Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 7/6 - 7/12
AAA Toledo Mud Hens
40-51, 4th in West Division
Thanks to a Saturday doubleheader, the Mud Hens played eight games last week, going 3-5 mostly because of a lack of offense. Toledo scored just 18 runs in those eight games, and they ended the week on the wrong side of a no-hitter against the Louisville Bats. Steven Moya's two solo home runs, and seven strong innings from Mike Belfiore, led the team to a nice 3-2 win on Monday, but they were then swept at home in a three-game set with the Columbus Clippers, before splitting a four-game series with the Bats. Starters Belfiore (13 1/3 IP, 3 ER) and Thad Weber (7 IP, 2ER) did their best to keep the Hens in games, but the offense just couldn't get things going, with only Trayvon Robinson (8-for-28) and Corey Jones (7-for-19, HR) having solid weeks at the plate.
- Outfielder Daniel Fields has hit just .196 since the end of April, but he still ranks among the top ten International League hitters in runs scored, triples, and walks.
- Some roster movement led to the Mud Hens using a bullpen start on Thursday. Josh Zeid got the nod, making his first start since August 26th, 2011.
- Reliever Angel Nesbitt struggled quite a bit when he was sent to Toledo from Detroit, but he has turned things around in July, posting a 1.29 ERA with five strikeouts in seven innings.
AA Erie Seawolves
35-52, 6th in Western Division
Erie split their six games last week, beginning their slate with a 5-1 win that included a four-run outburst in the 9th, and ending the week by setting a new season high in hits (19) in an 8-1 win over the Harrisburg Senators. The SeaWolves had two games against Altoona rained out, and they lost both ends of a doubleheader on Wednesday before taking two of three from the Senators. Tommy Collier, Josh Turley, and Derek Hankins all made solid starts during the week, but the offense carried the team, with Dean Green (11-for-24, HR) and Tony Thomas (10-for-18, HR) standing out the most.
- Green had a down June, hitting just .235, and missed some games in July due to injury, but he came back from the DL with a vengeance, hitting .458/.480/.650 in his return to action last week.
- Erie’s closer Paul Voelker only made one appearance on the week, earning the save on Friday. He is now 4-for-4 in save opportunities for the SeaWolves, and across three levels this year he has saved 13 games in 14 chances, while racking up 51 strikeouts against 13 walks in 42 1/3 innings.
- Starter Austin Kubitza’s 5.56 ERA is tied for the 3rd worst in the Eastern League, and he had his worst start of the year on Wednesday, giving up seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He has given up at least five earned runs in 6 of his 16 starts this season.
A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
6-11, T5th in the 2nd half, 39-47, 4th overall in North Division
Like the Mud Hens, the Flying Tigers lost five of the eight games they played last week, but if measured by the number of innings they completed, Lakeland actually played a little bit more than ten games. The week began with a 2-1 win on a walk-off homer from Dominic Ficociello in the 21st inning, completing a game that had been suspended in the 17th inning the night before. The Flying Tigers followed that up with a strong 9-2 win the same day, but then played three consecutive extra-innings games at Clearwater, losing 3-2 in 12 innings and 5-4 in 10, and then winning 4-3 in 13 innings. Lakeland then returned home and lost three straight to the Port St. Lucie Mets, including back-to-back shutouts on Saturday and Sunday.
- Veteran third baseman Francisco Martinez had a very strong week, going 11-for-32 with two homers, 5 runs scored, and 5 RBIs. He is one of just three players in the FSL with at least 8 homers and 10 steals.
- There are 39 pitchers who currently qualify for the Florida State League ERA title. The Flying Tigers’ three qualified pitchers rank 28th (Kevin Ziomek), 37th (Keaton St. John), and 39th (Jonathan Maciel).
- Ryan Castellanos, Detroit’s 25th-round pick this year, made his high-A debut with two perfect outings last week, giving up no hits, walks, or runs in four innings, and earning his first professional save on Thursday.
A West Michigan Whitecaps
11-6, 1st in the 2nd half, 44-42, 5th overall in Eastern Division
The Whitecaps had their second straight good week, going 4-2, and moving into sole possession of first place in the second-half standings. West Michigan got a combination of strong pitching and timely hitting, claiming three of their four wins by one run, and holding their opponents to an average of three runs per game. Starters Ross Seaton (7.2 IP, 0ER), Spencer Turnbull (6 IP, 2ER), and A.J. Ladwig (6.1 IP, 2ER) earned three of the victories, while reliever Gabe Speier claimed the fourth. Outfielder Michael Gerber hit a big 2-run homer in the 8th inning on Monday to help the Caps win, but no one on the team had a truly stand-out week with the bat.
- Top outfield prospect Derek Hill returned from a two-week stint on the DL on July 1st. He went 2-for-10 with a triple and 3 RBIs last week before hitting the disabled list for the third time this season, and the fourth time in his young career.
- Turnbull’s first full season has been a mixed bag, with a solid ERA (3.08) in 73 innings, but fewer strikeouts (62) and more walks (39) than would be expected from an experienced college starter. However, he hasn’t surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s the only starter in the Midwest League with at least 70 innings pitched who can say that.
