The Month in Numbers and April’s All-MiLB Team
By Ashley Marshall
The first month of the Minor League season has been everything but dull.
With up to 120 teams on the field on any given day, there’s always something to see. At every level and in every league, interesting stats are abundant.
The Indianapolis Indians, for example, are a perfect 15-0 when leading after five innings, while the Toledo Mud Hens are 3-11 in one-run games. Elsewhere, both Bowie and Mississippi have won three games when trailing after eight innings and 15 teams have yet to score in double digits at least once this season, led by the trio of Columbus, Charlotte and Jupiter (highs of seven).
April has seen 57 grand slams, 19 players with at least five hits in one game, five cycles (Negrych, Triunfel, Lambo, Almonte, Lipka) two three-homer performances (Romak and Murphy), a one-hitter and a no-no.
A total of 913 players have hit 2,005 homers, and San Jose’s Devin Harris has more longballs in the past week (seven) than 2,081 other players have hit in the first 27 days of the new season.
Here’s a word cloud showing what has been happening across more than 300 game recaps, league notebooks and promo previews on MiLB.com over the past 30 days.
It’s no surprise to see “prospect(s)” mentioned more than 700 times, although I wasn’t expecting to see “Walker” pop up 70 times.
I suppose when Taijuan Walker — baseball’s No. 5 prospect — has a 1.55 ERA, 32 Ks in 29 innings and two runs allowed in his past three starts, his name appears a lot. Also, Cedar Rapids’ Adam Brett Walker is batting .284 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 22 games.
April All-MiLB Team
It includes nine batters — eight position players and one DH — assembled into a batting order. Like real-life lineups, mine includes players with high on-base percentages and good speed at the top of the order, the most productive hitters in the heart of the lineup and a mixture of power, discipline and speed in the lower third.
1. Thomas Coyle, 2B
2. Byron Buxton, CF
3. Scott Van Slyke, 1B
4. Miguel Sano, 3B
5. Nick Franklin, DH
6. Stephen Vogt, C
7. Nolan Fontana, SS
8. Brian Bogusevic, LF
9. Kyle Johnson, RF
- Thomas Coyle is off to a hot start with Class A Bowling Green. He’s hitting .349 with 11 extra-base hits (including two homers) in 23 contests. Don’t let his 5-foot-7 frame fool you, he has some thunder in that bat. A prototypical leadoff hitter, the UNC product has a .471 OBP and he is a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts. He has walked more times (19) than he has struck out (12) and he has scored 20 Midwest League runs.
- Teenage outfielder Byron Buxton has 31 hits in 22 games, good for a .392 clip with Cedar Rapids. The Twins prospect has the ability to hit for average and power (four homers, five doubles). He’s no slouch on the basepaths, as evidenced by nine steals, and he’s averaged almost one RBI per game (21 in 22 contests). He also has a 19-17 walks-to-strikeouts ratio and a 1.194 OPS.
- Scott Van Slyke is crushing the ball at Triple-A Albuquerque. The 26-year-old has eight homers, one off the Minors lead — and 26 RBIs in 25 games. Not just a power hitter, the 6-foot-5 first baseman is also batting a ridiculous .419. Van Slyke hit a career-high 23 homers across two levels in 2009 and there’s no reason to think he can’t replicate his 100-RBI effort from four years ago.
- It’s no surprise to see Miguel Sano in the cleanup spot. His nine homers for Fort Myers are tied for the Minors lead, and he’s complemented the power game with a .368 average and 21 runs scored. He’s struck out more than twice as often (28) as he’s walked (11), but with the kind of run production he’s given the Twins’ Florida State League affiliate, that’s not a real concern. He’s slugging .747 with a 1.183 OPS through 25 Class A Advanced games and his 17 extra-base hits are tied for second.
- Nick Franklin is another hitter feasting in the friendly PCL environment. He’s hitting .410 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games and has a 2-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio with Tacoma. The first-rounder made 64 Triple-A appearances last year and the indication is that he’ll continue to make giant strides in the Mariners system. His .538 OBP leads all Minor Leaguers.
- Backstop Stephen Vogt is 35-for-80 (.438) in 19 games with Triple-A Sacramento. Among those 35 hits are six homers, six doubles and two triples, producing to a .788 slugging percentage. He has 19 RBIs and 19 runs scored, and while he wasn’t walked a whole lot (nine times), he’s only whiffed nine times. With a .494 OBP and 1.282 OPS, Vogt is among the elite catchers in the opening month.
- Shortstop Nolan Fontana has better production that you’d ordinarily see out of a No. 7 hitter. He’s batting .360 with 19 RBIs in 25 games for Class A Advanced Lancaster and has drawn a Minors-best 27 walks compared with 20 strikeouts. The second-rounder reached base in more than half of his plate appearances and has provided the JetHawks with 24 runs, 19 RBIs and four stolen bases.
- Veteran outfielder Brian Bogusevic spent all of 2012 in the Majors, and considering his red-hot start, he likely won’t be hanging around in Iowa too long. He’s hitting .420 in 24 games and he has seven doubles, 10 RBIs and five steals in six tries. His plate discipline numbers (13 walks, 14 strikeouts) in the PCL are much better than they were in the big leagues (41 walks, 96 strikeouts), and while he won’t hit for a ton of power, he’s spraying balls all over the place.
- Kyle Johnson is one of those players who’d serve the purpose of a secondary leadoff hitter in a fictional lineup. He has a .347 average with Burlington and has yet to be thrown out in 16 stolen base attempts. He’s drawn 15 walks in 21 Midwest League games and he has plated 10 runs from the top of the order.
What do you think of the lineup? Who would you add or exclude? Share your thoughts in the comments below. With hundreds of possible candidates, it’s impossible to please everyone, but hopefully this is a pretty good start.