The Shaq Thompson AA Pitching and Defensive All-Stars

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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 Shaq Thompson AA Offensive All-Stars in honor of the former Boston Red Sox draftee.

The focus on minor leaguers is usually on the great prospects ‒ hitters like Odubel Herrera and Devon Travis, pitchers like Lance McCullers and Aaron Nola ‒ players who have been great as they have traversed the minor league landscape and have begun to make their impact in the major leagues. However, succeeding in the minor leagues is not easy. At every level, there are players struggling to hit their weight, pitchers striving to keep their ERAs in the single digits.

For some, it’s the end of the road, for others it’s just a bad year or a bad transition. In honor of former Red Sox outfielder (and current Carolina Panther) Shaq Thompson, we unveil The Shaq Thompson All-Stars, bringing to light the abysmal pitching, the unfortunate hitting and the absurd defense in minor league baseball. In today’s edition, we scour AA baseball – the Eastern League, the Southern League and the Texas League – highlighting first round picks and journeymen as they struggle with throwing and catching the ball.

Pitching

The Struggles of Prospects

In his first full season of professional ball in 2014, Austin Kubitza blitzed through the Midwest League to the tune of a 10-2 record with a 2.34 ERA in 23 starts. The Tigers decided to have him skip directly to AA Erie, and Kubitza struggled. In 27 starts. Kubitza went 9-13 with a league leading 5.79 ERA and a league high WHIP of 1.79.

Tyler Danish also blitzed through his first full season of professional ball in 2014, going 8-3 with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 25 starts for the Winston-Salem Dash and the Kannapolis Intimidators. The White Sox promoted the 20-year-old to the AA Birmingham Barons where he struggled to an 8-12 record with a 4.50 ERA and a league leading WHIP of 1.65 in 26 starts.

Andrew Morales pitched 12 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals organization last season after being drafted in the 2nd round out of the University of California-Irvine. That was enough seasoning for the Cardinals who placed the former Anteater with their AA team in Springfield, Illinois for the season. Morales went 5-8 with the AA Cardinals, with a league high 5.00 ERA and a league leading 1.66 WHIP.

Kyle Crick has had a problem with walks over his entire five-season career for the Giants organization. Drafted in the first round in 2011, Crick was moved to the bullpen after eleven starts for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, despite a superficially low 3.00 ERA, but a WHIP of 1.74 with 40 walks. In 25 games in relief, Crick’s ERA has risen to 3.86 and his WHIP has moved to 1.90. In 63 innings, Crick walked 66 batters.

Short, Brutal Starts

Nick Pivetta put up a 2.29 ERA for the Potomac Nationals in 15 games this season, earning a promotion to AA Harrisburg. In three games for Harrisburg and seven games for Reading (after being a part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade), Pivetta put up a 7.27 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP, walking 28 in 43 innings.

Scott Lyman started the year with the Jupiter Hammerheads, going 7-1 with a 1.61 ERA, earning a promotion 265 miles north to the AA Jacksonville Suns. He had no luck with the Suns, going 1-9 with a 6.15 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP in his first 15 AA starts.

The Journey Men Begin

Wandy Peralta has had a fairly undistinguished career with the Reds, where he has been both a started and a reliever. The 24-year-old left-hander made his AA debut for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos this season, going 7-7 with a league high 5.09 ERA in 29 appearances.

Tim Berry’s second AA season with the Bowie Baysox was not as good as the first. Kicked out of the rotation after failing to go more than three innings in three of four starts at the end of June/beginning of July, he would pitch well in eight relief appearances before going down to injury in early August. Berry went 2-7 with a 7.32 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP.

Francisco Rondon has been everywhere in his 10 year career, pitching 30 times out of the bullpen for the Mississippi Braves this season. He may have pitched himself out of baseball however, putting up a 6.52 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP before being released in late July.

The Pen is On Fire

Austin House made his AA debut with the New Britain Rock Cats this season and threw 52 1/3 innings in 52 appearances. House picked up four losses and seven blown saves for the Rock Cats, putting up a 4.13 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP.

Trey Cochran-Gill came out of the Jackson Generals pen 34 times this season and collected three losses and three blown saves. He also managed a 5.43 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP, walking two more than he struck out.

Jimmie Sherfy was brought out of the Mobile BayBears pen 44 times this season, his second season in AA. But his effectiveness was muted, putting up a 1-6 record with a 6.52 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP while blowing four saves. Will Locante was little better out of the BayBears pen, going 2-4 with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP in 44 appearances.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals also had a pair of bullpen firestarters. Aroni Nina picked up four losses and three blown saves in 43 games, putting up a 5.15 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP. Sam Selman picked up five losses and a pair of blown saves in 41 games, putting up a 5.27 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP.