- West Michigan's Joe Jimenez was the organization's lone representative at this year's All-Star Futures Game, and he acquitted himself nicely. He retired both batters he faced on just six pitches, all of which were fastballs above 95 mph, including a 97-mph heater with nasty late movement to strike out Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.
Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers
10-12, 3nd in Stedler Division
It was a rough stretch for the Connecticut Tigers, as they lost four of six games, including three in a row to end the week. They began the week with a strong 7-0 win over the Vermont Lake Monsters, but followed that by getting shut out themselves in a game that ended after 6 1/2 innings due to rain. Starting pitching was an issue, with only Trey Teakell and Spenser Watkins lasting five innings in their outings, though Tyler Alexander (3IP, 0ER, BB, K) likely would have were he not on an innings count. There were a few strong offensive performances last week, however, led by Tanner Donnels (8-for-17), Kade Scivicque (5-for-12, 3BB), and Victor Padron (4-for-9, 2BB).
- Watkins currently leads the New York-Penn League with his 0.89 ERA, while teammate Sandy Baez has the 3rd worst ERA at 8.40.
- Donnels (.419), Scivicque (.393), and Padron (.395) would all rank in the top 5 in the league in batting average if they qualified.
- Relievers Dominic Moreno (10 2/3 IP, 2ER, 12 K) and Drew Smith (11 2/3 IP, 1ER, 15K) are in the midst of a nice competition to see which 2015 draftee can have the best pro debut.
Gulf Coast League Tigers
10-7, 1st in Northeast Division
The Gulf Coast League Tigers began their week with three losses, but they won their final two contests to remain in first place by a game. The Tigers failed to score in their first two games of the week, and lost the third 4-3 when their Astros counterparts scored single runs in the 8th and 9th innings. But they bounced back with two one-run victories over the Braves, and Saturday’s affair ended in walk-off fashion when catcher Mario Sanjur hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th. Alec Kisena gave the team two terrific starts during the week, though he didn’t collect a win, while Beau Burrows, Eudis Idrogo, and Alfred Gutierrez also pitched very well. There wasn’t much offense to speak of, but shortstop Adrian Alfaro (6-for-17) had a solid week at the dish.
- The 19-year-old Kisena, Detroit’s 16th-round pick this year, is proving himself to be a bit too advanced for the GCL. He struck out 10 over six scoreless innings on Saturday, and has given up just one earned run over 13 innings, while recording 20 strikeouts.
- Ignacio Valdez has nearly as many strikeouts as Kisena, but that’s a bad thing, because Valdez is an outfielder. He has begun his GCL career going 0-for-19, with 1 walk and 16 strikeouts.
- Reliever Francisco German is the youngest player on the team, but he has performed as well as anyone. Through 6 1/3 innings he has yet to allow a run, given up just four hits, and struck out eight.
Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
The VSL Tigers had a rather typical .500 week, splitting two games with the Phillies, getting swept by the first-place Rays, and then sweeping the Cubs. The Tigers’ normally reliable starting staff had a bit of a rough week, though Jesus Rodriguez was excellent again, and reliever Adonis Figuera was very good, giving up two runs while striking out ten batters over seven innings, and recording a win and a save in the process. Catcher Jheyser Azuaje (10-for-25) paced the offense last week, and on Wednesday he had one of the best games of any player in the entire system this year, going 5-for-6 with a HR and 3 RBIs.
- Rodriguez gave up five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on May 27th, but has given up only one run total in his other 32 innings this season. He is currently in the midst of 25 consecutive scoreless innings.
- Offensive leader Elys Escobar had a tough week (2-for-14, 6 Ks) but outfielders Hector Hernandez and Franklin Arias picked up the slack, going 8-for-19 and 8-for-24 respectively. Arias has reached base safely in 14 straight games.
- Starters Daniel Gonzalez and Jose Fuentes had combined to give up just 19 earned runs in 80 2/3 innings this year (2.12 ERA), but last week they gave up 10 earned runs in just over six innings.
Dominican Summer League Tigers
19-18, T4th in San Pedro de Macoris
It was a tough week for the DSL Tigers, as they dropped four of their six games and fell into a three-way tie for 4th place in the division. The week began well enough, with the team picking up a strong 7-1 win over the Yankees, but they were blanked 3-0 on Tuesday, and then the pitching faltered, resulting in losses of 9-8, 8-3, and 8-3. Only a Gregoris Hidalgo RBI single in the 9th inning on Friday prevented the squad from ending the week with five consecutive losses. The late win was possible thanks to five scoreless innings from starter Rusbell Cabrera, while Yei Almonte also went five scoreless in Monday’s win, and Felix Viloria took a loss on Tuesday despite giving up just one run over five. The offense was led by Julio Martinez, who recorded one hit in every game (6-for-23) and currently has a 13-game hitting streak, and Hidalgo, who went 6-for-21.
- Randel Alcantara (.547), Julio Martinez (.545), and Hector Martinez (.517) all currently rank in the top 13 in the DSL in slugging percentage. No other team has more than two players slugging better than .500.
- Closer Malvin Martinez leads the team with 13 appearances, and he hasn’t given up a run over his last seven outings.
- Almonte continues to outperform his peripherals, and his 0.78 ERA now ranks as the third best in the DSL.