The Buffalo Bisons continue to falter, forced to play with a watered down lineup (even by AAA standards) thanks to injuries and major league promotions. As the season approaches its midway point, Buffalo is 10 games under .500, putting them 11 games back in the division and 9 games back in the wildcard. They will most likely be resigned to competing with their Thruway Series rivals (Rochester and Syracuse) to avoid finishing last in the division. With the team struggles, here are how a few of the remaining prospects fared in June:
Chris Schwinden: Schwinden will be Buffalo’s lone representative at the AAA all-star game. In 5 June starts, he showed consistency to what he did in May, averaging 6 innings per start and keeping an ERA in the low 3’s. He has struck out 7 in 2 of his last 3 starts, which shows improvement. He seems to have settled in nicely as a consistent but not overly dominant AAA pitcher. If needed, he could get a major league start, but there are no guarantees he could replicate his AAA success in a spot start in the big leagues.
Mark Cohoon: June was Cohoon’s first full month in AAA. His progress throughout the month was slow, but it was there. He went from giving up 6 runs in his first 2 starts to giving up 3 or 4 runs in his last 3, but he still allowing far too many base runners. Cohoon relies on locating his pitches and outsmarting batters, so the more time he spends in AAA, the more comfortable he should be, the more adjustments he will make, and the better he will do. How long it takes for him to make the necessary adjustments remain to be seen.
Jack Egbert: After 5 rehab starts in St. Lucie, the Staten Island native has joined the Buffalo rotation for his last 2 starts. He hasn’t been overly impressive, but he is still working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, so he may still be a while until there’s noticeable improvement.
Dylan Owen: Owen has become a regular in the Buffalo rotation, and June was his best month of the year. He is still striking batters out at a good rate and his WHIP is within range. Being in the rotation full time and pitching regularly seems to have helped, as his best starts have come recently.
In the bullpen, Ryota Igarashi has been untouchable. He has had his struggles in the majors, but in 12 minor league appearances in June, he pitched 17 innings, allowed 11 base runners and posted a 0.52 ERA. With Manny Acosta’s struggles, perhaps Igarashi deserves another shot in New York, especially since Taylor Buchholz isn’t coming back anytime soon. John Lujan continues to pitch well, although his walk rate is up, which is an area he’s struggled with in the past. Mike O’Connor’s June ERA was close to 7. Dale Thayer’s June ERA was over 6. Jose De La Torre is close to coming back from injury.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Injuries limited Nieuwenhuis to just 6 games in June. He came back from one shoulder injury, only to injure the other shoulder. The first shoulder injury was a result of the all out effort he puts into the game, especially on defense as he tries to cover as much ground as possible playing centerfield. It’s impossible not to love the effort and see him playing the game the right way, but when you show a total disregard and sacrifice your body to make plays, injuries are going to happen. The most recent injury happened on a swing that re-aggravated a problem he had last year.
Zach Lutz: Lutz played 14 games in June (1 more than he played in April before missing all of May) but was once again struck down by injury. Lutz has concussion like symptoms after being hit in the head. This happened after Lutz hit 3 homers in 5 games, including the at bat right before he was hit in the head. There’s no question that Lutz can hit: he’s batting .326 with a .551 slugging percentage in 27 games for Buffalo this year, but he keeps getting hit by the injury bug.
Nick Evans: Evans did not hit during his big league promotion, but since then he has been hammering the ball. On the last day of June, his 19-game hit streak, which dated back to before his major league promotion, came to an end. In 15 games in June, Evans hit .500 and slugged .759. Even in a small sample, those numbers are awfully gaudy and impressive. Evans continues to do everything that could possibly be asked of him in the minors, but has yet to get the regular at bats in the big leagues he needs to succeed.
Mike Nickeas: Nickeas is the textbook definition of consistency. He has hit for the same batting average in both May and June. Unfortunately that average is .204.