The Vermont Lake Monsters began their 2016 season on Friday, falling 1-0 to the Lowell Spinners. Vermont plays in the NY-Penn League, at the Class A Short-Season level that I colloquially refer to as Low-A for the sake of simplicity. On the minor league hierarchy, Low-A is a step below the Single-A Beloit Snappers (the lowest full-season affiliate), and a step above the two Rookie Leagues (the bottom of the ladder). The Lake Monsters will play a 75-game season.
At this low level of the minors, I have nearly zero interest in the actual results of the games or the record of the team. There are a handful of players whose stats I'll be tracking, but even those should be taken with a full shaker of salt. There are some quality prospects to be found in this league, especially in the form of teenagers who were either drafted out of high school or signed young out of Latin America and are easing their way up to full-season ball, and on top of that the 2016 draft class will soon arrive and flood each team's roster with some legitimate talent. But there's also a whole lot of chaff that is hoping to earn an opportunity to move up the system and establish themselves as actual prospects.
Let's have a look at the roster. This will change substantially in the next several days when some of the 2016 draftees arrive. (Note: I am not including catcher Carson Blair, who is only in Vermont on a rehab assignment.)
Names to know: Chalmers is easily the biggest prospect here. The 19-year-old was taken in the 3rd round last summer and has serious upside with his big velocity and plus curveball. Kelliher is another high school pick who is finally ready to kick his pro career into gear at age 20. Driver made our CPL Top 30 last winter and was always going to be a long-term project, but three years after being drafted he still hasn't done anything at all.
Notable: Pallares, Altamirano, Johnson, and Zambrano all played for Single-A Beloit earlier this year but were sent back down. Guzman also got a few at-bats for the Snappers.
Local story: Terrell, last year's 11th-round pick, was born in Walnut Creek and drafted out of high school in Vallejo! He's only 19 years old, making him one of the more intriguing players on this team -- rather than being part of the hoi polloi who simply didn't make the cut for Beloit, he's one of those promising teenagers who is likely primarily here due to his youth.
Sleeper: Back in September, I picked a couple sleepers from the later rounds of the 2015 draft. One was 19th-rounder Seth Brown, who is currently making good on that pick by already holding his own in the outfield for High-A Stockton (95 wRC+). The other was 24th-rounder Bowers, a soft-tossing groundball specialist who also has some strikeout ability. He lived up to that scouting report in his debut on Friday, facing 19 batters -- 9 grounders, 3 flies, 5 Ks, and 2 HBP.
Origins: Of these 24 players, 13 of them were drafted by the A's, 1 was drafted by another team, and 10 were international signings. Painton was selected out of high school by the Blue Jays in 2010, and is now 24 years old. Of the ones drafted by Oakland, here's where they were picked. Asterisk denotes the player was picked out of high school.
Missing: Kevin Duchene, last year's 5th-rounder, is still nowhere to be seen. Venezuelan pitcher Oscar Tovar, an 18-year-old who may still be a year or two away from reaching Vermont's roster anyway, is serving a 25-game drug suspension for a substance of abuse (as opposed to a PED). Lefty pitcher Chris Kohler, drafted out of high school in the 3rd round in 2013, still appears to be in his perpetual state of rehab.
Friday's game: Bowers got the start and acquitted himself well, with a line of 4⅔ ip, 1 run (unearned), 5 Ks, 0 BB, 2 HBP. ... Terrell batted leadoff and went 3-for-5, though the team was shut out on eight total hits ... Pallares didn't put a ball in play (2 Ks, 1 BB) but did notch an outfield assist by throwing out a runner at home plate.
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:05 p.m., Henderson Alvarez vs. Round Rock
Double-A Midland: 5:00 p.m., Raul Alcantara vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., Heath Fillmyer vs. High Desert
Single-A Beloit: 5:00 p.m., Michael Murray vs. Wisconsin
Low-A Vermont: 2:05 p.m. Dakota Chalmers vs. Lowell
CHALMERS ALERT!! We've waited a full year to see the youngster play above Rookie Ball, and it's finally happening.
This entire pitching slate is excellent, actually. Alvarez makes his next rehab outing, and the goal this time is to get him past 70 pitches (via Susan Slusser, S.F. Chronicle). Alcantara and Fillmyer are both top prospects. And Murray, last year's 32nd-round pick, has a 1.54 ERA and five Ks per walk through his first four starts for Beloit.