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Every Team’s Hidden Gem: Part 4

Every Team’s Hidden Gem: Part 4

Continuing from part 3.

Nashville Outlaws:

Javier Baez, shortstop

Javier Baez, shortstop

Also know as the Nashville Baez’s, Javier Baez has carried this team. He leads the league in home runs, extra base hits, total bases, and runs batted in. He has been very overlooked as not just one of the best players in the league, but also a serious candidate for Most Valuable Player in the Frontier League. But outside of him, another player is having a career year, starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo.

Yoani Gallardo, starting pitcher

Yovani Gallardo, starting pitcher

Despite being a 23rd round pick in the 2014 inaugural draft, he only signed a one year, $5.5 million contract, but did not play for the Albuquerque Isotopes that season. He then signed a 2-year, $3.5 million contract with the Akron RubberDucks, and struggled mightily, only making 16 starts in those 2 seasons. After becoming a free agent, he bounced around for the next two seasons, signing with Syracuse only to be released 3 months later, then picked up by Vancouver, only to be placed on waivers and claimed by Minneapolis, then released and resigned by Vancouver, released again, and finally signing with Nashville on a 2-year, $1.8 million deal. While he didn’t put it together in 2019, this season he has shown the stuff everyone believed he had when Albuquerque took him as the 273rd overall pick. Going into his last start, he had a sub-3.00 ERA, and in a contract year, has set himself for his biggest contract yet, if Nashville is unable to agree to an extension before the season is over.

The Outlaws have a deep farm system, with a lot of potential talent at the top of their list of prospects. Triple-A center fielder Joe ‘Golden’ Donaldson and closer Lou Walker are two who are knocking on the door of the big leagues.

Joe 'Golden' Donaldson, center fielder

Joe ‘Golden’ Donaldson, center fielder

This one time number 18 overall prospect has fallen off the radar somewhat, but still may live up to the potential he was always seen as having. This year split between double and triple-A, Donaldson has hit .320 with 21 stolen bases while seeing playing time in all three outfield positions. Although he does not play outstanding defense, nor does he hit home runs, his speed and high average could overshadow these flaws in his game. Still just 21 years old, it isn’t necessary to move him up if he’s not ready, but he may be an option as a 4th outfielder for the Outlaws next season. This hard worker has already helped lead the Augusta GreenJackets to a championship last season, perhaps he could do the same with the Outlaws next season.

Lou Walker, closer

Lou Walker, closer

This lifetime player in the Outlaws organization has worked his way up the system, and finally earned himself a call-up to triple-A midseason this year. At double-A he started the season as a starting pitcher, going 2-2 in his first 4 starts, despite a 1.86 ERA, then he was transitioned to the bullpen and named the closer. He continued to dominate as a closer, earning a promotion in early June, and despite a rough second outing, he has settled in nicely, earning 7 saves in 17 games. Having earned a spring training invite last season, and throwing a complete game shutout during so, he will definitely be invited back. While he won’t dominate hitters with his velocity, topping out at 90 MPH, he has one of the best change-ups in all of CBL and the minors. Having finished 3rd in the Arizona Summer League Outstanding Pitcher Award in 2017, as a reliever, and helping lead his team, the Scottsdale Giants, the next season, he appears to have the makings of an effective pitcher at the next level.

Portland Panthers:

The team went all in, sending five prospects to division rival Colorado for their new ace Randall Delgado. While Delgado has pitched fantastically, the team is still in 4th place in their division, although they are only a hot streak away from being in the talks as the possible winner of the second wild card. While they do have the 3rd best offense in the Heartland League, they don’t have any superstars among their core, the only coming close being second baseman Matt Carpenter, who is a free agent after this season. But the player who is often overlooked for their performance is 25-year-old third baseman Jeimer Candelario.

Jeimer Candelario, third baseman

Jeimer Candelario, third baseman

The switch hitting third year player is having a fantastic season, leading the team in home runs, tied for the lead in runs batted in, just a hair behind Carpenter in batting average, at .306, and is on pace for a 4.9 WAR season. He is also tied for the longest hit streak, at 18 games, which ended on May 20th, and contained 7 multi-hit games. Since this is only the first season that he has been a fulltime starter, only sitting for 3 games so far, most likely just rest days, he has a chance to grow on this already successful season and become a mainstay in the middle of the Panther lineup.

The number 1 overall farm system, the Panthers are stocked with future talent, led by pitchers Ken HolmanCharles King and Jimmy Goodwin.

