Minor League Roundup: More Snow?

The answer to the headline’s grammatically challenged question is: Yes, more snow. A surprise re-occurrence of the white stuff played havoc on the heartland yesterday, leading to the postponement of about half of the Midwest League slate. Before you ponder a world in which winter never leaves, but instead merely slumbers for a few weeks at a time, won’t you take a few minutes to read about the games that did get played?

International League (AAA)

Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo (Photo by Ken Babbit)

Mikie Mahtook, lf, Durham (Rays). A first-rounder from three seasons ago, Mahtook has made steady if unspectacular progress during his ascension through the minors. He’s a tremendous outfielder whose bat (.710 OPS last season) would profile better in center field, but he’s blocked there by all-world defender Kevin Kiermaier. Mahtook has started this season hot, though, hitting .356/.396/.444, including Monday’s 5-for-5 effort against Gwinnett. He tripled, drove in a run and scored twice while helping Durham to its sixth straight win.

Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Pawtucket (Red Sox). It’s been rough sledding at times for Ranaudo, a supplemental first-rounder from four years ago out of Louisiana State. He’s had plenty of issues with injuries and ineffectiveness throughout his career, and 2014 seems to be starting down the wrong path. He was hit for five runs (all earned) on eight hits and three walks in five innings on Monday, and has allowed 14 runs in 14 2/3 innings so far this season. He has a fastball that tops at 97 mph, a solid curveball and a workable changeup, but right now he seems a long way from being able to use that arsenal at Fenway Park.

Pacific Coast League (AAA)

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Alex Guerrero, 2b, Albuquerque (Dodgers). The $28 million man shows himself. The scouting reports coming out of spring training were not positive, and the Dodgers responded by optioning the pricey Cuban to Triple-A to begin the year. He has plus raw power, but evaluators were skeptical of Guerrero’s ability to hit in the major leagues. He got into his first minor league game on Sunday, and followed up Monday with a 3-for-3 effort with a homer—his second in as many days. He also committed an error on Monday, and needs to improve himself on defense before he can be considered the heir to Dee Gordon‘s throne.

Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Las Vegas (Mets). The numbers for the Mets’ top arm have been pedestrian thus far in the PCL, but that’s OK. In Las Vegas, pedestrian can be an accomplishment in and of itself. Syndergaard brings a fastball in the mid-90s and complements it with a pair of breaking balls, a softer, slurvy offering in the high 70s and a power breaker in the low 80s. An evaluator who saw him recently believes Syndergaard’s changeup has improved, but is still a work in progress. The evaluator noted that he was throwing his changeup frequently, which at this juncture has almost certainly been made a point of emphasis by the Mets’ developmental staff. He allowed two runs on five hits and two walks on Monday, and with steady progress could be pitching alongside Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler at the outset of 2015.

Eastern League (AA)

Bryan Mitchell (Photo by David Schofield).

Bryan Mitchell (Photo by David Schofield).

Bryan Mitchell, rhp, Trenton (Yankees). Stuff has never been the question for Mitchell, a 22-year-old righthander who dispatches hitters primarily with a hard fastball that has been clocked in the upper 90s but tends to sit more in the 93-95 mph range, and a hammer breaking ball. Command has never been his specialty, and it’s kept his career from taking off the way his arsenal would dictate. On Monday, he shined, striking out 12 hitters and walking two over six innings of four-hit, shutout ball.

Sean Coyle, 3b, Portland (Red Sox). After watching injuries to his knee and elbow dull his return to high Class A Salem and snuff his chances of a bid in the Arizona Fall League, Coyle needs a bounceback year to avoid getting lost in a system flush with prospects. He has average or better tools across the board, save for the power department, where he’s a tick below-average. He went 3-for-4 on Monday night, including a two-run homer, and stole two bases. He’s hitting .343/.410/.543 to start the year, so perhaps a change of scenery is just what Coyle needed.

Southern League (AA)

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Kris Bryant, 3b, Tennessee (Cubs). The Cubs’ No. 2 prospect has blitzed his way through every challenge in the early portion of his career, and so far Double-A has been no different. He was 1-for-4 with a double and a run on Monday, and through 10 games is hitting .273/.415/.606 with two doubles and three home runs. Cubs fans can  drool over Bryant and Javier Baez, plus the guy in the next capsule, tearing it up at Wrigley Field in the near future.

C.J. Edwards, rhp, Tennessee (Cubs). The prize of the Matt Garza trade last summer, Edwards has made a name for himself. The rail-thin righty, drafted by the Rangers in the 48th round in 2011, works with a 93-95 mph heater that he mixes with a plus curveball and an average slider. He also has a changeup, but it’s a clear fourth pitch at this juncture. He fanned seven in five innings on Monday, giving him 16 in 14 2/3 innings this season.

Texas League (AA)

Matt Wisler (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Matt Wisler (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Andrew Aplin, rf, Corpus Christi (Astros). Another in Houston’s second tier of prospects, Aplin utilizes a swing that includes a high leg kick but still manages to have plenty of contact and on-base skills. His control of the barrel has to this point kept him from piling up strikeouts. He collected three singles and an RBI on Monday, and is at .316/.472/.342 for the young season.

Matt Wisler, rhp, San Antonio (Padres): A seventh-rounder in 2011, Wisler has loudly shown himself as the top arm in the Padres system. The righthander has plus life on a 92-93 mph fastball that has touched 95 in the past. His low-80s slider is his primary offspeed offering, and he also can unsheath a curveball and changeup if needed. He shut down Tulsa on three hits and three walks on Monday, with a half-dozen Ks mixed in. He’s fanned 17 against four walks this year.

