By Jim Brown
The 2016 Florida State League All-Star Game will be held on June 18th at Hammond Field, Home of the Fort Myers Miracles (Minnesota). The roster was released on June 3rd and (27) HiA pitchers were listed, with 13 representing the North and 14 for the South Divisions. The list consisted of (12) 2015 UTR Organizational All-Stars with seven of those being true UTR prospects. The home team dominates the South Division staff with 7 pitchers being named. Over on the North side, the Tigers system (Lakeland) landed 4 pitchers and Phillies (Clearwater) earning three. Let’s take a look at which UTR pitchers made the roster for both teams.
For the North Team:Brandon Woodruff (Brevard County – Milwaukee)
- The Brewers lone representative probably won’t be found at Hammond Field. Woodruff received a promotion to Double-A Biloxi last week after getting off to an outstanding start. The 11th round- pick (2014) from Mississippi State University posted a 4-1 record with 1.83 ERA and a K:BB ratio near 5:1 over 44 IP. This also earned the right-hander the Top NL UTR Pitcher for April. The 23 year-old was a 2015 UTR Organizational All-Star, scoring within Top 5 in Factor Score (6) and TPS (.133). His TPS so far this season, stands at .080
- The Venezuelan native was selected by the Phillies as an International free agent in 2012. Rivero has been lingering in the bowels of my radar system over the last two seasons. The right-handed relief pitcher just began to appear this season, but looking back through his stats, has me scratching my head over why his name wasn’t mentioned in my spreadsheets. In 189 career innings, the 21 year-old has posted a 14-5 record with 15 saves, 2.24 ERA and a .210 opponent BA. This season he’s throwing 68% of his pitches for strikes and has only allowed 4 ER over 25.2 innings. Rivero currently serves as the Threshers closer and this will be his second All-Star game (2015 LoA South Atlantic League).
- Signed as an International free agent all the way back in 2011, Garcia is working his way through the system. This season could be the watershed for the young leftie, on whether his production will take him to the next level and become a true prospect. He’s projected as a back-end type and that projection hinges on his curveball becoming a plus offering. He may be currently working on that, but a decrease over the last two seasons of his K9 rate is somewhat alarming, in that its nearing his career average.
- Mayza was a 12th round selection in 2013 out of Millersville University (Pa). His pro career has been rocky even though he’s working up through the system. At 24 years-old, the left-handed reliever is old at his current level which was caused when he took step a back in 2014, when the club demoted him to Bluefield (Pioneer League). Mayza did experience a slight breakout last season at LoA Lansing, his best as a pro, and made my UTR-Organizational All-Star (#3 TPS .080) list for the Blue Jays. Its clicking for him this season, posting at 1.48 ERA in 18 appearances and striking out 37 over 30.1 innings.
- Ladwig can string together solid outings, but doesn’t register many strikeouts. Its odd because 70% of his pitches are thrown for strikes. This season over 59.1 innings, the 11th round pick in 2014 (Wichita State) only has a 6.7 K9 rate and 5.8 over 3 seasons. Whatever, its working for the 6′ 5″ right-hander who is currently within the HiA Top 5 of wins (7) and WHIP (0.97). Batters did made contact against Ladwig last season (153 in 138 IP), but having the control within the zone does limit the free passes. He issued 18 in 2015 and and only four so far this season in 59 innings. The 23 year-old was lights out in April (4-0, 0.78 ERA, 23 IP, 1 BB, 17 K) and was a Top UTR NL Pitcher of the Month, just edging out UTRMinors touted Matt Hall.
- OK, Ok…..Jimenez shouldn’t appear in a posting that is focusing on true UTR’s and he doesn’t qualify with him being ranked #7 by Baseball America in the Tiger system. Well, he’s named here in a effort of self-promotion. Jimenez hit my radar after the 2013 season coming out the Gulf Coast League. I told our readers heading into the 2014 season that the right-handed relief pitcher should be a “One to Watch” and that tag has held up, plus the “Legit UTR” label applied when he earned a 2015 UTR-OAS. At only 21 years-old for whole season, Jimenez was recently promoted to Double-A Erie after posting a 15.5 K9 rate with HiA Lakeland along with 10 saves (ranked #2 in HiA) in 17 appearances. When you strikeout that many, it only means that no-one is traversing the base paths. And I mean nobody this season, as the Jiminez hasn’t allowed a run in 20.1 innings of work and only 21 during his career (138 IP). A LoA (Midwest League) All-Star last season, Jimenez is on track to be the future closer of the Tigers and a commodity to be stashed right now, if you can add him to your roster.
