Despite missing as few bats as most any pitcher in the Florida State League, Bradenton’s John Kuchno continues to dominate. The 23 year old right-hander had no punchouts but also issued no free passes last night against Jupiter, as he threw seven innings of two run ball to lead Bradenton to a 6-2 victory.. This comes on the heels of a start against Daytona in which he walked eight batters, fanned just two, and still left with 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball and the win.
With last night’s victory, the former 18th round pick and former Ohio State University standout improved to 8-8 with a 3.34 ERA, despite a pedestrian 3.6 BB/9 and, in an era sky-high strikeout rates, a ridiculously low 3.9 SO/9. To put that into perspective, only one major league starter in the last three years has posted a strikeout rate that low over a single season: Henderson Alvarez and 3.80 mark in 2012. Pitchers simply aren’t supposed to succeed in today’s game without swing and miss stuff.
How does Kuchno do it? The same way Chien Ming Wang used to when he was winning 19 games for the Yankees: getting hitters to just beat the ball into the ground. He collected 14 ground outs against Jupiter, 7 against Daytona. His GB% of 58.2% leads all qualified FSL starters.
He might not be an FSL starter for long, though. The Pirates prospect is 5-0 with 1.76 ERA over his last five starts.
>For more conventional pitching dominance – the Sportscenter kind with all the strikeouts – turn to Charlotte, where Blake Snell has no-hit the Daytona Cubs. Their August 2nd contest was cut short by rain, but before it ended, the Rays’ 13th best prospect had 5 1/3 hitless innings, striking out nine and walking three as Charlotte blew out Daytona 10-0. A supplemental first round pick out of high school in 2011, Snell has struggled with his command since joining the FSL in May, but he has had no trouble racking up punchouts. The 21 year old now has 59 K’s in 54.1 innings, to go along with a 4.14 ERA and a 4.3 BB/9.
>Left-hander Jesse Biddle was also drinking the no-hitter Kool-Aid this week, even if he didn’t go the distance. Last night, the 22 year old once again looked like the pitcher Baseball America ranked as a top 100 prospect (#72) before the season. He struck out five and issued only one free pass over five no-hit innings as Clearwater defeated the Daytona Cubs 4-0.
It’s been a difficult road for Biddle. After a promising start to the year in Double-A, he suffered a concussion in mid-May and wasn’t the same afterwards. On June 23rd, he got blasted for 10 runs in just three innings at Binghamton and the Phillies promptly put him on the temporary inactive list for a “mental health break.”
“I’m struggling with a lot stuff” He told Reading Eagle at the time, “I’m miserable out there. I’m very unhappy and I don’t know why. There’s really no answer right now”
While away from the game, Biddle reportedly received help from former Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay. Now he’s back and last night’s performance has to be highly encouraging for both him and the Phillies front office. He should return to Double-A before long.
>For the first 84 games of the year, Lakeland third baseman Tyler Hanover looked like prototypical organization filler for the Tigers. A 33rd round pick, the former LSU standout had hit .230 with a .583 OPS in the FSL the year before, and he looked even worse this season, entering with the morning of July 20th with a .207/.257/.282 with no home runs and just 18 RBIs.
Then that evening, Hanover led Lakeland to a 10-5 victory over Jupiter, as he went three for three with two doubles, two runs scored, and an RBIs. He was relatively quiet over the next few games, and then on August 2nd, he went two for two with another pair of doubles. The next day he collected another couple of hits, and the next day, he did the same, with one of those hits landing clear of the wall for his first home run of the year. Last night’s matchup against Dunedin saw him collect another two singles.
A blip? An inconsequential hot streak from a non-prospect who may never reach Double-A? Maybe. Probably. But since that July 20th game against Jupiter, Hanover is hitting .385 with a .590 slugging percentage and a 1.032 OPS.
>On the other end of the spectrum, Kyle Schwarber‘s meteoric rise through the minors has come to a halt. The Cubs prospect and #4 overall pick from June’s draft tore through the Short-Season Northwest League and then the Full-A Midwest League, but has started to struggle now that he’s in the High-A FSL. The 21 year old left-fielder/catcher is hitting .158 with just one extra base hit (a double) over his last seven games, though he continues to walk (.320 OBP).
Overall, after raking to .403/.483/.748 slash line with eight home runs through 28 games between the Northwest and Midwest leagues, Schwarber is hitting .279/.372/.358 in 20 games in the FSL.