Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lexington Legends Update: The Hitters-July 20th, 2013

In the minor leagues, numbers really don't mean a whole lot.

Don't get me wrong; I should say that they don't mean as much as they would in the majors. Down here, it's all about developing talent, not reaping the rewards of the end product. 

With that in mind, there is much to like about this Legends team. 

While it is true that our offense has had its issues, the second half has been a stunning success overall. Not only are the Legends in first place in their division (17-9, 2.0 games ahead of 2nd place Greenville), they currently have the best second half record in all of the South Atlantic League. They've been able to accomplish this largely on the strength of an outstanding pitching staff and well-timed hits. No single hitter on this team has stood out this year, but there are a number of highlights of note. A quick look at some of the hitters:

Michael Antonio, 3B

2013:
86 games, 337 PA, 17 R, 14 2B, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 28 BB, 53 K, .195 BA, .268 OBP

Antonio has, like many of the hitters on this team, had a tough go of it at the plate this year. One of my favorite players to watch, I still see at least one issue with his approach. He has good natural power, but it comes from a sometimes-violent swing which could likely be shortened up a bit without his giving up much power. Until he's able to do that, he's going to strike out quite a lot. However, even with this approach, he's at his best in clutch situations (.246 BA with 2 outs and runners in scoring position). I would still like to see him shorten up a little. Being an aggressive swinger is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. But in his case, it's hurting more than it's helping.

Mark Donato, 1B-DH

2013:
38 games, 156 PA, 13 R, 8 2B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 9 BB, 26 K, .292 BA, .333 OBP, .764 OPS

I did an interview with Donato near the end of last season in anticipation that he would be with us this year. I expected big things of him, and he has not disappointed. In 38 games with Lexington, he has either driven in or scored (or both) 34 runs, and he's on pace for 30+ doubles and double-digits in homers. He's hit significantly better at home (.339 BA, .938 OPS at home vs. .259 and .641 on the road), and has flagged off a bit in July (.233 BA in 12 games), but I expect this will balance itself out. He handles first base well, as he is quick on his feet, shows ample range to both sides, and is confident in every defensive scenario in which I've seen him, thus far. A full year here in Lexington could bring 20+ homers and at least 90 RBI, numbers which he could potentially meet this year even though he's only been here since the end of May.

Fred Ford, RF

2013:
87 games, 342 PA, 36 R, 13 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 42 BB, 119 K, .207 BA, .681 OPS

Ford started out the year at first base, a position with which he was not nearly as accustomed as right field. He acquitted himself well filling in for an injured Mark Threlkeld, but I feel that his switch to first (along with this being his first year in Class A ball) likely affected his batting a bit. At 6'5”, Ford is always going to have to work hard to control the strike zone. He showed a notable improvement in this regard when in June he cut his strikeouts down to 26 in 22 games, as opposed to the previous month when he was rung up 40 times in 28 games. His BB/K ratio was significantly better in June than in any other month so far, and he posted a monstrous .912 OPS in that month. Ford will post strong power numbers in the future as long as he can make more frequent contact than he is now. Again, I think this will come along with time.

Cam Gallagher, C

2013:
40 games, 156 PA, 10 R, 11 2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 12 BB, 12 K, .230 BA, .647 OPS

Gallagher has played in only 40 games thus far, having missed a chunk of time when Asheville righty Shane Broyles plunked him in the arm on April 24th (Cory Hall returned the favor, with 1B Derek Jones being the victim), so he's had to deal with recovering from the resultant fractured forearm. Gallagher has been a prospect of note since he was drafted in the 2nd round in 2011, and he will certainly show above-average power when he hits his peak. Catchers traditionally take longer to develop, but he will definitely be worth the wait. I expect his CS rates to improve in the near future (he's thrown out 29% of basestealers, thus far), while he already handles the staff very well.

Terrance Gore, LF

2013:
86 games, 359 PA, 53 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 20 RBI, (spoiler alert, T!) 50 SB, 41 BB, 73 K, .226 BA, .342 OBP

Gore is one of the fastest players I've ever seen, at any level. I've timed him at 3.9 or less to first so many times that I've stopped keeping track, and he continues to cover enough territory in the OF that the Legends could almost get away with two outfielders. He plays the field next to CF Bubba Starling, who is a speedster in his own right, and there are plenty of times when they arrive at a fly ball at the same time. It's starting to look like my preseason prediction about Gore will be, at least, pretty darn close (I said I'd expect 100 swipes out of him if he spent the whole year in Lexington). There's more to him than just speed, though; while he is a smallish player, he is powerfully built. When his bat catches up, he should be the kind of hitter who produces double-digits in doubles and triples, with 50+ steals in the majors. It all depends on that bat, however.

Raul Mondesi, SS

2013:
83 games, 357 PA, 38 R, 11 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 16 SB, .261 BA, .680 OPS

Mondesi is batting .261, is helping a great deal to carry the offense, has a cannon for an arm and has invaded the right side of the infield as a shortstop. And he turns 18 on the 27th of this month. There's nothing I need to add to that. He's pretty good.

Bubba Starling, CF

2013:
85 games, 343 PA, 41 R, 14 2B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 12 SB, 36 BB, 89 K, .217 BA, .656 OPS

By now, most Legends fans know that Bubba started the year having great difficulty picking up the ball while at the plate. There's a 100-point difference in his BA between day and night games (.289 in day games, .189 at night), and that was a big red flag from the get-go. He has since had LASIK surgery to correct that. There has been concern in the past from fans who felt that he was too raw to ever reach his full potential in baseball, and that he should have gone the football route. Those fans were premature in their assessment. Starling will, at the very least, develop into a plus defender with above-average power and speed, and even if that's all he gives the Royals then they should be more than happy with it. Fans should also keep in mind that he doesn't turn 21 until August 3rd, so I think taking a 'wait and see' approach is the best way to go, here. He has already made strides in the past month, though he does continue to strike out a lot more than you'd like to see. He may always record a lot of Ks, but he'll offset that with extra-base hits in bunches. Worth it, I'd say.





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