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Vandy Alum Minor League Report: Has Jason Esposito Turned the Corner?

Vanderbilt alums have had a busy month in the majors. But things are developing down on the farm as well. Has Jason Esposito finally figured things out? Can Brian Miller and Adam Ravenelle keep up this torrid start to their pro careers?

I miss him already.
I miss him already.
Peter Aiken

Vanderbilt's baseball alumni had another big stretch after the All-Star Game. David Price found an escape from the hell hole known as Tampa and was delivered to the divine providence of Detroit, MI. Pedro Alvarez's Pirates jumped in and out of a wild card spot as the calendar flipped over to the latter half of the season. Sonny Gray somehow became the third best pitcher in his own rotation despite owning a 2.59 ERA. All in all, it's been a bonkers month of baseball in the bigs for Tim Corbin's proudest pupils.

Things weren't as eventful in the minors, but some young alums got their careers off to a good start while an older star seems to have finally found his footing as a professional. Here's how Vandy's lesser-known veterans performed in the minor leagues over the past couple weeks:

  • Could Jason Esposito finally be turning the corner as a professional? The former 2nd round draft pick struggled in his first 2+ seasons in single A ball, but he's finally showing the tools that made him one of Vanderbilt's most valuable players. He's batting .368 with three home runs in his last 10 games and is in the midst of a stretch that's raised his average up to .266. That doesn't sound like much, but his best-ever yearly average is just .222. He's worked hard to cut down on his strikeouts and a more patient approach to the plate will be his key to escape from Single-A's gravity.
  • Kevin Ziomek stumbled in his latest start, but he's still developed into a strikeout machine with single-A West Michigan. He had a two-game stretch in July in which he threw 13 innings and struck out 24 batters while walking only four. He followed that up with a 3.2 inning outing where he got tagged for three runs but still struck out seven. The lefty has been overpowering when he's on target but has also had some issues with walks this season. His ability to create strikeouts will earn him a promotion if he can continue this torrid pace.
  • Taylor Hill's strong start to 2014 earned him a brief stay in the majors, but he hasn't been able to regain that magic since returning to AAA Syracuse. He got lit up about as badly as a starter can on July 13th (.1 innings, six earned runs) and followed that up with a pair of short outings where he put plenty of runners on base (13 in nine innings) but limited the damage to just two runs. Hill has allowed a home run in each of his last six starts, and that proclivity to give up the long ball could be what keeps him from another trip up to Washington before the MLB rosters expand in September.
  • The call up to AA has been difficult for first baseman Conrad Gregor. Gregor had smashed the ball in single-A play to the tune of a .367 average. Now, he's hitting just .200 for the Corpus Christi Hooks thanks to a slump that left him hitless in seven of his last 10 games. His strikeout numbers have risen alongside his level of competition on the mound, but the patient hitter has a proven track record of adjusting at the plate to become an on-base machine.
  • Brian Miller hasn't lost a step after winning the 2014 College World Series with the Commodores. He has yet to allow an earned run in his first season of pro ball, notching a ridiculous 16:1 strikeout:walk ratio in seven appearances for low A Hudson Valley. He's allowed just two hits in 13 innings so far.
  • Adam Ravenelle, on the other hand, has already been promoted to regular A ball, where he's been reunited with formed teammate Ziomek in West Michigan. He's only earned two appearances with the Whitecaps, but he has yet to allow a hit (five strikeouts) in three innings of work with the team.