Toolshed: MiLB teams on the extremes

Salt Lake offense, Charleston pitching staff standing out early

Michael Hermosillo has scored 22 runs through his first 30 games with Triple-A Salt Lake. (Brent Asay/Salt Lake Bees)

By Sam Dykstra / | May 11, 2018 10:00 AM

Ask any prospect writer, they'll talk to you about individual prospects. Ask any prospect, they'll talk to you about their team.

Let's flip the script.

This edition of Toolshed dives into the clubs that stand atop the Minor League leaderboards in some of the most important categories, like runs per game and strikeout rate, to find which rosters are standing out the most through the first month-plus of the 2018 season. (Note: All stats and leaders are through the games of May 9.)

Runs per game: Triple-A Salt Lake, 6.9 -- The Bees play in one of the most hitter-friendly parks, and in one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in the Minors, so this shouldn't be a complete surprise. They've also played in such batting havens as Albuquerque and El Paso without trips to more balanced parks like Memphis, New Orleans or Tacoma yet. The result: Salt Lake has reached double digits in seven of its 34 games, and its run average at home (7.2) isn't wildly off from its one on the road (6.5). Still, it makes sense that Michael Hermosillo -- the only top-10 Angels prospect playing for Salt Lake -- is hitting .297/.373/.595 with nine extra-base hits at home compared to .200/.333/.333 with three extra-base hits on the road. Bottom of the ladder: Class A Advanced Florida, 2.9

Home runs: Salt Lake, 62 -- Again, this makes sense and won't be the last time a team is repeated in this column. The Bees have been led by veterans in this regard, with Chris Carter and the recently promoted Jabari Blash each hitting 10 homers. That puts them in a tie for second behind only Franmil Reyes' 13 for El Paso. But there's depth here, too. Eight different Bees have gone deep at least four times so far in 2018. No other PCL team has more than six players to fill that category. Hermosillo (six) and No. 22 prospect David Fletcher (four) are the only ranked prospects with as many long balls, so it doesn't say much about the Angels' pipeline. But it does it make fun to think about what Shohei Ohtani could have done offensively in the PCL, or what will happen when the likes of Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones and Brandon Marsh reach Salt Lake. Bottom of the ladder: Class A Advanced Lynchburg/Class A Advanced Dunedin, nine

Video: Jabari Blash cracks No. 8

Average/OBP: Triple-A Fresno, .312/.393 -- Promise, this will be the last PCL team mentioned here, although it's notable no California League club was at the top of any of these categories. (Lancaster -- surprise, surprise -- came close in runs per game at 6.5.) The Grizzlies boast a lineup full of players that would probably be on the Major League roster in most other organizations but are left at Triple-A due to a roster crunch with the Astros, who happen to be coming off a World Series title. Chief among the blocked is J.D. Davis, who began the season on Houston's Opening Day roster but has been with Fresno since April 12. The Astros' No. 9 prospect has produced a monster .450/.500/.680 line in 25 games with the Grizzlies, numbers that have been on the rise during a 12-game hitting streak. But Tyler White (.350/.471), Tony Kemp (.346/.427) and Drew Ferguson (.339/.450) have all played big roles in helping Fresno put up a team average and OBP that would be good for any individual player, never mind for a whole unit. What's more, top prospect Kyle Tucker (.291/.364) is pulling his weight despite beginning the season as the second-youngest regular in the PCL. Bottom of the ladder: Double-A Trenton, .216 (average); Class A Lakewood, .280 (OBP)

Video: J.D. Davis blasts two-run shot in the ninth inning

Stolen bases: Double-A Hartford, 54 -- Garrett Hampson, Wes Rogers and Sam Hilliard are all at least plus runners who each stole more than 35 bases for Class A Advanced Lancaster last season. The Rockies have seen no reason to take the green light from the trio after their respective promotions, with Hampson (15), Rogers (11) and Hilliard (nine) each ranking among the top seven in the Eastern League in thefts. Those three alone account for 64.8 percent of the Yard Goats' stolen base total, up from their 50.8 percent share of the JetHawks' total in 2017. Contributions from Brendan Rodgers and Yonathan Daza (four steals each) help matters here, but really, any team that can boast three speedsters like Hampson, Rodgers and Hilliard is going to be a menace on the basepaths. Bottom of the ladder: Class A Advanced Palm Beach, eight

