Several days ago I mentioned that my tracking period for minor league pitchers was winding down. It seems (in our minds) that each season becomes shorter and shorter as time flies by. Speaking of short seasons, you know things are nearing the end when the Short-Season Rookie Leagues post their All-Star rosters. Their schedules are only for 70+ games and they are already halfway through their season. Today we will focus on the recently announced Pioneer League roster, who will go up against the Northwest League on August 2nd. The classic will be played at Lindquist Field, home of the LA Dodgers affiliate Odgen Raptors. Marc and I love these deep leagues, as they are the harbinger of the UTR’s that could be impact sleepers of the future. The Pioneer roster is chalked-full for true UTR’s. Only two pitchers announced were drafted above the 5th round (Helena’s Nash Walters (3rd) and Billings Antonio Santillan (2nd), with Santillan the only Pioneer prospect ranked within his teams’ Top 15 prospect list. The Helena Brewers garnered the most pitchers on the roster with three, followed by two each from Great Falls, Billings, and Missoula. I’ll post the Northwest League shortly…and then follow-up with the NY-Penn League All-Star roster too.
Jordan Desguin (Helena – Milwaukee) 22 years old
This righthander was the Brewers 36th round selection in 2015. He’s currently within the Pioneer League Top 5 in innings (40), strikeouts (40), and WHIP (1.13). He has been the lone bright spot of the Helena staff which is last in the league with an 6.23 ERA and, as a team has the worse first-half record of 15-23. Desguin has made three Pitcher of the Day mentions and his excelling after a successful pro debut last season with the AZL Brewers. He also was named as the best Rookie League pitcher for the Brewers for June by UTRMinors. He is a converted shortstop that made the move to the mound on the advice from a Junior College coach who needed arms to fill a depleted staff wrecked from injuries.Colton Cross (Helena – Milwaukee) 23 years old
Helena maybe near the bottom of the league in record and stats, but they boast having the most pitchers in the All-Star game. Cross is another low draft pick (31st Rd – 2015) of the Brewers who is having a good season so far. The 6-foot 200 lbs righthander is 3 for 3 in saves and has a 2.03 ERA, in which all 3 earned runs occurred during his appearance against Billings in July 11th.Andrew Jordan (Billings – Cincinnati) 18 years old
Jordan was drafted out of high school in 2015 (13th Rd) and is getting his first taste of receiving the ball every 4th or 5th day. Of his seven starts, the first five were qualified scorers within my system, but has been roughed-up over the last two, and he has made one daily mention on June 23rd. The righty is 0-2, a 2.86 ERA over 34.2 innings, and 13 walks with 36 strikeouts. I listed Jordan as the Reds best Rookie League pitcher for June.Dean Jackson (Missoula – Arizona) 22 years old
A towering figure on the hill, Jackson reaches 6’7″ 225 lbs and was passed over during the June draft. The Diamondbacks signed the righthander as a non-drafted free agent out of Arizona Christian, where Baseball America named him as one of the Top 5 prospects in the NAIA. Jackson came close to contributing in a no-hitter back on June 20th, coming in-relief for Connor Grey. It ended-up as a one-hitter as Nate Blackburn allowed a hit late in the game. In 10 appearances, Jackson is 3-0, 1.02 ERA and has only allowed two earned runs over 17.2 innings with 20 strikeouts.Connor Grey (Missoula – Arizona) 22 years old
A host of Pioneer pitchers lead the League with four wins, including Connor Grey. Drafted in the 20th round in 2016 out of St. Bonaventure (NY), the righthander is also second in the league with a 1.10 WHIP. He’s made one daily mention (7/23) and was just missed another of July 11th but was listed on that day’s Radar Blip. Grey is currently 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA over 40 innings.Aron McRee (Great Falls – Chicago White Sox) 22 years old
McRee has been the impact UTR among the Rookie Leagues thus far. In his eight appearances (7 starts), he has been listed 5-times out of his last five starts, as the best Pioneer League pitcher of the Day. In looking back through my database, that has never been done since I have began tracking in 2009. What’s more astounding is that McRee was acquired as a non-drafted free agent this past June. He currently leads the Pioneer in Wins (4), IP (44.1) WHIP (0.83) and has a team best 2.64 ERA. The righthander has shown great control with only allowing two walks over 44.1 innings with 37 strikeouts.Jake Elliott (Great Falls – Chicago White Sox) 21 years old
Relief pitchers have the hardest time getting mentioned on the site, considering the amount of appearances on any given night. So its safe to state that they can get over-looked by me during the season, which is why I keep a separate tracking sheet on them. This way I can run each of them through my TPS system during the post-season and see what cream rises. Jake Elliott falls into that category. He listed on my spreads, but I probably wouldn’t heed notice until his name crops-up as a UTR-Organizational All-Star this winter. The 15th round pick in 2015 is currently 2-1, 1.47 ERA in 10 appearances. One of those relief outings lasted five innings where he only allowed one-hit and struck out seven.Roberth Fernandez (Odgen – Los Angeles Dodgers) 21 years old
A lefty on the Pioneer All-Star staff, Fernandez is a International free-agent (2013) out of Venezuela. After spending two seasons in the DSL, the Dodgers aggressively assigned him to LoA Great Lakes where he was overmatched during his 6 appearances. He trickled his way back down the AZL level to finish out the 2015 season and is back in the Pioneer League to start anew. His stats thus far aren’t all-star quality, as he has allowed 21 earned runs over 34.2 innings (5.45 ERA). The bright spot would the 4.0 K/BB ratio.Kenny Oakley (Grand Junction – Colorado) 22 years old
Oakley has been lights out if it wasn’t for the .381 batting average against with runners on which ballooned his ERA to 5.84. This just occurred on July 29th where he gave up 6 ER in 2/3 innings and prior to that appearance his ERA stood at 1.54. Other than that, the 31st pick (2016) has made 10 appearances, getting 3 saves in four opportunities, a 16.1 K9 rate, and 5.5 K:BB ratio.Alex Luna (Idaho Falls – Kansas City) 23 years old
Luna was a 10th round selection in 2015 and currently leads the Pioneer League with a 2.48 ERA and runner-up to Billings’ Antonio Santillan with 42 strikeouts. The uptick in K’s is promising even though Luna was noted as a groundball specialist coming out of the draft. He has seen a drop in his GB rate from 59% in 2015 to 51% this season. The righthander is a finesse-type that works the zone with a 3-pitch mix including a fastball with some sink. He must be working inside the plate alot during his counts, as he has plucked seven batters thus far, which is second most in the league. Luna is among a group with a league-leading 4 wins.Nate Bertness (Orem – Los Angeles Angels) 20 years old
This lefthander has made the most appearances (5) of any Pioneer pitcher on my tracking spreadsheets, with his only mention on the “Radar Blip” on June 26th. He leads the league (with 6 others) with four wins and is second behind Alex Luna with an 2.62 ERA. Bertness (16th Rd- 2015) has a lanky 6’6″ 205 lbs frame that will fill-out over time and only add velocity to his fastball, which accompanies his already deceptive delivery.