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Hokies In The Minor Leagues 7/31

Despite some rather sad baseball-related news at Virginia Tech in the last month, with the departure of head coach Pete Hughes, there is plenty of reason to feel good about the current crop of players the Hokies have put in the minor leagues. With all of Tech's baseball success over the last few years, particularly last few months, I became curious when thinking about who the next Hokie to join long-tenured major leaguer and the only Hokie in the big leagues for several years, Joe Saunders, at the major league level. So I began to research in May, and put out this post, the first of the series, on May 22nd. I then followed that with a second post on June 24th. But two posts throughout the entire minor league season doesn't do justice to the process or those Hokies who're trying to make their way up the minor league ranks. So as promised, here is the third post in the series Hokies In The Minor Leages. Enjoy.

Robert Backman/Round Rock Express

The following stats and prognoses are up to date through July 30th. Also included are all of the 2013 Hokie draftees from the most recent draft, as well as all of the undrafted Hokies making their way in the minor leagues, whom we previously omitted erroneously. So without further ado, here are what the former Hokies are doing in the minor leagues:

Steven Bumbry OF- Drafted in 2009 in the 12th round by the Baltimore Orioles

I hate to start out the post with some bad news, but I have to do just that, as former Hokie Steven Bumbry went on the DL JUST after our last post after seeing his greatest success as a professional baseball player since A-ball in 2011. How soon after our last post did he go to the DL? Try 4 games and 7 at bats later.

While Bumbry's average dipped from .242 to .233, the fact that he only had 7 AB's during that time before he went on the DL added to the fact that with so few AA AB's on the season, his batting average was going to be a bit volatile no matter which way it was headed. Without more specifics on Bumbry's injury, something I was unable to find on Twitter or through internet searches, I cannot speculate about when he'll be back in the lineup. But I do know that I cannot find any information about him making a rehab start as of yet. We'll keep you up to date with his recovery as we know more.

Austin Wates OF- Drafted in 2010 in the 3rd round by the Houston Astros

Unfortunately, I have to be the bearer of bad news for the second former in a row, as Austin Wates is still on the DL and according to this tweet he responded to below, it sounds like he's not very optimistic about making it back THIS YEAR, which is much longer than the original 6-8 week diagnosis he received on June 12 and that we saw and reported.

What makes this more unfortunate for all parties involved is really three-fold. One, Austin was continuing to advance through the Astros' farm system at a very healthy pace, and was making a strong case that he deserved to be in the bigs by the end of the year, if not sooner. Secondly, the Astros are in need of outfielders who can play at even a competent level, giving him an opportunity to make an impact and gain a foothold on the major league club. Lastly, as a function of that, other outfielders will instead get that opportunity, and if one of them shines instead of Wates, it could make his path into the big leagues more difficult and even end his career as an Astro completely. I'm not suggesting that will happen, just noting it's a possibility.

While there still may be hope that Wates beats his prognosis or his own predictions, it appears that the rogue pitch that fractured his forearm may have ended his season. As long as we're not misreading his tweet, it looks like the Hokie we tabbed most likely to be in the bigs by the end of the year will be doing no such thing until at least 2014. Get better Austin, Hokie Nation is behind you.

Jesse Hahn P- Drafted in 2010 in the 6th round by the Tampa Bay Rays

MAN OH MAN AM I HATING THIS JOB RIGHT NOW! So guess what I'm about to say? After his most recent start on July 21 (possibly his worst start as a pro) in which Hahn failed to go 4 innings for the first time in over two months (apparently to stretch him out after piggybacking earlier in the year), Hahn was placed on the DL:

Hahn, despite being less dominant as of late, running his season ERA up to 2.11 over 64 innings of work (it was an unsustainable 0.96 ERA back in our May Hokies In The Minor Leagues), was still dominating hitters with a WHIP barely over 1 and a nearly 4-to-1 K/BB ratio. While I do not know what specific injury Hahn has (often in the minor leagues they keep it pretty hush hush), it looks like there was some concern based on Hahn having two of his wildest outings in his pro career in his last three starts. Unfortunately, Hahn no longer has the claim that he has yet to allow a homer in his professional career, as he gave up one in his July 14th start. But 1 HR in 116 career innings is still unheard of.

