Saturday, June 2, 2012

Monthly Minor League Report (May): The Lower Levels

(This dude can play a little bit. Courtesy of Brian Bissell/Future Star Photos)

I promised it last week, and I'm delivering it this week.  The latest installment of the AB4AR Monthly Minor League Report.  Let's dive right in and see how everybody's favorite prospects are doing, shall we?

Low-A Charleston: 33-21 Record, 2nd in Division

The River Dogs are still loaded, and still chugging along near the top of their division, but they have slowed down a bit in the month of May.  That's likely due to the starting rotation regressing some after a hot start. Jose Campos has been out for almost the entire month with an elbow problem, and Caleb Cotham and Vidal Nuno were promoted to Tampa to help fill an injury-depleted pitching staff there.  Bryan Mitchell hasn't missed a beat, though, and has actually lowered his ERA/FIP split since the last time we checked in on him to 2.40/3.20.  He's still striking a lot of guys out (9.62 K/9), and threw more innings (29) in his 5 May starts than he did in April while giving up fewer ER (5) and BB (11).  Evan Rutckyj has joined him in the rotation to help cover for the recent losses.

Offensively, the same guys who were doing the heavy lifting in April are still raking in May.  Tyler Austin (.323/.397/661, 34 XBH, 13 SB) should have already been promoted to Tampa and one has to think that promotion is coming soon, and Gary Sanchez, with 6 XBH and 14 RBI in his last 10 games, is starting to show some of the power that was missing from his game early.  Angelo Gumbs (.268/.318/.430, 19 SB) has started to heat up, as has Cito Culver (.222/.341/.263, 14.7% BB rate).  And Dante Bichette, Jr., slowly but surely, is starting to get healthy and get fully acquainted with the league.  His overall tripleslash still isn't great (.264/.361/.309), but the BB rate is encouraging and gives hope that the goose egg in the HR department will disappear soon.  Mason Williams is still flashing all the tools on a regular basis, and could also be considered for a promotion when decision time comes.

High-A Tampa: 24-29 Record, 4th in Division

The Tampa Yankees sort of treaded water through the season's first month.  They weren't getting much of an offensive contribution from guys who were expected to do more, and they didn't really have a whole lot of starting pitching depth to speak of.  Offensively, not much has changed as it's still Rob Segedin carrying the torch for the lineup.  It seems he always does something productive, even if he only has a 1-hit game, and he's still sporting a very good tripleslash (.287/.352/.450).  He's got 22 XBH and is a perfect 8-for-8 on SB attempts.  He'll never win a Gold Glove in the outfield, but he has definitely shown that he'd adjusted to this level of play, and a promotion can't be too far off.

Ramon Flores was virtually nonexistent in April, and he has started to come around lately.  He's got his OPS up above .700 and is starting to draw more walks (8.5% BB rate).  The power still isn't there, but Flores isn't expected to be much of a power hitter anyway, and with his comfort level at the plate seemingly on the rise, maybe the power will follow.  The other guy who struggled in April, catcher J.R. Murphy, still hasn't broken out in the way most people would like to see, even with a 5-hit game this week.  He's hitting just .234/.309/.320 right now, and is going to start feeling the heat from Gary Sanchez soon.

On the mound, the rotation has been hurt by injuries, particularly the blister problems that have cause Nik Turley a lot of time and halted his hot start ( just 13 IP in May).  Zach Nuding has been the rock of the rotation in Turley's absence, and keeps right on plugging away with a 3.75/2.35 split and 7.88 K/9.  A debut in May that's worth noting is that of big lefty Matt Tracy, who has looked very impressive in his 4 starts (16 H, 3 ER, 17 K in 21.2 IP).  He needs to cut down on the walks a bit, but with him missing the start of the season it's understandable that his command wouldn't be all the way there yet.  Last but not least, Mark Montgomery.  He's the man.  He just is.  He is the man and he needed to be promoted yesterday.

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