The Double-A Midland RockHounds have a lineup featuring three members of our preseason Community Prospect List Top 30, and all of them are playing well this year. Even better, a fourth name has emerged to join them atop the hitting charts.
The Oakland A’s drafted Eli White in 2016 in the 11th round, and he didn‘t make much noise last summer in his first full season. He spent the year playing shortstop for High-A Stockton, with a mediocre bat and negative fielding marks. Making matters worse, Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse notes that he was hampered by injuries at various points in the season.
White, 2017 A+: .270/.342/.395, 101 wRC+, 4 HR, 8.2% BB, 24.1% Ks
This summer is going much better.
White, 2018 AA: .322/.401/.502, 141 wRC+, 6 HR, 11.2% BB, 21.7% Ks
He’s improved at the plate in just about every way possible. He’s hitting for a higher average and more power, including more homers despite a tougher offensive environment. He‘s walking more and striking out less, enough to drop his rate from three Ks per walk down to two. He’s even stealing more bases and at a higher clip, from 12-for-17 last year up to 10-for-13 so far in half as many games.
On top of all that, White is showing some defensive versatility. He dabbled in CF for eight games last year, but otherwise he stayed at SS. This year he‘s split time evenly between three infield positions (SS, 2B, 3B), as well as a couple games in CF. It remains to be seen whether he sticks at one of those positions or continues in the flexible model of the modern super-sub, but it’s interesting to see him add the option to his resume.
One thing to note about White is that he works long at-bats. His 4.09 pitches per plate appearance is among the top handful in the entire Texas League, and he also ranked highly the previous year in the California League (3.98 pitches). His modest 9.6% swinging-strike rate helps him keep the strikeouts down despite working all those deep counts, and when he makes contact it’s leading to hits and run production.
White has been a consistent force for Midland all year, and entering Thursday he leads the team in wRC+ and OBP. He still has a lot to prove over the long-term, but if he continues this breakout then he could easily find himself on the CPL next winter.
Rest of lineup
As for those three CPL prospects from the opening paragraph:
Murphy, C: .320/.367/.540, 136 wRC+, 6 HR, 5.5% BB, 16.9% Ks
Martin, SS: .330/.398/.486, 134 wRC+, 1 HR, 9.0% BB, 17.4% Ks
Ramirez, OF: .295/.374/.451, 120 wRC+, 4 HR, 9.9% BB, 26.7% Ks
Looking closer, Sean Murphy still isn‘t walking but he’s hit safely in 40-of-50 games this year, so he’s finding his way on base anyway to go with his rediscovered power stroke. Richie Martin has cooled down slightly since our last look at him but not to a disastrous extent (last 10 games: 10-for-39, 90 wRC+). Over at The Athletic, Lockard notes that one factor behind Martin’s recent breakout is the addition of contact lenses to help his vision. Tyler Ramirez is heating back up after a particularly whiffy slump for most of May (last seven games: 12-for-27, 198 wRC+, 18.8% Ks).
The other hitter worth mentioning is new arrival Edwin Diaz. The 22-year-old infielder moved up from High-A and joined the lineup last Friday, and in five games he’s 6-for-18 with a pair of doubles, one walk, and only two Ks (total: 117 wRC+).
Dunshee, Romero promoted
This week brought a couple long-awaited promotions. Two pitchers got the call from High-A Stockton: starter Parker Dunshee, and reliever Miguel Romero. They replace two injured hurlers, with relievers Joseph Camacho and Cody Stull going on the DL.
Dunshee has become one of the stars of last summer’s draft class, between his scoreless 2017 with Low-A Vermont and his outstanding 2018 for the Ports. Between his performance and his relatively advanced age/development as a senior pick out of college, this move felt like a foregone conclusion for a while and just a matter of time. That time is finally now.
Dunshee, 2018 A+: 2.70 ERA, 70 ip, 82 Ks, 17 BB, 7 HR, 3.49 FIP
Romero also joined the organization in 2017, as an international signing from Cuba. He mostly struggled last year but flashed excellent stuff, and the A’s believed in him enough to send him to the Arizona Fall League for more work. This season he appeared to be putting things together in High-A, though at age 24 he was on the older side for that league. Like Dunshee, he will now get to test himself against more age-appropriate competition in the upper minors.
Romero, 2018 A+: 1.84 ERA, 29⅓ ip, 33 Ks, 5 BB, 3 HR, 3.42 FIP
Congrats on your promotions, fellas!
Rest of pitching staff
The hottest pitcher on Midland’s staff is another member of our CPL, reliever Nolan Blackwood. The sidewinder entered the year with lots of hype but struggled out the gate.
Blackwood, first 6 games: 8.59 ERA, 7⅓ ip, 6 Ks, 5 BB, 14 hits, 4.46 FIP
Then he flipped the switch.
Blackwood, last 16 games: 0.42 ERA, 21⅔ ip, 19 Ks, 4 BB, 15 hits, 3.04 FIP
He’s allowed only one run since late April, on a solo dinger by arguably the best hitter in the entire Texas League (Astros prospect Taylor Jones). He’s still giving up enough hits that this isn’t simply a stretch of lucky BABIP. He’s dominating right now, and back on track to being one of the most exciting relievers in Oakland’s system.
As for the rotation, here are the three names worth following:
Luzardo: 3.80 ERA, 42⅔ ip, 54 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR, 3.17 FIP
Shore: 4.68 ERA, 25 ip, 19 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR, 4.12 FIP
Ruiz: 4.43 ERA, 67 ip, 42 Ks, 20 BB, 7 HR, 4.86 FIP
In his last two starts, Jesus Luzardo has struck out 16 batters without a walk in 10 innings (albeit he did hit a batter). Logan Shore is getting knocked around a bit since his own promotion, but not too badly. Norge Ruiz has made three solid starts in a row (2.41 ERA, 18⅔ ip).
Five members of the Hounds were honored with All-Star berths this season. The list:
- LHP Jesus Luzardo
- C Sean Murphy
- 2B J.P. Sportman
- SS Eli White
- OF Tyler Ramirez
The only surprise on that list is Sportman, a 26-year-old org filler having a mediocre season (104 wRC+, inefficient base stealer). He hasn’t even played since Diaz arrived and took his infield at-bats. However, there are only eight teams in the Texas League, which means each All-Star roster is made up of players from just four different squads. All but one club is sending their 2B, so the bar for entry at this position was low.
Midland’s five-player contingent is on the lower side, with the other teams sending nine, seven, and four players. However, the defending champion Hounds get to run the coaching staff. Click here for the full roster.
This isn’t a Midland-specific note, but it’s important to the A’s system. High-profile pitching prospect James Kaprielian has resumed throwing, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Kaprielian is recovering from Tommy John surgery and had his progress stalled in May with a shoulder strain. For more injury updates (including Lazaro Armenteros and Greg Deichmann), check out Lockard’s article.
Full slate of action.
Triple-A Nashville: 6:05 p.m., Edwin Jackson vs. El Paso
Double-A Midland: 5:00 p.m., TBD vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Zack Erwin vs. San Jose
Single-A Beloit: 5:00 p.m., Wyatt Marks vs. Peoria
From the perspective of the A’s season, Jackson will be interesting to watch in his second start since joining the organization. From the perspective of the farm, Marks is the name to follow here.