ALEX KIRILOFF IS BACK LETS JUST GET TO IT!!!!
Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings
The pitching is still up and down for the Red Wings, but they did get Nick Gordon back in their lineup and starting hot.
Last week I gushed about lefty Devin Smeltzer, just in time for him to get called up to Triple-A. Smeltzer posted a 0.60 ERA in 30 innings in Pensacola with an insane 33/3 K/BB ratio. He continued that performance into his first Triple-A start, going 7 innings and giving up 3 hits and an unearned run with three strikeouts and no walks. With Adelberto Mejia injured on the big league team and Andrew Vazquez mostly having struggled at both levels so far, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Smeltzer called up to the big league pen at some point to give the Twins a second lefty. Smeltzer is intriguing as a starter as well, though, so let’s keep an eye on him.
Kohl Stewart has made just one start since the last update, giving up an earned run over six innings with 5 hits allowed and a 3/3 K/BB ratio. The key to Stewart figuring it out is consistently being able to strike people out while limiting walks, so the K/BB line here is not encouragin, but it is just a single game.
Lewis Thorpe showed so much promise between the 17th and 23rd of April, but has relapsed again, giving up 9 earned runs over 7.1 innings in his last two starts—one of which being a one-inning clunker where he gave up 5 earned runs off 6 hits. Without a true swing-and-miss pitch, Thorpe has to find a way to minimize contact more consistently. Zach Littell continues to be so-so. In his last two starts he has gone 12 innings and given up 5 earned runs on 12 hits, and 5 walks while striking out 11. Littell receives 5th starter comps, and might need to show a bit more before even getting there, although he still is young for his level, not turning 24 until October. Chase De Jong had the longest outing of his season on May 2nd, when he went... 4 innings and gave up 4 earned runs. He has given up 22 earned runs over 11 innings if you include his appearance with the Twins.
Tyler Duffey continuees to be that Quad-A player who dominates in Triple-A but doesn’t get to prove in in the bigs. He has a 1.54 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 11.2 innings in Rochester this year. Things had been going well for Jake Reed before another clunker on May 2nd where he gave up 3 runs over two innings while walking 3. Gabriel Moya had a rough stretch at the end of April, giving up 4 earned runs over 1.2 innings in two appearances. He rebounded in his first May outing with 2 strikeouts over a perfect inning. Andrew Vasquez has had a nice rebound as of late, throwing 5.1 shutout innings over his last four apperances, stranding 3 hits and 4 walks while striking out 6.
Former first round pick (drafted two spots ahead of Aaron Nola...) Nick Gordon returned from injury this week and made a big impact in his first three games with a .400/.438/.600 slash line with a stolen base and 3 doubles. If Gordon can put up a legitimate season in Triple-A—somewhere above a .280/.330/.400 slash line— he still has the upside to be solid trade bait or an eventual replacement for Jonathan Schoop, who is on a one year deal.
Randy Cesar has cooled a bit as of late, but still has an impressive .298/.359/.500 slash line with 10 doubles and 3 home runs. He strikes out a lot and can’t field but he could still have value filling that weird Kennys Vargas “call up a mediocre slugger for a few days” role at a minimum.
LaMonte Wade is another guy who has a bit of a slump going, hitting just .216 in his last ten games although he has walked 6 times. The one thing keeping Wade from the Major Leagues is his lack of power, and that continues into this year, as Wade has just 2 doubles and a home run of his 24 hits. Brent Rooker missed some time the last week and a half or so, but has quitely been a decent “Three Outcomes” hitter. Over his last ten games he has three home runs but 17 strikeouts. On the year he is hitting just .210 but still has a massive .484 SLG. He started slow last April so maybe he kicks it up a notch or two as we get to warmer weather. Zander Wiel seemed to figure it out a bit, hitting .317 with two home runs in his last ten games. Luke Raley is another guy turning it on, likely since he was getting more consistent playing time with Rooker sidelined. Over his last ten Raley has hit .293 with 3 home runs and is carrying a .275/.353/.484 line through 24 games. That line surprised me because of a piss poor 31/6 K/BB ratio, but Raley also has 5 HBP to his credit, so that is a thing I guess.
Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos
The Blue Wahoos are 21-10 AND ALEX KIRILOFF IS BACK!!!!!
Brusdar Graterol has been solid but not brilliant lately. Over his last two starts he has thrown 10 innings and given up 3 earned runs on 9 hits with a 9/4 K/BB ratio. On the year he has thrown 32.1 innings over 6 starts with a 2.23 ERA and a 33/14 K/BB ratio. Jorge Alcala had a very rough start (6 earned runs in three innings) on the 26th but rebounded fantastically with a 5 inning, 5 hit, 8 strikeout effort on May 2nd. The 4.71 ERA doesn’t look great, but the 37/6 K/BB ratio is an impressive improvement for a guy who’s biggest weakness is his control. Perhaps that ERA is up because he is in the zone too often?
