I'm introducing what I hope will be a recurring series here at Red Reporter. Assuming players are paid on the 1st and 15th of each month - I have no idea when they are actually paid - I'm going to see who has carried the team for the pay cycle. I'll highlight a hitter and pitcher from each team, and I'll throw in some honorable mentions when I feel they are warranted. I'll base my selections off of stats for the pay cycle, trying to balance out performance and playing time. Feel free to disagree with my selections.
This pay cycle is thin on playing time. The season began for the full season minor league teams on Thursday, April 9, allowing just a week for players to get going. In addition, each team has already had games postponed due to rain, with Daytona and Pensacola losing multiple games so far. We'll carry on.
Hitter: Ivan DeJesus
The clear cream of the minor league crop so far at the plate, DeJesus is off to a great start in AAA with the Reds. In six games (all stats through 4/15), he has put up a .474/.545/.632 line over 22 plate appearances. He did not play in the season opener, found himself hitting eighth for the next four games, and worked his way to the three spot lately, with some calling for DeJesus to get the call to the big leagues when Mesoraco returns and Skipworth's services are no longer required. (Of course, there's a 40-man roster spot that would need to be cleared, and that hasn't gone so well for us so far either. Maybe we could just clear all forms of anything "Skip" while we're at it?) He's been manning 1B and 3B, flashing some leather at 3B according to the link there.
Pitcher: Dylan Axlerod
This one is a tough call. I'm giving the nod to Axlerod by virtue of his tidy 1.38 ERA over 13 innings. He only struck out 7 of the 47 batters he faced, walking 3, but I'm going with quantity over quality here. Other strong contenders included Jon Moscot (0.00 ERA, but only over 5.2 innings), Michael Lorenzen (0.00 ERA over 7 IP, but only 3 Ks), and Carlos Contreras (3.86 ERA, but fanned 5 of the 11 batters he faced). Like Contreras, Ryan Dennick fanned 5 (of 12 batters faced) without walking a batter, although with an ERA over 6. Sadly, the prospective LOOGY was claimed by the Dodgers and is no longer in the organization.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Hitter: Kyle Skipworth
Ummm.... It's got to be someone, right? They've only played 4 games. I'm going to give the nod here to Kyle Skipworth. He's only played in 3 games, but he was called up to take a spot on the Reds bench, so I'll grant him a pass. He's hit .250/.333/.625, with one HR and one single in eight at bats for Pensacola. Did I mention that the sample was small this cycle?
Pitcher: Wandy Peralta
Another tough call here. Peralta pitched 5 shutout innings in his lone start, striking out just 3 while walking 2. Robert Stephenson was his chief competition with 7 Ks and 2 BBs over 5.2 innings. Those peripherals look nice, but they were coupled with a 4.76 ERA, so Wandy gets the call here.
Hitter: Philip Ervin
We're not in Bakersfield anymore. Ervin was a relatively easy pick (apologies to Jeff Gelalich, who played just 3 games) with a whopping slash line of .263/.333/.421. Ervin had 1 HR, 4 1Bs, and 2 BBs in 21 plate appearances. He also stole two bases. In 5 games, he's played CF three times and LF twice.
Pitcher: Nick Travieso
Travieso has come out of the gate strong, with a 2.19 ERA over 12.1 IP in two starts so far. He's fanned 10 of the 47 batters he's faced so far, while walking 5. He's allowed just 5 hits over two starts. Relievers Zack Weiss (4 Ks and 1 BB over 7 batters) and Evan Mitchell (3 Ks over 5 batters) have been strong as well, but neither has thrown even 3 innings.
Hitter: Narciso Crook
Beyond having an awesome name, Crook leads Reds minor leaguers with 4 extra base hits (3 2B, 1 3B) so far this season. He has also stolen 3 bases so far without being caught. His plate discipline needs work, as he's struck out 11 times (in 24 plate appearances) without drawing a walk yet. Still, I really like Crook as a sleeper prospect this season, and he's off to a good start on the season. If you prefer patience over pop, Avain Rachal has put up a .250/.400/.250 line over 25 plate appearances, but that's just not enough power for a 1B. Wendell Soto could make an argument too, but 11 plate appearances just isn't enough when the other guys have 25+.
Pitcher: Tyler Mahle
11.2 innings of 0.77 ERA baseball with just 2 BBs (and 7 Ks) over 45 batters puts Mahle neck and neck with Nick Travieso as the most impressive minor league pitcher so far this season for the Reds. Mahle has allowed 9 hits so far, but the 2 BBs allowed really sets him apart from the other pitchers. Despite that, Seth Varner's 5 IP with 6 Ks and 0 BBs was definitely deserving of consideration as well.