by Rob Leibowitz
Time flies. We're over a month into the season, so it's a perfect time to get an update on the progress of some minor leaguers of note.
Over in Toronto, or I should say Double-A New Hampshire, Deck McGuire is not having much fun. The righty from Georgia Tech has posted some decent peripherals in the control department over his 5 starts, but he has not been missing enough bats considering the level of competition (6.2 K/9) and most notably has had difficulty with the long ball - 6, or 2.1 per nine innings. McGuire does have some history now as a fly-ball pitcher and while he is throwing strikes, command within the strike zone is still a bit of an issue. I still think he is fully capable of being a middle to lower end of the rotation starter, but armed with a 7.18 ERA in Double-A, he is not going to get the call anytime soon and should be downgraded a bit as far as making an impact this season.
Giavotella doing his thing
Switching to Triple-A Las Vegas, Travis Snider is enjoying the hitter haven, batting .400 with 4 HRs as is David Cooper and his .319 batting average. However, Anthony Gose is struggling mightily with zero long balls and a 33% strikeout rate. Gose struck out over 30% of the time in Double-A too, but showed power, stole 70 bags and managed to hit .253. He should come around given the hitting environment. When you think about MLB expectations, consider B.J. Upton's recent seasons and then consider Gose strikes out at least 5% more. Right now he's a .220 hitter in the majors at best. As for the perhaps the most intriguing hitter at Vegas, Travis d'Arnaud, he is neither struggling nor lighting the world on fire batting .282 with 2 homers.
Over in the National League, the Houston Astros' Triple-A Oklahoma roster has some hot hitters. Former Met Fernando Martinez is enjoying himself and putting on a power display with 4 home runs, making contact 83% of the time, and batting .315. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up and start to fulfill the potential once thought of him. Also in the outfield is J.B. Shuck who is pushing for MLB time by batting .343 with a .397 OBP. The speedster also has 3 stolen bases thus far. While the Astros have been getting production from J.D. Martinez and Jordan Schafer, Brian Bogusevic and company have not been providing much offense in right field. Keep an eye on these two characters as either of them is capable of getting a shot a starting position, though of course Martinez is a better fit for right field. Shuck fits best in LF or CF. Meanwhile, in the rotation, although Jordan Lyles had a mediocre season debut this past Sunday and was subsequently optioned to the minors (given a lack of need for a fifth starter), his 24 strikeouts and 4 walks in 26 innings at Triple-A suggest it will be tough keeping him down. The 21-year-old is not overpowering, but is very advanced for his age in the pitch ability department and works with a solid fastball, cutter, curve and changeup.
Triple-A Omaha is providing some interesting stories for the Royals. Max Ramirez has seemingly rediscovered his offense batting .333 with 5 HRs and 23 RBIs. The sub-par defensive catcher has often been a sleeper due to his combination of power and plate discipline, but is now 27 years old and is now rather removed from excellent 2008 campaign in hitter-friendly Frisco. Johnny Giavotella is doing what he does well, showing good plate discipline and hitting for average with a .288-average 3-HR performance while walking more often than he has struck out. Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt have not struggled per se at the MLB level, but neither have they been tearing down the walls, so there should be an avenue for Giavotella to return and reclaim his starting job at some point this year. Mike Montgomery, on the other hand, is not doing much to garner a promotion with a 3.6 BB/9 and solid, but mediocre 6.9 K/9 and 4.55 ERA. This isn't terrible at all considering the sample size, but again considering his "ace-level" pedigree, stuff and more impressive previous strikeout rates including a 7.7 K/9 at Triple-A last year, more is expected from the lefty. Right now, Will Smith or Vin Mazzaro is a more likely call-up if there is a need at the MLB level.
Moving to Double-A Northwest Arkansas we need an update on Wil Myers who is absolutely tearing apart the Texas League with a .349 batting average and 7 homers. The significant drop-off in plate discipline including a 30%+ strikeout rate, however, is a concern and makes it quite likely his .349 batting average is unsustainable given that aggressive an approach at the plate. Considering this is someone who has previously made contact more than 80% of the time, Myers is far from a lost cause at this point and is capable of turning things around in the contact-making department.
One update from my previous article regarding the Mets' Matt Harvey: Since struggling out of the gate, he came alive at Triple-A including 7 innings of shutout, zero-walk ball last Wednesday.
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