Last night three top pitching prospects - at least arguably the top 2017 performers at their respective levels - took the mound For New Hampshire, Dunedin and Lansing. The results did not disappoint.
The headliner for the evening was Justin Maese, who accomplished the rare minor league feat of a 9 inning complete game, on just over 100 pitches against Kane County. He allowed just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 7 while allowing just a single free pass. He sat in the low-90s on the stadium gun all night, touching up 94 while missing more bats than normal, piling up 14 whiffs on 48 swings, for a very strong 71% contact rate. Very encouragingly, his last turn through the order was his strongest, as he struck out five of the last eight batters.
Ironically, in terms of contact it might not even have been one of Maese's better outings. He allowed just 5 hits, but three were doubles with two being very hard contact. He benefited from having about four hard hit balls ripped right at fielders. In total, an uncharacteristically low 12 of 25 (48%) balls were kept on the ground - a solid number for most, but lower than normal for Maese. Still, that's not to take anything away from this excellent outing: he threw strikes, had his slider working, and was very, very good.
The offensive star for Lansing was Edward Olivares, who continued to rake with three hard hits, including two triples lined to the alley.
For New Hampshire, Conner Greene was on the mound in Altoona on an unseasonably cold evening (~13 Celsius). His velocity was consequently a little down, 92-93 in the early going and thereafter the fastball got into the mid-90s range. He turned in a solid outing (1 run on 4 singles in 6 innings) though he struggled to consistently throw strikes and as a result fell behind twice as many hitters as he got ahead of and issued 4 walks.
What Greene did do well is stifle contact, with only two really well hit balls all evening. Of the 17 balls put in play, 7 were on the ground with another three popups (and most of the other balls in the air were routine). The one run came after back to back walks to start the inning, a sac bunt and then sac fly. We won't talk about what happened after Greene left, as the bullpen coughed up a 3-1 lead culminating in a walkoff HBP. Yuck.
In Dunedin, T.J. Zeuch pitched 7 innings in his longest professional start, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits. He struck 4 without any free passes, and one would be inclined to look at that and say it was a solid if unspectacular start. But in reality, it was a stellar first 5 innings followed by a rough ending the last time through the order.
Over the first five 5 innings, Zeuch was dominant. He allowed one run (due to a stolen base and wild pitch) on 4 hits with 3 strikeouts, but only two of those were well struck, including a double. Of the 18 balls in play, 13 were on the ground, with a popup as well. But with two out in the 5th, one of those ground balls was back up the middle, off his thigh for an infield hit. He stayed in the game, finished the inning and two more, but was not the same (whether coincidentally or not).
The last time through the order, Zeuch was hit hard, he gave up 5 hits, and only one was a cheapie (offset by a hard hit out right to an outfielder). A double play to end the 6th prevented any damage, but in the 7th top prospect Nick Senzel got to him for a hard two out double to drive in the last run.
Is Rowdy Tellez about to break out? With two doubles last night, he's now 6/16 with a walk and strikeout over his last four games since May 8th. We're just over a month into the season, and that's typically been about how long it takes Tellez to adjust to a new level. In AA last year in through May 9th, he sported a .143/.299/.275 line (67 wRC+). After a three hit breakout on May 10th, he hit .337/.413/.597 the rest of the way.