Future Forty Updated for May
With the M’s having the day off, we can once again spend the day focusing on the minor leagues. Through the first month of the season, there are a lot of interesting things happening on the farm, with several breakthrough performances worth pointing out. The Future Forty update for May is one of the more significant in-season adjustments you’ll see, as 20 games doesn’t usually change my opinion of a player too much, but when the performance changes are this drastic, we have to take notice.
One guy in particular has made me eat my words, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge his improvement. Matt Tuiasasopo, congratulations, you officially had the best month of baseball of your life. In 24 games, he hit .365/.451/.506 with 9 extra base hits and 12 walks in 85 at-bats. He doesn’t turn 21 for two more weeks, but he’s already made the necessary adjustments to hang with Double-A pitching. Considering where he was last year, that’s impressive development. Now, not everything with Tui is perfect – he still lacks home run power, his success has been built mostly by hitting a lot of singles, and he’s still not a good defensive third baseman. However, there’s still enough untapped power in his frame to project more growth, and his offense is finally looking like it might make up for his deficincies with the glove. There’s still a lot of work to do, but Tui’s resurgence is clearly the best story to come out of the farm system in April.
In other good news, Carlos Triunfel has a .684 OPS for Wisconsin. No, seriously, that’s good news. As a 17-year-old playing in the Midwest League, the bar for what would be considered a successful statistical season is very low. The MWL is death to hitters of any age – the league average for MWL hitters is .245/.313/.350. That’s the league as a whole. Triunfel, who is seventeen years old, is hitting .298/.333/.351. Yea, he’s basically all singles at this point, with only 3 doubles and 2 walks to his credit, but keep in mind, there have been 12 home runs hit in the 19 T’Rats games this year. That’s 12 home runs by both teams combined. The Midwest League is death to hitters, especially in April, and Triunfel is essentially hitting .300 in what would be his junior year in high school. This kid is really, really good.
Also, while we’re in Wisconsin, can I just point out that the T’Rats as a team have a 26/185 walk to strikeout rate. That’s ridiculous, even for a low-A ball team. Alex Liddi is the only guy on the team with any semblance of an idea of how to work the count, drawing 8 walks by himself. The next highest guy on the team is Kuo-Hui Lo with 3. Greg Halman is continuing to run up obscene BB/K rates, drawing 1 walk against 27 strikeouts in 76 at-bats. The offense is full of young kids who have been pushed aggressively to full season ball, so some degree of hackishness is expected, but 26 walks and 185 strikeouts? Can we get a roving hitting instructor down there, please?
Sticking with the Wisconsin theme, Chris Tillman is featuring his four seam fastball more this year and his command has taken a pretty big step forward. Meanwhile, Tony Butler’s been unable to find the feel for any of his pitches, and has walked 14 batters in 14 innings. I still prefer Butler’s overall package, and I’m not worried about the walks at this point. His command will come around, and when it does, his combination two-seamer and curveball are going to be lethal. There’s just a lot of upside there.
Moving up the ladder, Wladimir Balentien just finished his best Matt Tuiasasopo impression. The grip-it-and-rip-it outfielder has toned down his swing somewhat and is making better contact, leading to an impressive .365 average. He’s still got some flaws in his swing and will never be confused for a patient hitter, but he’s not the swing-from-the-heels hack he was in recent years. The improvement isn’t as large as the numbers make it seem, since this hot streak is being driven by a lot of singles, but it’s still nice to see Wlad getting better as a hitter. His defense still isn’t very good, so his value will come from his bat. As a right-handed pull hitter, he’s not a perfect match for Safeco, so it will be curious to see how the M’s handle him if he continues hitting through the summer.
Also in Tacoma, Bryan LaHair sucks again. Nice to know that his two week hot stretch to end the season last year really was a fluke. I’ve never been a fan, and he’s not doing anything to convert me to his side. There’s just a lot of work to do for a guy who is 24-years-old.
Oh, and for the Doug Fister faithful, your boy finally cracked the list. It wasn’t so much that my opinion of him changed, however, as much as I just really wanted to kick Michael Wilson off the list. If you begin the season 2 for 40 like Wilson has, and I already had a lot of questions about your ability to hit, well, you’re not going to last on the Future Forty. Seriously, 2 for 40 with 21 strikeouts? Not good, Mike.
As always, feel free to point out any errors you see and use this thread as a minor league catch all for any discussions on specific prospects or player development.