MMLN – April In Review Part I

The first month of the minor league season is in the books, giving us a good opportunity to look back at the production accrued across the long-season levels. Who were the top pitchers of the month? What bats came up big in April? Who caught us by surprise? Look inside to find out.

Buffalo Bisons
Record: 10-14

Tim Teufel's club is off to a mixed start this season. But the good news is that much of the positive production is coming from the organization's prospects on the roster, which is of course an ideal scenario even if the club is struggling in the standings. In recent seasons, Buffalo had been a place where prospect following goes to wilt. Not this year.

HOT STARTS:
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: .301, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 16 R, 9 2B, 16 BB, .420 OBP, .554 SLG
The outfielder was slowed during his 30 games in Buffalo at the end of 2010. However, this season is a different story as Nieuwenhuis is showing a welcomed level of comfort in the International League. Not only is he showing good power (.974 OPS), but he is closing his K/BB gap (22/16). As a guy who very well be in competition for the 25-man roster next year, this start is very promising.

Zach Lutz: .308, HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 5 2B, 6 BB, .400 OBP, .513 SLG
Lutz went back on the disabled list recently, but is nevertheless off to a good start in a league where he has limited exposure. Ten strikeouts in 39 at-bats is a little above his career ratio, but he is hitting for average and power, which is something that will carry him a long way if he can continue that trend upon his return.

Fernando Martinez: .293, HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 3 2B, 4 BB, .370 OBP, .439 SLG
No, his start isn't necessarily as "hot" as others and he has already spent time on the disabled list, but when he's on the field, Martinez is producing – and isn't that what is desired at this point? As long as he stays healthy, I'm confident he will continue to produce. However, do not expect the organization to be in a rush to call him up.

Ruben Tejada: .275, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 8 BB, .333 OBP, .418 SLG
If Tejada is to (possibly) replace Jose Reyes, he is off to a good start. Perhaps most impressive about his start is the power he is showing. Tejada's swing mechanics did not look altered in an earlier observance, but the shortstop is showing more aggressiveness in his approach and his physical tools are helping him grow beyond the slap hitter he was in previous years.

Jose De La Torre: 2-0, 0.77 ERA, 7 G, 11.2 IP, 7 H, 8 K, 3 BB, 1.03 WHIP
What is it going to take for the right-hander to get to New York? Honestly, it's anyone's guess at this point. De La Torre comes off a very effective 2010, and like last year, has a ground ball ratio approach 2-to-1 and an opponent's average around .200. Combine that with his good low-90s fastball and slider combination, and it looks like De La Torre should at least get a shot to show his value.

Jenrry Mejia: 1-2, 2.86 ERA, 28.1 IP, 16 H, 21 K, 14 BB, 1.06 WHIP
Mejia's start is more mixed than hot after he was touched up fairly well in his last three April starts (9 ER, 15.2 IP), but it should not totally wipe clean his first two starts during which he tossed 12.2 scoreless innings. The opposition is hitting just .168 off the right-hander and he has surrendered just one home run so far this year. The biggest difference for Mejia is his low groundball-flyball ratio, which at 0.88 is far below his 3.00-plus career average.

COLD STARTS:
Lucas Duda: .212, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 4 2B, 10 BB, .321 OBP, .364 SLG
Duda began the year in New York, where he hit just .118 in eight games before returning for a cool start in Buffalo. The outfielder has warmed up over the last week (7-for-22 since April 25), but nevertheless, considering Duda hardly had a stretch like this at any point in 2010, it's tough to classify his start as anything else.

Nick Evans: .202, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 8 R, 2 2B, 1 BB, .207 OBP, .369 SLG
What holds Evans down? Simply put, Evans has seemingly lost his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Southpaws are no problem for Evans (6-for-20), but he is hitting just .172 (11-for-64) against right-handers and isn't taking his walks at all. Color me puzzled considering Evans hit .300 in 125 games last year, and he couldn't have done without being able to hit right-handers.

Josh Stinson: 1-2, 6.43 ERA, 14 IP, 16 H, 6 K, 8 BB, 1.71 WHIP
Stinson had a good start in Binghamton to begin the year, but the plan was to get him to Buffalo in short order. However, the results have been mixed so far. The right-hander earned his victory with five innings of one-run ball on April 22, but his other two starts have comprised of nine earned runs and 14 hits in nine innings.

