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Takeaways from the first week of the Minor League Season

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

It was a long off-season, but minor league baseball is finally back! It felt nice having to use 3 monitors at once again, while I had the Guardians on one monitor, the RubberDucks and the Hillcats on the other two. It was an extremely fun week, and here are some of my takeaways. Now remember, these are all very small sample sizes, so we shouldn’t overreact(unless it’s a positive overreaction, those are OK).

Columbus Clippers:

  • Kyle Manzardo is heating up:

-- Ignore the pedestrian slash line, after getting off to a slow start, Kyle Manzardo has been Kyle Manzardo lately, he leads the Clippers in barrel rate at 9.8%, and has a 15.7% BB rate. I believe the Guardians need to call him up soon if they want to win this division.

  • Daniel Schneemann deserves a shot:

-- Daniel Schneemann is destroying baseballs right now, there is not much else to say. He has a 133 WRC+ and is walking almost twice as much as he is striking out, and he’s actually been unlucky. His .447 expected wOBA is actually 53 points higher than his .394 wOBA. I’m not sure where the Guardians could play him, but he has certainly earned a shot at the MLB level.

  • Johnathan Rodriguez is hitting the ball REALLY HARD...into the ground:

-- A 95.4 Average Exit Velocity and a 64.3% HardHit% are both pretty insane. He is crushing the ball, but he’s hitting a ton of groundballs and only has a 3.7% barrel rate this season, down from an elite 13.8% barrel rate last season. I’m sure this is one of those metrics that will stabilize in a larger sample. He’s also walking at an incredible 20.4% rate, I definitely expect this to regress as the sample grows, as he’s always had chase issues and this sort of improvement would be unprecedented.

Akron RubberDucks:


-- Petey Halpin has been inarguably the best hitter in the Guardians minor leagues system this season. He’s having the best stretch of his career, and even though he’s repeating AA, he is still only 21 years old, so it’s impressive. He’s showing more power than he ever has in the past(.250 ISO) and he has a career high walk rate of 15.8%. Halpin has always been an interesting prospect, but the bat has underwhelmed the last couple seasons. No doubt he is going to see regression from his 213 WRC+, but could he be breaking out? I sure hope so.

  • Ignore the slow start from Chase DeLauter:

-- Chase DeLauter is known for being a slow starter. A big reason he fell to the Guardians at 16 overall was because he had a rough start to his last season against Florida State. He also had a really slow start in the cape cod league and then went on to eventually win MVP. He will be FINE.

  • I like what I have seen from Kahlil Watson:

-- The slash line for Watson right now is rough, but I have enjoyed his ABs. He’s hitting the ball hard and is not being rewarded for it. The walks are up and the strikeouts are down, I really think the production is going to come if he just sticks to this approach.

  • Doug Nikhazy may have fixed his control issues:

-- Doug Nikhazy made an arm angle adjustment in the offseason and it appears to be paying off. His first two outings have been nothing short of incredible, giving up only 1 hit, striking out 13 and walking just 4 in 10 innings pitched. This is one of those small sample things, where at any point he could regress back to who he’s always been, but for now, we can dream.

Lake County Captains:

  • Parker Messick is ready for AA:

-- Parker Messick probably should have started the season in AA. He has been untouchable through 2 starts in High-A. He is striking out 38.5% of the batters he’s faced and has pitched to a 0.93 ERA. Messick won’t be long for Lake County, expect a promotion to AA Akron in the next month or two.

  • The Guardians 2023 draftees are off to great starts:

-- C.J. Kayfus, Alex Mooney, and Cooper Ingle are all SCORCHING at the plate. We should be extra careful here, with only a 20 PA sample, these guys will almost surely see some regression, but they’ve been really fun to watch thus far. Kayfus in particular, I believe might be real, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ascended through the system quickly.

  • The Will Benson trade looks as bad as ever:

-- It’s only been one start for Hajjar, so his 13.50 ERA will certainly, or hopefully, get better. He just has no control whatsoever, he nearly walked as many batters as he struck out last season, and his first outing this season was not great. Justin Boyd also continues to struggle, that might be an understatement. After striking out 36.7% of the time with a 52 WRC+ last season, Boyd has gotten off to an even worse start this season, striking out in 58.8% of his PAs with a 46 WRC+. Again, very small samples, there is plenty of time for these guys to turn it around, but I don’t have much hope.

Lynchburg Hillcats:

  • Ralphy Velazquez and Jaison Chourio have done everything that we could have hoped for:

-- These two are off to incredible starts to their pro career, they have been 2 of the 3 best hitters in the organization, just behind Petey Halpin. They both rank top 10 in WRC+ in the entire Carolina League as 18 year olds, accompanied on that list mostly by 21-24 year olds. These kids are both so exciting, I could not be more impressed by their approaches, particularly Chourio, he looks like a 10 year vet facing off against these 23-24 year old college pitchers. Ralphy is just crushing everything he sees, slashing .385/.452/.692 with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, and an absurd .308 ISO. The power is very, very real, and will only increase as he gets older.

  • Rafael Ramirez Jr may take longer to develop, and that’s OK:

-- Rafael Ramirez Jr will be 18 years old until late July, and he is very raw. It shouldn’t be too surprising that he seems a bit overwhelmed by Single-A pitching after striking out 28.4% of the time in the Arizona Complex League last season. Development is not linear, and for a kid as young as Ramirez is, we have to give him time to adjust to this level of pitching. I’m excited to see the adjustments he makes and am still confident in him as a prospect.

  • Robert Lopez and Angel Genao are doing what they should be doing:

-- I was surprised to see both of these two repeating in Lynchburg this season. I liked what I saw from both of them last season and expected them to start in Lake County, but there likely wasn’t enough space for them on the roster. They are both off to nice starts this season and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some early promotions for them since they are both former top international signings and are repeating the level.

I’m so excited for this minor league season and can’t wait to watch and write about the ups and downs that these talented prospects will go through. And don’t forget, we get to add one of Charlie Condon or Travis Bazzana to this farm system in a few months!!!