We're down to about 20 games remaining for each minor league team, and only one is in playoff contention. But that team, the Louisville Bats, is in the midst of an historic run. After their game on July 1, the team sat at 36-45, well out of playoff contention. Since that day they have gone a staggering 31-6 to come within a half-game of their division and in the Wild Card driver's seat. It must be fun to be on that team right now.
The Dayton Dragons? Probably not so much. They have gone 4-26 over their last thirty games. That's almost unfathomable. I'd think you'd have to try pretty hard to lose that much, but the team is somehow managing it. I imagine most of those guys are looking forward to September. Here is a rundown of these two teams, and the rest of the organization:
LOUISVILLE BATS (AAA) - Oh, how things can change. Last time we checked in, the Bats were 4 games under .500 and last in their division, but now they're 16 games over .500 at 67-51 and 1/2 game out of first place Columbus. Chris Valaika and Yonder Alonso are 9th and 10th in batting average, and Wladimir Balentien's recent power surge has him at 4th in the league in slugging percentage at .509. Wladdy is also tied for 4th in homers with 20 and 7th in RBI with 65. Zack Cozart has also been a very productive player, as he's 9th in RBI with 60 and the league leader in runs scored with 79. He's 2nd in hits with 122, and tied for the lead for stolen bases with 29. On the pitching side, Travis Wood is still 4th in the league in ERA, and two more Bats round out the top 10 with Chad Reineke 8th and Matt Maloney 10th. Aroldis Chapman is still 5th in the IL in strikeouts, the highest of any reliever in the league.
CAROLINA MUDCATS (AA) - A pretty meh season for the team overall. Their record stands at 50-64 on the season, but this team has also boasted some of the most impressive individual seasons in the system in Devin Mesoraco and Dave Sappelt. Sappelt is 3rd in the league in OPS, and Mesoraco would be in the top 5 as well if he had enough PAs to qualify. Devin is 6th in homers and Sappelt is 8th in RBI. Kris Negron is 4th in the league with 31 stolen bases. Even after his recent struggles, Matt Klinker is still 3rd in the league in ERA and WHIP.
LYNCHBURG HILLCATS (A+) - The Hillcats are 19-25 so far in the 2nd half, 6back from first place Potomac. Cody Puckett is 2nd in the league in doubles and 6th in homers, and Neftali Soto is even better, 3rd in the league with 17 homers. Jordan Hotchkiss is leading the league in ERA at 2.26 and 10th in strikeouts with 86 to lead the team. The Hillcats also boast the man who is 2nd in the league in saves, Donnie Joseph with 14.
DAYTON DRAGONS (A) - A season to forget. The Dragons record is 40-73 for a .354 winning percentage, and they've actually been worse at home than on the road. (Must be too many 5/3 burgers). There are no hitters or pitchers in the top 10 of any major statistical category. I hope some of the exciting young guys at Billings can come up and energize this team next year.
BILLINGS MUSTANGS (Rookie) - The Mustangs are 4-6 in the second half of the season so far, 2 1/2 games behind the first half winners in Great Falls. Billy Hamilton is absolutely killing it with stolen bases, as his 26 lead the league with a 10 SB cushion between him and 2nd place. He's also 2nd in the league in hits and 2nd in runs scored. Not many bright spots on the pitching front.
AZL REDS (Rookie) - The team has some interesting prospects, but really not too much can be read into either individual statistics or team records for this league. The sample size is tiny, and team rosters are typically huge, so guys have don't usually get too many at bats or innings pitched. Still, the team's record is 22-20, and some players have stood out. First basemen and recent draftees Dominic D'Anna and Jaren Matthews both crushed the ball here. Matthews has 6 homers in just 17 games. David Vidal has also performed well, slugging 5 homers and OPSing .898 so far. The most impressive pitching performances have come from international signings Jonathan Correa and Ismael Guillon. Correa is a 19 year old out of the DR who has been compared to Johnny Cueto, (I wonder if he's got a vicious left foot too) and has struck out 54 in 44.1 innings pitched as a starter.
Look after the jump for an update on top prospects, the top hitters and pitchers on the year, and two guys to pay attention to in the final month.
