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Greensboro Grasshoppers: First-half hitting review

The single-A Marlins affiliate had several notable performers.

Hoppers 3B James Nelson

After having looked at the Grasshoppers’ pitching performances during the first half of the 2017 season, we’ll now shift gears to the offensive side of the ball.

First let’s look at the Grasshoppers team statistics. In the fourteen team South Atlantic League (SAL) the Grasshoppers are ranked 12th in hits, 11th in batting average. 8th in OPS and have struck out the 2nd highest number of times. However, they have the second highest number of walks, the third most triples and the sixth most stolen bases.

Overall, they have used their ability to draw walks and their team speed and combined that with some batters with pop, to help them reach the middle of the pack with the 7th most runs scored in the SAL.

One of the hitters providing pop is their current top hitting prospect, third baseman James Nelson. Currently ranked 8th in the Marlins system, an excerpt of the mlb pipeline’s report states:

Nelson, the Marlins 15th round from 2016 has led the Hoppers in batting average, and is currently hitting .305 for the season. Nelson has 6 homers and 47 RBI, but has 89 strikeouts in 318 at bats, while walking only 21 times. Presumably, a key reason he remains in low-A is due to plate discipline issues. Oh, and he has made 15 errors so far at third base.

Likely the biggest surprise of the first half of the season for the Hoppers, Boo Vazquez was called up to high-A Jupiter on June 26th. He still made a heck of an impact before his call up. In 61 games, Boo hit six home runs and drove in 32 runs while hitting .281 with an .809 OPS. For Vazquez, a 38th round draft pick out of Pitt, it’s been satisfying to see him progress this season.

Another top hitter for Greensboro during the first half has been Colby Lusignan. He is also now playing for high-A Jupiter after being promoted on July 15th. Like Nelson, his biggest liability thus far has been strikeouts; he has fanned 117 times in 304 at bats. This has weighed down his numbers, as hit .243 with an OBP of only .315 while he was in low-A. That said, he’s flashed a dynamic bat and is making his way up the organization. His 44 runs still leads the team this season, as do his totals for homers and RBIs.

An interesting part of the Grasshoppers offense is reflected in coach Todd Pratt’s aggressive base running. Both center fielder Corey Bird (just called up to Jupiter yesterday!) and right fielder Aaron Knapp both have 23 stolen bases so far this season. Not surprisingly, these two table setters were 2nd and 3rd on the team in runs scored.

Overall, the mixed offensive approach and varied skill set for this team helped lead the Hoppers to a successful first half. With more roster moves sure to come, the Hoppers offense may well evolve and the development of James Nelson and others is critical not only for the players themselves, but for the Marlins as well.