Long way to go, but happy to see a hot start for a 90th Overall selection.
19. Connor Wong, C, Dodgers
Team: high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Why He’s Here: .500/.538/1.250 (6-for-12), 3 R, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Wong is the latest in a line of college middle infielders-turned-catchers the Dodgers love to collect, following the footsteps of Kyle Farmer, Austin Barnes and Will Smith. Drafted in the third round last year mainly due to his athleticism and potential as a defender, Wong has opened his first full season on an offensive tear, leading the Cal League with eight home runs in just 12 games and posting an overall .396/.463/.979 line. Wong concluded his week with a 3-for-4, two home run, four-RBI game against Lake Elsinore, and he’s established his sneaky pop is no longer so sneaky. (KG)
https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories ... s-obvious/
When you achieve the spectacular before your career has really even begun, everything that comes afterward can seem like a letdown. The Twins are trying to halt that narrative with 22-year-old lefthander Lewis Thorpe.
The Australian was just 17 when he dominated Team USA’s defending world champions in the 17U playoffs in Taiwan in 2013, pitching 5.2 shutout innings with the ease of a veteran pro.
"He’s still a little bit mythological in the international world, a little bit legendary,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "It’s still talked about by international scouts–one of the best games they've ever seen in that environment.”
The Twins believed they had a potential breakthrough player when they signed him for $500,000 in 2012, perhaps the first Australian starter to become a star in America. But Tommy John surgery and a months-long battle with mononucleosis cost Thorpe the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and tamped down the hype.
But Radcliff hasn’t given up on the hard-throwing lefty, who began this season at Double-A Chattanooga.
"He’s in a better place right now than he’s ever been,” Radcliff said. "There’s never an issue when he’s on the mound. He’s got an uncanny, unique mound presence, more than any Aussie I’ve ever seen.”
Thorpe's talent remains obvious to scouts: a fastball that touches 95 mph out of a difficult-to-read delivery and a hard breaking ball that he throws with deception. He struck out 17 in his first 14 innings this season, with only one walk.
That he also allowed four home runs and posted a 5.79 ERA is a sign that he’s still working on mixing his pitches, Radcliff said.
Thorpe had amassed fewer than 200 pro innings when the Twins added him to the 40-man roster in November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft. That hints at his potential upside.
"He never gave up,” Radcliff said. "He could be getting close to taking some big steps.”
Team: Triple-A Toledo (International)
Why He’s Here: .435/.458/.783 (10-for-23), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Stewart led the Double-A Eastern League with 28 home runs last year, and he has cracked three so far at Triple-A this year–but that’s not the most notable thing about the slugger’s early-season exploits. After collecting five extra-base hits this week against two strikeouts, Stewart sports a 15 percent strikeout rate thanks to 10 walks and 13 strikeouts on the season. Last year, he fanned in a quarter of plate appearances, so it’s worth monitoring to be seen whether his recent contact trend is a blip or new baseline. (ME)
https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories ... ong-start/
By Ben Badler
on May 5, 2018
MANCHESTER, N.H.–The Blue Jays are excited about the turnaround they have seen from Sean Reid-Foley. The 22-year-old righthander, who entered the season ranked as the organization’s No. 11 prospect, is repeating Double-A New Hampshire after a rough 2017 season, with much improved results his first month back.
Against Reading on Wednesday, Reid-Foley struck out 10 with zero walks in six innings, allowing two runs and five hits. His fastball sat at 92-95 mph. His threw a plus slider in the mid-80s, burying it as a chase pitch down and away to righthanded hitters and just as effectively generating empty swings when he threw it to the back foot against a lefty.
“Better fastball command,” New Hampshire manager John Schneider said of the difference in Reid-Foley from 2017 to 2018. “We’ve been really stressing keeping the ball down–down and away in safe zones to righties and lefties. He had a great fastball today and his breaking ball has been consistent, both slider and curve. So I think that’s been the biggest difference, if you look at fastball command. Then he’s always had a good breaking ball, and I think just having it be more consistent for him this year has been big for him.”
Through five starts, Reid-Foley has a 1.53 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29.1 innings. That’s coming off a season in which he posted a 5.09 ERA in 132.2 innings with 8.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
“The whole focus this year is extension side or down and away to every hitter and get on top of the baseball,” Reid-Foley said. “That’s what we work on every outing and in between outings. It’s not something that’s looked over. I take pride in it, and just hopefully it’s there that day.”
