Last week we took a look at some of the outstanding pitching performances in the first week of the minor league season. It makes perfect sense to take a look at some of the hitters this week. Unlike last week, we are going to look at the hitters broken down by team. All stats mentioned are through April 13, 2014.
To be perfectly honest, there aren’t many true prospects on this team as most guys on the team are true veteran Triple-A/AAAA players. Still, some guys are off to very quick starts for the Bats. Ruben Gotay is 31-years-old, but he is off to about as hot of a start as anyone can possibly be. He is hitting an incredibly .400/.447/.886 with five doubles and four homers in just eight games. Chris Nelson opted for free agency after not making the Reds big league club out of spring training, but the market wasn’t there and he re-signed with the Reds on a minor league deal and in his six games since returning he has hit .435/.480/.609 and has driven in 10 runs. Felix Perez, a 29-year-old outfielder has hit .400 so far. And everyone’s favorite Bat, Corky Miller, has hit .375 in the five games he has entered. As a side note, he threw an inning of relief on Sunday where he allowed eight earned runs.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Most of the guys in Pensacola are closer to prospects than the guys in Louisville. Donald Lutz has started the year on fire, hitting .345/.424/.690 with a double and three home runs. Over the weekend he hit two in one game, one to left and one to right. New to the organization, shortstop/second baseman Rey Navarro is starting things off right with a .308/.367/.692 line with three home runs. Juan Silverio has taken over at third base for the Blue Wahoos this season and has hit .344/.400/.531 early on.
The Blaze have plenty of true prospects on their team, but it is 29-year-old veteran Marquez Smith who has flat out destroyed the California League for the 9-2 Bakersfield squad. He is hitting .444/.500/.917 with six doubles, a triple and three home runs to go along with 19 RBI in 10 games. Junior Arias struggled mightily in Bakersfield in 2013 but has gotten off to a quick start with a .394/.459/.606 line through eight games with eight steals. Kyle Waldrop has hit .436/.511/.462 through eleven games. Jesse Winker, arguably the top hitting prospect in the system, is hitting .317/.423/.488 with eight walks and just five strikeouts. Catcher Chris Berset is also off to a quick start, hitting .304/.360/.522 in six games behind the plate.
The Dragons offense is off to a bit of a slow start, but 22-year-old Sebastian Elizalde is more than carrying his weight as he is hitting .357/.526/.679 with three doubles, two home runs, 10 walks and just six strikeouts in nine games. Carlton Daal, a 20-year-old shortstop is off to a good start at the plate, hitting .346/.433/.385 with four walks and four strikeouts in eight games. Tanner Rahier is hitting .303/.351/.424 with a double and a home run in nine games.
While we wanted to point out some of the good starts some guys were having, we also wanted to highlight of few of those guys as well. Moving down from the top, let’s start with Rey Navarro. The former 3rd round draft pick is in his first season with the Reds. His quick start shouldn’t go unnoticed as the Reds are awfully thin at middle-infield prospects. He has shown early power with three home runs in just 26 at-bats while having a career high of 12, which came last season. He is a high contact hitter but has had a low walk rate too.
Junior Arias is arguably the toolsiest player in the system. He has speed, power, defense and a strong arm. The hitting part is where he has struggled in the past. His quick start, while could be written off to a small sample size, is backed up a little bit with some scouting too. Arias has a career high of 20 walks in a season, so to say he has been overly aggressive at the plate would be an understatement. In 37 plate appearances this year he has walked three times and has just five strikeouts. For him, even in a small sample size, that is very impressive. Having watched him, it doesn’t seem fluky as he has shown more patience at the plate, being more selective and staying back on the ball better.
His teammate Jesse Winker, as noted, is arguably the best hitting prospect in the system. He brings an advanced approach to the plate and can hit the ball to all fields. He walked 63 times and struck out just 75 times last season for Dayton. This season he has eight walks and just five strikeouts. The strikeout rate is currently sitting at 9.6% and this is a guy who has power. Very impressive start for him so far.
Down in Dayton, another middle infield prospect is worth keeping an eye on. Carlton Daal has often been compared to former Red Didi Gregorius. They have similar builds, are from the same town and both play shortstop. There are some differences between the two guys though. Daal came into the season with just 75 professional plate appearances to his name, so jumping to Dayton and showing early success is impressive. He should be able to remain at shortstop, and the early returns on the bat have been good to see. Here is some video of him from batting practice, where you can see his swing and in particular, his good bat speed.