Last week I said Devin Smeltzer may eventually be blocked from moving up a level. Well, he wasn’t, but now that he has been promoted, Griffin Jax might be the one blocked from moving up. Jax has given up 2 earned runs through 34 innings this year for a 0.53 ERA. He isn’t a strikeout guy, with a lackluster but respectable 25/10 K/BB ratio. Jax is a Fastball-Changeup guy, which doesn’t work as well for righties as it does for lefties like Smeltzer, so maybe he needs to learn that Jake Odorizzi cutter like Martin Perez has. Keeping him in Double-A does make since, despite his hot start, since he is still learning how to pitch in pro ball, with just 161.1 innings under his belt due to his military requirements in years past.
Left handed pitchers who can throw 90mph might always have a chance at redemption, but I think we can say that Tyler Jay is officially a bust (we could have drafted Andrew Benintendi...). The 2015 first round pick has a 4.97 ERA and a 11/9 K/B ratio through 12.2 innings so far. Jovani Moran has been great outside of a single meltdown which landed him on the Injured List. He gave up 7 earned runs in 1.1 innings in his first May appearance, which masks a solid 3.09 ERA in 11.2 innings in April with a 22/11 K/BB ratio.
ALEX KIRILLOFF IS BACK!! And he is picking up right where he left off last year: through five games, Kirriloff is mashing a .389/.522/.556 slash line with a double and a triple included in his 7 hits. He also has a 4/3 K/BB ratio with one of those walks being intentional. Of his five games he has played, 3 have come starting at first base, greasing the wheels on getting him to the Major Leagues (If you seen CJ Cron go on the IL at all, watch out). Oh and Kirilloff doesn’t turn 22 until November.
Luis Arraez is slapping the ball around like no one’s business, hitting .359 in his last ten games with 4 doubles, 8 BBs (compared to 2 K’s), 8 runs, and 7 RBI. He brought his slash line back to .333/.414/.393. If he can find a way to add even below-average power to his repetoire, he would be a serioiusly exciting prospect.
I was a bit surprised to see Travis Blankenhorn promoted amid a .269/.377/.404 start to his season in Fort Myers. Being a repeat year at the level, though, it makes sense for the front office to be aggresive with him. Blankenhorn has responded okay, hitting .250/.325/.409 with two home runs and a 9/3 K/BB ratio through nine games, primarily playing second base. Blankenhorn doesn’t turn 23 till August, and a solid season at Double-A would help bring back some of his prospect status, which was fairly strong going into the 2018 season.
High-A: Fort Myers Miracle
The Miracle have gone 8-3 since the last update, thanks to some hot bats, and they now carry another of the organization’s best pitching prospects.
Keith Law named Jordan Balazovic his #103 prospect before the season, and we have started seeing why. After posting an insane 33/4 K/BB ratio over 20.2 innings and a 2.18 ERA at Cedar Rapids, Balazovic earned the promotion to Fort Myers and absolutely dominated: 7 perfect innings, 10 strikeouts. Dang.
Jhoan Duran has continued a run of mediocrity, with his ERA creeping up to 4.03 over 22.1 innings in his first 5 starts. His 22/6 K/BB ratio isn’t too bad, but he keeps getting hit (7 hits allowed in his last 5 inning start). Bryan Sammons struggled in his last start of April without allowing a run. He walked two and gave up two hits and was pulled after the inning since he reached his one-inning pitch limit. He still boasts a 0.40 ERA but is very old for the level at 24. Tyler Watson has struggled since the last update, giving up 8 earned runs over 10 innings in two starts. Bailey Ober has kept his scoreless streak going, now up to 24 innings with a 26/3 K/BB ratio, but has found himself on the Injured List. Edwar Colina is another prospect who got some love from Keith Law this spring, although not nearly as much as Balazovic. Colina throws hard for a 5’11” righty, and when his control is on he can be dangerously good. He struggled in his first appearance of the season, giving up 6 unrs in 4.2 while walking 3 and hittin 2.
Reliever Tom Hackimer has finally given up a run, but just one of them in a weird outing where he didn’t have his control (4 walks in 1.1 innings). Over the course of the season he has a 0.59 ERA over 15.1 innings with a 27/8 K/BB ratio, along with 5 HBP.