And on Wednesday?
“On a scale of 1-10–10 being the best–I probably thought it was a 5 and a half,” Reid-Foley said of his fastball command. “Some innings it was good, some innings it was kind of, eh. I would say I got away with a lot of them because I was in the zone a lot more today.”
The harshest critic of Reid-Foley is probably Reid-Foley himself.
“I just didn’t really give my teammates a chance to win,” said Reid-Foley, whose team gave up four runs in the ninth inning and lost 6-5. “I came out when we were down 2-1 and they picked me up. That’s my number one thing–go out and try to win every start. And I don’t think I really did that to my best capability today.”
Last year, Reid-Foley would show promise in flashes, but the consistency start to start or even within a start wasn’t there. It varied by outing which offspeed pitch would be working for him. Then at other times his fastball command would escape him and the damage would pile up. One month into the season is too soon to judge how much of that has improved, but the early signals point to a step up from where he was in 2017.
“I think really just buying in and being consistent with his work,” Schneider said. “Obviously we all see every fifth day, but with the stuff he does in between, I think his routine’s a little bit sharper, I think his bullpens are a little bit sharper, with a little bit more purpose to them. He’s just going out and he’s executing.”
One thing Reid-Foley has switched up this year is the way he throws his changeup. In his last start, his changeup floated up and away on him, but Reid-Foley has been pleased with the movement on the pitch.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I kind of switched my grip in spring training. I got a lot more action on it and a lot more depth, but without being down or over the baseball, it really doesn’t help me at all. So that’s what I really make sure of, because I know it’s not going to be a good day to throw a changeup if I’m not over the baseball and through it.”
The new grip?
“I don’t really know what it is,” Reid-Foley said. “I just put it as deep as I can in my fingers and just throw it. I know that one day it just was really good, and Max (Pentecost) was actually catching me in spring, and he said, 'Hey, whatever you’re doing with that, keep throwing it.’ I trust him and I ran with it.”
Reid-Foley has shown the pitches to miss bats against major league hitters. Now he has to continue to sharpen his command and prove he can hold it over the course of the season.
“Man, that first inning he threw one (slider) to (Zach) Coppolla to lead the game off on the back foot,” Schneider said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s got the stuff, man. It’s just a matter of harnessing it, and he’s done a really good job of working at it, both in games and during his sides.”
Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 10 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 16 SO, 1 BB, 0 HR
The Scoop: Paddack had to wait 20 months from his Tommy John surgery until he got back on the mound, but he picked back up like he never missed any time at all. Paddack had a 0.85 ERA with 71 strikeouts and five walks in nine starts in 2016 before going down, and he’s back on a similar path in 2018. He pitched six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in his grand return on April 30, and followed up Sunday with nine strikeouts in four scoreless frames. With a darting 90-95 mph fastball that explodes late through the zone, a plus changeup and elite control, Paddack only needs to stay healthy to rise into the upper echelon of Padres pitching prospects. (KG)
15. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Twins
Team: Triple-A Rochester (International)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.63, 14.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 14 SO, 2 BB, 1 HR
The Scoop: Twins' starters rank ninth in the American League with a 4.55 ERA, and it doesn’t figure to be long before Gonsalves is brought up to help. Gonsalves made his Triple-A debut this week and won both his starts in dominating fashion, pitching 7.2 scoreless innings of one-hit ball on May 1 and following with nine strikeouts over 6.2 innings on Sunday. Gonsalves is more about pitchability than electric stuff, but opponents have hit just .198 against him in his minor league career. As long as he continues to make strides with his control, the 6-foot-5 southpaw figures be in the majors sooner rather than later. (KG)
Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 10 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR
The Scoop: Paddack continues to be untouchable since his return from Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-4 righthander, acquired by the Padres from the Marlins for Fernando Rodney in June 2016, has pitched 16 scoreless innings with eight hits allowed, one walk and 26 strikeouts in three starts since coming off the disabled list. His darting 90-95 mph fastball and plus changeup gave him two dynamic weapons, and now he’s mixing in a rapidly improving 12-to-6 curveball to round out his arsenal and baffle hitters even further. (KG)
6. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 3.00, 9 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 7 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: Repeating Double-A after registering a 5.09 ERA in a full season there last year, Reid-Foley has shown crisper, more consistent stuff this season. Working off a 92-96 mph fastball, Reid-Foley mixes in a slider that flashes plus to get swings and misses to both lefties and righties. He changed his changeup grip in spring training and the pitch had the best action yet in his start last week against Portland. Fastball command remains a focal point for him to improve, but Reid-Foley’s stuff has come together this year to help him hold down a 1.88 ERA in 38.1 innings with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks. (BB)
12. Christin Stewart, OF, Tigers
Team: Triple-A Toledo (International)
Why He’s Here: .333/.379/.963 (9-for-27), 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO.
