By Jim Brown
On Tuesday June 21st, there are three more All-Star games on-tap. I already covered the UTR Pitchers for the HiA California/Carolina game and below are the hurlers for the LoA South Atlantic League, affectionally known as the SALLY. The SAL classic will be played in Lexington, Kentucky at the Whitaker Bank Ballpark, Home to the Lexington Legends (Kansas City affiliate). I will follow-up with the arms that will be making appearances in the third game for the LoA Midwest League All-Stars.
North DivisionTanner Banks (Kannapolis – Chicago White Sox)
- Banks wont be participating in the mid-season game, as he was promoted to HiA Winston-Salem on June 8th. He earned his first start on June 12 and the adrenaline must have been pumping, in giving up 9 hits and 5 earned runs in 6 innings of work. The bright side was the 18th round pick didnt walk a hitter and struck out five. It all settled down in his next start, where he picked up the W, scattering 3 hits over 7 scoreless innings. His All-Star resume consisted of going 6-3 with 2.87 ERA, including a stretch of six consecutive wins. He was named UTRMinors Top UTR AL Pitcher for April.
- Two arms from the Grasshoppers made the roster, but it appears only one will be taking the mound. We will cover Ben Holmes first as he was also promoted to HiA Jupiter last week. While at Greensboro, the 9th round pick in 2014 from Oregon St went 5-0 along with a 1.36 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 46.1 innings. Prior to his work in the bullpen, the lefty made 35 starts over that last two season. His pro debut at short-season Batavia was his best in sporting a 2.95 ERA in 11 starts. That performance charted Holmes as a UTR “One to Watch” for the 2015 season, where he put-up s0-s0 numbers at Greensboro, with a stint at Jupiter.
- Robinson hit the DL with a listed back strain in late May, and it appeared he may not be able to make it back in time for the game. But he returned on June 13th with a little rust, but was able to pick-up the save after allowing 2 earned runs. It was all back to normal this past Friday night, as the 12th rounder (2013) came in to slam the door with another save. The 23 year old took over the closer role with the Grasshoppers when Steven Farnworth was moved into the rotation in late April. That move went well, as Farnworth earned Top UTR NL Pitcher for the Marlins in May. Robinson settled into the role nicely with a 11 saves in 19 appearances and a 6.75 K:BB ratio in 23.2 innings.
- This 11th round pick from last year is putting up ridiculous numbers. He currently has an ERA of 0.78 and 48 strikeouts over 34.2 innings. Comparing his peripherals over his debut year to this season, they are all in the same neighborhood, the good part of town. He was an All-Star last season in the New York-Penn League and a Top UTR OAS for 2015.
- Payano showed up on my radar at the end the 2013 season when he finished with a 1.5 BB9 and 7.5 K rates. These ratios were a marked improvement when compared to his debut season in 2012. I earmarked the then 18 year old on my International Watch List for the 2014 season. I thought there would be an outside chance that Payano would come state-side to start the season, but the Rangers assigned him to repeat the DSL. In fact, even with another outstanding season (7-2 2.96 ERA), he again repeated the DSL to start the 2015 season. But after 3 starts, the organization could wait no longer and brought Payano into the Arizona League where he exploded in posting a 6-0 record and a 1.55 ERA. A jump to LoA Hickory was next and he continued to succeed. The now 21 year old is back in Hickory for 2016 and is still putting up decent numbers. The right-hander was my choice for the Ranger’s 2016 “One to Watch”. This was on the heels of back-to-back UTR OAS mentions for 2014 and 2015. He also was the 2016 Top UTR AL Pitcher for April.
- Swanson is getting his first shot to start as a pro and things are going really well. The 8th round selection in 2014 is currently 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA, along with 14 walks and 52 strikeouts over 53.2 innings. His debut year in the bullpen wasn’t spectacular, but showed promised with a 9.3 K9 and 2.7 BB9 rates. Last season was odd in that he didn’t begin the season until early June, where he made one appearance at Triple-A Round Rock and then shipped to Double-A Frisco for another before settling-in at LoA Hickory. My UTR list for the Rangers is very thin, so without doubt, Swanson should find his way to be mentioned as a OAS at seasons end.
- The 22 year old International signee in 2012 makes the roster by going 6-2 with an 3.13 ERA over 13 starts.
