Farm Weekly Recap: Harrell Paces Erie

Last week in the minors saw major roster moves in Toledo, a good week from one of the system’s many Vanderbilt alumni, offensive struggles in Lakeland, some eventful relief pitching in West Michigan, and the start of the season for the Venezuelan Summer League Tigers.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/18 - 5/24

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
18-25, 4th in West Division

The Mud Hens had a solid 4-3 homestand that ended with a stunning 8-run, 8th-inning outburst on Sunday night to pull off an 8-5 win over the Buffalo Bisons. Toledo also saw some notable player movement last week, with Tyler Collins and Dixon Machado both getting called up to the Tigers, and Bruce Rondon beginning his rehab assignment with appearances on Thursday and Sunday. Even with the addition of Rondon, the Mud Hens’ bullpen struggled mightily during the week. They gave up 19 runs in 21 innings, and blew a 4-0 lead in the 9th on Wednesday, spoiling eight brilliant shutout innings from Thad Weber. On the positive side of things, Buck Farmer had another very good outing on Friday night, completing the 7th inning for the first time this year and picking up his 5th win. Steven Moya continued to find his power stroke with three doubles and a homer, and Jefry Marte had an outstanding week at the plate, going 11-for-28 with a double, a triple, two HRs, and 7 RBIs.

  • Farmer struck out 47 batters in 38 innings over his first seven starts. In his last two outings he has thrown 13 1/3 innings and only recorded three strikeouts.

  • Alberto Cabrera entered the week having given up just four hits and two earned runs in his first 15 1/3 innings. In three outings last week he gave up four hits and three earned runs, and failed to record a strikeout.

  • The Mud Hens discourage players from dogging it on the field, but they’re happy to invite canine companions into the stands, as they did for Sunday’s Hens & Hounds Night.

AA Erie Seawolves
16-26, 6th in Western Division

Like the Mud Hens, the SeaWolves spent the entire week playing at home, splitting their six games, and getting a rare off day in between series. Erie pitching had a rough week, giving up 5.5 runs per game, but the offense kept it close, averaging 6.4 runs of their own through the first five games, only to get shut out 4-0 on Sunday. Wynton Bernard (12-for-26) and Connor Harrell (9-for-22) paced the offense, while Josh Turley had a terrific week on the mound, picking up two wins and surrendering just three earned runs over 12 innings. Chad Green picked up the other win on the week, giving up two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday.

  • After hitting a paltry .196/.293/.255 in April, Harrell has turned things around in a big way in May, posting a .313/.349/.500 line through 22 games.

  • Green, the Tigers’ 11th-round pick in 2013, pitched a total of 15 2/3 innings and gave up 16 earned runs in his first four starts of the year. In his last four outings he has given up just 5 earned runs over 23 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 9.19 to 4.81.

  • Fellow 2013 draftee Austin Kubitza is trending in the opposite direction. He gave up just 4 earned runs over 23 innings in his first four starts, but in his last four outings he has surrendered 19 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings, raising his ERA from 1.57 to 5.13.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
21-22, 4th in North Division

The Flying Tigers had an up-and-down week, losing four of their seven games, and dropping a spot in the standings. The offense, possibly hurt by the mid-week promotion of the league’s top hitter Curt Powell, struggled to find consistency, scoring just 6 runs in their four losses, and dropping Wednesday’s game 1-0 in 11 innings. They also went to extras on Monday and Friday, losing 4-5 at Dayton in 11 innings on the 18th, and getting a walk-off ground-rule double on the 22nd to top the Bradenton Marauders 4-3 in 10 innings. Few offensive players distinguished themselves last week, with Dominic Ficociello and Francisco Martinez leading the team with eight hits apiece, and Tim Remes continuing to make the most of his limited opportunities with five hits in twelve at-bats. Ryan Longstreth had the best start of the week, getting a no decision on Wednesday despite giving up just two hits and a walk over eight scoreless innings, and Paul Voelker pitched very well in three appearances out of the bullpen, earning a win and two saves while giving up just two hits and striking out six over 4 innings.

  • Ficociello remains a picture of consistency. He lost a 12-game hitting streak on Monday, but recorded a hit in every other game last week. He has now reached base safely in 19 consecutive contests, during which time his average has hovered between .298 and .314.

  • The unheralded Longstreth (40th-round pick in 2012) has been terrific for Lakeland this year, posting a 2.02 ERA and giving up just two earned runs in his last 28 innings pitched.

  • Kevin Ziomek had a tough week, giving up ten earned runs in 13 innings, but he did pick up 13 more strikeouts. His 58 Ks are second most in the FSL, behind only Cardinals fireballer Anthony Reyes.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
22-22, 5th in Eastern Division

The Whitecaps had a very eventful week that included a couple of outstanding pitching performances, some uncharacteristic bullpen woes, two extra-inning wins, and a 14-1 loss. The oddities started on Tuesday when reliever Gabe Speier, protecting a 6-4 lead, got the first two outs in the bottom of the 8th. He then recorded a strikeout, but the batter was able to reach first base on a wild pitch. The next batter singled, and Joe Jimenez was brought in to put out the fire. The first batter he faced was pinch-hitter Jace Conrad, who hit a three-run, inside-the-park home run, the first allowed by Jimenez all year. Three singles, a passed ball, and a walk later, and the Bowling Green Hot Rods led 8-6. Two nights later the Whitecaps took a 3-2 lead in the 12th inning. Jimenez struck out the first two batters he faced, but then gave up his 2nd homer of the year, once again to Conrad. West Michigan was able to fight back and win 6-3 in 14 innings, however. Derek Hill, Michael Gerber, Joey Pankake, and Zach Shepherd all had solid weeks at the plate, while Trent Szkutnik and Fernando Perez contributed solid starts, and Jeff Thompson picked up two wins, striking out 14 in 11 2/3 scoreless innings.

  • Gerber’s streak of reaching base safely ended at 30 games on Saturday when he went 0-4. He recorded six hits and six walks on the week.

  • Perez has run into some tough luck this year. He sports a 3.89 ERA, but he’s 0-5 on the season, because the the offense has scored only four runs for him in 37 innings.

  • Shepherd had one of his best weeks of the season at the plate, going 8-for-23, drawing six walks, hitting three doubles and a home run, and collecting six RBIs.

Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
3-3, T2nd
The Tigers are just one of four organizations to still field a team in the Venezuelan Summer League, and the VSL Tigers kicked off their 2015 campaign with six games last week. They split their first two games with the Cubs, took both contests against the Phillies, and then dropped both of their matchups with the Rays. It’s too early for any real trends to emerge, but the squad did get a lot of offensive help from Anthony Pereira, Eliezer Castillo, Elys Escobar, and Hector Hernandez, and some outstanding pitching from Ken Figueroa and Jose Vasquez. In case you missed it, check out the VSL Season Preview here.

  • Pereira went 0-for-4 in his first game, but went 9-for-18 over the next five games, and is one of three players in the VSL currently hitting over .400.

  • Outfielder Jose Gonzalez, born July 16th, 1998, is the only 16-year-old in the league. He went 2-for-8 last week.

  • With five innings of one-hit ball in his debut, Figueroa currently boasts the lowest WHIP in the league.

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