It's always nice to put in some legwork and leave a little something for the folks to read in their *ahem* abundant spare time scrolling through Bucs Dugout. Let's go for one more around the horn. I know one just went up two weeks ago, only because there was no way I was using part of my July 4th weekend to write a silly fanpost. Much like I'm not wasting my early Sunday morning now.
There may come a time, somewhere down the road, where we all look back at today and consider it the beginning of a fresh start. The day after the 2009 trading deadline, the lone superstar on the major league team went ape at the plate, while just about every single recent acquisition (Ascanio, Clement, Alderson, Lorin, Harrison) showed something worth giving them a closer look down the road.
I won't ramble on about specific game performances from tonight, though I'd like to, especially since Pat is already gushing about the Indy game over at WHYGAVS.
High time for one last roundup of the month that was in July (and oh, what a month it was!) A lot of players continuing to establish themselves as legitimate prospects (or at least consistent producers), while a few others finally showed what we had been hoping to see. All the names you have come to know and love appear in the summary this time - heck, even the short season boys have played enough games that their numbers are marginally relevant.
Like the title says, I'm going to start from the top, so let's take a cruise through the great state of Indiana and see what we find...
Jose Tabata - The boy doesn't even turn 21 until a week from Tuesday, but he's so close.... Tabata finally got a full healthy month at Altoona and used it to his advantage, cracking the bat to the tune of a .357 average and .888 OPS. Sure, he didn't really hit for any power, but he shot his contact way up while maintaining a reasonable K/BB ratio (10 and 5 in 112 AB's), all of which points to a guy well on his way. Going 3-for-3 in his AAA debut didn't hurt either.
Brian Bixler - "Hey," you ask, "what's this no-talent clown doing in the roundup?" Well...gosh, I don't know. Call me an optimist. I know this is Bixler we're talking about, so everything comes with an entire shaker of salt, but still - how can you summarize July and not include a guy who hit .343 with a 1.029 OPS for the month? Sure, his K rate is still...well, "fugly" might be generous (62 against 14 BB in 200 AB the last two months), but there's still some part of me that hopes and dreams that Bixler can sustain a line somewhere close to halfway in between his hideous June and his absurd July (what would be roughly a .292/.338/.480 line).
Daniel McCutchen - Looks like somebody finally is learning? Well, perhaps. D-Mac had his best month yet, posting a 2.10 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 8.5:1 K/BB ratio in five July starts. Which sounds awesome, until you realize that he still only struck out 17 batters in 30+ innings, and his GB/FB ratio is still a rather gruesome 0.49. I actually watched one of his outings, and he looks an awful lot like Jeff Karstens on the mound, so it's not too surprising that their AAA numbers look similar. Still, I'll give credit where it's due, every stat except his strikeouts (including his FIP) has improved each month, so maybe he can still prove me wrong.
Also of note: Eric Hacker has had a progression similar to McCutchen, with the extra bullet point to make that he's getting crushed by lefties...Brad Lincoln pumped out two strong starts to close out July and appears to be settling in for the final month.
Altoona (AA) -
Pedro Alvarez - Apparently there's this guy at Altoona, and everyone thought he might be a good hitter? Well, those folks may have been right. Alvarez finished July with a .352 average and .977 OPS, putting to rest some of the worries he generated earlier this season and showing what he can really do. It's still a fairly small sample size, but his L/R split is still not pretty, so hopefully with more exposure he can continue this upward trend he has finally started.
Miles Durham - Right behind Pedro (and Tabata, quite literally) in Altoona's lineup, Durham spent July pasting the ball at a .330/.910 clip after hitting well at Lynchburg. Yes, I am aware of the fact that Durham is a 26-year-old non-prospect, but it's nice to know that maybe we won't have to send him packing when the next wave of talent comes in. Useful org soldiers are always nice (*looks at Jason Delaney*)
Jim Negrych - He finished July strong and looks to have fully regained whatever he lost earlier this year. Doesn't mean he's the next big thing, just that he's perhaps pulled himself back from the brink of irrelevance for a while.
Also of note: I was going to briefly discuss the pitching, but really, how many times can one type "kind of decent" before it loses what little meaning it has?
Erik Huber - I am officially declaring Erik 2009's Steve Pearce. After tearing up West Virginia, Huber bumped up to Lynchburg, and in spite of posting his fifth hitless game last night, Huber still has a .415/.976 line through 14 games. Small sample size, sure, and with minimal power, but that's just enough for him to likely start next season in Altoona at age 25 and continue that role of marginal prospect-y goodness that Pearce once filled.
Justin Wilson - After giving up five earned runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 IP to start the month of July, Wilson has since lowered his ERA more than a run and a half with several...stronger performances to close out July. Emphasis on relative strength due to his 17:13 K/BB in that span, but he's currently strung together 10 1/3 scoreless innings with eight K's and only three walks, so I'll certainly keep an eye on his next outing Wednesday.
Also of note: Ronald Uviedo has struggled in two outings since returning to the lineup from rehab, but much like Morris, give the guy some time...Jeff Locke came to play this past Wednesday, striking out seven and only allowing one run (a solo HR) in six innings of work, our first glimpse of what could be for him.
West Virginia (A-)
Starling Marte - I don't know where this boy came from, but I like him. Marte, who will turn 21 in October, has been dominating at the plate since arriving in West Virginia, he is currently in the midsts of a 17-game hitting streak that dates all the way back to July 8th - it's been almost a month since Marte went hitless (watch me jinx him). He'll need to keep hitting and progressing to avoid the age/level discussion, but so far, so good.
Also of note: Quincy Latimore showed back up in July to the tune of a .330/943 line, though his K's are still pretty high...Robbie Grossman had by far his worst month for average (.233) and kept striking out, but his walk rate shot through the roof (19.6%), which is definitely a good sign...Casey Erickson continues to shine, with two earned runs and a 14:3 ration in 20 2/3 IP as a Pirate.
State College (SS)
Not a lot to talk about at State College, lots of inconsistent performances. However...
Phillip Irwin - Aside from looking like the illegitimate lovechild of Bill Laimbeer and Patrick Warburton, Irwin has been pretty darn good so far for the Spikes. He has allowed only one earned run in 20 innings while racking up 22 strikeouts against only three walks. Hopefully he can be just as affective next season since he'll already be 23.
Kyle McPherson - Kyle was pitching strong in the Spikes rotation after successfully transitioning there from the bullpen in West Virginia, but he only lasted three innings in his most recent start, then was skipped in his most recent turn on Wednesday. Might just be innings monitoring, might not.
Roberto Espinoza is seventeen years old, and his last outing of six earned runs in five innings took his ERA up to 2.88. Maybe we should start paying attention to him? Nineteen-year-old Eric Avila continues to hit and hit well, with a .341/.908 line through two months of ball in the Dominican...Fraylin Campos continues to dominate, though his peripherals have fluctuated a bit from outing ot outing.
So there you have it. Longwinded? Sure. Informative? Well, I hope so, otherwise I just drank all that Mountain Dew for nothing.
[ADDENDUM by Charlie: Also a few interesting performances at Bradenton. Jhonathan Ramos turns 20 this week and has a 24:1 K:BB ratio; second-rounder Brooks Pounders has been terrific so far; and Australian Mitchell Fienemann hasn't allowed a run in his last four outings.]