The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part II
New Britain Rock Cats (22-21)
Last season, righty Zach Ward was a mediocre starter for the Ft. Myers Miracle. This season, he's been converted to the bullpen, and the results so far have been extremely good. In 28.0 innings over 17 appearances, Ward has allowed just one Earned Run (and just 2 runs total) for a 0.32 ERA. His WHIP is sitting at 1.07, which is very good (if not quite as unbelievable as his ERA), and his 24-12 K-BB ratio is also quite good. The Twins bullpen has also been bolstered by solid efforts from Armando Gabino (2.96 ERA/1.17 WHIP/27.1 innings/18-11 K-BB) and, to a lesser extent, Jason Miller (3.94 ERA/1.25 WHIP/29.2 innings/26-10 K-BB). If you just look at the ERA stat, Kyle Aselton (2.22) and Ben Julianel (2.91) also are doing quite well, but the other stats suggest trouble ahead -- especially for Aselton, who has a really high 1.60 WHIP and a terrible 15-18 K-BB ratio for a guy with such a low ERA. I would suggest that unless he stops giving up so many base runners, his ERA will skyrocket.
In the rotation, lefty Ryan Mullins has been solid, posting a 3.04 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 50.1 innings while striking out 30 and walking 20. Those numbers aren't eye-popping, but they're not bad in the least. Yohan Pino has been even better -- his 3.25 ERA is a bit higher, but he has a very low 1.08 WHIP and a great 23-6 K-BB ratio in 36.0 innings of work. Anthony Swarzak has also been OK, posting a 4.06 ERA and 1.40 WHIP along with a very good 40-14 K-BB ratio in 44.1 innings.
The name "Luke Hughes" jumps immediately to mind -- Hughes, who has a .356 batting average, 1.068 OPS, .417 On-Base Percentage, 10 homers, and a reasonable 30-16 K-BB ratio in 146 AB's has been covered so much already this season that, despite never having played above AA, he's been discussed as a possible big league callup. He's sort of this year's Matt Tolbert, just a level lower in the organization. Without question, the Australian righty deserves the attention for now -- but the question is whether he can sustain it. If I were the Twins, I'd wait another couple of weeks to ensure that he doesn't cool off, and if he keeps playing well I'd promote him to Rochester. We'll see what they end up deciding.
Middle infielders Steven Tolleson (2B) and Trevor Plouffe (SS) have also been playing very well this year. Tolleson, a 5th round pick from 2005, has always hit reasonably well, but this season he's putting up a .328/.938 in 134 AB's. Meanwhile, 2004 first round pick Trevor Plouffe, written off by many as a bust after a couple of underwhelming seasons in 2005 and 2006, is continuing the comeback from oblivion that he started in 2007 -- he's hitting .294/.779 in 153 AB's this season. Honorable mentions in this category also go to outfielder Dustin Martin (.314/.813/140 AB's) and one of my favorite Twins minor leaguers, Erik Lis (.290/.809/145 AB's). I should also mention that after a somewhat unexpected promotion, Toby Gardenhire is hitting .300/.714 in 40 AB's.
There are plenty of pitchers to talk about in the "ugly" category, but no one here -- apparently, things either are going really right or really wrong for Rock Cats pitchers.
Matt Moses and David Winfree are both being converted from infield positions to the outfield this year, so maybe some offensive problems are excusable. Nonetheless, 2003 first rounder Moses hasn't hit well since 2005 with Ft. Myers, and just isn't going anywhere right now in the organization. He's starting to look like a lost cause, thanks in part to his .245/.678 in 155 AB's this season. Those aren't terrible numbers, but if that's the best he can do after 6 years in the minors, it's never going to be enough. Winfree is another 2003 draft pick (a 13th rounder) who just hasn't hit to his potential. His .227 average is tempered a bit by his .781 OPS (thanks to 10 homers), but I'm still putting him in the bad category because the average has got to be better than that. It's arguable that I just shouldn't have put him on either list, since you could make the case that he's been somewhere between "bad" and "good" this season. Finally, the Twins brought Felix Molina back into the fold this off-season (he could have left as a minor league free agent), and he's picked up 105 AB's for the Rock Cats. Unfortunately, he's hitting just .238 with a .613 OPS. I have to think there'd be someone better to give this roster spot to at this point.
Ready for your eyes to bleed? The most eye-popping numbers come from reliever Jay Sawatski, who has an 8.72 ERA and horrid 2.03 WHIP in 21.2 innings to go along with a 23-13 K-BB ratio (which isn't bad -- too bad the other numbers are so horrible). A reliever is one thing, but two starters have been equally bad -- worse, if you consider the number of innings they've pitched. Top prospect Oswaldo Sosa, who is on the 40-man roster -- has been really, really bad -- he has a 7.20 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP along with an outlandish 23-25 K-BB ratio in 35.0 innings of work. What on earth happened here? I have to think that Sosa can turn it around, but these numbers are so bad that I really do wonder a bit. Also horrid has been Jay Rainville, who has a 7.53 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP along with a 25-12 K-BB ratio in 43.0 innings. This is a pretty sorry bunch right now!
There are only three guys who qualify for this spot by my criteria (I pretty much limit this to guys who are hitting under .200), and none of them have over 100 AB's just yet. In fact, center fielder Brandon Roberts has just 32 AB's, having battled an injury problem. He's currently rehabbing in extended spring training, and hopefully will hit better than his current .188/.423 upon his return. The other two guys on the list are the team's two catchers, Drew Butera (.194/.530 in 93 AB's) and Jeff Christy (.196/.535 in 51 AB's).