Baseball America takes you around the minors each weekday, highlighting prospect injuries, an animated GIF of the day as well as notable batting and pitching performances in each of the 10 full-season leagues, from Triple-A down to low Class A.
The Big Hurt
Javier Baez, ss, Triple-A Iowa (Cubs). One of the top prospects in the game hit the shelf on Sunday (retroactive to Friday) after spraining his ankle while taking grounders during batting practice. Moreover, as the Des Moines Register notes, Baez was also dealing with pain in his back, which he attributes to his powerful swing. Ankle injuries are sometimes tricky, so there’s no real timetable for Baez’s return.
Luis Heredia, rhp, low Class A West Virginia (Pirates). Trying to reapply some prospect sheen after a rough 2013 that saw him report overweight and then walk nearly a hitter every two innings with the Power, Heredia felt pain in his shoulder and left his most recent start after one pitch. The following tweet from the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail beat writer seemed to indicate that his pitching coach doesn’t believe the injury is serious, but it’s certainly worth watching at this point.
— Tom Bragg (@TomBraggSports) April 13, 2014
J.J.’s GIF Of The Day
The Triple-A International League isn’t proving to be much of a challenge for Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco. He’s hitting .465/.511/.744 a week and a half into the season. The most picturesque of his 20 hits is this home run he hit on Saturday night with the kind of swing that seems only possible for lefthanded hitters.
International League (AAA)
Gregory Polanco, rf, Indianapolis (Pirates). He already won the IL’s player of the week honor, and he’ll get the nod here, too. Polanco, who at this point is merely biding his time until he’s manning the grass in Pittsburgh, was 7-for-13 with a triple, a home run (which you can see above) and seven RBIs from Friday through Sunday. He whiffed and walked once apiece. Overall, he’s hitting .465/.511/.744 through the first 11 games and is making a case for the Pirates to bust his timetable. Either way, get a look at him while you can, Indianapolis, he won’t be there for long.
Nathan Karns, rhp, Durham (Rays): Boy, did he need this. After being dealt late in the spring from the Nationals, Karns’ first two starts with the Bulls had been dreadful. He’d surrendered 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over two starts, and had walked an unsightly 10 hitters. This time, however, he found his command and put Gwinnett on lockdown. Karns, who got three major league starts with Washington, whiffed seven and walked just two over five innings of one-run ball. He brings it with a 91-95 mph sinking fastball and a hammer hook. He also has a mid-80s changeup, but that’s a clear third offering at this point.
Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Jon Singleton, 1b, Oklahoma City (Astros). Singleton simply scorched the competition this weekend. He propelled his team’s blitzing of New Orleans with a 7-for-13 effort that included two doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, five runs and two walks. A monster three days, to be sure. Overall, Singleton is pummeling the baseball to the tune of a .325/.438/.725 line through the first 10 games. Obviously his off-field problems were well documented this offseason and will present a real concern going forth. Right now, all he can do is mash and give Astros fans hope for a brighter future.
Rafael Montero, rhp, Las Vegas (Mets). This is more for the whole of his work rather than one start, but we’ll go with it this time. He doesn’t get the shine of teammate Noah Syndergaard (or even Daisuke Matsuzaka, for that matter), but Montero is definitely the real deal. All he’s done in his minor league career is post a roughly 5.0 SO/BB ratio with a matching 2.51 ERA. He does with impeccable command of a low-90s heater, a plus changeup and an average slider. That he’s finding success in the offensive oasis of Las Vegas is all the more impressive. He was on the road Sunday, but still shackled the Fresno Grizzlies for two runs on two hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings. In two starts at Vegas he’s allowed three earned runs over 11 innings, and struck out 14 against one walk.
Eastern League (AA)
Deven Marrero, ss, Portland (Red Sox). Sure, double-play partner Mookie Betts will get most of the ink, but Marrero is having a mighty fine start to his season, too. The 23-year-old went 6-for-15 with two doubles over the weekend. He leads the Eastern League in two-baggers (five), and is beginning to answer some of the questions about his bat.
Derek Law, rhp, Richmond (Giants). With an abundance of power arms at the end of EL bullpens, it’s easy to miss a guy like Law. Still, the righthander made two appearance this weekend for the Flying Squirrels, pitched 2 1/3 perfect frames over the weekend, striking out four in the process. TrackMan registered his average heater in the Arizona Fall League at 94.1 mph, and his peak velo at close to 97. The No. 12 prospect in the Giants’ system, Law could be knocking on the door by the bay by the end of the year.
Southern League (AA)
Donald Lutz, lf, Pensacola (Reds): Pensacola played just two games this weekend, which gave Lutz a little edge toward earning this honor. In any case, Lutz lashed two home runs this weekend, drove in three and worked a walk on Sunday against Huntsville. As a below-average defender, Lutz’s power has always been his calling card and will be his ticket back to the big leagues, where he spent 34 games last season.
Jon Moscot, rhp, Pensacola (Reds). With Robert Stephenson, Carlos Contreras and Michael Lorenzen on the Blue Wahoos’ staff, it’s easy to miss Moscot. Still, the Reds’ 2012 fourth-rounder has started this season strong. In two starts, the 22-year-old has allowed just one run and has whiffed nine against two walks. He brings to the table a 91-93 mph fastball, plus an average slider and changeup.
Texas League (AA)
Delino DeShields Jr., cf, Corpus Christi (Astros). Returned to the outfield (which he played as an amateur and during his pro debut), DeShields is trying to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of Astros prospects, along with George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jon Singleton. He’s started the year well, and collected hits in all three weekend games, culminating in a 3-for-4 effort Sunday with a homer and a double. He’s sporting a .308/.438/.513 line in the early going.
