Cody Kukuk, LHP
Thanks to promotions from Greenville, we finally have enough prospects at Salem to merit three sets of updates, just like the rest of the levels. I'm thrilled we didn't have to wait until July for this to occur.
One of those promotions was for Cody Kukuk, who had dominated Low-A Greenville to begin the year in his return to the level. He's now made three starts for High-A Salem, and while they haven't gone nearly as well, that's to be expected. Kukuk has occasional trouble throwing strikes, and until he figures out what these more advanced batters plan to do about his pitches out of the zone, he'll probably continue to walk them more than he should. He's already played the adjustment game once, however, so there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to do it again.
Kukuk's fastball is a legitimate pitch with swing-and-miss potential, but getting it where it needs to go has been an issue for him. To his credit, he's been able to induce more ground balls than fly balls at Salem, but that's not what pops out when you see he has more walks than strikeouts to begin his time there.
Pat Light, RHP
You can ignore Light's ERA at both Greenville and Salem, since he has fewer than 20 innings at both stops, and especially with Greenville since he was missing bats left and right. His low strikeout rate through his first four starts with Salem is discouraging, especially in concert with the climb in walks, but it's not the end of the world for him. It's four starts at a new level for a pitcher who has already shown some promise this year. With some time to acclimate to the level, he should be able to turn things around.
I can understand if that's hard to believe given it took him an entire season to take care of the Sally League, but four starts in to his promotion is too soon to dismiss him. The sooner he gets things together the better, though, as he's not going to start forever, and should get as much quality work in doing so as he can while he can.
Luis Diaz, RHP
Diaz is a good example of a player that people tend to get overly invested in because of their numbers. He posted a 2.05 ERA at Low-A Greenville as a 21-year-old while striking out 8.8 batters per nine, and that's good. From a scouting perspective, though, Diaz doesn't have any overpowering offerings or a deep enough repertoire to be a danger to hitters much better than those in the lower levels, at least not as a starter. That's showing up this year in Salem, where he's still got a solid ERA between last year's 13 frames and his seven starts this season, but doesn't have the strikeouts or strikeout-to-walk ratio to back up that figure.
Diaz is just 22, so maybe there's some room to grow, but he's probably far more in the Keith Couch/Mickey Pena bucket, where a career in relief should be the best-case aspiration, than anything. Last summer's ERA sure was shiny, but there's a lot more to development than low-level ERA.