Thursday Prospect Notebook: Kyle Gibson Dominates, But It Comes With A Caveat

Kyle Gibson put together one of the best starts we’ve seen in Triple-A all season. The Twins righthander was in complete control against Toledo last night, allowing just four hits in a shutout. After not working more than 6 2/3 innings in any of his first six starts this year, Gibson was allowed to go to 114 pitches to finish off the Mud Hens. It was Gibson’s first shutout since he April 2010, when he pitched for high Class A Fort Myers. In between, he’s had Tommy John surgery, aggressively rehabbed it and proven his stuff is back to where it was before the surgery.

Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson (Photo by Diamond Images)

But there is one caveat to Gibson’s great night. It came against Toledo, which is pretty much the Triple-A equivalent of facing the big league Houston Astros. The Mud Hens are one of the worst teams in pro ball this year, and their 9-25 record is the second worst in all of baseball, besting only 8-25 Bakersfield of the California League. To put it another way, Toledo has a worse winning percentage than the Astros.

Toledo has six losing streaks of three games or longer this season, and they need a win tonight to avoid a seventh. They have strung together back-to-back wins only twice.

Toledo’s biggest problem has been its offense. Reds lefty Tony Cingrani’s dominating 14-strikeout start on Opening Day came against Toledo. Two starts later, he struck out five Toledo hitters in just two innings before being lifted to get ready to come up to Cincinnati. Cingrani and Greg Reynolds have shut Toledo out for 6-plus innings. So has Kyle Waldrop, Carlos Carrasco, Joe Martinez, Simon Castro and Andrew Albers. Gibson’s outing was the 10th time in 34 games that Toledo has not scored a run off of the opposing starter.

Toledo is hitting .212/.280/.321 this year. As a team, the Mudhens strike out in 27 percent of all at-bats. First baseman Jordan Lennerton is the only regular with an OPS above .700. None of this takes away from what was a very impressive outing from Gibson, who is showing that he’s ready to step into the Twins rotation. But it does add some context to the outing.

Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks. Hitters have struggled to get the measure of Bradley all season, and Wednesday night was no different. He lowered his ERA for the year to 1.23. But while hitters can’t catch up to Bradley’s stuff, he does have some work to do on his sliding technique.

Now that he’s in Double-A, Bradley has to hit occasionally, which is something he had not done previously as a pro. In his first start for Mobile, Bradley went 0-for-2 and stayed off the bases. He walked in his first plate appearance last night, and when Ender Inciarte followed with a grounder to second, Bradley attempted to break up the double play. He slid awkwardly, however, and the Mobile coaching staff pulled him from the game as a precaution. The good news: He kept Mobile out of the double play.

After the game, Bradley (@ArchieBradley7) took to Twitter to reassure everyone that he wasn’t injured.

Bradley’s shortened two-inning stint is the first time all year he’s struck out fewer than seven batters.

Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs: Yes, there was an awful incident where Soler went running towards the opposing dugout with a bat. And yes, he was also scolded for failing to run out a couple of ground balls. But even as he makes some wrong steps in his adjustment to pro ball in the U.S., Soler is also showing plenty of signs of becoming the cornerstone player the Cubs envisioned when they signed him to a $30 million deal.

Soler homered and doubled twice last night for high Class A Daytona. It was his third home run in the past five games. Soler’s raw power is among the best in the minors, but he isn’t just a swing-for-the-fences slugger. Soler strikes out in only 17 percent of his at-bats and he’s walking almost as often as he strikes out.

Christian Yelich, cf, Marlins: He’s already said goodbye to Double-A Jacksonville teammates Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich when they were promoted to Miami. Now it’s time to wonder how far behind them Yelich will be. He had another big night on Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run, and he’s now hitting .500/.542/1.227 in five games this month with three home runs and three triples.

Cesar Puello, rf, Mets: For years, Puello has been one of the most talented prospects in the Mets organization, but the production has never caught up to the tools. Just maybe, the results are beginning to match the potential at Double-A Binghamton. Puello homered twice off Trenton lefty Nik Turley last night, cranking a home run just to the right of the batter’s eye in center field in the second inning, then homering to left in the fifth.

Puello is now hitting .296/.360/.531 in 81 at-bats, and it’s easily the best stretch he’s had in several years. He repeated at high Class A St. Lucie last season, but a hamstring injury and a broken hamate bone ruined his season. The numbers are much better this year and Puello has plus raw power, an above-average arm and above-average speed. But there’s also room for skepticism as Puello’s biggest problem still remains. He still strikes out in 25 percent of his at-bats and he is still prone to chasing pitches out of the zone.

Jurickson Profar, ss, Rangers: After leaving Tuesday’s game for Triple-A Round Rock early after he fouled off a ball that hit his left thumb, Profar was back in the lineup Wednesday and he showed no ill effects. He put together his second three-hit game of the season. The game’s No. 1 prospect, Profar has had a slow start to the season, but he has shown signs recently that he’s heating up. His early exit on Tuesday snapped a 10-game hitting streak.