Last Weighed In: N/A
Overall Record: 13-5 (1st in South Division)
Last 10 games: 7-3
Starting Rotation ERA: 2.10While Pensacola’s season started a day late due to the weather on the Florida panhandle, Jorge Alcala set the tone for the starting staff by throwing five strong innings in the season opener as the Blue Wahoos shut out the Mobile BayBears 7-0. Alcala has since gone on to win every one of his four starts thus far but in the context of the rotation as a whole, is probably the fourth most impressive performer on the list.
That’s because Brusdar Graterol, Griffin Jax, and Devin Smeltzer have been even more lights out. Along with Andro Cutura and one start from Sean Poppen, as a starting staff they’ve combined to post a 10-1 record with a miniscule 2.10 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, while striking out 9.8 hitters per game.
Graterol brought a 0.52 ERA into his start on Monday, after a start that was was arguably the best of his minor league career, where he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He wasn’t dominant like that again but showed some resolve to reset after a bad inning that left the game tied at four and finished five innings. His offense then got a run back for him that allowed him to pick up his second win of the season in four turns. His 2.01 ERA after this game is still rock solid and he has paired it with a 0.94 WHIP while striking out 24 hitters in 22 1/3 innings. The Twins haven’t had a starter with an arm like his velocity-wise since…Pat Mahomes?!...But what’s even better than the velocity he brings, is the movement Graterol can generate along with it. Behold:
While Graterol has the top prospect shine and both he and Alcala get glowing scouting reports for their stuff, Jax and Smeltzer have arguably been even better when it comes to performance thus far. Both carry an ERA below 1.00 in three starts apiece.
In total Jax has thrown 16 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned run on 12 hits and seven walks while striking out 14 hitters. His last two turns were of the quality variety and if you didn’t know his somewhat weird path to get here as a baseball prospect, the Blue Wahoos reporter Bill Vilona has you covered.
Smeltzer came to the Twins organization as somewhat of a throw-in in last years Brian Dozier trade with the Dodgers, but maybe the scouting department of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine found something they liked in him. He had been a starter for most of his time in the Los Angeles system, but when acquired had been transitioned to the bullpen. That’s also where he pitched for the Twins after coming over and got some more time there in the AFL. That makes it a little odd that he’s back in a starting role with Pensacola, but I’m not going to argue with the early results.
He has just a 0.67 WHIP in 18 total innings, allowing just nine hits and three walks while punching out 21 hitters and his performance earned him a Southern League pitcher of the week award:
He doesn’t possess a big arm, working only around 90 miles-per-hour with his fastball, but maybe there’s a secret sauce that has been found with his breaking balls or something else. Smeltzer had a scary moment in his last start, where a line drive struck him in the head to lead off the top of the fifth inning. He was removed from the game and walked off under his own power, and luckily didn’t miss any time as Minnesota Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll told the Star Tribune that “Smeltzer has checked out fine” and as of this writing is throwing another gem for the Blue Wahoos (and will end the night leading the league in strikeouts).
If not for the Rochester Red Wings needing a spot start on April 10th another starter, Sean Poppen, may have got a bigger note than this paragraph as well. He’s started one game and struck out 11 hitters in five innings on April 20th against the Mobile BayBears.
Pensacola is currently dominating the Southern League in the standings, and it’s been their starting pitching leading the way thus far. It could be an interesting dynamic as the year wears on, as if this continues, they may not have these horses for long. Luckily for them though, Fort Myers has some horses of their own that look like they’ll be ready to take their place.
Batting League Leaders (as of 4/22)
-Luis Arraez ranks second in the Southern League with a .343 batting average and first in hits with 24
-Tanner English is tied for third in steals with 5 in 10 games
-Brian Schales is tied for second with 13 RBI, and second in home runs with three
-Jordan Gore leads the league with 15 runs scored in 16 games
Pitching League Leaders
-Devin Smeltzer (0.50) and Griffin Jax (0.54) are #1 and #2 in the Southern League in ERA. Smeltzer is second in WHIP (0.67)
-Jorge Alcala leads the league in wins (4-0)
-Alcala (25) and Graterol (24) rank #3 and #4 in strikeouts
-Backflipper Dusten Knight is tied for the league lead in saves with 4
Every two weeks during the season I’ll be looking back at what happened for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and welcome any input our readers may have on what you would like to see in these posts. I consider this space a work-in-progress that will evolve as the season wears on, so please leave a comment and discuss the Blue Wahoos performance thus far!
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