And Tyler Dearden can’t stop hitting homers.
Welcome to a new feature here at Over The Monster in which we will be looking at the best players on the farm from the past week. With the new minor-league schedule being implemented this year that has teams playing six-game series every week with Mondays off, there are no Minor Lines on Tuesdays. We figured rather than just leaving that timeslot blank every week, we’d hand out some fake, virtual hardware. Each week, we’ll pick players of the week for both position players and pitchers, as well as an honorable mention in each category. (See Previous Winners Here)
Position Player of the Week
Tyler Dearden, Greenville
Since I do Minor Lines most every day, when I get to this player of the week feature I generally have a good idea of who has had the best recent stretch. Sometimes it’s close, and sometimes it’s a no-brainer before I look at the number. This week, Dearden was a no-brainer in my head, but I was surprised that, by OPS, he actually only ranked third in the system. But he’s still the top spot for me given the power and the number of games he played. Dearden hit .407/.448/1.000, smashing a whopping five homers in six games. He’s had a few hot stretches this year, and this is actually his third time getting the top nod in this feature, also getting a second place nod as well.
With that information, it shouldn’t be difficult to deduce that he has had a strong season. Dearden, a former 29th round pick, is hitting .267/.374/.542 on the year, having been a presence in the middle of the Drive’s lineup pretty much all year. His strikeout rate is a little bit high, coming in just over 27 percent on the season, but he’s hitting for the big power and drawing walks. To the former point, his five homers this week brought his season total up to 24, giving him the most homers in Drive history. And as far as the walks go, he’s up to 13 percent, about double where he’d been sitting earlier in his career.
Dearden has always seemed like a guy with more upside than you would expect given his draft position, coming out of high school in New Jersey. The power is certainly the calling card, though his added plate discipline will help make up for the hit tool issues that threatened to make him a career minor leaguer coming out of high school. That is still a real possibility, however. Dearden’s bat has been impressive this year and makes him a player to watch for 2022, but he’ll need to prove himself against higher-level pitching. With little to offer in terms of defensive profile, he needs to hit to have a chance at making the highest level.
Honorable Mention: Franchy Cordero, Worcester
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. For the second straight week, Cordero comes in as the honorable mention, the third time he’s had that honor this year without getting the top spot. This past week, the outfielder hit .412/.474/1.000. We’ve talked about Cordero a whole lot this year, and while him succeeding at Triple-A is better than him underperforming, it’s still hard to read too much into it. At this point, he needs to hit major-league pitching before we can really believe.
Pitcher of the Week
Chris Murphy, Portland
Murphy is no stranger to this list either, though this is the first time he’s gotten the top honor in 2021. And it was well deserved for the lefty, who had an absolutely dominant start for Double-A this week. In his lone start of the week, Murphy didn’t allow a run over six innings, giving up only two hits while not issuing a walk and striking out a whopping 11 batters. It wasn’t just the best start in the system this past week, but it was one of the best performances we’ve seen from a pitcher in the organization all season.
And overall on the season, it’s been a positive 2021 for Murphy. The former sixth rounder coming out of San Diego State started his season in Greenville, but was able to handle that level. He wasn’t perfect at High-A, but after 14 starts with better peripherals than his 4.41 ERA would suggest, the Red Sox opted to move him up to Portland. The new challenge has actually resulted in better outings, culminating in this most recent start. But overall in Portland, Murphy has made six starts totaling 32 2⁄3 innings, pitching to a 3.86 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 12 walks.
The southpaw was one of the more intriguing pitchers in the system coming into this season after showing promising stuff in 2019 in his first taste of pro ball but not being able to expound on that in 2020. This year, we’ve seen more of the same. The stuff is top-notch as he can rack up strikeouts as well as just about anyone else in the system. The issue is whether or not his command will be able to hold up as he moves up the ladder. We’ve seen the command act up this year, though where the issues came with walks in college and in 2019, it’s been more with homers this year. At the very least I think he can be an interesting reliever, but if he reaches the ceiling this is a name you start to remember.
Honorable Mention: Jay Groome, Portland
Speaking of recently promoted Double-A pitchers, Groome is just dominating with Portland in his two starts since getting the bump up. He was the top pitcher of the week just last week, and he followed up a brilliant debut by tossing six scoreless innings with two hits and a walk while striking out nine. Groome, for all of the valid concerns, is still the top pitcher in the system in terms of upside, and for the first time in a long time we are seeing it in action.