|GREAT MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN RACE
Today’s roundup features a new leader in the Great Minor League Home Run Race, a pair of youngsters in Triple-A heating up, a Diamondbacks’ fireballer getting back to doing what he does best, the return of the bitten in Rancho Cucamonga, a walk machine who keeps a-strollin’ in the Texas League and a teenager on a hot streak in the Sally League.
Behold, A New King
Heading to the Futures Game, there was a tie atop the leaderboard of the Great Minor League Home Run Race between esteemed competitors Joseph Nicholas Gallo and Kristopher L. (is he like Harry S. Truman?) Bryant? No longer. There is a new leader, and his name is Bryant. The Cubs’ top prospect has swatted two homers since returning to action, giving him 33 for the season, while Gallo has stayed silent.
Maikel Franco, 3b, Lehigh Valley (Phillies): Possibly energized by seeing that we’d ranked him as the No. 50 prospect in baseball despite a slow start, Franco has torn the cover off the ball this month. He was 7-for-18 this weekend (the IronPigs had a pair of doubleheaders) with three doubles and four RBIs, and is now working on a five-game hitting streak. This month, the 21-year-old two-time Futures Game alum is hitting .365/.379/.619 with nine doubles, an inexplicable two triples and a longball. He and Javier Baez are proof positive that you just don’t give up on youngsters in Triple-A.
Pacific Coast League
Javier Baez, ss, Iowa (Cubs): We’ve already talked about Kris Bryant, so we’ll give Baez his shine here. The 21-year-old shortstop is riding a 14-game hitting streak and appears to have turned the corner after a brutal first two months. How brutal? In May, he hit .250/.303/.435 and it was a marked improvement over his April. He re-announced his presence at the Futures Game with an opposite-field home run off of Lucas Giolito, and his 16 longballs this season are second in the Cubs’ system to, of course, the incomparable Bryant.
Luis Severino, rhp, Trenton (Yankees): After overtaking Gary Sanchez for the top prospect in the Yankees’ system, Severino has blazed a very quick trail. He moved up from low Class A Charleston after the South Atlantic League all-star break, made four dominant starts with high Class A Tampa, struck out Joey Gallo in a scoreless inning at the Futures Game, then was moved to Double-A. He made his upper-level debut on Saturday at Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium and kept on impressing. The 20-year-old lasted five innings, surrendered one run on just two hits and a walk and fanned six with a fastball that reached as high as 98 mph. To put in perspective how filthy he’s been, there’s this: He allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings at Hickory on May 25. Since then, he’s thrown 49 IP, surrendered 11 runs (10 runs) on 29 hits and 12 walks and fanned 57.
Archie Bradley, rhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks): Boy, have D’Backs fans needed this. After missing two months with a tender elbow, Bradley, the team’s top pitching prospect, has come back strong in five starts with the Double-A BayBears. He was especially impressive on Sunday, when he allowed two runs on three hits and a walk with 10 punchouts mixed in against Chattanooga. It was the first start where he’s lasted six innings or longer and allowed fewer than two walks. It’s one start, but for those in Arizona suffering through a terrible year, it’s plenty encouraging.
Max Muncy, 1b, Midland (Athletics): One of the best eyes in the minors was on display again this weekend (as much as strong strike-zone judgement can really be “on display”) with six walks over three games this weekend against San Antonio. He’s got 62 free passes this season, tied for 10th in the minors with Allan Dykstra (your Triple-A Home Run Derby champion) and Seth Mejias-Brean. Moreover, he launched his sixth homer of the season on Sunday. It’s not a sexy profile for a first baseman, for sure, but it’s at least a Moneyball profile.
Florida State League
J.P. Crawford, ss, Clearwater (Phillies): It took him a little while, but it looks like he’s adjusted quite nicely to high Class A. Crawford, just 19 years old, had three hits on Sunday in a rare Threshers win (they are 29-68) and through 15 games in July is hitting a cool .298/.355/.404. He has a hit in all but two games this month, and has earned plaudits for his above-average defense and throwing arm. Some scouts, as we saw in our Scout’s Video View series, even see 20+ homers down the line as he matures and adds strength.
Jerrud Sabourin, 1b, Carolina (Indians): No, he’s not a super prospect or really much of a prospect at all, but he did have a fantastic day on Saturday. In the Mudcats’ thrashing of Myrtle Beach, Sabourin hit for the cycle as a part of a 5-for-6 day with three runs and three RBIs. Amazingly, he entered the day with no triples and just two home runs, so for him to do both in the same game was highly unlikely. The 24-year-old Indiana alumnus is hitting .295/.362/.397 this season with three homers and 26 RBIs.
Alexander Guerrero, 2b, Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers): Well, well, well, look who’s back. With his ear healed up after part of it was bitten off by ex-teammate Miguel Olivo, the Dodgers’ big-money signing, finally made it back to full-season ball after seven games in the Arizona League. He went 1-for-2 on Sunday with a double and a run scored, but the biggest victory was simply getting back on the field after one of the more bizarre and horrific injuries in the minors in recent memory. My, my, my.
South Atlantic League
Nomar Mazara, of, Hickory (Rangers): It seems like Mazara has been around for far too long to be just 19, doesn’t it? Still, he’s that young and won’t turn 20 until April 26 next season, so his repeat of the South Atlantic League isn’t particularly detrimental when it comes to development. After a slow first two months, he’s come around over the last six weeks or so. Since June 1, he’s hitting .302/.400/.550 with 10 doubles, a triple and 10 of his 15 homers this season. He was 6-for-11 this weekend with three runs and two doubles against Greensboro.
Victor Alcantara, rhp, Burlington (Angels): With rough secondary offerings and control, it’s always going to be a mixed bag with Alcantara. With mid-90s gas, however, it’s always going to be worth watching, too. On Sunday, he was strong enough in the other aspects of his game to string together seven innings of four-hit, two-run (one earned) ball with three walks and seven strikeouts. The innings pitched and strikeouts tie season highs.