A month into the season, I think it is fair to begin looking more systematically at how the significant guys in our minor league system are faring. I’ll focus my attention on the guys that matter, a few exceptional performances from guys that probably don’t matter, and last year’s draft class.
Columbus (9-12, last place)
I really thought Columbus would dominate this season given the talent there. So far, not so much – although they have quite a few great individual performances.
Matt LaPorta: .352/.431/.676, 9.8 BB%, 9.8K%, 11 XBHs, +11 Net
For those who were beginning to get nervous about LaPorta at the end of last season…relax. Quite simply, there is nothing not to like about LaPorta’s line. The countdown is well underway as to when we will see him in Cleveland.
Luis Valbuena: .311/.427/.500, 16.7 BB%, 14.4 K%, 8 XBHs, +7 Net
I argued in a recent GameThread that Valbuena’s performance is in many ways more interesting than LaPorta’s. Valbuena is easily handling AAA pitching while, based on team reports, displaying stellar middle-infield defense. It’s hard for me to not get overly excited about a Cabrera-Valbuena DP combination. Great defense. +.400 OBP. Muy buena.
Michael Brantley: .217/.299/.275, 9.1 BB%, 18.2 K%, 3 XBHs, -1 Net
Brantley has struggled with hamstring issues and is clearly not feeling comfortable at the plate. He’s already more than halfway to his entire 2008 strikeout total. After his rave reviews in spring training, this is disappointing.
David Huff: 3-0, 4.09 ERA, 5.02 FIP, 10.0 BB%, 21.1 K%, 36 GB%, -5 Net
Huff is not off to an extraordinary start, and yet has still been effective. Keeping the K-rate over 20% even when he clearly has not been at his best is nice to see. I expect to see his walk rate come back down and GB rate go back up.
Jeremy Sowers: 1-1, 2.25 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 4.8 BB%, 21.2 K%, 42 GB%, +7 Net
Reports have Sowers throwing 93mph, his control has been fantastic so far, and he is getting strikeouts at a higher rate than he has since his debut campaign in 2005. I think many of us, myself included, are skeptical of Sowers. But his success so far this season cannot be ignored and might be the most important performance in Columbus so far this season.
David Dellucci: .414/.469/.517 – With Hafner DLed, Dellucci’s return is imminent
Michael Aubrey: .404/.431/.635 – I highlight him only because he’s been on a tear
Josh Barfield: .341/.370/.409 – on a 7 game hit streak
Jordan Brown: .309/.371/.509 – another first baseman!
Wes Hodges: .273/.284/.351 – teaming up with Brantley to bring down the offense
Andy Marte: .273/.333/.409 – who? (24 plate appearances)
Chris Gimenez: .151/.270/.245 – another slow, injury tainted start
Wyatt Toregas: .281/.351/.594 – has taken advantage of Gimenez’s struggles with 3 HRs in the past week
John Meloan: 14IP, 14H, 3HR, 4BB, 14K, 5.01 FIP – two bad outings
Akron (16-4, first place)
Despite some early season hitting problems, Akron is finding a way to win in impressive fashion.
Carlos Santana: .262/.405/.623, 19.2 BB%, 14.1 K%, 10 XBHs, +12 Net
As I said yesterday, not all .260 averages are created equally. Santana has been a stud and has done nothing to dampen optimism about his future.
Beau Mills: .266/.286/.380, 2.4 BB%, 14.3 K%, 7 XBHs, -5 Net
This could be going better for Beau. He made big improvements in his plate patience last year, it’d be nice to see him get that back.
Nick Weglarz: .089/.243/.143, 14.3 BB%, 27.1 K%, 1 XBH, -7 Net
Biggest disappointment so far. I wonder how long the Indians will let him struggle before trying to put him into a more comfortable environment, either against lower competition or with a former hitting coach.
Carlos Rivero: .208/.296/.292, 11.0 BB%, 17.1 K%, 4 XBHs, -1 Net
Also disappointing, though the peripherals are much better than with Weglarz. And for whatever it is worth, minorleaguesplits.com suggests he has been getting pretty unlucky with balls in play.
Hector Rondon: 4-0, 1.17 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 4.4 BB%, 24.4 K%, 47 GB%, +14 Net
By all accounts and by all measures Rondon has been sensational. Better competition, more strikeouts, fewer walks, more groundballs, better outcome. If he keeps this up for another month I expect he’ll get an early promotion to Columbus.
Jeanmar Gomez: 3-2, 3.62 FIP (A+/AA), just made his first start in Akron after getting called up, but has shown improved BB/K numbers so far this season. One to keep an eye on.
