While the past week has not been a good one for the Major League club, it's been quite the opposite for a trio of our young position player prospects who are all in AAA for the first time.
Over the past seven games Matt Antonelli, Nick Hundley, and Will Venable have been raking. Here is how it breaks out:
Antonelli: .407 avg, .484 obp, .481 slg
Hundley: .345 avg, .387 obp, .483 slg
Venable: .375 avg, .423 obp, .625 slg
Small sample size? Absolutely. Nonetheless, it's encouraging to see all of these guys playing well at this point in the year.
As players move up levels, there is usually an adjustment period. This doesn't always happen, but it's expected to happen, especially when we feel as though we are pushing guys. In this particular case, there was a fair argument for starting all three of these players in AA this season: Antonelli had just a partial season above A-ball, while both Hundley and Venable basically jumped High-A to go to AA last year which was a leap in itself. However, our player development staff believed all three were ready for the challenge of AAA.
When we make a move like that with a player, the month of June is an important one. If a player has struggled early for whatever reason (tougher league, bad weather, more travel, etc), we want to see some improvement as the season continues. For instance, when we pushed Hundley to AA last year his first three months looked like this:
April: .206 avg, .264 obp, .365 slg
May: .250 avg, .321 obp, .460 slg
June: .280 avg, .349 obp, .560 slg
It's usually not so obvious (or so linear), but by the end of June it was clear that Nick had found his stride in AA. Here's the key point: Nick's performance trend showed us that facing the better competition was making him better, not beating him down.
We talked about this a bit in the Headley discussion, and there were some great comments on the subject. In short, there's always a fine line between challenging a player so that he can continue his development and challenging a player to the point of frustration and loss of confidence. In the case of Antonelli, Hundley, and Venable, we're encouraged that all three are getting better by facing the tougher competition in AAA.