New Hampshire: June Report

Friday, July 08 2005 @ 04:20 PM EDT

Contributed by: Jordan

Hanging around just above .500 in a not-too-strong division, very much still a part of the pennant race, this mix of exciting youngsters and savvy veterans is playing well at their new home but struggling on the road. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and their parent Toronto Blue Jays. This month saw some red-hot hitters and some scuffling pitchers make an impact on the Fisher Cats' run for another Eastern League championship.

As usual, a big shout-out to Jonny German, who again supplied monthly batting and pitching splits, making it easier to track the progress (or lack thereof) of various prospects. Letís get right to it.


Ron Acuna, OF, 2/1/81
244 AB, 32 R, .262/.320/.373, 20 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 17 BB, 56 K, 8 SB, 2 CS

Talk about consistency: since last we spoke, Acunaís batting average climbed 1 point, his OBP remained frozen, and his SLG rose just 8 points in more than 100 more ABs. Thatís the kind of thing you couldnít pull off even if you were trying. Acuna isnít showing any real signs of an imminent breakout, but the Fisher Cats will be content if he continues to get some key hits and steal some bases for them.

Vito Chiaravalotti, 1B, 10/20/80
148 AB, 16 R, .236/.315/.351, 8 2B, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 15 BB, 32 K

A forgettable season continues for Big Vito. Placed on the DL June 9 with a vaguely identified ďinjury to the side,Ē Chiaravalotti had seemingly recovered his plate discipline and was showing signs of rediscovering his power stroke. If the injury is related to his ribcage muscles, Vito could be in for a frustrating summer: those injuries take a long time to heal and really restrict your ability to swing the bat. Weíll hope for better news this time next month.

Rob Cosby, 3B, 4/2/81
243 AB, 29 R, .288/.328/.457, 23 2B, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 14 BB, 39 K

This guy, on the other hand, is making the most of his opportunity. Cosby posted an astounding .345/.389/.619 line in 84 June at-bats, throwing 15 extra-base hits onto the board in just 23 games. After losing last season to an injury, Cosby is making up for lost time with a vengeance. If he keeps up this kind of pace in July, heíll likely be touring the fine roadside diners of the International League by August.

Ron Davenport, LF, 10/16/81
127 AB, 8 R, .220/.242/.307, 8 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 26 K

Nagging injuries limited Davenport to just 37 at-bats in June, but it didnít help that all he accomplished in those appearances was 6 singles and a walk. Slugging .162 for a month is not a good way to impress your superiors. But Davenport has started July much better than he ended June, so he still has an opportunity to put up some strong numbers and relive the advances he made at Dunedin last season.

Clint Johnston, 1B, 7/2/77
New Hampshire
100 AB, 15 R, .340/.396/.550, 6 2B, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 10 BB, 26 K
158 AB, 29 R, .310/.399/.449, 10 2B. 4 HR, 21 RBI, 22 BB, 39 K

Johnston, the former first-round pick of the Pirates whom the Jays rescued and converted back into a position player, is displaying the remarkable ability to improve his game upon every promotion. This might be just a hot streak by a 28-year-old veteran, but it might also be a sign that Johnston has finally adjusted to life as a full-time hitter. The odds are still stacked against him, and Syracuse (where he seems inevitably bound) will be the real challenge. But you know that the Blue Jays, who arenít exactly flush with first-base candidates in their system, are keeping an eye on him.

Maikel Jova, RF, 3/5/81
291 AB, 29 R, .258/.281/.337, 14 2B, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 9 BB, 57 K

The Quest for 20 Walks continues for Jova, who drew just 4 bases on balls in almost 120 June at-bats. Unfortunately, as is the case with free swingers, when the hits arenít falling, these batters donít produce much offence. Jova batted a mere .232 last month, and heís really not helping the F-Cats unless heís batting at least .280 with some pop. With some serious hitting talent rapidly developing in the lower minors, Jova needs to start getting his game back on track.

Miguel Negron, CF, 8/22/82
240 AB, 32 R, .258/.310/.363, 11 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 17 BB, 45 K, 12 SB, 6 CS

Sorry, you can still colour me skeptical. Negronís June looked amazing, as he batted .326/.366/.537 in 95 AB. For a player whoíd spent the first two months of 2005 struggling to push his average above the Mendoza Line, that certainly seems impressive. However, keep in mind that 3 of his 4 homers in June came in 3 consecutive at-bats in one game. Consider also that Negron tore up the Florida State League last June, only to fall back to his unimpressive ways thereafter. Most players have June swoons; Negron has June flashes. Now, all that said, Negron has continued his hot hitting early in July. And heís stayed within shouting distance of a good BB/AB rate. So itís always possible that heís figured something out and is unlocking his vast potential. Iím going to need to see some more of it, thatís all.

