It's the end of a month (practically) and so now seems like a good time to recognize some of the better performances by players in the M's minor league system. After scoring about two runs over the last week for the major league team, isn't it about time we start looking to the future... again?
The M's still have some very exciting players coming through the pipeline, even if they are mostly pitchers just like the big league club. Let's check in on the future and see who had an "awesome April."
Pitcher of the Month
Taijuan Walker, AA Jackson Generals, 19 years of age
April: 3-0, 22 innings, 1.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 26 K/6 BB, 1 HR Allowed, 16 H, 2.33 FIP
Despite being one of the youngest pitchers in double-A, Walker has been dominant in his four starts. He's struck out 30.2% of batters faced whilke only walking six, which is half as many walks as what 2nd overall pick Danny Hultzen as allowed.
There are few better pitching prospects in the minors than Walker at this point.
So far at home, Walker has pitched 17 innings over 3 starts and struck out 22 and walked only 3. It's hard to imagine that Walker will get the call to the bigs this season, but he's taken the step forward ahead of Hultzen and James Paxton at this point and he had the most awesome April of any pitcher in the M's system.
Danny Hultzen: 26.1 innings, 2.05 ERA, .98 WHIP, 30 K/12 BB, 0 HR, 14 H, 2.35 FIP
Hultzen might get the edge on a numbers v number basis, but Walker got the edge based on age-relative-to-competition. Hultzen has allowed 1 ER over his last 22.1 innings. He could get a call by the All-Star Break.
James Paxton: 23.1 innings, 3.09 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 31 K/16 BB, 1 HR, 18 H, 3.10 FIP
In many organizations, Paxton would be the number one pitching prospect, but it's easier to see his faults when he pitches alongside Hultzen and Walker. He needs to control the strikezone better and be more efficient. He's had some really good outings and some really bad ones. He's still got a lot of exciting promise. Could be up in the bigs around the time that Hultzen is.
Andrew Carraway: 27.1 innings, 2.63 ERA, 23 K, 4 BB, 1 HR, 26 H
An admirable job by the guy that has to pitch alongside these three.
Shawn Kelley: 13.2 innings, 1.32 ERA, 18 K/4 BB
Why are you in the minors?!
Jordan Shipers: 30.0 innings, 2.10 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 20 K/8 BB, 1 HR, 29 H
Work to do but keep an eye out on this pitcher for Clinton.
Hitter of the Month
Brad Miller, SS, High Desert Mavericks, 22 years of age
.293/.405/.565, 16.2% BB, 20.7% K, 5 HR, .272 ISO, 14% Line Drives, 18 RBI, 6 2B, 6 SB
Yeah, he gets the High Desert advantage, but Miller was a good prospect before the year and he's still a very good prospect. He might not display great defense yet, but even if he can't stick at short his bat could be good enough to play at most other positions.
Miller has had a few slumps this year and he could stand to strike out less, but he got the edge over other players because of his combination of power, speed, and ability to draw walks. Miller's already drawn 19 walks on the year which is eight more than anyone else on the Mavs, seven more than anyone on the Generals, five more than anyone on the Rainiers, and six more than anyone in Clinton.
He's a lot closer to Dustin Ackley than the eyes may tell you at first. He just needs to cut down on the K's and that might be the comp that Miller starts to draw. Not bad.
Nobody in Clinton, because the highest OPS is .735 (Jharmidy De Jesus) among qualified batters.
Nobody in Tacoma.
Denny Almonte: .330/.384/.582, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB
Still strikes out too much, but it's nice to finally see something out of the former 2nd round pick.
Joe Dunigan: .302/.337/.625, 7 HR, 15 RBI, 5 SB
Not a prospect, but good job Joe!
Nick Franklin: .294/.362/.447, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 14K/9 BB
Improving plate discipline is what we want to see and what we LOVE to see from Franklin. His ratios are much better this season than any previous season.
Vinnie Catricala, 3B, Tacoma Rainiers
I had high hopes that Big Cat would continue to show why he's a great hitter even if he can only play DH, but instead he's responded terribly: .182/.240/.205, 0 HR, 5.2% BB, 14.6% K, .023 ISO.
Big Cat started May off right: 2-for-5 with a double. Let's hope that trend continues. Or he'll just be LOLCat.