It’s been nearly a month since we checked in with the Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters, outside of 2nd-round draft pick Logan Shore’s long-awaited debut last week. It’s not hard to figure out the headline on this team, though — No. 6 overall pick A.J. Puk is looking great, in all the most encouraging ways.
Puk began his pro career with undeniable talent, but with work to be done on his control and command. The left-hander walked a lot of batters in college (over 4.0 BB/9 each year), and his wildness, though often effective, caused him to be too inefficient to pitch deep into games. There’s no question the strikeouts will be there, but will that be enough?
That profile leaves me looking at two things in particular -- Puk’s walk rate, and his pitch counts. Here’s his full game log so far (H for hits; 17p for 17 pitches; 12s for 12 strikes):
7/12: 2 ip, 0 Ks, 0 BB, 0 H, 17p (12s)
7/17: 1⅓ ip, 0 Ks, 1 BB, 2 H, 34p (21s)
7/22: 2⅓ ip, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 3 H, 43p (27s)
7/28: 2⅔ ip, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 4 H, 61p (36s)
8/03: 4 ip, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 1 H, 51p (38s)
8/08: 4 ip, 7 Ks, 0 BB, 2 H, 58p (44s)
Not every game has been great, but at least he’s kept the walks low. The last two starts have been particularly encouraging — he threw strikes, he kept his pitch count low, and he piled up 11 strikeouts to just one walk. That’s everything I want to see out of him.
Puk is only six games into his pro career, and he’s not facing any great competition, but you can’t really ask for more than what the 21-year-old has done in his first month on the job.
Vermont roster update
Rather than a full roster, here is the rundown of which 2016 draft picks are in Vermont. They’re listed in order of the round in which they were picked:
1. A.J. Puk, LHP
2. Logan Shore, RHP
3. Sean Murphy, C
5. JaVon Shelby, 3B
6. Brandon Bailey, RHP
7. Tyler Ramirez, OF
8. Will Gilbert, LHP
9. Dalton Sawyer, LHP
11. Eli White, SS
12. Luke Persico, OF
13. Nate Mondou, 2B
15. Ty Damron, LHP
24. Robert Bennie, OF
29. Matt Milburn, RHP
33. Jarrett Costa, C
Beyond them, righty reliever Nolan Blackwood (14th round) is already up in Single-A Beloit.
There are five hitters finding success in Vermont so far, and one of them has already moved up to Beloit — 20-year-old outfielder Luis Barrera, a Dominican international signing. He had posted a 142 wRC+ in 177 plate appearances. Another 20-year-old Dominican, first baseman Miguel Mercedes, shares the NY-Penn League lead with nine homers. Here’s a quick rundown of the top hitters:
Tyler Ramirez, OF: 153 wRC+, hitting well plus lots of walks
Nate Mondou, SS: 151 wRC+, high average, good discipline, low power
Miguel Mercedes, 1B: 149 wRC+, huge power, lots of Ks, draws some walks
Eli White, SS: 140 wRC+, good in every area so far
No other hitters have been above-average so far, nor even particularly close.
Here are my favorite pitchers so far. All of them are 2016 picks from the first 10 rounds, except for Chalmers (2015, 3rd round):
Logan Shore, RHP: 2 ip, 0 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA
Dalton Sawyer, LHP: 14⅔ ip, 18 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR, 2.45 ERA
Will Gilbert, LHP: 18 ip, 22 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 3.00 ERA
A.J. Puk, LHP: 16⅓ ip, 19 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 3.31 ERA
Brandon Bailey, RHP: 15 ip, 15 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 3.60 ERA
Dakota Chalmers, RHP: 45⅓ ip, 45 Ks, 19 BB, 6 HR, 4.37 ERA
It’s just a handful of innings in Vermont, but these guys are off to great starts. I’m loving the strikeout rates all around. Chalmers had one bad outing that raised his ERA more than a run. Gilbert and Sawyer appear to be exclusively relievers so far, but they’re doing it well.
Daulton Jefferies debuts
Down in the Arizona Rookie League, first-round pick Daulton Jefferies made his pro debut. Jefferies, a right-handed starter, was the No. 37 overall pick out of Cal this summer. Injuries shortened his college season, and we didn’t know what (if anything) we’d see out of him before the end of the year.
Jefferies took the mound on Monday and threw two innings, striking out three without a walk. He gave up a run on four hits. More important than the numbers, though, is the fact that his arm works and he pitched in an actual game. Welcome to the pros, Daulton!
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Jharel Cotton vs. Round Rock
Double-A Midland: LIVE, Brandon Mann vs. Tulsa
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., Kyle Friedrichs vs. Modesto
Single-A Beloit: LIVE, Brendan Butler vs. Clinton
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, Logan Shore vs. Brooklyn
Cotton was perfect through four innings as of this writing (game ongoing), with seven strikeouts (update: he came one batter short of a perfect game). Shore got a bit roughed up in his second outing, but he did record a couple strikeouts this time. Midland is facing their old teammate, Seth Frankoff, who now pitches for Tulsa.