Before we get to the regular MiLB updates, big news: According to a mini-Twitter conversation between Derek Eitel and Tyler Skaggs, it appears that the latter will be moving up to Double-A Mobile following the Futures Game. Notes and thoughts after the report.
Every now and then, a once-forgotten prospect digs himself makes huge strides later than expected in his minor-league career, re-emerging as a legitimate top prospect after previously being written off. One example of someone who has had a similar re-emergence in 2011 is Tampa Bay's Tim Beckham, the former first overall pick who has re-established himself as a serious up-the-middle talent with a strong Double-A season. Allow me to begin by saying that Ed Easley is not one of those players. Going into Friday's action, Easley's season line was an unsightly .263/.337/.338, depressing numbers for a former Sandwich-round selection (61st overall, 2007). One stellar night against Mississippi on Friday brought his OPS up forty points, to .273/.344/.376. While that line is certainly not enough on its own to consider the 25-year-old backstop a prospect again, perhaps it was a bit of insight as to the raw talent he possesses that got him drafted so highly.
Snakelet of the Day:
Ed Easley (Double-A): 3-5, 2 2B, GS, 2 R, 6 RBI.
Triple-A: Reno 2, Tacoma 3. (51-36) Reno's offense failed to show up in this one, as the colder, lower-elevation climes of Tacoma, Washington turned the Aces offense from a thundering PCL powerhouse into a rather pedestrian bunch. With Portland vacated, this is about as close to a neutral environment as you're going to find in this league. Reno accumulated just two extra-base hits among their eight total hits, with a double from rehabbing Geoff Blum and a home run from Tony Abreu were the only pop Reno received. The duo also accounted for four of Reno's hits, meaning that the rest of the lineup managed only four singles in the contest. The two guys in Reno's lineup with the best chance of a long-term big-league career struggled mightily, as Collin Cowgill and Brandon Allen combined to go 0-8 (5 ABs for Cowgill, 3 for Allen) with one K (Allen) and a sac fly (Allen). Gaby Hernandez turned in a quality start, allowing one run in six innings with a 5:3 K:BB ratio, and Esmerling Vasquez took the loss for Reno after giving up a run on two walks and a hit in the eighth inning.
Double-A: Mobile 14, Mississippi 9. (50-36) Mobile wasted no time making this a slugfest, hi-lighted by Easley's (the seventh hitter) first-inning, one-out grand slam. The BayBears received production throughout the lineup: Adam Eaton went 1-4 with a triple and - wait for it - a hit-by-pitch, A.J. Pollock went 2-5 with his 25th double of the season (that doubles total is tied for third on the Southern League leaderboard), Ryan Wheeler had a double and two singles, and Marc Krauss added a double and a walk. Then, of course, there was Easley, who accumulated eigh total bases in this contest, which is about 13% of his total base production on the season. Give credit to Mississippi for one thing, though: they were down 6-0 after the first inning, but the Braves offense didn't take the night off, as Kyler Newby would probably attest to. Newby had a rough outing, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings of work with seven hits, two walks, and just two strikeouts. Billy Spottiswood also had a rough pair of innings, striking out two with no walks but surrendering four runs on six hits.
Hi-A: Visalia 5, Inland Empire 3. (40-45) After a 9:1 K:BB ratio got him tagged with five earned runs in his first Hi-A start, David Holmberg apparently went the classic lefty finesse route in this one, posting a 2:1 K:BB ratio in seven innings of work and rolling up a ton of grounders - 13 ground-ball outs in total (three fly-ball outs) - en route to allowing just a single earned run at Inland Empire. Holmberg was well-supported by the big boppers in the middle of the Visalia line-up, as the 3-4-5 hitters - Matt Davidson, Bobby Borchering, and Alfredo Marte - combined for a 6-16 day with three doubles and a triple to lead the way offensively.
Low-A: South Bend 1, Great Lakes 4. (39-45) 2010 draftee Mike Bolsinger took the mound to start this one, having seemingly replaced Holmberg in the Silver Hawks' rotation. After a short (3.2-inning) outing in his last start, Bolsinger went six strong innings on Friday, giving up just two runs on only one hit - a homer - and two walks, striking out four and posting a 10:3 GO:AO ratio. Unfortunately, the South Bend offense struggled in this game, collecting just six hits, all singles. They also didn't help themselves out by running into a pair of caught stealings, the last thing you want your offense to do when you're having difficulty getting men on base.
Short Season-A (13 innings): Yakima 3, Eugene 2. (7-15) Is it just me, or does this team love extra-inning games? Regardless, Yakima eked out a win in 13 innings in this one, in spite of getting out-hit by Eugene 11-4 and allowing four stolen bases, though also catching Cory Spangenberg (responsible for two of the successful steals) stealing twice. In spite of a heavy dosage of hits, Yakima starter Teo Gutierrez was flippin' awesome, posting an 8:2 K:BB ratio and 6:2 GO:AO ratio in his 5.2 innings of work, surrendering two runs, though just one was earned. Gutierrez lowered his ERA to 3.00 with the outing, and the 21-year-old Dominican now has a 25:8 K:BB ratio in his 30 innings of work for the Bears. Don't be surprised if this guy makes an appearance or two in full-season ball before the year is over.
