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Minor League Weekly Update: Week 3

While Luis Robert and Steele Walker continue their MVP of the week streak, Nicky Delmonico and Gavin Sheets are starting to break out

Power surge: Gavin Sheets hit his first two home runs this week.

The Charlotte Knights are still on top of the their division and had some transaction news. First, Ryan Cordell was recalled last week after continuing his hot hitting in Triple-A, with Daniel Palka sent down in the corresponding move. Palka already has more hits in three Triple-A games than he had all season in the majors. Meanwhile, Zack Burdi is back from extended spring training, kind of. He is still slotted to be with the Knights, but he will spend time in Kannapolis on a rehab assignment. He was shutdown in the AFL last fall after his velocity still had not returned, but was sidelined to begin the season with a lat injury. Finally, as Eloy Jiménez will miss the Baltimore Orioles series after being placed on the Bereavement list, Nicky Delmonico was promoted to Chicago.

Last week, the Birmingham Barons were an inept offensive team that had one homer and a bad win-loss record. Well, now they are 9-8 and the offense is awake. The Barons hit seven home runs last week, including two from Gavin Sheets. On top of that, the pitching is still dominating. Collectively, the Barons have a 3.27 ERA, third-best in the Southern League. They also have a player kind of back in Luis Basabe. He has been out since spring training with a broken hamate bone, and will start also start in Kannapolis on a rehab assignment.

The Winston-Salem Dash did not make any big moves record-wise, but Luis Robert continued his hot start — until he was taken out. It seems like Robert was sidelined for precautionary reasons with a bruise on his left hand. On the positive side, Lincoln Henzman made his return from the IL after a hamstring injury, going three innings in his first start back. It was also announced that Alex Destino will be joining the Dash from Kannapolis.

Meanwhile, the Kannapolis Intimidators continue to struggle overall. They have scored the second-fewest runs and are tied with the second-most runs allowed in the SALLY. Though they will get some brief help from Burdi and Basabe, the I’s have some work to do. Kannapolis has more batters worse than .200 than better than .300, and they only have three home runs among all 12 batters. On the pitching side, only six of the 14 I’s pitchers have an ERA of better than 4.00. Overall, it has not been great for them down in A-ball.

Charlotte Knights

Zack Collins: .313 BA, 4 R, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 9 K
Seby Zavala: .190 BA, 2 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K
Danny Mendick: .125 BA, 4 R, 3 BB, 6 K
Nicky Delmonico: .308 BA, 3 HR, 6 R, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 SB ***MVP of the Week***
Daniel Palka: .222 BA, 3 R, 4 BB, 1 K
Thyago Vieira: 3 IP, 6.04 FIP, 3.0 K/9, 6.0 BB/9
Aaron Bummer: 3 IP, 3.71 FIP, 0.0 K/9, 0.0 BB/9
Dylan Covey: 3 IP, 2.04 FIP, 12.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
Caleb Frare: 2 IP, 1.21 FIP, 18.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Juan Minaya: 3 23 IP, 1.01 FIP, 19.64 K/9, 2.45 BB/9
Ian Hamilton: 3 IP, 3.41 FIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
Spencer Adams: 4 IP, 4.21 FIP, 4.5 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 (relieved Covey in a split start)
Dylan Cease: 4 23 IP, 5.64 FIP, 9.64 K/9, 3.86 BB/9
Jordan Stephens: 6 IP, 4.21 FIP, 4.5 K/9, 4.5 BB/9

Well, well, well, look who is back to being a good hitter: Nicky Delmonico, at least at this moment in time. Obviously, the competition is much easier in Triple-A compared to MLB, but Delmonico is looking more like his 2017 self compared to 2018. He seems to be much more comfortable at the plate, with a 13.2% BB-rate and a 15.8% K-rate. Those plate discipline numbers are much more aligned to 2017 (13.9% BB-rate, 18.7% K-rate) than 2018 (8.5% BB-rate, 25.2% K-rate). On top of the plate discipline improvements early on, the power also seems to be there (with the caveat that Triple-A is now using MLB baseballs, for the first time). Delmonico’s .254 ISO will probably not stick, as it would be his career best at Triple-A or higher and the batted ball profile is not ideal right now. Delmonico only has a 32.7% fly ball rate, but the HR/FB rate is not near a career high nor is it particularly close to his 2017 rate. What Delmonico is doing is pulling the ball more than usual, which translates to the better contact and power he has shown so far. Even better, with Delmonico’s .286 BA, his BABIP is at .300, so it his success has not been greatly luck-aided.

