Minor Thoughts from Lakewood

Sunday was going to be my last minor league game of the season with Adonis Medina scheduled to pitch. Unfortunately the weather got in the way on Saturday while I was driving back from Williamsport and instead of scheduling a doubleheader for Sunday, they ended up canceling the game altogether. That meant that Lakewood would bump Felix Paulino to last night’s and now Medina is scheduled to pitch (as of this publication) this afternoon for the regular season finale. While I will now be attending this game, I could not pass on an opportunity to learn a little bit more about Paulino and get some open side views of the Lakewood’s position players. So with the turnaround from night game to day game, I’ve decided to give you guys a cliff notes version of my observations from Sunday’s 8-0 Lakewood victory.

  • There were two stars on this night: the starting pitcher and the shortstop. Let’s start with the shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa (who has more potential than the starter). Gamboa flashed his tools all over the place last night. In his first at-bat, he would ground out to 1B, but not before fouling back the second pitch and destroying one of the media room windows (that’s coming out of his allowance).

After grounding out in his second at-bat to SS, he would come up big by smoking an elevated fastball down the LF line for an RBI double, giving Lakewood a 2-0 lead in the fifth. This would be his last at-bat hitting left-handed, where in most of my eyewitness accounts of him seems to be his comfortable side, which the numbers also seem to back up (.270, .753 OPS in 215 AB vs RHP; .227, .570 OPS in 88 AB vs LHP). In his first at-bat of the night hitting right-handed, he would work a seven pitch battle and got another elevated fastball and smoked it backup the middle for a two-run single to cap a five run sixth inning. He would pop up in his final at-bat in the eighth right-handed. Gamboa has impressed me with his battles at the plate to try and get good pitches to hit or take his walks. In fact what I like right now is that he’s gotten hot at the end of the season. He extended his hit streak to 13 games, hitting .411 (21/51) during this stretch. The real reason he’s got me excited is his athleticism and potential on defense up the middle. He started the top of the eighth inning ranging to his left to pick the ball then made a running throw to just get a good athlete in Joel Booker. While I’ve seen him make a couple of lapses this season, I see the tools of an above average SS with the athleticism, above average arm strength, soft hands and good instincts. He was probably on the fringe of my top 20 in the system around the break without having seen him yet. With a couple of potential graduations and seeing his play, he’s firmly there now, potentially knocking on the door of my top 15.

  • RHP Felix Paulino brought his “A-game” last night. In his previous start, he went seven innings allowing one run and four hits while striking out nine and walking none. It was his best of his 14 starts this season and it came vs a decent Kannapolis lineup (White Sox affiliate). He faced Kannapolis again for his final start of the season and the results were pretty much the same: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, HBP on 96 pitches (59 strikes). Paulino has stepped in to Lakewood’s rotation admirably after starting the year as a reliever, filling in for injured starters early on before eventually sticking with the rotation when a number of guys got promoted. His arsenal is average. He’s got a fastball that he throws from 91-94 mph that got some life but is complemented better by what looked like a sinker with decent run at 88-91 mph. He also has an average looking slider at 81-84 mph that doesn’t have tremendous spin and a change-up that he threw in the mid 80s once in awhile. None of his pitches stood out and early on his sinker hit below the knees and dirt a lot. He was a little bit better as a starter than he was as a reliever, but he doesn’t have great command and he can get hit around pretty good. At 22 in low A, he’s probably more of pitching depth than one who can stick on a major league pitching staff for more than three seasons.
  • Mickey Moniak has had such an up and down season. It started out well for him the first two months seeing all those fastballs. But ever since then he’s been given a steady diet of anything offspeed and that seems to have disrupted his timing, even though their is nothing wrong with the swing itself. Last night he didn’t have a horrible game even though he had one hit in five at-bats. While he was in front a couple of times, he only had one really bad swing at a breaking ball in the dirt and that was it. He showed what kind of potential he can bring if he can put it all together with his leadoff triple in the third inning, drilling it hard off the wall in LF and racing to 3B with his plus speed. He’s still a good CF with a 45-50 arms strength as I haven’t really seen anything egregious while he patrols that position to make me think he should be bumped to a corner. It’s probably the most comfortable place he’s been this season. I think it would be good for him to stay behind in Lakewood and start hot, but because of his #1 overall pick status, I wouldn’t be shocked if he begins next season in Clearwater.

  • Adam Haseley would go hitless in five trips, but hit a sac fly to LF in the fifth and then walked on four pitches and scored in the sixth. He continues to swing at good pitches in the zone and, for the most part, stay away from the bad ones. There some debate whether LF or RF will be his future home, and I still continue to say it will be LF because I don’t think he’ll develop the arm strength for RF. I think based on the type of at-bats he has taken between Williamsport and Lakewood that he is ready for Clearwater to begin 2018. If the Phillies want both he and Moniak to both continue to play CF, I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept them separate again. If it were up to me, Haseley would start in Clearwater and Moniak in Lakewood, but the team could flip that as well.

Author: Jeff Israel