American League West Prospect Notebook For June
Angels’ Sam Bachman Could Follow Quick Trajectory To MLB
Chase Silseth blazed a trail from the 2021 draft to Double-A Rocket City to Anaheim in less than a year. The 22-year-old righthander gave up three earned runs and seven hits in 10.1 innings of his first two MLB starts in mid May.
Sam Bachman could follow a similar trajectory if the opportunity arises. The 22-year-old righthander and 2021 first-round pick from Miami (Ohio) is positioning himself for a possible callup with his strong start at Double-A.
“I don’t think anything is out of the realm of possibility with any of our guys,” Angels minor league pitching coordinator Buddy Carlyle said. “Chase has proven that. I think that’s an eye-opener for everybody.
"It’s exciting for any minor leaguer to know that if you’re performing and you’re the right guy, you’re gonna get a shot.”
The burly, 6-foot-1 Bachman missed the first month of the season because of back spasms. He returned in early May and in his first four starts threw 13.2 innings in which he gave up eight hits, and struck out eight to go with a 1.98 ERA.
The velocity of Bachman’s fastball has increased steadily this season and sat at about 96 mph in late May. He throws a tight-breaking, high-spin slider at 89-90 mph.
Bachman didn’t use his changeup much in college, but it is developing into an effective third pitch. It's an 88-90 mph offering with a good amount of glove-side run. After fiddling with several grips, he finally settled on one he copied from Stephen Strasburg in a YouTube video.
Bachman will continue to be built up as a starter, and he should reach Triple-A this summer, but he clearly has the stuff that would play in the MLB bullpen for the contending Angels.
“All that stuff will take care of itself,” Carlyle said. “Right now, the biggest thing we’re trying to teach these guys is to focus on where you’re pitching currently and do the best you absolutely can at whatever level you’re at.”
Mariners’ Taylor Dollard Is In Command At Double-A
It would have been easy for Taylor Dollard to get lost in the mix. The Mariners farm system is that rich in pitching.
But with a breakout start to the season, the 23-year-old righthander was making a name for himself at Double-A Arkansas.
A 2020 fifth-round pick out of Cal Poly, Dollard posted a 1.09 ERA in 41.1 innings over his first nine starts. He totaled 42 strikeouts and just seven walks, without surrendering a home run.
Among qualified pitchers over that span, Dollard owned the lowest ERA in the Texas League. He tied for second in walk rate (4.3%) and fifth in strikeout rate (25.9%).
“Taylor’s been exactly what we thought he was going to be out of the draft—and better,” Mariners farm director Andy McKay said. “(He’s) a borderline elite strike-thrower who knows how to move the ball around and knows how to use his stuff.”
Dollard, a control-oriented pitcher, was a reliever for his first two seasons at Cal Poly before moving into the rotation in 2020. He enticed Seattle with exceptional strikeout-to-walk ratios, including a 27-to-1 mark in the 2019 Cape Cod League.
After a strong start to his pro debut last season in Low-A Modesto, Dollard earned a promotion to High-A Everett. He struggled to a 6.15 ERA over 67.1 innings but still managed a 24.9% strikeout rate and 4.7% walk rate.
McKay said one of Dollard’s biggest improvements this year is his “command of really putting the ball where he wants.” That’s especially been the case with his nasty slider, the go-to weapon in his four-pitch mix.
Dollard also has experienced a slight velocity uptick. His average fastball this season is 92 mph, according to McKay.
“He’s got weapons,” McKay said. “But maybe the best weapon is how he competes on the field every five days and how he prepares in between starts. He’s got no fear of anybody, and he’s very confident in the weapons he has and how to use them.”
—Cameron Van Til
Rangers’ Jonathan Ornelas Sees Big Things From New Approach
Offense is driving the Texas League so far this year, thanks to more experienced hitters and ideal weather for hanging crooked numbers.
Double-A Frisco was keeping pace with the rest of the league with several strong early performances, perhaps none more impressive than the one put forth by 22-year-old shortstop Jonathan Ornelas.
The 2018 third-rounder out of high school in Arizona hit .345/.383/.463 with four home runs through 42 games. It is the best stretch of his career. The key is that he is hitting balls as hard as anyone in the lineup and also getting more balls in the air.
Ornelas said that keeping his weight back is keeping him from jumping at pitches and adding more elevation to his swing. That change is also helping him hit the ball to the opposite field more often.
“As I was growing up, with my leg kick I would land on my front foot because I was super anxious,” Ornelas said. “But I guess now, it’s like I’m trying to feel more balanced.”
The improvements started last season at High-A Hickory and continued through instructional league as he fell into a new daily hitting routine. Part of that routine dictates that Ornelas, a righthanded hitter, take some cuts from the left side.
New input from major league hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Tim Hyers has also resonated with Ornelas.
While he has impressed with his bat, Ornelas’ defense at several positions, which includes third base, second base and center field, might be the best in the organization, Rangers vice president Ross Fenstermaker said.
Ornelas is also never satisfied.
“He stays hungry,” Frisco manager Jared Goedert said. “He brings it every day. He really doesn’t have any let up.”
Michael Guldberg Shows A’s Flashes Of Potential—When Healthy
Almost from the day Michael Guldberg started college, he has proved that he can hit. What he has not proven is that he can stay on the field.
