Clearwater technically has not wrapped up the first half of its season (it has two more games with Daytona before that), but the All-Star break gives as good a time as any to check in on the Threshers to see how things are going in Florida.
For a month J.P. Crawford used the FSL as his own personal batting practice as he hit .392/.489/.443 in 21 games for the Threshers. Crawford has since gone on to terrorize the Eastern League so Florida State League pitchers shouldn’t feel too bad.
Astudillo Just Keeps Hitting:
We are now into year 2 of the Willians Astudillo experience. He is hitting .309/.345/.387 with 4 walks and 8 strikeouts. There is nothing out there to say he can’t hit like this going forward, however it isn’t the hitting that I worry about. At this point it has become painfully obvious that Astudillo’s best defensive position is designated hitter, and while the batting average is nice, his power is non-existent (.079 ISO). This makes him just not a major league prospect. Essentially he is Billy Butler with the walks or hints of power. Unless you are Billy Beane that is a profile that has negative value to a major league roster. For now we can continue to marvel at how Astudillo does it.
As a team the Threshers have 22 home runs on the season of which 3 were hit by guys on “rehab” assignments. Dylan Cozens‘ calling card is power, but so far the right fielder has 3 home runs on the year. Similarly power was the drawing factor for Aaron Brown who has 4 home runs on the season. The Threshers’ current leader is Andrew Pullin with 5 home runs on the year, but he is not a big time slugger. It has hurt that Zach Green has spent most of the year on disabled list, but there are a lot of hitters who need to pick up on their power numbers before the stock starts to slip too much.
Ramos Shuts Them Down:
Despite only pitching in short season ball, Edubray Ramos made the offseason Top 50 on the back of a fastball that was sitting 91-93 touching up to 96 along with a wipeout breaking ball. This year the Phillies challenged Ramos and skipped him over Lakewood to Clearwater. He has responded with his signature control with 4 walks in 42.1 innings this year. He had a 2.31 ERA in April, but has been dominant since then and has a 1.70 ERA on the season while showing the ability to go as many as 3 innings in a start. To top that all off his fastball has reportedly been 94-97 in recent outings. He should probably be in Reading soon and should get a 40 man roster spot this offseason. For now though he is the best reliever in a fairly solid back of the bullpen for the Threshers.
Leiter/Leibrandt and Throwing Strikes:
I have never been the highest on the upside of RHP Mark Leiter Jr and LHP Brandon Leibrandt, because their stuff is fairly pedestrian. However, if you are going to make it without flashy stuff you better not walk anyone. The two pitchers (before Leiter’s promotion and Leibrandt’s injury) had combined to walk 28 batters in 137.2 innings this year, good for a 1.8 BB/9. To match that success they combined for 118 strikeouts so far this year. Leibrandt is now on the DL and Leiter is in Reading so Threshers may not get to see these guys again soon.
Help is On the Way:
The Threshers received their first wave of reinforcements before the All-Star break with the arrival of Carlos Tocci and Ricardo Pinto. Tocci has been on a tear this year as he starts to come into his strength. He won’t hit many out but he will put a lot in play and solidify center field defensively. Pinto made his debut right after the All-Star break with a zero walk, seven strikeout performance. The short righty will being a fastball at 91-94 that touches 96, to go along with a killer changeup. He still needs to find a slider, but he has emerged as a top 10 prospect in the system. The second wave of prospects should arrive this week as first baseman Rhys Hoskins and shortstop Malquin Canelo are expected to be promoted to Clearwater soon. Both lead the South Atlantic League in offense, with Canelo holding the league lead in doubles and Hoskins leading in OPS. Canelo should be able to stick at shortstop long term and projects to not quite hit as much as he did in Lakewood. On the other hand Hoskin’s is just scratching his offensive ceiling as the Lakewood ballpark suppressed his power. Both should help give the Threshers the best roster in the system outside of Reading.