It is an incredible thing when a prospect suddenly finds power. Especially given the lack of home runs in today’s game, a step forward in the power department can turn a good prospect into a great one or a potential utility player into a possible starter. In Johnny Field‘s case, he has already significantly improved twice–from his first professional season to his second and now from his second to his third. Field was the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Player of the Year, and now he is one of the top contenders for the award this season as well.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Louisville Bats (CIN) 2
The Bulls turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the sixth on a J.P. Arencibia RBI groundout and a 2-out RBI single by Richie Shaffer. Arencibia finished 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored as he continues to be red-hot. In his last 11 games, he has a .333/.340/.622 line with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 12 RBI. Of course, he still has a 15-1 strikeout to walk ratio in that span–he will never walk and he keeps striking out–but at least he has some pop.
On the mound, Scott Diamond tossed 5.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 6-2. Diamond has a tidy 3.04 ERA with the Bulls this season, but his flaw is striking nobody out–just 4.4 batters per 9. Jhan Marinez followed with 1.2 perfect innings, striking out 1 and getting 3 more outs on the ground, before Kirby Yates tossed a perfect frame with a strikeout. Yates has looked good in his last 2 outings and can be considered a part of the big league bullpen depth again. Ronald Belisario then worked around 2 hits with 2 strikeouts for his 17th save.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 5, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 2
What a season it has been for Johnny Field. The 23-year-old outfield prospect hit just 12 home runs in the entire 2014 regular season, but he is going to reach that count much earlier this year. Field led the Biscuits to victory by going 2 for 4 with 2 homers along with an outfield assist for good measure. The home runs give him 10 on the season already to go along with a .295/.349/.518 line. Field also had 25 doubles, 8 stolen bases (in 11 attempts), and 8 outfield assists without an error.
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Field is not a big guy at 5’10”, 190, and it is hard to deny the promise that he is showing in the power department as well as the other facets of the game. His increased power has come at the expense of some plate discipline–he has struck out 60 times (24.7% of his PA’s) while walking 14 times–and he likely won’t hit this many homers moving forward. Even so, when we look at his power, speed, and excellent defense in centerfield, the Rays just might have themselves a starting outfielder in Field. He has done nothing but exceed expectations since the start of the 2014 season.
Other strong performers at the plate for the Biscuits were Justin O’Conner, who went 2 for 4 with a solo homer and a double, and Joey Rickard, who went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and 2 stolen bases. The Biscuits moved O’Conner up to #2 in their batting order in an effort to jumpstart him at the plate, and the early returns have been great as he has gone 2 for 4 in both of his games in his new spot. Rickard, meanwhile, is Field’s former teammate at the University of Arizona and has a .318/.384/.455 line in 126 PA’s since rejoining the Biscuits after a stint in Charlotte.
The efforts of Field, O’Conner, and Rickard came in support of Jaime Schultz, who labored his way to a solid outing. He went 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking 7 while walking 4. Schultz has a 3.10 ERA and a 10.9 K/9 this season for the Biscuits, but he has also allowed a 5.7 BB/9. Colton Reavis followed him with 2 perfect innings, striking out 2 and getting 3 more outs on the ground, before Matt Lollis forced a strikeout and 2 groundouts in his perfect frame. Bryce Stowell then managed to work around a hit and a walk for his 6th save.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 9, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 2
Taylor Guerrieri continues to progress after Tommy John Surgery. In this game, he recorded an out in a fourth inning of work for the first time since the surgery, tossing 4 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 1 while walking none. He certainly wasn’t dominant, but he forced a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio as he kept the Hammerheads off-balance most of the game. Guerrieri has a 22-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 18.1 innings this season–he is still going to be really good. He will be limited to around 75 innings this season.
Isaac Gil followed Guerrieri by allowing 1 run in 2 innings before Josh Kimborowicz was sharp to finish the game. He tossed 3 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 3, lowering his ERA to 1.66 in the process. Kimborowicz, a 19th round pick from 2013, has an 18-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 21.2 innings this season after a solid stint at Bowling Green in 2013.
Things were certainly easier for the pitchers with the offense playing so well. The Stone Crabs couldn’t manage a single extra-base hit, but they went 7 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left just 5 men on base. Jake Bauers went 2 for 5 with 3 RBI and Kean Wong went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored while Maxx Tissenbaum and Carter Burgess also delivered multi-hit games. Bauers has continued his tremendous year, hitting to a .273/.364/.444 line with 13 doubles, 6 homers, 36 RBI, and a 32-28 K-BB ratio as the team’s youngest player.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 10, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 6
Hyrum Formo‘s outing ended in disaster as he allowed 4 runs in the sixth inning to finish with 6 allowed in 5.2 frames. He failed to record a win despite being staked to a 6-2 lead–suddenly the game was tied. However, Damion Carroll and Mike Franco were sharp being him, with Carroll allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 3 in 2.1 shutout innings, and the offense was surging.
Most of the thump came from the bottom of the lineup as Hunter Lockwood went 2 for 3 with a 3-run homer, a stolen base, and 3 runs scored out of the 8-hole and Alec Sole went 2 for 4 with at triple, a stolen base, 3 RBI, and a run scored batting right behind him. Lockwood is hoping to salvage his first year at full-season ball after injury and poor performance had kept him off-track for so long.
The top of the order wasn’t so bad either. Riley Unroe went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, a stolen base, and a run scored, Thomas Milone went 2 for 5 with a stolen base, an RBI, and a run, Jace Conrad went 2 for 5 with a double, a walk, and an RBI, and Bralin Jackson went 2 for 4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Unroe now has an 8-game hitting streak while Jackson has a 5-gamer. More importantly, Unroe has a .348/.406/.438 line in his last 102 PA’s while Jackson has an insane .440/.494/.640 line in his last 83 PA’s.