Minor League First Half Grades -- Part 3
Ft. Myers Miracle
Fox was drafted by the Twins back in the first round of the 2004 draft. He started off his professional career with a rough 8 games in Elizabethton, and then missed all of the 2005 season. Since coming back, he's pitched well at every level -- moving up from Elizabethton to Beloit to Ft. Myers. This season, he's put up a 3.94 ERA and 1.33 WHIP and a 67-23 K-BB ratio in 77.2 innings. While he's a bit behind because of the lost year, he's been consistently good since coming back from the injury, and should legitimately be considered a solid prospect. There's every reason to think that he'll be in New Britain next season, continuing his move up the organizational ladder.
Seasons don't get much better than Slama has done this year. In 53.0 innings, Slama has a 0.68 ERA and 0.85 WHIP to go with a stunning 87-16 K-BB ratio. That follows a 2007 season in which Slama pitched well in Elizabethton and Beloit after being drafted in the 39th round. The Twins seem to find diamonds in the rough once in awhile with relievers drafted late (or not at all -- see Robert Delaney), and it's pretty clear that Slama fits that description to a T. I can't wait to see whether Slama can keep up his strong work in New Britain next year.
Former minor league rule 5 pick Lugo has been consistently average throughout his career in the Twins organization, and this year is no exception. So far, he's put together a 4.25 ERA and 1.34 WHIP along with a 58-17 K-BB ratio in 48.2 innings. That's neither bad enough to complain about or good enough to laud, so I'll give it a solid shrug of my shoulders.
It's always nice to see draft picks succeed early in their careers, and Erickson has done that by dominating Elizabethton in 2007, pitching well enough with Beloit in early 2008 to earn a promotion, and pitching even better since joining the Miracle in Ft. Myers. So far with the Miracle, Erickson has a 1.80 ERA and 0.84 WHIP to go with a 29-10 K-BB ratio in 25.0 innings. Things will undoubtedly get higher when Erickson moves up to New Britain, but he's definitely made himself noticed.
Sosa is on the Twins 40-man roster, but might not be for long. Sosa has just one more option year remaining after this year, and unfortunately took a step backwards this year. After starting in New Britain (as a starter), Sosa was demoted after posting a 5.81 ERA in 13 starts. Since joining the Miracle, he's pitched mostly out of relief. He's been reasonably solid in that role, posting a 3.57 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 22.2 innings. The WHIP is high, and he has a weak 14-13 K-BB ratio. To keep his place on the roster, and regain his status as a top prospect, Sosa will probably need to be really good over the last 40 days of the season.
GRADE: C- (mostly dragged down by the bad start to the season)
Hirschfeld was drafted by the Twins in the 9th round of the 2007 season, and was just OK with Elizabethton. So far in 2008, however, Hirschfeld has been very good for Beloit, posting a 2.64 ERA and 1.41 WHIP with a 46-23 K-BB ratio in 58.0 innings. The WHIP is a tad high, and his K-BB ratio is good but nothing too special. That's going to push me from giving Hirschfeld an A to an A- instead.
Nolte is yet another 2007 draft pick who has established himself as a solid prospect this season. He has a 2.37 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 54-28 K-BB ratio so far for Beloit in 2008. Like Hirschfeld, the WHIP is higher than I'd like to see, but that's not going to overshadow the fact that at least he hasn't been letting those base runners to score, although the line between Hirschfeld's A- and Nolte's A is admittedly exceedingly thin. Nolte will easily be headed Ft. Myers by 2009.
Loek Van Mil
I always wondered whether Van Mil would put things together and become a legitimate pitching prospect. His short-season years in the GCL and Elizabethton in 2006 and 2007 showed promise, but he didn't really pitch all that much. He also didn't strike out as many people as I would have liked to see. This season, Van Mil is striking out more guys (not a ton more, but more nonetheless) and is on pace to get more work than he ever has before (which makes sense, since he's with a full season team for the first time). With a 3.22 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, I think it's fair to say that Van Mil hasn't disappointed, and it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop.
Reyes was excellent in Elizabethton last year, and has also pitched pretty well in both Ft. Myers and Beloit this season. A 0 IP, 2 ER performance caused his ERA to balloon by nearly a full earned run to 3.66, but his WHIP remains at 1.37. Reyes has been injured for part of the season, but overall his performance has been fine, and hopefully he can put together a healthy season next year, likely in Ft. Myers.
GRADE: B+ (factoring in his Ft. Myers numbers)