As we head into Memorial Day weekend, most every minor league team has completed more than one-third of its scheduled games. Let's take a closer look at the 10 best and the 10 worst full-season clubs. The L-30 column spells out each club's record in the last 30 games, and in a five-month season that counts for a lot.
|BEST FULL-SEASON TEAMS
|7||New Hampshire||30||16||.652||Eastern||AA||Blue Jays||20-10||219||177||42|
The Giants' high Class A San Jose affiliate leads the field with a plus-113 run differential, proving to be the most balanced club in the California League. They rank second in runs scored per game (6.36) with a power-oriented attack—the Giants lead the Cal League in doubles (102) while ranking second in homers (49) and third in slugging (.444).
Last year's first-rounder Gary Brown, a center fielder, has come as advertised, batting .365/.436/.538 with five homers, 13 doubles and three triples in 197 at-bats. The 22-year-old speedster has 28 steals in 40 attempts to go with 44 runs scored in 46 games out of the leadoff spot. Other key contributors include third baseman Chris Dominguez (.289/.333/.464, nine homers) and catcher Hector Sanchez (.296/.314/.533, eight homers).
The San Jose pitching staff sports the Cal League's only sub-four ERA at 3.30—No. 2 Rancho Cucamonga checks in at 4.35—but they do so not with overwhelming power, but with finesse and command of the strike zone. The Giants lead league in WHIP (1.30) by virtue of stingy hit (8.1) and walk (3.6) rates per nine innings.
Righthander Zack Wheeler, an ’09 first-rounder, has gone 3-2, 4.32 through eight starts, balancing 24 walks with 50 strikeouts through 41 2/3 innings. A pair of college righties from that same ’09 draft head the rotation. Chris Heston (12th round, East Carolina) is 5-1, 2.32 through eight starts, while Craig Westcott (30th, NAIA Bellhaven U. in Mississippi) is 5-0, 3.13 through seven. Dominican import Kelvin Marte, a lefty, opens the year at 5-2, 2.75 through nine starts. Heston has the highest strikeout rate of the trio at 6.6 per nine.
|WORST FULL-SEASON TEAMS
|7||Brevard County||17||31||.354||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||10-20||217||252||-35|
One team here that may have the prospect firepower to overcome a slow start is Charlotte, the Rays' high Class A affiliate. The Stone Crabs' offense ranks fourth in the Florida State League in both on-base (.337) and doubles (89) and first with 55 stolen bases.
Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, a key piece in the Matt Garza trade, has quietly had an outstanding all-around season, batting .367/.446/.510 with two homers, five doubles and five triples in 147 at-bats. He leads the FSL in average and slugging while swiping 13 bases in 20 attempts and drawing 18 walks.
The Charlotte pitching staff ranks in the FSL's bottom third in run prevention, thanks mostly to a league-worst rate of 3.8 walks per nine innings. Given the pitchers on the Stone Crabs' staff, the Rays can expect improvement.
Twenty-one-year-old lefty Kyle Lobstein has gone 3-2, 2.60 in six appearances, collecting 27 strikeouts and 10 walks in 34 2/3 innings, so he's not a part of the problem. A pair of 2010 college righties have been similarly effective. Merrill Kelly (eighth round, Arizona State) has gone 2-1, 2.08 in eight appearances and Jake Thompson (second, Long Beach State) has gone 0-1, 3.52 in just four starts. The Charlotte pitcher with the poorest stuff-to-results ratio thus far has been 22-year-old righty Alex Colome, who has gone 1-4, 5.44 despite notching 51 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. He slipped in the second half last season with low Class A Bowling Green (5.74 ERA in nine starts) and hasn't yet regained his footing.
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