Nate Pearson has enjoyed a strong start in the Florida State League, and the Blue Jays rewarded him with a promotion to Double-A on Friday. Pearson was 3-0 with 35 strikeouts and just three walks in 21 innings pitched in the FSL. He gave up just two runs. In the offseason, I wrote about how an injury in 2018 shelved him for about a month and could cost him an MLB promotion in 2019, but this start and the quick promotion might put the bigs back in play this summer. Here’s what else is happening around the minor leagues…
Casey Mize, RHP | DET – Threw a no-hitter in his first start in Double-A. Followed that up with five shutout innings yesterday. He’s now 2-0 with Erie and could find himself in Triple-A or the majors by the end of 2019. I figured a fast track for last year’s first overall pick, but he’s straight cruising like Hurricane Spencer in Thunder in Paradise.
Skye Bolt, OF | OAK – Promoted to Oakland, where he’ll likely play the role of fourth outfielder. Bolt didn’t make my preseason Top 10, mainly due to high strikeout percentages and no standout tools. However, give him credit for a strong start in Triple-A. Prior to the promotion he’d hit .325 with six long balls and three steals. Deeper AL-only teams might be interested, but shallow/mixed leagues can safely ignore him.
Josh VanMeter, 2B | CIN – Will be brought up to Cincinnati this week. VanMeter’s thirteen homers and .346 average at Louisville will have folks rushing to the wire for a pickup, but in mixed leagues I’d slow down. For one, he’ll likely be a utility infielder for the big club, spelling the regulars here and there when David Bell goes mad with matchups and not really playing every day. Further, he hit only 12 homers in four times as many games last season and only five dingers the year before that, so unless this is a serious change in swing/approach (I honestly don’t know), he could turn back into a pumpkin against MLB arms.
Pssst…hey. Come over here for a second. This is a good time to talk about the new ball being used in Triple-A. So, how do I explain this? Last year, MLB and the minor leagues used different balls. This year, Triple-A is using the same ball as MLB. Two things are happening…Triple-A is seeing the same spike in offense (especially homers) as MLB, and it’s creating a divide between Double-A and Triple-A. Two different balls make it hard to evaluate a player’s performance between the two levels. This change will help pitchers in the sense that they’ll learn to throw the big league ball prior to getting there, but it muddies the waters for hitters, who are facing not-so-great pitching in some extreme AAA hitting environments with a ball that flies farther. Comparing AAA players to other AAA players this year is no big deal, since they’re all playing with the same ball, but be careful when comparing a player to himself when he’s promoted from AA to AAA, or a player’s AAA 2019 to his AAA 2018.
Zac Gallen, RHP | MIA – After that educational sidebar, pitching performances in Triple-A might be more impressive than they were two minutes ago. Take Gallen, who was included in Wednesday’s stash list and struck out another ten batters in seven innings on Friday. Gallen is a good example of a pitcher who has weathered the change and has performed extremely well, perhaps earning himself a spot in Miami’s rotation soon.