This year's team should get a little more attention than some of the teams in the past. 2011 #1 draft pick Brandon Nimmo is not only on this team, he has become their star player. Coming into today's game, Nimmo is hitting .444 (28-63) with 18 RS, 3 3Bs, 1 HR and 10 RBI. In addition, he is playing a solid defensive CF for the Gnats. Kevin Plawecki, the Mets 2012 second first round draft pick (for losing Jose Reyes), has also hit very well. The power hitting catcher is hitting .373 (22-59) with 9 2B, 3 HR and 15 RBI. Right hand hitting Jayce Boyd is also off to a great start, hitting .387 (24-62) with 6 2B, 1 HR and 16 RBI.
Very quietly the starting pitching has become worth talking about. LHP Stephen Matz, who throws consistently in the 95 MPH range, threw 5 shutout innings on Friday and is 1-0, 1.29 (2 ER in 14 IP) with 18 Ks. Rainy Lara, who was Saturday's starting pitcher, has a strange resemblance to Bobby Parnell, though Lara does not throw quite as hard. Lara got the win on Saturday and is 2-1, 2.70 (5 ER in 16 2/3 IP) with 15 Ks over 3 starts. His motion is similar to Parnell and he also wears the number 39 on the back of his jersey. Matthew Bowman is probably the best starting pitcher on the team right now and he is off to a good start as well (2-0, 1.62) and relievers Bret Mitchell (0-1, 1.86, 13 Ks in 9 2/3 IP) and Beck Wheeler (0-0, 0.00, 9 Ks in 6 2/3 IP) worth keeping an eye on.
In addition to Nimmo and Plawecki, I remember seeing Boyd, Beck Wheeler, SS Phillip Evans and LF Stefan Sabol playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones last season. If Nimmo and Plawecki continue to flourish, it will be a matter of time before we get to see them in high Class A St Lucie.
When it comes to the Blue Claws, the one player that has stood out to me has been SS Roman Quinn. Not yet 20, he has been rated as the Phillies organization's fastest base runner and best athlete. He performed very well in Williamsport of the NY Penn League hitting .281, 1, 26 with 11 3Bs and 30 SB. Looking forward to the final game of my yearly trip to Lakewood as the Blue Claws finish off the three game series with the Sand Gnats.