The minor league system marches on with the second half of the season for most leagues beginning later this week. As I did last year, I had a chance to take-in the California League All-Star game. This year’s game had better talent and was more pleasurable to attend. Last year’s game was in Visalia California, where the game-time temperature was 109 degrees. This year, the game was in Lancaster California, one of my favorite places to see a game. It’s not a particularly nice stadium, but the fans are great and the ball flies out. Both occurred this year, but only one of the teams was hitting.
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Evan White (Sea, 1B, High-A) – Most minor league games I attend, and I attend a lot, don’t have many players that will make it to the show. I try not to think about it too much, otherwise, I get bummed for the players, and bummed by my career choices. But on Tuesday, I had a chance to see the California League All-Star game in Lancaster California and the teams were full of future major leaguers. One of the most famous guys who played was Evan White, the Mariners first round pick in 2017. He’s having a middling season, batting .263 with two home runs. As one of the better college players coming out of that draft, I’m assuming the Mariners are disappointed.
At least for one evening, White showed his potential. He pulled a 90 MPH fastball for a home run and hit a solid single later in the game. He showed good bat speed and balance at the plate. What he didn’t show in batting practice or game time was any leverage in his swing. It’s a swing more geared to contact than power. This is a problem as he’s a first baseman and this will not play. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he’s big and strong enough to generate power, but as we’ve seen with Joe Mauer and James Loney, to name two, sometimes power just doesn’t come.
Dairon Blanco (Oak, OF, High-A) – The most impressive player at the California League All-Star game was Dairon Blanco, a 25-year-old Cuban émigré that last played ball in 2013. He went 4 for 5 with a popup that turned into a home run. Yeah, that happens a lot in Lancaster where the wind usually blows out to right field and it’s hot with an elevation. of 2,500 feet. Despite the home run, he doesn’t project for much power but can hit with plus speed.
Alex Kirilloff (Min, OF, Low-A) – Fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery last season, Alex Kirilloff is showing the kind of talent that made him a first-round draft pick in 2016. In 61 games in the Midwest League, he’s hitting .340 with 12 home runs and a reasonable 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After batting .371 in May and .387 in June, it shouldn’t be long before he calls Fort Myers his home.
Nick Senzel (Cin, 3B, Triple-A) – Most of the big prospects we thought would be promoted this year have in fact been promoted, except for one – Nick Senzel. Unfortunately, he lost three weeks of time due to another bout of Vertigo. The same thing sent him to the disabled list at the end of the 2017 season. Hopefully, the problem is behind him; at least his production says it is. In 15 games in June, he’s hitting .371 with a .532 SLG showing a good control of the strike zone.
Jo Adell (LAA, OF, High-A) – This is getting ridiculous. Jo Adell continues to mash the ball and the 19-year-old is showing no signs of resistance since his promotion to High-A. In 23 games, he’s hit eight home runs with five stolen bases. It’s not all perfect as he has an ugly 30/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112 plate appearances. So, if you think Adell is going to do a Ronald Acuna, he needs to improve his 28% strikeout rate first. That said, the other four tools will play and possibly very loudly at that.
Yordan Alvarez (Hou, OF, Double-A) – After spending five weeks on the disabled list, Yordan Alvarez went 7 for 15 with two home runs in his first three games back. Overall, he’s slashing .320/.384/.582 with eight home runs in 30 games in Double-A. Plus, he’s still young. He only turns 22 next week. The problem, of course, is he’s blocked all over the place in Houston. The Astros have moved him to the outfield, but that didn’t help much as not only are the Astros stacked in the outfield in the majors, they have Derek Fisher in Triple-A and uber-prospect Kyle Tucker sitting in front of him. As is always the case, playing time usually gets worked out. It’s a good thing too, as Alvarez is becoming one of the best prospects in the game.
Taylor Ward (LAA, 3B, Triple-A) – In 2016 it looked Taylor Ward’s career had stalled. He was asked to repeat High-A, which is never good for a first-round draft pick, particularly a college pick. But, he started to figure things out and since then, he’s shown the talent that made him a first-round draft pick. He was recently promoted to Triple-A and through 14 games he has a 1.030 OPS with three home runs and three stolen bases. I don’t think he’ll be a star, but he showing enough in the upper minors that fantasy owners should take note.
Adrian Morejon (SD, LHP, High-A) – I was disappointed that neither Chris Paddack nor Adrian Morejon pitched in the California League All-Star Game. Maybe Morejon was tired after striking out 12 of the 23 batters he faced four days prior. Morejon has some of the best stuff in the Padres system and with three quality pitches already, could start to move quickly on his way to the big leagues.
Dane Dunning (CHW, RHP, Double-A) – The Adam Eaton trade continues to bear dividends for the White Sox – and yes, I’m in denial about how bad Lucas Giolito has been. Dane Dunning, the third pitcher in the deal started the year in Winston-Salem but had no trouble in four games and was promoted to Double-A. In 10 starts he’s posted a 2.78 ERA with 65 strikeouts and only 19 walks. He’s not a flamethrower, sitting more 92 to 94 MPH but his secondary pitches have taken a nice step-up this year.
Adonis Medina (PHI, RHP, High-A) – I really liked Adonis Medina when I saw him pitch in Lakewood last season and was disappointed when he got off to a tough start in High-A. He hit the DL in early May and has come back showing the kind of stuff and polish I saw last year. In his 24 innings since his return, he’s given up three earned runs while striking out 27 and walking seven. This includes a 10 strikeout performance earlier this week.