The Sky Sox went 12-16 in July, continuing to play well below average ball. The team’s pitching issues are somewhat understandable (5.35 ERA, third worst in league) as the team’s home environment is brutal for pitchers and the Pacific Coast League is offensively strong (.751 OPS average).
However, the team’s offense is also poor (.716 OPS, third worst in league), and the team has the worst record in the league as a result.
A couple hitters made use of the friendly hitting environments in July, but far too few for the team to find success. I strongly believe the organization should GET THE [redacted] OUT of Colorado Springs when the contract expires after 2016.
As it stands now, AAA is a blackhole for the system’s top pitchers, meaning most high-level prospects are better off staying in Biloxi than braving the environments of Colorado.
1B Jason Rogers has nothing left to prove in AAA. With the Brewers trading away numerous top players at the deadline, it makes some sense that the team kept Adam Lind around to maintain some semblance of offense in Milwaukee. Lind does block Rogers, however, and the first baseman is raking in AAA.
In July, Rogers hit .313/.440/.563 with 19 walks to 15 strike outs, with five home runs. The 27-year-old hasn’t had as much success in the Majors, but he hasn’t gotten consistent playing time either.
RP David Goforth is one of the Sky Sox only pitching success stories in 2015, and he posted his best numbers of the season in July. Opponents hit just .205/.265/.227 with one extra base hit in 44 at-bats against him. Goforth doesn’t have an impressive K:BB ratio (34:21), but his 60% groundball rate and his power stuff has led both Baseball America and mlb.com to predict him as at least a Big League setup man.
SP Hiram Burgos is continuing to have an awesome comeback year after being cut from the organization last year. In July, Burgos held hitters to a .611 OPS. The former Brewers minor league pitcher of the year began the year in Brevard County, then moved up to AA a month later, and joined AAA a month after that. His ERA with Colorado Springs is 3.32 and he owns a 31:14 K:BB ratio.
C Nevin Ashley would be a great prospect if he was only a few years younger. He is considered a solid defender with a MiLB career 36% caught stealing rate, and this year he has an OPS north of .800. In July, Ashley bounced back from a poor June, slashing .349/.414/.460 with six walks and just nine strikeouts over 71 plate appearances.
The 30 year old is easily the best catcher in the team’s system, but defensive decline is always in the periphery with aging catchers. Ashley is also likely just a regressed BABIP from the average hitter that he has been throughout his career. Either way, an average hitter and solid defender at catcher would be exciting if he was 25 years old.
SP Drew Gagnon has a win-loss of 1-11. I think that counting wins for something like the Cy Young Award does more harm than good, but when you lose 11 of your 12 decisions, you cant be doing so hot. In July, Gagnon let up an astounding .341/.404/.612 to AAA hitters.
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The righty hasn’t won since his second start of the year, despite starting 18 games. His ERA is an even 7.00 and perhaps most damning, Gagnon has walked 49 batters in 88 2/3 innings, while striking out…49.
RP Ariel Pena held hitters under a .600 OPS in May and June after a poor April, but he imploded in July. After posting sub .300 slugging percentages in the previous two months, hitters slammed Pena for a .727 SLG, with the flamethrower giving up 11 extra-base hits (5 HR) in 14 2/3 innings.
Versus the last two years, Pena has cut his walk rate by about a batter per nine innings, which is big for him. He still has electric stuff, but he looks like he might be a very streaky pitcher a la Carlos Marmol.
SS Yadiel Rivera had a terrible July. The glove-first 23-year-old hit .182/.208/.239 last month, as the most offensively futile player on the team over those 26 starts. Rivera joined the team early in the year after hitting .322 in AA over the first 32 games, but his current OPS is now at .655 on the year. Rivera likely just needs time to get adjusted, like he did in AA and High-A before that.
RP Rob Wooten was my dark horse for the bullpen coming into the year. He’s a very interesting player that throws more sliders than fastballs. But one or both of those pitches is flying out of AAA parks at a massive rate, with the UNC alumnus giving up two home runs per nine innings. Woot was as bad as Pena in July, allowing a silly .414/.435/.707 slash over 12 innings.
The bizarre thing about Wooten’s year is his encouraging K:BB (44:15) numbers. That ratio looks like that of a successful reliever, rather than that of a pitcher owning an ERA north of 7. Even in his dismal July he struck out nine and walked just two.