Ryan Roberts, 2B, 9/19/80
New Hampshire
124 AB, 19 R, .258/.354/.540, 9 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 18 BB, 35 K
84 AB, 16 R, .298/.394/.560, 4 2B, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 13 BB, 15 K

This time last month, shortly after his promotion to Double-A, I wrote that Roberts could be expected to start slowly at his new level. I note this just in case you ever find yourself thinking that I actually know what Iím talking about. While his batting average isnít right where heíd like it, Roberts continues to show patience at the plate and has actually jacked up his power numbers Ė no small feat in that ballpark and in this league. The organization identified Roberts early on as a potential sleeper, and heís doing his best to prove them right. With power at a premium in both Rogers Centre and Alliance Bank Stadium, look for Roberts to join Johnston on an upcoming Syracuse shuttle.

Raul Tablado, SS, 3/2/82
230 AB, 22 R, .196/.246/.309, 9 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 14 BB, 83 K

Letís put it this way: the Jays are going to need to open some 40-man roster spots this off-season, and Tablado is well on his way to losing his. In addition to his continued misery at the plate, heís committed 17 errors in the field. Tablado placed pretty well on many Blue Jays prospect lists coming into 2005; right now, you wouldnít find him on any of them.


Josh Banks, RHP, 7/18/82
7-6, 4.33, 16 GS, 87 IP, 91 H, 18 BB, 81 K, 13 HR, 23.0% KBF

This is not good. After a 1-2, 4.74 May, Banks completely hit the skids in June, going 2-4, 6.19 in 6 starts and allowing a whopping 45 hits (including 6 round-trippers) in just 32 innings. His BB/K rate was still excellent (5/31), but as Micheal Nakamura could tell you, solid ratios donít help much when youíre getting belted all over (and out of) the park. Banksí trend is definitely worrisome: he struggled upon arriving in Double-A last summer, but quickly righted himself to finish the season strong. This year, however, he started strong, but has declined virtually by the week since April. Is there an injury here we donít know about? Has the gap between his fastball and off-speed stuff narrowed to the point where hitters see no difference? Somethingís wrong, and although Banks would no longer be considered one of the organizationís top five pitching prospects, he has enough talent that a flameout would be a dire disappointment. At this point, it wouldnít shock me to see him returned to Dunedin to try to work things out.

Lee Gronkiewicz, RHP, 8/21/78
1-0. 0.79, 23 Sv, 35 G, 34 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 40 K, 2 HR, 31.2% KBF

Game-Over Gronk is getting testy, and you canít really blame him. Recent reports from Manchester indicate that Gronkiewicz wants to be plying his trade in Triple-A, if not higher. He seems to think he has nothing left to prove in Double-A, and itís hard to argue with him after he posted these June numbers: 11 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 16 K. Trouble is, the Jays have another minor-league veteran, Matt Whiteside, closing for the Skychiefs, and there seems to be little organizational value in switching journeymen closers. Moreover, the Jays have not only an obligation to field the best possible team for New Hampshire fans, but also the desire to create a winning atmosphere for their young prospects coming through the system. These two considerations outweigh the wishes, however reasonable, of a mid-20s reliever to fly wider skies than these.

Ryan Houston, RHP, 9/22/79
2-1, 2.70, 17 G, 26 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 37 K, 3 HR, 35.9% KBF

A trip to the disabled list June 10 with an elbow injury called a screeching halt to what appeared to be something of a breakout season for Houston. Overpowering Double-A batters all year, Houston had shown sufficient command of his previously uncommandable stuff that a trip to Syracuse might have been in the cards. I donít have any specifics on the owie, but hopefully itís nothing very serious.

