Pitching Spotlight #1: RHP Chris Oliver – 7 IP 7 H 0 R 0 BB 6 K (98 pitches/66 strikes)
Oliver’s pro debut could not have gone much worse. The Phillies messed with his delivery and tried introducing a true slider (Oliver throws a slider that he calls a curveball) and the result was an already wild pitcher became an unworkable one. Over 17.2 innings between GCL and Williamsport he had a 8.66 ERA with 23 walks and 10 strikeouts (while hitting 6 batters). So far this year Oliver has a 2.05 ERA through 22.0 innings while walking 5 and striking out 16. His outing this weekend was his longest and most successful start so far. In addition to the newfound control, Oliver has shown the ability to induce weak contact this year and in this small sample size he has a 63.5% GB% and has allowed 10 fly balls total in 74 balls put in play. Overall here is the heat map of where balls have been put in play against him
Hitting Spotlight #1: 1B Rhys Hoskins/CF Carlos Tocci – 14-27 3 2B 1 3B 1 BB 1 K 2 SB
I have talked a lot about Tocci and Hoskins here and on Twitter, so lets just get the numbers out of the way first. Tocci is now batting .400/.476/.533 and Hoskins is batting .345/.436/.586. Hoskins has been helped by not playing in Lakewood’s power sapping home stadium and has a .396/.448/.736 line in 13 road games, but you still have to actually hit them hard in the easier stadiums. In addition to the hitting ability, Tocci has his legs under him and is 9 for 9 on stolen base attempts and is one stolen base off of tying his career high, there were some doubts about his speed, but he is putting up plus plus times. Outside of the numbers the thing I wanted to talk about was all the questions about when the pair would be promoted. The real problem is that the farm system has gotten deeper and so there aren’t easy spots to promote someone. In the case of Tocci it will depend on how bad the injury to Aaron Brown is, if he is out for an extended period of time it does open up some outfield time, but if he is back soon, none of Brown, Andrew Pullin, and Dylan Cozens is deserving of a promotion or demotion. As for Hoskins, the 1B/DH spot is even more crowded with Andrew Knapp (C/DH), Willians Astudillo (C/1B/DH), and Zach Green (1B) all needing time at those positions. There just isn’t room right now for either player, maybe it will work itself out through a hot start or injury, but for now it will be up to Tocci and Hoskins to just keep mashing where they are.
Hitting Spotlight #2: C Andrew Knapp 5-13 2B 3B K HBP
It was a solid, but not banner weekend for Clearwater’s catcher at the plate. However, I want to talk more about his small sample size season so far. In the first 12 games of the year, Knapp struck out 20 times while walking 2 times. In his past 10 games he has cut that down to 6 strikeouts and added in 4 walks. Part of the problem has been his batting from the right side where he is 8 for 37 with one double, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. He has always had less power from the right side, but the plate discipline number have never been this bad before. It is worth keeping an eye on. Overall Knapp has a weird profile, he can make hard contact, but there hasn’t really been home run power. He is a catcher so he won’t need to hit a ton, but that also makes us ask the question of whether he actually is a catcher. His receiving is still rough as he is still fairly new to catching, but more concerning are the reports of his throwing arm which apparently has not come back all the way from Tommy John surgery. He struggles to get a lot of zip on his throws and it has some worried that it may doom his chances to stay behind the dish. He is athletic enough that a return to the outfield is a possibility if he can’t catch.
Stat of the Week:
The Reading rotation gets a ton of accolades (which it deserves), but the most interesting rotation from a developmental status is the 6 man rotation of the Lakewood Blueclaws. The best prospects were a pair of Latin pitchers who made the Top 20 of the Top 50 in Ricardo Pinto and Elniery Garcia. They were joined by 2014 4th round pick Chris Oliver (who was in the Top 40), an undrafted free agent LHP in Josh Taylor, and two young RHs in Tyler Viza and Ranfi Casimiro who were overmatched last year in Lakewood and had to battle through based on the lack of other pitching depth. It hasn’t always been smooth starts for the rotation on a whole, but they have done the most important things right, they have thrown strikes and kept the ball in the park. On the year their line is:
135.1 IP 143 H (9.4/9) 51 ER (3.39 ERA) 11 HR (0.7/9) 32 BB (2.1/9) 105 K (7.0/9)
It has been an impressive start for the young group. I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that the Lakewood bullpen has been very good as well putting up the following line:
79.0 IP 2.62 ERA 54 H 23 ER 4 HR 32 BB 66 K
It is a fun team to follow if you have not been paying attention.
Reading Rotation Watch:
It is finally time we turn to everyone’s favorite rotation of Nola/Biddle/Eflin/Windle/Lively who now have put up the following line this year:
114.2 IP 92 H (7.2/9) 34 ER (2.67 ERA) 8 HR (0.6/9) 32 BB (2.5/9) 91 K (7.1/9)
As a whole the numbers stay the same despite whatever Windle’s two inning 7 walk outing did to them, overall Windle has been the most volatile member of the rotation. Without him, the rotation has gone:
94.2 IP 2.28 ERA 6.8 H/9 0.5 HR/9 1.9 BB/9 6.9 K/9
Overall on their last trip through the rotation the 5 went:
28 IP 23 H 10 ER 10 BB 24 K
Image of Chris Oliver pitching taken by Baseball Betsy