Tuesday, June 18, 2019

At the Game Observations

These are long overdue in some cases.  I am going to divide into two reports.  This report will cover Wilmington, Fayetteville, Salem, Myrtle Beach and Lynchburg.  The next report will cover the Frederick Keys in those games.

Wilmington at Frederick April 30th and May 1st

My original plan was to see the Blue Rocks three times in a week including a trip to Wilmington on Sunday May 5th which ending up being a rainout.  In addition, I missed seeing any of Wilmington's trio of top pitching prospects (Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar).

The April 30 game was one of the more bizarre games I ever attended.  Frederick's Michael Baumann was dominant.  He left with two outs in the 7th without allowing any hits and striking out twelve.  The Keys  had a 4-0 lead heading into the 9th with the no-hitter still intact.  In the 9th the Keys made an error and allowed 4 walks.  After a wild pitch the score was 4-3 with 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs with the no hitter still alive.  Cristian Perez doubled down the 3rd base line, giving the Blue Rocks the lead 5-4 which was the final score.  The Blue Rocks won despite being out hit 9 to 1. 

Marcelo Martinez
Martinez is a 22 year old left hander making just his 5th appearance and 3rd start in full season ball. Martinez struggled with his control and threw 91 pitches in 4.2 innings.  He did not standout, but is inexperienced for this level.

Daniel Tillo
Daniel Tillo is a 2017 3rd round draft pick out of Iowa Western CC.  He is tall with a very nice pitchers body. I was able to see from the scouts radar gun that he was consistently hitting 95 MPH. 

Tillo's problems started immediately.  After a Mason McCoy single, Jake Ring hit a comebacker that should have been a double play except, Tillo's made a bad throw for an error. He did not look composed when he was making the throw.  Tillo made a second throwing error on a bunt attempt in the 3rd inning where he had no chance at the runner and should had held the ball.  Tillo did not get much help from his defense which made 2 additional errors.

Tillo was removed from the game after getting hit by a liner in the 3rd inning from Yeltsin Gudino. He limped off the field but may have been pulled even if  he was not hurt as the Keys scored 6 runs in the the 3rd.

From looking at Tillo's stats, what stands out is that he is only striking out 8.5% of batters.  I did not much of a chance to assess his secondary pitches, but it is difficult to see how someone with his talent is not striking out more batters.

Seuly Matias hit 31 homers in 94 games in 2018 as a 19 year old in the Sally League and was ranked as high as the 51st best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus going into the season.  In 2018, Matias also struck out 34.8% of the time.

Matias hit 4 homers in 3 games between April 13th and the 15th.  He got an off day on May 1st, so the only game I saw was against Michael Baumann who was especially sharp.  Matias was 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts.  He did walk and score in the wild 9th inning. Matias swings from his heels regardless of the count and clearly has a lot swing and miss to his game.  Matias reportedly has a great arm in right field, but I did not get a chance to see it 

Matias has struggled tremendously in May.  Through May 26th, he is hitting .106 for the month with 41 strikeouts in 66 at bats with 9 walks.  He has not homered since April 15th. It may make sense for Matias to spend a couple weeks in Lexington to get his confidence back.  UPDATE:  Matias was placed on the injury list on June 13th.

MJ Melendez  has had a hard time in 2019 adjusting to Carolina League pitching.  He is a 20 year old left handed hitting catcher that was ranked as high as 62 (Prospect Live)  in prospect rankings.

Like all the Blue Rocks, Melendez struggled with Baumann the first game.  He did walk with the bases loaded in the critical 9th inning.  Melendez went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and a walk for the second game as well.  Melendez DHed the first game and caught the second game.  He reportedly has a great arm, but did not have an opportunity to show it.

Melendez seem to be all in as a power hitter.  However, he is not that big (6'1" 185 lbs) and may need to sacrifice some power for a better plate approach.Melendez also looks like a players that will need more than one full year in the Carolina League.

