The Rock Cats are now in second place in the North Division, with a record of 33-29 that puts them 1.5 games behind first place Connecticut. I attended all six games of the Twins' AA affiliate's recent homestand, and here are some observations from those games.
-This was my first chance to see the recently promoted Carlos Gutierrez, one of the Twins' first round draft choices from a year ago. He dominated for Fort Myers, earning my minor league pitcher of the month award for April. He struggled with his command a bit in May, but I was still excited to see the former Hurricane pitch for the Cats. Gutierrez's biggest strength is his primary pitch, a sinking fastball, which he uses to induce tons of ground balls. However, his main weakness is his lack of a second pitch to offset the sinker, which is why many feel he will eventually be more well suited to pitch out of the bullpen. Here's the velocity histogram from his start on Saturday in which he walked three and struck out none over 5 innings:
There seem to be three groups of speeds, which indicate that Gutierrez was throwing three different pitches. The fastest and largest group is obviously his fastball, which ranged from 86-93 MPH and averaged 90.1 MPH on the night. The middle group is his slider, which he threw between 79 and 84 MPH and averaged 80.9 MPH. The final group, three pitches at 75 MPH, I am going to call a curveball, though I'm not sure that's what it was. Certainly, with such a small sample, those could just be slower sliders, but watching him pitch they looked like they were different pitches, so I've grouped those three, plus one of his 78 MPH offerings which looked like it had similar movement, into their own group. There were also five pitches which were either missed by the radar gun or obviously recorded incorrectly, so the data only includes 70 of his 75 pitches on the night.
Another interesting graph to look at is the relationship between velocity and pitch number:
Clearly, like any starter, Gutierrez's fastball velocity diminished over the course of the game. However, it seems that the velocity fell rather quickly, especially considering he only threw 75 pitches in the game. This could be due to the fact that he's only returning to starting after Tommy John surgery and then pitching as a reliever at Miami, or it could mean that he is destined for the bullpen as a ground ball specialist. To further emphasize the decreased velocity, his fastball averaged 91.4 MPH with a range from 89-93 in the first inning, compared to 88.4 and 86-90 in the fifth inning.
-The other new player who I was excited to see this past week was the Twins' top catching prospect, Wilson Ramos. He was injured for all the home games in April, so this week was my first chance to watch him in person, and he did not disappoint, hitting long home runs in consecutive games on Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately, he got injured again while running the bases on Friday. After lining a single into left, Ramos injured his hamstring trying to stop at third on Erik Lis's double. Hopefully it doesn't end up being too serious, but he could barely put any weight on it afterwards and missed the last two games of the homestand.
-Danny Valencia has really fallen into a slump of late. After being one of the Twins' top minor league performers in April and May, Valencia has watched his overall numbers plummet over the past two weeks. In June, he has gone 6-52 with 11 strikeouts and has produced a slash line of .115/.207/.173. In fact, in his last 8 games, he's struck out 7 times without walking once. His June BABIP is only .146, though, so the numbers should turn around for him soon, but the strikeout and walk numbers are still a bit discouraging.
-On the other hand, Whit Robbins has continued his hot hitting in June. He has hit .400/.471/.578 this month with 5 walks compared to only 4 strikeouts. On this most recent homestand, 42% of Robbins's balls in play were line drives.
-Finally, here are some videos I took from the Rock Cats game against Bowie on Friday.
Here's the first video, Wilson Ramos's last at bat on Friday before his injury. He lined a single into left off of Timothy Bascom of the Bowie Bay Sox in the 4th inning.
The second video is of Danny Valencia's at bat two batters later, with pinch runner Jeff Christy on third and Erik Lis on second. I missed the first pitch of this at bat, but Valencia struck out against Bascom.
This last video is of Alex Burnett pitching to Ambiorix Concepcion in the 9th inning of Friday's game. Burnett was just recently called up from Fort Myers.
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