#1 Aroldis Chapman - LHRP - 8-6, 3.79 ERA, 115 K, 51 BB (Louisville) Aroldis has been lights out lately as a reliever, and our number 1 prospect should be joining the big league bullpen soon. After a rough start, he has a 1.46 ERA over his last 10 appearances, with 19 strikeouts in those 12 1/3 innings.
#2 Todd Frazier - 3B/LF - .259/.327/.453, 15 HR 57 RBI (Louisville) Todd has really turned things around of late. He's on fire in his last 10 games, OPSing 1.304, and he's got his year-to-date OPS up to .781. I think most of us had largely forgotten about him, but could he be an option for LF next year?
#3 Yonder Alonso - 1B - .298/.357/.462, 9 HR 45 RBI (Louisville) Possibly the hottest hitter in the system right now. He's OPSing 1.260 over his last 10 games. The walks are back, the power is coming back, and he's hitting for average too. Damn, I really wish he could play a passable LF.
#4 Mike Leake - RHSP - 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 80 K, 44 BB (Cincinnati) You already know. Moving on.
#5 Chris Heisey - OF - .284/.375/.523, 7 HR 13 RBI (Cincinnati) Starting to get more playing time. I don't think he's a true .900 OPS guy in the majors, but it'll be interesting to see what he can put up with more PAs.
#6 Juan Francisco - 3B - .286/.326/.569, 16 HR 53 RBI (AAA/Cincy) Since he only has 22 PAs with the Reds I listed his AAA numbers. They are pretty impressive, but I still believe that major league pitching will expose him given enough time. Hopefully that doesn't happen this year.
#7 Travis Wood - LHSP - 3-1, 2.65 ERA, 40 K, 13 BB (Cincinnati) Travis is currently in limbo with the off day roster crunch happening, but will be back on the Reds soon. Which is a good thing, because they could use him.
#8 Yorman Rodriguez - OF- .340/.340/.468, 2 HR 26 RBI (Billings) Still dealing with a hand injury that will keep him sidelined for a while. Rodriguez might be the most impressive 17 year old in the entire minors. (His 18th birthday is Sunday!)
#9 Zack Cozart - SS - .266/.327/.441, 16 HR 60 RBI (Louisville) Has been a quiet contributor to the Bats run of late, but has been consistent all year in the 2 hole in their lineup. Hey, aren't we looking for a decent 2-hole hitter for the Reds?
#10 Matt Maloney - LHSP - 10-5, 3.54 ERA, 88 K, 25 BB (Louisville) Matty has been pretty good lately, going 4-0 in his last 5 starts, and had 5 quality starts in a row in July. He could contribute down the stretch, but I wouldn't rule out him being the Bats' ace in the playoffs.
#11 Chris Valaika - 2B - .298/.328/.402, 4 HR 46 RBI (Louisville) Chris has finally started hitting some home runs, but he's still not walking. His average is impressive but the slash line, not so much. Still, I'd like to see him take Miguel Cairo's spot and role on the team next year.
#12 Brad Boxberger - RHSP - 5-9, 4.79 ERA, 97 K, 37 BB (Lynchburg/Carolina) Yikes. Those bullpen numbers aren't good, with a 9.58 ERA in his 15 relief appearances. I suggested this in the FO today, but maybe he needs to get his confidence up and go back to Lynchburg.
#13 Neftali Soto - 3B/1B - .255/.302/.439, 17 HR 58 RBI (Lynchburg) A(nother) very pedestrian season from a guy many thought would be one of our top prospects. The power is there, but not much else. It's possible all of the position changes have affected his hitting this year, as he has spent significant time at C,LF,3B, and 1B this season. Next year looks to be a make or break one for Soto.
#14 Devin Mesoraco - C - .309/.384/.599, 23 HR 60 RBI (Lynchburg/Carolina) Those numbers are his combined numbers for the whole season, and what a season it's been. Devin has done everything well this season, and I mean everything: His power is elite, he walks a fair bit, barely strikes out, and has thrown out over 40% of attempted baserunners on the year. I'm starting to wonder if the Reds might consider him for the big club out of spring training.
