Triple-A Reno. Hitter: Nick Evans. Pitcher: Will Harris.
The Aces have a 52-46 record, and the humidor installed in Reno this year has certainly had an effect in terms of suppressing run scoring. Our AAA pitching staff have allowed 4.88 runs per game so far, below the league average of 5.00 - last year's figures were 5.51 and 4.83 respectively. Evans has led the offense, with a line of .354/..423/.631 making him the only minor-leaguer with 30 PAs and an OPS over a thousand. That earned Evans a call-up to the majors, though has yet to see much playing time there. Harris, similarly, didn't impress in his time with the big club, but has allowed only four ER in 33 innings of work for a 1.09 ERA.
Double-A Mobile. Hitter: Jake Lamb. Pitcher: Andrew Chafin.
Mobile has the best record in the Southern League so far, going 58-36, and has been getting it done on both sides of the game, with a league-best ERA (3.16) and OPS (.746). Lamb had a monster first half, the 23-year-old handling his promotion from High-A this year with aplomb, and a .317/.395/.565 line, trailing only Kris Bryant in the league for OPS (min 200 PAs). Chase Anderson's stellar ERA of 0.69 would have made him a contender, but his presence on the major-league roster disqualifies him, so we turn to left-hander Chafin instead, who made nine starts and put up a 1.96 ERA. He has struggled in Reno since his late May promotion, but was also only 23 at that point.
High-A Visalia, Hitter: Brandon Drury. Pitcher: Cody Wheeler.
Under manager Robbie Hammock, the Rawhide have struggled a bit, with a 44-51 record, good only for fourth in the North division. Their hitting has been below league average, but don't tell that to Drury, who has blasted 16 home-runs; only South Bend's Daniel Palka has more to date among our prospects, and Drury is also second for hits in the Arizona farm system, contributing to his overall .867 OPS. Wheeler struck out 53 in a mere 38.1 innings with Visalia, getting him a promotion earlier this month to Mobile. He has hardly been more challenged there: in 5.2 scoreless innings, he has allowed two hits and fanned eight.
A-ball South Bend. Hitter: Andrew Velazquez. Pitcher: Silvino Bracho.
There aren't many people who set a minor-league record while still a teenager, but that's what Velazquez did with his ongoing streak, now reaching base in 73 consecutive games, breaking the mark set by Kevin Millar and Kevin Youkilis. He turned 20 on Sunday, and has a sparkling .386 on-base percentage, along with forty stolen-bases, a strong uptick from the seven he managed last year. The Silver Hawks' closer Bracho has allowed four earned runs over 28.1 innings for a 1.27 ERA while notching 17 saves, but perhaps the most impressive number is his K:BB ratio of 49:6. He has a WHIP of 0.635, holding opposing batters to a .129 average.
Short-A Hillsboro. Hitter: Jordan Parr. Pitcher: Nicholas Baker.
Parr edges out fellow Hopster Elvin Soto, who has a slightly better OPS, but a much higher BABIP. Parr has strong plate discipline, with a K:BB ratio of 15:12, along with a .301 average. He's also second on the team for stolen bases with six, and his OPS of .812 is 161 points higher than at the same level in his rookie season last year. Unfortunately, one credible contender for pitcher, Anderson Placido, a 2.35 ERA and 18 K's in 15.1 innings, was released for apparent theft. So, let's go with Baker, who also has a 2.35 ERA, and has demonstrated immaculate control during his 23 innings to date, not walking a single batter. Not one. Nada. Zero walks.
Rookie Missoula. Hitter: Kevin Cron. Pitcher:.
The Osprey's 12-16 start has been a combination of struggles, with both pitching and hitting below league average. Still, Cron has been impressive so far, with four home-runs and 16 RBI through his first 20 games, and an overall triple-slash of .316/.386/.544. In 88 PAs, the 21-year-old, originally from Mountain Pointe HS here in Phoenix, has been struck out a mere eight times. Pitcher Hernandez has yet to taste defeat in his five starts, with a 2.96 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 24.1 innings. While the walks (12) are a bit higher than I'd like, this is a kid who only turned 20 in April, so he's young, even for this low level.
AZL D-backs. Hitter: Matt McPhearson. Pitcher: Yefrey Ramirez.
McPhearson may not have the best OPS on the team - that would be Henry Castillo, but Castillo's K:BB is just too bad to ignore, at 22:0. McPhearson hadn't shown any power yet, with two extra-base hits, both doubles, in 83 PAs. However, a K:BB ratio of 17:13 is a good start, and his 12 stolen-bases represent more than half of all the bags stolen by his team. Ramirez is another pitcher with an excellent K:BB ratio, having struck out 32 batters over 24.1 innings, and walked a mere three. That's a sharp improvement over two years ago in the DSL. when he walked virtually as many as he K'd, or even last year there, where the ratio was 62:16.
DSL D-backs. Gerson Jimenez. Pitcher: Merkis Montero
I was tempted to give this to Adony Ovalles, who according to his B-R.com page, is exceedingly young for his age! But I've presumed that's a misprint, and gone with Jimenez. He has been hitting doubles at an almost Goldschmidt-like pace, with 11 in 36 games, and has also been showing a good eye, with as many walks as strikeouts (25 of each). That has helped him to a line of .285/.408/.385. I like the name "Merkis Montero", but there has been a lot to like about his performances on the mound too, his eight starts resulting in a 1.36 ERA, with 52 strikeouts and 7 walks over 46.1 innings.