Nick Pratto

Nick Pratto was the Royals 1st round pick in 2017.  He has a reputation for having a strong hit tool with still developing power.  He is left handed and purely a 1st basemen, but reportedly good defensively.  In the off season was rated as high as the 67 best prospect in baseball by rotowire. 

Pratto did not start against Baumann. He pinch hit in the 9th and drew a walk, scoring the second run.  He was very enthusiastic during the Blue Rocks' comeback.

He started the next night against the lefthander for the Keys, Cameron Bishop.  Pratto had a rough night going 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts.  Like Matias and Melendez, he is have a difficult time with the transition from the Sally League to the Carolina League and has a lot of swing and miss in his game.

Matias, Melendez and Pratto all will turn 21 in the fall.  At this point it seems likely that all will need more than 2019 in the Carolina League, which is not terrible giving their age.  However, if any of the three are still struggling in the Carolina League next year, then it is cause for concern.  Leody Taveras, Aramis Ademan and Jonathan Arauz are three position players that are much improved in their second year in High A.

Fayetteville at Frederick May 11th

After a rainout on Friday, May 10th, the Woodpeckers and the Keys played on doubleheader on Saturday, May 11th that featured Blaine Knight making his Carolina League debut versus Parker Mushinski for the Woodpeckers.  It was a cold rainy day.

Parker Mushinski was the Astros 7th round draft pick in 2017 out of Texas Tech.  He is one of the seemingly endless supply of Astros pitchers that are not highly ranked but are pitching very effectively with high strikeout numbers.  Coming into the game, the lefthanded, Mushinki has struck out 40 versus in only in 24.2 innings versus 7 walks.

On this day, Mushinksi was efficient, but not dominant.  He allowed 2 runs, on 5 hits and a walk in 6 innings with 3 strikeouts.  He had a good fastball which he located well and a nice curveball.  Mushinkski exited after only throwing 71 pitches.  He was placed on the IL after this start with an undisclosed injury and has yet to return.

Seth Beer
Seth Beer was the Astros first round pick in 2018 out of Clemson.  He is very talented hitter left handed hitter.  He gave Blaine Knight a rude introduction to the Carolina League by hitting a solo homer in the 1st inning his 8th on the year.  Beer walked his next time up.  Knight then got revenge on Knight in the sixth.


In the second game Beer went 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts.  There is little question Beer is going to hit.  He has split time between left field, 1st base and DH this year.  The Astros are loaded and Beer has a similar profile to Yordan Alvarez, the Astros prospect who is having a huge year in AAA Round Rock and a electrifying first week in the majors. Beer may be a trade candidate if the Astros make a move for pitching.

Beer was promoted to AA Corpus Christi less than a week later and has gotten off to a  very good start with the Hooks in the Texas League.

Jonathon Arauz

Jonathan Arauz is a slender middle infielder who played half of 2018 in the Carolina League before he turn 20 in August. Arauz struggled in 2018 but has been better this year.  In the second game, the switch hitting Arauz pulled a pitch over the right center fence.  It was quite an impressive poke for Arauz who is listed at 160 lbs.  Arauz profiles as a utility player.

J.P. France was a 14th round draft choice out of Mississippi State. He started game two of the doubleheader.  France does not throw very hard, but generally kept the Keys off balance  He struggles when hitters do not expand the strike zoned.  France walked four in 4.1 innings and threw 83 pitches.

Salem at Frederick May 18th

It looked like it was going to be a beautiful Saturday evening at the 
 stadium with a matchup  between David Lebron for the Keys and Kutter Crawford for Salem. However, the game was interrupted by a sudden rain delay of about a hour and a half after 3.5 innings.  Neither pitcher returned.

Jarren Duran has been one of the talked about prospects in baseball in 2019 and rapidly risen up prospect rankings.  He was a 7th round draft pick in 2018 out of Long Beach State that has very impressive with the bat since being draft.  Duran bats lefthanded and throws righthanded.  He has good speed and decent size, but has never hit for much power.

