Cedar Rapids: 26 wins, 17 losses
The Kernels are coasting, brushing by the Beloit Snappers and taking possession of first place over the weekend on their way to a six game win streak. This team is flirting with greatness.
Luis "Lucho" Jimenez - (16 AB's) .438/.526/.750 with 2 dbls, 1 HR, 4 RBI's, and 2 K/3 BB
Jimenez finally went yard. It's been a bizarre year for him: the dinger was his 20th extra base hit this season and he's tied for first in the league in doubles, so it's not like he's turned into a slap hitter. But he isn't clearing any fences, either. He's rapping plenty of hard fly balls into the outfield, his line drive rate is a solid 17.5%, and he's K'ing only 16% of the time, so there's no statistical reason for why he's coming up empty. My theory about his dinger drought: it's two parts bad luck, and one part messy swing mechanics resulting from his insatiable urge to swing at anything near the plate. He can lace a double to the gap while he's way out on his front foot, lunging for a pitch high and away, but doesn't quite have the super-human pop necessary to knock it out. You can see it all in the video below: the bat speed, the hand eye coordination, and those wild swings. VIDEO AFTER PAGEBREAK...
Jean Segura - (23 AB's) .435/.519/.696 with 1 dbl, 1 trpl, 1 HR, 3 SB's, and 0 K/4 BB
It's going to be very interesting to see how Segura develops as a hitter. Currently, he's showing extreme tendencies to hit the ball on the ground (60%+ of his balls in play) and to the opposite field (53% of the time in May). The swing that I saw in April, which you can check out here, is geared entirely to do those two things. Yet he clearly has it in him to turn on the ball with authority. How often he does that will determine his ultimate power ceiling.
Matt Long - (22 AB's) .318/.464/.591 with 10 runs, 1 dbl, 1 trpl, 1 HR, 3 SB's, and 2 K/6 BB
After losing the first two weeks of May to injury, Long is on fire, showing a great blend of speed, a little power, and most of all, patience. Hitting behind Mike Trout allows him to see a huge number of fastballs from distracted, nervous pitchers, and he's capitalizing on those opportunities.
Garrett Richards - (1 start) 1 W, 6 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER, 2 K/0 BB, 14 GB's
Orangel Arenas - (1 start) 1 W, 8 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 3 K/2 BB
Pat Corbin, lhsp - (2 starts) 2 W's, 12 IP, 12 hits 4 ER, 11 K/2 BB
Tyler Skaggs, lhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 5 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 6 K/0 BB
I can't pick just one of these guys - could you? I don't want to jinx it, but Richards looks like he's finally on the road to the type of dominance we hoped for with three straight quality starts, including a complete game. Arenas has coughed up more than two runs in a start only once in 2010 through eight games (he gave up three runs way back on April 21st). Corbin and Skaggs have both pounded the strikezone and avoided the big inning, showing great pitchability now even as scouts project their stuff to get better. The only name not here is Martinez Mesa - he lost the strike zone entirely on Saturday - but he recovered from a poor first inning to keep the Kernels in a game that they ultimately won in extra innings.
Mike Kenney, rhrp - (2 appearances) 1 W, 1 Sv, 3 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 4 K/1 BB
Jeremy Berg, rhrp - (2 appearances) 4 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER, 1 K/1 BB
John Hellweg, rhrp - (2 appearances) 3 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 5 K/0 BB
Buddy Boshers, lhrp - (2 appearances) 3 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 2 K/0 BB
Here's the last piece of the puzzle for the Kernels, a bullpen that recovered from a shaky start in April to become one of the better units in the league (wish we could say the same for the big league club). Kenney responded to his demotion from high A by locking into the strikezone, fanning 12 while walking just 1 over 11 innings with the Kernels so far. The side-arming Berg has been rock all season. Boshers has shown more consistency in May, recording 4 straight scoreless appearances. John Hellweg, tagged by Baseball America to be a sleeper entering the season, looks like a beast in the making. He's pitched 6.2 consecutive scoreless innings now, going back to April 23rd, and is racking up the K's with an effortless mid-90's fastball and a tight, low 80's slurvey breaking ball. Check him out below.
High A Rancho Cucamonga: 24 wins, 21 losses
Tyler Chatwood, rhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 6.2 IP, 8 hits, 2 ER, 7 K/1 BB
His 24.2 scoreless inning streak came to an end this week, but he continues to dominate the California League. If the Angels look to make a trade at the deadline, you can expect other teams to target him (Trout is obviously untouchable, but that just figures to increase the focus on Chatwood's arm).
Roberto Lopez, OF, 1B, DH, C - (26 AB's) .346/.393/.615 with 1 dbl, 2 HR's, 9 RBI's with 5 K/2 BB
Lopez was an RBI machine this week. I'm a little concerned about his declining control of the strikezone - he's gone from striking out just 1.3 times for every walk in 2009, to striking a full 3.1 times for every walk in 2010 - but that's not unusual for players in the Cal League, who tend to see more RBI situations than they did in the Midwest League while playing in parks that are vastly more hitter friendly. We won't know if Lopez has the kind of discipline to make him an asset at the upper levels until we see his numbers in the Arkansas park. Still, I could look at his swing all day.
Tyson Auer, CF - (24 AB's) .375/.483/.500 with 1 dbl, 1 trpl, 1 HR, 11 runs, 4 SB's, 5 K/5 BB
One of my favorite players in the Halos system, Auer continues to be an asset for every team he's played for. He contributes outstanding defense (TotalZone has him as +17 runs in the Midwest League, where he was also voted by managers as best defensive CF), he plays the little ball game well, he steals bases by the bushel, and every once in awhile he'll surprise you with his pop. He probably won't hit for enough average at the top levels because of his dependence on legging out groundballs and a persistent K habit (21% of his PA's last year ended in punch outs), but he is a huge contributor to the Quakes club.
Eddie McKiernan, rhrp - (3 appearances) 2 Sv, 3 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 1 K/0 BB
Steven Geltz, rhrp - (2 appearances) 4 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 6 K/1 BB
The Halos continue to groom twenty-one year old McKiernan for a back of the bullpen role, giving him most of the Quakes' save opportunities. He's relatively small - just 5'11", 160 lbs - and the fastball he flashed in spring training didn't seem remarkable, averaging a hair under 90 mph. But he has a good curveball and has held his own in High A, so the player development folks know there's something there. Twenty-two year old Geltz is building on a solid 2009 campaign, racking up 17 K's in just 10 innings. The Halos signed him as an undrafted free agent out of college in 2008, and he might just be putting together a breakout season.