As we race toward mid-June and the minor league season's midpoint, we pause to 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
San Jose retained the distinction of having the minors' top run differential, plus-159, but we're going to skip over the Giants here because we examined the keys to their success last time. The next most efficient club, at plus-135 runs, has been San Antonio, the Padres' Double-A affiliate in the Texas League.
The Missions hold a commanding nine-game lead on Frisco in the TL's Southern Division, and many of the club's top players are familiar to prospect fans (or fans of the 2008 draft). Third baseman James Darnell (second round) has challenged for the triple crown by batting .351/.444/.631 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs through 225 at-bats. Left fielder Jaff Decker (supplemental first) hit eight home runs in April but has cooled a bit to settle at .232/.377/.442 with 10 homers through 224 at-bats. Center fielder Blake Tekotte (third) already has earned a big league callup this season, but he's back in San Antonio now and batting .285/.404/.479 with seven homers and 15 stolen bases through 165 at-bats. In the midst of a breakout campaign, shortstop Beamer Weems (eighth) carries a .286/.381/.482 batting line, including a career-high seven home runs, through 199 at-bats.
San Antonio leads all Texas League clubs with 390 runs, 85 home runs, 151 doubles, 274 walks and all three of the common offensive averages—the Missions are batting .286/.372/.492 as a team. These offensive fireworks stand in direct contrast to the recent past. Last year San Antonio's Wolff Municipal Stadium played as one of the TL's most run-suppressing environments. In 2010, the Mission scored 3.38 runs per game at home (compared with 5.29 on the road) and hit 40 homers in 71 games. Through 29 home games this year, San Antonio already has slugged 37 homers, and their runs per game average has leaped to 6.93.
One might expect to see a corresponding jump in runs allowed by Missions pitchers, but that really hasn't been the case. San Antonio pitchers have allowed fewer runs at home (3.83 per game) this season than on the road (4.5). They lead the TL with a 3.74 ERA and 500 strikeouts, while ranking No. 2 with a 1.30 WHIP and 188 walks issued. The Padres called up righthander Anthony Bass for today's game, and the ’08 fifth-rounder ranks among the TL's finest at 6-3, 3.53 with a 1.15 WHIP and 60-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 63 2/3 innings. Righty Jorge Reyes (17th round, ’09) joins Bass in the top 10 for the league's ERA title. He's gone 3-1, 3.79 with 51 strikeouts and 16 walks in 54 2/3 innings. Casey Kelly (centerpiece of Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Red Sox) entered the season as the organization's top prospect, and the righthander has been generally effective as he repeats the Double-A level. He's gone 4-2, 3.98 in 13 starts, with 55 strikeouts and 20 walks over 72 1/3 innings.
|WORST FULL-SEASON TEAMS
|7||Brevard County||24||39||.381||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||13-17||285||327||-42|
When last we checked in on the worst teams, on May 27, the high Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs seemed like the safest bet to right the ship, simply because they had more talent than the other under-performing clubs. (They went 9-6 in 15 games following that reading.) The most-likely-to-improve distinction this time goes to the Double-A Mississippi Braves. However, the Braves have a long way to go. They rank last in the 10-team Southern League with 3.94 runs scored per game and next to last with 5.08 runs allowed per game.
The Mississippi rotation includes righthanders Randall Delgado (3.54 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 64 SO, 73 2/3 IP), Arodys Vizcaino (4.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 18 SO, 18 IP) and J.J. Hoover (2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 58 SO, 61 2/3 IP) as well as lefty Brett Oberholtzer (4.80 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 60 SO, 75 IP). All four ranked among the organization's Top 10 Prospects in the offseason, and they're the big reasons that the Braves lead the SL with 500 strikeouts (and rank sixth with 3.6 walks per nine innings).
Fixing the M-Braves' offense will require more drastic action—up to and including several promotions from high Class A Lynchburg, where the likes of Todd Cunningham, Phil Gosselin, Adam Milligan and Joey Terdoslavich play. As it stands, Mississippi's biggest offensive threats are 27-year-old center fielder (and Northern League rescue) Antoan Richardson (.330/.480/.348 with eight steals) and shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, who has shown a wide array of skills in a breakout season. The 21-year-old Pastornicky is batting .303/.351/.429 with five homers, 12 doubles-plus-triples and 14 stolen bases in 238 at-bats. He sports a 17-to-25 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
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