As we noted last week, minor league baseball has been in action for two months now, and with the draft just days away, we’re only a couple weeks out from all affiliates getting under way. There’s enough of a sample for us to finally dig into, enough for us to draw some conclusions about where things stand right now. Right now is just that, right now. Things always change, but it’s time we examine what has taken place to date. Here are some stock reports from two of the team’s four full-season affiliates (Mobile and Reno), focusing on Top 30 Prospects (rankings in parenthesis) and how they’ve done so far, including some nice rebound efforts and a breakout or two.
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP (#22): if you recall, Sherfy had a terrible season last year in AA. He started 2016 in High-A, pitched outstanding and earned his way back to AA Mobile. In 23.1 innings of work this season, he’s racked up 41 strikeouts and only nine walks. The free passes are still a bit higher than you’d like, but the strikeouts continue to bail him out. His future is once again looking like a 7th inning arm who should see more righties than lefties, but that’s an improvement over what we say in 2015.
Jamie Westbrook, 2B (#9): all Westbrook has done since being drafted in 2013 is hit, but that came to a screeching halt early this season as he began his AA campaign as one of the youngest players in the AA Southern League. A .222/.300/.278 line in April gave way to a .333/.378/.468 line in May as Westbrook as apparently started to catch up to the competition. Leaving the California League, his extra-base hits are down, but given his age (he’s just 20), he still looks like a potential average regular at second base if all goes well.
Anthony Banda, LHP (#26): I slow-played Banda a bit in the offseason rankings, but when he showed up this spring touching 95 from the left side, I immediately regretted it. The 22-year old took a breakout season in Visalia last year and parlayed it into a fine start to 2016 in AA Mobile. In 63 innings of work, he’s striking out better than a batter per inning. His walks have gone up some, but they’re still low enough to be manageable as he adjust to AA hitters. He could blossom into a solid #4 starter and see the majors in 2017, or be flipped this winter.
Daniel Gibson, LHP (#28): funny things can happen in small samples and Gibson has been a beneficiary. In 21.1 innings this year, the lefty reliever has surrendered 19 hits, but all have stayed in the yard. He’s given up just three walks, and by scattering the hits, has allowed just one earned run while striking out 15. Gibson has consistently churned out ERAs below his FIPs, which is a tough thing to bet on going forward for a non-ground ball machine. Still, he can be a solid middle reliever in the near future.
Peter O’Brien, OF (#10): you know all about OB’s defensive issues, but he did make a handful of decent-looking plays this spring and might just be passable enough to stay in left field for a few more years. All of that gets washed away, of course, by the fact that he leads the minors with 17 homers and basically hits one every third game. Aside from his fielding, O’Brien’s plate discipline is something he can get away with in AAA (28% strikeouts, 3% walks (even Mark Trumbo walks twice this much in the majors)) but will likely have him eaten alive in the majors. Still, the bat can play in the major in some capacity, it’s really just yet to be determined what that capacity is.
Jack Reinheimer, SS (#20): the 23-year old Reinheimer has been sneaky good since moving up to AAA for the 2016 season, slashing .311/.345/.446 with 24 extra-base hits. He managed well in both the Seattle and Arizona systems in 2015 in the Southern League, but has benefitted mightily from the friendly confines of the PCL. He’s a contact hitter who can stick at short or potentially play a plus second base with good range and a quick release. He could warrant a look late this season given Nick Ahmed‘s struggles but profiles best as a utility player long term.
Braden Shipley, RHP (#3): Shipley has been solid if not spectacular for Reno this season, his first taste of AAA. The 24-year old former first rounder is underwhelming in the strikeout department (just 49 in 69.1 innings) but has cut his walk rate in a major way (8.5% in 2015, 2.8% in 2016). He’s had just one poor start all year and has limited hitters to just four long balls in starts, something that’s tough to do in the PCL. With command being his biggest issue in the past, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see the strikeouts eventual start to climb with his newly improved ability to throw strikes. Should they do so, he can reach his ceiling as a #2/3 starter and could get a big league look late this season.
Yoan Lopez, RHP (#16): there’s some good and some bad with Lopez. His ERA is down (3.75) but his FIP is up (5.15), suggesting that ERA is likely to rise in the very near future. His low strikeout rate from last season has fallen even further with just 26 K’s in 48 innings pitched, but he’s cut his walk rate some along the way. If throwing strikes is what the organization is looking for from Lopez, that might mean he’s making some progress, but overall, this is not what the team was expecting when they went big on him nearly two years ago.
Socrates Brito, OF (#8): Brito made the big league club this spring, thanks in large part to A.J. Pollock‘s untimely injury, but struggled in major league action. An abysmal first two months on the minor league season in AAA Reno didn’t help matters and it’s only in the last ten games or so that things have started to click for him. He was rushed to the majors, so failure wasn’t unexpected, and he’ll benefit from a full year in AAA. The guy is toolsy but still raw. While his perceived stock is down, this is really about where he should be at this juncture and it doesn’t change his future potential at all in my eyes.
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