Technically speaking, the minor league season is more than 3/5 done. I'm using the AAA season for reference, since there's not a consistency among levels, and the Vegas team arrives at the ASB having played 90 games, which splits easily into three 30 game sections, and the second half's 53 games split into two segments which is close to, but not quite, 30 games each. So it's actually just under 63% of the season - full disclosure.
Before I begin, I'll take brief note of some special cases:
Brett Lawrie - has been disabled for most of the last 30 games so there's nothing on the field really to report. You all know his story by now (was set to be called up when he was injured on a HBP). He tweeted this morning he was going out to take BP. Keep your eyes open for a report on how his hand responded. If there's no setback, he might make it back into a game by the weekend, or early next week. The original projection was a mid-to-late August recall, but if there's no setback, you might see him after the trade deadline passes on July 31.
Eric Thames - Among the statistical leaders in several PCL categories (his doubles pace pro-rates to 67 over a full AAA season), he was on a blistering pace when he was recalled from the minors for the second time on June 23 and he's putting down strong roots in the majors.
Now, to the folks still in the minors-
1. Travis d'Arnaud - As much as JP Arencibia has put to rest a lot of his critics this year, offensively at least, the presence of d'Arnaud closing in the rear view mirror persists. Like Loewen, his early stats were unremarkable, but after returning from a mild concussion in early may he caught fire and has been en-flamed, apart from one brief slump in June, ever since. His OPS on the season is 4th in the Eastern league, but his OPS since returning from the DL is 1.000, which would be .008 off the league lead. For a catcher. In June and July his BB/K ratio has been down, but otherwise, you have to love the guy. and his defense draws raves as well. Before you start checking the calendar though, remember that the Blue Jays have every reason to take it slow with him. My guess is that barring injury or trade to JPA, it will be something like June of 2013 before he batters down the door to the majors.
2. Marcus Knecht - The clock HAS to be ticking down it's final moments before Knecht is promoted to Dunedin. He's spanked the Midwest League pitching to enough of an extent to punch his ticket. He's second in the league in OPS, third in OBP and BA. and the other guys up there with him are 2-3 years old than the just-turned-20 year old Knecht. It's not like there's any notable prospect blocking his advance.
3. Jake Marisnick - A recent column by the Sun's Bob Elliot postulated the observation of one scout which suggested that the outfield quartet in Lansing reminded him of the days in the late 80's when Glenallen Hill, Derrik Bell, Junior Felix, and Mark Whiten were were climbing the Jays minor league ladder as teammates. Knecht and Marisnick make up half that set (along with Michael Crouse and Marcus Brisker) and both of them are quite possibly better than any of the original quartet. After getting off to a blazing start in April, Marisnick cooled a bit in May but has since recovered most of his momentum. Like all young hitters, he needs to refine that whole BB/K thing, but for his first year in pro ball, he can hold his head high. I've a hunch he might get a taste of the FSL in early to mid-August.
4. David Cooper - Clearly Cooper isn't showing himself a power hitter. His HR total (8) pro-rate out to a pedestrian 20 over a full AAA season. but wait, there's more. Cooper has an astonishing 35 doubles - THAT works out to 74 over 143 games. it also leads the PCL. Cooper's OPS leads the league once you eliminate veteran organizational players like Cody Ransom and Jai Miller. He leads in BA and OBP without that caveat.
There's a running debate over whether or not Cooper has actual major league potential, and what his ceiling might be. observers like Kieth Law think he's little more than an org player himself (but the law thinks Thames is a 4th outfielder too) and the lack of optimism is not entirely unwarranted. but he's doing everything offensively he's capable of doing, and it would not stun me if AA managed to milk some value out of him in a trade before the month is over.
5. Adam Loewen - We know by now that Loewen got off to a mediocre start (he didn't make my first minor league report and I was on the verge of doubting my previous enthusiasm), however, since May 1 it's been a different story. Over those 65 games his OPS has been 1.007 (which would rank 8th in the PCL if it were his full season figure) and this from a guy who has almost 250 fewer minor league at bats than 20 year old Anthony Gose. He's still striking out too much, as you might expect, but it's well past time he was getting some respect. I, for one, would very much like to see him in Toronto beginning August 1. If that means Corey Patterson is on the waiver wire, so much the better.
