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Hoos In The Pros: Minor Leagues

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at New York Mets
Derek Fisher is tearing it up in the minors, but the Astros have no need for him right now.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As promised, we’re taking a look around the minor leagues of baseball to see how all the Hoos are performing. Yesterday, we looked at the 10 Hoos who are either in the majors or close (Kyle Crockett).

Don’t forget to check back here next week for coverage of the MLB Draft. Two current Hoos are projected to go early in the first round. The draft starts Monday evening and will be televised on MLB network and streaming on

For this group, we’ll go in alphabetical order.

Stephen Bruno, 2B, Chicago Cubs – Bruno turned his season around with a strong May. He batted just .233 in April, without a single extra base hit. In May, he batted .308 with 4 HRs and 3 doubles. This is his first extended foray into AAA (Iowa, Pacific Coast League), so it isn’t too surprising that he needed some time to catch up. All told, he’s batting .274 with a 764 OPS. He has the 4 HRs and 14 RBI. He’s also stolen 3 bases without being caught.

Branden Cogswell, 2B, Oakland Athletics – Cogswell is right back where he was in 2015 prior to his injury. He’s batting .263 with a 655 OPS in High-A Stockton (California League). These numbers are similar to what he put up in 2015 at the same place. It isn’t great, and it likely isn’t enough to get him bumped up to AA, but at least he’s back on the field and at full strength.

Brandon Downes, OF, Kansas City Royals – As the time of the last update, we reported that Downes hadn’t played in a few days, but we didn’t know why. He actually ended up being on the DL from April 12th through May 31st. He’s back playing every day and has been hitting well since his return (7/26 with 3 HRs in 7 games). On the year, he’s batting .273 with a 1032 OPS. He has 4 HRs and 7 RBI over 44 ABs. Downes is currently at High-A Wilmington in the Carolina League, and due to the injury he’ll probably remain there for a while. But if he keeps hitting like this, he’s likely to see AA this year.

Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros – Through 57 games at AAA Fresno this year, Fisher is batting .338 with a 1022 OPS. He has 16 HRs and 43 RBI. He’s also stolen 12 bases (though he’s also been caught 10 times). He has struck out 52 times, which is concerning. The PCL is a hitter friendly league, but Fisher’s numbers are still impressive. He’s 7th in batting average, 8th in OBP, 3rd in SLG, T-2nd in HRs, and 1st in total bases. The only thing keeping him from the majors right now is that the Astros have 5 very good OFs and simply do not need Fisher.

Nick Howard, P, Cincinnati Reds – Howard was moved to the 60 day DL at the beginning of the season. We still have no word on the nature of the injury, but based on that move we can speculate that he’s either having elbow or shoulder trouble.

Connor Jones, SP, St Louis Cardinals – Making his full season debut, Jones has been starting for the Palm Beach Cardinals of the High-A Florida State League. He’s thrown 38.1 IP over 9 games (8 starts) and is 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Those numbers aren’t great, and his 4.70 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9 are actually quite bad. The FSL is also a very hitter friendly league, but walking nearly as many as you strike out is not a recipe for success.

Nathan Kirby, SP, Milwaukee Brewers – After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, Kirby hasn’t pitched since. He’s been working out at the Brewers spring training complex. (no change since last update)

Branden Kline, RP, Baltimore Orioles – Like Kirby, Kline had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and hasn’t pitched yet. He’s on the roster for the Bowie Baysox. But he’s on the 7-day DL. We’ll see if, and how much, he’s able to pitch this year. (no change since last update)

John La Prise, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays – After finishing last season at High-A Dunedin, John was sent back there this year. Right now, he’s on the DL and hasn’t played yet this year. (no change since last update)

Artie Lewicki, SP, Detroit Tigers – Through 11 starts at AA Erie (Eastern League), Lewicki is 3-2 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He’s struck out 49 and walked just 16 through 58.1 IP. Those are pretty good numbers. Still, his best path to the majors is probably out of the bullpen.

Whit Mayberry, SP, Washington Nationals – Pitching exclusively out of the bullpen this year, Mayberry has been solid for the Potomac Nationals. Through 6 games and 11 innings, he’s got a 3.27 ERA. He’s struck out 8 and walked 3. His 1.64 WHIP is way too high though. He’s also 0-1 on the season.

Joe McCarthy, OF, Tampa Bay Rays – Joe continues to play pretty well at AA Montgomery in the Southern League. He’s batting .303 with an 814 OPS. He’s not hitting for much power, with just 1 HR and 20 RBI in 55 games. But he does have 16 doubles and 3 triples and has scored 30 runs. He ranks 9th in the Southern League in batting average and 8th in on-base percentage. A .385 OBP will get noticed, and Joe has been getting noticed of late.

Mike Papi, OF, Cleveland Indians – We were surprised when Papi was back in AA Akron to open the year, because he’d performed well there last season. The Indians must’ve heard our complaints, because he was recently promoted to AAA Columbus, where he’s batting .275 with an 748 OPS over his first 12 games. He has 1 HR and 11 RBI to go along with 6 runs scored over 40 ABs. He also has 6 BBs versus just 8 Ks, which shows very strong plate discipline. He finished with a .287 average in AA, with 5 HRs and 19 RBI.

Daniel Pinero, SS, Detroit Tigers – Pinero was never going to be much of a hitter, but he’s a slick fielding SS so he doesn’t have to be. However, a .219 batting average and a 598 OPS in Low-A Western Michigan (Midwest League) isn’t getting it done. Pinero was recently involved in a brawl, which he may have started by stepping on a baserunner’s leg. What made the video go viral was one of Pinero’s teammates using a baseball as a weapon. Regardless, this may have been Pinero’s 15 minutes. Pinero played on Canada’s World Baseball Classic team, entering one game as a substitute and walking in his lone plate appearance.

Will Roberts, SP, Cleveland Indians – Roberts finished last year on the disabled list, last pitching on July 26th (after nearly a month off). He’s still on the DL, though he is listed on the roster for the Columbus Clippers in AAA. I can’t find a report of the nature of the injury, except to say that it was a significant injury. (no change since last update)

Josh Sborz, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers – Sborz is struggling in his return to AA Tulsa (Texas League). He’s 1-4 with a a 5.80 ERA in 10 starts and 40.1 IP. He’s walked 23 while striking out just 25. His WHIP is 1.59. He’s actually only given up just 41 hits and just 5 HRs, but the walks are killing him. He’s going to have to find his control again.

Matt Thaiss, 1B, Los Angeles Angels – Thaiss is looking good in his first full-season of pro baseball. Though he’s batting just .249, he’s walked 31 times in 56 games and has a .352 OBP, which is in the top 20 of the California League. Though he has 5 HRs and 26 RBI, his slugging percentage is a pedestrian .359, which is hurting his overall value. Still, he’s just 22 and has a very advanced approach.

Brandon Waddell, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates – Back at AA Altoona in the Eastern League, Waddell is pitching better than he did last year. So far, he’s 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 27.2 IP over 8 starts. He’s given up just 21 hits, but he’s walked 14. His last start was a disaster, getting through just 0.2 IP. He walked 3 and gave up 4 ER. His previous start was 6 shutout innings. His 28 Ks are a strong indicator of the quality of his stuff. If he can cut down on the walks, he’ll continue to be successful.

Once again, please let me know in the comments if there’s anybody I missed. And stay tuned here for coverage of the MLB Draft in a couple of weeks. Two current Hoos are expected to early in the first round.