- This 6th rounder (2015) from S. Florida University is moving quickly through the Reds system. Debuting at Billings (Pioneer League) last season, the 22 year-old right-hander skipped LoA and began 2016 with Daytona. Looking back at his 2015 stats (3-0, 3.20 ERA, 15 saves, 25.1 IP, 9 ER, 11 BB, 25 K, 24 appearances), there nothing outstanding that would convince a pass-over LoA Dayton. Herget might have that “it factor” if this ambitious assignment was a test. The “It” could be his mechanics, as he can throw from a low 3/4 slot and overhand. The 3/4 slot really makes him look like a sidearmer, but its unique in that the mechanics don’t show the sweeping motion from throwing to the side…..it appears to be explosive and deceptive. Here’s a clip from Spring Training….you be the scout. Herget should appear at seasons-end as a relief pitcher UTR-OAS.
- Another relief pitcher, in which we haven’t heard from since Opening Day, when the 14th round selection (2014) from UCLA made a daily mention. The 23 year-old didn’t have a blistering scouting report coming out of the draft, but here he is…making it to HiA and an All-Star selection in just over 2 seasons. The knock on Ehret was that he had below average command and control, and the report looked true during his time in the AZL and LoA (69 K’s and 50 BB in 86.2 IP). Not the case this season with a 9.7 K9 and 2.2 BB rates in 21 appearances (28.2 IP).
- Adams is my HiA All-Star “bubble UTR”, with him being drafted in the 5th round in 2015. I’ll give him a mention for gliding through 3-levels in 2015 as a relief pitcher and All-Star honor in 2016 as a starter, his first as a pro. He had an outstanding May, by not allowing more than one run over 33 innings. He’s currently 4-0 with a 2.91 ERA over 11 starts.
- For the first time in the short-life of UTRMinors, Marc and I can credit a UTR prospect together. Wick came to the Cardinals organizations with promise of raw power and it shined during his time at Short-Season State College, and Marc tagged him as a 2014 UTR-OAS . Wick started behind the plate, but that didn’t go well and he was moved to the outfield due to his plus-arm strength. As his pre-draft scouting report stated: “Wick stands out for his plus to plus-plus raw power, but his feel for hitting is a huge question mark”, and that question mark reared its ugly head during the early part of the 2015 season. The LoA pitchers exploited his grooved swing and all-of-a-sudden, things become extremely hard for the 9th round pick from 2012. So, another move had to be made, this time to the mound. As a right-handed reliever, Wick made three appearances for the GCL Cardinals and showed flashes with a low 90’s fastball. If you would have played out this scenario to any hardcore baseball fan, and asked them what team would handle the player in the best way…..the majority (if not all) of them would say St. Louis. Not only are they best known for player development, they have done this before with Jason Motte and Sam Tuivailala. Knowing that Wick is behind the developmental clock, the Cards assigned him to HiA Palm Beach and molded a mid-season All-Star. In 20 appearances, the 23-year-old is 2-1 with 6 saves, 1.90 ERA, and striking out 36 over 23.2 innings.
- Though I haven’t found any clips of Miller, his scouting report coming out of Vanderbilt (15 Rd 2014) stated that he has the same mechanics has North Division All-Star Jimmy Herget but with more upside. He can change the delivery of his offerings pitch by pitch, especially his slider, that can come at hitters at any angle. If this is still the case, its working for the right-hander in posting a 0.86 ERA, 2-1, 6 saves, 21 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, 20 K in 15 appearances. I love the control aspect with his stats and that its also bolstered with a 62% groundball rate.
