Back in the middle of April, I started a new series selecting the pitcher and hitter on each minor league team that most earned their paycheck. The second installment covers April 16 - April 30. Yeah, it’s May 6. I’m sorry for the delay. Technical difficulties and my own coaching responsibilities got in the way, but that shouldn’t be an issue in the future. Anyway, all that aside, let’s see who earned their keep to wrap up April.
Hitter: Irving Falu
Pay: $$$ (of $$$$$)
Irving Falu was spectacular on a rate basis this past pay cycle, posting a .448/.471/.586 slash line. A 1.056 OPS will get your attention. Of course, quality without quantity is only so valuable, and Falu only received 34 PA over this time. With 6 K and 3 BB, his plate discipline numbers neither helped nor hurt his stock. He did steal two bases without being caught. It wasn’t a dominant performance, but I felt like Falu did just enough to warrant the nod as the most valuable Bat bat for the latter half of April. Steve Selsky (.875 OPS in 44 PA, with 8 K and a woeful 1 BB) and Ivan DeJesus (.837 OPS in 59 PA with 15 K and just 3 BB) were also deserving of consideration. If there’s a takeaway here though, it’s that the organization-wide lack of plate discipline is a major problem, and it means that there’s just no one knocking down the door to prevent them from making poor decisions like playing with a short roster for weeks at a time.
Pitcher: Donovan Hand
Similar to Falu, the selection of Donovan Hand as the top pitcher for the Bats this pay cycle is all about quality over quantity. He provided 8.2 excellent innings in which he allowed only 7 H, 1 BB, and - most importantly - 0 ER. He fanned only 6 during that time, which probably isn’t going to get a relief pitcher noticed in a typical pay cycle. With limited competition, he’s a relatively easy pick though. Honorable mentions to Dylan Axlerod (12 K and just 2 BB in 12.2 IP, but a merely good 4 ER allowed) and Carlos Contreras (9 K and 3 BB in just 6 IP with 0 ER allowed).
Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Hitter: Seth Mejias-Brean
Seth Mejias-Brean put up a couple of good weeks. We know he has solid plate discipline, but the pop is what separated him from his main competition this week, Jesse Winker. SMB’s slash line of .267/.389/.467 was strikingly similar to Winker’s .255/.382/.418 line, with SMB’s .049 advantage in SLG being the only real difference. Winker did have 68 PA to SMB’s 54, and both players put up nearly identical BB% and K% numbers between 16% and 17%. I opted for the pop, but you could just as easily pick Winker’s edge in playing time as the deciding factor in this race.
Pitcher: Layne Somsen
Layne Somsen isn’t the first prospect you think of when you think of Pensacola, but he was quite clearly the best pitcher on the team this past fortnight. Somsen will turn 26 next month, so he’s old for AA, but he’s performed pretty well at every stop as he’s moved up the ladder. In 14 IP this pay cycle, he allowed 0 ER and just 5 H, with 4 BB and 13 K. Ben Klimesh (0 ER, 6 K, and 0 BB) posted the most serious competition to Somsen, but with just 6.2 IP, he didn’t even put in half the time.
Hitter: Phillip Ervin
Phillip Ervin has me eating crow this season. I seem to have underestimated the effect that the wrist injury had on him. He’s put it behind him though, and he’s off to an amazing start. In 65 PA, he put up a Votto-like .382/.462/.764 line. Ervin hit 5 HR, stole 3 bases (although he was caught twice), and showed good plate discipline with 9 BB to just 11 K. Several of his teammates also had good showings in the pitcher-friendly league, with Alex Blandino’s .316/.375/.579 line finishing a distant runner-up to Ervin despite likely being the second-best performance of late April among all the Reds minor league hitters.
Pitcher: Zack Weiss
For as good as Ervin was, Zack Weiss may have been even better. He only pitched 8.1 IP, but an eye-popping 16 K and 0 BB will always draw some attention. He also allowed 0 ER and only 2 H. Even Aroldis Chapman would covet the staggering K%-BB% of 59% that Weiss posted over the final two weeks of April. Sal Romano (12 K, 3 BB, and 1 ER in 13.2 IP) and Amir Garrett (19 K, 5 BB, and 5 ER in 16 IP) were strong enough to take the top spot in other weeks, but this wasn’t even a race.
Hitter: Garrett Boulware
While the hitters on the two Florida teams went crazy this pay cycle, the Dragons struggled to do much offensively. I chose Garrett Boulware, but this pick could have been about a half-dozen guys. For the two weeks, Boulware hit .286/.344/.429. That’s a decent line, but hardly spectacular. When you factor in that it came in a mere 32 PA, it is even less overwhelming. Maybe you’d prefer the 32 PA of Aristedes Aquino prior to his injury, but it isn’t really all that different (.259/.375/.407). Ty Washington could also make a claim, but with just 39 PA and a .308 OBP, it wouldn’t be a strong one. None of the 5 players who received 50 or more PA put up an OPS higher than .691, so picking for quantity over quality isn’t really helping either.
Pitcher: Seth Varner
At least the Dragons have a pitcher who had a good couple of weeks. Seth Varner threw 17 IP with 18 K and 0 BB. That’s fantastic! The 25 hits allowed and 6 ER (including 1 HR) could have been better though, so I had to dock him a $. With 7 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, and 2 BB, Brian Hunter was the closest competition to Varner, but 17 IP with no walks has to be recognized.