It’s not just Opening Week at the major league level.
The Miami Marlins’ minor league affiliate system also kicked things off this week. The Triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp got started on Tuesday and played six games through the week. The three lower-tiered affiliates had their start on Friday each with three-game series.
The four non-Rookie-level affiliates totaled a record of three wins versus 12 losses, with two of those victories by the Jupiter Hammerheads at the Low-A level and the other by the Crustaceans. Despite the lack of success in the win-loss column, the system was not without highlights.
On a strictly per-plate-transaction basis, nobody had a better season debut than backstop Paul McIntosh. The six-foot-one, 220 lb. 24-year-old started his season at the Double-A level with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Despite only appearing in two of Pensacola’s three games against the Biloxi Shuckers, he went 5-for-8 with a double, two solo home runs, a walk, and a stolen base.
I mean, small sample size, but Paul McIntosh has homered in every Double-A game he's ever played. pic.twitter.com/AehZZ7p3TL— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) April 10, 2022
McIntosh’s 492 weighted runs created-plus (100 represents league average) is the second-highest among all MiLB qualifiers so far.
Remaining with the per-plate-transaction equation, the Jupiter Hammerheads were paced by the Marlins top overall prospect, recent first-round selection shortstop Kahlil Watson. He’s hit safely in all three of Jupiter’s matchups thus far, going 4-for-10 with two two-baggers and a pair of jacks. Flashy but unpolished, Watson has a defensive error in seven mid-infield chances, but let’s keep in mind that he’s still just 18 years old and has already graduated past the rookie-level.
Here are the 2 Kahlil Watson home runs from Monday (1 of them vs. a lefty) pic.twitter.com/X97msY1bAG— Fish Stripes Prospects Coverage (@FishProspects) March 22, 2022
In December of 2021, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp selected shortstop Charles LeBlanc from the Texas Rangers in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. For Opening Week 2022, LeBlanc tore the cover off the ball, slashing .538/.625/1.154 with a pair of home runs over his four appearances.
A six-foot-three, 225 lb. native of Quebec, LeBlanc may turn out to be quite the bargain in the long run.
Heroics were not limited to just the batsmen. Right-handed starter Bryan Hoeing was tagged with a loss in his first appearance of the season, but not before he struck out 10 Shuckers in 5 2⁄3 innings. Hoeing got the start for the Wahoos on Sunday and allowed three runs, but they were all unearned. He only surrendered one walk in the contest, putting 65-of-90 pitches over the plate.
Welcome to Double-A, Bryan Hoeing!— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) April 10, 2022
5.2 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 10 K! pic.twitter.com/5yOlAZwqSK
Six-foot-one 20-year-old lefty Sandro Bargallo, recently promoted from Miami’s rookie-level, earned a victory in his first Single-A start on Saturday. Bargello whiffed eight Palm Beach Cardinals in five shutout innings of work, walking one and allowing only a pair of singles while getting 52-of-77 offerings in the black.
Zach King, a six-six left-hander from Nashville, paced the Beloit Sky Carp by getting eight K’s of his own in five innings of work against the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Sunday. Unfortunately, he also walked four and hit a batter, but only allowed one run to cross the plate.
The good news is that it’s a long season, and in the minor leagues, success and failure is not as simple as looking at wins and losses. After a minors-wide day off on Monday, the system will be in full-swing for six games each next week.
MiLB matchups for April 12-17
- Triple-A Jacksonville visits Durham
- Double-A Pensacola visits Rocket City
- High-A Beloit hosts Wisconsin
- Low-A Jupiter visits Fort Myers