Farm Weekly Recap: LFT Has 16 Inning Victory

Last week in the minors saw a record crowd in Toledo, a deflating bullpen implosion in Erie, and a bizarre 16-inning win for Lakeland. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps made a bit of a playoff push, the VSL Tigers lost to the Rays for the sixth time in six tries, and the DSL Tigers put on an offensive display in their first full week of action.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 6/1 - 6/7

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
25-32, 4th in West Division

The Mud Hens won their final two games in May, and early in the week they extended their streak to five consecutive wins by sweeping a doubleheader at Columbus on Monday, and then taking the third game of the series on Tuesday. All seven games last week were against the Clippers, who have been struggling offensively, but Toledo’s pitching did them no favors. Derek Hankins and Mike Belfiore combined for 12 innings and just two earned runs in Monday’s twin bill, Ross Seaton went six scoreless on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Tim Melville went 8 innings but took the hard luck 1-0 loss. Buck Farmer, back from his rough MLB outing, went seven innings and gave up just one run to win his sixth game of the year on Friday, and on Saturday Justin Verlander put together a stellar performance for the largest crowd in Fifth Third Field history, striking out nine over 5 2/3 innings, and surrendering only a single unearned run (for more on Verlander’s start on Saturday, including analysis of his performance and quotes from him, head here: Verlander Looks Strong in 2nd Rehab Start). Thad Weber added 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Sunday, but Ian Krol gave up two runs in the 9th and Toledo ended the week with a 4-3 loss in 12 innings. The offensive stars of the week included Dixon Machado (9-for-27) and Jefry Marte (9-for-26, 2 HR).

  • Drew VerHagen gave up two hits and a run in an inning of relief on Thursday. It was his first appearance of the year, and the first time he had taken the mound in a game since July 11th of 2014.

  • Verlander took a no decision on Saturday, with Bruce Rondon, also on a rehab assignment, earning the loss by giving up four hits, four runs, and walking three in just an inning. His ERA currently stands at 12.15 and he’s given up 12 hits in fewer than seven innings.

  • The Mud Hens still have the worst ERA in the International League by nearly a full run, but their week of stellar pitching dropped it from 5.35 to 4.96.

AA Erie Seawolves
19-34, 6th in Western Division

Things continue to go south for the SeaWolves after another 2-4 week, and their .358 winning percentage is the 4th worst in all of minor-league baseball. They were outscored 29-18 on the week, and on the year they’ve given up a league worst 279 runs, and scored a league worst 201 runs. They found an interesting way to lose on Tuesday, with Tommy Collier pitching seven innings of one-run ball and taking a 2-1 lead into the 8th inning, only to see his bullpen give up nine runs over the final two frames for a 10-2 loss. Collier pitched well again on Sunday to earn one of Erie’s two wins on the week, with the other going to Austin Kubitza and his six innings of one-run baseball on Wednesday. There weren’t many strong offensive performances on the week, with Harold Castro (6-for-18) and newcomer Tony Thomas (4-for-15, 3HR) the only real notable performers.

  • Thomas, 28, was released by Reading on May 28th. He then played his first two games for the SeaWolves against his former team, before homering three times against Altoona over the weekend.

  • Collier began the year in Lakeland, but has now given the SeaWolves three terrific starts, and he sports a 1.74 ERA in AA this year.

  • After spending the majority of his career as a starter, Jeff Ferrell has moved to the bullpen this year, and the results have been positive. He has given up four runs in 13 relief innings, while striking out 16 and walking just 2 batters.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
27-28, 3rd in North Division

The Flying Tigers had a solid bounce-back week, going 4-2 and pulling back into 3rd place, thanks in part to an epic and unusual doubleheader on Wednesday. After a solid 4-1 win on Monday at Brevard County, the Flying Tigers returned home to a rainout, necessitating a doubleheader against the Tampa Yankees. Lakeland dropped the opener 2-0, and Game 2 starter Kevin Ziomek gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. But he and four relievers managed to scatter 12 more hits and keep the Yankees from scoring for the next 15 innings. Meanwhile, the Flying Tigers scored in the 7th on an error, a wild pitch, a ground out, and a sacrifice fly, but didn’t register a hit until Jiwan James singled with one out in the 12th. They eventually won in the 16th when Francisco Martinez doubled home Dominic Ficociello. Lefty Matt Crouse gave Lakeland two very good starts, but the offense did the heavy lifting on the week, with Tyler Hanover (7-for-18), Ficociello (7-for-17), and Martinez (9-for-25) doing the most damage.