Ken Holman, #5 overall prospect

Ken Holman, #5 overall prospect

Charles King, #8 overall prospect

Charles King, #8 overall prospect

Jimmy Goodwin, #28 overall prospect

Jimmy Goodwin, #28 overall prospect

Outside of their big potential front of the rotation arms, they do have many other good prospects, with single-A shortstop John Devine and starting pitcher José ‘Speedy’ Valdés both killing it for the Riverside Saints this season.

José 'Speedy' Valdés, starting pitcher

José ‘Speedy’ Valdés, starting pitcher

Valdés, who was a free agent signing only 5 days before the start of the season, has dominated to a 12-3 record with a 2.68 ERA while dominating with close to a strikeout an inning. Without dominating stuff, only 97 MPH on his fastball, he uses an effective splitter and curveball to keep hitters guessing. Still just 22 years old and only getting his first professional opportunity, watch for Speedy to be a breakout star for the Panthers, who don’t need any more high potential pitchers, but may have one here.

John Devine, shortstop

John Devine, shortstop

Devine, another free agent signing only a week before the season, has punished Midwest League pitchers. A 3rd round draft pick in 2016, he never got a full-time gig until this season, and he hasn’t looked back, hitting .334 with 15 home runs. Spending most of his time at shortstop, he has also seen time at second base and right field, playing above average defense at all, but elite defense at shortstop. To add-on to his fantastic hitting and fantastic defense he has also added 15 stolen bases, and got himself selected to the Midwest League All-Star Game. If he keeps this play up for the rest of this season, this 21-year-old will be on track to be a spring training invitee.

Richardson City Blood Raven:

The current champions keep a majority of their roster from last season and have continued their success, leading the Heartland League West again. Lead by Yorman Rodriguez, who leads the Heartland League in runs batted in and is currently second in home runs. But the player who has outperformed all expectations is Stephen Piscotty.

Stephen Piscotty, corner outfielder

Stephen Piscotty, corner outfielder

After a strong first season that saw him start in just over half of the Blood Raven’s games and hit .306, he has followed it up starting in 76 of the team’s 93 games, and hitting .326, third best in the Heartland League, and is tied for the longest hitting streak, at 18 games. Piscotty deserves to be an everyday starter, as he’s hit tremendous versus both righties and lefties. Already a champion, with a Rookie of the Year Award on his shelf and his first All-Star Game selection coming this year, Piscotty could be a bargain for the Blood Raven, as he signed a 4 year extension worth $5.26 million a year, with a team option the last year.

A first place team, coming off of a championship, Richardson City still has the fifth ranked minor league system. Triple-A center fielder D.J. Davis and starting pitcher Leonardo ‘Boom Boom’ Palomera have both had excellent seasons and could be in line for a call-up by general manager Imran K, who always seems to know what move to make.

D.J. Davis, center fielder

D.J. Davis, center fielder

Davis got a quick sip of coffee at the CBL level last week, getting into 2 games, hitting a double in his one at-bat. When he hasn’t been on the Blood Raven, he’s been patrolling the outfield for the New Orleans Zephyrs. While in triple-A, he’s hit .287, which is nothing impressive, but he adds 16 steals to his game and three triples. His speed and his range in the outfield are both impressive enough to turn heads, and if he can show he can hit at the higher levels, he should be in line to get more than just a cup of coffee.

Leonardo 'Boom Boom' Palomera, starting pitcher

Leonardo ‘Boom Boom’ Palomera, starting pitcher

Boom Boom Palomera, who was nicknamed that by his parents because it was the only word he knew until he was 1 1/2 years old, left his home state of Hawaii in pursuit of making the CBL. Starting off at Washington University, where he dominated in his freshman and sophomore years, he transferred to Florida State, as he wasn’t a fan of the cold in Washington. Although his junior year at Florida State University wasn’t as dominant, he was drafted fifth overall by the Blood Raven, and signed, receiving a $5.5 million signing bonus. Although he hasn’t dominated right away at each level, he has settled down and shown his skills. This season at double-A, he held a 2.27 ERA in 16 starts, before being promoted to triple-A where he made one quality start, allowing only 3 hits and 3 runs in 6 innings. Still only 23 and developing, Palomera should not be pressured into a promotion before he’s ready, but he may be in the CBL before we know it.

Link to part 5.

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Matthew Wells | General Manager - Charlotte Knights

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