Royce Lewis seems to have started righting the ship, hitting .293 over the last 10 games with a double and a triple in the last two. I’m not worried about his power as long as he is in the Florida State League, which is known to be a place where it is hard to hit. I’ve also heard good things about his defense continuing to improve, which is probably more important than his power anyways. Akil Baddoo had started to get it going beforecoming back down a bit, hitting .171 with one home run and a 16/4 K/BB ratio in his last ten. Ryan Jeffers has absolutely figured it out, though. He started the season 1-17 but has hit .400 in his last ten games and has his numbers up to .293/.356/.415 on the year. He has also thrown out 6 of 13 base stealers so far in 15 games behind the plate. Every time I see Trevor Larnach’s triple slash line I have to stop and think a bit. He has a .272/.323/.360 line on the year, which doesn’t seem nearly as bad as a .682 OPS would indicate. The problem is that of his 31 hits he only has 10 doubles and no dingers. A lot of his power in college came from opposite-field doubles and homers off a short porch in his home stadium, so it may take him some time how to learn how to turn on the ball properly, especially in the FSL. I’d also like to see his walk rate get back up a bit, but he has a decent start to build off of. Jose Miranda is another guy who has gotten hot, hitting .324 with a 4/4 K/BB ratioin his last ten games. Like Larnach, Miranda doesn’t have a homerun to his name yet, so his quickly-improving .248/.333/.337 slash line seems a lot worse than his overall results would indicate. Ben Rortvedt’s bat has cooled a little bit, but he is still hitting .257/.361/.471 which is a huge step for him. He has 7 doubles, a triple, and two home runs to go with a 12/12 K/BB ratio. He has also thrown out 8 of 12 basestealers so far this year... why even try running against him? The catching prospect is 21 years old for the rest of the season.
Lewin Diaz finally got his first homer of the year, but has struggled to just a .161 average in the last ten games, when everyone else on the team has been surging.
Trey Cabbage earned a promotionjust before his 22nd birthday after hitting .313/.403/.627 in Cedar Rapids. He has started strong in Fort Myers, going 3-10 with two doubles in his first three games.
Michael Helman is a fringy, “maybe if he really rakes” kind of prospect drafted in the 11th round out of Texas A&M last season. The problem is that he hasn’t raked. He has hit .265 over his last ten, though, bringing his OPS line up to .548.
Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
The Kernels’ offense has really tapered off, and they just got no-hit on May 6th. They also lost their best starter to promotion. It’ll be interesting to see who can turn it around enough to help their suprisingly good pitching
Blayne Enlow has continued an up-and-down year so far, giving up 10 earned runs on 15 hits over his last 10.1 innings and 2 starts. The good news is that he had a 15/2 K/BB ratio in those two starts and is 27/9 on the year. As long as he can reign in the contact he should be just fine. I don’t think Cole Sands or Josh Winder have too much more to prove at Low-A Cedar Rapids. Sands has given up 2 runs over 12 innings in his last two starts and has a 1.73 ERA through 5 starts, throwing 26 innings with a 28/9 K/BB. He has not given up a home run yet (jinx, probably). Josh Winder has been similarly impressive, throwing an 8-inning complete game while getting no support when his offense was no-hit. On the season he has 29.1 innings through 5 starts with a 2.45 ERA and a 29/8 K/BB ratio. Winder is 22 till October and Sands turns 22 in July, so it would be nice to see them perform against more age-appropriate opponents in Fort Myers. Luis Rijo turned in his best start of the season in his first May start, going 6 innings and giving up just one earned runs while striking out 5 and walking no one.
Gabriel Maciel’s hot start couldn’t last for ever. He is hitting singles and taking walks, but with no power to speak of. Still a .281/.397/.333 is one of the best on this team
Gilberto Celestino is still struggling, but a .222 average over his last 10 games is kind of an improvement. Jacob Pearson’s season slash line is still a dreadful .165/.232/.271 but he did have a 4 game stretch to start May where he went 5-14 (.357 with a home run and a 4/3 K/BB rate. DaShawn Kiersey just so happened to get healthy when fellow outfielder Trey Cabbage was promoted. He as 11 strike outs and one hit in 18 at bats since he returned.
Yeltsin Encarnacion has a .258 average in his last ten games to bring his OPS up to .546 through 17 games. Andrew Bechtold’s OPS is down to .613 and his K/BB is up to 37/9. He was supposed to be a fast riser.
Chris Williams has continued hitting and has seen a few more games at catcher. He is the best bat on the team with a .240/.374/.533 slash line and six home runs, but hasn’t thrown out any of the 7 basestealers agains him. Ben Rodriguez continues to struggle to a .448 OPS. David Banuelos has been his own version of hot lately, with a .233 average and two homers over his last ten games. He also stole a base somehow.
Yunior Severino remains on the Injured List.
With Kiriloff and Gordon back, Smeltzer and Balazovic promoted, and the Miracle lineup getting hot, it seems like the Twins farm system is starting to trend in the right direction for the Trade Deadline.
Stephen Gonsalves has started throwing bullpen sessions, and I’m excited to see him get back into games to try to help stabilize that Rochester rotation which should be pitching much better than it is. As the pitchers get used to the Major League baseball, which was introduced to that level this year, they should hopefully get themselves back on track. The offense in Rochester is hitting bombs, if not for average, which fits the profiles of the players there, sans Gordon and Wade.
With Blankenhorn joing Arraez and the returned Kirilloff, there is some actual offense to watch in Pensacola to pair with Graterol and Alcala. The single-A pitching is fantastic, and with the Miracle starting to hit the only thing I do worry a bit about are those low-tier hitting prospects in Cedar Rapids who aren’t helping their own cases.