  • Reliever Paul Voelker pitched his way out of West Michigan this year with 16 outstanding innings in low-A. He’s been as good or better with Lakeland, and between the two stops he is now 7-for-7 in save opportunities, with 37 strikeouts, 16 hits allowed, and just 5 walks in 29 innings.

  • Ficociello is one of just six players in the Florida State League with a batting average above .300. Martinez and Javier Betancourt are the only other Flying Tigers regulars hitting over .250.

  • Crouse has given up just three earned runs in 16 innings since moving into the rotation, and his ERA currently stands at 1.14.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
29-28, 5th in Eastern Division

The Whitecaps had a nice week, going 4-2 and climbing a spot in the rankings, but they remain three games back of a wildcard spot with just 13 games left until the Midwest League All-Star Classic, when the first-half of the season comes to a close. West Michigan got solid starting pitching from A.J. Ladwig, Fernando Perez, Spenser Watkins, and Spencer Turnbull, but the bullpen was the deciding factor in half of the week’s games. On Friday the Whitecaps walked six batters over the final two innings to lose 4-3 to the Quad CIties River Bandits, but the next night they used four consecutive walks and a wild pitch to score twice in the 9th and claim an 8-7 walkoff win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels. West Michigan got offensive contributions from just about everyone on the team last week, but Joey Pankake (8-for-22, 4BB) and Will Kengor (9-for-19, 6BB) led the way.

  • Outfielder Michael Gerber continues his dominance of the Midwest League, but he didn’t record any hits in his last three games, his longest hitless stretch of the season.

  • Four Whitecaps were named to the All-Star squad: Gerber, third baseman Zach Shepherd, starter Turnbull, and reliever Joe Jimenez.

  • Center fielder Derek Hill’s season has been a bit of a struggle, but he’s hitting .300 with three triples, six walks, and six steals in his last ten games.

Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
6-11, 4th

It was the second consecutive 2-4 week for the VSL Tigers, as a lack of offense and some rough relief work led to the team dropping its first four games. They did bounce back with a couple of wins over the Phillies to end the week, however, but they are already 7.5 games behind the VSL Rays (against whom they are 0-6). Jose Fuentes was very good in two starts last week, giving up only one earned run over 12 innings, while relievers Hector Rodriguez and Adonis Figuera chipped in with 6 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Catchers Jheyser Azuaje (8-for-19) and Elys Escobar (5-for-15) led the way on offense, while also nabbing 10 of 21 potential base stealers on the week.

  • Shortstop Anthony Pereira went 8-for-23 last week and added two more doubles, giving him a league-leading seven two-baggers.

  • Figuera, 17, has yet to allow a run this year in 8 2/3 innings, though he has given up eight hits and recorded only three strikeouts.

  • Outfielder Jose Gonzalez went just 1-for-11 last week, but he scored four runs thanks to drawing five walks. His 20.5% walk rate is tops in the league for players with at least 30 plate appearances.

Dominican Summer League Tigers
5-2, T1st in San Pedro de Macoris

The DSL Tigers fared well in their first full week of action, going 4-2 on the week and showcasing a high-powered offense and some solid pitching. They began the week with a 15-1 trouncing of the Rangers2 squad and added 24 runs over the next five games, though they were outscored 16-7 in their two losses. Starter Yei Almonte led the pitching staff with 10 innings of one-run ball, while Malvin Martinez provided 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Second baseman Hector Martinez went bonkers at the plate last week, notching 13 hits and 2 homers in 26 at-bats, while bonus baby Julio Martinez went 6-for-15 in his first four professional games, but ended the week wearing a golden sombrero after going 0-4 with 4 strikeouts on Saturday. Check out the DSL Tigers preview to learn more about this year’s squad.

  • Unsurprisingly, Hector Martinez’s 15-for-30 start to the year lands him among the league leaders in hits, runs scored, and RBIs.

  • Julio Martinez is tied for 3rd on his team with seven hits, but his twelve strikeouts are the second most of any batter in the DSL.

  • Fun with small sample sizes: Four of the team’s starters currently boast ERAs under 2.00. The fifth starter has an ERA of 18.00.

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