Prospect Notebook: Jayson Aquino Takes On Low Class A

Onelki Garcia, lhp, Dodgers: The Dodgers aren’t exactly hurting for lefthanded relief options with J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez, but if one of them were to go down, don’t discount Garcia as an in-house option. He would have to be added to the 40-man roster first, but the 2012 third-round pick has been carving up hitters out of Double-A Chattanooga’s bullpen. Garcia, who turned 24 last week, came on in the seventh inning Monday, faced six Montgomery hitters and struck out all of them. Three of those hitters were lefthanded, and Garcia’s appeal as a big league bullpen addition comes in his dominance of lefty hitters.

Garcia hasn’t given up an extra-base hit to a lefty all season and has held them to a .151 average, devastating southpaws with a fastball topping 94 mph and a knockout curveball. Garcia has struggled with maintaining consistent mechanics at times, leading to an unsightly 5.54 walks per nine innings, though his control has been better lately. But missing bats hasn’t been a problem, as he has 52 strikeouts in 50 innings for Chattanooga and recently went more than a month without being scored upon, from June 25-July 30. Monday’s outing dropped his overall ERA to 2.86.

Jayson Aquino

Jayson Aquino (Photo by Tony Farlow)

Jayson Aquino, lhp, Rockies: The Rockies started the 20-year-old Aquino out with short-season Tri-City, but he pitched well enough to earn a bump to low Class A Asheville after four starts in the Northwest League. Aquino has had one rough outing for the Tourists, giving up six earned runs on July 26, but his other five low Class A starts have all gone well and Monday was his best yet. Aquino limited Lexington to one run on three hits over seven innings, fanning seven without issuing a walk. Command is Aquino’s biggest strength at this point, but his fastball, curveball and changeup all do offer some projection. They’re already good enough for him to hold his own against low Class A hitters, who he’s limiting to a .255 average to go with his 3.41 ERA after 37 Sally League innings.

Josh Hader, lhp, Astros: Hader made his debut in the Astros system on Monday since coming over from the Orioles in the Bud Norris trade. Staying at the low Class A level while shifting from Delmarva to Quad Cities, Hader’s debut couldn’t have gone much better. The 19-year-old was nearly flawless, allowing only one hit—a fourth-inning double by Twins outfielder Adam Brett Walker—over six shutout innings against Cedar Rapids. The lone nitpick you could make was that he only had two strikeouts, both in the first inning, but he also didn’t give out any walks, facing just two hitters over the minimum (one hitter reached on an error). He improved to 4-6, 2.47 in 91 innings combined between Delmarva and Quad Cities.

Brandon Nimmo, cf, Mets: Getting a trip to New York for the Futures Game was about the only good thing about July for Nimmo, who hit just .212 and struck out 35 times in 85 at-bats in the month for low Class A Savannah. He gave a glimpse of the potential in his bat on Monday though, going 3-for-4 with a double and a homer. It was the first game all season in which Nimmo had multiple extra-base hits and the homer was just his second—he hadn’t gone deep since April 15. To his credit, Nimmo never got off his disciplined approach, drawing 15 walks in 24 games in July and ranking seventh in the SAL with 51 walks on the year. Monday’s game actually broke a streak of six straight games in which he’d drawn a walk, as he continues searching for the right balance between staying disciplined but not being overly passive.

Zach Eflin, rhp, Padres: You can’t be much more consistent than Eflin, who’s gone 16 consecutive starts at low Class A Fort Wayne allowing two earned runs or less. Monday was his best start of the year, as Eflin tossed seven one-hit, shutout frames against Lansing, striking out four. He dropped his ERA to 2.81 for the year and 2.11 in the second-half.

It’s hard to argue with success, but you could if you want to. Eflin’s 6.77 K/9 doesn’t blow you away, and he gives up a lot of fly balls (0.73 groundout/air out ratio), though just five of them have turned into homers in the pitcher-friendly MWL. Granted, the Petco factor means giving up fly balls doesn’t seem like as much of red flag when we’re talking about Padres pitching prospects. On the plus side, Eflin’s devastating changeup has lived up to its billing, as he’s holding lefty batters to a .219 average (compared to .254 for rightys). The key going forward will be how far his breaking ball comes along, which will likely dictate his long-term future.