New Hampshire: May Report

Friday, June 03 2005 @ 08:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Jordan

On May 30, the defending Eastern League champion Fisher Cats stood at first place in the EL's Northern Division with a 28-20 record, after winning 6 of their previous 7 games. Today, a few days later, that record is 29-23, with the Cats tied for first place with Portland, to whom they lost last night. But I froze the stats on May 30 to write this report, so that's the snapshot we're using for the May 2005 Fisher Cat review.

As usual, Iím indebted to the more number-crunching members of our minor-league team. Jonny German supplied monthly batting and pitching splits, making comparisons and progress assessment much easier. He also put together a handy little DIPS ERA (dERA) chart, which allows us to see which pitchersí ERAs overstate (or understate) their actual performance.

Also this month, although we donít have full-scale Park Factors, Gerry McDonald has supplied some interesting stats regarding the Eastern League, which (as we noted last month) has been playing as something of a pitchersí circuit so far, and Fisher Cats Stadium, which has started out as an extreme pitchersí park (one theory points out the wind effects of a hotel under construction beyond the outfield). Check out these latest Eastern League stats:

--> Average runs per game: 8.50
--> Average runs per NH road game: 7.70
--> Average runs for NH home games: 5.75

What does this tell us? It says that games involving the Fisher Cats at another teamís park are lower-scoring than normal, suggesting that the Cats are a good-pitch, poor-hit team. It also says this trend is exacerbated at home, where run-scoring is way below average, and that New Hampshireís home park is a hitterís nightmare.

Are there contributing factors? The weather in early April was very cold in and around Manchester. So letís adjust for that:

--> Average runs for NH home games after April 7: 6.35

Thatís better, but still not great. But because of bad weather, the Cats have played six doubleheader games at home. Letís adjust for that, too:

--> DH-adjusted average runs for NH home games, after April 7: 6.89

So there you have it Ė even with the usual statistical suspects accounted for, the Cats have scored 8/10 of a run less than league average on the road and 1.4 runs per games less than average at home. Accordingly, remember to slightly discount the following pitchersí numbers and upgrade the hittersí numbers. Not that there are many bad pitching and good hitting numbers to see this month, either.


Batting


Ron Acuna, OF, 23
137 AB, 16 R, .263/.320/.365, 12 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 10 BB, 31 K, 6 SB, 1 CS

Signed as a free agent out of Venezuela by the Mets at the shamefully early age of 15 (he took 3 Ĺ years to get out of Rookie Ball), Acuna joined the Blue Jaysí organization after two consecutive .300 seasons at Binghamton. Acuna has a ton of speed (186 career steals in the minors), but has been caught almost half as many times as he steals. He has doubles power, but thatís about all. He has the tools, but hasnít had the chance to refine them and put it all together. The Jays have their hands on him now, and after a rough April, he hit .321 in May with 11 extra-base hits. If he keeps this up, the Jays will have found themselves yet another diamond in another organizationís rough.


Vito Chiaravalotti, 1B, 24
131 AB, 15 R, .252/.333/.351, 7 2B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 14 BB, 27 K

So, whatís the good news? Big Vito rediscovered the base on balls in May, and after drawing just one walk in April, he drew 13 in 70 at-bats last month. He also cranked out his first 2 homers of the season. Less encouragingly, he had just one other extra-base hit in May (a double), and he batted just .205 the whole month. Chiaravalotti has not found the range yet in Double-A, but the walks might indicate that at least heís headed in the right direction. He needs a breakout in June.


Rob Cosby, 3B, 24
155 AB, 15 R, .258/.297/.374, 12 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB, 26 K

Cosby, on the other hand, slugged his way through May, adding 8 doubles and 2 round-trippers to his repertoire. His other stats remained largely unchanged, though, indicating that the picture of Cosby that might be emerging here is of a power hitter without a ton of on-base skills. If thereís enough power, that could be interesting; some people are still looking for the next Russell Branyan. Unfortunately, Cosby has a ways to go to get there.


Ron Davenport, LF, 23
90 AB, 7 R, .244/.266/.367, 8 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 19 K

It might not look impressive, but that batting line is a substantial improvement from May Day, when Davenport might have felt like calling for help with a 527 OPS. (Okay, that was a stretch. Iím sorry.) Davenport posted a .320/.346/.560 line last month. The question is, which is his real Double-A level of production, April (.215/.235/.292) or May? Tune in next month to find out.


