Each month ThinkBlueLA.com’s minor leagues expert Harold Uhlman submits his picks for the ThinkBlueLA Pride Awards – our unofficial equivalent to the Dodgers’ monthly Dodger Pride Awards but without any schwag for the winners – just a few kind words. Here are Harold’s picks for May 2014:
The Dodger farm teams have really struggled this year with none of them playing above .500 ball. However, it is not that the players are not giving it their best shot. A number of players continue to excel in a difficult circumstance making it a challenge to select the May ThinkBlueLA Pride Awards winners.
The awards are my personal picks made by following games, checking reports and looking at personal statistics. Some may be repeat winners and others personal favorites.
Great Lakes Loons
Hitter: Josmar Cordero joined the Loons in early May as a first baseman. The Venezuelan native had previously played with the Dominican Summer League Dodgers from 2010 through 2012, splitting his time almost equally behind the plate and at first base. He also played with the Arizona League Dodgers in 2013. He burst upon the scene with three or more hits in his first four Midwest League games and carried a batting average of over .400 for several games. Eventually cooling down, he posted a triple slash of .318/.383/.482 in 22 games in May. He hit three home runs and had 13 runs batted in playing first base and serving as a designated hitter on a couple of occasions.
Starting Pitcher: Jonathan Martinez continued to be the most steady starter for the Loons while Zachary Bird made perhaps the greatest improvement during the month and gets the Pride Award. A ninth round selection in the 2012 First year Player Draft, Bird has struggled but is still a 19 year old. In May he lowered his ERA to 3.48, down from 5.79 in April. In 33.2 innings he struck out 24 and walked 13. In his last two appearances in May he gave up only two runs in 10.2 innings. Hopefully, his strikeout to walk ratio will improve as the season progresses.
Relief Pitcher: Minor league free agent signee Mark Pope has had his career resurrected after being converted from a starter to a reliever. In 11 innings he gave up no earned runs and recorded five saves. He struck out 11 and walked 5. However, 21 year old Victor Araujo had an even more impressive May to earn the Pride Award. He too had been a starter during his first three years in the Dodgers farm system. In May, with 10 appearances over 19 innings, he posted an ERA of 0.47 allowing only one earned run. He struck out 21 and walked three. Right-handed hitters hit .074 against him and during one stretch he allowed two hits in 42 at bats.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Hitter: At his present clip I expect Corey Seager could be penciled in for the Pride Award every month until promoted to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the AA Southern League (which could happen sooner rather than later). In an effort to spread the awards around, Chris Jacobs also had a very good month of May earning him the selection. The big first baseman hit .322 in May while stroking seven home runs and driving in 25 runs in 30 games. His triple slash was .322/.412/.600 with an OPS of 1.012. The 25-year-old Jacobs may well be promoted to Chattanooga after the All-Star break. As a heads up, first baseman Tyler Ogle is one to watch in June.
Starting Pitcher: Tom Windle deserves consideration with a 3.44 ERA in May along with 30 strikeouts and nine walks in 34.1 innings in his six starts. Seventeen-year-old Julio Urias also had six starts but had his innings limited to 24 . With an ERA of 2.63, the young Mexican phenom gave up two or fewer runs in his six starts while striking out 21 and walking six. Urias also did not allow a home run in May. The Pride Award goes to Julio.
Relief Pitcher: Daniel Coulombe has pitched very well in his last ten appearances and is working for a promotion but the Pride Award goes to Blake Smith the outfielder converted to relief pitching. It is awarded for his performance and perseverance. The 26 year old recorded five saves in May in 14.1 innings. He had a 3.77 ERA with 13 strikeouts, four walks and a 1.286 WHIP. The stats are quite good but time is running out for Blake who needs to pitch at a higher level very quickly. I expect that might be why he has been placed in a closer role with the Quakes although more than likely is not a potential closer at a higher level.
(Editor’s Note: It was announced on Saturday that Blake Smith has, in fact, been promoted to Double-A Chattanooga)
Hitter: This seems to be the month of the first baseman as O’Koyea Dickson is the Lookouts ThinkBlueLA Pride Award winner. Dickson had a very slow April hitting only .213. The 24-year-old native of San Francisco turned it on in May closing out the month with six hits in his last three games. In 30 games in May he had a triple slash of .266/.367/.550 with an OPS of .918. Among his 29 hits were eight doubles and seven home runs. He drove in 21 runs and scored 22.
Starting Pitcher: Signed in the off season as a minor league free agent, Tyson Brummett has had two stellar months with the Lookouts. Now in his eighth minor league season he has earned a berth in the Southern League All-Star game on June 17. During the month of May he made six starts pitching 37.1 innings. On the season his ERA of 2.38 is the sixth best in the league. In May his ERA was 2.65 coupled with a WHIP of 1.17. He struck out 26 and walked 10.
Relief Pitcher: Juan Gonzalez (not that Juan Gonzalez) gets the nod over a trio of relievers pitching quite well. Matt Shelton and Michael Thomas, both ThinkBlueLA Pride Award winners in April, continue to pitch effectively. Shelton’s last appearance was a start. Jarret Martin had a good month but was limited to eight innings after spending time on the disabled list. Gonzalez finished May was a 2.93 ERA in 15.1 innings. He struck out 11 and walked eight.
Hitter: May pride Award winner Jamie Romak was recently called up by the Dodgers. A utility infielder, Romak had a great month of May outhitting top Dodger prospect Joc Pederson. He had a triple slash of .303/.376/.730 and an OPS of 1.107. Among his 27 hits were six doubles and 10 home runs. He scored 15 runs and drove in 18. He was signed as a minor league free agent following the 2013 season.
Starting Pitcher: The starters for the Isotopes had a very difficult month in May with earned run averages ranging from 4.15 to 7.97, with one exception. Thirty-three year old Jeff Bennett, who was signed by the Dodgers on May 16, made three starts with the Isotopes during the remainder of the month. A former major league player for parts of four seasons he responded with a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings while striking out 10 and walking 9. He wins the starting pitcher Pride Award.
Relief Pitcher: The bullpen did not fare much better than the starters in May with even Jose Dominguez and Paco Rodriguez struggling. The pen has been strengthened by the addition of Pedro Baez who pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in May. The one bright spot in the relief core is again Yimi Garcia who has been displaced as a closer by Dominguez and Baez. In May Garcia posted a 1.50 ERA in 12.1 innings with 13 strikeouts and one walk making him a repeat winner of the Pride Award.