#15 Billy Hamilton - SS/2B - .332/.390/.474, 1 HR 16 RBI (Billings) Billy might be my new favorite prospect. I love switch hitters, and he's showing an ability to hit very well from both sides of the plate. His range and arm project to be well above average at SS, and he has stolen 26 bases in 34 attempts. He's only 19, so he'll be an exciting guy to watch the next couple years.
#16 J.C. Sulbaran - RHSP - 4-6, 4.99 ERA, 83 K, 49 BB (Dayton) Still not great, and nowhere near the level of improvement we've been looking to see. Has been on the DL since 7/17.
#17 Enerio Del Rosario - RHRP - 4-3, 2.91 ERA, 29 K, 14 BB (Louisville) Continues to have a pretty decent year in Louisville, should be a bullpen option in September.
#18 Matt Klinker - RHSP - 9-7, 3.38 ERA, 110 K, 37 BB (Carolina/Louisville) Still kind of struggling in AAA, but looks to be in AA right now making some adjustments. I expect to see him back in Louisville soon.
#19 Daniel Tuttle - RHSP - 5-2, 4.80 ERA, 39 K, 17 BB (Billings) Eh. The numbers aren't bad but he isn't dominating as much as I think we expected him to. He's by no means finished for the year but needs to be better.
#20 Juan Duran - OF - .252/.321/.402, 3 HR 17 RBI (Billings) Not exactly setting the world on fire, but it's good to see something positive after last year's mess. Still a long way to go, and at 18 that's just fine. At least he has taken a step in the right direction.
#21 Donnie Joseph - LHRP - 2-5, 1.65 ERA, 92 K, 22 BB (Dayton/Lynchburg) He's had a couple of down outings, but is back on track with 5 scoreless in a row. Nothing new to report, he's still getting it done.
#22 Logan Ondrusek - RHRP - 3-0, 3.47 ERA, 25 K, 14 BB (Cincinnati) Another guy, where if you've been following the Reds, you know this guy. Awesome year.
#23 Daniel Dorn - OF/1B - .290/.380/.505, 10 HR 35 RBI (Louisville) I wish the Reds would give this kid a chance. He has a .949 OPS against righties in almost 1400 career minor league PAs (including .946 this season). He plays a perfectly fine corner OF and can fill in at 1B. Yet we're stuck with Laynce Nix. Yet another guy who should get his shot in 2011.
#24 Josh Fellhauer - OF - .247/.304/.344, 6 HR 35 RBI (Lynchburg) The Hellflower has had a rough season. These numbers aren't great from a CFer, and they are truly bad for a corner guy. Thus is the Dilemma of the Tweener. We'll hope to see more from him next season.
#25 Sam LeCure - RHSP - 7-2, 3.15 ERA, 76 K, 20 BB (Louisville) The other ace on the Bats' staff is still having a pretty solid year.
Top 5 Pitchers:
Donnie Joseph (Lynchburg) - 2-5, 1.65 ERA, 92 K, 22 BB Doug Salinas (Dayton) 3-3, 2.20 ERA, 52 K, 11 BB Jonathan Correa (Billings) - 4-3, 2.23 ERA, 54 K, 11 BB Jordan Hotchkiss (Lynchburg) - 9-4, 2.26 ERA, 86 K, 29 BB Chase Ware (Lynchburg) - 4-4, 2.73 ERA, 72 K, 25 BB
Pitcher to watch: Jason Isringhausen (LHRP) - 1-0, 5.79 ERA, 4 K, 6 BB Walt brought him in to work in Louisville with the expectation that he'll be called up to the big club. He needs to progress a little bit more before that happens, but it sounds like a guy with his experience will get every chance to show he can play.
Top 5 Hitters:
Devin Mesoraco .984 OPS
Dave Sappelt .916 OPS
Juan Francisco .985 OPS
Daniel Dorn .884 OPS
Wladimir Balentien .832 OPS
Hitter To Watch: Todd Frazier (LF/3B) - As mentioned above, if he can have a fantastic last 25 games, he could insert himself back into the LF conversation for next year. A so-so stretch probably guarantees him another year in Louisville.