I think it was Ben who suggested I take a peek into the farm system and see how things are panning out down the organization a little. This is generally William K's territory; he said a while ago on BBTNG that he was going to do an April roundup, but it hasn't cropped up yet. So I'll hijack the idea. :-) Let it be clear: especially at the lower levels, I'm going almost entirely on statistics, regardless of other, possible mitigating factors. So I still look forward to William K's rather more-informed take on this topic...
Triple-A: Tucson Sidewinders
15-17, 2nd, 4 games back
Scott Hairston: .304, 7 HR, 19 RBI
Stephen Drew: .323, 6 HR, 20 RBI
Kevin Jarvis: 46.2 IP, 46 H, 11 BB, 3.09 ERA
Brian Barden: .217, 2 HR, 17 RBI
Bill Murphy: 20 IP, 21 H, 12 BB, 6.30 ERA
Neal Musser: 27 IP, 37 H, 21 BB, 6.67 ERA
Tucson is proving to be its usual self - a heaven for hitters, and pity the pitchers. Stephen Drew is, naturally, creating all the buzz with the Sidewinders, but Scott Hairston has an OPS 15 points better than our diamond prospect. [Hairston will, however, be 26 this month; Drew just turned 23] It's not impossible he could be our starting left-fielder next year, if Gonzo's contract option is not exercised.
At the other end of the career spectrum is Kevin Jarvis, who will be 37 later this season. Regardless of that, he's also performing well, and if Hernandez continues to underperform, might get the call. However, he is not on the 40-man roster at the moment, so some shuffling would be required in order to get him up to the big leagues. Enrique Gonzalez (3.25 ERA) and Edgar Gonzalez (3.96, but better peripherals) would also be candidates, and both are already on the roster.
Third baseman Brian Barden has been a disappointment, after a sterling campaign in 2005, that saw him hit .307 with 15 HR and 85 RBIs. Alberto Callaspo has also been unimpressive, hitting just .250. On the mound, Bill Murphy has struggled both as a starter and reliever, while Neal Musser has fought with his control - and so far, lost. He is allowing an average of more than two baserunners per inning.
Double-A: Tennessee Smokies
14-18, 5th, 7.5 games back
Steven Jackson: 33.1 IP, 29 H, 10 ER, 30 K, 2.70 ERA
Micah Owings: 37.1 IP, 31 H, 12 ER, 32 K, 2.89 ERA
Doug Slaten: 13 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 20 K, 1.38 ERA
Jesus Cota: .180, 2 HR, 10 RBI, .514 OPS
Garrett Mock: 32.1 IP, 41 H, 14 BB, 5.85 ERA
Alex Frazier: .187, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .484 OPS, 26 K
In contrast to Tucson, the Southern League is definitely pitching-heavy. Tennessee are blessed with a trio of starters (Jackson and Owings above, plus Ross Ohlendorf - 37.1 IP, 43 H, 26 K, 2.89 ERA), all posting ERAs under 3.00, but none are even in the top ten for the league. However, it's particularly encouraging to note that all three have K:BB ratios of 3:1 or better.
Second-baseman Richar is the only regular batting better than .260, a solid .324, though with just one HR and 8 RBIs. Miguel Montero leads the team with 21 RBIs in 93 at-bats, and it's good to see more walks (19) than strikeouts (16). Slaten has been a force out of the bullpen, averaging more than 1.5 K's per innings, and generally, the Smokies seems to have a roster of arms who throw a lot of strikes.
Jesus Cota, at 1B, and outfielder Alex Frazier have both struggled badly this season, and along with Jarred Ball, are hitting south of the Mendoza line. Jerry Gil, already sent down from Tucson, is finding the going no easier in Tennessee, and is batting just .182 for the Smokies. Mock and Adam Bass have been disappointing, but the bullpen is mostly great (three pitchers at 1.54 ERA or less), with Matthew Wilkinson's 5.73 ERA an aberration.
High-A: Lancaster Jethawks
10-21, 5th, 7.5 games back
Chris Rahl: .368, 4 HR, 19 RBI
Gregory Smith: 39.1 IP, 28 H, 30 K, 1.83 ERA.
Mark Reynolds: .325, 6 HR, 20 RBI
Cesar Nicolas: .230, .617 OPS
A.J.Shappi: 26 IP, 53 H, 7 BB, 10.73 ERA
Matthew Green: 23 IP, 40 H, 16 BB, 10.96 ERA
The pitching has been a parson's egg: good in parts, rotten in others. But an overall ERA of 5.53 is worst in the California League, and that's mostly why their record is so bad. Yet, in Gregory Smith, the Jethawks have the #2 pitcher so far in terms of ERA, and Matt Chico's 2.62 also makes the top 10. It's after those two, that things get ugly. Raab's 7.71 ERA is only third-worst: Shappi and Green are 0-7 in 12 starts, with awful WHIPs of 2.31 and 2.43 respectively.
In contrast, the hitters lead the league in OPS, at 781, and with 31 home runs. Infielder Mark Reynolds has followed up on the 19 four-baggers he hit in 2005 at South Bend, but Chris Rahl has blossomed unexpectedly, hitting almost 100 points higher than he did in Yakima last season. Out of the bullpen, Chris Kinsey has yet to concede an earned run in 11.1 innings, but with eight hits and nine walks in that time, this seems more by luck than good judgement.
Low-A: South Bend Silver Hawks
14-17, 7th, 6.5 games back
Forrest Cory: 15.2 IP, 9 H, 10 K, 1.15 ERA
Frank Curreri: .339/.431/.446, 9 RBI
Eduardo Baeza: 34.2 IP, 27 H, 34 K, 3.12 ERA
Ramon Sanchez: 25.1 IP, 41 H, 19 BB, 9.95 ERA
Anthony Cupps: 25.2 IP, 55 H, 9 BB, 10.52 ERA
Ricardo Cruz: .118/.164/.176, 3 BB, 27 K
As in Tucson, the "star" of the team finds themselves relegated into second place. Justin Upton, while starting well (.315/.403/.426), is getting less results than catcher Frank Curreri, a 41st-round draft pick in 2004, who definitely did not receive a $6.1 million dollar signing bonus. Though Curreri is almost five years older than our #1 draft pick, and future Hall of Famer - hey, we can but hope!
This is a fairly light-hitting team, with just 12 home runs in 29 games, and as a result, their overall OPS is only .688. Ricardo Cruz, however, isn't even at half that (our other second baseman, Joseph Batten, is doing little better, hitting .133). Trey Hendricks leads the team with four HR. The bullpen is doing well, with Cory, Donald Julio and Vincent Bongiovanni all with ERA's under 2.00. Baeza is the best starter, but Sanchez and Cupps have failed to hold up their end of the rotation. And Jonatan Valverde - no relation, I assume? - has five saves.