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August 1-6 minor league report: Pannone debuts, Borucki, Murphy and more

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It's been home sweet home at the FAES for the D-Jays
It's been home sweet home at the FAES for the D-Jays
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
After his would be debut in the Blue Jays system was washed out by rain Saturday, Thomas Pannone took the mound for the front end of a doubleheader yesterday. The line - 5 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 4.1 innings - would suggest it didn't go well, but the start wasn't as bad as the line would suggest.

For starters, all of the runs scored.on two home runs. The first was legitimate, well past the short right field wall, and coming after a 2 out walk when he couldn't finish off a batter ahead 1-2. The second, with two on and two out, was what appeared to be a routine fly ball that got into the wind and carried just over the shortish porch in right centre.

Pannone worked in the low-90s, and his curveball was very effective early. He racked up 15 swinging strikes (on 51 swings, 71% contact), which allowed him to strike out six batters the first time through the order, although none of the subsequent 12 batters. He perhaps leaned too heavily on it, as hitters got a good look at it and the second home run was hit off it.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Sean-Reid Foley was on the mound. He was inconsistent early, giving up a lot of hard contact and 3 runs. But he settled in to go 6 good innings, with 5 strikeouts against 7 hits and a walk. The strikeouts came mostly towards the end, his last time through the order, when the contact he allowed was mostly on the ground. But he only missed 6 bats (88% contact), and his fastball was mostly 91-92, touching 93-94.

Carlos Ramirez threw the last inning, with his slider apparently devastating. In two outings, he struck out 3 batters and still hasn't allowed a run in 23.2 innings this year, with a 29/7 strikeout to walk ratio. Can we please, pretty please, get a look at him soon?

Also in AA earlier in the week, Ryan Borucki made his third straight strong start, with another 7 shutout innings, yielding 6 hits with a HBP and 7 strikeouts. His velocity was a tick better this time, and he leaned heavily on his secondaries. While he gave up some hard contact, particularly in the middle, that was more or less inevitable and he scattered it. He "only" managed to keep 50% of balls on the ground this time, while missing 12 bats for a strong 74% contact rate.

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Jumping down to to low-A level, Patrick Murphy made his second start back from injury yesterday, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits over 6 innings, with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. He was flat out dominant over the first five innings, needing just 49 pitches and throwing 39 strikes, though the three hits he allowed were all squared up hard. After getting 0-2 to the first batter of the 6th, he couldn't finish him off and ended up walking both him and the next batter.

Murphy's fastball was 93-95 for most of the outing, touching 96 late. His curve was mostly working too, and he got a bunch of swinging strikes on it. One thing he hadn't done a lot of this year was miss bats, but he piled up 14 whiffs on 38 swings (an excellent 63% contact rate).

On Saturday, Yennsy Diaz was also bringing the heat in Dayton, regularly hitting 94-96 with his fastball, consistent with what he's done since getting to Lansing a couple months ago. He worked 6 pretty good innings, allowing just 1 run (on solo bomb) among 5 hits, while amassing 9 strikeouts against 2 walks. He struck out the side in the first, mostly just blowing fastball by the opposing hitters.

He gave up a home run to start the second, and briefly lost the zone in the 3rd inning, issuing his only two walks back-to-back to load the bases with two out, but got out of it. It was largely smooth sailing other than that, with mostly weak or routine contact when he wasn't striking batters out. He piled up an astounding 20 whiffs, making for a 58% contact rate on 48 swings.

Earlier in the week it was Osman Gutierrez starring on the mound. He's been really inconsistent in 2017, and almost had this start get away from him, but found his groove to turn in 7 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts against just a walk and 4 hits. The first three batters reached against him - an infield single, hard gliner at 102 MPH off the bat and a walk - but he struck out the next two and stranding those runners.

That was basically the extent of the damage against him, as over the next 6 innings, he gave just a bloop single and a double to the second last batter he faced. He started the 3rd time through the order by striking out five straight batters, holding 93-94 on his fastball from the beginning to the end. He totalled 14 swinging strikes on 46 swings (70% contact rate).
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Here's a crazy stat. Dunedin is in contention for a playoff spot, 1.5 games behind Tampa for top spot in the second half with a 26-17 record (Tampa won the first half to qualify, if they hold on and win the second half too, Dunedin is 0.5 games behind Clearwater for the other spot based on full season record).

That 26-17 second half record breaks down into a incredible 20-3 (0.870) at home, and a very poor 6-14 (0.400) on the road. Incidentally, from a purely statistical pint of view, that difference is significant at well over 3 standard deviations (about 3.8)