ERA: Double-A Akron, 2.38 -- This isn't just as a result of Shane Bieber Fever, though the Indians' No. 8 prospect certainly helped with a 1.16 ERA over 31 innings before his promotion to Triple-A Columbus. In fact, all nine RubberDucks pitchers with more than 13 innings pitched have posted an ERA below 3.50. Among that group, Bieber, Shao-Ching Chiang (1.64 in 33 IP), Michael Peoples (1.54 in 23 1/3 IP) and Mitch Brown (0.68 in 13 1/3 IP) have kept their ERAs south of 2.00. There is some home-road hokiness going on here, with Akron pitchers posting a 1.90 ERA in 12 games at Canal Park compared to a 2.67 mark in 20 away contests, but not enough to discount what's been a special year on the bump for the Cleveland affiliate. Bottom of the ladder: Triple-A Las Vegas, 7.02

Video: Bieber records sixth K for Akron

WHIP: Class A Charleston, 1.04 -- The Yankees expected to have a talented pitching staff at Charleston, but this group has been almost otherworldly when it comes to keep runners off the bases. In fact, the RiverDogs don't have much competition in this category. The Akron pitching staff is second in the Minors with a collective 1.13 WHIP, but the difference between that and Charleston is the same as the difference between Akron and Rochester, the 13th-best staff in WHIP. Garrett Whitlock, an 18th-round pick out of the University of Alabama, Birmingham last year, has been Charleston's best pitcher by this and most any metric, with a 1.06 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, .164 average-against and 40 strikeouts in 34 innings. But JP Sears (0.53 WHIP in 17 IP), Chad Martin (0.71 in 14 IP), Brian Trieglaff (0.86 in 18 2/3 IP) and Dalton Lehnen (0.89 in 33 2/3 IP) all have WHIPs below 1.00 over decent sample sizes relative to this time of the season. A big reason for that has been stellar control; the RiverDogs collectively lead MiLB with a 6.1 percent walk rate. The bigger names might be elsewhere in the system -- No. 20 Glenn Otto is the highest-ranked Yankees prospect who has pitched for Charleston this season -- but those who have started 2018 at Class A are putting themselves on the map early. Bottom of the ladder: Triple-A Las Vegas, 1.72

Video: Charleston's Whitlock fans career-high 10th batter

K%: Class A Quad Cities, 31.5 percent -- Looking for a K? Go to the lower levels of the Astros system. Class A Advanced Buies Creek ranks second among all Minor Leagues with a 30.6 percent strikeout rate, giving Houston the only two clubs with marks above 30 percent. Like so many others here, the River Bandits don't have a loaded staff with prospects. J.B. Bukauskas is the only ranked Astros prospect to pitch for Quad Cities, but injuries have limited him to only two starts. Instead, it's 2017 seventh-rounder Parker Mushinski leading the way with 36.3 percent K rate over 20 2/3 innings, and 2017 third-rounder Tyler Ivey (35.4), international signees Cristian Javier (34.5) and Luis Garcia (33.3), 2017 fourth-rounder Peter Solomon (30.9 percent) and 2015 11th-rounder Patrick Sandoval (28.9 percent) follow closely behind among pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched. Translation: That's a lot of recent college arms that haven't been pushed aggressively alongside pitchers with Class A experience. If not for the K-heavy Buies Creek staff, this would be a sign that many of these River Bandits should be seeing something more challenging soon. For now, this is positive news in a system that hasn't developed its arms as well as its bats in recent years. Bottom of the ladder: Class A Wisconsin, 18.2 percent

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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