Maikel Jova, RF, 24
169 AB, 17 R, .272/.295/.355, 8 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 5 BB, 35 K

The Man Who Wouldnít Walk now leads his team in batting average, which really says a lot more about the Fisher Catsí offence than it does about Jova, who posted very similar lines his first two months. Iíve become rather a fan of Jova and his aversion to the base on balls Ė Iíd like to see him draw fewer than 20 this season.


Erik Kratz, C, 24
105 AB, 8 R, .219/.309/.333, 3 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 12 BB, 30 K

You know youíve had a bad month at the plate when your OPS drops 196 points. ďThis solid start probably won't last,Ē I wrote last month in one of my less wildly inaccurate predictions. If itís any consolation, heís not a .182 hitter either, as he was in May, so he should find a middle ground somewhere north of Mendoza soon enough.


Miguel Negron, CF, 22
135 AB, 16 R, .222/.286/.259, 5 2B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 11 BB, 30 K, 10 SB, 3 CS

Negron must have great wheels, because itís hard to swipe ten bases with a .286 on-base percentage. There are signs of progress, however slight: he batted .269 in May and managed to walk every ten at-bats. Negron is still young, and that little bit of progress should be enough to get him another monthís worth of action. Not many centerfielders can push the newly returned Justin Singleton to a corner position, but thatís what Negron and his defence have done.


Ryan Roberts, 2B, 24
New Hampshire
20 AB, 3 R, .200/.360/.250, 1 2B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K
Dunedin
84 AB, 16 R, .298/.394/.560, 4 2B, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 13 BB, 15 K

Following a sensational debut at Dunedin, Roberts was promoted to New Hampshire, where he has started slowly. This recalls 2004, when Roberts, following a sensational debut at Charleston, was promoted to Dunedin, where he started slowly. Power and patience are Robertsí trademarks, and if heís trying to emulate Mark Bellhornís career, heís going about it the right way. Mark Bellhornís career, by the way, would be quite alright with the Blue Jays.


Raul Tablado, SS, 23
144 AB, 15 R, .194/.245/.292, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 8 BB, 46 K

Itís not easy to post a 650 OPS your first month of the season and then regress, but Tablado did it. He posted a brutal 2/33 BB/K rate in 94 at-bats last month, batting .178/.200/.257 and showing every sign of being lost at the plate. Tablado has a longer road than most to prove that his 2004 performance at Dunedin wasnít an aberration; this isnít helping.


Pitching


Steve Andrade, RHP, 27
1-2, 1.89 ERA, 2.04 dERA, 13 G, 0 GS, 19 IP, 6 H, 7 BB, 22 K, 0 HR, 30.9% KBF

I suppose I need hardly tell you that those are some amazing stats posted by Andrade. He was picked up in the off-season from the Angels organization, where he posted equally amazing numbers the last couple of years for their Double-A club. But he was only ordinary during a late-season promotion to Triple-A, and the Halos evidently decided he wasnít going to help them at the big-league level. Andradeís stuff isnít overpowering; he gets a lot of help from a funky delivery thatís been compared to Brendan Donnelly. But outs are outs, and Andrade gets them. I rather suspect the Angels were right and that Andradeís act wonít fly in the majors; thereís already a Brendan Donnelly in the big leagues, and he hasnít been as effective once the batters got used to him. I think Andrade will continue to be a lights-out Double-A reliever for as long as he feels like playing; at age 27, I canít imagine that will be very long.


Josh Banks, RHP, 22
5-2, 3.25 ERA, 3.11 dERA, 10 GS, 55 IP, 46 H, 3 BB, 50 K, 7 HR, 24.0% KBF

(This line doesn't reflect Banks' start and loss last night.) On the one hand, Banks wasnít quite as sharp in May as he was in April, going 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA. Heís still giving up a few too many homers, too. On the other hand, he walked a batter. One batter. All month. What do you call a 3/50 BB/K rate in 55 innings? I would say ďMarcumesque,Ē but maybe it should be ďBankslike.Ē Itís interesting that Shaun Marcum got the call to Syracuse before Banks did; possibly, Dick Scott & Co. want to see Banks be a little more consistent and a little more dominant before kicking him upstairs. Still, the comparison with Marcum (below) is an interesting one.