Advanced-Rookie: Missoula 5, Helena 4. (10-9) The Osprey bats were feeling generous on Friday, sending four souvenirs into the outfield to account for all five Missoula runs, which proved to be sufficient for the Missoula arms. The long-balls came courtesy of Chris Ellison, Fidel Pena, Roidany Aguila, and Jon Griffin, with Pena being the lucky one to have a runner - Griffin, who was 3-4 in this game - on base for his blast.
Low-Rookie: D-backs 0, Indians 14. (6-9) Yuck. The AZL D-backs gave up 20 hits, including two doubles, five walks, and a hit-by-pitch to the AZL Indians, and... well, this is exactly what happens when you allow 26 baserunners. The D-backs bats collected seven hits, though they were all from just four hitters in the lineup. The "best" performance in the lineup was from Socrates Brito, who went 2-3 with a walk, though he also struck out.
DSL (7/7): D-backs 14, Twins 4. This was Thursday's game, though the score wasn't up in time for me to include in Friday morning's Farm Round-Up. A solid all-around performance, as the offense was led by a 1-3 day from Pedro Ruiz, who tripled and drew three walks, and Yorman Garcia, who doubled and walked once. Former power bat prospect Jose Jose had an overpowering outing on the mound, striking out nine and walking two in 4.1 scoreless innings of work. Jose-Squared is still twenty years old, and while he'll probably always be a bit behind in terms of age-relative-to-level, that's less of a concern for pitchers than hitters, particularly left-handed power relief pitchers. He probably won't ever be worth the six-figure bonus we paid him to sign, but he could still give us some sort of return on our investment.
DSL: D-backs 3, Padres 7. (11-22) Friday's game couldn't live up to Thursday's stellar performance, as the only extra-base hits mustered by the offense were a pair of doubles from Samuel Valdez. Yorman Garcia had another solid game, though, singling and drawing a pair of walks. Garcia's batting average is awfully low, but the 17-year-old center fielder has taken 17 walks in just over 100 plate appearances and has shown occasional pop, posting a .221/.396/.337 line for a .734 OPS in the pitcher-dominated DSL. We won't know if that's legitimate patience or DSL wildness until Garcia hits the states, but it's an encouraging start, in my opinion.
Tyler Skaggs promoted to Mobile BayBears: No official announcement has been made yet (on either team's League Transactions page) but I see no reason not to believe this. Skaggs will go from being one of the five youngest players in the Cal League to being the youngest player in the Southern League (among qualifying players, per B-R - two links). He absolutely dominated the Cal League, posting a disgustingly-good 125:34 K:BB ratio in 100.2 innings of work for Visalia and surrendering just six home runs en route to a 3.22 ERA in one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in the minors.
However, in spite of all that success, I'm not exactly thrilled about the move. No, I'm not worried that Skaggs will struggle in Double-A - for one, I think he'll continue to have success with his epic three-pitch combo, and for two, he receives rave reviews for his composure, make-up, and mound presence, so I'm not worried about long-term confidence issues if he does struggle. What I'm worried about is that it seems to me that this move only does one thing: set up the possibility for Skaggs to arrive in Arizona in 2012. With Skaggs seeing Double-A now, he'll have the opportunity to be exposed to a full year of competition above A-ball by next year's All-Star Break, setting up a potential call-up in mid-July in the even that Arizona is in a pennant run and Skaggs is dominating Double-A.
However, Skaggs has already thrown 100 innings this year, and after accumulating approximately that total in all of 2010, he'll probably only throw about 30 more before being shut down - perhaps something like another six starts of five innings apiece, a la Jarrod Parker. This would mean that Skaggs could comfortably throw around 160 innings in 2012, setting himself up for a legitimate major-league workload of 190 innings in 2013, right about the time he would be set to debut if the D-backs took a one-level-per-year approach (naturally skipping over Triple-A, which isn't as much a development level anymore as it is a MiLB veteran reserve).
If he throws 100 before the Futures Game again next year, would he really be worth bringing up to the majors for 60 innings of big-league rotation work before we'd have to shut him down and scramble for a replacement anyways? What if we're in a pennant race and another 30 innings from the then-21-year-old Skaggs could be the difference between us getting into the postseason and staying home in October? Would he then pitch in the playoffs and be sent down the path of Steve Avery? The last thing I would want this team to do is trade a TOR stud like Dan Haren for a solid, but not elite, prospect, develop him into an elite guy, then pour gasoline all over that development work and set it ablaze. Simply put, I think moving Skaggs up now provides the opportunity to later be tempted to make a move that could be to Skaggs' long-term detriment, and that would be an absolute travesty.
(Related note: It's an absolute crying shame what happened to Avery's career as a result of Bobby Cox's destruction of his arm. Those were more primitive days, but it wasn't any secret that having a guy pitch 667.1 innings - plus 62.1 postseason innings - in his age 21-23 seasons would destroy him long-term. Criminal managing of Avery's arm by Cox and the Braves organization.)
Of course, this is all from the perspective of someone completely detached from the organization. I don't know Skaggs, I don't know the front office, and I don't know all of the reasoning behind-the-scenes that led to this promotion. It might not have anything to do with getting Skaggs to the major leagues in 2012, and if that's the case, then I have no problems with the move at all - that's simply the main potential implication of the move that truly worries me. His arsenal and polish are absolutely ready for Double-A.