The Pensacola Blue Wahoos wrapped up the first half of the season on Sunday, June 16 with a loss to the Tennessee Smokies. This ended their first half season with a 38-32 record as they finished three games back of the first place Biloxi Shuckers in the South Division. After starting the season with a franchise record eight consecutive series wins and hosting an easy lead in the Southern League standings, the went on to lose eight of their last ten games and drop five of their last six series matchups.
This isn’t bashing the Wahoos performance as the grind of the minor leagues can take a toll on anyone. The coming and going of players, lack of off days, and injuries can make it hard to maintain consistency over a 70 game first half. The Wahoos suffered from the promotions of two key players in infielder Luis Arraez and pitcher Devin Smeltzer. Aside from these two, the injuries of pitcher Brusdar Graterol and outfielder Alex Kirilloff. Graterol had soared to become the Twins number 3 overall prospect and their top pitching prospect. He hasn’t pitched since May 19 but holds a 5-0 record with a 1.89 ERA and a. 188 average against. Kirilloff is the Twins number 2 overall prospect. He missed the first month of the season with a wrist injury and was again placed on the injured list on June 3. Kirilloff possesses some of the best pure hitting tools in the minor leagues and he should be ready to go by second half beginning.
With the first half in the rear view, it is time for the Wahoos to go back to work and compete for a Southern League title. They will start the second half without one of their biggest pieces in All-Star outfielder Jaylin Davis, who was promoted to AAA Rochester on June 19. Even with the loss of key players and the transaction circus that is double A, the Wahoos will still boast a loaded roster. The lineup is led by first half All-Stars, Travis Blankenhorn, and Caleb Hamilton. Blankenhorn was a consistent force for the Wahoos at the plate during the first half. He led the team (among qualified players) in batting average (.300), OPS (.863), home runs (13), RBIs (34), total bases (116), and was tied for the team lead in doubles (11). Hamilton was a utility man for the Wahoos and was able to contribute with 11 doubles, 27 RBIs, and 5 home runs. Alongside the productive lineup for the Wahoos, the pitching was solid as well. Griffin Jax, Brusdar Graterol and Ryan Mason were named All-Stars (Graterol and Mason didn’t play due to injury). Through 11 starts, Jax held a 1.69 ERA and a .224 average against. Mason was a lock down reliever for the Wahoos as he appeared in 15 games holding a 2.35 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.
Even though the first half didn’t end the way the Wahoos wanted, they still had a great first half that featured plenty of star players. The second half of the season is sure to be exciting with the return of Graterol, Mason and Kirilloff. With that being said, don’t overlook the rest of this loaded roster. Be sure to head out to Blue Wahoos Stadium and cheer them on as they pursue a second-half Southern League title.