After spending a week watching the Emeralds play in Eugene, I’ve got some assessments of the players and the team for everyone to read.
McCray has been having a better May than an April, which mirrors his 2022, but this past week he looked fairly frustrated, even as he picked up hits here and there, until Sunday’s two double game. He looks a lot like he needs focus, because when he has it, the game comes to him. What was not a question was his fabulous gifts of athleticism. He covered center field beautifully with great routes, and showed off his speed on the basepaths as well.
The biggest thing that stood out about Arteaga this week was how smooth his defense was. Although you don’t see Arteaga as a speedster on the basepaths, he has quickness at the shortstop position to be able to reach anything near him, and his throws were all very easy for the first baseman to handle. Arteaga also had a walkoff home run in the first game of the week, his third game with a home run in a row, but the offense is not going to be his calling card. As long as he is driving baseballs, whether or not they’re over the fence, his defense will carry him.
Okay, so I got to see Carson on his worst day (so far) in High-A. Whisenhunt was relying far more on his fastball than I expected, and he was not very sharp with either his fastball or his changeup, which led to hitters being able to wait for fat ones over the plate to prey on. This is probably just a one-off, considering how well Whisenhunt had done before this start. What is good news is that Whisenhunt continued to show a mid-90’s fastball, which is up a bit from his college numbers, and should make his changeup even more effective. I believe I also saw Whisenhunt working with two different changeup grips, which was interesting, a standard one and a circle change that had more movement. He did flash a curveball, but it wasn’t a primary part of his arsenal right now.
It was also a rough game for Eric Silva this week. His slider did net him quite a few strikeouts, but he was a bit off with his fastball, and gave up hits off of both of those pitches in this game. You can see flashes of the top prospect that many people rank him as, but I hope we’ll see more consistency out of his fastball to pair with that slider, and hopefully a little more strength out of the 20-year old as he grows.
One thing about Bericoto that was very different about him now, compared to the 2022 version I’d see, is that he just looks polished at the plate. He was driving balls more consistently, and that matches what we’ve seen with his numbers. This will help establish him on prospect lists starting this season. The downside, though, is that he still struggles defensively. He is much improved in right field from last year, but he’s still sub-par, with his route-taking still needing work, and some misjudged dives and ricochets. Bericoto did look decent at first base, and that could be a fallback for him if his bat helps carry him.
It’s hard not to have a good impression after a 2-home run day, and that’s what Adrian Sugastey had on one day during this trip. Sugastey was driving baseballs with surprising power considering his frame, as the 20-year old still looks very young among his peers and there’s growth still to come. Behind the plate, there’s still work to do, as Sugastey had a couple of passed balls and wild pitches he could’ve done more with, but he still looks like a catcher long-term.
Out of any player on the Emeralds that I was seeing for a second or third time, none was as different a player as Logan Wyatt. He looks like he’s grown into his body, and among a lot of younger players in High-A, he looked like a man among boys. He was also different on the field. He was being more selective at balls he swung at, and was driving them much more. His defensive fundamentals were also changed, and looking better. This is Wyatt’s second go-around in Eugene, so you don’t want to look at good numbers on a second season at a level and take it without a grain of salt, but Wyatt looks like a player who should be trying Double-A. At 25, he definitely should be.
Glowenke was doing his thing on the diamond, both at second and third base, and was slapping the ball all around all week. He was looking very impressive indeed, although the same caveat of repeating a level applies to him that I mentioned with Wyatt. But the thing about Glowenke is that he is still a wiry young man, although at 23, there’s not much more growth I’d be expecting. The power, or lack thereof, will be something of concern for him going forward.
Update: After writing this, we learned that Jimmy Glowenke earned a callup to Richmond!
Of all the 40-man additions made last November, José Cruz was the unlikeliest, and he surprisingly remains in just High-A (in the past, Farhan Zaidi has been very aggressive after placing the 40-man tag on a young pitcher). Cruz attacks the plate with some ferocity, although his velocity was still around 92-93 with the fastball, which is a tick down from what got him that 40 man spot. I’d expect a call-up sometime soon for him.
One of the most surprising pitchers was Madison. Madison had just about the highest velocity I saw in his two appearances, topping out around 96. Madison’s numbers don’t look overwhelming, but at least in this week, they were. The 25-year old is another pitcher I’d say is looking for a promotion, and might be a serious sleeper in the system.
Eugene, as a team, is simply one of the most well-run minor league teams around. Just look at all the different uniforms in these pictures to get an idea of how tapped into the idea of different team identities from the leadership. Especially the incredibly popular Exploding Whales uniforms and story behind it. While not every game has the stands packed, especially on weeknights, but the fans are always having fun and it’s clear that everyone there is engaged, on and off the field. But that’s why this final thing is sad to say…
In past years that I’ve visited Eugene, the Emeralds had a presence in the pictures and banners and other things around the park. On this visit, it was all, and only, Oregon Ducks. Granted, it’s the college baseball season, but still. Even to the point that the whiteboard that held lineups that you see at almost every park only had the last Oregon Ducks’ game lineup, and not the nightly Emeralds lineup. Everyone knows that the Emeralds need a new stadium that meets MLB guidelines, but on this visit, it was clear whose home this stadium was, and who just plays there.
It’s unfortunate. A franchise as well run as the Emeralds deserves their true home.