Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 6/22 - 6/28
AAA Toledo Mud Hens
33-43, 4th in West Division
It was a bit of a wild week for the Mud Hens, one that saw them go 2-3, lose a starter to the majors, lose a 7-run lead in one inning, and lose three games in walk-off fashion. Toledo had to scramble a bit on Tuesday, going with a bullpen start when Buck Farmer was called up to Detroit. The relievers performed well, but Durham eventually won 5-4 in the bottom of the 11th. The Hens won their next two games, but things got a little scary both nights. On Wednesday they took a 7-1 lead into the 9th only to see the Bulls score four runs off Alberto Cabrera, but Thursday was even wilder. The game was delayed for nearly three hours, but once it began the Mud Hens poured on the offense, scoring in each of the first five innings to take a 7-0 lead into the 6th. The Bulls then used two doubles, a HR, a single, a walk, a HBP, and a grand slam to tie, but Toledo scored in the 8th and 9th to win 10-7. Thad Weber, Tim Melville, and Mike Belfiore all made solid starts during the week, and Jefry Marte led the offense by going 9-for-23 with four home runs and 8 RBIs.
- Marte has been on fire lately, hitting .400 over his last ten games, and posting a 1.012 OPS with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in June.
- Shane Greene returned to the mound on Sunday after leaving his previous start early with a blister issue. His results weren’t ideal, however, as he gave up 11 hits and 4 runs in 6 innings.
- Things have been heading in the wrong direction for Cabrera. He posted a 1.08 ERA in April, but it it jumped to 4.22 in May, and has ballooned to 9.72 in June.
AA Erie Seawolves
29-44, 6th in Western Division
Rain and wet grounds postponed Saturday’s game, as well as the makeup doubleheader on Sunday, but the SeaWolves had their second consecutive good week. They won three of five games, and can thank solid pitching for their success, because while Erie scored only 13 runs on the week, they also managed to hold the competition to just 12 runs. Tommy Collier, Austin Kubitza, and Josh Turley combined to give up just three earned runs over 22 innings in the team’s three wins, and relievers Jeff Ferrell and Drew VerHagen collected three saves. The offense wasn’t stout, but Harold Castro (5-for-11), Jeff McVaney (6-for-16), and Wynton Bernard (6-for-20) all had solid weeks.
- Ferrell was spectacular on Tuesday night, recording a five-out save and getting swinging strikeouts from all five batters he faced. He now boasts a 1.67 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 27 innings, and has converted 12 of 13 save opportunities. He was rewarded with a promotion to Toledo on Sunday.
- The unheralded Turley continues to get the job done for Erie. His 2.76 ERA is 8th best in the Eastern League, and his 84 2/3 innings pitched is the seventh highest total in the league.
- Bernard stole his 20th base of the year on Monday, making him just the second Eastern League player to reach that plateau this season.
A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
35-37, 3rd in North Division
The Flying Tigers were on fire this week, going 5-1 and stretching their winning streak to eight games before losing on Sunday. They could also briefly be called the Tying Flygers, as the second game of a Wednesday night doubleheader against the Brevard County Manatees ended in a rare 2-2 tie. Lakeland recorded shutouts and walk-off wins on Monday and Wednesday, and gave up just eight runs in their five victories. Brennan Smith, Jonathan Maciel, Matt Crouse, and Kevin Ziomek all had solid starts during the week, while Raph Rhymes (7-for-21), Javier Betancourt (11-for-28), and Dominic Ficociello (10-for-27) provided the offensive fireworks.
- Rhymes is having a tough year, but he had a monster game on Saturday, going 4-for-4 with a walk, a HR, and three runs scored. He’s hitting just .217, but his on-base percentage is .327.
- Reliever Paul Voelker pitched twice during the week, giving up one run on five hits over four innings. On Sunday he was moved up to Erie, his second promotion of the year.
- Betancourt’s raw numbers don’t stand out (.259/.299/.336), but he’s the 5th youngest regular (20.2) and has the 2nd lowest strikeout rate (7.8%) in the Florida State League.
A West Michigan Whitecaps
35-38, 6th in Eastern Division
The week began with the Midwest League All-Star Classic, so the Whitecaps were only able to play four times, winning their first two games, and then dropping the final two contests of the week. West Michigan’s offense led the way, with Ross Kivett (8-for-16) and Austin Schotts (5-for-13) doing the most damage. The starting pitching wasn’t great, but the Caps continued to get strong relief from Gabe Speier, Gabe Hemmer, and Joe Jimenez.
