Josh Phegley continues to tear it up on the offensive side. And he attributes it to a minor tweak in his mechanics. Whatever the reason, though, there's not much that can be said to minimize his .347/.409/.686 line, which has been fueled in large measure by 20 extra-base hits, 10 of them home runs. Sure, those numbers are obviously unsustainable and probably will constitute the best four or five weeks of his MiLB career. But he's finally looking like the offensive force he was billed as coming out of Indiana University.
The issue, of course, remains his defense, which (despite a dubious MiLB gold glove award) doesn't garner rave reviews. While there's a growing chorus calling for Phegley to be brought up to the majors - particularly given the lack of production from the catchers - there's reason to resist that. Baseball Prospectus is still putting the "backup catcher profile" on him and Baseball America goes further, calling him "an unrefined defensive catcher". He's got a big arm but that's about it. The White Sox catching coaches managed to make Tyler Flowers, who most thought was hopeless behind the plate, into a solid catcher. It's worth it to see if they can coax some more improvement out of the 25 year-old Phegley, since his small stature and lack of range probably would only permit a move to left-field.
A couple notable transactions this week: Myles Jaye promoted to Winston-Salem and Rangel Ravelo is off Winston-Salem's disabled list.
Who gets a spot start at the major league level (or who is called up as the 26th man for a double-header) is usually more luck than anything else. A pitcher may be third or fourth on the organization's depth chart but if he's the one rested, he's got a big advantage. And with John Danks returning to the White Sox as soon as this week, Dylan Axelrod/Hector Santiago will be a further block to a minor league starting pitcher. But, as the White Sox have seen this year, things can change quickly. Now that we're around the quarter-pole of the MiLB season, it's a good time to check in with the starter depth chart.
Simon Castro is one who is vying for the top spot. While he's winless and has an ERA of 5.36, that can be chalked up to a punchless Knights offense and a roller-coaster ride. He's had 8 GS and 4 of them can be characterized as bad and the other 4 can be characterized as excellent. But except for his first start of the year, his peripherals haven't been bad. In 45.1 innings, he's given up 44 hits, walked 14 and struck out 37.
Erik Johnson is probably the other potential holder of the top spot. The work he's done at Birmingham can only be described as superb. The big difference this year is his change-up, which can now be argued as a plus pitch. Coupled with his two-seamer and slider, he may well be ready to pull a Jose Quintana and go straight from AA to MLB. In 8 starts, he's thrown 45.1 innings, given up 29 hits, walked 15 and struck out 47. While he's been BABIP-lucky, he's legit. Check out an interview with him here.
Andre Rienzo is a distant third. He had a busy offseason, pitching in the Arizona Fall League, then the Venezuelan Winter League and then in the World Baseball Classic for Brazil. And it seems to be catching up to him. In his 8 starts, he's only thrown two good outings, with the rest being various shades on the bad to horseshit spectrum. When a guy who has been successful in the past has been this bad, it's hard to draw any conclusions from it. I've thought he's probably destined for the bullpen but there wasn't any need to push that on him before being sure he can't start. And this season hasn't helped to clarify that. He's seen his strikeout rate plummet, his BABIP climb and his strand rate hit a ridiculously low 49%. In 37 innings for Charlotte, 48 hits, 17 walks and 33 strikeouts.