Farm Weekly Recap: Longley Goes Long

Last week in the minors saw huge home runs, an All-Star game, and football scores in the Latin rookie leagues. There was an intriguing position switch in Toledo, impressive hitting from an injury replacement in West Michigan, and the Short-Season A-Ball affiliate Connecticut Tigers began their season.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 6/15 - 6/21

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
31-40, 4th in West Division

It was another typical 3-4 week for the Mud Hens, who remain in last place in the West, and continue to own the worst team ERA in the International League. The week began with the Hens getting swept by the Syracuse Chiefs, who have one of the worst records in all of minor-league baseball. Tuesday’s loss was especially tough, as Shane Greene had pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings in his Mud Hen’s debut, only to see closer Alberto Cabrera give up two runs in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game, and Angel Nesbitt give up a 3rd run in the 10th for the loss. Toledo bounced back once they returned home, however, winning the first three contests in a four-game set against the Norfolk Tides before dropping the final game in the series on Sunday, when Greene gave up four runs in as many innings and the Hens fell 5-3. The highlight of the week came on Thursday when Dixon Machado hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 10th. The young shortstop had a solid week, going 8-for-26 with 3 walks and 3 steals, while third baseman Jefry Marte went 8-for-25 with 4 walks and 5 extra-base hits.

  • Daniel Fields was one of the top performers in the International League in April, when he hit .344. But it has been a struggle since, with the young outfielder hitting .224 in May, and just .135 in June. He’s now hitting .238 on the year, though his on-base percentage is still very strong at .372.

  • Starter Buck Farmer led the league in strikeouts for most of April and May, but he has recorded just 12 punchouts in his last 30 1/3 innings, and he now ranks 9th in Ks.

  • Machado and Marte switched positions for Sunday’s game, leading to speculation that the Tigers were prepping Machado to temporarily take over for a struggling Nick Castellanos in Detroit.

AA Erie Seawolves
26-42, 6th in Western Division

It’s been a very rough year for the SeaWolves, but they had one of their better weeks of the season, going 5-3 thanks in part to some offensive heroics from two of the more unheralded catchers in the system. Drew Longley only played in three of eight games, but it was certainly a week to remember, as he went 5-for-11 with 7 RBIs, hit a walkoff grand slam in the 13th inning on Wednesday to give the Wolves a 6-3 win, and then added a three-run go-ahead homer with two out in the top of the 7th in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Akron Aeros. Fellow catcher Austin Green can’t boast the same theatrics, but he had a great week in his own right, going 9-for-17 with a HR and 5 RBIs. On the pitching side of things, Erie got another terrific start from Tommy Collier, strong outings from Josh Turley and Chad Green, and solid relief work from Jeff Ferrell.

  • Freshly converted to full-time relief duty, Drew VerHagen picked up his first win in nearly a year on Wednesday, then notched his first career save with a perfect inning on Sunday.

  • Collier provided eight innings of one-run ball on Wednesday, lowering his ERA in AA to 1.87 in 33 2/3 innings. He also spent most of 2014 in Erie, but his ERA last year was an unsightly 5.88.

  • Wynton Bernard and Dean Green have been the primary offensive threats for the SeaWolves all year. Bernard had a typically solid 8-for-24 week, while Green went 5-for-24, and is hitting just .221 with two extra-base hits in June.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
30-36, 4th in North Division

The Florida State League held its All-Star game on Saturday night, giving the Flying Tigers some much needed off time, but also stopping them right as they appeared to be bouncing back from a particularly rough stretch of baseball. The week began with a rainout on Monday and the Flying Tigers dropping their ninth consecutive game on Tuesday, but then the squad reeled off three straight wins at Charlotte before the All-Star break. Brennan Smith, Matt Crouse, and Zac Reininger picked up wins on the week, while Francisco Martinez (6-for 15) and Jiwan James (5-for-13) paced the offense.

  • Lakeland’s three All-Star representatives were OF Ben Verlander, who went 2-for-4, first baseman Dominic Ficociello, who went 1-for-2 with a walk, and lefty Kevin Ziomek, who gave up one hit and struck out one in a scoreless inning.

  • Reininger’s win on Wednesday came in his first outing back in Lakeland after being demoted from AA Erie. He had thrown 11 scoreless innings for the Flying Tigers earlier in the year to earn a promotion to the SeaWolves, but he then gave up 14 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings for Erie.

