Down on the Farm: AA Report
The Rock Cats got two starts each this week (well, week-plus since I'm two days behind) from Oswaldo Sosa, Ryan Mullins, and Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak was the best of the bunch, picking up two wins in two great performances -- 6.0 innings in each, no runs and 3 hits allowed in each, and 14 strikeouts without any walks total between the two (including a 10 K performance yesterday). Mullins was also consistently good, although his record was 1-1; he went 6.0 innings in each, allowing 2 runs, 6 hits, and 1 walk in each game (one of the runs was unearned in his first start), while striking out 7 hitters between the two starts. Even though he took the loss in that second game, those were both really solid performances. Oswaldo Sosa wasn't so good -- in his first start he was fine, taking a no decision after going 5.0 scoreless innings and allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out five. Unfortunately, his second start saw him take the loss after lasting just 3.1 innings, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 5 hits and 6 walks.
The other two starters this week were Jay Rainville, who got the win after going 5.0 innings and giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits while striking out 2 batters, and Yohan Pino, who went 4.0 scoreless innings allowing 3 hits and a walk while striking out 3 batters. Pino's start was more than likely short because he's building up arm strength -- up to this point he had been used only in relief this season.
Zach Ward was the bullpen MVP for the Rock Cats this week, picking up a win in three appearances and going 4.1 scoreless innings while allowing just 2 hits and a walk and striking out 3 batters. Also with an impressive week was Kyle Aselton, who pitched twice for 3.0 innings allowing 2 hits and striking out three. Armando Gabino allowed one run in three appearances totaling three innings of work on two hits while striking out two batters.
Jason Miller also had an interesting week -- also listed by the team as a possible starter this season, Miller has so far been used exclusively in the bullpen. However, the second of his two appearances this week came in the game that Pino started, and like Pino he also went 4.0 innings in that game, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 2 hits and a walk while picking up the win. In an earlier appearance, Miller gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in an inning of work.
Also getting into games this week were closer David Shinskie (3 games, 6.0 innings, 2 runs, 5 hits, 5 K's); Jay Sawatski (2 games, 3.1 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 3 K's); and Ben Julianel (3 games, 3.0 innings, 3 runs [1 earned], 5 hits, 2 walks, 4 K's).
Once again, Drew Butera got the bulk of the catching duties this week, starting six games behind the plate and going 6-for-21 (including a 3-for-5 game in which he scored three runs) and settling in with a .296 batting average on the season. Backup Jeff Christy went 3-for-7 in his two starts and is hitting .273 on the season. It's still early, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised by Butera's offensive prowess -- expect that average to fall steadily from here, though.
First base belonged almost exclusively to Brock Peterson this week, as he started all but one game there (seven total) while also getting a start as the DH. He also started to turn things around at the plate -- after starting off his season 0-for-11, Peterson went 8-for-31 this week to raise his average to the thunderous heights of .190 (hey, it takes awhile to dig out of an 0-for-11 hole!).
Second base was the province of Steven Tolleson, who picked up six starts at the position to go along with a start at shortstop. After starting off reasonably hot offensively this week, Tolleson finished off with an 0-for-10 stretch that saw his average fall to .161 on the season. He did pick up a homerun and a couple of doubles this week, though. Now he just needs to get out of his current skid so he can dig himself out of that sub-Mendoza line territory. Two starts late this week also went to Felix Molina, who went 2-for-7 to bring his season average to .235 -- had I written this column on time, however, Molina would have been totally MIA from it since he didn't start at all from Tuesday the 8th to Monday the 14th.
Luke Hughes continued to hold down third base for the Rock Cats, and he put together a reasonably solid week at the plate, going 9-for-29 to bring his season average to .289. Hughes also walked a ton this week, jogging to first eight times (including a three walk game), while also picking up a homerun and three doubles. In other words, Hughes is off to a pretty impressive start, keeping his strikeout rate relatively low, and driving the ball reasonably well. He also stole a couple of bases. Not much to complain about from him so far.
Trevor Plouffe started 7 games at short for the Rock cats this week, going 7-for-29 and taking his season average to .235. Plouffe did put together a great game midweek, going 4-for-6 with a homerun and a double, driving in 4 runs and scoring 3 himself. Unfortunately, Plouffe made three errors this week and is still striking out way more than he's walking. I still hold out hope for Plouffe, but he needs to get that average up and stop making so many errors or else he's going to end up as a bust.
Left field was a haven for a couple of guys, with Matt Moses and Erik Lis both getting four starts there. Moses also started four games as the DH, and went 7-for-32 on the week with a couple of doubles and three RBI's. So far this season, Moses is hitting .225, and he's made a couple of errors -- I'd say to this point, the experiment of moving him to the outfield to take the pressure off hasn't worked (but it's early!). Just a question, by the way -- how is moving Moses from his natural position supposed to make him feel better at the plate? I'm not sure I follow the logic. Erik Lis, meanwhile, continued to really struggle this week in his 4 left field and 2 DH starts. Lis went just 3-for-27 on the week with three singles and a walk (at least he only struck out twice!). He's now hitting just .114 on the season. Lis is one of my favorite prospects, but even I'm sitting here going "yikes!".
Center field was primarily the domain of Dustin Martin this week, an interesting development since Brandon Roberts was the primary center fielder at the very beginning of the season. Martin has been fantastic so far, though, so it makes sense -- he went 12-for-29 on the week and is hitting .429 so far on the year. He also stole 5 bases this week. So far, what's not to like? Well, unless you're a big Brandon Roberts fan. Roberts was only able to get into three games this week, which included only two starts. He ended up going 3-for-10 and is hitting .182 on the year.
Finally, right field belonged primarily to David Winfree, who started 7 games. He went 7-for-27 on the week and is now hitting .222 on the season. The best part of the week was that Winfree went yard twice and picked up 5 RBI's in the games when he homered. He also kept his K's in check (he had 5 in those 27 AB's), although walking just once wasn't all that impressive. Like Moses, Winfree is transitioning to the outfield full time, and as with Moses I don't know that we can view that transition as a success so far. It's still very early, though (how many times have I said that in those post?) so I'm willing to give it some time.