Regardless of Hahn's injury prognosis, I have stated time and again I believe that Hahn should've been in AA a while ago, so when he recovers, here's hoping for a quick promotion to the AA level to see if they can muster a challenge to the dominant Hahn.

Matthew Price P- Drafted in 2010 in the 8th round by the Boston Red Sox

Price has gotten even better as the season has continued, lowering his ERA and keeping his K/BB ratio in good shape. Currently (as of July 30) he is 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA in 42.2 innings with 5 saves.

Considering Price's age for his level and his steadily improving metrics, I would imagine that the Red Sox will be looking to move him a rung up the minor league ladder pretty soon. Price is above the average age for a player at his level, and despite his dominant statistics so far this season, his injury history and his shortage of experience against same-age or older players means that those numbers are harder to quantify. All Price can do is keep throwing the ball and making hitters look bad and the rest will take care of itself. As for his AA promotion meter? I can't say for sure, but I believe it's getting pretty close to full.

Steve Domecus C- Drafted in 2010 in the 9th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers

I don't think I've lobbied any harder for any one player to be in organized baseball this year than I have for Steve Domecus. So imagine the surprise I felt when I saw that despite what would be metrically one of the best years of his career, particularly from an offensive production standpoint (albeit in independent league ball), Steve Domecus is no longer with the Sioux Falls Canaries.

I have yet to find an explanation or report about when Domecus left the Canaries or under what circumstances, but I do know that he had not taken a single at bat more than he had since our June 24th post, where he was hitting .242 with 4 HR's and 12 RBI. When we get more information on this, we'll pass it along.

Ben Rowen P- Drafted in 2010 in the 22nd round by the Texas Rangers

In a reversal of the tenor of this post so far, Ben Rowen is now carrying the torch for the Hokies in the minors, and is looking like a lock to be called up at some point before this year is over. When we last looked in on Ben's season, he had been dominating hitters as much as any other pitcher in organized baseball at any level. He had just been promoted to AAA Round Rock after posting an 0.53 ERA in 33.2 innings at AA Frisco, and was a perfect 10-of-10 in save chances.

So how is he doing now? Better, if you can believe it. So far in 14.1 innings in AAA, Rowen has yet to allow a run and has 3 saves. He has only allowed 6 hits to go along with 6 walks, good for an 0.837 WHIP, which is simply mind-boggling. He also has a K rate of 10.7 per 9 innings (though his BB rate has jumped to 3.8 per 9). While, yes, these numbers will probably fluctuate some as (if) he logs more innings at AAA, even in sample sizes as small as 14+ innings (not terribly low for a closer who has only been up as long as he has), Rowen is dominating hitters in a such a manner that it doesn't suggest regression to norms will play too much of a part in his AAA experience.

But luckily, you don't have to just take our word for it. Why don't you see how nasty his stuff is for yourself in this primo quality video of his first appearance in AAA right behind home plate.

Seriously, some of those swings and misses are just silly. If I'm the Rangers, I'm paying close attention to everything that Rowen is doing over the next few weeks. While the Rangers bullpen has gradually improved over the season and is now among the best in baseball (they currently rank seventh in bullpen ERA), there is no reason not to get a look at a player like Rowen whose stuff has been so electric at every level that essentially no one has stood a chance against him. After all, sidearming pitchers don't grow on trees, much less ones that own a 1.32 career ERA. We project that Rowen will be up by September 1st at the VERY latest.

Buddy Sosnoskie OF- Drafted in 2010 in the 25th round by the Kansas City Royals

Buddy, as we mentioned in our last two posts, is playing independent league ball with the Fargo-Moorehead Redhawks. While he is having a much less stellar season than his 2012 campaign with the Redhawks, it looks like he's beginning to pick it up, raising his average to .237 with 8 HR's and 33 RBI. He has also added 9 stolen bases to only 1 caught stealing. In addition, Sosnoskie is walking more than he was a year ago. Should he continue to play better in an increased role, he may be looking at another minor league Spring Training invite like he received this year with the Baltimore Orioles. But as for the major leagues this year, it is incredibly unlikely to happen.

