A Cedar Rapids: 18 wins, 14 losses
The Kernels entered May with a lackluster .500 record, but won five straight last week, giving them ten W's in their last twelve games and hopefully setting the tone for the remainder of the year. The rotation is finding some consistency, thanks to multiple quality outings from unheralded Orangel Arenas and teenage Tyler Skaggs, the bullpen has made some progress, and everyone in the lineup is contributing. This team is beginning to play up to its potential.
Orangel Arenas - (2 starts) 2 W's, 13 IP, 8 hits, 0 ER, 8 K/5 BB
Arenas has thrown two consecutive shutouts, one of them in Miller Park, and five of his seven starts this year have been of the quality variety. His 5.87 K rate isn't spectacular, but his sinking fastball/slider combo have the opposition pounding the ball into the ground at a futile 59% rate. On paper, Arenas' stuff reminds me of Bobby Mosebach's arsenal.
Casey Haerther -(29 AB's) .517/.533/.759 with 4 dbls, 1 HR, 7 RBI's, and 2 SB's
When the week began, UCLA alum Haerther was hitting .203. Today, he's hitting .300. You can see footage of an RBI knock here, though my apologies to Haerther because it's not the best representation of his swing. He's taking a two-strike breaking ball the other way, just like he should, but the adjustment he makes is distinctly non-fluid. Here's another video of him pulling the ball in college, for comparison's sake.
Garrett Richards - (2 starts) 1 W, 15.2 IP, 3.45 ERA, 12 hits, 16 K/5 BB
Richards balanced out an uninspiring performance early in the week with a complete game gem yesterday, giving him his first quality start in the last four tries. The K's are obviously great, but the other positive indicator is the 14 groundball outs he induced last night, bringing his GB percentage up to a very good 58%. As we keep hearing, commanding the fastball down in the zone and finding consistency with his delivery is really the key for him.
Mike Trout - (30 AB's) .333/.412/.667 with 1 dbl, 3 HR's, 8 runs, 5 SB's, and 3 K/4 BB
I said last week that Trout had put up his finest week of the young year, but he's already outdone himself. In the month of April, Trout played the role of the good, small-ball soldier, going the other way a well-balanced 40% of the time. F-that. Trout is now pulling the ball more, and his slugging percentage has consequently jumped through the roof. Impressively though, his latest homerun went to the opposite field. He's also maintaining his leadoff cred, stealing five bases and maintaining the walks while striking out half as often as last week. Here's a nice piece on him and Grichuk.
Tyler Skaggs, lhsp - (2 starts) 1 W, 10 IP, 2.70 ERA, 8 hits, 6 K/2 BB
Entering Saturday's game, Skaggs had not yielded a run since April 12th. That streak ended in the first inning, but Skaggs showed off his composure by shutting down the Timber Rattlers over the next 4 frames, keeping the Kernels in a game that they ultimately won. His performance is outshining the scouting reports so far, but if he keeps this up, that gap will close. Check out footage here.
Tyler Kehrer, lhrp - (2 appearances) 1 W, 1 Sv, 9 IP, 1.00 ERA, 6 hits, 9 K/6 BB
Kehrer began the year in the Kernel's rotation, but yielded the starting role to Skaggs early on. As his 15 K/17 BB ratio indicates, he's having a devil of a time harnessing his control. I saw him pitch three weeks ago, and he appears to have modified his mechanics since this video was taken of him early last year. He's cut the spinoff from the mound, and appears to have even slowed down his delivery tempo. Those changes are undoubtedly meant to help him repeat his delivery and find the strikezone more consistently, but when I saw him he was topping out at 90/91 mph and not the 95/96 mph he was hitting last year. He remains an intriguing arm, but his development could go in any number of different directions, not all of them what you'd hope for.
High A Rancho Cucamonga: 16 wins, 16 losses
Gabe Jacobo, 1B - (24 AB's) .458/.519/.750 with 4 dbls, 1 HR, 1 SB, with 3 K/3 BB
The Halos selected Jacobo in the tenth round of the 2008 draft, making him the first four-year college student picked by the Halos that year. He had a smashing pro debut, lighting up the Pioneer League (147 OPS+) and the Midwest League (141 OPS+), but fell back to earth a little bit playing for Cedar Rapids over a full season, putting up a modest 111 OPS+ in 2009. His defense at first is superb. Here's some footage of him. Note the short, lightning quick swing. He may not hit a ton of homeruns, but should hit for average at the higher levels.