South DivisionPatrick Weigel (Rome – Atlanta)
- Weigel has been “steady as it goes” this season, and taking the page from Baseball America, the 7th rounder (2015) is on helium watch at UTRMinors. The big 21 year old (6’6″ 220 lbs) has been rolling since taking a loss on May 6th, by going 3-0, 2.23 ERA, 40.1 IP, 30 H, 10 ER, 15 BB, 43 K over 7 starts. I need to take heed when falling for a UTR pitcher in the Braves system. Ive gotten burnt by the likes of Alec Grosser (so far), Andy Otero, Wes Parson, and Gus Schlosser all with helium at one time. So I’ll take it steady with Weigel and see if he earns a UTR-OAS for 2016, to go along with his mention from 2015.
- The Charleston RiverDogs will be showing-up in force Tuesday night in Lexington. They will be bringing 5 pitchers to the classic, as Christian Morris and Nestor Cortes were last-minute adds to the roster, to fill out those who cant make it. As for Vargas, who was signed as a free agent by the Rangers in January of 2012 and was later released in July. The Yankees snatched him the following January and reports say they found a gem. The 23 year old righthander is said to have a live arm, with projectable stuff, and could be on the fast-track as a back-of-the rotation type. He started the season in the bullpen and the organization took notice of his wares and quickly moved him into the rotation.
- The Yankees pilfered Vargas from the waiver wire and got another hidden gem, in Schwaab, after the 2015 draft. Signed as a non-drafted free agent, the 23 years old righthander had a horrible 2014 season at Missouri (6.06 ERA), but came back with an outstanding 2015. The call never came on draft day, until two weeks later when the Yankees signed him. Schwaab currently leads in the LoA with 14 saves, along with a 4-1 record and 1.80 ERA.
- Carroll was a surprise to see on the roster. Looking at his stat lines, nothing stands out. The 22nd round pick (2015) has been used as as swingman this season, in making 5 starts (1-2, 3.00 ERA, 24 IP, 14 BB, 16 K) and 8 relief appearances (1-0, 3 saves, 2.22 ERA, 28.1 IP, 12 BB, 33 K). His 1.88 K/BB ratio is in-line with what he posted during 3 seasons at Southern Mississippi.
- Conlon will get the honor to start the All-Star game for the South Division, And why not…he’s currently 8-1 (after starting 7-0) with a 1.84 ERA in 12 starts. Born is Belfast, Ireland, the 13th round pick (2015) out of San Diego University is looking to be the first Irish-born player to make to the MLB since 1945. The 22 year old lefthander leads all of LoA in wins (8) and 4th with a 1.00 WHIP. He began his pro debut as a reliever at short-season Brooklyn, where he made 17 appearances and didn’t allow an earned run and only walked two (one intentional) over 17 innings. He was the Top UTR NL Pitcher in April, where in one start, he pitched through 10 innings in a 1-1 tied game. He followed that in next start by taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning.
- Ogando will be the lone arm representing the Lexington staff. He has gone 4-7 thus far this season with a 4.46 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts). The 12th round pick in 2015 got off the fast start in April working out of the bullpen and then was moved into the rotation in May. His outings earned him the Top UTR AL Pitcher for May out of the Kansas City low minors. Things haven’t been going good since May 26th. The lefty has made 5 starts, going 0-5 with a 4.71 ERA and giving up 4 home runs along with 6 extra base hits. Bright spot over that time was the 5 walks and 25 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.
- When my system flagged Raudes after the 2015 season and I tagged him as “One to Watch” for 2016, I had no idea this 18 year olds potential would blossomed so quickly. Currently the ranked #24 in Baseball America within the Red Sox system, it shouldn’t be long for him to ascend to the top spot and be in Fenway by 2019. Unfortunately, the fans in Lexington wont see the righty phenom, as he is unable to participate. Raudes was a 2015 UTR-OAS and the Top UTR AL Pitcher in May for the Red Sox.
- Santos was my choice for the Giants “One to Watch” for the 2015 season. His development stagnated, as he started the season at LoA Augusta and spent a stint back in the Arizona League. He’s back in Augusta and seems to be back on-track in getting an All-Star nod. The 21 year old is currently 4-2 with an ERA of 2.91 over 10 starts and 58.2 innings. The impressive stat is that he only has issued 5 walks.