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Minor League Quick Hitter: Leslie Anderson, Stone Crab Pitching, and More

When you're in a playoff race, a couple injuries in your rotation can really kill you. The Rays took a big hit when Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann both went to the DLon the same day; fortunately, though, our tremendous starting pitching depth allowed us to call up the so far spectacular Jeremy Hellickson and serviceable Andy Sonnanstine. Similarly, when Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena have been banged up, the Rays were able to dip down to AAA to scoop up Dan Johnson (who while not great has been serviceable in his time up) and give more playing time to Matt Joyce, Willy Aybar, and Sean Rodriguez. This kind of depthin the minor and major league rosters allows the Rays to weather the injury storm. Looking at the system, it's nice to see we seemingly have more waves depth at each level.

Today while procrastinating from work, I started looking at the gamelogs that I had tracked from first for some of our minor leaguers. In general, I'm wary of putting too much stock in small sample sizes, monthly splits, game by game data, etc., but withprospects sometimes it can be really illustrative. As we've seen withMatt Moore this year, it can take time to adjust to a new level of competition. How often do we see players from college struggle in their first pro season? Same with rookies in the bigs or guys making the move to the next level. So this quick hitter will be primarily about the evolution of some of the prospects this year.

We'll start with the only position prospect I'll be touching on today: Leslie Anderson. The Cuban import worried most of us with his slow start in High A, but it seems that the outfielder and first basemanmay have been just struggling due to climate or societal change. He's seemingly adjusted since his first month or two playing America's game in its native land. Since July 5th, Leslie has been scorching hot. He's posted a slash-line of .391/.466/.548/1.013 in AA and AAA. Granted he's old for the leagues, but we knew there would be some adjustment period. His peripherals are pretty impressive too. He's walking more than he strikes out (12.2/11.5 BB/PA%), and his ISO is a relatively strong .157. Obviously his true talent won't be a 1.000+ OPS in the majors, but this kind of production makes you feel like he will be able to make some impact on the big league squad. The only scary thing is a .432 BABIP inflating his batting average, but that sort of thing is necessary to hit .391.

Let's move on to the pitchers where we'll begin in Port Charlotte. Going in to the year any Raysfan that knew much of anything about our farm system expected the Stone Crabs pitching staff to be one of the best in the minors. Through April, though, things were a bit out of whack. The Stone Crabs best pitching prospect was struggling, and they were seemingly getting their best performance from the two with the least prospect pedigree (Chris Andujar and Frank De Los Santos).

 IP  ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9
Moore 22.3 5.64 3.16  12.49  6.45  8.06 .40
Barnese 24.3 3.36 2.33    8.59  1.49  6.72 .37
Cruz 20 3.60 5.10    7.65  4.95  8.10 1.35
De Los Santos 17 2.12 3.08    5.29  3.18  6.88 .00
Andujar 20.3 3.13 3.30    3.58  2.69  8.96 .00

A large amount of that, though, was due in part to their unsustainable 0 HR/9, poor luck for Moore/Barnese, and a very high HR-rate for Joe Cruz. Since that time, things are a bit different down in Charlotte. After Shane Dyer's spectacular performance in A-ball he's moved up, so Andujar is largely used out of the bullpen which is probably his only chance to get to the bigs.

Season numbers for the Charlotte Stone Crabs starters:

 IP  ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9
Moore 129 3.64 2.45  12.73  4.13    6.92 .49
Barnese 120 3.08 2.73    7.50  1.95 8.55  0.38
Cruz 127 3.12 2.85    8.08  2.48 .43  8.93
De Los Santos 121 4.84 3.38    6.40  2.23  11.38  0.60
Andujar 88.3 3.27 3.68    4.39  3.47 8.48  0.20
Dyer 84.7 3.30 2.94    7.44  2.34 8.93  0.43

As you can see the top 3 have really cemented their places at the top, and Dyer has been spectacular in his first taste of A+. De Los Santos is a very interesting guy to me because of that hit rate and FIP. The lefty gets more groundballs than any of them and, unsurprisingly, gives up the most hits. He's a guy that really interests me down the road as a potential lefty, groundball machine in the pen.

Wanna salivate? Check out these splits for Moore and Cruz since the beginning of June:

 IP  ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 H/9
Moore 79.3 1.93 2.23 12.8 3.2 0.6 5.33
Cruz 80.7 2.01 2.44 8.0 2.1 0.2 8.70

After looking at the progression that's been made down in Port Charlotte I looked even lower at some short season guys that really intrigue me.

Wilmer Almonte has been pretty MONTE since a bad start July 5th (his 4th on the year). Since that point he's got an ERA/FIPof 1.66/2.09 withthe peripherals to go along with it: K/9 of 9 and BB/9 of 1.66 while only allowing 1 HR in 38 IP. He's on the smallish side, so I don't expect him to ever reach top prospect status. The numbers look good, though, and I'll take interest in monitoring his starts.

Luis Wilches is an 18 YO from Venezuela in rookie ball who hasn't shown a penchant yet for striking many guys out, but he has a superb BB/9 of 1.2. Though his K/9 of 6.9 this year doesn't inspire, he doesn't give up many hits or HRs (WHIP of .949 and HR/9 of .4).

The pitching in this system just seems to be as deep as can get, and it sure makes checking out the organization report and fun every day.