Justin Wright P- Drafted in 2010 in the 47th round by the St. Louis Cardinals

Wright is as hard a player to evaluate as any other on this list, probably as much as any pitcher in organized baseball. He began the season on a high note, showing he was capable of conquering AA bats before falling to some of his lowest peripherals of his career the last time we caught up with him. Now? He's back in the baseball gods' good graces, as he's lowered his ERA from 3.9 to 3.56 over the last month and his hits per 9 from an astoundingly high 10.5 to 9.6. He has also increased his fading strikeout numbers marginally from 10.5 to 10.9, though his BB/9 has spiked from 3.6 to 4, a number that matches last year's rate.

Basically to this point, Wright has shown the ability to strike guys out at every level, but has now shown maddening inconsistency at the AA level. I would be willing to give him a pass if he hadn't now logged over 100 innings at the level, split over a full two years. Wright's at the very least a league average reliever at the AA level, probably better. But before we see him making the move up to AAA, the Cardinals are going to want to see more consistency from a guy with his stuff, especially regarding his high walk rates. Wright may get a call up to AAA this year at 23 years old, a serious accomplishment. But if it happens before he rights the ship at AA (no pun intended), I think that move would only be detrimental to his development. As it stands, I don't see any such move being made this year.

Timothy Smalling 2B/SS- Drafted in 2011 in the 15th round by the Colorado Rockies

Despite posting a pretty poor year at the plate to date for the High-A Modesto Nuts to the tune of a .237 batting average and 18 RBI in 49 games, Smalling earned a promotion to the AA Tulsa Drillers, where so far he is hitting below the interstate at .195 in 44 plate appearances over 12 games. While that is not enough to get an accurate read on a player at a level, at age 25, it's now or never. As I wrote in June, if Smalling doesn't pick it up sooner rather than later, he may find himself out of organized baseball next year, as his only attributes at the plate are hitting for a high average and on-base percentage, of which he is doing neither right now.

Ronnie Shaban P- Drafted in 2012 in the 33rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals

Shaban is as difficult to hit as ever as the 1.21 WHIP indicates (only 31 hits in 39.2 innings), and has saved 4 more games since we last looked in on his season, while lowering his ERA from 1.93 to 1.82. But unfortunately, despite everything else he is doing right, Shaban continues to walk batters at an alarming rate (17 so far, a big contributor to his WHIP). While that rate may not look as alarming for a closer, or any kind of pitcher for that matter, who is striking batters out left and right, Shaban is far from that guy.

While he has improved his K/9 to an admirable 7.3, a large jump from 5.5 last month, that is still a relatively average figure for the lower levels of minor league, especially considering his position. Here's what I wrote about that concern a month ago:

"As I wrote in May, the one area where I have concern for Shaban is his strikeout peripheral. It is rare, particularly for a reliever, to see a player advancing up the minor league system of a team without dominating the competition with his stuff. To date in 2013, Shaban has not done that, or at least not with strikeouts. A 5.5 K/9 ratio is probably unsustainable, particularly for a closer, if he wants to continue to move upward in the St. Louis system. We'll continue to keep an eye on Ronnie, but I would wager that without a heavy increase in strikeouts, we'll still see him in Palm Beach next time we check in on him in July."

It may seem like I'm being harsh on Shaban, but I'm not trying to be. In fact, in the paragraph before that last month I mentioned that he was still one of the best relievers in the Florida State League despite his shortcomings. That said, I am making observations about how he projects as a closer, which might just not be the right place for him. Maybe he's more suited for a setup role. Who knows? If his impressive jump in strikeouts coupled with similar ERA and fewer walks continue, then I think we can say he will have proved me wrong.

