A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend three days with our Short-Season A affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds.
At the time of my arrival, the team had been through a tough stretch and had a 12-21 record. Nevertheless, they rallied to win all three games while I was there and have gone on to win 11 out of the 14 since then, dispelling any notion that I brought any good luck. Oh well.
Going to Short-Season A is generally my favorite trip of the year. There is just nothing better in mid-to-late summer than taking a few days to see your new draftees playing together in pro ball for the first time. It's even better when you get to see them experience some success, as the Ems have this year (currently 1.0 game out of first).
To be honest, I generally don't put a lot of stock into individual performance in Short-Season, at least as it relates to predicting a player's future. Some players take a while to sign and lose their sharpness, other are exhausted from a long college season, and others are simply bigger and stronger and more immediately capable with the wood bat. Of course, it's always nice to see a few guys put up big years.
Sawyer Carroll was our compensation pick after the third round this year out of Kentucky, and he has more than fulfilled our expectations of him as a hitter. Sawyer currently leads the Northwest League in slugging and extra base hits, is second in runs scored and rbi, and third in homers.
Dan Robertson, out of nearby Oregon State, has been the team's engine since the season began. Playing the outfield and occasionally DH'ing, the sparkplug has put together a .370/.448/.487 line so far to go along with 17 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Playing all-out all the time on both sides of the ball, Dan has quickly become a fan favorite in Eugene.
Blake Tekotte, despite taking some time due to Miami's participation in the College World Series, has also had a stellar start to his pro career. The leadoff-hitting centerfielder is hitting .319 with a .406 obp, and a .560 slg, already smacking four homers in fewer than 100 ab's.
Our most recent signings, Matt Clark and Cole Figueroa, don't seem to have missed a beat, as combined they're hitting .338 with a .470 obp and a .513 slg in 100 pa's. Even better, both players have shown a good feel for the strike zone in addition to their power.
Two very young players, Jeudy Valdez and Emmanuel Quiles, also really impressed me with their play while I was there. Jeudy is a 19-year old SS who shows middle infield instincts along with real bat potential. Emmanuel is an 18-year old catcher from Puerto Rico who can really throw and also showed some pop during my visit. We have certainly pushed these two players by placing them at this level, but they are handling it well and should be better for it next year.
On the pitching side, Pablo Menchaca, Geoff Vandel, and Simon Castro are all in the top ten in the league in ERA (4th, 5th, and 7th, respectively). Menchaca shows a good sinker, Vandel is a lefty with solid secondary pitches, and Castro has the biggest arm of the group, reaching 95 mph.
Out of the pen, Anthony Bass, our 5th round pick this year, has posted a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings of work. His velocity has consistently been up to 93 mph, and he's shown a good slider as well. Robert Musgrave, a left-hander from Wichita State, has simply been outstanding, striking out 48 batters and walking five over 30.1 innings.
There are a number of others having nice years as well (OF Bobby Verbick, RHP Tyson Bagley, RHP Nick Vincent, RHP Erik Davis, RHP Tyler Davis, etc), which is why the team is now on a roll. Hopefully they can finish off their run and win a championship in their first season together.