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Minor League Recap: Thames is on fire, Alvarez returns

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Las Vegas 51s (won 6-4):

Adam Loewen has been struggling a bit for Vegas. He has struck out in almost 30% of his plate appearances, which is simply too high for someone who doesn't play a premium defensive position. He has lately been hitting for power though, and is .260/.307/.490 on the season while hitting .270/.308/.649 over his last 10 games. Yesterday's performance was pretty typical for Loewen: 2-for-5 with a double and a triple, but also 3 strikeouts. At 27, and with no defensive value, the odds are against Loewen having a future with the Blue Jays.

Eric Thames is probably the hottest hitter on the 51s, and I wrote about him yesterday as well. He went 3-for-5 yesterday, with 2 doubles and a home run. He is now .349/.428/.619 on the season and .325/.413/.650 in the last 10 games. Over his last 10 games his BB/K ratio is an impressive 5 BB to 5 K, considering that has never been a strong point for Thames. Of course we can't wait to see if he can crush major league pitching like this, but it would be wise to let him prove he can sustain this kind of production.

Brad Mills, who went 6 innings, striking out 4, walking one and giving up 4 runs, is an interesting figure. He rose quickly in the Jays system, going from A to high-A to AA in just one year (2008). In that season, his K rates dropped a bit at each stop, BB rates climbed ever so slightly, but most of all his GB% really deteriorated with the jump from A to high-A ball. Still, the numbers were good and he didn't have a lot of professional experience. But in AAA in 2009 he hit a bit of a bump, with significantly less impressive K/BB numbers, although the groundball rate improved a bit from high-A and AA in 2008. Since then, he has spend most of his time in AAA. But watch: 2009: 19.9 K%, 10.8 BB%. 2010: 20.3 K%, 9.1 BB%. 2011: 21.0 K%, 7.5 BB%. Also, his swinging strike rates have climbed from 8.6% to 10% to 11.4%. At the same time though, his groundball rates have dropped pretty dramatically (42.8-39.2-35.3) and his popup rates have skyrocketed (5.2-9.5-14.3). Yes, Mills will never be an ace, but he seems intriguing enough for at least a bullpen role.

Other performances: Snider: 2-for-5, double, strikeout. Lawrie: 2-for-5. Podsednik: 2-for-5. Jeroloman: 3-for-4. Diaz: 1-for-3, walk, 2 strikeouts.

New Hampshire (won 1-0):

Wow, Moises Sierra hits his second walkoff groundball single in consecutive games. Going 2-for-4, he's now hitting .292/.333/.438. He does have just 1 walk to 5 strikeouts in his last 10 games, with a .286 OBP over that span. Another negative is that he has stolen 5 bases but got caught stealing 6 times. A possible horror combination with John "stealing is cool" Farrell?

Adeiny Hechavarria's bat has been disappointing. There's no way around it. Even though he drew a walk yesterday in addition to going 1-for-3, his BB% is still just 2.3, down from the 4.4% he posted in AA last year. He has reduced his K% from 14.7 to 10.9, but his BABIP is down from .306 to .245. He has shown some power lately: he is .214/.222/.381 in his last 10 games. To compare, fellow Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias of the Red Sox has no extra base hits this year (although he's in AAA and a bit younger). Hech does have a 5 game hitting streak with 4 stolen bases in that period, while not getting caught stealing. Hech might still be ok, but he does have to improve that discipline.

Other performances: Anthony Gose: 2-for-4, strikeout, 2 stolen bases. Michael McDade: 0-for-4, 2 strikeouts. Travis d'Arnaud: 0-for-3, strikeout.

Dunedin (lost 8-5):

Henderson Alvarez returned from injury for his first start of 2011, which is good to see. He also gave up 6 earned runs in just 2.1 IP, which was less good to see. He struck out two while walking none, but did hit a batter. He allowed 46.7% groundballs, but also 40% line drives. Here's hoping he was just rusty and not still injured.

Nestor Molina came out of the bullpen this time (I'm hoping and expecting that's just until Alvarez is cleared to go to NH, where he was supposed to begin the season) and was stunning. 5 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO. He only allowed 10 balls in play, 6 of which were grounders (60% GB). On the season he has now struck out 28.9% of the batters he's faced, while walking just 2.6%. Apart from this season, Tim Lincecum does not K that many batters. I'm not saying Molina is the new Lincecum (Lincecum struck out a lot more in the minors), but it illustrates how dominant that K% is. Want more? Molina has K'd 11 batters per batter that he has walked. Molina is too good for high-A, in my humble opinion.

Other performances: A.J Jimenez 2-for-3, walk. Justin Jackson: 1-for-3, double, walk, 2 strikeouts. Kevin Ahrens: 3-for-4, walk.

Lansing (lost 9-5)

Strange though it may seem given that he allowed 5 runs in 5.2 innings, Daniel Webb seems to have pitched pretty decently. He struck out 5 while walking one, and he hit a batter. Balls in play were 50% grounders. For the season he has struck out 16.7% of the batters he's faced (to compare, Chad Jenkins has K'd 17.4%) which is low, but not awful. He's walked 7.6%, which is decent. He's gotten 58.7% groundballs and just 9.2% line drives. But with a .390 BABIP against it's hard to put up good numbers. The defense behind him can't be very good.

Of the hitters, Marcus Knecht going 4-for-4 with a home run can't go unmentioned. His BABIP is up to .400 even though he has hit just 10.3% line drives, and he has a bad popup rate (12.1%). So his .329/.402/.526 line will probably not look that good come the end of the season. Because of his limited defensive value he should remain a bit behind Marisnick and Crouse on the prospect lists for now. He is 5 months older than Crouse and 9 months older than Marisnick.

Other performances: Marisnick: 2-for-5, double, 2 strikeouts. Perez: 1-for-5, 2 strikeouts. Crouse: 1-for-4, 2 strikeouts.