The Fast Track
Olympic speed skater Eddy Alvarez, signed as a nondrafted free agent in June by the White Sox, played his first game Tuesday night at low Class A Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League and had a hit and an RBI for the Intimidators.
A middle infielder who played second base last night, Alvarez last played junior-college ball in 2011, concentrating his energies since then on qualifying for the Olympics as a speedskater. (The 24-year-old won a silver medal at the Game in Sochi in the 500-meter relay.)
Alvarez was an all-conference Salt Lake Community College shortstop, hitting .303 with 15 doubles, 42 runs scored and 43 RBIs. His baseball career was seemingly over when he had knee surgery in 2012, but that winter, according to the Chicago Tribune, he told reporters he intended to return to baseball following the Olympics.
Alvarez worked out for assistant general manager Buddy Bell and farm director Nick Capra in Arizona this June, and GM Rick Hahn told the newspaper the team was “impressed enough to sign him” on June 10. So far across two levels, Alvarez is at .292/.403/.407. One scout said Alvarez’s only tool is makeup, but he could be organization filler for a few years.
|MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN RACE
International League • AAA
Francisco Lindor, ss, Columbus (Indians). Lindor, slumping of late since a hot start to his Triple-A stay, broke out Tuesday with two hits, including his third homer. Even with this effort, the 20-year-old is at .196 in his past 10 games, with 11 strikeouts and one walk. The recent play won’t dampen the Indians’ enthusiasm. Lindor is still likely to open 2015 as Cleveland’s shortstop and should get to Progressive Field before the season’s out.
Pacific Coast League • AAA
Kris Bryant, 3b, Iowa (Cubs). Don’t hand the minor league player of the year accolades to Joey Gallo yet. Bryant slammed his 39th homer on Monday, taking the lead from Gallo, and reached 100 RBIs. Since his promotion to Triple-A, Bryant’s performance has hardly slowed (1.106 OPS vs. 1.160 in Double-A), whereas Gallo has seen his strikeouts skyrocket (91 in 222 PAs). One rival manager called Bryant’s power the best he’s ever seen and Bryant is getting solid reviews on his defense as well.
Eastern League • AA
Brian Johnson, lhp, Portland (Red Sox). One of a growing pack of talented, young Boston arms, Johnson could easily have been buried in the wake of Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and the recently acquired Eduardo Rodriguez and Edwin Escobar. But Johnson has steadily been among the better pitchers in the Eastern League at 12-3, 2.26, including a solid six-inning effort (4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K) against Akron on Tuesday. He has a solid, four-pitch mix at his best, with a low-90s fastball down in the zone and a swing- and-miss curveball.
Southern League • AA
Scott Schebler, rf, Chattanooga (Dodgers). Schebler, the Dodgers’ No. 17 prospect entering the season, became the first Lookouts player to hit three homers in a game since Reggie Jefferson in June 1989. Schebler capped the big night with an inside-the-park homer in the fifth in a 5-0 win over Jacksonville, and he passed Bryant for the Southern League home runs lead. Of course, Bryant hasn’t played in the SL since June 15, but give Schebler some credit too. Signed away from Wichita State for $300,000 in 2010, Schebler has surprising power and has cut down on his whiffs from last season without sacrificing any pop.
Texas League • AA
Nomar Mazara, of, Frisco (Rangers). Mazara, of whom big things were expected given the $4.95 million signing bonus in 2011, was skipped from low Class A Hickory to Frisco and not surprisingly struggled with a jump that large. But the 6-foot-4 lefty hitter cracked his first Double-A homer on Tuesday and 20th overall. Mazara’s the youngest player in the league by a month over Seattle’s Victor Sanchez and hasn’t looked overwhelmed by the promotion, with three of his six hits for extra bases and only six whiffs in 29 PAs. Despite the holes in his swing, most evaluators peg him with at least average raw power, while the Rangers believe plus power is still his ceiling.
Florida State League • Hi A
Tyler Wagner, rhp, Brevard County (Brewers). The former Utah closer has adapted well to the rotation, sitting just behind Tyler Glasnow for the league’s best ERA (1.68) and among the leaders in WHIP and opponent average. He got his 12th win Tuesday, holding Daytona’s lineup to five hits and an unearned run over six innings while striking out seven. What Wagner lacks in stuff he makes up for with command, although his fastball features good sink and heavy life in the low- to mid-90s. He has nine outings (out of 22 starts) of at least five innings without allowing an earned run.
California League • Hi A
Tyler Marlette, c, High Desert (Mariners). The combo of the bat-first catcher and High Desert’s hitter-friendly park have produced what you’d expect from Marlette: .298/.351/.498—but the splits are dramatic. The stocky, righthanded hitter has compiled a .962 OPS at Mavericks Stadium, opposed to .739 on the road. He’s also dominated lefthanded pitching (1.123 OPS) and has been rather average against righties (.751). He homered Tuesday, his 12th of the season, and has shown improvement behind the plate with his receiving skills.
Carolina League • Hi A
Cleuluis Rondon, ss, Winston-Salem (White Sox). Four of Tuesday’s five games were rained out, leaving us with a thin list of participants to chose from. Rondon, part of the haul that included Francellis Montas from the Jake Peavy deal, is known for his slick glove, but went 2-for-5 Tuesday with a double. Despite that, he’s just 8-for-39 in his past 10 games.
Midwest League • Lo A
Alex Reyes, rhp, Peoria (Cardinals). Reyes, the Cardinals’ No. 5 prospect in our Midseason Prospect Update, has a dynamic fastball-curve combo but has trouble keeping them in line at times. On Tuesday, Reyes tied a career high with 11 strikeouts and allowed only two hits in six innings against Burlington. Reyes returned to the mound after two weeks away as the Cardinals try to limit his innings, and he told milb.com that he was throwing a changeup and that it was working better than ever. Typically, Reyes is striking out almost 11 batters per nine, but also walking 5.68/9.
South Atlantic League • Lo A
Manuel Margot, cf, Greenville (Red Sox). The supremely toolsy Margot had three hits Tuesday night, adding to a ridiculous 10-game stretch (21-for-46, two homers, 10 RBIs). Signed out of the Dominican in 2011 for $800,000, Margot has a combo of above-average hitting and on-base skills, and scouts project him to hit double-digit homers and get 20-25 steals.