MAY 10th, 2013-Most of our players from 2012 are now in High-A Lancaster under the leadership of former Legends manager Rodney Linares, and several of them are off to hot starts:
Matt Duffy, 3B
28 games, 122 PA, 19 R, 6 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, .267 BA, .364 OBP, .840 OPS
Duffman is lighting up the scoreboard in what is known as a hitter's park, but runs are runs no matter where you score them. The 24 year-old third sacker has accounted for 44 of them, thus far. While the batting average is a little lower than you'd want to see, his OBP of .364 is excellent. In a full year at Lancaster, I'd expect no less than 20+ HR, 90 RBI and 30 doubles from him. Duffy has advanced a level each year since his 2011 pro debut, and there's no reason to expect he won't continue to make steady progress.
Nolan Fontana, SS
31 games, 151 PA, 29 R, 41 H, 7 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 6 SB, .353 BA, .487 OBP, 1.030 OPS
Fontana, last year's 2nd round pick out of the University of Florida, is blowing up for the JetHawks. His .353 BA is first on the team among full-time players, as is his .487 OBP. He also leads the team with 30 walks; this shouldn't be surprising, as he drew an outrageous 65 in only 49 games last year here in Lexington. So far, it looks like the Astros may have hit the bulls-eye on this draft pick.
Zach Johnson, 1B
Lancaster JetHawks (20 games); Corpus Christi Hooks, Class AA, Texas League (7 games)
27 games, 116 PA, 28 H, 10 2B, 2 HR, 20 RBI,
.275 BA, .342 OBP, .813 OPS
Johnson is starting a little slower than he did last year, but he's made his AA debut and will need time to adjust like any player would. The run producer extraordinaire and All-Star from 2012's Legends, he will face much stiffer pitching in the Texas League. It will be interesting to see how he handles it.
Chris Epps, LF
19 games, 75 PA, 3 2B, 8 RBI, .206 BA, .311 OBP
The athletic Epps has struggled in the California League in 2013, batting only .206 in his 19 games. My concern here is that his 13 homers in 82 games in 2012 may have him thinking he's a power hitter; that's not his game, or rather it shouldn't be. Epps profiles better as a gap-to-gap doubles hitter with better-than-average speed who can swipe you around 10-15 bases and hit #2 or #7 in the lineup, setting the table for the guys behind him. He did hit the High-A league with gusto in 2012, going .285-10-32 with 6 triples in 46 games after his promotion, so there's plenty of reason to think he'll heat up soon. However, as a 45th round pick in 2011 and already 24 years old, he's behind the eight-ball as it is.
Brandon Meredith, OF
24 games, 95 PA, 14 R, 4 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI,
.221 BA, .347 OBP
Meredith hasn't done a whole lot in Cali, as of yet. One thing I noticed is that he's actually hit better vs. older pitchers than younger ones. While this may not mean much, it can sometimes be an indication of how a player will do at higher levels. Also, his OBP is 126 points higher than his BA, so it's good that he's at least getting on base. That may be a stretch this early on in the season, but I know he's better than he appears right now. Give him time.
Delino Deshields, 2B
21 games, 100 PA, 16 R, 4 2B, 4 3B, 4 RBI, 5-11 SB, .241 BA, .344 OBP
This 1st round pick from 2010 will, no doubt, fill the statline up by the end of the year. I would expect that he'll spend most, if not all, of 2013 in Lancaster. He's only 20 now, ahead of schedule development-wise, and with his speed and (soon to develop) power he'll be one player who you'd do well not to worry too much about. A guy with this much speed always helps his case by drawing walks, especially if he might not hit for a high average. Again, Deshields will probably hit at least .270 at the higher levels, so no worries here.
Interesting that he's batting so much higher at home (.277) than on the road (.194), though many JetHawks are hitting better at Lancaster than elsewhere. Thankfully, speed doesn't slump; those numbers will pick up as the year progresses.
Luis Cruz, LHP
1-3, 5.83 ERA, 8 games (4 starts), 1 SV, 29 1/3 IP, 19 ER, 5 HRA, 16 BB, 35 K, 2.19 SO/BB ratio
Cruz has done much better as a starter than as a reliever. He's 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 4 starts, while in 4 appearances in relief he's 0-2 with a bloated 11.32 ERA through 10 1/3 IP. Paradoxically, his ERA is 3.38 at home (in Lancaster, which is a launching pad) vs. 7.88 on the road. He's striking out a lot of batters but also walking way too many. It's notable that he's averaged way more walks in relief than as a starter, and as a lefty he shouldn't be having quite as much trouble vs. left-handed batters as he is now (.232 BAA vs. RHH; .286 BAA vs. LHH). It's pretty clear that he's being groomed to ultimately be a starter, and this is where he's shone most brightly.
Chris Devenski, RHP
2-1, 5.28 ERA, 8 games (4 starts), 30 2/3 IP, 18 ER, 11 BB, 26 K, 2.36 SO/BB ratio
Author of “The Game” last year in the Sally League (9-1-2012: 9 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 16 K and a LOT of happy fans), Devenski has performed noticeably better as a reliever than as a starter thus far. Again, it's very early in the year, so this is based only on the numbers so far. He's allowed a .333 BAA as a starter, and only a .239 as a reliever. The problem with viewing him as a reliever is that hitters have batted .396 with runners on base in 55 PA. While many relief pitchers will allow a somewhat higher BAA with runners on, this is way higher than you'd care to see in any league. After seeing how he destroyed Kannapolis last year on Sept. 1st, I know there's more to him than what we've seen. This month will be telling as far as how he'll adjust.
Jonas Dufek, RHP
0-1, 4.20 ERA, 12 games (all in relief), 15 IP, 16 HA, 7 ER, 3 HRA, 6 BB, 16 K, 2.67 SO/BB ratio
Pitching out of the pen exclusively in 2013, Dufek has yet to allow a run in 7 innings this month (4 games). He's been lit up at home, allowing a .357 BAA and 1.121 OPS in Lancaster, while on the road batters have been limited to a .194 BA and
.576 OPS. My own feelings for that home park aside (not a fan), Dufek still has room to grow into his 6'5” frame, and I think he's going to be able to adjust well to the league. He turns 25 on June 30th, however, so time is limited for him.
David Rollins, LHP
2-3, 4.46 ERA, 8 games (4 starts), 2 SV, 34 1/3 IP, 17 ER, 7 BB, 31 K, 4.43 SO/BB ratio
Rollins is another guy who's performed noticeably better as a reliever than as a starter; .173 BAA as a reliever vs. .301 as a starter tells part of the story. The other part? .355 BAA with runners on, which is a concern. His primary stats are pretty solid, but how he handles ducks on the pond will go a long way to determine how he advances.
Tommy Shirley, LHP
0-3, 5.25 ERA, 7 games (2 starts), 12 IP, 7 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 3.8 SO/9IP
Very small sample size here, so not a lot to draw from. After seeing him in Lexington for parts of two seasons, I have to say I like him much better as a short reliever out of the pen than as a starter. Indeed, he's allowed a .400 BAA with the bases empty this year, vs. a miniscule .167 BAA with runners on. Again: very small sample size. But this is more of a gut call on my part. I can definitely see him fitting in as a short man at the higher levels. This is a pivotal year for Shirley, as well; he's 24 now, and after spending two years in Low-A ball, he'll need to show plenty of progress in the California League in order to get that opportunity at AA and beyond.
That's it, for now. Next I'll be scanning the roster at Corpus Christi, Class AA in the Texas League.