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Catching up with short-season bats

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There are some promising hitters in the lowest levels of the minors

Joshua Lowe shook off a rough start and earned a promotion
Joshua Lowe shook off a rough start and earned a promotion
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I originally wanted this post to cover pitchers too, but when I was picking out hitters, I ended up with too many. I think it's best to separate them.

I didn't include every player hitting well, and you'll see that not all of these are hitting well. I wanted to cover a mix of more well-known players and players performing well, so someone like Oscar Rojas, who has pretty much hit consistently throughout his career, wasn't included in this post.

Stats are through Aug. 2's games, so it doesn't cover the first player's Hudson Valley debut.

C Chris Betts, Gulf Coast League Rays (.214 BA/.364 OBP/.310 SLG, 23.6 K%, 18.2 BB%)

Betts made his pro debut with the GCL Rays in 2016 after Tommy John surgery prevented him from making that debut last year when the Rays made him a second-round pick. The offensive line is meager, but the plate approach has been encouraging. While he's healthy enough to catch entire games now, he did recently miss two weeks and has batted just .200 in five games since. Despite that, the Rays saw fit to promote him to short-season Hudson Valley.

OF Ryan Boldt, Hudson Valley Renegades (.194/.252/.237, 13.2 K%, 4.6 BB%)

Boldt is one of three center fielders on Hudson Valley's roster, along with Garrett Whitley and fellow 2016 draft pick Jake Fraley. His strong 6-foot-2, 220-pound build has not yet led to in-game power, with the Renegades or at Nebraska. Because of his athleticism, he can have value even if that power doesn't come, but he has to hit a little. His first 151 plate appearances were not particularly encouraging.

1B Devin Davis, Princeton Rays (.250/.333/.333, 26.1 K%, 5.8 BB%)

Davis, a 25th-round pick in last year's draft, was a favorite of some after he signed for $100,000. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he certainly looks the part, and he impressed with his raw power on the showcase circuit before he was drafted by Tampa Bay. That raw power has not yet manifested itself in games, but he's only 19. It could come.

OF Jake Fraley, Hudson Valley Renegades (.204/.350/.276, 15.0 K%, 14.2 BB%)

Like Boldt, Fraley's adjustment to professional ball has not been great, but like Betts, the plate approach has been a positive. He nearly walked more than he struck out in his LSU career, so one aspect of his game has already translated. His 17 steals (in 24 attempts) place him second in the New York-Penn League. He doesn't have the same power potential as Boldt, but he is probably a better defender and maybe doesn't have as much pressure on his bat. Nevertheless, the Rays would probably like to see him hit a little more.

OF Emilio Gustave, Princeton Rays (.285/.385/.431, 27.0 K%, 11.5 BB%)

Gustave signed as an older player (20) compared to his Dominican peers last year after previously being ineligible to sign due to identity snafu. He played in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game as Alexander Paredes, and the Rays proved to still be interested in Gustave. His 2015 in the Dominican Summer League was not at all impressive, but he's hit with Princeton in 2016. He has some athleticism and raw power, but as his strikeout rate shows, he has some work to do.

3B Joshua Lowe, Gulf Coast League Rays (.258/.386/.409, 23.7 K%, 17.5 BB%)

For the second straight season, the Rays owned the No. 13 pick in the draft, and they used it to take another high school bat. Unlikely Whitley, who was drafted the year before, Lowe has not struggled his entire pro debut. In fact, he was challenged with a promotion to Princeton. He had just three hits in his first 12 games, but then he went on a tear, going on an 11-game hitting streak. Over his final 16 games in the complex league, he batted .368/.464/.561 with 13 strikeouts and 11 walks.

1B Nathaniel Lowe, Hudson Valley Renegades (.257/.340/.390, 15.4 K%, 9.6 BB%)

The older of the Lowe brothers, Nathaniel was drafted 12 rounds after Joshua. He was a key factor on a Mississippi State team that reached a Super Regional, and he's been a key factor for the Renegades' lineup with two of the team's five home runs. He owns a nice plate approach with some power potential.

SS Adrian Rondon, Princeton Rays (.295/.336/.540, 24.0 K%, 5.3 BB%)

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, some were wondering why the Rays paid Rondon just under $3 million as the top international prospect in 2014. He certainly struggled in his age-16 season, but he broke out in 2016 with a three-homer game in his second outing with Princeton and has continued hitting. His strikeouts are down significantly, and his walks are down as well. Perhaps he's attacking more pitches in the zone. Whether he changed his approach or not, the results are there right now, and the Rays are likely excited.

OF Jesus Sanchez, Gulf Coast League Rays (.308/.321/.505, 19.6 K%, 2.7 BB%)

Sanchez was a top-30 international prospect the same season the Rays signed Rondon, and after a nice 2015 in the Dominican Summer League, he was viewed as an interesting sleeper in the organization. He has continued hitting in his stateside debut. Although he could probably stand to walk a little more and it's mainly triples fueling his slugging percentage, that would be nitpicking a really nice performance from an 18-year-old who could be a center fielder.

OF Garrett Whitley, Hudson Valley Renegades (.221/.319/.293, 29.4 K%, 9.4 BB%)

Whitley has 12 steals in 14 attempts this season, but other than that, he still isn't showing much offensively. He still has just 324 plate appearances in his career, and from upstate New York, it's fair to wonder if he's a little more raw than previously believed. At the same time, I understand why people might be getting frustrated and impatient at his lack of progress. Striking out less and getting the ball in play more would be a good place to start to get on track.