Duran was a second basemen in college and the Red Sox have converted him to centerfield.  From what I have seen, he has made a smooth transition to the outfield and is able to take advantage of his speed.  In the 8th inning, the Keys had Trevor Craport at third and one out, Will Robertson hit a routine fly to straightaway center and Duran made a strong accurate throw. However, the catcher, Nick Sciortino looked like he zoned out and was not ready for it allowing the run to score.

Duran got called up to AA Portland on June 3rd.

It was my second time seeing Kutter Crawford and he was not at his best for either game.  Trevor Craport really seems to have Crawford's number.  Crawford works fast and is always around the plate.
Kutter Crawford

Eduard Bazardo came in relief from Crawford after the rain and really impressed with his lively arm. He got a lot of strikes with his curveball. He will 24 in September and I would not surprised if he is called up to AA Portland before the end of the year.
Eduard Bazardo

Myrtle Beach at Frederick May 21st

This game looked to be a pitcher's battle between Javier Assad and Michael Baumann.  Assad, a husky righthander from Tijuana with goggles came in the game with a 21 inning scoreless streak.  

Assad was not at his best on this evening.   After getting two quick outs in the 2nd inning, Assad gave up six straight hits including a 3 run home to Austin Hays,in Frederick for what was essentially a rehab assignment and then another 3 run homer 3 batters later to JC Escarra.  

To his credit, Assad kept battling and did not give up any more runs. He ended up going 5.2 innings and gave up 9 hits and two walks while only only striking out 1. When on his game, Assad gets by with location rather than overpowering hitters.

Aramis Ademan is another player that struggled in the Carolina League in 2018 that is much improved in 2019.  Ademan will be 21 years old in September and is already a good defensive shortstop.  On this night, he hit the ball hard several times but had nothing to show for it.
Aramis Ademan

Carlos Sepulveda is a second basemen that going into 2019 had played very little since May 2017 due to a shoulder injury.  Sepulveda had an impressive at bat against Michael Baumann fouling off a number of pitches before lining a frozen rope into center for a single. 
Carlos Sepulveda
Lynchburg vs Frederick May 31st

The Cowboy Monkey Rodeo was in town and it was a doubleheader with nice weather which drew a large Friday night crowd.  Since I had to work, I did not arrive until the 3rd inning of the first game where the starter pitchers were DL Hall for the Keys and Justin Garza for the Hillcats. There were not a lot of surprises on this night.

DL Hall might be the most talented pitcher in the Carolina League and other than a bit of a struggle in the 3rd inning, he handled the Hillcats.

Nolan Jones is the top prospect remaining in the Carolina League. He is an extremely patient hitter.  Jones got off to slow start this year in terms of power and too many errors in April at third base.  In May he cut down on the errors, and started to hit homers.  Sometimes patient hitters like Jones can almost be too advanced for lower levels because they refuse to swing at hittable pitches that are not strikes. 

Jones drove in the Hillcats only run with a bases loaded walk against Hall in the 3rd inning of game 1. That was the only at bat I saw against Hall since I arrived late.  In game 2, against David Lebron, Jones walked twice and got a single.  Jones just turned 21 and projects to be a solid starting major league 3rd basemen.


Oscar Gonzalez is only a few months older than Nolan Jones and has put up some impressive numbers with one glaring weakness.  Gonzalez is on the other end of the patience spectrum from Jones.  I don't see how this plays at higher levels with more skilled pitchers who can take advantage of his approach.  Gonzalez did not have a good evening going 1 for 7 with 3 strikeouts and did not hit anything hard.

I was surprised how small Justin Garza was. He battled in game 1 and only gave up 3 runs despite allowing 11 baserunners in 5 innings.

Jonathan Laureano a 25th round draft choice in 2016 hit everything hard on this night in game 2 going 3 for 3 with 2 doubles.  

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