A third-round pick in 2009 out of Division II Florida Southern, shortstop Robbie Shields came back from Tommy John surgery to hit .290/.331/.457 with five homers and 26 RBI in 39 games for the Sand Gnats last season. The 23-year-old, who has lost a year of development, returned to Savannah this season and after a slow start has started to hit.
The righthanded hitter, rated No. 20 by Baseball America heading into the season, went 2-for-4 Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games – tied for the longest active hitting streak in the South Atlantic League. Shields is 24-for-50 during the streak with seven doubles and two triples. For the season, he is batting .297/.385/.483 for the league’s worst-hitting team. He has two homers, 17 RBI and seven stolen bases.
After being drafted, Shields hit just .178 at Class A Brooklyn in ’08, partially explained by his elbow injury.
According to scouts, Shields’ tools across the board grade out as average. Many feel that his future position is second best due to a suspect arm. He played his first professional game there Sunday. Shields has made eight errors in 39 games at shortstop.
Long term, Shields probably falls into the category of major league utility player. That will put him in a group with every other middle infielder in the organization except for St. Lucie’s Wilmer Flores.
HIGHLY TOUTED PITCHING STAFF FALTERS: At the beginning of the season, the Class AA Binghamton Mets starting pitchers were outstanding. But the B-Mets have lost six straight and nine of 10 and are 13-26 for the season – 12.5 games out of first place in the Eastern Division. The rotation is scuffling and hasn’t been helped by the league’s worst defense.
Talented righthander Jeurys Familia, who had allowed just two runs – one earned – in his first two starts since being promoted from Class A St. Lucie, was the latest starter to go down, allowing three runs, five hits and four walks over five innings in the 4-1 loss to Harrisburg on Sunday.
Other not so spectacular starts during the week were logged by Brad Holt (9 R, 5 H, 13 BB in 7 1/3 IP over 2 starts); Mark Cohoon (11 runs, 11 hits in 3 2/3 IP); Robert Carson (5 R, 7 H, 3 BB in 4 2/3 IP); and Brandon Moore (16 R, 16 H, 6 1/3 IP over 2 starts).
Times were bad off the field as well. Righthander Edgar Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by minor league baseball after a positive drug test. The 6-foot-4 250-pound Ramirez is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in nine appearances – two starts.
However, help is on the way for the club that ranks 10th of 12 in ERA (4.21). Reportedly, 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey is expected to join the club from St. Lucie around June 1. The righthander is 5-2 with a 2.87 ERA in nine starts with 52 strikeouts in 47 innings.
The B-Mets defense hasn’t helped out the pitching, having allowed more unearned runs (37) than any team in the Eastern League. They had four errors on Friday against Harrisburg, six on Saturday, including three by third baseman Eric Campbell, and two on Sunday. Shortstop Jordany Valdespin has 12 errors – one more than his RBI total – in 38 games this season and Campbell has 10 in 36 contests.
Class AAA Buffalo has its own troubles. The Bisons were outscored 19-2 in the opening inning of their eight-game road trip that ended Friday in Indianapolis – including 19-0 in the first six games.
With all the injuries in the major leagues resulting in callups, the Bisons have a lot of new faces as well: outfielder Jason Botts (signed from the Atlantic League), infielders Chin-lung Hu (down from New York) and Luis Figueroa (free agent) and outfielder Bubba Bell (trade with Cleveland) all joined the team on its road trip.
One newcomer continuing to impress is 26-year-old infielder Michael Fisher, batting .378/.410/.514 in 10 games with a homer and six RBI. Fisher, who had four consecutive multi-hit games on the road trip, hit .281 with a .821 OPS in 23 games at Binghamton.
AROUND THE MINORS: Savannah OF Cory Vaughn just keeps hitting. The just-turned 21-year-old had two doubles and three RBI Sunday to lift his average to .324/.463/.473 with 27 walks, 13 doubles, three homers and 24 RBI in 43 games. He’s the only player in the league to play in every game, and he’s among the top-10 in the entire minor leagues in on-base percentage. … 2B Reese Havens made his season debut Sunday for St. Lucie, going 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and two walks. The 2008 first-rounder, who has spent more time on the DL than the playing field since being drafted, is coming back from his latest setback, a back injury. When healthy, the former shortstop profiles as an offensive second baseman with 20-homer power. … The Kirk Nieuwenhuis watch continues. The Class AAA CFder is batting .305/.406/.530 with 15 doubles, six homers and 27 walks in 164 at-bats. The 23-year-old has struggled of late against fellow lefthanders and is down to .235 with a .724 OPS with 14 strikeouts in 51 at-bats on the season. Before the Mets call him up, the organization wanted him to cut down on strikeouts (49 in 191 TPA) and improve against lefthanders.