Matt Duffy, 3B, Lexington Legends, squares it up. (Photo: Clinton Riddle)
With the boys out of town, I thought I'd share a few observations about some of our Legends regarding their progress/regress/general development.
Let's start with the infield. At first base, Zach Johnson is tearing up scoreboards across the league, accounting for 143 runs (scored or driven in) on his own. He draws his share of walks, 59 so far, but his batting average continues to drop. This is partly owing to his struggles vs. LHP (.215 BAA in 121 AB) and the fact that he's been fighting to overcome May and June, during which he sat in the .230 range and plated only 34 RBI. My only other concern about him is that he's doing all this as a 24 year-old (he turned 24 on June 16th) and thus is a little old for the league. He'll have to race against time and make it up to at least Class AA by next August or he may be facing life as an organizational soldier/Quad-A type.
Over at the keystone, 2B Delino Deshields Jr is setting the league on its ear. With 77 steals on the year thus far, he is now second among ALL minor leaguers behind Class AA Pensacola's "Sliding" Billy Hamilton. He leads the Legends in hits, as well, and is showing an heretofore uncharacteristic patience at the plate. His selectivity could still use some work, and he still is prone to working himself into an unfavorable count, thus exposing himself to far more breaking pitches (which he struggles against). He has started to show a tendency to swing weakly in 2-strike counts in an attempt at guarding the plate. These AB often end in strikeouts. He has the physical gifts to overcome this, so I'm not too concerned about it...yet.
There's been a bit of a revolving door at shortstop this year, with Chan Moon and Alex Todd being promoted in short order. This spot is being manned by 2012's 2nd round pick Nolan Fontana, who doesn't seem to have had any difficulty adjusting to play in the Sally League (.284, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 20 R, 6 SB in 23 G). His K:BB ratio is fabulous (31 BB, 18 SO), so he's shown a great eye at the plate. He has been a little shaky in the field (5 E in 108 chances) but this may be due more to his plus range than any defensive shortcomings. I expect him to move up the chain with relative ease, and he could even leapfrog Jiovanni Mier, especially with Jio's recent struggles with a bad wheel.
Third base has been handled by Matt Duffy almost exclusively, this year, with Moon and Johnson filling in on rare occasion. The Duffman has had a great season with the stick (.863 OPS), and while his K:BB ratio is well over 2:1 (35 BB, 87 SO), his OBP has hovered around 90 points higher than his BA for much of the season. Duffy started to slow down in July, likely owing to fatigue and the rigors of full-season pro ball, so I would expect Fontana and Johnson to spell Duffy from time to time, with SS Jose Fernandez covering short when Fontana moves to third and (perhaps even) Mike Kvasnicka taking first when Johnson is at the hot corner. Who knows? With Kvasnicka's versatility, as well as his burgeoning power, we could see him add a new glove to his growing collection.
Something I've noticed about Kvas: his swing has been getting a little longer over the past month, and with his power numbers jumping as they have (pre-ASB: 8 HR, 24 RBI-post-ASB: 7 HR, 28 RBI in 18 fewer games, thus far) it seems to me that he may be pressing a bit and swinging for the fences most every time at bat. Lots of big flies often gets a player noticed by the brass, and can certainly increase one's chances for promotion. Mike entered the 2012 season as a 24 year-old repeating the same level, and changing positions on top of that, so I'd imagine he's starting to wonder where his future lies. As a C-OF-sometimes 3B who's a switch-hitter with pop, I can't imagine that Houston wouldn't want to give him a little bit more time to blossom in the minors. His value is clear.
Anyway, that's all for now. I'll be keeping my eye on the boys at The Bank, with a focus on OF to come and an in-depth multiparter on our pitchers, along with scouting analysis and anything else that I happen to notice. Stay tuned.