Raul Alcantara, rhp, Midland (Athletics). Oakland’s top arm on the farm has performed like it. Just 21, Alcantara followed his eight-inning gem to open the season with 6 2/3 of five-hit, one-run ball on Sunday. He fanned seven against a lone walk, and has issued two free passes in his first 14 2/3 innings. With his refined delivery, low-90s heat and plus change, Alcantara could become much more well-known by year’s end.
California League (Hi A)
Chad Pinder, ss, Stockton (Athletics). This one wasn’t up for discussion. Pinder’s 8-for-10 effort with a double, three home runs and six RBIs was the best in the Cal League by a long shot. Pinder, the No. 15 prospect in the system and the highest drafted player from Virginia Tech since 1982, is coming off an injury-marred debut season with short-season Vermont. He’s in the Cal League, yes, but a .390/.444/.902 is impressive anywhere.
Joe Ross, rhp, Lake Elsinore (Padres). If hitters’ performances are downplayed because of the Cal League atmosphere, then a pitcher having success on the circuit should get extra credit, right? After a shaky first outing, Ross has rebounded nicely. He blanked the prospect-packed Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday, and hasn’t allowed a run over his last 11 innings. He’s fanned 10 and walked one in that time.
Carolina League (Hi A)
Joey Gallo, 3b, Myrtle Beach (Rangers). After socking hhis first two homers of the season on Thursday, Gallo kept right on cooking through the weekend. The Rangers’ all-or-nothing slugger socked two more longballs from Friday through Sunday and has four so far on the season. He leads the Carolina League in home runs (four), slugging percentage (.727) and OPS (1.180), but it’s his .333 average that has to give the most excitement to the Rangers and their fans.
Christian Binford, rhp, Wilmington (Royals). Tucked behind Yordano Ventura, Miguel Almonte and Sean Manaea, Binford has quietly put together a boffo beginning. With his seven-inning, 10-strikeout masterpiece this weekend, the righthander from Mercyhurst (Pa.) has amassed 16 strikeouts and walked nobody in the early going. That only underscores the plus command he’s known for, much more than his 88-92 mph heater, average changeup and fringy breaker.
Florida State League (Hi A)
Angelo Gumbs, 2b, Tampa (Yankees). To be frank, Gumbs has a long way to go to regain the prospect sheen he had when the Yankees drafted him with their second-round choice in 2010. He’s always had premium bat speed and plenty of athleticism, but he’s been plagued by injuries and hasn’t come close to turning his tools into results. Internally, the Yankees admitted they might have been a bit too aggressive by jumping Gumbs to high Class A Tampa to begin last year. He returned there this year, and was 6-for-12 over the weekend in what has been a promising start to the year.
Austin Brice, rhp, Jupiter (Marlins). Brice ran up a 5.73 ERA in a repeat of low Class A Greensboro in 2013, when he walked a galling 82 in 113 innings. Still, the Marlins moved him to Jupiter this season, and he’s performed so far. He spun seven shutout innings on Sunday and has yet to allow a run this season. He has a 91-93 mph heater and a plus breaker, but mechanical questions have limited his success to this point.
South Atlantic League (Lo A)
David Dahl, cf, Asheville (Rockies). After injuries and a disciplinary demotion cost him most of 2013, Dahl is making up for lost time in a hurry. He was 5-for-14 against Hickory over the weekend, including two longballs. He drove home three runs, walked and stole a base. He’s slugging .600 over the first 11 games, and could shoot up prospect lists with a solid rebound this season.
Keury Mella, rhp, Augusta (Giants). Mella and his heavy, low-90s fastball won the weekend by silencing Charleston over five innings and punching out seven. He walked four, but mitigated the command issues by allowing just one hit. In two starts this season (both against the RiverDogs), Mella has allowed two runs over 10 2/3 frames, struck out 12 and walked just the four. Mella, who signed with the Giants for $275,000 in 2011, complements his fastball with a power curveball and a changeup.
Midwest League (Lo A)
Clint Coulter, c, Wisconsin (Brewers). True, Coulter had just three hits over the weekend, but all three left the yard. In all, the 20-year-old went 3-for-9 with the trio of round-trippers, eight RBIs and just two walks against just three strikeouts. He also stole his first base of the season. Overall, Coulter has started the season hot. He’s hitting .286/.459/.821 and has four home runs and 12 RBIs. He’s also walked more times (seven) than he’s whiffed (six), and has done a bit to answer the questions prompted by an injury-filled 2013.
Austin Kubitza, rhp, West Michigan (Tigers). Unranked as a prospect entering the season, Kubitza is doing his best to get some notice early this year. He followed an opening effort that saw him spin five one-run frames with five shutout innings on Sunday, albeit against a Beloit team that’s struggled to hit. His 16 strikeouts are second only to Aaron Blair in the MWL, and he’s got 1 1/3 fewer innings than Blair.
Cole Hamels, lhp, high Class A Clearwater (Phillies): Philadelphia’s second ace is working his way back from a wonky shoulder this spring. In his second rehab turn with the Threshers, Hamels allowed a run on six hits, fanned a half-dozen and walked nobody. Reports out of the Northeast say the team is pleased enough with Hamels’ progress that he could be back at Citizens Bank Park sooner than expected.
Gordon Beckham, 2b, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox). After a recurrence of his oblique injury arrested his progress for 10 days, Beckham was back on the field Sunday with the Barons. He was 1-for-1 with a walk in his first day back and is slowly progressing toward a return to the White Sox.
Mike Adams, rhp, Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Phillies). Adams moved up to Triple-A from high Class A, a sign that he’s closer to joining a beleaguered Phillies pen. Adams, coming back from shoulder surgery, allowed a run on two hits and struck out one on Saturday. Reports say he could be cleared as early as Monday.