Biggest Surprise
Chris Schwinden: 1-0, 1.15 ERA, 15.2 IP, 11 H, 17 K, 6 BB, 1.09
Schwinden made two relief appearances in Binghamton to begin the year, but since moving to the Buffalo rotation he has been very impressive. Schwinden's fastball tops out at 90-92 MPH, but like Dillon Gee, he has very good command of multiple pitches, and so far he has been able to stay ahead of Triple-A hitters in his first trip through the International League.

Binghamton Mets
Record: 7-12

Wally Backman's club is off to a slow start despite very solid starting pitching in the early going? The culprit? A lineup that has lacked thunder and for the most part is off to a very cold start. While some of these bats had good 2010 seasons, they need to show they can readjust to Eastern League pitching that may have figured them out.

HOT STARTS:
Josh Satin: .319, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R, 4 2B, 13 BB, .427 OBP, .464 SLG
One hitter who has not been found out yet is Josh Satin. The B-Mets infielder is once again hitting over .300 in Double-A, and is so far one of the club's main run producers. He is one of only two B-Mets who drove in 10 runs this month (it's been a cold lineup…). Perhaps most importantly, he continues to hit for power at this level, after registering a .472 slugging percentage in 79 games with the B-Mets last year.

Robert Carson: 1-3, 3.79 ERA, 19 IP, 22 H, 19 K, 7 BB, 1.53 WHIP
So Carson's last start turned his hot start into more of a mixed one, but the left-hander allowed just three earned runs in his first 16 innings and took losses in two of those starts. One positive of note is that Carson has logged two starts during which he didn't walk a batter – something he couldn't do with the B-Mets in 2010.

Mark Cohoon: 1-1, 1.44 ERA, 25 IP, 22 H, 24 K, 5 BB, 1.08 WHIP
The biggest surprise of all? Cohoon was very good down the stretch with the B-Mets last year, and he has picked up right where he left off. His start includes his April 20 start during which he tossed seven shutout innings, struck out 11 and walked none. NYSEG Stadium has been particularly kind to the left-hander as he is 1-0 and has not allowed an earned run in 14 innings at the B-Mets home park.

COLD STARTS:
Jordany Valdespin: .221, HR, 8 RBI, 7 R, 4 2B, 6 BB, 6 SB, .280 OBP, .324 SLG
I'll admit, I expected more from Valdespin in the early going, but perhaps the second baseman – who had never played an April so far north – is just waiting for the weather to warm up? One positive has been Valdespin's inclination to walk more in the early going and he is showing his prowess as a base stealer. Valdespin is unlikely to become a .300 hitter, but he needs to show he can make in-season adjustments.

Kai Gronauer: .227, HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 7 BB, .333 OBP, .295 SLG
Gronauer arrived in Binghamton after hitting .324 in St. Lucie last year. His low average shouldn't be too much of a concern (though his home run is his lone extra base hit). However, he is striking out approximately 33 percent of the time. That number needs to come up down if his average is to go up.

Eric Campbell: .227, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 2B, 7 BB, .320 OBP, .258 SLG
Campbell is back in Binghamton where he needs to show he can produce more in year two with the club. Most importantly, Campbell needs to demonstrate he can be more effective against breaking pitches, which got the best of him at times last season. My expectations of Campbell are fairly muted, but he nevertheless needs to heat up if the Binghamton lineup is going to produce more as a whole.

Eric Niesen: 0-2, 14.85 ERA, 6.2 IP, 11 ER, 8 H, 2 K, 9 BB, 2.55 WHIP
Simply put, Niesen has been bad. For a guy who entered the year with at least an outside show of helping the big league club at the start of 2012, that possibly now seems as far away now as at any time. Niesen's command issues that plagued him last year, continue this year and appear even more dramatic given his unsightly April ratios.

Biggest Surprise:
Brad Holt: 0-1, 3.10 ERA, 20.1 IP, 15 H, 14 K, 9 BB, 1.18 WHIP
Okay, it wouldn't have taken much for Holt to have a hot April after the way his 2010 season went. However, no one could have expected him to start the season by allowing just one earned run in his first 18 innings, during which he gave up just nine hits. Unfortunately, he never got a win to show for it before being tagged for six earned runs in 2.1 innings on April 27. His first May start will show whether or not he can put struggles behind him and rebound from poor starts – something he couldn't do last year.

