Thursday, July 17 - Kannapolis 1, Augusta 0
Kannapolis turned the tables a bit on Augusta with a ninth-inning, eventual game-winning run in the series finale. The 1-0 win avoided a sweep and prevented Augusta's return to .500.
All three games in the series were decided by runs in the eighth inning or later. All three showed decent to good pitching, but the fatigue factor in both team's bats was definitely present. Many are experiencing full-season ball for the first time, and the daily grind is showing right now. As GreenJackets hitting coach Todd Linden said, players are being evaluated for how they're handling that grind right now. It's physical and mental exhaustion they have to overcome, and those capable of handling it will start to show in the final month.
Ysla's velo was perhaps a tick below the usual, but his fastball still sat 90-94. He got good running tail away from right-handed batters and spotted the pitch well to both sides of the plate. He showed good command of the pitch and didn't let the few runners on base affect his pace or command as much as in the past, which is good to see.
Ysla's breaking ball was inconsistent. It flashed plus with hard bite on the back foot of right-handed batters. He also left a few up and spinning by getting under the pitch. It's the result of his rotational delivery with a low arm slot. He'll get under his pitches at times, especially his breaking ball, leaving it high and spinning.
Raising his arm slot a touch might help. Regardless, the arm-heavy motion remains. It will affect his command when his arm isn't in sync with his body.
Sy consistently seems close to barreling the ball and rifling more gaps, but it comes in spurts more than a constant barrage. He's good for a barrel or two every other night, which has kept his power numbers at a solid clip. His Isolated Power is .191 and his wOBA is .359, both signs that he's hitting better than the triple slash indicates.
Sy shows the framework for being a three true outcomes hitter with the ability to walk and produce pop. One issue is that he's 24 years old and needs to produce that triple slash in Class-A. Regardless of the underrated numbers he's putting up, the average hasn't been there, and that hurts when it comes to evaluation.
The defense at second base hasn't been as hoped. He was a left-side defender before Tommy John surgery, and now he's learning second base. The problem is, he only gets to play the position about once or twice a week. Unavoidable circumstances have prevented more playing time in the field, but the issue remains.
Sy has a clean stroke with pop in the barrel. It plays in game, which isn't easy to find at second base. That alone should keep him going. He needs to take a step forward defensively in 2015.
Lowry carried a no-hitter through four innings before a leadoff single in the fifth ended that chance. He was pulled after five anyway, allowing the one hit and striking out six.
Lowry's fastball was 89-93 and touched 94. He got downhill plane with some running tail from a high arm slot. The movement wasn't tremendous, but he kept the ball down and on the ground. I can see where good fastball command can limit hard contact and give him the advantage without swing-and-miss stuff.
Lowry also showed good pitchability for a 19-year-old. He said he recognized Augusta's inability to pick up his fastball, so he worked down and then up to change eye levels and get swinging strikes. It worked to near perfection for five innings.
Lowry's secondaries lagged. He showed some bite on a mid-80s breaking ball that got a few swinging strikes. When he had feel for it, the break was hard and down. It got loose and slurvy at times, and command wavered. It has above-average potential. His changeup was similar. The potential is there to be average based on a clean arm motion and separation, but it has a long way to go.
Lowry is a bit of a project. He's athletic and strong, and his delivery is clean with little effort despite the high arm slot. The arm is quick and the gas comes easy. The framework is there for a mid-rotation arm. The stuff, however, has a long way to go.
Engel was as advertised. He profiles as a future center fielder with a questionable bat and immense speed.
I clocked Engel at 4.02 to first, giving him an 8 on the run. He shot the gap in the first inning and reached third for a triple in the blink of an eye. He has elite speed. He uses that speed for plus range in center field, and his reads and routes are good enough to utilize it most of the time. His arm holds down his overall defensive profile, but he'll remain in center as a plus defender.
Engel's bat is a different matter. The White Sox made him a project based on the speed and the hope that he would learn to hit. It hasn't been a disaster in full-season ball, but he isn't hitting like an advanced college product should in Class-A. The swing is long and his hands drift. He pushes the bat to the zone and doesn't utilize any sort of extension. The upper body is very stiff.
At the same time, Engel shows some ability at the plate. The bat is quick and level, which helps him find the barrel. Despite stiff hands and a long swing at times, he gets the bat to the zone fairly quickly. He showed some pop by hitting the gaps hard a couple times in the series. He's strong and gets the most from his swing.
Engel's bat will be a question going forward. It's not a case like Billy Hamilton, who was surrounded by doubts because of the lack of power or authority in his swing. Engel has those two things. What he could face in higher levels is his ability to consistently make good contact from hands that seem to struggle finding a path. If his bat develops, he's a potential starter and leadoff hitter. If it doesn't, he could still run his way to a fourth outfielder role.
***Ysla lowered his ERA to 2.34, which remains second lowest in the South Atlantic League behind Greensboro's Sean Townsley and his 2.22 ERA. It was Ysla's first shutout of the season.
***Augusta's Ty Ross had his seven-game hitting streak snapped by an 0 for 4 game.
***Sy stole his 12th base of the season. He's second on the team to Cristian Paulino's 16 swipes. Chris Lofton stole two bases in the game to raise his GreenJackets total to 10.
***Lowry threw his second career shutout, the first being the five-inning no-hitter June 3. The six strikeouts set a career high.
Notable Augusta lines:
Luis Ysla: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 7 ground balls, 8 fly balls, 2 line drives, 8 swinging strikes, 90-94
Tyler Horan: 1-3, BB
Notable Kannapolis lines:
Thad Lowry: 5 IP, H, 2 BB, 6 K, 6 ground balls, 2 fly balls, 2 line drives, 8 swinging strikes, 89-93, t94
Jacob Morris: 2-4
Brett Austin: 2-3, BB
Adam Engel: 1-5, 3B