While I correctly predicted Shaban would still be in Palm Beach this month, with the continued improvements listed above, I'd expect him to be getting the call fairly soon to move up the ladder to AA, whether that be in the next month or so, or if he will have to wait until early in 2014.

Chad Pinder SS/3B- Drafted in 2013 in the 2nd round by the Oakland Athletics

Since being drafted in the Supplemental B round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Pinder has been struggling with not only his bat for the Vermont Lake Monsters, but also with his glove, which is disconcerting because of how it was raved about. In 18 games, Pinder is hitting .167 and has 6 errors. So while this isn't a sample size large enough to make anything out of, let's just say that Pinder's first few weeks of professional baseball haven't gone as well as he/we all hoped.

Tyler Horan OF- Drafted in 2013 in the 8th round by the San Francisco Giants

Tyler Horan, the 8th round pick of the San Francisco Giants, however, has been doing well, despite not hitting a home run to date in 125 minor league AB's. Horan actually was promoted and is no longer in Rookie ball, but instead Low-A ball where he is hitting .276 with 8 RBI in 20 games (76 AB's). His line for the Rookie League Arizona League Giants was a .245 BA and 5 RBI in 13 games (49 AB's) before his promotion.

Jake Joyce P- Drafted in 2013 in the 9th round by the Washington Nationals

After being blown up in his first professional appearance as a member of the low-A Auburn Doubledays, Joyce recovered and was back to putting up respectable performances in, albeit in a low inning count at that point. Joyce has now logged 16.2 innings in 11 games and 1 save for the Doubledays, halving his ERA since we last checked in on him from 5.4 to 2.7. However, his peripherals suggest he hasn't been as good as his ERA, striking out only 10 and walking 4 while allowing 19 hits, good for a 1.38 WHIP. While that's not terrible, it's not good either. So we'll be paying close attention to see which set of data normalizes by our next post.

Eddie Campbell P- Drafted in 2013 in the 15th round by the Seattle Mariners

Of all the Hokies drafted in 2013, it seemed like former coach Pete Hughes was most insistent that Eddie Campbell come back. He posited that Campbell could benefit from another year of instruction and experience at the college level. While I agreed, the truth is, the pro scouts were enamored with Campbell's stuff, and regardless of a somewhat lackluster college career, took him in the 15th round. Since then, Eddie has been proving all of us wrong and all of them right, being probably the best performer to date out of any of the Tech players that were drafted.

Campbell's 2.1 ERA is impressive, but more than anything, his 40 strikeouts compared to 9 walks in only 25.2 innings (6 games, 4 starts) are superlative. Campbell's WHIP is also at an incredibly low 0.896. His K/9 (14.0) and BB/9 (3.2) rates are just staggering. Basically, everything says that if he keeps doing this for a little bit more time, Campbell will find himself making his way up the Seattle organizational ladder.

Joe Mantiply P- Drafted in 2013 in the 27th round by the Detroit Tigers

Mantiply has also been very good so far as a minor leaguer, but not quite as dominant. In 8 games (7 starts) with the Connecticut Tigers, Mantiply is 0-1 with a 1.31 ERA, a 1.161 WHIP and an 8.3 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9 in 20.2 innings. Because the Tigers are probably piggybacking starters, he hasn't been going long innings, but could probably stand for an increase of workload given his peripherals to date.

Colin O'Keefe P- Drafted in 2013 in the 33rd round by the Los Angeles Angels

O'Keefe is the only 2013 draftee who has truly struggled so far. His 21 ERA in 3 innings is hardly a large enough sample size, but he has played in 4 games, allowing a lot of hits and walking two times as many as he has struck out. Basically, there's not much to say about O'Keefe's abbreviated performance so far. We'll see if he can get it turned around by the next time we check in.


Andrew Aizenstadt

Andrew might not have been drafted, but two years into his pro career he has been pretty good, despite his struggles to start the season with the Lakewood Blue Claws. He split his 2012 between the independent league Wichita Wingnuts and two Philadelphia Phillies organizations, the low-A Williamsport Crosscutters and the high-A Clearwater Threshers. He pitched well enough for the Wingnuts for the Phillies to sign him, where after a successful stint in Williamsport, he made one appearance at Clearwater. His season ERA was 2.6 in 27 innings between the three clubs. He also had 25 strikeouts to just 6 walks and a 1.120 WHIP.

