I checked in this week with Gary Cathcart, manager for the short-season Single-A Auburn Doubledays, who are off to a nice start at 26-19 and have recently battled out of a losing streak to win four straight games.
The roster is filled with elite college players and quality late round draft picks working hard to make a statement in the organization.
One of them is named Bryce. As in, Bryce Ortega.
The Doubledays third baseman has been tearing the cover off the ball, now hitting .381 with seven doubles, 19 stolen bases and 10 RBIs in 28 games. The 5-foot-11 Arizona product has an OPS of .950 and has had an amazing 11 hits in his last four games.
"He is one guy where you need to forget where you drafted him," Cathcart said. "We got him in the 41st round which is quite something. He loves to play. He has incredible energy and runs very well. There are guys who are players and other guys who are baseball players. Bryce is a baseball player."
One concern is the defense of second baseman Hendry Jimenez, who is batting .292, but has committed 12 errors. Cathcart said he has seen improvement recently in Jimenez's defense, thanks to infield coordinator Jeff Garber.
"That is a concern," Cathcart notes. "He has been working with Garber on his fielding. Jimenez has got to learn the value of practicing every day and learn fundamentals. So, when the game does arrive, he needs to speed up to game speed. We are getting him to do that. He has been better the last few games."
Jimenez has shown strength at the plate with six doubles, six triples, three homers and 29 RBIs. Once Jimenez gets his defense to match his power in the batter's box, he will be a force.
Former Georgia Tech third baseman Matt Skole has also shown a nice touch at the plate, cruising along with a .300 average in 44 games. The 6-foot-4, 230-lb. infielder has smacked 14 doubles, one triple, four homers and 29 RBIs to begin the season.
"He has a real feel for hitting," Cathcart said. "Skole relishes RBI situations. He takes on two-strike counts with no fear. Skole centers well and puts everything in the at-bats. He is working on his defense, his footwork and fundamentals."
We will continue this week with updates on several other prospects, including former North Carolina pitcher Colin Bates, who was promoted to Single-A Hagerstown Suns last week.