The Thompson Rotation

The Portland Sea Dogs hold the dubious distinction of having the worst starting rotation in AA baseball, perhaps, in all of minor league baseball. Of the six worst ERAs in the Eastern League, four of them belong to the Sea Dogs. Topping the stink pile is Luis Diaz, who put up a 2-10 record with a 5.47 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP over 27 starts. Justin Haley also started all 27 of the games he pitched in, going 5-16 with a 5.15 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP.

Mike Augliera went 2-13 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP in 17 starts before being kicked to the bullpen, where he was much better with a 1-2 record and an ERA of 3.18. Like Augliera, Michael McCarthy also had much more success in the bullpen, going 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. His starts, on the other hand, were must miss engagements, going 4-9 with a 5.76 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 19 starts (including one start for AAA Pawtucket).

We would be remiss to not mention two other part timers who helped make the Portland rotation extra stinky. Heri Quevedo went 0-5 in eight starts, putting up a bloated 7.94 ERA and an extra-size 2.08 WHIP. Quevedo was placed in the bullpen where he was more effective. Danny Rosenbaum, coming back from Tommy John surgery, went 0-7 in 11 starts with a 6.02 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP.

Where’s the Defense

Dustin Lawley would like to forget the 2015 season. The 26-year-old was dropped by the AA Binghamton Mets for overall failure. He was picked up by the Red Sox organization where he was eventually brought up to AA Portland, where his failures continued. In 75 games at third base between Binghamton and the Sea Dogs, Lawley committed 21 errors.

The San Antonio Missions’ Duanel Jones racked up an excruciating 21 errors at third base in just 66 games. To prove he was a multi-faceted error maker, Jones also picked up three errors in 24 games at first base.

Second basemen are not known for racking up lots of errors, but don’t tell that to the Trenton Thunder’s Tony Renda. In only 64 games in the field for Trenton, Renda accumulated 19 errors. Renda had already picked up seven errors for the Harrisburg Senators before being traded to the Yankees organization. The New Britain Rock Cats’ Juan Ciriaco also had his issues at second, picking up 18 miscues in only 71 games.

Mike Yastrzemski had quite a year in the Bowie Baysox outfield. On the positive side, he played all three outfield positions and caught twelve attempting to take an extra base. On the bad, he also accumulated ten outfield errors, a large number for any outfielder. The Altoona Curve’s Stetson Allie also was a boom or bust candidate, racking up 16 assists while committing eight errors. The Frisco RoughRiders’ Nomar Mazara also played the same game with 13 assists and eight errors.

Catchers are usually judged defensively on the strength of their arms and the framing of the pitches they catch. Which is good for the Montgomery Biscuit’s Justin O’Conner, who threw out 48% of the runners attempting to steal. O’Conner also committed a mind-numbing 15 errors and accumulated 15 passed balls in only 91 games.

Shortstops do tend to rack up their fair share of errors, attempting plays that are as difficult as they are athletic. 22-year-old Tim Anderson of the Birmingham Barons picked up 25 errors at short this season in 110 games. 20-year-old J.P. Crawford racked up 21 in just 86 games for the Fightin Phils of Reading. And 21-year-old Gavin Cecchini committed 28 errors at short in 109 games for the Binghamton Mets.

Given the number of times they handle the ball during each game, first basemen rarely pick up high error totals. Nick Ramirez, however, accumulated 16 errors in 116 games for the Biloxi Shuckers this season. Viosergy Rosa also had difficulty at first for the Jacksonville Suns, picking up a dozen errors in 96 games.

Austin Kubitza was first on our list of pitchers, but last in our list of defenders. Pitchers rarely accumulate more than a few errors each year, but Kubitza picked up eight errors in his 27 starts for the SeaWolves this season.

We will continue our look into the best of the worst in the upcoming weeks. In our next installment, we will be highlighting the lowlights in the High-A Leagues of California, Carolina and Florida State.

*Click here for AAA Offensive All-StarsAAA Pitching and Defensive All-Stars and AA Offensive All-Stars.

Brandon Magee is our resident minor league expert, but has also written about, Ben Cherington’s departure, the mishandling of injuries by the Red Sox, interim bench coach Dana LeVangieBROCK HOLT!, undrafted free agents, the home run king Mike Hessman, the Misadventures of Media Magee, and an interview with Trenton Kemp.

Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.

Check out Ian York’s look at Junichi Tazawa.

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