The Double-A Midland RockHounds are off to a 5-2 start this season, thanks mostly to their red-hot lineup. Scoring is up around the eight-team Texas League in the early going, but the Hounds are on another level with an average of 6.6 runs per game — a full run above the next-best club. They’re tied for the lead in homers, they’re near the bottom in strikeouts, and their OPS is almost 100 points higher than the runner-up.
At the heart of this outburst you will find everything from top prospects to sleepers to org filler. Here’s a rundown of the biggest producers (and one dud), with a reminder that they’ve only played seven games and most of these guys are still shy of 30 plate appearances:
- Tyler Ramirez, OF: 187 wRC+, 9-for-27, 5 XBH, 5 BB, 6 Ks
- Eli White, SS: 185 wRC+, 10-for-26, 2 HR, 2 BB, 8 Ks
- Sean Murphy, C: 153 wRC+, 8-for-25, 4 XBH, 0 BB, 4 Ks
- Mikey White, IF: 134 wRC+, 6-for-24, 2 HR, 3 BB, 7 Ks
- Tyler Marincov, OF: 124 wRC+, 6-for-22, 1 HR, 4 BB, 6 Ks
- Seth Brown, 1B: 121 wRC+, 5-for-22, 2 HR, 4 BB, 5 Ks
- Brett Siddall, OF: 120 wRC+, 7-for-22, 1 XBH, 2 BB, 3 Ks
- Skye Bolt, OF: 10 wRC+, 3-for-25, 1 XBH, 2 BB, 9 Ks
They won’t all stay that locked in, just as Bolt will eventually do something at the plate. But for now that’s basically an entire lineup of hot hands, with only 2B missing from the list (org fillers Melvin Mercedes and J.P. Sportman have split that spot for now, but at some point Richie Martin should come back and join the infield).
The two biggest names on that list are 2016 draftees Murphy and Ramirez. Both reached Double-A last year and made our CPL last winter, and both entered with specific questions to answer this season. Murphy’s bat went quiet upon his initial 2017 promotion to Midland, especially in the power department, but he’s already doing everything he can to put those doubts to rest. Half of his hits have gone for extra-bases, including one dinger.
Meanwhile, Ramirez picked up hits seemingly at will last year but needs to prove his high BABIP wasn’t a fluke, especially since he racked up his fair share of strikeouts and still has to overcome labels as undersized (5’9) and a tweener (bat for CF, glove for LF). So far, so good — he’s still hitting for a high average and drawing walks, and on top of that he’s drilling extra-bases and cutting his K rate.
Next up is Eli White, another 2016 draftee. He was mediocre at the plate last year and only managed four homers for High-A Stockton, but he’s already launched two for Midland. His Stockton experience was complicated by nagging injury and mechanical adjustments (via Melissa Lockard, Oakland Clubhouse), so it’s unclear what we should expect from him — is this just a hot start, or the beginning of a breakout?
Finally, we’ve got the 2015 draft class. It’s been a disappointment so far, but if any of its hitters are going to pan out then it’ll be one of these guys. Mikey White has earned extra-bases on four of his six hits, Seth Brown (age 25 already) is looking to follow up last year’s 30-homer campaign from Stockton, and Brett Siddall is also coming off a Stockton breakout in 2017. Skye Bolt has been quiet so far, but he has the highest ceiling of the group.
The sample size is still impossibly small, so the point here isn’t to get ahead of ourselves with excitement. But dang, the entire lineup is on fire and it’s going to be fun to see which of these performances continue as the weeks and months roll on.
Not much to report on the pitching staff yet, as the rotation is mostly made of org filler at the moment. The standout has been Joel Seddon, an old sleeper favorite of mine, who has put up the following line through two starts: 1.64 ERA, 11 ip, 10 Ks, 2 BB, 9 hits, 2 HR. He’ll turn 26 in July on the same day as his teammate Brown, so he’s on the older side, and he’s also in his third year of Double-A.
On the downside, prospect Norge Ruiz got shelled in his first start (5 outs, 8 runs, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 HR), and fringe sleeper Corey Walter got lit up in his second outing (now more runs than innings overall). As for the bullpen, we’ll take a closer look when they’ve logged a few more innings.
High-A Stockton rotation
I’m not ready for the next full Stockton update yet, but they’ve been so incredible that we simply have to mention them here. Besides, given the meh state of Midland’s staff, it seems likely some of these guys could get a call upward sooner than later.
On Thursday, Parker Dunshee spun five more scoreless frames, extending his streak to 48⅓ innings without a run dating back to last year in Low-A Vermont. Someday he will let an opponent score again, but it’s anyone’s guess when that might happen. Here’s an interesting note on Dunshee, from the founder of Driveline:
This is also ridiculous. Dunshee doesn't give up runs. Why is he in A-ball? He's a college SR signee with plus command and very good stuff. Move him up already. https://t.co/wl3L0OKjLC— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) April 13, 2018
Here’s a list of Stockton’s amazing string of starts this year, which add up to a 0.45 ERA for the whole rotation:
Note that Bray isn’t even a starter, but rather a reliever who is apparently being stretched out to start. I spoke to Ports broadcaster Zack Bayrouty, and as far as he knows Bray is truly a starter for now despite being used exclusively as a reliever before this year. Also, in a twist of irony, national Top 100 prospect Luzardo is the only one who’s given up a run so far, despite still being excellent overall.
Full slate of action.
Triple-A Nashville: 4:35 p.m., Eric Jokisch vs. Omaha
Double-A Midland: 5:10 p.m., Ben Bracewell vs. Springfield
High-A Stockton: 7:00 p.m., Brian Howard vs. San Jose
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Wyatt Marks vs. Kane County
Filler SPs in the upper minors, sleeper favorites in the lower minors.
Which Stockton SP will get the call to Midland first?
This poll is closed