The Scoop: The biggest knock on Stewart has always been his propensity to strike out. So far, things are looking better on that front. He’s raised his hands a bit in his setup and is much quicker to the ball, and as a result has cut his strikeout rate more than eight percent. That extra contact hasn’t come with a plunge in power, either, seeing as his 11 home runs are tied for third in the minors. (JN)
Team: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 10 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR
The Scoop: Adams had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow during the offseason and had looked understandably rusty in the early part of the year. The rust appeared to come off in his last start, a dominant, 10-strikeout outing against Lehigh Valley. The start marked the sixth time in his career, which began as a reliever in low Class A, that Adams has reached double-digit strikeouts. (JN)
By Jeff Sanders on June 1, 2018
Righthander Chris Paddack waited 22 months to show off his reconstructed elbow after having Tommy John Surgery in August 2016.
The initial report?
The 22-year-old was better than ever.
Paddack opened the year with 24.2 scoreless innings after reporting to high Class A Lake Elsinore in late April. Though he allowed eight runs in 10 innings over his final two starts in May, his return to competitive pitching was been eye-opening.
Paddack struck out 51 batters through 31.2 innings, while allowing just 24 hits and two walks. The resulting 0.82 WHIP prompted some to wonder just when the Padres might have to bump him to Double-A San Antonio.
"The balance is trying to find a level where he has a little bit of adversity and a little bit of success,” pitching coordinator Eric Junge said, "and then he perseveres and goes to the next level. I was expecting him to go there and succeed. The thought was maybe push him up to Double-A later in the year, if he can handle it.
"I don’t think anybody expected this level of success.”
Maybe because the Padres are just getting to know Paddack.
That's because he made just three starts in the organization before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in the low Class A Fort Wayne bullpen. The Padres acquired Paddack in June 2016 when they traded Fernando Rodney to the Marlins. Miami drafted him in the eighth round in 2015 out of Cedar Park (Texas) High.
During his layoff, Paddack committed himself to improving a fringy curveball, putting on 15-25 pounds of muscle and eliminating the "inverted W” from his delivery to relieve stress on his elbow.
The early returns have seen his fastball ticking up to 96 mph and his budding 12-to-6 curveball touching 78 mph when he snaps one off just right. Meanwhile, his Vulcan changeup—an 82-83 mph offering with downward tumble and run—is as devastating as ever.
"The past 22 months in Arizona is something I’ll never forget,” Paddack said. "Looking back on it, I’m glad I got hurt when I did. I’ve learned so much about myself, about the game. I’m stronger. I know my body. I’m more mature.
"I think I’m better now than I was before."
Twins No. 12 prospect gives up three hits over six innings
By Josh Horton / MiLB.com | June 3, 2018 8:08 PM ET
Lewis Thorpe has reduced his Southern League ERA from 5.45 ERA on May 17 to 3.74.
Double-A Lookouts manager Tommy Watkins has noticed something different about Lewis Thorpe lately.
The way the Twins' No. 12 prospect walks around the clubhouse and the manner in which he speaks with coaches and teammates exudes a level of confidence the skipper hadn't previously seen.
It's Thorpe maturing before his eyes.
Gameday box score
The southpaw gave up three hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings Sunday as Chattanooga rolled to a 13-5 victory over Mobile at AT&T Field.
Thorpe (2-3) has blanked the BayBears over 10 innings in two starts this season. And he hasn't given up an earned run to anyone since the third inning of his May 17 outing at Biloxi -- a span of 18 2/3 frames.
"The last two [starts] have been really, really good," Watkins said. "[He's] pounding the zone with his fastball and then relying on the other pitches effectively. ... I feel like he's grown up a lot even in the last couple of weeks."
