A couple pitchers took steps toward coming out of season-long struggles, and quite a few of the hitters at Bradenton broke out the whuppin’ sticks. Of course, it all paled in importance to Pedro Alvarez lighting up International League pitching.
Gorkys Hernandez, CF (AAA): After slumping a bit, Hernandez turned in a blistering week, going 13-for-25 (.520) with two doubles and a triple. Hernandez hasn’t had what you could call a breakout year, but he’s bounced back convincingly from some struggles in AA. He’s now at 299/350/414 for the year. As a premium defensive player, he could help the Pirates as soon as . . . well, now if Alex Presley’s thumb problem doesn’t clear up.
Rudy Owens, LHP (AAA): Owens showed signs of finally adjusting to AAA with two outstanding outings during the week. On Tuesday, he allowed just two runs on four hits over seven innings. On Sunday, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Owens lowered his July ERA to 2.83, easily his lowest of any month.
Matt Curry, 1B (AA): After some early struggles, Curry has been adjusting rapidly to AA after making a two-level jump. This past week he went 11-for-25 (.440) with four doubles and a HR. The calendar moving from June to July has made a big difference for Curry. Since posting a .657 OPS with seven walks and 32 strikeouts in June, his July OPS has been .947 with eight walks and eleven strikeouts. Hopefully, he’ll continue hitting the rest of the way and force his way to AAA to open 2012.
Kyle McPherson, RHP (AA): McPherson threw a gem in his one outing, allowing just one hit over six shutout innings. He walked one and fanned six. Combined with his start the previous week, he’s allowed one run, five hits and one walk over his past twelve innings while fanning twelve.
Robbie Grossman, OF (A+): Grossman continued to improve his offensive game, going 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, a HR, and nine walks. His OBP for the week was .559. Since the Florida State League’s All-Star break, Grossman has posted an OPS of 1.013, with eleven more walks than strikeouts. Before the break, he had one extra-base hit every fourteen at-bats. Since, he’s had one every 8.8 at-bats. Unfortunately, he seems to be stuck in A-ball because he’s blocked by Brad Chalk, or something.
Bradenton catchers: With Calvin Anderson injured, Carlos Paulino and Ramon Cabrera are both now playing every day, at least when Cabrera isn’t out with some minor ailment. In the past week, Paulino is 9-for-22 (.409) with two doubles and a triple, while Cabrera is 7-for-13 (.538) with three doubles. Cabrera started the season as the regular, but Paulino could surpass him as a prospect. Paulino is athletic and has a lot of potential defensively. He’s thrown out 26% of base stealers, while the 5’7″ Cabrera has cut down only 13% and has been run on far more often.
Evan Chambers, CF (A+): Chambers’ ultra-patient approach at the plate is finally working for him in the FSL. After posting an OPS of .653 in April and .599 in May, he’s improved to .809 and .891 in June and July, respectively. This past week he went 8-for-24 (.333) with three HRs, including two in one game. His OPS since the All-Star break is .962 and he has seven HRs in 32 games. He’s still striking out a lot, with one roughly ever 3.5 ABs on the season. Oddly, he hasn’t been able to hit LHPs at all, posting a .584 OPS against them compared to .803 against RHPs.
Brett Lorin, RHP (A+): Lorin had two strong outings during the week, going twelve innings and allowing just four hits, one walk and two runs, while fanning eight. He seems ready to move up to AA.
Duke Welker, RHP (A+): Welker’s turnaround continued, as he made two appearances, both resulting in one-two-three innings, with one whiff each time. Since April, his ERA is 1.64 and hitters have batted only .157 against him. More importantly, he’s managed to limit his walks to sixteen in 38.1 IP, while fanning 32. The Pirates could face an interesting decision at Rule 5 time, as some team might want to take a flier on a guy who sits in the mid-90s and reaches the upper-90s, and has an extreme groundout to air out ratio of 3.18.
Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP (A): Von Rosenberg got some relief from an otherwise-miserable season in his one start during the week. He threw five perfect innings, then gave up one harmless hit in the sixth before departing. He fanned five.
Brock Holt, SS (AA): The pitchers in the Eastern League seem to be catching on gradually to Holt. His batting average has declined every month and he’s now mired in a 2-for-22 (.091) slump. His OPS for the year is now a mediocre .715. More importantly, his OBP, which will need to be his strong point if he’s going to be a major league player, is just a decent .340. He’s struggled severely against LHPs, batting just 167/265/196 against them.
Bryan Morris, RHP (AA): After pitching extremely well since his move to the bullpen, Morris hit a snag in the past week, showing that his issues with command aren’t gone. In 4.1 IP, he allowed eight hits and six walks, leading to six runs, one of them unearned.
Dan Grovatt, OF (A): Like nearly all the rest of the West Virginia team, Grovatt is struggling. He went 4-for-24 (.167) with no extra-base hits and one walk. He now has a .627 OPS in July and his walk rate is way down.