While the midseason point for the Major Leagues is still a few weeks away, the midseason mark for the minor leagues is happening right now. Triple-A plays 144 games, so they still have a few games left to technically reach their midseason mark, but Double-A, Advanced-A and Low-A are all on their All-Star breaks and have completed the first halves of their 140-game seasons.
This week I wanted to look back at the first half and talk about some of the surprise performances. It won’t necessarily be outstanding performances, as in some cases we expected guys to perform quite well (like Jesse Winker), but good performances from guys that may have broken through or really established themselves for the first time.
The Curacao native has established himself as the top shortstop prospect in the system with his performance in the first half of the season. The right handed hitter has posted a .314 average to go along with a .360 on-base percentage and a .354 slugging percentage for the Dayton Dragons so far. The 20-year-old has also stolen eleven bases without being caught. He has some tools to work with, which I wrote about at my site on Friday. Offensively he has been a rather big surprise, coming into the 2014 season with just 21 games played as a professional. Defensively he has had some struggled though, posting a .905 fielding percentage so far.
The Reds went a unique (to them) route to acquire the outfielder last season as they signed him out of the Mexican League where he had been playing since he was 18-years-old. After signing he underwent Tommy John surgery and didn’t debut until the start of 2014. He has split his time in the outfield and at first base, though his time at first has been more out of necessity for his team than a reflection on his defensive abilities. Offensively it’s hard to ask for anything more from the 22-year-old as he has posted a .311 average to go along with a .439 on-base percentage and a .503 slugging percentage for Dayton. He has 41 walks and just 48 strikeouts on the season. While he is slightly old for the league, for a guy making his debut stateside, he really jumped out for his performance.
The center fielder has already seen time at three levels this season, beginning in Dayton before jumping up to Pensacola for two weeks to fill in for an injured player. He has spent the last five weeks in Bakersfield. Overall this season he has hit .315 with a .369 on-base percentage and a .478 slugging percentage. He already has 18 doubles, seven triples and two home runs. In more than twice the amount of plate appearances last season he managed just 23 extra-base hits. He has also added 20 steals on the season and has scored 45 runs.
A former draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals way back in 2005 under Walt Jocketty, the organization brought in the former Top 100 prospect (2008) for one last look. The 27-year-old has seized the opportunity. He has split his time between Pensacola and Louisville, where he has split his time behind the plate leading to just 150 plate appearances this year. He has made them count though, hitting .323 between the two stops with a .403 on-base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage. Anderson has smashed eight home runs with 18 walks and 25 strikeouts.
The 22-year-old outfielder is repeating the Advanced-A level with the Bakersfield Blaze and has done much better the second time around. Waldrop is hitting .359/.409/.516 on the season with 20 doubles, a triple and six home runs. His walk rate has jumped up from 5.9% in 2013 to 7.8% in 2014 and he has lowered his strikeout rate from 22% to 19%. Marginal gains in both categories have helped him improve his overall offensive output.
The right handed reliever celebrated his 24th birthday last week with the Bakersfield Blaze, but despite his birthday it was a rough week as he allowed the first two runs of his season on June 7th and June 9th. The closer had begun the season with 27.1 shutout innings, spanning 23 games, before allowing a run of any kind. His ERA currently sits at 0.57 on the year with just seven walks and 34 strikeouts. While he is repeating the level, he has been a very different pitcher, cutting his walk rate from 5.2 walks per 9.0 innings pitched down to just 2.0 and raising his strikeout rate from 7.6 to 9.8 per 9.0 innings pitched.
The 2013 4th round draft pick of the Reds dominated in Billings last year in limited action and got one start to end the year in Dayton. He was pushed to Bakersfield to begin this season and has dominated the league, posting a 2.28 ERA in 79.0 innings to go with a 10-1 record, 0.92 WHIP, 16 walks and 95 strikeouts. He will start the Carolina League vs California League All-Star game tonight for the California League. While I had Lively ranked as the #10 prospect in the system coming into the year, what he has been able to do in the incredibly hitter friendly California League has been incredible.
The right handed pitcher has less experience on the mound than any other pitcher in full season ball within the Reds system. He threw about under 45.0 innings in college as a reliever and had a handful of innings last year after being drafted, also as a reliever. The Reds decided they wanted to try him as a starting pitcher and it has paid off in a big, big way so far. He has posted a 2.41 ERA for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos in 71.0 innings, allowing just three home runs on the year to go along with a 60% groundball rate. He has 21 walks and 47 strikeouts on the year, and while the strikeout rate is lower than you would like to see, this is his first ever season as a starting pitcher and he is doing it in Double-A with elite stuff.
After a disastrous 2013 season that saw the left hander walk 95 batters in 121.1 innings it is a big surprise to see him back in Dayton with a 3.17 ERA over 65.1 innings with just 27 walks to go along with 69 strikeouts. His walk rate has dropped from 7.0 batters per 9.0 innings pitched down to 3.7 walks per 9.0 innings pitched. His home run rate has also dropped off significantly. Guillon allowed 14 long balls last season and has given up just three in 2014. Already on the 40-man roster, it’s a big season for him and he has stepped up thus far.
The 2013 10th round pick stumbled a bit out of the gate last season, posting a 5.91 ERA for Billings, though he did show good peripherals while there. This season he has split his time between Dayton and Bakersfield where his ERA has dipped to 2.71 in 69.2 innings over 11 starts and three relief appearances. He has walked just 10 batters and has struck out 56 opposing hitters.