Hottness In July
A whole mess of Phils minor leaguers had a very strong statistical July, highlighted by six guys who were often ranked in the Top 15 last offseason and will be again, and two more who should easily join them this year.
Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola are the two guys you’d have to guess are either #2 or #3 in the system in pretty much every professional evaluators’ eyes right now, behind only J.P. Crawford. Franco came off a hellish June, where he OPSed a dismal .435. In July, he stroked 15 XBH, including four home runs, and struck out a reasonable 15 times in over 100PAs. He’s been pulling the ball with authority, as the spray chart below shows. His 2013 statistical red flag, BB rate, came back this month, as he drew just five. But as I’ve wondered in the past, who’s trying to draw a walk when they’re slugging .596 for the month. Not I.
RHP Aaron Nola was drafted this year with the seventh overall pick and signed quickly. He took his first start at Clearwater (A+) in June, and it was not great, but his July was the opposite of not great. “Great”, I think, is the term. He put up 27Ks and just 2BB in 29 IP, and while he gave up three homers in the month, that’s over such a small sample that it’s little more than a small reddish flag to keep an eye on going forward. He’s faced just a handful of top prospects thus far, but managed to hold them to under a .250 BA with just one XBH in 17 PAs. Nola’s being limited to five innings per start right now, and appears to be on the cusp of a promotion to AA Reading to close out the year. Hopefully I’ll get to see him in a couple weeks when Reading turns up in my next of the woods to face the O’s affiliated Bowie Baysox.
Roman Quinn started the year on the DL while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, after finishing last year on the DL after he broke his wrist. He started slowly, OPSing just .628 and stealing just 3/6 bases in the first half of the year. He really picked up both his hitting and his running game in July, OPSing .766, drawing ten walks in ~110 PAs, and stealing 11/15 bags. His swipe rate is approaching 75% on the year. He’s been even hotter lately, as he on a nine-game hit streak, walking six times and stealing 7/8 over that span. Further, he’s 8 for 15 at the plate and has three extra base hits, including his fourth home run, in the last three games. Scalding. Do not touch.
Carlos Tocci is still one of the youngest guys in the South Atlantic League – he turns 19 towards the end of this month. After struggling with the bat for all of last year and most of this year, he found his stroke a little bit in July, OPSing .787 with 12 XBH, including his first professional home run, (ICYMI – yes, it left the park). He also stole 6/8 bags on the month, a marked improvement from his 3/11 in the first three months. An ISO of .155, even over the smallish sample of one month of 124 PAs, is impressive for a guy who’s biggest flaw is his strength with the stick. His season heat map shows the RHB’s balls to the OF are concentrated to the opposite field, and that hasn’t changed much in July. His LD Rate is only slightly higher for July, (up 0.5% versus the season). Partly, I think, this is BABIP driven – .347 for July and only .310 for the full year. We’ll see if he can sustain the higher level just by virtue of more solid contact, but likely he’s due for a regression. Also, he’s due for a sandwich. Can someone get him a sandwich? He should always have a sandwich. An ice cream sandwich is preferable, but whatever. Even a hot dog sandwich, if he likes those.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has been shutting guys down fairly well in his time in Reading. He struck out 24 and walked just 7 in 13.1 innings in July, for an unstellar walk rate of 11.9% and an astonishingly good K Rate of 40.7%, and the sum of his month’s work amounts to a 3.31 FIP. He’s been seen touching 97 on radar, and it would not surprise me if he gets to the big club before rosters expand on September 1. What his off-season looks like is anyone’s guess, but he could play somewhere in the fall or winter and maybe be stretched out and ready to be effective from the rotation in the spring. If not, back to the pen and let him loose, I say. Just don’t let him loose near your kids, cause dude will eat them alive. He’s an intense lookin’ guy, is what I’m saying:
Yoel Mecias is coming off of Tommy John surgery, so a little leeway is necessary, but he’s been pretty good in his three starts with Lakewood since arriving from his GCL rehab assignment. He’s struck out 11 and walked five in 15 innings, which is not half bad, injury considered. I imagine he’ll see some time in Venezuela this winter and be ready to go at Clearwater in the spring. Pre-injury reports say that he has the makings of an above average (or better) change-up, and shows signs of a plus fastball and an average slider from the left side. That could be something special, and his August of this year and his 2015 will be something to watch.
Dylan Cozens was mashing the whole month, basically. He was on base in 23/29 games on the month, and hit five homers. With a K rate just above 20% on the month, and 12 multi-hit games, it’s pretty clear he was dialed in. A late-season promotion is not out of the question, but I would guess he’ll see Clearwater next year for the first time. Nathaniel Stoltz of FanGraphs wrote up Cozens as part of his Toolsy Prospect Article in the middle fo the month, (there’s some video in there, too, so click through, for sure). Stoltz described Cozens as having “a solid chance to be at least a fringe-average player in a corner outfield spot”, which is one of the more positive readings of his defense I can recall seeing thus far in his career.
And finally…when I was 17 I was a square doofas who worked in a warehouse for $7 an hour and unsuccessfully courted girls with what was, in hindsight, a complete lack of cool. Luis Encarnacion’s got a cool mil in the bank and he’s squaring up GCL pitching. He turns 17 next Saturday. He’s the youngest professional in the states. As such, his .773 OPS in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in July should be taken as a pretty big win for the young first-sacker. He’s sitting at a 107 wRC+ on the year, meaning that he’s besting the league average by 7%. He’s clearly a talented guy, and despite being anchored to first base, and despite showing a bit too much swing and miss thus far, (25.9% on the year), he’s going to soar in prospect rankings if he finishes the year strong and shows well in instructional league in September.
Thanks to Tug Haines/Reading Fightin’ Phils and MLBfarm.com for the graphics.