The lean, 6-foot outfielder finally got healthy this year, and he went on a tear: hitting .344 in 19 games for Double-A Midland before a sore shoulder knocked him out of the lineup in late May.
“When he’s played, he’s played well,” Athletics farm director Ed Sprague. “He’s a good outfielder and he hits the ball.”
Sprague envisions Guldberg evolving into a leadoff hitter who gets on base, swipes a few bags and scores lots of runs. That is possible if Guldberg’s body allows him to stay on the field.
After playing shortstop at Walton High in Marietta, Ga., Goldberg began his freshman year with a bang at Georgia Tech. He hit .368 in 28 games before a shoulder injury ended his season.
His shoulder limited him to mostly DH duty as a sophomore. He returned to play left field as a junior and batted .450 when Covid ended the season after 16 games.
The A’s drafted him in the third round in 2020, and he finally got on the field in 2021 to play 48 games for High-A Lansing as he battled injuries. He was slowed this year by hamstring and quad injuries before he got into the lineup.
The righthanded hitter shows a plus hit tool, with other pluses for speed and defense in center field. How his arm rebounds from the injuries is in question. He plays all three outfield positions, and has played both first and second base in the past.
And if all else fails, he could wind up in the front office. He was an Academic All-American at Georgia Tech, where his father is an engineering professor.
The younger Guldberg has been studying how to transform engineering systems for use in baseball analytics. Thus he fits with the A’s, both on and off the field.
Parker Mushinski Shows His Value In Astros’ Bullpen
The Astros aggressively addressed their lack of lefthanded pitchers during spring training. They signed veterans Adam Morgan and Zac Rosscup to minor league deals in hopes of spurring a competition with incumbent Blake Taylor for a spot in the bullpen.
Lefthander Parker Mushinski rendered most of the work moot.
A strong spring showing vaulted him from non-roster invitee to the forefront of Houston’s radar. Mushinski made his MLB debut during the Astros’ third series of the season and has earned a longer look.
Mushinski struck out seven, walked one and surrendered three earned runs across his first 5.1 MLB innings. His demotion back to Triple-A Sugar Land was the result of a numbers crunch, but manager Dusty Baker promised the 26-year-old Mushinski would return to Houston at some point this season.
It could be soon. Mushinski has outperformed Triple-A competition and earned a shot to usurp Taylor, who has a 1.53 WHIP in 15.2 innings. Mushinski has allowed no earned runs, struck out 17 and surrendered seven hits during 15 frames with Sugar Land.
Mushinski builds his five-pitch arsenal around a high-spin curveball and cutter used to generate weak contact. He can incorporate a four-seam fastball and throws a slider to lefthanded hitters, too.
The Astros are testing Mushinski against more righthanded hitters in Triple-A—and he keeps succeeding. He retired 26 of the first 29 righthanders he saw with the Space Cowboys, including seven via strikeout.
Mushinski’s ascent is another victory for Houston’s player development team and amateur scouting group. The Astros selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft out of Texas Tech.
The 6-foot, 218-pound Mushinski is one of 12 members of the Astros’ 2017 draft class to reach MLB. Two—Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers—figure to be vital contributors this season on Houston’s path toward another American League pennant.
Five Southern League Pitchers To Watch Following Rules Changes In 2023
Five prospects likely to open in the Double-A Southern League to pay close attention to in the first months of the season.
AROUND THE DIVISION
— At least for now, the Astros have stopped experimenting with center fielder Pedro Leon on the infield. After making 40 starts at shortstop last season, Leon started 33 of his first 40 games in either center field or right field for Triple-A Sugar Land this year. Astros general manager James Click said the plan is for Leon to get “more comfortable” at Triple-A.
— After missing time last year with shoulder soreness and being sidelined for the start of this season with a lat injury, highly touted Mariners righthander Emerson Hancock made his 2022 debut with Double-A Arkansas on May 17. Through his first three starts of the year, the 2020 first-round pick posted a 2.25 ERA and a 26.5% strikeout rate in eight innings.
— The Mariners acquired righthander Prelander Berroa from the Giants on May 11 in a trade that sent MLB utility player Donovan Walton to San Francisco. The hard-throwing 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic has recorded a 34.2% strikeout rate this season, while logging a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings at High-A.
— Rangers 26-year-old outfielder J.P. Martinez is off to his best start since he signed in 2018 after he defected from Cuba. He was batting .290/.404/.519 through 35 games thanks to some swing changes but also some vision correction during the offseason.
— Rangers shortstop Josh Smith made his MLB debut May 30 after a callup from Triple-A Round Rock, where he was slashing .273/.382/.422. He was one of the four players acquired last summer in the Joey Gallo trade with the Yankees.
— Rangers injured third baseman Josh Jung was expected to start taking swings in mid June after having surgery on his left shoulder in February. He remains on schedule to return to games in August.
— Angels slugging outfield/first baseman Trey Cabbage, who hit .327 with a 1.098 OPS and 10 homers in his first 30 games for Double-A Rocket City, suffered a fractured left forearm in a collision at first base in mid May. He will be sidelined for three to four months.
— After a lat injury, Athletics righthander Wandisson Charles returned to string together several solid relief performances after a rough start with Double-A Midland. Charles hits triple digits on his fastball and has the potential to become a bullpen presence.
— Athletics righthander Jack Cushing got off to a big start at Double-A Midland, posting a 2.98 ERA to go with 43 strikeouts in 45.1 innings.