Dillon Baird, 3b - (18 AB's) .389/.476/.667 with 2 dbls, 1 HR, 7 RBI's, 1 SB, 6 K/3 BB
Check this out. Baird is quickly developing into a monster. His progress this year deserves its own post, so I'll keep it brief here: he's tweaked his mechanics, changing his swing path to add uppercut, shortening his stride and standing taller at the point of contact, allowing the ball to travel deeper into the zone before unleashing his cut (he was a handsier hitter in college, meeting the ball way out in front to spray line drives) and those changes are definitely producing more power. They've also put a few holes in his swing -- he's K'ing in 24% of his PA's, nearly twice his '09 rate -- which is something to track, but given his rapid promotion and previous aptitude with the strikezone, it's not overly alarming. He went on the DL over the weekend with a wrist contusion, but watch for him when he returns.
Tyler Chatwood, rhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 5 IP, 4 hits, 0 ER, 9 K/1 BB
The positives: his fastball appears to be getting better, with very good hitters failing to square up throughout spring training and the early going in the Cal League. He has a dynamite curveball with sharp downward break. He ranks third in the league in ERA, is tied for first with K's, and posses a superb 60% groundball rate. The negatives: he's issued the second most walks in the league. Even on a night when he keeps the free passes down, he doesn't make it to the sixth inning. His change-up, according to a scout I spoke with, still has a long ways to go. All in all, I think Chatwood has a much higher ceiling than he's given credit for, but he remains a long way from reaching it... Which is fine since he remains just 20.
Roberto Lopez, OF, 1B, C - (24 PA's) .250/.250/.333 with 2 Dbls, 1 SB, 7 K/0 BB
The slash stats aren't phenomenal, but the man deserves a shoutout for the 23 GAME HIT STREAK he's presently working on. Good for him. Check out some footage here.
AA Arkansas: 13 wins, 16 losses
Manuel Flores, lhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 7 IP, 4 hits, 0 ER, 6 K/1 BB
The finesse lefty was the anchor, the rock, for last year's Kernels' rotation, propping up a winning staff through Smith's injuries and Chatwood's and Chaffee's inconsistencies. He began the year in High A, but moved up two weeks ago when Tommy Mendoza went down with an injury. He's thrown two quality starts now in three tries for the Travs.
Paul McAnulty, DH - (17 AB's) .294/.478/.529 with 1 dbl, 1 HR, 3 K/6 BB
Exhibit A for why minor league FA's are so important. There have been a lot of nights this year where McAnulty has single-handedly propped up the Travs' offense.
Tim Kiely, rhsp - (1 start) 8 IP, 6 hits, 2 ER, 4 K/0 BB
For a right hander, he's got an interesting stat profile: same-handed batters are killing him at a .357 clip, while lefties are hitting only .255 with more groundballs. Must have a pretty good change-up. He relies on pitching to contact, so will have to find a way to keep those righties in check.
AAA Salt Lake Bees: 15 wins, 15 losses
Sean O'Sullivan, rhsp - (2 start) 2 W's, 14 IP, 11 hits, 1.93 ERA, 9 K/4 BB
Not only has O'Sully been highly effective these past weeks, throwing 4 quality starts over his last 5 tries, but his peripherals have been really good too. Always nice when those line up. His K-rate in AAA is up one per nine innings over last year, his hits are down one per nine innings, while his walk rate remains low. That change-up of his - a very good pitch, worth 5.6 runs in the majors last year, according to fangraphs - appears to be working very well, as lefties are striking out at a rate of 8.5 per nine innings and only hitting .266. Additionally, his decent 46% groundball rate suggests he's keeping his fastball down in the zone, something he struggled to do last year and in spring training.
Rich Thompson, rhrp - (3 appearances) 4 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 3 K/1 BB
He went down with a pectoral strain this week, but before that was piling on the good appearances. Over 100 AAA innings, he has put up a 2.95 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP and 110 K's. His 28 MLB innings have been nowhere near as impressive, but he's earning another shot and is probably just one injury away from seeing more time with the MLB club.
Nate Sutton, 2B, U - (22 AB's) .364/.500/.545 with 4 dbls, 7 runs, 1 SB with 2 K/6 BB
He's a lefty bat with lots of on base skills and some speed. The Halos' 20th top performer of 2009 is carving out a big role for himself with the Bees, and may move into the leadoff or second spot permanently in the not so distant future. Sutton doesn't play short, so the Frandsen acquisition and subsequent promotion doesn't exactly represent a passing over of Sutton, but it nevertheless puts another barrier between him and the bigs.