Florida State League (Hi A)

Justin O'Conner

Justin O’Conner (Photo by Mike Janes

Justin O’Conner, c, Charlotte (Rays). His power started to show last year, with 14 homers (he’d hit 17 combined over his previous three pro seasons), and it’s continuing this year. O’Conner socked his first homer of 2014 on Monday, a three-run blast in the ninth that accounted for all of his team’s offense. He collected two hits on the afternoon, and also picked a runner off first base. He led the minors with 13 catcher pickoffs last year, and has three already this year, which again leads the minors.

Alex Wimmers, rhp, Fort Myers (Twins). Remember him? Wimmers, Minnesota’s first-round choice from 2010, famously started his first full season by walking all six hitters he faced and issuing three wild pitches before being yanked. He next surfaced in July, after which point he was much better. He’s 25 and in high Class A now, so his prospect status has rightly vanished. On Monday, however, he allowed only one hit over six shutout frames while striking out six, walking none and giving Twins fans with long memories a glimpse at what could have been.

Carolina League (Hi A)

Joey Gallo

Joey Gallo (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Joey Gallo, 3b, Myrtle Beach (Rangers). Gallo homered again on Monday night, this time as part of a 1-for-2 effort with two runs, four RBIs and a walk, making it five longballs in as many games for the man with the minors’ best raw power. Here’s the scary part, especially for opposing pitchers, who traditionally could count on adding at least one whiff to their total courtesy of Gallo: during his torrid stretch, he’s struck out three times against six walks. If that comes anywhere close to keeping up, look the heck out.

Sean Manaea, lhp, Wilmington (Royals). After getting tagged in his first outing, Manaea bounced back strong on Monday. The lefty, whose hip injury precipitated a fall to the Royals with the 34th overall selection last June, silenced Winston-Salem for five innings on four hits and a walk while punching out five. At his best, Manaea sports a mid-90s fastball, a plus slider and a changeup that has the stuff to be average down the line. He could be a steal for Kansas City.

California League (Hi A)

RIo Ruiz

Rio Ruiz (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Rio Ruiz, 3b, Lancaster (Astros). Perhaps the best offensive performance from Monday, Ruiz was 4-for-5 with two doubles and a three-run homer in Lancaster’s loss to High Desert. He worked to fix mechanical issues with his swing last season at low Class A Quad Cities, and the results have been loud. He’s clubbing opponents with a .356/.420/.511 line this season, although we’ll probably have to wait to see if his output is the real deal or just another on the pile of Cal League mirages.

Zach Eflin, rhp, Lake Elsinore (Padres). San Diego’s supplemental first-rounder from 2012, Eflin put together a very fine season at Fort Wayne last year and is starting on the right track in 2014. He fanned seven over six shutout innings, and overall has sandwiched two very good outings around a train wreck (eight runs, all earned, in five innings against High Desert in his last turn). Eflin attacks opponents with a low-90s sinking fastball and a changeup that ranked among the best in the Midwest League last season.

Midwest League (Lo A)

Amazed Aziz

Author’s reaction to Beau Amaral’s stat line Monday

Beau Amaral, cf, Dayton (Reds). Yes, he’s 23 and in low Class A. Fine. But buried within Amaral’s 3-for-5 night is a pretty crazy little nugget. Not only did he hit two triples on Monday, but he hit them in consecutive innings. That’s amazing. Considering there are plenty of guys who won’t get many more than two three-baggers this year, collecting two in your first two trips to the plate (and off the same pitcher, no less) is amazing. He also hit a double and reports say he plays a pretty darn good center field. Whatever. The point is: Two triples in two innings.

Alex Reyes, rhp, Peoria (Cardinals). A very typical Alex Reyes start if there ever were one. The righthander, who has arguably the best stuff in the St. Louis system, whiffed five over three innings, but walked just as many while limiting Lake County to two hits and a run otherwise. He has very long arms, and the excellent fastball velocity (92-95 mph with flashes of 97) to go with it. He also has a a big, two-plane curveball and a developing changeup. He has all the ingredients to dominate, and is in the right organization to harness his potential.

South Atlantic League (Lo A)

Carlos Tocci

Carlos Tocci (Photo by Mike Janes)

Carlos Tocci, cf, Lakewood (Phillies). Let the young man eat. I mean it. Please. Repeating Lakewood for his age-18 season, Tocci’s biggest hurdles will be his ability to put quality pounds on a spindly frame. At present, he already plays a terrific center field, getting tremendous jumps and gliding to the baseball in both gaps. His arm also plays as above-average. He went 4-for-5 on Monday with a stolen base, but he still hasn’t shown much in the way of pop in pro ball. In fact, in 563 career at-bats, Tocci has just 21 extra-base hits, all of which were doubles. There are plenty of diners in New Jersey, and he’d better find one he likes, quickly.

Cody Kukuk, lhp, Greenville (Red Sox): A physical monster who was limited to just 10 innings in 2012 following a suspension for getting arrested on DUI charges, Kukuk sputtered with Greenville in 2013. He has a low-90s fastball that has touched as high as 97 mph in the past, and his balances the pitch with a hard slider and a changeup that gets swings and misses. He fanned eight and walked one in five one-run innings on Monday against Charleston, a pleasant departure from the six free passes he issued over his first six innings this year.