- Before we go further with Landa, who by-the-way is also a relief pitcher, you’ll ask…..where are the starting pitchers for the South squad? Well…..most are top prospects and, of course, won’t qualify as an UTR. Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, and Tyler Jay (Minnesota), Brent Honeywell (Tampa Bay), and Austin Gomber (St.Louis) are the meat of the staff for the North. All the named pitchers, except Gomber (4th Rd) are ranked within the Top 10 of their respective teams. I would think Jay could get the start, so Landa will be joining his other teammates in relief roles. The international signee in 2010 is ranked #23 by Baseball America and the organization is high on the righty, as they added him the 40-man roster. Landa flirted on my radar back in 2014, especially when he made the LoA (Midwest) All-Star roster. But a shoulder injury that required surgery sidelined him from the classic and the rest of the season. The 21 year-old is working his back, but his control is slow to return (4.9 BB9).
- The Miracles will basically have their whole starting rotation playing the mid-season game, and Felix Jorge is the only UTR amongst the group. Signed as a non-drafted free agent back in 2011, Jorge has made multiple appearances on this site. Toward the end of my time providing content to MLBDepthCharts.com (now RosterResource) and assigning TPS scores to AL pitchers, Jorge score high within my spreadsheets in 2013. The following season he regressed, but tore into the 2015 season with a vengeance.That breakout year, he garnered…..Top AL UTR Pitcher for May, LoA (Midwest) All-Star spot, Ranked #1 as a UTR-OAS (Factor Score 14, one of the highest among all Minor League AL pitchers), and cracking the Baseball America Top 25 for the Twins. Nothing different is occurring in 2016, as the 22 year-old right-hander has already received the Top AL UTR Pitcher for April, and would have captured May if it wasn’t for a lights-out month for LoA Cedar Rapids Randy LeBlanc. Jorge has posted a 4-3 record, 1.83 ERA, 59 IP, 12 ER…and displaying plus command with 9 BB and 47 strikeouts.
- What you see is what you’ll get from the righthanded reliever out of the Dominican Republic. After the 2014 season when the 2010 International free agent was named a UTR-OAS, I had wrote that his development was slowed due to spending a total of four season between the DSL and GCL. This was after he put up respectable numbers at LoA Greenboro. He was assigned to HiA Jupiter to start the the 2015 season and after 33 appearances, he posted almost identical numbers from the previous season. The Marlins awarded him a promotion to Double-A Jacksonville to close out the season. Things didnt go well there, as he may have ran out of gas with an ERA of 7.11 over 3 appearances. Back to Jupiter for 2016, it what could be a carbon-copy season for the just turned 25-year old. The clocking is ticking though and De La Rosa may just be organizational filler at this point.
- As a Pirate fan, I easily got out of control when typing Heredia’s blurb, to the tune of 250+ words. As I went back to proof-read, it dawned that I should just move this to its own article. So, look for for it to post shortly after this list hits the site. Let’s just say that I’m happy to see Heredia making the FSL All-Star roster, but that wasn’t the case in the early part of his career. And in the shape that the Pirates organization was back then…..happy wasn’t a feeling that we got to experience very much, until the last couple of the years.
- This 23 year-old righthander began his pro career with the San Francisco Giants when he signed as an International free agent in 2011. He spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League working strictly from the bullpen. December 2014, he was a trade chip in the deal that sent Casey McGehee from the Marlins to the Giants for another minor leaguer, Kendry Flores. Flores was the focal piece in the deal. He was a past UTR stalwart during my time with MLBDepthCharts.com and is currently the #5 ranked propect for the Marlins. Castillo maybe right on his heels. Since coming over to the Fish, the 23 year-old has many mentions on this site. He was the 2015 Top NL UTR Pitcher for July, 2015 UTR-OAS (#3 TPS .096), and again Top NL UTR Pitcher for this past April. The 2015 mentions were the most important, as he was only moved into the rotation in early June and proved durable in 16 starts. He is just coming into his own and latest reports read have him throwing in the high 90’s, touching 100+ on occasions.
Next up…..I will rundown the All-Star pitchers for the HiA California/Carolina League, LoA Midwest, and LoA South Atlantic League. These leagues will play their games on June 21st.