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Ernie Masche/Record File Photo: Hickory native Zach Jarrett, now with the High-A Frederick Keys, has rediscovered his hitting prowess after a slow start to 2019.

As we approach the end of April, guys are starting to find their groove. Quite a few local pros have been making moves – whether it’s Justin Dean’s lengthy hitting streak, Zach Jarrett’s resurgence at the plate or Hayden Deal’s sterling performances on the mound. And of course, as has become tradition around this time of year, Madison Bumgarner’s name is being mentioned with other teams besides San Francisco. 

All of those updates and more in the latest edition of the Pro Baseball Roundup: 

(Statistics and records include games through Monday.) 

MLB:

Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants pitcher

It took four starts but Bumgarner finally got his first win of 2019. The victory came April 13 against Colorado after he recorded a quality start by allowing two runs and striking out seven over seven frames. He followed that on Friday by giving up four runs in six innings to the best team in the league, Pittsburgh. He got little run support in that one – as usual – to drop him to 1-3. 

Despite the poor record, MadBum has put up some otherwise solid numbers. He’s posted a 30-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year with seven punchouts in each of his past two starts. And his opponent batting average (.220) and WHIP (0.97) are both about where you’d expect them to be. 

Naturally, the rumor mill continues to swirl with regards to where he will finish the season. The Giants currently check in at the bottom of the NL West at 9-14; Cincinnati and Miami are the only teams in the National League with worse records. This could finally be the year San Francisco moves Bumgarner, who has known no other MLB club for the past decade.

Double-A:

Hunter Harvey, Bowie Baysox (Baltimore) pitcher

It’s been tough sledding in 2019 for Harvey, who appears to have his health but not his best stuff. He’s allowed four home runs through three starts and most of his other numbers aren’t pretty: a 7.82 ERA, a 1.97 WHIP and an opponent batting average of a whopping .368. 

He’s yet to make it out of the fifth inning this year, which includes laborious four-inning starts in each of his past two outings. He took his only loss April 12 against Harrisburg, the better of the two starts as the four runs he allowed all came on a grand slam as one of just three hits against him. Akron tagged then tagged him for four runs and eight hits April 18, though Harvey struck out seven and walked none. 

If there’s a silver lining to his less-than-ideal start, it’s this: Harvey has now struck out 19 while issuing just four walks. He leads the Bowie staff in that category. There’s good reason to believe that if he can get those hits under control, his numbers will start to rebound quickly. 

High-A:

Zach Jarrett, Frederick Keys (Baltimore) outfielder

Upon our last update, Jarrett was struggling through a slow start to the season. That is no longer the case. He has hit safely in nine of his past 10, taking his batting average from a season-worst .143 on April 10 to .316 through Monday’s game. He’s boosted his slugging percentage nearly 350 percentage points, and he is now leading the Frederick squad in runs (14), walks (nine) and doubles, all six of which have come over this 10-game span.  

Better yet, Jarrett hit his first home run of the year April 15 against Myrtle Beach, a solo shot that proved to be the winning run in a 9-3 victory. He hit 14 homers last year with Low-A Delmarva so it’s great to see him finding his power at the next step up the minor-league rung. 

Hayden Deal, Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta) pitcher

Since a sterling six-inning performance to begin the season, Deal has thrown two more impressive outings for the Fire Frogs. He earned his first victory of the year April 12 after holding St. Lucie to three hits and three runs (one earned) over five innings. Then last Wednesday, he gave up just two runs and four hits in six innings against Clearwater, though he didn’t factor into the decision. 

At this point, it seems clear that the Braves organization wants to keep Deal in the rotation instead of the bullpen. And with an opponent batting average of .158 and a WHIP of 0.82, that seems like a pretty wise decision thus far. 

Tad Ratliff, Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City) pitcher

Ratliff continues to be given opportunities to impress, and for the most part he’s doing just that. The right-hander converted his first five save opportunities of the year before blowing his first one Monday against Winston-Salem. Regardless, his five saves are tied for the Carolina League lead while his six appearances are the most on the Blue Rocks pitching staff. 

The former Lenoir-Rhyne man is sporting a 1.29 ERA at this point as he’s allowed just one earned run through seven innings of work. And with Wilmington leading the Carolina League Northern standings, expect Ratliff to keep taking advantage of chances to close out wins. 

Low-A:

Justin Dean, Rome Braves (Atlanta) outfielder

Starting the season with an inside-the-park home run? Quite impressive. Jumping a classification from last year and hitting safely in your first 12 games? Even more impressive. But that’s exactly what Dean has done in Rome in 2019. 

That streak came to an end April 18 with a hitless game at Greenville, and he’s fallen into a lull since then with just one hit in 15 at-bats. Despite that, he’s still had a memorable start to his first full campaign as a pro. And to think, this time last year he was just about to wrap up his junior season at Lenoir-Rhyne. 

Matt De La Rosa, Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore) pitcher

De La Rosa earned a very brief promotion to High-A Frederick on April 10, joining up with Hickory native Zach Jarrett. That call-up lasted one whole day as De La Rosa was banged up for five runs – including a grand slam – in 1.1 innings to take the first loss in his professional career. 

He’s been spotless since rejoining Delmarva, however, appearing in four straight games without allowing a run. In that span, De La Rosa has given up as many hits as he’s collected wins (two). And if Monday was any indication, his arm strength continues to improve – he pitched two full innings against Asheville, marking his longest outing since 2016 (pre-Tommy John).

Thomas St. Clair, Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis) pitcher

After getting some run in extended spring training, St. Clair was activated and made his season debut April 18. His relief effort against the Burlington Bees wasn’t the start to 2019 he was hoping for as he allowed two runs on a hit and two walks in 0.2 innings while throwing just 12 of his 26 pitches for a strike. 

He bounced back the next night to record two outs on a total of six pitches. St. Clair has gone unused, however, in the Chiefs’ two games since. I’ll keep an eye on how he progresses over the coming weeks. 

Extended Spring Training:

By my count, we’re still at five local pros who are going through extended spring training with their respective clubs. Making up that list are Julian Smith (LA Dodgers), Landon Whitson (Arizona), Zach Hammer (NY Mets), Josh McLain (LA Dodgers) and Bryce Hensley (Kansas City). 

McLain and Hensley were both assigned to Rookie League squads earlier this month, so if that’s their intended starting destination for 2019, we won’t see them until the summer. But it’s also possible any of these guys get assigned to an in-season club, much like St. Clair did. So hopefully I’ll have more good news to share on some of these guys in two weeks’ time. 

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