Birmingham Barons

Gavin Sheets: .348 BA, 2 HR, 6 R, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K ***MVP of the Week***
Laz Rivera: .192 BA, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 SB
Micker Adolfo: .238 BA, 1 R, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 9 K
Joel Booker: .333 BA, 1 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 4 SB
Blake Rutherford: .043 BA, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K
Luis Gonzalez: .200 BA, 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K
Matt Foster: 2 IP, 2.73 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Hunter Schryver: 3 13 IP, 2.33 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
Bernardo Flores: 8 IP, 2.48 FIP, 3.38 K/9, 0.0 BB/9
Jimmy Lambert: 11 23 IP, 3.41 FIP, 11.57 K/9, 1.54 BB/9
Kodi Medeiros: 8 IP, 6.98 FIP, 5.63 K/9, 9.0 BB/9

He was bound to break out of his early season slump in terms of batting average, but Gavin Sheets decided to hit for average and power at the same time. Sheets slashed .348/.444/.609, for a 209 wRC+. Though his BABIP was high at .353 and the ISO even higher at .261, this was a good showing for Sheets. On the downside, Sheets’s ISO will most definitely fall, and fast. Sheets had eight hits last week, two were extra-base hits (the homers) and the rest were singles. As of right now, Sheets will need to continue to work on his batted balls, especially cutting down on grounders. His ground ball rate is at 51.2%, and though his fly ball rate is also up (37.2%) his line drive rate is way down. Also, a power hitter should not be hitting that many grounders, anyway. What is a little better is Sheets’s pull rate. It skyrocketed about 20% from Week 2 to 3 which is good, but his oppo-rate of 34.9% is still a little too high for big power. Whatever the case is, the past week was big for fan confidence in Sheets.

Winston-Salem Dash

Nick Madrigal: .250 BA, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 SB
Luis Robert: .474 BA, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 4 SB ***MVP of the Week*** (day-to-day with hand contusion)
Codi Heuer: 4 IP, 2.14 FIP, 6.75 K/9, 0.0 BB/9
Alec Hansen: 3 IP, 0.98 FIP, 12.0 K/9, 0.0 BB/9
Blake Battenfield: 7 IP, 2.21 FIP, 6.43 K/9, 0.0 BB/9
Lincoln Henzman: 3 IP, 1.64 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 0.0 BB/9 (returned from IL last week)

Yea, Luis Robert was really good again, what’s new. Also, he missed a few games with injury, again, what’s new. But instead of looking at Robert for the third straight week, let’s take a look at the improved Alec Hansen. In six innings so far with the Dash, Hansen has not allowed a run and has a FIP of 1.64, a pretty good start. On top of that, the control of his pitches seems to be back at his 2017 level. He has a 13.5 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9 so far, for a 33.3% K/BB rate. On top of that, hitters seem desperately fooled by Hansen’s stuff, even more so than the 13.5 K/9 might indicate. Hansen only has a 30% pull rate against him, while most batted balls off of him are to the opposite field. That generally means batters are late and cannot read the pitch well. Just to make that point stick, Hansen’s ground ball rate is at a very good 50% as well and he has only allowed one line drive. All those stats scream that 2017 Hansen is back, but of course, this has all been in relief. Hansen has only gone more than one inning one time, his most recent appearance. That does seem to indicate that an innings ramp-up is on the way, as Hansen makes an eventual return to the rotation.

Kannapolis Intimidators

Gunnar Troutwine: .300 BA, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K
Bryce Bush: .053 BA, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K
Lenyn Sosa: .111 BA, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K
Luis Curbelo: .080 BA, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 13 K
Steele Walker: .333 BA, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 SB ***MVP of the Week***
Wilber Perez: 2 13 IP, 13.53 FIP, 3.86 K/9, 15.43 BB/9
Bennett Sousa: 2 23 IP, 2.93 FIP, 13.5 K/9, 6.75 BB/9
Andrew Perez: 3 IP, 4.68 FIP, 9.0 K/9, 9.0 BB/9
Jason Bilous: 3 IP, 4.34 FIP, 6.0 K/9, 6.0 BB/9
Konnor Pilkington: 4 23 IP, 6.03 FIP, 13.5 K/9, 7.71 BB/9
Davis Martin: 3 IP, 7.68 FIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
Jonathan Stiever: 5 IP, 6.48 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 5.4 BB/9
Kade McClure: 9 23 IP, 3.47 FIP, 3.72 K/9, 1.86 BB/9

We looked at Steele Walker already as well, so let’s go into a different player, but this time, an underperforming one. Bryce Bush is just that guy to look into. In what was an aggressive assignment for the 19-year-old, he has a slash line of .096/.158/.115 for a -14 wRC+. Yes, that is a negative wRC+. On top of that, Bush has nine errors in 10 games at third base. Bush did tell Dan Victor he might need a contact lens for his right eye, but if he did get one, it has not helped. Bush has a 5.3% BB-rate, which isn’t terrible, but what are terrible are the strikeouts. Bush’s K-rate is at 38.6%, as he has 22 K’s versus just five walks. Bush is hitting a good amount of fly balls, a much higher rate than last season, but they clearly are not dropping in for hits or over the fence. Bush is also pulling the ball at a healthy rate, but he is not squaring up very often, which tends to indicate the pulls might mean he is having trouble with off-speed and breaking pitches, which the K-rate also indicates. By no means should fans disregard him, but it is possible that Bush was just not ready for this level of competition so soon.