BRADENTON – Last week Brandon Waddell got promoted to Altoona, after absolutely dominating the Florida State League through five starts. I got a chance to see Waddell in his only home start for the Marauders, and was impressed with the way he mixed speeds and stayed ahead of hitters. I saw his worst outing, which featured two runs on three hits in five innings, and even in that start he looked advanced for the level.
It looked like Waddell wasn’t being challenged by A-ball hitters, and a promotion to Altoona at some point was inevitable. I just didn’t expect it to come so soon. The reason it did come so soon was because the Pirates saw the same thing, that Waddell wasn’t being challenged.
“I think there was an opportunity for him where he dominated so well in his five starts that they wanted to push him a little bit, and challenge him a little bit,” Bradenton Manager Michael Ryan said. “He’ll definitely be challenged in Double-A. He was ready. He was unbelievable for us. You don’t ever want a player to be bored at a level, and it looked to me at some point that he was bored.”
Ryan doesn’t make the call on when a player gets promoted, but does give a recommendation when asked.
“They just ask if he’s ready for Double-A,” Ryan said. “I say absolutely, tell them the reason why he’s ready for Double-A. They make the decision. The proper guys were in town as far as coordinators to see that he was ready. That’s when the decision came about.”
The coordinators that were in town for Waddell’s last start included Minor League Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell. They saw Waddell throw six shutout innings, giving up two hits, no walks, and striking out seven.
In his first start for Altoona, Waddell gave up two runs on six hits in 6.1 innings, with no walks and three strikeouts. It wasn’t the same level of performance he showed in Bradenton, but it was an encouraging start for a 21-year-old who reached Double-A less than a year after being drafted. It will be interesting to see how Waddell performs in Altoona, and whether the new level gives him a challenge this time.
Shuffling the Bradenton Lineup
The Marauders have seen some lineup changes lately, with Connor Joe moving down in the order for the last few weeks, and a few others moving up and down in the lineup. Michael Ryan said that this was to get everyone an equal amount of at-bats, and had nothing to do with performance. However, it’s hard to look past the performance of Joe so far.
The 2014 compensation pick has struggled with his results this year, hitting for a .220/.297/.329 line in 91 plate appearances. He didn’t have the best results last year in West Virginia, but the silver lining was that he walked a lot and didn’t strike out much. So far this year his walks are at a good rate, but his strikeout rate has spiked to 22%, and that was before striking out twice on Friday night.
Right after the change in the lineup, I noticed that Joe started hitting. His numbers immediately improved, with a boost in power. However, this hasn’t been consistent.
“I think he’s doing everything the same,” Ryan said of the new spot in the order and any changes he might have made. “The difference to me is his pitch selection. He’s getting pitches to hit, and he’s not missing them. Before he might have been missing some pitches and chasing. I think the less chases will put him in better offensive counts to swing the bat, and he’s been swinging pretty good.”
I still like what I see from Joe when it comes to his raw skills. That said, I’ve noticed a trend with him this year that reminded me of Max Moroff when he was in Bradenton. Moroff was way too selective, often going an entire at-bat without swinging at a pitch. Sometimes this would result in a walk. Sometimes this would result in a six pitch strikeout. I saw Joe strike out looking at five straight pitches on Friday night, and have seen him very selective at other times.
Joe has a good eye, a smooth swing, and power potential. But he might be too selective right now, which isn’t leading to the best results. That changed for Moroff once he arrived in Altoona. You’d hope the change would come sooner in this case.
As for other players who moved around, Kevin Kramer moved to the number eight spot for one game, hit a home run, and hasn’t dropped back down in the lineup since. So it seems Joe’s positioning in the order might be a little bit more than balancing at-bats on the team.