20 August 2015

Observations From The New York-Penn League All-Star Game

Tuesday night I attended the New York-Penn League All-Star game, which was held at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD, home of the Orioles single-A minor league affiliate Aberdeen IronBirds. The New York-Penn League is a short season league that typically begins in mid-June after the Rule 4 player draft, and runs through the beginning of September (some websites, such as Fangraphs label it as level A-). The late start of the season allows recent draft picks to begin their professional baseball careers soon after signing. As such, the league is typically filled with recent college draftees, younger international prospects who have progressed past the Dominican Summer League and Rookie ball, and organizational filler. For example, Orioles 2015 first round pick DJ Stewart has spent his entire season in Aberdeen after signing. Top prospects will play in the league, but they’re typically not there very long.

Photo from milb.com
As someone who does not specialize in minor league prospects/players, this year’s version of the NY-Penn League All-Star game did not have many recognizable prospects. There were only maybe a couple of players who I had even previously heard of, all of them coming out of the 2015 draft. Part of this may be due to the fact that the All-Star game is held so late in their season, which makes it more likely for better prospects who start the year there to be promoted to Low-A (the Red Sox Andrew Benintendi is an example of that this year). Having said that, there were still several relatively high draft picks from 2015 on the rosters, such as LHP Tyler Alexander (2nd round-Detroit, did not pitch), RHP Drew Smith (3rd round-Detroit), OF Joe McCarthy (5th round-Tampa Bay), and Jake Cronenworth (7th round-Tampa Bay).

Quick disclaimer: I am not a scout. What follows are just my observations from watching the game. Any radar gun readings come from the stadium gun, which are typically not 100% accurate.

Let’s start with the two players who represented the Aberdeen IronBirds.

Orioles Farmhands

SS Ricardo Andujar

On the surface, Andujar is having a decent season in short-season ball, batting .287 at the shortstop position. Look any further than that though and it becomes obvious that he was likely chosen for the game because Aberdeen doesn’t have another hitter who warrants a selection to an all-star game. His complete line for the season is .287/.311/.362. He’s also walked in only 2.8% of his PA’s in 2015 and just turned 23 years old. In other words, he’s a non-prospect.

In fairness, he played well Tuesday night, going 1-2, lining out hard right at the left fielder and getting an infield single. In the field he had some range at SS and showed off a decent arm from the hole, but he’s not going to be part of the organization’s long term plans.

RHP Ryan Meisinger

Meisinger is a local kid from Dunkirk, MD who was drafted by the Orioles out of Radford University in the 11th round of the 2015 draft. He’s a big, strong guy, listed at 6’4”, 240 lbs. He’s got a thick lower half (which may not bode well for the future), but he doesn’t seem to use it as much as he could, as he appeared to have a stride that cut off some of the momentum in his motion just before his point of release. I would think that a slightly longer stride would benefit him (and possibly add a tick or two of mph), but what do I know?

Meisinger pitched the top of the 9th inning for the South team, retiring all three batters he faced, getting two groundouts and a flyout. From my vantage point, he appeared to throw mainly fastballs and sliders, with his fastball sitting in the low 90’s on the stadium gun. He’s having a good year for Aberdeen, pitching to the tune of a 2.81 ERA, with respective strikeout and walk rates of 35.5% and 6.5% in 16 innings pitched. Having said that, a 21 year old college draftee pitching well in short-season leagues isn’t exactly breaking news and the fact that he’s already in a bullpen role at this level doesn’t provide much confidence that he’ll be much more than an organizational arm.

Other Players of Note

RHP Mitch Gueller (Philadelphia Phillies)

Gueller was the highest drafted player in the game, going to the Phillies in the first round of the 2012 draft. He leads the league in ERA (1.84 in 53.2 IP) but did not look sharp on this night. He got hit hard and gave up 3 runs in his inning of work, with his fastball generally sitting between 86-88 on the stadium radar gun. BP’s Tucker Blair had some more details from his view.

1B Dexture McCall (Houston Astros)

McCall, a 31st rounder in the 2014 draft who played the majority of the game as the North’s designated hitter was recognized as the game’s MVP after going 1-3 with a double, a walk, and 2 RBI’s. His double was hit hard, but it was off Gueller in the first inning, so he wasn’t the only one who hit well that inning. As a first baseman who doesn’t hit for power (minor league slugging percentage of .353), McCall had a good game, but is not someone to watch.

RHP Jordan Holloway (Miami Marlins)

From what I saw, Holloway had the quickest fastball of anyone in the game, touching 96 on the stadium gun. His inning got off to an unlucky start with a broken bat infield single and a hit and run induced single (the ball went right where the SS had been before he broke to cover the bag) that put runners on first and third. Things snowballed from there as a wild pitch scored a run, followed by another run on a throwing error by third baseman Victor Acosta.

Holloway definitely has a good fastball and what looked like a sharp curveball (although from my vantage point, I couldn’t discern the horizontal movement), but he really struggled with control, especially the curve, which he mostly left up (out of the zone) or put in the dirt. His results in 2015 show the same, as he’s struck out and walked the same number of batters in his minor league career. He looks like an interesting arm (especially for a 2014 20th round draft pick), but he’s got a ways to go. Fortunately, he’s only 19, so he has some time to figure things out.

OF Joe McCarthy (Tampa Bay Rays)

McCarthy didn’t do much during the game, going 0-2 with a strikeout and a groundout, while only needing to make routine plays during his time in LF. However, he had what looked like the most relaxed at-bats of anyone during the game, with a very calm and quiet approach, even with 2 strikes, which isn’t much of a surprise considering he just finished his junior year at the University of Virginia. Despite being picked in the 5th round in 2015, McCarthy is a potential major leaguer if he returns to full health. According to Keith Law of ESPN, McCarthy was a potential first round draft pick prior to the 2015 season with a good approach and potential for above average power. Unfortunately, a back injury caused him to miss 2 months of his collegiate season, which caused him to slip in the draft.

OF Stone Garrett (Miami Marlins)

Garrett had a perfect day at the plate going 2-2 with a double and a walk. His single was of the cheap variety, but the double was ripped to left field off what I believe was a low 90’s fastball from Phillies farmhand Alejandro Arteaga. Garrett is only 19 years old, and is enjoying a breakout year after struggling during 2014, his first year of professional baseball. He probably strikes out a little too much (about a quarter of the time), but with a quick swing and a .296/.350/.581 line in 2015, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him show up on the back end of Marlins prospect lists this offseason. Listed at 6’2” and 195 lbs, he has a little bit of room to get even stronger.

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