The Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters are off and running (swimming?) in their 2016 season. They're only 4-7 through their first 11 games, but I cannot stress enough how completely irrelevant their team record is. At this level of the minors, all I personally care about is the individual performances of the top handful of youngsters.
We took an introductory look at Vermont's roster when their season began, but the landscape has already changed now that some players from the 2016 draft are making their way into the pros. The Opening Day roster was highlighted by names like Dakota Chalmers, Dustin Driver, Branden Kelliher, and James Terrell -- all former high school draftees who are being brought along slowly. They have now been joined by seven members of this year's draft class. Here's the updated roster (names in italics are 2016 draftees):
Ivan Andueza (L)
Derek Beasley (L)
Will Gilbert (L)
Jorge Martinez (L)
Tyler Painton (L)
Dalton Sawyer (L)
Say hello to seven members of this year's draft class, in order of the rounds they were selected in:
3. Sean Murphy, C
5. JaVon Shelby, 3B
8. Will Gilbert, LHP
9. Dalton Sawyer, LHP
11. Eli White, SS
13. Nate Mondou, 2B
14. Nolan Blackwood, RHP
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. This list doesn't yet include Oakland's top three picks -- two of them (Puk and Shore) just finished playing in the College World Series and haven't even had time to sign yet, and the other (Jefferies) is still rehabbing an injury. The next pick after Murphy was high schooler Skylar Szynski, and I expect he'll spend this year in Rookie Ball like his peers from recent drafts have done. We'll likely see more of the new draftees as the summer rolls along.
More hellos: There are three other new players who aren't from the 2016 draft. Beasley (2014, R30) was decent in Vermont last year but is now 24 years old, and Berube (2015, R28) washed out of Single-A Beloit's bullpen after just three games -- both look like org filler. Andueza is a 21-year-old out of Venezuela who spent the last few years in Rookie Ball, and if he makes any noise we'll let you know.
Goodbye (for now): Vermont added 10 players to its roster, but they only removed five in exchange. There are now 29 players on the active roster, which is totally normal according to Wikipedia -- overall roster limit is 35, the active roster goes up to 30, and only 25 can suit up for the game on any given day. (If anyone would like to verify or refute that with a more official source, be my guest!)
And where did those five players go? Dustin Driver is the notable departure, as he was promoted back up to Single-A Beloit on Thursday to continue his search for the elusive strike zone. Fellow RHP Tyler Willman (2014, R12) joined Driver on the road up to Beloit. Infielders Javier Godard and Jesus Lage were sent back down to the Arizona Rookie League, which makes sense since they are still super young (20 and 18, respectively). Finally, pitcher Kevin Johnson (2013, R24) has retired from baseball.
Origins: The majority of the roster (16-of-29) is now made up of players from the 2015 and 2016 draft classes. The only players drafted by the A's before those years are Berube, Kelliher, and Schwartz, all from 2014. Painton was drafted out of high school by the Blue Jays in 2010. The other nine players were international signings.
Chalmers update: Let's be real, Dakota Chalmers (2015, R3) is the biggest name on this team and it's not even close. The right-hander has made two starts so far, and they've gone about as you might expect -- solid overall, with lots of Ks and a few too many walks. That's what you get from a guy with top-level stuff who is only 19 and still refining his craft. We'll be watching him closely all summer, but the most important thing is just that he makes it through the season healthy. His numbers: 2 starts, 8 ip, 2 ER, 10 Ks, 5 BB.
Top performers: The stars of the pitching staff so far have been a pair of guys from the late rounds of 2015, Bowers and Butler. Bowers has given up just one earned run through his first three starts for a 0.60 ERA, while Butler has allowed just two runs and no walks so far through two starts (12 innings). In the bullpen, Schwartz (2014, R4) is racking up the strikeouts.
There's not much to report on the hitting front. A few of the international guys are off to good starts (Mercedes, Barrera, Rodriguez), and they're each 19-20 years old so if they keep it up then they could become guys to watch. Otherwise, no other hitters have done much to stand out yet.
Rookie League update: Lefty Kevin Duchene (2015, R5) finally made his 2016 debut on Friday, throwing four excellent innings in the Arizona Rookie League (4 ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 BB).
Four affiliates are in action. The Double-A Texas League is stopped for its All-Star break this week and will resume Thursday.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:05 p.m., Chris Smith vs. Omaha
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., Kyle Friedrichs vs. Modesto
Single-A Beloit: 5:00 p.m., Evan Manarino vs. Peoria
Low-A Vermont: 4:05 p.m., Dakota Chalmers vs. Aberdeen
There are three pitchers worth watching today. Friedrichs is on a roll in Stockton, with 34 Ks and 1 walk in five starts. Manarino finally had a bad outing, but his ERA is still only 2.23 with five Ks per walk. We discussed Chalmers above.