Josh Rodriguez: .314/.478/.353 – Valbuena makes it easy to forget Rodriguez exists. Exceptional patience covering up a lack of power so far. Also, 4 errors in the field.
Chuck Lofgren: 1-0, 3.69 FIP – Can 6 no-hit innings in his last outing and back to back great starts awaken long dormant hope?
Jose Constanza: .323/.400/.419, 10/1 SB/CS – this guy just hangs around as a mildly interesting speedy centerfielder…
Kinston (11-10, first place tie)
More great pitching, coupled with some nice performances by highly thought of 2008 draftees in Carolina…
Kelvin De La Cruz: 2-0, 1.50 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 4.4 BB%, 42.2 K%, 29 GB%, +12 Net
The tall lefty absolutely crushed the Kinston competition in his first two starts, getting 19 of his 36 outs via the K. Unfortunately he has been shelved since then, resting a sore arm. Fingers crossed.
Eric Berger: 2-1, 1.42 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 10.5 BB%, 34.2 K%, 44 GB%, +15 Net
Eric, who turned 23 last week, is picking up where he left off last season in his successful debut. His numbers are actually dragged down somewhat by a bad first start.
Zack Putnam: 2-0, 5.00 ERA, 2.23 FIP, 5.4 BB%, 25.7 K%, 56 GB%, +15 Net
Another 2008 draftee off to a great start (pay more attention to the FIP than the ERA). Putnam got hit with a linedrive in his last start, forcing him out after just 2 innings, but word is he should be fine going forward. A nice competition between Putnam and Berger to see who might get promoted to Akron first.
Cord Phelps: .306/.452/.444, 19.1 BB%, 14.9 K%, 9 XBHs, +11 Net
Tim Fedroff: .303/.422/.455, 16.9 BB%, 21.7 K%, 7 XBHs, +2 Net
Two more 2008 draftees continuing the early season trend of outstanding patience at the plate. For both of these, but especially Fedroff given his K-rate, it’d be nice to see a little more power.
Lonnie Chisenhall: .274/.344/.440, 8.6 BB%, 21.5 K%, 6 XBHs, -6 Net
Lonnie got some love from Baseball America after homering in 3 consecutive games earlier in April. Has cooled down a little since then, but the power and positive reviews of his defense at 3rd (although 4 errors) are nice to see. It’d be good to see him make a little better contact.
Matt McBride: .412/.468/.718 – yeah, yeah, yeah…
Dallas Cawiezell: 12.1IP, 3 BB, 15 K, 2.22 FIP
CC Lee: 14 IP, 6 BB, 17 K, 5.03 FIP
Lake County (8-12, 6th place)
As I mentioned in last week’s early weekend 6-pack, it’s another loaded pitching staff-very little offense club on Cleveland’s East Side this season.
Abner Abreu: .208/.240/.292, 2.7 BB%, 38.7 K%, 5 XBHs, -24 Net
It doesn’t really matter what kind of moon shots you hit in batting practice if you rack up 29 Ks and just 2 walks in your first 75 plate appearances.
Karexon Sanchez: .268/.342/.493, 8.8 BB%, 30.0 K%, 7 XBHs, -2 Net
Add in 8/0 SB/CS and Sanchez is another guy hanging around the peripheries of the interesting crowd. I’m admittedly biased, though, as I really hope to one day witness, for at least one inning of one game, an infield that includes Karexon Sanchez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena – just for the scrabble points.
Joey Mahalic: 0-1, 1.00 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 8.8 BB%, 20.6 K%, 64 GB%, +7 Net
The 20-year old veteran of the Captains pitching staff, following in the organizational footsteps of Aaron Laffey (albeit about a year behind in terms of age). Might get promoted to Kinston soon.
Alexander Perez: 0-0, 1.99 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 8.0 BB%, 26.1 K%, 58 GB%, +11 Net
19-year old Dominican is off to a great start. The Latin American scouting department has been doing its job well.
TJ House: 1-1, 1.53 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 14.5 BB%, 21.1 K%, 51 GB%, +3 Net
Some control problems, but an encouraging debut from the 19-year old House.
Santo Frias: 1-0, 2.38 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 13.3 BB%, 40.0 K%, 53 GB%, +12 Net
One of my favorites going into last season (especially paired with Lord Kelvin) is coming back from missing most of last season with injury. Working out of the bullpen in the early season he has been fantastic. It’d be nice to see him either move back into the rotation at some point or up to Kinston.
Nate Recknagel: .327/.411/.449 – big 2008 U of M draftee will need to show more power given his defensive limitations
Jeremie Tice: .246/.342/.362 – 2008 college draftee…
TJ McFarland: 0-2, 7.13 ERA, 4.49 FIP – control and BABIP problems for this 19-year old