When the Lexington Legends beat the Columbia Fireflies on June 16th, they clinched the Southern Division for the first half of the season and guaranteed themselves a playoff spot.
Yes, we are excited about this. You can’t see me right now, but I’m jumping up and down and screaming like an imbecile, this very moment.
It was the day before, when the Legends took a 6-2 victory from the Fireflies, that moved them into first by half a game. RHP Charlie Neuweiler put up a solid performance to keep his guys in the game (5 2/3 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 K), with righties Kyle Hinton (2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K), and Daniel James (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K) shutting Columbia down the rest of the way. 2B Bhret Bewley (2-5, 2 R), RF Eric Cole (2-4, 1 RBI), and SS Jeison Guzman (4-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 3 RBI) led the attack, with CF Michael Gigliotti (1-5, 1 RBI) and C Freddy Fermin (1-4, 1 RBI) kicking in, and the team went 4-8 with RISP.
The next day, it was RHP Jon Heasley (6 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K) who gave Lexington an excellent start, with lefties Austin Lambright (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K) and Bryce Hensley (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) extinguishing the Fireflies’ bats.
To be frank, this is not the 2018 roster; last year, we had a load of Top-30 prospects in the lineup. They were expected to perform as they did. Maybe this year’s team doesn’t have that same glitz as 2018’s, but they’ve shown themselves to be a fun team to watch. Believe me when I say, this first-half finish is no fluke. We haven’t seen the best, just yet.
Much of the reason for this first-place finish is due to the outstanding pitching we’ve had. That much is certain. However, there are hitters on this team that are slowly gaining momentum, and at least one or two who have struggled so far, but are likely to come around in the second half.
For those of you who aren’t quite familiar with this year’s model, here’s Part One of a closer look at the Legends roster, and the players who have guided this team to the playoffs.
Michael Gigliotti, CF
.309 BA, 42 runs scored, 73 hits, 19 doubles, 23 RBI, 29 of 36 SB opps. (52 games)
The 4th-round pick out of Lipscomb University in the 2017 Draft, Gigliotti had only 70 minor-league games under his belt when he went down with a season-ending knee injury in 2018 after just six games in Lexington. Also, 42 of those games were in rookie-level Burlington, so he had only 28 games in Low-A ball at the time of his injury. To me, this offsets slightly the concern that he is old for the level (23 years old; 1.5 years older than the average SAL player).
Up to this point, he’s slashing .304/.392/.416 in 87 total games at Low-A, with 25 doubles, 33 RBI, and 37 steals. Gigliotti has benefited from a .381 BABIP, certainly, but the numbers are legitimate. He’s maintained a walk percentage of 9.7% against a K percentage of 17.6% (49 K in 236 AB), and while his swing does get a little long and sweeping, from time to time, he generally is very quick to the ball with a classic line-drive swing (line drive pct 22.3%).
He gets out of the box quickly, and as far as I’ve seen, he’s lost nothing in the way of speed or mobility from that knee surgery in 2018. He sprays the ball around the field (pull pct 35.1%, center pct 25.3%, oppo pct 39.7%), which is a departure from the small-sample-size numbers he’s put up before this season. He can drive it well into the gap or occasionally leg out a double on a short liner over the head of an infielder.
He picks his spots well when it comes to taking the extra base, and often goes first to third with ease. He’s aggressive when the situation calls for it, so from time to time he’ll get himself into scoring position at a key moment.
Gigliotti gets to most everything in center. He chases deep into the gaps very well, and he typically can go back on a deep fly with ease. He takes good routes to the ball, and covers lots of ground. Again, the knee injury/surgery does not seem to have affected him in any noticeable way.
Gigliotti typically appears laid back on the field, often smiling. This level of pro ball does not seem to be much of a challenge for him, but it was a good idea to send him to Lexington just to get him accustomed to it.
I don’t see any reason that Gigliotti would struggle in High-A. There is almost always an adjustment period, of course, for most any player, but I doubt it would be a long one for him. I would definitely keep an eye on his progress, if you’re tracking Royals prospects.
Photo Credits: Doc Riddle (@TheGrandOldGame)