All minor league affiliates’ regular seasons are over and the ruthless overseers here at Farmers Only have dictated that we take a look back at them all. We’ll begin at the top with the AAA Louisville Bats of the International League.
It was … well, it was a bad year for the Bats. They finished 22 games behind the first place Columbus Clippers in the International League West Division and their 59-81 record was tied for the worst in the entire league. Of course, a lousy season for a minor league squad usually has a lot of causal variability. In the Bats case, if an individual player (like Aristides Aquino or Josh VanMeter) started putting up good numbers, he was snapped up by the Reds. I mean, that’s just one reason of many, but generally I’m of the belief that a bad season for your AAA affiliate is a harbinger of good things to come for your big league squad. All the good young talent is already in Cincinnati! So here’s hoping, right?
Josh “can geet ‘er!” VanMeter (.348/.429/.669, 29 XBHs in 211 PAs), Aristides “A King and” Aquino (.299/.356/.636, 28 HRs in 323 PAs), Brian “Old Lady” O’Grady (.280/.359/.550 59 XBHs in 489 PAs, 20 steals)
As mentioned above, all of these fellas played their way onto the Reds’ roster with strong seasons with the Bats. Much mucky muck has been made over the usage of the MLB ball at the AAA level this year contributing to an incredible spike in offense, and that’s all true. But all that said, these fellas still rose above the rabble. None of them entered the season with any top prospect bona fides, but here we are. Aquino earned himself International League Rookie of the Year honors.
Alex “Fuckin’” Powers (1.98 ERA), Joel “Goon Dog” Kuhnel (2.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), Matt “woah, man!” Bowman (2.08 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), Anthony “Tony Fish” Bass (2.21 ERA, 0.93 WHIP)
You might notice a pattern here: Powers, Bowman, and Bass are journeymen relievers. And honestly, Kuhnel might very well be in a few years himself. But that takes nothing away from the legit bitching-ass seasons they put together in the Bats’ bullpen. Kuhnel and Bowman earned themselves calls-up to the big league ‘pen where they have both acquitted themselves quite well.
The corollary here, of course, is that the Bats’ rotation was dreadful (hence the last-place finish). We’ll get to that later, though.
How’d the Prospects Do?
Well, as mentioned above, the success of a minor league club hinges on a number of different things. Most of the best young talent in the Reds’ organization is already playing for the big league squad, so the Bats weren’t able to boast a bounty of burgeoning baseball boys. Nick Senzel spent about a week-and-a-half in Louisville before getting the call. Tyler Mahle started three games for the Bats but that was more of an injury rehab thing than anything else.
“The Revolutionary Potential of the Working Class” Vladimir Gutierrez, “Hey, woo-eee! Hey yah!” Keury Mella, and Jimmy “The Neck” Herget made the Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings heading into the season and spent significant time with the Bats this year. Gooter got blown up on the spot, posting an ERA above 6.00 in 27 starts. His strikeouts were down, his walks were up, and he gave up close to two home runs per nine innings pitched. He won’t turn 24 for a few weeks, so he is still quite young. But the polish sure got waxed off the apple this year.
Mella didn’t fare much better. He also made 27 starts and his ERA was 5.05. His WHIP was a ghastly 1.5 and, though he has never been a lights-out shutdown beat-the-brakes-off strikeout pitcher, his K/BB was below 2.0. He got cups of coffee with the Reds the last two seasons, and as you might have noticed, he did not receive one this September. I would not be at all surprised if he gets the ol’ DFA this winter.
Herget belongs in the Top Performers section above with the rest of his ‘pen pals, but I wanted to write up some good news here in the prospects section so here he is. He posted an ERA of 2.91 in 58 2/3 innings and got a brief audition with the Reds for a minute this summer. Walks became a big problem for him this season, as he issued free passes at a rate of 5.5 per nine innings. But the stuff is still there and I’d bet he begins next spring in the Reds’ bullpen.
So yeah. The Bats had a rough year. But cheer up! Next time we’ll look at the Lookouts in AA and (/looks at Lookouts) … look, I think I’ll sit this one out.