Pitching has become a hallmark of the big league team, so perhaps it stands to reason that it would be a bright spot on the farm as well. Rockies affiliates allowed a total of five runs in a combined 38 innings pitched yesterday (not counting Alan Johnson's four innings in the suspended game Saturday night but the three relief innings pitched when the game resumed Sunday) for an ERA of 1.18. Starters fared even better, Jhoulys Chacin, Keith Weiser, Juan Nicasio and Wes Musick allowed just two runs in aggregate in 25.1 IP, for an ERA of 0.71.
In fact, you should probably do a screen capture of the current Pacific Coast League Team Pitching ERA leaderboard, because something tells me that Colorado Springs' league leading 2.16 team ERA might not last much longer into this homestand. The Sky Sox and Modesto Nuts both have league best team ERA's, while Tulsa and Asheville are currently both at or near the bottom in that category of their respective leagues. However, the Drillers and Tourists have or will have some very worthy southpaws, including the Rockies top two prospects, not to mention the two that threw for their teams yesterday.
Chasing the Giants and their affiliates seems to be an early season theme for the system, as both Modesto and Asheville are looking up at San Francisco affiliates in the standings right now. In the early going, it looks like three of our four full season affiliates might legitimately have playoff aspirations, Tulsa seems to be the exception.
Colorado Springs: W 3-1, W 7-0
6-5, 1st place
In the game resumed from Saturday night's fog-out, Cole Garner hit his first home run as a member of the Sky Sox, a three run blast that accounted for all the Colorado Springs scoring. Garner's looking really good in four games with a 1.150 OPS thus far. A fine start by Alan Johnson wasn't rewarded with a decision because the game was suspended before becoming official and he only had four innings in the books. Johnson allowed five hits, a walk, and the one run to score in those four IP.
Jhoulys Chacin had his second dominant start of the season with one not so effective start sandwiched in between. Chacin pitched six and a third innings, allowing no runs on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts. His GB/FB rate on outs recorded was 10/1. Adding to the impressiveness is that this was Chacin's first 2010 start at home, where he struggled somewhat in 2009. With a couple of bottom rotation starters struggling with the big club and an uncertain timetable for Jeff Francis' return, it would seem that Chacin is doing the right thing to give the team a real alternative.
Warren Schaeffer's had little exposure here, so some of you may be wondering who he is and what his story is after reading about his exploits on the season so far for the Sky Sox. Well, Schaeffer's a light hitting shortstop, a 39th round 2007 draft pick out of Virginia Tech who went missing at the end of last July in Modesto. He bats with around a .600 OPS in some of the most hitter friendly environments in the minor leagues. If you know of his whereabouts, please contact the appropriate authorities, but don't you dare say a word to the Rockies front office.
As to who the impostor that's gone .383/.398/.580 combined at Modesto and the Springs since the start of last August is? I can't help you there. Kidding aside, Schaeffer likely wouldn't even be with the Sky Sox if not for the injuries to Chris Nelson, Omar Quintanilla and Eider Torres, not to mention Hector Gomez, but he seems to be making the most of his opportunity, and as I mention, he has been hitting like this for about his last 100 PA's, so this proficiency is a carryover from the end of last season. It still doesn't make up for the two years worth of data prior that suggests he simply won't have an MLB worthy bat, but it does at least open our minds to the possibility that Schaeffer's a better player now and taken an unforeseeable (to all of us save his family and the scouts and team that drafted him) step forward.
Tulsa: W 5-1
3-7, 4 GB
Outside a single blip, a sixth inning home run by shortstop Andrew Parrino, Keith Weiser was simply sensational while pitching for the Drillers yesterday against a quality San Antonio Missions (Padres affiliate) lineup. Weiser allowed just one other hit, a single to Mitch Canham, and walked one during six innings of work. He required just 78 pitches, had three strikeouts and an 8/5 GO/AO ratio.
Wilin Rosario hit his second home run of the season and Jason Van Kooten had a pair of hits, a walk and a pair of stolen bases. I do want to make sure it's clear to everybody how much power potential Rosario is displaying, the 21 year old Rosario's isolated slugging percentage (.333) would be second in the league to 24 year old Koby Clemens if he had enough PA's (31, Rosario has 25) to qualify. That's a very very good sign this early in the season for a player as young as he is against this level of competition.
Modesto: W 4-1
6-4, 1 GB
Jimmy Cesario had a pair of doubles and a triple to continue his recent hot streak, the three hits give him a total of ten in the last four games and he now leads the California League with a .455 batting average. Cesario drove in three of the Nuts four runs, with the fourth being supplied by Jordan Pacheco on a sacrifice fly in the tenth inning that broke a 1-1 tie. A couple of batters later, Cesario ripped his triple, scoring Tim Wheeler and Ben Paulsen for the added insurance.
On the mound for Modesto was Juan Nicasio, who pitched six innings allowing just three hits and a walk, striking out five. The Nuts wrapped up a 5-2 road trip over the Angels and Dodgers Cal League affiliates in Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino (Inland Empire), outscoring their opponents 40-20 over the seven games. Early indications would suggest that this is going to be a very decent team. One of the most impressive aspects to me of this Modesto team thus far would be that they are first in the Cal League with just 24 walks allowed, while second on the offensive side with 49 walks drawn (and a league leading .375 OBP). Both Wheeler and Thomas Field are tied for second in the league with eight walks already; David Christensen is right behind with seven.
Asheville: W 6-3
6-5, 2 GB
Take away Wes Musick's opening day disaster (0.2 IP, 7 ER) and after adding seven shutout frames yesterday, he's now pitched 13 innings, allowing just one run on 12 hits and a walk with 14 K's for Asheville. An intriguing sleeper drafted in the 9th round out of Houston (he and Cesario were teammates on the Cougars CWS regional team in 2008) last summer, Musick's a bit old for the level and will probably get overlooked with our pitching depth, even more thanks to the way that April 8th start skews his numbers, but he has some big league potential.
Similar things (old for the level but big league capable) could be said of first baseman Jared Clark, who hit his fourth and fifth home runs of the season and drove in four of the Asheville runs. Clark leads the Rockies system in several categories, including HR's, RBI (17) and SLG (.857). Thanks to Eliezer Mesa and Angelys Nina and company getting on base and into scoring position at a blistering pace ahead of him, Clark's on a pace to drive in 235 runs during Asheville's 138 game season. After a few more weeks and Clark's stats have leveled to a more realistic range, we should have a better idea of where he is as a prospect.