Lewis also feels like he's matured a lot, not just over the course of a couple of weeks, but years.
The Melbourne, Australia native is in his second full season after injuries sidelined him for all of 2015-16. He underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2015 season and his return from the ligament replacement procedure was delayed due to a case of mononucleosis the following year.
The doctor's visit that diagnosed him with the virus, after toiling through a year-and-a-half of rehab, was heartbreaking.
"Mentally, it [stinks]," Thorpe said of the two years off. "You go through a little bit of depression here and there, you just have to get through it, be tough and have a lot of support from my family, coaches, teammates. ... That two-year stretch changed me a lot as a player and as a person."
Signed as a 16-year-old out in 2012, he never learned the importance of maintaining his body in the training room and the weight room. Two years away from the game opened his eyes to how difficult it is to not be playing.
"I started off young and I didn't really know about all that sort of stuff, so I just never really did it," Thorpe said. "Now I'm in the [weight room] every day, just getting my work in."
After going 3-4 with a 2.69 ERA for Class A Advanced Fort Myers last season, the 22-year-old was added to the Twins' 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He earned a non-roster invitation to big league Spring Training and allowed three earned runs over 2 1/3 innings before being optioned to Double-A.
The recent stretch of stellar play is a product of Thorpe switching back to his more natural mechanics after making some tweaks early in the season.
"I wasn't feeling comfortable, but now I'm back to normal where I'm at," he said. "I'm throwing strikes and locating my off-speed pitches and throwing my off-speed pitches early, which has really helped me out a lot."
There are 31 Aussies who have made the Major Leagues and three -- Warwick Saupold, Liam Hendriks and Peter Moylan -- are still active. Thorpe said he was introduced to the sport at an early age by the father of his childhood best friend, Mitch Ellis, who plays Division I baseball at Western Illinois. It's been his passion ever since.
Despite a litany of former Australian-born big leaguers to idolize, he chose a lefty from Benton, Arkansas.
"I really liked Cliff Lee growing up. He was dirty," Thorpe said. "He's a guy that I looked up to and I wanted to be like him."
By Anthony Fenech
on June 21, 2018
The Tigers say that fans must wait until September to see 24-year-old, power-hitting outfielder Christin Stewart in Detroit. But as the second half looms with the Tigers still in relative contention, the prospect of a callup looms larger.
Stewart, a 2015 first-rounder from Tennessee, has done nothing at Triple-A Toledo to discount the fact he is a potential middle-of-the-order bat ready and waiting to contribute. Through 66 games he hit .274/.350/.504 with an International League-leading 13 home runs.
Power and patience have long been the lefthandend-hitting Stewart's calling cards, with a career minor league on-base percentage of .360 and isolated slugging of .242. The big big question he faces is his defensive ability in left field, which he has answered this season with his physical condition.
"He’s really committed himself to being the most fit, mobile and agile athlete possible,” vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. "Obviously, he’s done well with the bat, but defensively he’s at the top of his game right now. He’s better than he’s ever been.”
By Chris Hilburn-Trenkle
on June 20, 2018
GREENSBORO, N.C. — On a night when the stars of the low Class A South Atlantic League converged at First National Bank Field, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, for the league’s 59th annual all-star game, it was the long ball that stole the show.
The festivities began with the home run derby, which saw Chad Spanberger, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound first baseman in the Rockies organization for the Asheville Tourists, crush 29 home runs out of the stadium to cheers of joy from the fans and fellow players.
Then, in the encore performance, seven home runs left the stadium as the South Division All-Stars defeated the North Division All-Stars, 9-5.
Lexington Legends first baseman Nick Pratto, who was the South Division's designated hitter, hit one of those home runs and knocked in four runs on the night. His two-run shot in the fifth inning gave the South Division All-Stars a formidable, 7-3, advantage.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Pratto, who was the 14th overall pick by the Royals in 2017, admitted he was inspired to hit a home run over the right field wall after watching the home run derby.
“Little bit,” Pratto said with a smile. “I’ve never been here. Looking at that right field porch, it was kind of tantalizing.”
His performance stood out and earned him the event's Most Valuable Player award, a moment he did not take lightly.
“It’s an honor, for sure,” Pratto said. “These guys are special talents and it’s fun to be out here around that kind of play.”
