Periodically I'll be doing a Hot 9, Cold 9 of the minors to talk about who's doing well and who's in a tailspin. The Hot 9 was tougher to pare down than the Cold 9. Every pitcher in South Bend is hot and we had to cut a couple who are on fire like Daniel Watts and Cody Wheeler. Several of the team's off-season acquisitions landed on the Cold 9 such as Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, Brandon Drury and Tony Campana. Any numbers quoted are before Sunday's games.
Kila Ka'aihue, 1B, Reno
This veteran bat was signed in the off-season and he hasn't disappointed. The problem with Kila is he's always been able to hit AAA pitching. He hasn't been able to do the same at the Major League level when given the chance. He serves as an emergency call-up in the event of a Goldschmidt injury. Kila's hitting .377 with 3 homers, 14 RBI and a 1.002 OPS through 16 games.
Chris Owings, SS, Reno
Owings has been steady-Eddy with the bat so far. He's hitting .355, slugging .500 and has even stolen 5 bases. As a bonus he's also taken 4 walks. Last year he walked 24 times all year so he's making progress. His K rate is still on the high side at around 26% but that's not a disaster. The bigger issue with Owings is he has 5 errors in 17 games, all but one at shortstop. If Didi is going to be the long-term shortstop they might as well move Owings to 2B now and see if he can hit enough to make it from there. One poster suggested Owings is a likely trade chip down the road and that may be, but he also may be athletic enough that he could be a future super-sub, ala Martin Prado.
Nick Evans, 1B, Mobile
Signed in the off-season to add outfield depth Evans has been red-hot on a Mobile team that hasn't hit much. He's hitting .367 with 3 homers, 10 RBI and a 1.075 OPS. Evans has had a couple of short stints in the Majors and is showing he could fill in in a pinch if needed.
Raywilly Gomez, C/3B, Visalia
Gomez is a switch-hitting catcher and corner infielder who has started the year in fine fashion hitting .340 with a whopping .478 OBP. He has 15 walks against just 10 strikeouts along with 5 doubles and a triple. He's been playing more 3B of late with the arrival of Michael Perez. But if Perez doesn't start hitting soon he may find himself back behind the plate when Perez goes down to South Bend.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Visalia
Bradley has been sensational to start the season with 35 strikeouts in 23+ innings and a miniscule 1.14 ERA. Even more encouraging is the walks have dropped off considerably since 2012 and it's only a matter of time before he gets sent to Mobile. Making many more starts in Visalia is really just wasting bullets. He should spend the rest of the season at AA, put in about 150-170 innings, and then eye the 2014 Major League rotation.
Andrew Barbosa, LHP, Visalia
Barbosa has thrown equally as well as Bradley thus far, the bigger difference being he's almost 5 years older. But that still doesn't take away from how dominating he's been in 3 starts. In 16 innings he's struck out 25 batters and allowed just 9 hits. The walks are on the high side at 11 but it's really hard not to think of Randy Johnson when watching this 6-8 lefty. (Don't quote me on that!!)
Jake Barrett, RHP, Visalia
Following a very good season for Arizona State last year Barrett put in a full professional season on top of that. It's clear he was getting tired toward the end of the season and his numbers reflected that. But with a badly needed off-season Barrett has come out throwing bullets as the Visalia closer. He has 3 saves in 5 games and has not allowed a run while striking out 9. He's definitely looking like a future back end of the bullpen kind of guy.
Jesse Darrah, RHP, South Bend
Darrah's first two starts this season were electric and his third pro season is off to a terrific start with a 0.50 ERA in 3 games and 5.0 K/BB ratio. There were some concerns last year as Darrah couldn't find any consistency and would always pair a good outing with a bad one and eventually was relegated to the bullpen. That's his next test to see if he can avoid (or at least limit) the bad days.
Kyle Schepel, RHP, South Bend
This minor league free agent merely went out and tossed a 7-inning no-hitter in his second professional start. His first and third starts were respectable as well. Now the question is whether he can build on that.
Randall Delgado, RHP, Reno
Yikes. Nobody imagined Delgado could be this bad as a key part of the Justin Upton trade. 19 hits and 14 walks surrendered in 15 innings is just abysmal. Perhaps he's not mentally there after making it to the majors last year and being relegated to the PCL this year when he lost the 5th starter battle to Patrick Corbin. He better get it turned around soon or it's going to be a long time before he sees it again.
Tony Campana, OF, Reno
Mr. Speed was acquired by Towers as a de facto insurance policy on Eaton and perhaps some hope he would learn how to get on base. But that hasn't happened as Campana can't buy a hit right now. He's hitting a measly .122 in 15 games. What's that they say? You can't steal first base?
Evan Marshall, RHP, Reno
Marshall was thought to be a fast-tracker when he was drafted in 2011. But everything about his career is going the wrong way. He got bounced from Sprint Training early and his PCL season is off to a rough start as he's allowed 14 hits and 6 walks in 6 innings. It's just not happening for him right now.
Nick Ahmed, SS, Mobile
Another piece of the Upton trade that is not paying any early dividends. Ahmed had an acceptable Spring Training so we'll chalk this up to just a slow start right now. But a .125 average, a .310 OPS and 4 errors in 16 games is pretty bad.
Alexis Lara, RHP, Mobile
This minor league free agent is off to a terrible start with 12 hits, 5 walks and a 7.27 ERA through 8 innings. Given his pedigree he's likely on a short leash so a quick turnaround is desperately needed.
Michael Perez, C, Visalia
One of our two promising backstop prospects, Perez was given an aggressive assignment to Visalia and thus far he's had a difficult time of it. He's struck out 13 times in 25 at bats and is hitting just .080. His defense seems to be doing fine so he deserves an adjustment period after getting a late start to the season following an injury in winter ball.
Kyle Winkler, RHP, Visalia
Being two years removed from arm surgery it was thought this might be a bounce-back year for Winkler as he was inserted back into a rotation spot to start the year. So far, not so good. 21 hits and 10 walks in 12 innings is about as bad as you can get. Winkler might be a classic case of an overused college pitcher never fully recovering.
Brandon Drury, 3B, South Bend
And yet another piece in the Upton trade going the wrong way. Though maybe I should be cautious here as he has 4 hits and 3 RBI in the last couple of days to raise his average to .200. He's been hitting in the middle of the South Bend lineup, he's just not performing like he should be there. Perhaps the last couple of days portends brighter days ahead.
David Nick, OF, Mobil
Nick was moved to the outfield this year with the glut of middle infielders blocking his road. Things appear to be going fine defensively but he's not hitting a lick. Moving from middle infield to outfield and hitting even less is not a ticket to a promotion. He's hitting just .143 but he does have a home run.