- Michael Gerber seemingly hit everything that came his way in April and May, but he’s hitting just .231 in June, during which time his overall batting average has dropped nearly 50 points, and he has been passed for the league lead in hits by Kivett.
- Outfielder Rashad Brown stretched his hitting streak to ten games on Sunday, though the first game of that streak was way back on April 21st.
- The Whitecaps’ All Stars were Gerber (2-for-5) third baseman Zach Shepherd (0-for-1), and pitchers Spencer Turnbull and Joe Jimenez, who combined to strike out two in one inning of work. Jimenez was later named to the Futures Game.
Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers
3-6, 4th in Stedler Division
The Connecticut Tigers continued to struggle in their first full week of action, going 2-4, and losing their first three games by a combined score of 29-14. Help is on the way, however, because as expected, many of the team’s young and inexperienced international players were sent to the Gulf Coast League in favor of college draftees from 2015. Shortstop Adrian Alfaro and outfielders Cesar Gonzalez, Jose Azocar, and Ignacio Valdez all showed flashes of their promise last week, but all will be much better served facing more age-appropriate competition in the GCL. As for the players who stayed, Victor Padron (8-for-16) and Josh Pirtle (8-for-25) both had strong weeks on offense, while Eudis Idrogo and Spenser Watkins provided solid starts.
- A good sign that the offense was overmatched: Pirtle’s 13 hits are tied for 3rd in the league, but there isn’t a Connecticut player in the top ten of any other offensive category.
- Pitching is another story, as reliever Jordan Smith leads the league in ERA, WHIP, and Saves.
- Shortstop Keaton Jones (1-3, HR), third baseman Josh Lester (1-2, 2BB), and outfielder Christin Stewart (1-3, BB) all had solid CT Tigers debuts on Sunday.
Gulf Coast League Tigers
5-1, 1st in Northeast Division
The eighth and final minor league team in the Tigers organization began their season last week, and things couldn’t have gone much better for them. They won their first five games of the year, outscoring their opponents 31-19 on the week. They started the week with a 4-0, one-hit shutout of the Astros, but ended the week with a lopsided 8-1 loss to the Phillies. More than 20 members of the Tigers’ 2015 draft class made their professional debuts in the GCL last week, including first rounders Beau Burrows and Christin Stewart, third rounder Drew Smith, and fifth rounder Cam Gibson.
- Stewart and 13th rounder Lester both ranked in the top 5 in the league in total bases before heading north. Stewart had an especially strong game on Friday night, topping a cycle by going 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, and a home run.
- Promising young shortstop Anthony Pereira went 6-for-20 with a home run in his first week in the United States, after posting an .813 OPS over 22 games in the Venezuelan Summer League to begin the year.
- Endrys Briceno started and threw one inning on Friday, his first live game action since April 17th of 2014.
Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
The VSL Tigers began the week with two losses against the nemesis Rays, but they bounced back with three solid victories before losing 2-0 on Saturday to the Phillies. The offense was quiet for most of the week, scoring just 11 runs in their first four games before matching that total in an 11-2 win on Friday. Meanwhile, the pitchers continued to struggle against the Rays (15 runs in two games, 82 on the season) but surrendered just five runs in week’s other four games.
- Elys Escobar (.320), Eliezer Castillo (.307), and Jheyser Azuaje (.289) rank 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the league in batting average, respectively.
- Outfielder Luis Torrealba’s .228 batting average is a little disappointing, but he’s doing damage when he makes contact, and his 18 RBIs are good for 4th in the league.
- There are only eight pitchers in the league with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, and four of them play for the Tigers. Ken Figueroa currently leads the league with a 1.46 ERA.
Dominican Summer League Tigers
13-12, T4th in San Pedro de Macoris
The DSL Tigers had a solid 4-2 week to pull back above .500, but they managed to lose a spot in the standings in the process. The squad got terrific starts from Noel Ovalles and Jorge Baez, while key offensive contributions came from infielder Hector Martinez (9-for-28), and outfielders Sauris Mejia (7-for-17, 3BB) and Allan Santos (6-for-19, 7BB).
- Martinez once again recorded at least one hit in every game of the week, bringing his hitting streak to 24 games. However, he has walked just once this year against 18 strikeouts, and he’s been caught trying to steal in seven of his eight attempts.
- In his first seven innings, reliever Diosfer Romero walked ten batters and struck out five, but in the seven innings since he has walked just one batter and struck out twelve.
- After four terrific appearances in long relief, left-handed pitcher Felix Viloria got his first start of the year on Friday, earning the win by pitching six innings and giving up four hits and two runs.