New York Penn League: Twenty Games

While last year’s MLB Draft probably brought a bit more talent to the New York Penn League, the short season league is still ripe with top picks, returning guys showing improvement, and players that are emerging into the spotlight. The crop is more interesting this year.

This is a review of the league through twenty games, and there are similarities in overall team performance compared to 2012. One of them is the Hudson Valley Renegades and Tri-City Valley Cats once again fielding some of the most solid talent in the league, talent that’s rising to the challenge.

Tri-City was the first stop for number one overall draft pick Mark Appel after he signed his contract. The RHP made two starts, allowing two runs, both earned, on eight hits. He walked one, and struck out nine over nine innings before being promoted, as expected, to Class-A Quad Cities of the Midwest League.

One of the most impressive pitchers to emerge this season is John Gant. The first year Penn leaguer leads the league in strikeouts with 41 for the Brooklyn Cyclones. He’s pitched deep in every start, going 5-6 innings in five outings. In twenty seven innings, he’s allowed just eleven walks. He’s allowed nine earned runs, and just one home run. The walks have only been a problem in one outing, in which he gave up five. With RISP, guys are hitting .194.

John Mincone leads the Cyclones with 4 saves, tied for second overall. In 8.2 innings, the reliever has a 1.04 ERA with ten K’s. He’s a repeat Penn Leaguer, pitching twenty eight innings and finishing with a 1.82 ERA in 2012.

Hudson Valley’s Austin Pruitt pitched his way to an early July promotion to the Class-A Midwest League. His five starts produced just three earned runs and a pair of walks. In his first year of pro ball, Pruitt proved to be a quick study and prepared for the workload (he finished his Penn League stint with twenty three innings pitched).

Second to Gant in strikeouts with 32, Tri-City’s Michael Felix leads the way with a 1.07 ERA. Teammate Tanner Bushue‘s 0.71 WHIP is top in the league, and Feliz is right behind him. Bushue’s thirteen hits allowed brought across six earned runs. To start July, he’d surrendered just three walks.

The Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees are leading the league in strikeouts. Brooklyn with 239 K’s, and Staten Island with 236, are natural rivals, with the Cyclones being a Mets affiliate, and the close proximity. But Staten Island is making a run that they didn’t last year, when Brooklyn’s pitching helped lead them to a (brief) playoffs berth. Staten Island finished 30-45, the 2nd worst record in the McNamara Division.

The Aberdeen Ironbirds had the distinction of finishing with the worst overall record in the league last year, going 28-48. This year, they’ve made an excellent start, trailing Hudson Valley by one game at the time of this writeup. They’re 14-12 and team pitching is fourth in strikeouts (221). First baseman Trey Mancini leads Aberdeen with 28 hits.

Staten Island’s 2013 roster is more well-rounded. Their lineup- which now includes Eric Jagielo– is more productive, with added advanced power, than last year’s. They’ve also got a strong arm in Nick Rumbelow; in six appearances and seven innings, he’s given up three runs, zero earned. He’s allowed a hit and a walk, with seven strikeouts.

Jagielo’s hotly anticipated debut was met with seven hits in his first four games. In nine games overall he has twelve hits, with a .429 OBP. The versatile player- who can play third and outfield- has ten assists at third. The 2013 Big East Player of the Year, drafted out of the University of Notre Dame, has also DH’ed for Staten Island, and hit mostly in the third hole. He’s definitely the most exciting middle-of-the-order power bat in the league this year.

And add Staten Island’s Kale Sumner to your radar. Sumner put together a nine-game hitting streak between the end of June and mid-July. In twenty games, he has twenty-three hits. He’s striking out a bit more lately- he’s K’ed ten times in six games, with twenty-one through twenty games- but has big power that fits the Yankees prototype, similar to Jagielo, he’s just not as polished or highly regarded, and was a late rounder (32nd). But in exactly twenty games played, he’s been very consistent, hitting 2nd and further down the lineup.

Lowell Spinners Manuel Margot was red-hot in the Dominican Summer League last year, collecting 74 hits and 45 RBI in 68 games. This year he’s starting off hot again, with 27 hits in twenty-five games. Actually, after twenty games, he’s picked it up even more, with ten hits in five games. Oh, and he’s eighteen. The Red Sox signed him on Signing Day, July 2nd, for International prospects in 2011. The 2012 Summer League All-Star has struck out seven times in 89 at-bats. He’s hit in the early part of the lineup, and looks like he’ll develop into a good two-hole hitter.

Another league review to come soon.

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Jessica has provided minor league baseball coverage for Baseball Digest, Gotham Baseball Magazine, Pirates Prospects, Project Prospect, The Binghamton Bulletin, The Trentonian, The Worcester Telegram, and her blog 'High Heels On The Field'. She's covered MLB for and Junior Baseball Magazine, for which she's regular contributed for seven years. Follow her on Twitter @heelsonthefield

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