Zach Jackson, LHP, 5/13/83
New Hampshire
2-2, 3.75, 6 GS, 36 IP, 40 H, 6 BB, 31 K, 1 HR, 20.0% KBF
8-1, 2.88, 19 GS, 59 IP, 56 H, 6 BB, 60 K, 3 HR, 25.4% KBF

Jackson came advertised as the more polished of the two first-round left-handers from the 2004 draft, and his rapid ascent through the system has confirmed that impression. Heís struggled in his most recent few starts for Double-A, however, and it appears that heís facing the first real bit of turbulence in his quick rise. Thatís fine: heís young, the Fisher Cats are his third pro team in less than one full season, and it would do him good to spend the rest of 2005 in lovely Manchester consolidating his already-impressive gains. If he opens 2006 the way he started this year, heíll be in the majors before long.

Dustin McGowan, RHP, 3/24/82
New Hampshire
0-0, 1.59, 1 GS, 5 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR
0-1, 4.29, 5 GS, 21 IP, 21 H, 5 BB, 20 K, 2 HR, 22.2% KBF

Can I tell you how nice it is to be typing Dustin McGowanís name in prospect reports again? Itís really, really nice. McGowanís statistical results are almost irrelevant to the larger question of his physical health and the effectiveness of his breaking stuff, and the early impressions of each appear cautiously optimistic. McGowanís second start for the Fisher Cats wasnít quite as nice as his first, and I imagine heíll stay put in New Hampshire for a while yet. But if he really comes around this summer and autumn (I anticipate an Arizona Fall League assignment), I donít think you can rule out a long look in spring training next March, and then, who knows?

Vince Perkins, RHP, 9/27/81
3-4, 4.14, 14 GS, 74 IP, 72 H, 30 BB, 54 K, 6 HR, 16.9% KBF

The injury parade continues, as Perkins went on the DL June 23 with a rib problem. That might have been for the best, considering that Perkins posted a 6.97 ERA in 4 June starts, getting tattooed by the hitters to the tune of a .337 batting average. One hopes that his effectiveness problems were linked to this injury, but in addition to having issues with his control, Perkins is also starting to earn a reputation for nagging injuries that slow him down every year. Hereís hoping he gets back with a clean bill of health soon.

Ismael Ramirez, RHP, 3/3/81
5-8, 3.89, 15 GS, 85 IP, 80 H, 20 BB, 58 K, 9 HR, 16.4% KBF

Thatís more like it. Ramirez was awful in April and not bad in May, but heís really warmed up with the summer months. In June, he went 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA, allowing 26 hits and 7 walks in 32 innings, striking out 23. Those kinds of numbers are much more consistent with what he was throwing on the board for Dunedin last season, and if he keeps it up, Ramirez can look forward to spending at least part of the 2006 campaign as a Skychief.

Cameron Reimers, RHP, 9/15/78
6-5, 4.19, 14 GS, 88 IP, 107 H, 16 BB, 50 K, 5 HR, 13.7% KBF

A step backwards last month for Reimers, who joined the rest of the guys on the disabled list on July 1 with an unspecified ailment. After a solid May that helped redeem a difficult first month of the season, Reimers was cuffed around rather badly by the same Double-A hitters heís mastered in the past. The Fisher Cats look forward to getting him back in the rotation.

Tracey Thorpe, RHP, 12/15/80
New Hampshire
1-0, 1.69, 3 G, 0 GS, 5 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
2-1, 3.67, 25 G, 0 GS, 34 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 33 K, 4 HR, 23.1% KBF

Remember him? Thorpe was one of the more intriguing pitching prospects from the Gord Ash administration, but a series of injuries knocked the hulking righthander off the prospect lists for the last couple of seasons. Now, however, seemingly recovered from various surgeries and rehabs, Thorpe posted solid numbers for Dunedin and is off to a nice start for New Hampshire. Thorpe once possessed wicked stuff, and if he can retrieve even part of that, he might re-emerge as a sleeper bullpen candidate down the road.

Jamie Vermilyea, RHP, 2/10/82
2-2, 2.32, 25 G, 2 GS, 54 IP, 51 H, 16 BB, 43 K, 4 HR, 19.2% KBF

He was rocked in his most recent July start, but before that, Vermilyea was continuing to post very good results in his swingman role for the F-Cats. Heíll never be a huge strikeout guy, nor will he dazzle anyone with overpowering stuff; all he seems to do is get batters out. Unless the organization is concerned about how well heíd do at higher levels, Iím really not sure why Vermilyeaís still in Manchester (the backlog of veteran Skychief relievers may be a factor, but that should never stand in the way of a prospectís development). I do think he can help the Jays out of the pen, as soon as next season.