Check back on Monday for Part II, in which St. Lucie and Savannah will be reviewed

\r\n \r\n\r\nBuffalo Bisons
\r\nRecord: 10-14
\r\n
\r\nTim Teufel's club is off to a mixed start this season. But the good news is that much of the positive production is coming from the organization's prospects on the roster, which is of course an ideal scenario even if the club is struggling in the standings. In recent seasons, Buffalo had been a place where prospect following goes to wilt. Not this year.
\r\n
\r\nHOT STARTS:
\r\nKirk Nieuwenhuis: .301, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 16 R, 9 2B, 16 BB, .420 OBP, .554 SLG
\r\nThe outfielder was slowed during his 30 games in Buffalo at the end of 2010. However, this season is a different story as Nieuwenhuis is showing a welcomed level of comfort in the International League. Not only is he showing good power (.974 OPS), but he is closing his K/BB gap (22/16). As a guy who very well be in competition for the 25-man roster next year, this start is very promising.
\r\n
\r\nZach Lutz: .308, HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 5 2B, 6 BB, .400 OBP, .513 SLG
\r\nLutz went back on the disabled list recently, but is nevertheless off to a good start in a league where he has limited exposure. Ten strikeouts in 39 at-bats is a little above his career ratio, but he is hitting for average and power, which is something that will carry him a long way if he can continue that trend upon his return.
\r\n
\r\nFernando Martinez: .293, HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 3 2B, 4 BB, .370 OBP, .439 SLG
\r\nNo, his start isn't necessarily as \"hot\" as others and he has already spent time on the disabled list, but when he's on the field, Martinez is producing – and isn't that what is desired at this point? As long as he stays healthy, I'm confident he will continue to produce. However, do not expect the organization to be in a rush to call him up.
\r\n
\r\nRuben Tejada: .275, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 8 BB, .333 OBP, .418 SLG
\r\nIf Tejada is to (possibly) replace Jose Reyes, he is off to a good start. Perhaps most impressive about his start is the power he is showing. Tejada's swing mechanics did not look altered in an earlier observance, but the shortstop is showing more aggressiveness in his approach and his physical tools are helping him grow beyond the slap hitter he was in previous years.
\r\n
\r\nJose De La Torre: 2-0, 0.77 ERA, 7 G, 11.2 IP, 7 H, 8 K, 3 BB, 1.03 WHIP
\r\nWhat is it going to take for the right-hander to get to New York? Honestly, it's anyone's guess at this point. De La Torre comes off a very effective 2010, and like last year, has a ground ball ratio approach 2-to-1 and an opponent's average around .200. Combine that with his good low-90s fastball and slider combination, and it looks like De La Torre should at least get a shot to show his value.
\r\n
\r\nJenrry Mejia: 1-2, 2.86 ERA, 28.1 IP, 16 H, 21 K, 14 BB, 1.06 WHIP
\r\nMejia's start is more mixed than hot after he was touched up fairly well in his last three April starts (9 ER, 15.2 IP), but it should not totally wipe clean his first two starts during which he tossed 12.2 scoreless innings. The opposition is hitting just .168 off the right-hander and he has surrendered just one home run so far this year. The biggest difference for Mejia is his low groundball-flyball ratio, which at 0.88 is far below his 3.00-plus career average.
\r\n
\r\nCOLD STARTS:
\r\nLucas Duda: .212, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 4 2B, 10 BB, .321 OBP, .364 SLG
\r\nDuda began the year in New York, where he hit just .118 in eight games before returning for a cool start in Buffalo. The outfielder has warmed up over the last week (7-for-22 since April 25), but nevertheless, considering Duda hardly had a stretch like this at any point in 2010, it's tough to classify his start as anything else.
\r\n
\r\nNick Evans: .202, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 8 R, 2 2B, 1 BB, .207 OBP, .369 SLG
\r\nWhat holds Evans down? Simply put, Evans has seemingly lost his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Southpaws are no problem for Evans (6-for-20), but he is hitting just .172 (11-for-64) against right-handers and isn't taking his walks at all. Color me puzzled considering Evans hit .300 in 125 games last year, and he couldn't have done without being able to hit right-handers.
\r\n
\r\nJosh Stinson: 1-2, 6.43 ERA, 14 IP, 16 H, 6 K, 8 BB, 1.71 WHIP
\r\nStinson had a good start in Binghamton to begin the year, but the plan was to get him to Buffalo in short order. However, the results have been mixed so far. The right-hander earned his victory with five innings of one-run ball on April 22, but his other two starts have comprised of nine earned runs and 14 hits in nine innings.
\r\n
\r\nBiggest Surprise