Unfortunately, Andrew's 2013 got off to a terrible start, which caused the Phillies to cut him 7 games in. At that time he owned an 8.38 ERA and had 11 walks to 7 strikeouts. Since he's been back with Wichita, Aizenstadt has a 2.84 in 19 IP (20 games), allowing only 11 hits and 16 strikeouts and 11 walks. He will likely have to improve his peripherals to get back in with a major league organization. But he's certainly been better than expected for an undrafted player. Here is a link to his page on Baseball Reference.

Devin Burke

Former coach Pete Hughes, along with Hokie baseball fans, were upset when Burke was not selected in the 2013 MLB Draft. But after he went undrafted, Burke was signed by the Colorado Rockies in what was a pretty neat story. Since signing, he has been excellent, pitching to a 1.65 ERA in 27.1 innings (1 start, coming in his debut, where he went 6 innings, allowed 2 runs and won the game). Burke also has 28 strikeouts to only 4 walks and a WHIP of 0.915. So in short, he has been tremendous and doing exactly what he said he would in the aforementioned post: making the other 29 teams pay for not drafting him. Here is a link Burke's Baseball Reference page.

Chris Kay

Kay is in his third season in the independent leagues and is now with his second team, the Frontier Greys, after spending two seasons with the Traverse City Beach Bums. Unfortunately, much like his 2011 campaign, Kay has not been hitting in 2013 with his new team. Kay's BA is .149 with nearly five times the strikeouts as he has walks. In 94 AB's (33 games) he also only has 1 HR and 10 RBI. Basically, unless he starts hitting, Kay's career is on life support, as he has hit well below the interstate twice now in three seasons, is a .188 career hitter and hasn't hit for very much power. Here is a link to Kay's Baseball Reference page.

Joe Parsons

Parsons has been pretty unpredictable, as several of the other undrafted former Hokies have as well. In his first year (2011) with the Rookie League GCL Pirates, he posted an 1-3 record, a 5.33 ERA and picked up 2 saves in 25.1 innings with a 1.5 WHIP and 19 strikeouts to 8 walks. He also allowed 4 home run balls. Because of that performance, Parsons began 2012 in the independent league Schaumburg Boomers, where he pitched to a 3-1 record and a 1.58 ERA in 51.1 innings (37 games) and had a 2-to-1 K-to-BB ratio with a 1.208 WHIP. But this year, pitching again for the Boomers, Parsons' ERA has ballooned to 11.64 and he has allowed as many hits (34) in 19.1 innings pitched as he did a year ago in 51.1 innings. The difference? Parsons' four appearances were all starts, where he had only been used as a reliever in the previous two years. Parson is no longer with the team according to their roster page. Here is a link to his Baseball Reference page.

Patrick Scoggin

Scoggin spent 2012 at three different levels of the Braves system (two rookie leagues and A-ball), doing fantastic in each one. His season statistics were no runs allowed at any level, or a 0 ERA, in 14.1 innings (10 games) with 3 saves, 16 strikeouts to 2 walks and a 0.628 WHIP. This season, Scoggin has been transitioned to a starter role with the Rome Braves, where he ended last season, and has been excellent.

In 2013, Scoggin has made 22 appearances (14 starts) and logged 84 innings, while pitching to a 3.43 ERA with a 2-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. His WHIP has doubled to 1.333, but he has only allowed 78 hits in those 84 innings. While he will have to improve upon those numbers to earn another promotion, he has positioned himself well to be a productive member of the Braves organization for years to come. Here is a link to his Baseball Reference page.

For more on former Virginia Tech baseball players in the minor leagues, including those that went undrafted, be sure to check in with us here at Gobbler Country, your #1 source for Virginia Tech sports and the best Hokie baseball coverage on the internet.