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May 13, 2009 at 1:01 PM

The Ladder- 5.13.09

Bryan Price

The Line: Through 33 1/3 innings of work, Price has gotten off to a solid start, posting 31 strikeouts against only 7 walks for the Greenville Drive while limiting batters to 27 hits. His early season hit totals mark an improvement over his 2008 totals of 47 hits in 40 innings of work. Price has gone no fewer than 5 innings in any of his 6 starts so far on the season and has worked 6 innings in 3 of his outings, including 3 times in his last 4 starts. In his last 2 starts covering 11 1/3 innings, Price has fanned 13 batters while only issuing 1 free pass and giving up 7 hits. In his last outing against Savannah on May 7, Price fired 6 shutout innings giving up only 2 hits while punching out 8 and not walking a batter. Left-handed batters have hit a paltry .140 against the right-handed starter, and overall batters have hit .200 against him with only 1 home run.

The View: Price mixes a 91-95 MPH fastball with a mid-80’s hard biting slider and an improving change-up. As he wore down some at the end of last season, his fastball began to grab too much of the strike zone and he started giving up more solid contact. Thus far, Price has been able to stay away from pitching into the middle of the plate and his hit totals reflect the more consistent command he has had with his fastball, which he has been able to keep on the corners. Price’s slider is his best pitch and drops off the table with extremely tight rotation, bearing down and in on left-handed batters. His 2-seam fastball runs away from left-handed batters, and the results against lefties show how Price’s stuff limits the solid contact they can produce against him. He could still stand to pitch more inside against right-handed hitters to jam and keep them from leaning out over the plate. However, 20 of Price’s 31 strikeouts on the season have been against right-handed hitters, which illustrates how effective his slider is as it runs away from them and dives into the dirt. As the season progresses, it will be key to see how Price can hold his stamina to keep producing positive results, but the early season returns have been a good indication of how his transition into the life of a starting pitcher is progressing.

Aaron Bates

The Line: Bates is off to a hot start this season, posting a line of .349/.410/.477, good for an OPS of .887 over 109 at-bats. He currently sits fourth in the Eastern League in batting and just outside the top 10 in OPS. The majority of the damage has come over the course of the last 10 games, as Bates has hit .410 with 6 multiple-hit games during that span, including a 4-hit game on May 7 against Binghamton and a 3-hit game May 9 against New Britain. Bates has tallied 5 extra-base hits over the stretch while walking 6 times against 8 strikeouts. In the previous 17 games, he had only drawn 4 walks while striking out 19 times and totaling 5 extra-base hits. Hitting .462 on the season against left-handed pitching, Bates has gotten off to a hot start against southpaws after batting .262 against them in 2008 with Portland.

The View: Now in his second full season in Double-A, Bates has begun to make much more consistent contact and has been spreading the ball around the field to start the season. He’s been popping the ball up less, which shows the improvement that he has made in being quicker to the ball, something that hindered him in 2008. Bates’s Eastern League power has not equaled what he produced in the hitter-friendly California League, but the contact he has been making to start the season has been consistently solid. Bates likes to extend his arms and drives balls that are out and over the plate. He struggles with balls down and in, but has been quicker to balls on the inside third of the plate above the knees. The next step would be to see some of the power return for Bates at Double-A and for him to drive the ball with some more elevation, as he has worked out some of the kinks in his swing. The next 3 to 4 weeks will be a good indication of the type of adjustments he is going to make as pitchers will start to change their patterns against him (he has hit a lot of fastballs during his 10-game hot streak).

Trending Up

Clay Buchholz has 29 strikeouts and 4 walks over his last 26 1/3 innings of work while allowing 1 earned run. Buchholz has given up just 16 hits on the season and 4 earned runs in 35 innings. All 4 of his pitches have been clicking, especially his change-up…Michael Bowden has given up 6 hits in his last 20 innings of work. Bowden has been mixing in a newly added slider this season and it has given him a different look against hitters. His command with his fastball has been especially sharp and he’s pounding the strike zone to get ahead of hitters…Ryan Kalish has hit 4 of his 5 home runs in his last 10 games… Kris Negron is hitting .342 over his last 38 at-bats and has only struck out 5 times in that stretch…Eammon Portice has 22 strikeouts in his last 3 outings, covering 16 2/3 innings. Portice leads the organization with 42 strikeouts on the season.

Trending Down

Lars Anderson is hitting just .119 in his last 42 at-bats and has struck out 13 times during that stretch. Anderson recently was given some time off to get back on track at the plate and seems to be pressing during his slump. He’s been struggling with off-speed pitches and has been out on his front foot in a lot of his at-bats…Oscar Tejeda is 6 for his last 39, striking out 16 times…Seth Garrison has given up 5 earned runs in 3 of his 6 starts and walked 14 batters in 28 1/3 innings on the season…Che-Hsuan Lin is 13 for 89 to start the season and has fanned 25 times. Lin is currently mired in a 0 for 16 slump and only has 5 extra base hits in 26 games…Adam Mills has given up 48 hits in 27 innings and allowed 27 earned runs.