The Triple-A Nashville Sounds got off to a mediocre start in 2016, going 10-12 in April while several top prospects scuffled at the plate. That all changed in May, as the Sounds went 22-8 overall and finished the month by winning 16 of 17 games. They now stand at 32-21 (after a June 1 loss), tops in the entire Pacific Coast League.
Even better than seeing the team win is how they are winning. They capitalized on breakout, slump-busting performances from key prospects including Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, and Rangel Ravelo. They also got some new call-ups from Double-A Midland who stepped in and thrived immediately, including hitters Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman as well as starting pitcher Daniel Mengden. Here's a look at how things changed from April to May (*May stats include June 1, and stats for Healy and Brugman are just since their promotions):
|Player||April OPS||May* OPS||April BB/K||May* BB/K|
If you want to start winning, one good way is to take all of your struggling hitters and turn them into good hitters. That'll usually do the trick. Add in Mengden, who has allowed a total of five earned runs in his first six starts at Triple-A (1.12 ERA), and success will surely follow.
There is something specific to like in each of those hitters' improved performances.
- Olson was already drawing his walks and hitting for some power, but now his batted balls are falling in for hits at a happier rate -- from a .167 BABIP in April up to a .379 mark since. That has allowed him to move above the Mendoza Line.
- Pinder had an atrocious BB/K rate, one that makes it tough to get on base. He wasn't walking and he wasn't putting the ball in play often enough to get hits, which is how a strong .316 BABIP only results in a .238 average. But over the last month his BB/K was even better than it was in his Double-A MVP campaign last year, and the rest of his numbers have gone up with it (such that a .333 BABIP in May resulted in .280 average).
- Ravelo hit for almost zero power in April, even less than normal for him, but he began picking up extra-base hits in May. His isolated slugging was .047 in the first month, and .169 since.
- Healy and Brugman just kept on hitting as if they hadn't moved up to tougher competition. Healy racked up eight multi-hit games in his first 14 Triple-A contests, and Brugman notched a pair of four-hit games in a three-day span this week (Mon-Wed).
Of course, the journey isn't over yet. Now these players have matched a bad data point with a good one, and it's up to them to keep racking up positive results as the summer goes on. But if you were worried about any of these top youngsters after poor Aprils, don't be.
To complete the prospect picture: Renato Nunez was good in April and has remained good since, while Joey Wendle didn't hit much in either April or May. Also, note that the Sounds played an eight-game stretch in insanely hitter-friendly Las Vegas and Salt Lake, which probably helped grease the lineup's wheels a bit, but that was only one week out of the entire month.
Hitters (thru 53 games, not counting Thursday 6/2)
Ryon Healy, 1B: .350/.394/.517, 1 HR, 6.1% BB, 15.2% Ks, 144 wRC+
Jaycob Brugman, OF: .309/.317/.527, 1 HR, 3.3% BB, 19.7% Ks, 114 wRC+
Renato Nunez, 3B: .260/.305/.505, 10 HR, 4.7% BB, 16.9% Ks, 111 wRC+
Matt Olson, OF: .225/.325/.426, 6 HR, 13.1% BB, 22.8% Ks, 100 wRC+
Bruce Maxwell, C: .247/.371/.296, 0 HR, 16.5% BB, 15.5% Ks, 93 wRC+
Chad Pinder, SS: .265/.302/.416, 4 HR, 4.5% BB, 23.0% Ks, 89 wRC+
Rangel Ravelo, 1B: .246/.314/.359, 2 HR, 9.4% BB, 14.5% Ks, 79 wRC+
Joey Wendle, 2B: .235/.277/.395, 5 HR, 4.7% BB, 25.8% Ks, 75 wRC+
This list is getting long! There is basically an entire lineup's worth of quality prospects in Triple-A. Healy (66 PAs) and Brugman (61 PAs) are still new to the club, so their numbers come in even smaller samples. Maxwell finally homered on Thursday, his first first of the year, though it's not reflected in this update.
The MLB Depth hitters by wRC+: Max Muncy (126), Andrew Lambo (89), Matt McBride (37).
Daniel Mengden, RHP: 6 starts, 1.12 ERA, 40⅓ ip, 32 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR
Dillon Overton, LHP: 10 games, 3.99 ERA, 56⅓ ip, 51 Ks, 13 BB, 2 HR
Daniel Coulombe, LHP: 15 games, 0.47 ERA, 19 ip, 27 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR
Patrick Schuster, LHP: 19 games, 0.86 ERA, 21 ip, 21 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR
Tucker Healy, RHP: 18 games, 2.42 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 33 Ks, 8 BB, 1 HR
J.B. Wendelken, RHP: 19 games, 4.58 ERA, 19⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 10 BB, 3 HR
My favorite stat for those starters is the minuscule home run totals. And in the bullpen, those strikeout rates are incredible.
James Naile came up to make a start for Nashville on May 29, but it appears he was just an emergency substitute as he's already back in Single-A Beloit.
All four affiliates played.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Zach Neal vs. Round Rock
Double-A Midland: Won 5-3, Raul Alcantara vs. Springfield
High-A Stockton: LIVE, Heath Fillmyer vs. Bakersfield
Single-A Beloit: Won 7-1, Michael Murray vs. Cedar Rapids
Alcantara was sharp, and Franklin Barreto homered for Midland. In Beloit, Michael Murray was the A's 32nd-round pick last summer, which is why I've never heard of him or mentioned him before.