By Dean McArdle
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Palo Alto area-connected MLB minor leaguers seem to be finding their groove in their new ballparks. After many of the most recent Stanford draftees struggled in their early going, most have settled down and started to produce for their professional organizations.
Leading the revival is former Stanford two-sport athlete Tyler Gaffney. After struggling in his first couple weeks with the Pirates' Single-A Short-Season affiliate State College Spikes, Gaffney has surged to become the Spikes' top hitter.
Catching fire in his last 10 games, Gaffney is now hitting .351 (20-57), while stealing seven bases in 10 attempts. The right fielder has a .543 on base percentage, and is hitting .552 in his last 10 games.
In the Spikes' recent series against the Connecticut Tigers, Gaffney went eight for nine from the plate, reaching base 13 times in 14 overall plate appearances. He also set the Spikes' single season record with his tenth hit by pitch of the season.
Stanford's catcher from this past season, Eric Smith, has continued his torrid hitting pace in the minor leagues. The Johnny Bench Award nominee is hitting .346 (47-136) for the Dodgers' Rookie affiliate Ogden Raptors. In 149 plate appearances, Smith has struck out only 15 times.
Several other players from Stanford's recent draft class are also settling in to professional ball. Supplemental first-rounder Stephen Piscotty is hitting .272 (22-81) in the Single-A Midwest League, while centerfielder Jake Stewart is hitting .231 (28-121) for the Tigers Single-A Short-Season affiliate.
Menlo School product Kenny Diekroeger is currently hitting .261 (29-111) for the Royals' Single-A Short-season affiliate in Burlington, N.C. Diekroeger has slugged seven home runs after hitting only two for Stanford this season.
On the mound, Brett Mooneyham has begun his professional career with a 1.98 earned-run average, allowing only three earned runs over 13.2 innings in three starts and one relief appearance.
Three 2011 Stanford draftees are also making strides in the minors. First-rounder Chris Reed has fashioned a 3.66 ERA in six starts, with opponents hitting just .182 off of the lefty. The London-born Reed was also named to the prestigious Futures Game, featuring the top prospects in the minors.
The White Sox recently promoted Scott Snodgress, another 2011 Stanford draftee, to Single-A Advanced. Through two starts with his new team Snodgress is 1-0, allowing just a single run over 12 innings while striking out 17.
Snodgress' former teammate at Stanford, Jordan Pries, recently returned from a rehab stint in Arizona, and made two starts for the Mariners Single-A affiliate Clinton LumberKings. In those starts Pries was 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA.
In Triple-A ball, Stanford's 2007 fifth-round pick Michael Taylor is putting up solid numbers. Taylor is hitting .300 (14-347) with 10 home runs, 56 RBI, and 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts. He is part of the Oakland A's 40-man roster, and made a short MLB appearance in early May.
Drew Storen, a 2009 10th overall pick, has returned to the MLB with the Washington Nationals. The former Stanford closer was recovering from off-season elbow surgery, and has only allowed two runs in his first four appearances this season.
Palo Alto High School grad Joc Pederson continues to make strides in Single-A Advanced ball. Pederson is currently hitting .297 (94-316) with 10 home runs.