Early on in the week it was looking like yet another disappointing hot sheet, but players came on strong in the last few games to produce some very good lines, both on the mound and at the plate. Unfortunately this is going to be the last hot sheet for a little while, as I’ll be out of town this weekend, followed by moving next week, and on vacation for a week after that. The next hot sheet will likely come on August 13th, and I’ll have it cover the first two weeks of August, so that only next week’s performances will be lost to the abyss. Hopefully no one throws a no-hitter or smashes a three home run game while I’m gone (just kidding, that would still be awesome even if I can’t write about it). So, without further ado, here are the top six performers from July 16th through 22nd.
1. 1B Art Charles (BLU): 19 AB, .421/.607/1.000 (1.607 OPS), 1 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, 9/4 BB/K
Art Charles had himself a week, though, to be fair, he’s really having himself a season. After closing out the week on Sunday with another home run, Charles has seen his OBP and SLG rise to .459 and .576 respectively, both jaw dropping numbers. What’s even more impressive (or foreboding, if you’re a pessimist) is that he’s produced those numbers despite only a .235 average. I suggested earlier this month that a hot start would earn him a promotion, and the promotion has been received. Charles is on his way to Vancouver, where he’ll likely finish the 2012 season. It could actually boost his contact numbers, as the Northwest League traditionally has large parks with tons of room for fielders to cover. The expanded dimensions shouldn’t hurt his power numbers too much, as at 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs, Charles isn’t really a paint-scraper kind of guy.
2. LF Eric Arce (BLU): 15 AB, .333/.474/1.000 (1.474 OPS), 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 4/9 BB/K
Arce had a crazy professional debut last season, as in just 55 games he set a GCL Blue Jays record with 14 home runs. His 2012 season didn’t get off to nearly as hot of a start, with a .179/.385/.214 line in June. Arce picked things up this week, as on Monday and Tuesday he went a combined 4-for-7 with a double and three home runs. Those big games resulted in, yes, the second 1.000 slugging percentage week on the hot sheet, as Arce joined Art Charles in leading the Bluefield offense. Of his 10 outs recorded, 9 were strikeouts, resulting in a comically high .833 BABIP this week. Arce didn’t receive a ton of attention as a 25th round pick in the 2011 draft, but he is quickly making a name for himself as a power hitter despite his diminutive stature (5-foot-9).
3. 1B David Cooper (LAS): 33 AB, .455/.500/.758 (1.258 OPS), 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 3/5 BB/K
When putting together the hot sheet, Cooper was one of the first names I came across, and I thought for sure he was going to be the week’s number one. Seven doubles in seven games is a pretty ridiculous number, especially when you consider Cooper’s usual outstanding contact rate. Unfortunately for him, the two Bluefield sluggers went ham this week. Dating back to last week Cooper is riding a nine game hit streak, but he did most of his damage in the past seven games. In those seven, he had two hits three times, three hits once, and a four hit game to close out the week. Even his two 1-for-5 games were solid, as he notched an extra base hit in each. Adam Lind has performed surprisingly well since his recall, leaving the future of David Cooper in serious doubt.
4. RHP Marcus Stroman (VAN): 1-0, 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Upon agreeing to terms with the Blue Jays, the 2012 first round pick was assigned to Vancouver where he was expected to get his feet wet for a couple of weeks before eventually moving to Double-A to face competition more suitable for his talent level. The first week didn’t go so well with four earned runs in just 1.1 innings, but Stroman turned things around dramatically last week. He made a pair of two inning appearances, on the 18th and 22nd, and allowed only one base runner between the two outings. He didn’t walk anyone, and 50% of his outs came by way of the strikeout. He’s likely not long for the Northwest League, and another dominant outing or two this week could push him to New Hampshire before the end of the month.
5. LHP Justin Nicolino (LAN): 2-0, 11.1 IP, 13 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 15 K
His ERA isn’t the most attractive thing to look at, but his complete dominance over the strikezone was worthy of some recognition. If you go back as far as July 5th, Nicolino has 27 strikeouts against only one walk. Despite this, he’s allowed 26 hits and 13 earned runs in just 21.1 innings over that time frame. It’s a very unusual trend, as when a pitcher starts showing improved strikeout and walk rates, you usually expect the hits and earned runs allowed to dry up a bit. It’s been the reverse for Nicolino, as he actually found more success earlier in the year when he was striking out fewer batters. While the reasoning behind this is difficult to surmise, it likely has to do with the increased exposure to lineups. As opposed to going three or four innings and facing hitters once or twice, he’s now pitching five or six innings and facing the same hitters two or three times. They’re learning he’s around the strikezone, so they’re swinging with more frequency and aggression. As crazy as it sounds, Nicolino might need to start throwing fewer strikes.
6. RF Moises Sierra (LAS): 24 AB, .333/.385/.583 (.968 OPS), 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 2/6 BB/K
Sierra appears to be the forgotten man in Las Vegas despite producing a solid all around season. Snider was the obvious choice for a promotion, but if the team needed two outfielders, Moises Sierra really should have been the second. His numbers aren’t spectacular in the context of the Pacific Coast League, but it’s hard to knock an .847 OPS with near equal performances against left handed and right handed pitching. Additionally, as a near-24 year old with seven years of minor league experience, it is/was time for the organization to see what they have in the Dominican outfielder. His two home runs week brought his season total up to 16, which is tied for 7th in the PCL. I really hope he receives a promotion by September at the latest, as Sierra has definitely earned it.
Addendum: Dunedin right handed pitcher Jesse Hernandez nearly threw a no-hitter on Friday night, getting to two strikes on his final batter before finally giving up his first hit of the game. Due to his soaring pitch count, Hernandez wasn’t even able to finish the game. It wasn’t a junky, high walk / low strikeout game either, as Hernandez was dominant from the start with 12 strikesouts against only 1 walk. He’ll be turning 24 years old in a month, and with no dominant pitch he’s less a prospect and more an organizational guy. Even so, such an excellent game is worthy of some recognition, and a hat tip to Charlie Caskey (@CharlieCaskey) for the reminder.