The minor league baseball season is coming to an end, and soon the playoffs will start and awards will be given. However, there are some players that deserve their own type of recognition. Brandon Magee presents the second annual Shaq Thompson All-Stars in honor of the former Boston Red Sox draftee.
As Major League Baseball heads into its final month of the regular season – which includes expanded rosters as teams chase an elusive playoff spot – Minor League Baseball’s regular season ends on Monday. The playoffs will soon begin and champions will be crowned, but the grind of the regular season will soon be forgotten. However, sometimes the gears that grind get stripped and no longer perform at their optimum level. As we near the end of the minor league season, we honor those men who kept going out there every day despite losing their best stuff, putting up numbers that would make lesser men retire. Today, we name the 2016 edition of the Shaq Thompson All-Stars.
Least Valuable Player
Deven Marrero was once a first round draft pick and just last week, he started a game at second base for the Boston Red Sox. Yet, his complete futility this season in AAA Pawtucket makes one question why he is on the Red Sox 40-man roster. While Marrero is not last in the minors in either batting average, on-base percentage, or slugging percentage, he is so bad at all three that he is the only qualified player in full-season ball to have an OPS under .500. Marrero has put together an spectacularly inept .198/.245/.242 batting line, with a grand total of thirteen extra-base hits in 96 games. The shortstop’s calling card is supposed to be his defense, but he has committed fourteen errors as well.
In his second professional season Jose Cuas was bumped up from the Rookie Pioneer League – where he hit .260 in 2015 – to the High-A Florida State League. Cuas has been a trooper, playing in 116 games for the Brevard County Manatees. However, his 66 hits in 377 at-bats leaves him one shy of his hit total in Helena last season – which equals the worst batting average in the minor leagues at .175.
In his third professional season, third baseman Jordan Edgerton was once again promoted a level, landing with the Carolina Mudcats in the High-A Carolina League. And, for the second successive season, Jordan saw his slash line plummet across the board. His batting average fell from .245 to .206; his slugging percentage dropped from .317 to .303; but, it is the drop from .290 to .240 in his OBP that places him on the Shaq Thompson All-Star squad. With just 19 walks in 117 games, Edgerton has been unable to help himself find first base.
Once upon a time, middle infielders were known for defense – not homers. Jupiter Hammerhead second baseman Brian Schales is a throwback to those days, powering only ten total extra-base hits in 107 games in the FSL. That ratio makes Schales’ slugging % an absurd .227, .058 points lower than his also abysmal .285 OBP. His defense, however, was good for a middle infielder, so he has that going for him… I guess?
For many, strikeouts are just another out. This certainly holds true for Adam Walker of the Rochester Red Wings, who could blow by 200 with his normal weekend of whiffs. Walker – batting .250/.314/.491 with 53 extra base hits – has 195 strikeouts in 127 games. Last year, Walker also struck out 195 times in 133 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts.
Caught Stealing Bandit
Palm Beach Cardinals utility fielder Oscar Mercado certainly has the speed to swipe a base. Last season in Peoria, he pilfered 50 bags and this season he has appropriated 32. However, his “go-no go” radar may well be busted. After being caught just eleven times in his first two professional seasons, Mercado was nabbed 19 times in Peoria last year. Despite these frequent apprehensions, Mercado has not seemed to learn his lesson. This season, Mercado has been caught twenty times in 52 attempts. Perhaps, the team should be have a chat with him about whether he should stay or if he should go, now.
Zach Lovvorn has not pitched particularly poorly this season. His 3.95 ERA is better than his career average over five seasons. So is his 1.394 WHIP. His 7.5 K/9 is the second best mark of his career – better than all but his 2014 season with Idaho Falls. His 107 strikeouts is a career-high. However, whether by his own hand or because of the lack of offense for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Lovvorn has been charged with 15 losses and only two victories.
Contrast this with two-time coffee drinker Drew Rucinski, who has also racked up 15 losses for the Iowa Cubs in the Pacific Coast League. Rucinski has been pounded for a 6.17 ERA and a 1.534 WHIP, and he’s given up 184 hits – including 16 that have left the ballpark. While Lovvorn may well be enjoying his best overall season despite the logging of losses, Rucinski may be looking for work in the independent leagues after his worst professional season. And, yet, Drew still has three times as many wins this season as Zach. Who said life is fair?
Earned Run Enabler
The California League is a boon to most hitters but a threat to the stats of any pitcher who gets sent there. Such is the case for Inland Empire’s Jake Jewell, who has the worst ERA in the minors this season with a 6.32. Last year in the Midwest League, Jake posted a 1.266 WHIP in 111 innings. This season, Jewell has been a piece of coal in the 66ers’ stocking, going 2-14 in 131 innings, putting on 1.878 runners every inning and giving up 14 additional unearned runs. But, is he that bad or is there a diamond under the rough exterior? It might take a promotion to another league to find out.
Wiped Out WHIP
Jewell is also the minor league anti-leader in WHIP, but he is closely followed by his fellow Cal League outcast Eddie Campbell, who has put up a WHIP of 1.821 in his second season with Bakersfield. Campbell has actually bettered most of his stats in his second season, reducing his ERA to 5.71, lowered his hits-per-9-innings (h/9) by nearly 1.5, and he’s even won 11 of his 19 decisions. However, his walk rate has skyrocketed this year to an obscene 6.6 BB/9 and he is only a single walk away from the century mark. Needless to say, Campbell leads the minors, and his 99 walks are definitely a problem as Seattle decides where to assign him next season.
Endrys Briceno has had a lengthy career as a member of the Detroit Tigers organization, starting as a 17-year-old in Venezuela. In his eighth season Briceno has had a wild year in the High-A Florida State League. While there are many stats that make one go ewwww – an ERA of 5.94, a WHIP of 1.718, 13 wild pitches – the tall righty leads the minors in precisely none of those categories. However, as a hitter against Briceno, you may want to test your reflexes: he has plunked a minor league-high 18 batters this season, thrice drilling three in a game.
Surviving the High-A California League as a pitcher is difficult. One has to learn how to grade on a curve, knowing that your best efforts could still produce an ugly box score line. Jordan Johnson, by that measure, has had an okay first full season for the San Jose Giants, posting a 5.32 ERA, a 1.433 WHIP, and a 8.3 K/9. It’s not great, but it’s hardly a deathknell. However, he has had a problem with the taters, coughing up a minor league-high 24, recording only six games where he did not allow a ball out of the park.
Over in the equally offensive Pacific Coast League, former Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Kia Tigers and Yokohama Bay Stars hurler Duane Below apparently discovered a new-found love of the gopher ball during his travels to the Far East. Fans in the bleachers have been granted a wish from Below on 23 occasions this season. Like Johnson, Below has had just six games where a ball did not go flying into the stands.