Lee Gronkiewicz, RHP, 26
1-0, 1.25 ERA, 3.31 dERA,15 Sv, 22 G, 21 IP, 14 H, 7 BB, 22 K, 2 HR, 25.8% KBF

Gronkiewicz just keeps on piling up the gaudy numbers for the Fisher Cats. Itís been a pretty good couple of months for the closers in Torontoís system. Danny Hill opened a lot of eyes in Lansing and now plies his trade for Dunedin. Jason Arnold has turned his career around as a part-time closer for Syracuse, and Miguel Batista is proving a whole lot of critics wrong by being a steady presence at the end of the Blue Jaysí bullpen.


Ryan Houston, RHP, 25
2-1, 1.90 ERA, 2.65 dERA, 14 G, 23 IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 31 K, 2 HR, 34.4% KBF

Houston had himself an excellent month of May and is showing a level of dominance he hasnít displayed before. Heís keeping the walks under control, and batters have virtually no chance against him when heís on. Heís a little old for the Eastern League and the Jays probably wonít get too excited about him, but if heís starting to harness his explosive stuff, theyíll take a closer look.


Shaun Marcum, RHP, 23
7-1, 2.53 ERA, 3.53 dERA, 9 GS, 53 IP, 44 H, 10 BB, 40 K, 5 HR, 19.0% KBF

Let me start by saying these are simply marvelous numbers for a pitcher making his Double-A debut. Marcum has not at all been fazed by the Eastern League, and heís now off to try his luck at Triple-A. But when you compare his raw numbers with those of Josh Banks, who has been in New Hampshire longer, you have to wonder a little about the order of promotion. Banks had a lower dERA, struck out more batters, walked fewer batters (though in fairness, about half of Marcumís walks came in one start), and posted a much better KBF percentage. I have to assume the Jaysí front office saw something in Marcum that said he was readier for the promotion than was Banks (his age might be a factor). But I can at least say that Banks had been the better pitcher through May for the Fisher Cats. Take from that what you will.


Vince Perkins, RHP, 23
3-2, 3.33 ERA, 4.10 dERA, 9 GS, 46 IP, 39 H, 22 BB, 40 K, 4 HR, 20.6% KBF

Perkins fared slightly better in May than in April, raising his strikeout rate somewhat, but he continues to have problems with his command, which is no new tune. Interestingly, his dERA is the second-highest on the staff, trailing only Ismael Ramirez. As always, he would thrive if he could convert just one walk per game into a strikeout. As always, Iíd like to see him tried in the bullpen; maybe theyíll give it a shot by seasonís end.


Ismael Ramirez, RHP, 24
2-6, 4.62 ERA, 4.53 dERA, 9 GS, 48 IP, 47 H, 12 BB, 25 K, 7 HR, 12.4% KBF

The problem with being primarily a command pitcher is that at a certain level, hanging around the strike zone simply makes it easier for the hitters to bash your offerings off and over the wall. Ramirez is struggling because heís not fooling hitters and not missing enough bats: that KBF percentage is far below the acceptable level for a true prospect. Heís had some injury issues this season and it may be affecting his performance, but right now, Ramirez appears to be next in line for a demotion to the bullpen or Dunedin.


Cameron Reimers, RHP, 26
5-3, 4.08 ERA, 3.67 dERA, 9 GS, 57 IP, 71 H, 10 BB, 33 K, 4 HR, 13.0% KBF

As expected, Reimers bounced back after an ugly April to go 4-1, 3.41 in May, commanding the strike zone better and reducing his hits allowed. As you can see, his dERA is better than his actual ERA, further underlining his recovery. A lot of prospects are going to sail through the New Hampshire rotation this summer, so itís good for the Fisher Cats to have a reliable stalwart like Reimers on the staff.


Jamie Vermilyea, RHP, 23
1-1, 1.62 ERA, 3.25 dERA, 14 G, 1 GS, 33 IP, 30 H, 10 BB, 25 K, 1 HR, 18.3% KBF

Maybe itís cheating, but Iím going to just repeat what I said in our recent Top 30 assessment of Jays prospects: I'm really not sure why Vermilyea's not in Syracuse already. I think he's proven quite clearly that he can handle Double-A hitters and that he's ready for the next challenge. I'd like to see him get as much upper-level experience under his belt as possible, because I think he could be an effective swingman and long reliever for the Blue Jays as early as next June.


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