Pratto narrowly beat out Asheville Tourists second baseman Bret Boswell for the award. Boswell, an eighth-round pick of the Rockies in 2017, also hit a home run while knocking in three runs and scoring twice on the night.
Tate Blackman, who finished third in the home run derby, was the one player who carried over his performance from that event into the game, hitting a home run in the third inning. But the blast was not enough to keep his team in the game.
Fortunately, Blackman, a member of the White Sox organization with the Kannapolis Intimidators, was not worried about the final score.
“I’m very pleased with the way I came out today and you know it’s all about having fun,” Blackman said. “Sometimes we get mixed up in the results and we just go back to the kid stage and playing baseball, having fun, meeting new guys. Doing it for the crowd. They want to see the long balls. They want to see us smiling. Baseball is fun. It’s an enjoyable sport and I love playing each and every day.”
Freddy Tarnok, the 80th overall pick by the Braves in 2017, was one of the few pitchers to really impress on a night that saw 14 runs scored. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander struck out all three batters he faced in the sixth inning to help get his side the victory, using an electrifying fastball that sat in the mid- to upper 90s.
And after the final out, the festivities ended with a bang.
Fireworks lit up the stadium and the surrounding area as fans stuck around for the end of the show for about ten minutes.
Then, just like that, the highly entertaining evening was over. But one thing is certain—the fans will be back next year for another electrifying show.
Twins lefty racks up career-high 12 K's over seven one-hit frames
By Nathan Brown / MiLB.com | June 22, 2018 12:40 AM ET
Lewis Thorpe labored for two years through Tommy John surgery and a lengthy bout with mononucleosis to make it back for the start of the 2017 campaign. The Twins No. 11 prospect proved the hard work was worth it Thursday night.
Thorpe fanned a career-high 12 batters and allowed only one hit and a walk over seven scoreless innings as Double-A Chattanooga defeated Biloxi, 12-2, at AT&T Field. The seven innings tied Thorpe's longest pro outing in which he struck out 11 Jupiter batters on Aug. 31, 2017 for Class A Advanced Fort Myers.
"We saw his talent before he got hurt and all the different things he had to endure. He's starting to show that," Twins vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We're trying to bring out that talent we know he has, so this is nice to see for him. Hopefully it gives him a great boost and a shot of confidence and inspires him to keep on going."
The Australian southpaw jumped out to a quick start, firing 4 2/3 perfect frames with first 11 punchouts of the contest. He struck out the side in the third, beginning a streak in which he fanned seven of his next eight opponents. The streak was snapped when Blake Allemand grounded a single to center in the fifth. But Thorpe induced Tyler Heineman to line out to end the frame.
The 22-year-old walked Brewers No. 7 prospect Trent Grisham with one out in the sixth, then sat down his final five batters. He needed only 10 pitches to finish off the seventh, inducing groundouts from top Brewers prospect Keston Hiura and 17th-ranked Jake Gatewood before No. 3 Lucas Erceg popped out. Thorpe threw 84 pitches, 60 for strikes, after giving up 16 hits and 11 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings in his previous two starts.
"Maybe this is the beginning of the final push that we all hope and believe is possible," Radcliff said. "It's just one performance and just another piece in this long journey. But he's gone through so much that to have something like this can spur a guy on."
Radcliff said the Melbourne native needed some time to find himself last season. With low-90s velocity on his fastball, Thorpe had to establish a mix of his secondary pitches and fine-tune his command in order to be effective. The Twins continued to use him as a starter in hopes that, despite the time off, Thorpe still possessed the big league-level talent they saw in him when he was signed as an international free agent on July 12, 2012.
He finished 2017 with a 2.93 ERA through 83 innings. He gave up four runs on five hits over six innings in his Double-A debut on Aug. 20. After a solid Spring Training, Minnesota officials gave him the opportunity to start 2018 with the Lookouts, where he's recorded a 4.26 ERA over 14 games.
Radcliff emphasized he's taking Thursday's start at face value, but he wasn't afraid to ponder Thorpe's ceiling.
"Spring Training was a big deal when we finally saw his capability again, the better pitches, better finish, better snap, better fastball," he said. "He's got the physical things back in place, and now he has to hone his craft.
"We think he can start for us. It's easy to go to the bullpen with a guy who's been out that long and have him throw an inning or two, but we think he has starting potential. He has a ways to go, but this was good."