The Lugnuts roll into June with a 22-29 record and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League. The team is outperforming its Pythagorean record by a game, and have scored 230 runs while giving up 274. The Lugnuts are 13th in the league in runs scored at 4.42 but rank 6th in home runs, 10th in batting average, 8th in SBs, 15th in OBP, 10th in SLG, and 12th in OPS. The team is 15th in the league in pitching, giving up 5.27 runs per game and are second last in the league in WHIP. The Lugnuts have made the second most errors but have improved in CS% (up to 26% now, in the middle of the pack), primarily due to the arrival of Aaron Munoz.
Christian Lopes is hitting fairly consistently despite slumping a bit at the end of May. His May numbers are very strong though, hitting .299/.358/.439: improving on his April OBP and SLG despite his batting average being down. He has hit three of his four home runs in May and has taken 10 walks (compared to only 2 in April). Lopes is continuing a fine season in his Age-20 year.
Mississauga-born center fielder Dalton Pompey had a horrible May in which he hit .158/.239/.228 after a very strong April. He still steals at a very high success rate (14 steals, 1 caught stealing) and had a great game to start June, but needs to be more consistent in his production. He leads the team in strikeouts through May 31 with 52 and needs to also put the brakes on the Ks.
I’m going to include a player here that many Blue Jays prospect followers haven’t heard of due to his very strong hitting lately. Gustavo Pierre is a Dominican third baseman that some people around the team this has the most potential. He is hitting the best he ever has since coming over in 2009 to play with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. He is now 21 and had an outstanding May, hitting .391/.398/.533. No, that’s not a misprint or a typo. There are two big flaws in his game right now. The first is his free-swinging ways. He has only walked once this season to go with 46 strikeouts (yes, that’s worse than J.P. Arencibia). I’m sure the Jays are working with him, but he’s second on the team in slugging percentage and is tied for second in HRs and leads in doubles so there’s pop in his bat. The other issue with Pierre is his defense. Possessing a cannon of an arm at 3rd base, he has already made 17 errors. That’s actually way under his career high of 44 in 2011 for Bluefield and Lansing combined in 75 games, but he’s already eclipsed the 16 he made last season in 75 games in Lansing. If he continues to hit, the Lugnuts will find somewhere for him to play because his upside is sky high and he has better raw tools than just about anyone else on the team.
Called up at the end of April, OF Dwight Smith, Jr. has become a very consistent hitter with a little bit a of pop (that is expected to increase) and good speed. He hit .280/.353/.383 in May, showing a mature approach at the plate with 12 walks. His 25 strikeouts are a little bit high, but Smith is only 20. In May, he stole 7 bases with only 1 caught stealing showing a mature approach on the bases as well.
On the pitching side, Roberto Osuna is on the DL but seems to be working his way back, having pitching in an Extended Spring Training game. The only other really high-ceilinged prospect is Daniel Norris who has really come on of late. Norris made 6 starts in May and posted a very strong 4.03 ERA in 22 1/3 innings (ignore the 0-2 record – he’s been pitching 4 innings per start and thus is ineligible to earn a win). He’s really been finding some control. While the 13 walks is high, it’s far better than it has been and his 31 strikeouts in May is impressive.
One of my picks to break out this year, 22-year-old Javier Avendano, hasn’t translated the dominating season he had in Lansing and Vancouver last year into the same in Lansing this year. Working as a starter, he had a 6.84 ERA for his 6 starts in May and pitched 25 innings, giving up a whopping 37 hits and 19 earned runs. He walked 13 and only struck out 20 in that time. Avendano’s “co-ace” in Vancouver last year, 23-year-old Taylor Cole (turning 24 this season) has been better overall, with a 3.91 ERA in May through 5 starts and 25 1/3 innings, but has also given up more hits than innings pitched (30) and has 15 walks and 15 strikeouts. Neither is becoming a top of the rotation starter. In fact, 24-year-old reliever Ben White has been starting since Osuna’s injury and logged 27 May innings, putting up a 4.33 ERA but with only 8 walks and 20 Ks. The team’s last starter, lefty Alonzo Gonzalez, had a rough May putting up a 6.52 ERA in 29 innings, giving up 41 hits and 14 walks while striking out only 13.
The Lugnuts’ bullpen has been outstanding in May, led by Wil Browning who has had a couple of rougher outings of late. Ian Kadish, Arik Sikula and Tucker Donahue have been especially effective in May. Since joining the Lugnuts in mid-May after a demotion from Dunedin, Efrain Nieves has been excellent as well.