign from McGuire is that he has induced upwards of 50% groundballs in two Double-A starts so far, and I recently read somewhere that he's been taught to attack hitters down in the zone by the Jays' staff. He had a groundball percentage of 52% in his last month with Dunedin as well, so it seems he's taken it to heart. Henderson Alvarez, meanwhile, improve both his K and BB-rates, but suffered a big drop in his groundball rate in July. It's worth watching to see if Alvarez' pitching style is now different.

Dunedin (off-day)

Although Nestor Molina was the early #beastmode king in Dunedin, he has been a little less dominant lately. Still very good, just not as good as a newer member of Dunedin's rotation: Drew Hutchison. While I really like Nestor Molina, and while I think Alvarez and McGuire have good chances to become major league starters, I think Hutchison is the best bet to become a great pitcher. In his last three starts, Drew has seemed to figured out the FSL hitters (at the tender age of 20) as he's struck out 7 or 8 (twice) hitters in each of those starts, while limiting them to 2 walks. He's another guy who gets groundballs more than half the time, so really, there's nothing there to suggest he's not a top 100 prospect.

Lansing (lost 3-6)

Marcus Knecht (3-for-4, double) has been in #beastmode all season long, and although he finished July with a season worst .373 OBP and .145 ISO, he also had his best BB/K ratio yet. Given his age, it's a bit strange he's not been promoted to Dunedin yet. Jake Marisnick has been a bit more inconsistent, but his .333/.411/.538 line in July inspires a lot of confidence, as does his 13/12 BB/K rate over that month. It's hard not to dream on the guy becoming a star on both sides of the ball. What a prospect to have as a backup plan for Anthony Gose. And what a system.

Vancouver (won 3-1)

Oh my goodness Justin Nicolino is good. Yesterday he struck out "just" 5 batters in 5 innings, but he only gave up a groundball single and a walk, while all of the balls hit in play against him were on the ground except for one "lazy pop fly" (described by a commenter on minorleagueball.com). According to people who were at the game, his velocity was 90-92, hitting 94 once. He showed a great, deceptive changeup and was very good at repeating his delivery. Vancouver initially got only one of the HS pitching prospects from the 2010 draft, but a very, very promising one. And now that Noah Syndergaard has been promoted from Bluefield (where he K'd plenty), people from the Vancouver area have another reason to go watch the Canadians.

Bluefield (off-day)

Well I hate to be so positive again (actually I love being able to be so positive), but Mitchell Taylor's last start was pretty #beastmode in it's own right with 9 Ks in 6 innings. Not to be outdone, Aaron Sanchez K'd 6 in just 4 innings himself, giving him 2 promising starts in a row again, with 4 out of his last 5 being good-to-excellent-to-dominant outings. Chris Hawkins has been trying to quell my concerns about his low walk rate by drawing 3 walks in his last 5 games (plus an intentional walk) although it has come at the expense of hitting base hits (just 3 in those last 5 games). He's still hitting .293/.333/.520 though, so Marcus Knecht had better watch his back as "potential left fielder of the future". With Hawkins' speed - 6 triples already and 10/1 SB/CS - he probably provides better defense than Knecht.

GCL Jays (lost 0-6)

No #beastmode for the GCL Jays' hitters yesterday, as they were almost no-hit (they got just 2 hits). Griffin Murphy has not been good for the Jays, with a 5.64 ERA as a 20 year old in the GCL, although he did pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings yesterday (with 4 Ks and 4 BB). But if you want #beastmode, look no further than Eric Arce's July line: .296/.470/.718. I also think Dickie Thon (.269/.449/.462) could be something special when/if he recovers fully from that blood disorder. I'm also excited to follow Dalton Pompey and Seth Conner, but these GCL stats don't get me too excited yet. It's both a small sample and in a very low level league (albeit one that's generally more favorable for pitchers). Still, it bears repeating: what a system. And that's not counting the great 2011 draft haul yet.

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