\r\nChris Schwinden: 1-0, 1.15 ERA, 15.2 IP, 11 H, 17 K, 6 BB, 1.09
\r\nSchwinden made two relief appearances in Binghamton to begin the year, but since moving to the Buffalo rotation he has been very impressive. Schwinden's fastball tops out at 90-92 MPH, but like Dillon Gee, he has very good command of multiple pitches, and so far he has been able to stay ahead of Triple-A hitters in his first trip through the International League.
\r\n
\r\nBinghamton Mets
\r\nRecord: 7-12
\r\n
\r\nWally Backman's club is off to a slow start despite very solid starting pitching in the early going? The culprit? A lineup that has lacked thunder and for the most part is off to a very cold start. While some of these bats had good 2010 seasons, they need to show they can readjust to Eastern League pitching that may have figured them out.
\r\n
\r\nHOT STARTS:
\r\nJosh Satin: .319, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R, 4 2B, 13 BB, .427 OBP, .464 SLG
\r\nOne hitter who has not been found out yet is Josh Satin. The B-Mets infielder is once again hitting over .300 in Double-A, and is so far one of the club's main run producers. He is one of only two B-Mets who drove in 10 runs this month (it's been a cold lineup…). Perhaps most importantly, he continues to hit for power at this level, after registering a .472 slugging percentage in 79 games with the B-Mets last year.
\r\n
\r\nRobert Carson: 1-3, 3.79 ERA, 19 IP, 22 H, 19 K, 7 BB, 1.53 WHIP
\r\nSo Carson's last start turned his hot start into more of a mixed one, but the left-hander allowed just three earned runs in his first 16 innings and took losses in two of those starts. One positive of note is that Carson has logged two starts during which he didn't walk a batter – something he couldn't do with the B-Mets in 2010.
\r\n
\r\nMark Cohoon: 1-1, 1.44 ERA, 25 IP, 22 H, 24 K, 5 BB, 1.08 WHIP
\r\nThe biggest surprise of all? Cohoon was very good down the stretch with the B-Mets last year, and he has picked up right where he left off. His start includes his April 20 start during which he tossed seven shutout innings, struck out 11 and walked none. NYSEG Stadium has been particularly kind to the left-hander as he is 1-0 and has not allowed an earned run in 14 innings at the B-Mets home park.
\r\n
\r\nCOLD STARTS:
\r\nJordany Valdespin: .221, HR, 8 RBI, 7 R, 4 2B, 6 BB, 6 SB, .280 OBP, .324 SLG
\r\nI'll admit, I expected more from Valdespin in the early going, but perhaps the second baseman – who had never played an April so far north – is just waiting for the weather to warm up? One positive has been Valdespin's inclination to walk more in the early going and he is showing his prowess as a base stealer. Valdespin is unlikely to become a .300 hitter, but he needs to show he can make in-season adjustments.
\r\n
\r\nKai Gronauer: .227, HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 7 BB, .333 OBP, .295 SLG
\r\nGronauer arrived in Binghamton after hitting .324 in St. Lucie last year. His low average shouldn't be too much of a concern (though his home run is his lone extra base hit). However, he is striking out approximately 33 percent of the time. That number needs to come up down if his average is to go up.
\r\n
\r\nEric Campbell: .227, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 2B, 7 BB, .320 OBP, .258 SLG
\r\nCampbell is back in Binghamton where he needs to show he can produce more in year two with the club. Most importantly, Campbell needs to demonstrate he can be more effective against breaking pitches, which got the best of him at times last season. My expectations of Campbell are fairly muted, but he nevertheless needs to heat up if the Binghamton lineup is going to produce more as a whole.
\r\n
\r\nEric Niesen: 0-2, 14.85 ERA, 6.2 IP, 11 ER, 8 H, 2 K, 9 BB, 2.55 WHIP
\r\nSimply put, Niesen has been bad. For a guy who entered the year with at least an outside show of helping the big league club at the start of 2012, that possibly now seems as far away now as at any time. Niesen's command issues that plagued him last year, continue this year and appear even more dramatic given his unsightly April ratios.
\r\n
\r\nBiggest Surprise:
\r\nBrad Holt: 0-1, 3.10 ERA, 20.1 IP, 15 H, 14 K, 9 BB, 1.18 WHIP
\r\nOkay, it wouldn't have taken much for Holt to have a hot April after the way his 2010 season went. However, no one could have expected him to start the season by allowing just one earned run in his first 18 innings, during which he gave up just nine hits. Unfortunately, he never got a win to show for it before being tagged for six earned runs in 2.1 innings on April 27. His first May start will show whether or not he can put struggles behind him and rebound from poor starts – something he couldn't do last year.
\r\n
\r\nCheck back on Monday for Part II, in which St. Lucie and Savannah will be reviewed
\r\n
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