6. Mike McDade - People keep doubting him, and he keeps right on hitting. Second in the EL in doubles and RBI, in the top 10 in HR, BA, SLG, and OPS. and a growing reputation as a perfectly good fielder, despite the "bad body" label. He does have a history of weight concerns, but he's worked hard to get a grip on that and on that. he's listed at 260 but reports have had him well below that.
7. Art Charles - While it's early to make too much of a conclusion about the short season players, who are just now passing the 20 games played mark, Charles is such a standout that he has some attention coming. His OPS ranks third in the Appalachian League, and his 8 HR is one off the league lead, his 8 doubles are 2 off the league lead, and all that in 81 AB. He also leads the AL in RBI. The 19 year old 1B was a 20th round pick in 2010 so he's definitely an underdog, but you have to tip your cap. Another short season players on Note include Vancouver CF Jon Jones - not the Martian Manhunter, the other one - who's displayed doubles power and good speed.
1. Drew Hutchinson - On July 6 Hutch came on in relief (to begin the third inning) of the re-habbing Dustin McGowan and pitched into the sixth inning before giving up his first earned run of the day, of, and his first earned run in 43 innings pitched. Over that stretch, he posted 50 K's against only 5 walks, and his GO:FO ration was over 3:1, while allowing only 22 hits. almost all of them singles. He's in the FSL now, and he's defiantly on the radar.
2. Henderson Alvarez - Alvarez pitched a clean 6th inning in the Futures game today, including getting an out from the guy who's possibly the top hitter still in the minors. that's in recognition of his obvious talent. Having gained zip on his fastball this year Alvarez is not a sleeper on anyone's chart anymore. He's still somewhat raw and observers think his K numbers will increase as he refines his approach.
3. Nestor Molina - Molina has appeared in 16 games this year, starting 13 of them - fully half of the 26 earned runs he's allowed game in just 2 of them. Outside thouse two hiccups, his ERA is a stunning 1.57!, Oh, and he has 93 K and 8 walks. This from a guy who came into the season with less than 80 IP in the pros, almost all of it in relief.
4. Deck McGuire - McGuire has been the picture of steady. Just about any way you split his stats they look pretty close. His walk rate is higher than you'd like to see, but there's nothing else for anyone to be disappointed with.
5. Joel Carreno - Under-rated by most observers, pegged as a future reliever who's stuff won't play as well at higher levels (and we have seen other pitchers look great at AA and blow up at AAA), Carreno just keeps striking out the opposition. Opponents are hitting a pitiful .185 off him, he has over 30 more IP than hits allowed, and more than a k an inning. The walks are fairly high but otherwise, he's been great, pedigree or no. And all that after he was pretty bad in April.
6. Sean Nolin - He played himself off my last update with a couple of stumbles just before I wrote that entry, he hasn't been all aces since then but his secondary number promise that the 2010 sixth round LHP has something going on. He has a 3.67 K:BB ratio as his most promising stat, but he spent a stint on the DL and came out of his last start early so he might still be dealing with that problem.
7. Justin Nicolino - As with the hitters, the short season pitchers haven't really accumulated a telling sample size, but Nicolino, a 2011 2nd round choice, has preformed great at a higher level than other more heralded high school selections. The 19 year old LHP has a 4:1 K:BB ratio, and opponents are hitting .150 against him. Also, he has twice as many IP as hits allowed, and it's not inconceivable at all that he gets a short test in Lansing 4 or 5 weeks from now. Other short-season pitchers worth congrats include supplemental round choice Noah Syndergaard who's preforming similarly to Nicolino though a step lower; David Rollins, a 24th round LH in the recent draft who's pitching even better than Syndergaard (SSSA!!) ; Myles Jays (2010 17th rounder) and ever-under-rated Deviy Estrada.
Sometime over the next week I'll take a look at the major league squad's first half and give you a look at my mid-season prospect ranking update (yes, I update the list every month or so - no YOU'RE obsessive).