  • With a 2-for-15 week, Ficociello’s average dropped to .293. It hasn’t been lower than .292 since April 24th, and he still has the 7th-best batting average in the pitcher friendly league.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
33-36, 6th in Eastern Division

The Whitecaps split their six games on the week, lost their starting center fielder Derek Hill to injury, and were mathematically eliminated from the first-half playoffs. On the plus side, they got some strong pitching performances from Spencer Turnbull, Ross Seaton, and A.J. Ladwig, and Hill’s replacement Rashad Brown was terrific, getting at least one hit in all six games, and going 11-for-26 on the week. Starter Fernando Perez, in his 11th start of the season, picked up his first win of the year, and the Whitecaps got typically solid relief from their bullpen, led by the power arms of Gabe Hemmer, Johan Belisario, and Joe Jimenez.

  • The Whitecaps scored 24 runs last week, but only Brown, outfielder Ross Kivett, and shortstop Garrett Mattlage managed to collect five hits or more.

  • Outfielder Michael Gerber has been one of the best offensive performers in the Midwest League all year, but he’s currently in the midst of his first extended slump of the season, and his batting average has dropped to a mere .335.

  • Starter Turnbull has been quietly terrific for West Michigan this year, though his performance may fall into the “effectively wild” category. He now boasts a 5-2 record, and his 2.67 ERA in 7th best in the league, but he has issued 30 walks in just 57 1/3 innings.

Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers
1-2, 3rd in Stedler Division

With only three games under their belt, it’s too early to point out any trends for the Connecticut Tigers, but it’s safe to say they probably would have liked to score a few more runs last week. The Tigers hosted a three-game set against the Tri-City Valley Cats, drawing more than 6,100 fans for a 3-2, 10-inning opening day loss. They then lost 4-0 on Saturday night, but were able to salvage one game in the series with a 1-0 win on Sunday afternoon. The roster figures to see some fairly heavy turnover in the coming weeks as many of its young Latin players head to the GCL in favor of college players from the 2014 and 2015 drafts.

  • In his first appearance outside of the VSL, lefty Starter Eudis Idrogo took home the win on Sunday with five scoreless innings in which he gave up only two hits, issued one walk, and struck out six.

  • Slugging outfielder Ignacio Valdez had an unfortunate stateside debut, going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts on Friday night.

  • The two best offensive performers in the short week were infielders Brett Pirtle and Corey Baptist, who went 5-for-12 and 4-for-11, respectively.

Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
13-17, 3rd

The VSL Tigers had a nice 4-2 week that included an absurd 22-0 blowout of the Phillies (who had only one hit), and their first two wins against the league-leading Rays. That blowout came on Monday, but the next five games were extremely close, with the Tigers scoring 23 runs and giving up 23 runs. They suffered a walkoff loss on Tuesday, nearly blew a four-run lead on Wednesday, scored in the 8th to win on Thursday, lost in the 12th on Friday, and nearly blew a six-run lead on Saturday. The blowout and bullpen issues obscured terrific starts from Jose Vasquez, Daniel Gonzalez, Jose Fuentes, and Ken Figueroa. Meanwhile, the two-headed catching monster of Elys Escobar (12-for-25) and Jheyser Azuaje (7-for-24, 5 RBIs) continued to terrorize opposing pitchers.

  • Shortstop Anthony Pereira didn’t play all week but he still ranks second in the league with 9 steals.

  • Figueroa’s 1.69 ERA is nice enough to lead the league, while Daniel Gonzalez ranks third with his 1.84 ERA.

  • Escobar has hit safely in 10 consecutive games, and he leads all catchers in hits (34), doubles (9), batting average (.351), and on-base percentage (.405).

Dominican Summer League Tigers
9-10, 3rd in San Pedro de Macoris

The DSL Tigers went just 2-4 for the second consecutive week, taking part in three low-scoring games, and three games in which the teams combined to score 17, 22, and 30 runs. They found themselves on the fun side of a blowout on Monday, taking down the Yankees2 squad 17-5, but then ended up on the wrong side of a laugher as the Red Sox2 team demolished them 25-5. And then on Saturday the Tigers were down 7-1 heading into the 6th inning, but they scored nine times in the final four frames to win 10-7. The Tigers didn’t have a single starter pick up a win on the week, and Noel Ovalles was the only starter who was able to make it five innings into his game.

  • Hector Martinez’s average dropped from .396 to .380 on the week, but he once again recorded at least one hit in every game, raising his hitting streak to 18 games.

  • Reliever Diosfer Romero wins the Jekyll and Hyde award of the week. On Monday he walked four and didn’t strike out a batter over 1 2/3 innings, while on Saturday he didn’t issue a walk and struck out seven over 3 innings.

  • Left-handed pitcher Felix Viloria suffered the loss on Friday and gave up his first earned run on the season, but he also struck out five, bringing his K total to 21 in just 12 innings.

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