When figuring out the Pitcher of the Month earlier today, there was a legitimate debate between three well-deserving players. For the Player of the Month, Bristol first baseman Carlos Munoz left little doubt that he was the winner. He put up a 1.194 OPS in 25 games, with 13 doubles and seven homers. He drove in 23 runs and scored 21 times, while posting a 12:9 BB/SO ratio. Basically, he had a special month.
Munoz had 13 multi-hit games, which is more than half the games he played. In seven of those contests, he had at least three hits. Munoz had an extra-base hit in 14 games, which was highlighted by the three homers he hit on July 25th. There were just two games all month that he didn’t reach base and one of them was a seven inning contest in which he only batted three times.
Here is the tricky part of doing these things, which is talking about what the future might hold for a player and where he hits into the Pirates’ plans down the line. With Munoz, that is made more difficult because he is so far away despite the stats he is putting up. He is in his fifth season in the organization and this isn’t the first time he looked like Babe Ruth, in more ways than one. Munoz had been a terrific hitter from the start, due to plate patience and the ability to make solid contact. As mentioned though, he’s in his fifth season, he’s already 21 and he is in Bristol, which is two levels lower than where he should be right now. That’s not on the Pirates though, that’s on him.
Munoz has had weight issues for awhile now, which limits him to first base. He has been asked to address it and it continues to be an issue. He moves good for his size, but he’s at first base because that’s the only spot he can play and he is better suited for the DH role. He has been known to fade at the end of the season, which is a bad sign when you’ve only played short-season ball. There are good reasons that he will be Rule 5 eligible and two years away from minor league free agency at the end of this year, yet he is still in league considered rookie level.
His other problem was highlighted when Tim Williams saw him multiple times this week, and that was his inability to hit a good breaking ball. He looked very bad at times, which is very surprising from someone with his numbers. It’s something that needs to be fixed, because the good breaking balls he’s seeing now, are only good for the level he is at. They aren’t NYPL good and they certainly aren’t full-season ball good. When word gets out that he’s a great fastball hitter, then the way pitchers attack him will change. It could be that his late season struggles are also related to scouting reports getting around as the season progresses.
Munoz played winter ball in Mexico this year, getting a chance to face much better pitchers than he is seeing now. He ended up going 1-for-15, with no walks and five strikeouts, in a league that is known to be off-speed heavy from their pitchers. If you’ve seen his career numbers, you know that zero walks and five strikeouts are not stats that you would expect from Munoz at any point in his career. At the time, we chalked it up to him being young and going up against better pitching, but there could be a real issue here that will stand out more as he progresses.
As it stands now, there is no one ahead of Munoz in the NYPL that should stop him from starting at first base on Opening Day for the West Virginia Power. He has a special talent of being patient and making solid contact when he does swing. Regardless of him being at a level too low right now, you don’t see those monthly numbers often, as some guys don’t even get 20 extra-base hits in a season. If he can finally take his conditioning serious and put up solid numbers over an entire full-season league, then he becomes a legit prospect.
First base is a hard position to develop in your system starting from the low minors, unless it is someone(Josh Bell) moved there once they establish themselves as a hitter. Munoz has a solid base for success, but a lot will have to go right before he should be considered a legit prospect. For now, all he can do is continue to beat up on Appalachian League pitchers and keep looking forward.
PLAYERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Keon Broxton (.303/.382/.517, 102 PA)
Altoona – Dan Gamache (.382/.427/.438, 96 PA)
Bradenton – Harold Ramirez (.371/.400/.613, 65 PA, 2 HR)
West Virginia – Jordan Luplow (.305/.416/.579, 116 PA, 4 HR)
Morgantown – Logan Hill (.330/.450/.560, 113 PA, 4 HR)
Bristol – Carlos Munoz (.396/.461/.733, 116 PA, 7 HR)
GCL – Ke’Bryan Hayes (.362/.446/.449, 84 PA)