Farm Weekly Recap: Briceno's Back

Last week in the minors we saw three different All-Star games, a couple of well-deserved promotions, and a losing streak approach double digits. There was a wild first inning in the Dominican Summer League, a pitching prospect showed promise in his return from Tommy John surgery, and four 2015 draftees made their debuts in full-season leagues.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 7/13 - 7/19

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
41-54, 4th in West Division

It was a short week in Toledo thanks to the AAA All-Star game on Wednesday, but the Mud Hens had a rough go of it when they returned to action, winning just one of their four games. At least that one win was dramatic, as the Hens tied Sunday night’s game at 1 on a 9th-inning HR from Mike Hessman, gave up a run in the top of the 10th, and then won 3-2 in the bottom of the inning thanks to a 2-run double from Tyler Collins. That hit ended a five-game losing streak for Toledo, and marked Collins’ first RBIs since June 26th. Starter Mike Belfiore didn’t factor into the decision on Sunday, but he gave up just one run over 7 2/3 innings, which was his longest outing of the year. The Mud Hens’ other three starters didn’t have quite as much success, giving up 13 runs in 14 innings. Toledo scored just seven runs total in their four games, with Hessman’s three hits and three RBIs standing as the best offensive performance of the week.

  • Buck Farmer had one of the worst outings of his professional career on Saturday night, giving up six earned runs and recording only a single out before being replaced. It was just the second time this season he’s thrown fewer than five innings in a AAA start.

  • The Mud Hens have scored the 3rd most runs in the International league (396), but they’ve also given up the most runs in the league, by far, with 486.

  • Farmer and infielders Jefry Marte and Dixon Machado were Toledo’s representatives at the All-Star game, but only Machado played, going 1-for-1 with a walk and a stolen base.

AA Erie Seawolves
36-56, 6th in Western Division

It was also a bit of a short week in Erie due to the AA All-Star game, and perhaps mercifully so, as the SeaWolves lost four of their five games and fell to 20 games below .500. The team lost a narrow contest 2-1 on Monday at the Harrisburg Senators, then had Tuesday and Wednesday off for the All-Star festivities, before coming home to Erie and dropping three of four to the Akron Aeros. They suffered the double whammy of poor offense and bad pitching, getting outscored 30-15 on the week. Their only win went to Derek Hankins, who gave up two runs over six innings on Friday. Tommy Collier (5IP, ER) also pitched well in a no decision, but the other three starters gave up 18 runs in 11 innings. Erie also lost their biggest offensive threat when Dean Green was promoted to Toledo, and only catcher Austin Green (8-for-12) seemed ready to step up in Dean’s absence.

  • Dean Green was replaced on the roster by Dominic Ficociello, whose .765 OPS was 8th best in the Florida State League. Ficociello went 2-for-16 with five strikeouts in his first four AA games.

  • Chad Green lost his league-worst 13th game on Saturday in a particularly ugly 12-2 loss that saw Erie give up eight unearned runs.

  • Erie sent four players to the All-Star game. Dean Green was the DH and went 0-for-2, Wynton Bernard played center field and went 1-for-4, scoring a run and hitting an RBI triple, and pitchers Josh Turley and Collier both tossed perfect frames.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
6-17, 6th in the 2nd half, 39-53, 6th overall in North Division

Lakeland’s season of streaks continued, as the Flying Tigers lost all six of their games last week, and have now dropped nine in a row -- their second nine-game skid of the season. The team was outscored 31-10 on the week, and they threw in a 16-inning loss on Thursday for good measure. Jonathan Maciel and Brennan Smith made solid starts, and the team’s offensive woes certainly weren’t the fault of Francisco Martinez, who went 8-for-22 with three walks and four stolen bases, but they were merely small islands of production in a sea of poor baseball.

  • Martinez made the most of Lakeland’s 2-1, 16-inning loss, going 5-for-6 with a walk and two steals.

  • Smith is a walking example of the differences between high-A and AA. He has now given up 12 ER in 54 1/3 innings for Lakeland (1.99 ERA), but he gave up 13 ER in just 8 1/3 innings for Erie (14.04 ERA).

  • Relievers Tyler Ford and Gabe Hemmer both moved up to Lakeland from West Michigan near the beginning of July, and they have combined to pitch 23 2/3 scoreless innings, with 20 hits allowed, and 24 strikeouts.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
15-8, 1st in the 2nd half, 48-44, 4th overall in Eastern Division

The Whitecaps appear to be the organization’s only shot at a playoff team, and they played more strong baseball last week, thanks in part to the arrival of four advanced players from the 2015 draft. West Michigan lost 4-2 on Monday, but after a day off for the MLB All-Star game they came home to Grand Rapids and swept the Dayton Dragons, winning the first two games in the series in walk-off fashion. They finished the week with a split at South Bend, and Sunday’s 10-5 victory featured the first full-season league home run from this year’s first-round pick Christin Stewart. Stewart (7-21, 5 RBIs) wasn’t the only recent draftee to have a solid week, as 4th-round catcher Kade Scivicque went 4-for-10 with two walks, 8th-rounder Dominic Moreno picked up a save with 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief on Friday, and 9th-rounder Trey Teakell earned the win with a scoreless inning on Thursday.

  • After struggling a bit in June, outfielder Mike Gerber appears to have found his swing again. He’s hitting .313 in July, he went 7-for-20 last week, and he has an eight-game hitting streak going.

  • Lefty reliever Gabe Speier made two appearances last week, pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He hasn’t given up a run in over a month, and since June 16th his ERA has dropped from 4.18 to 2.83.

  • Outfielder Ross Kivett is one of six players in the Midwest League with at least 100 hits (Gerber is another), one of nine players with at least 20 doubles, one of thirteen players with at least 20 steals, and he leads the league with 58 runs scored.

Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers
12-16, T3rd in Stedler Division

The Connecticut Tigers dropped four of six games for the second consecutive week, with four of the games being decided by only one run. Connecticut began the week with a solid 2-1 win over the league-leading Williamsport Crosscutters, but they then dropped two of three to the Lowell Spinners, and then lost twice to the Hudson Valley Renegades. Tyler Alexander made two excellent three-inning starts, while Matt Hall and Sandy Baez both made very good starts as well. The week’s two wins came from relievers Drew Smith and Gerson Moreno, and the offense was paced by outfielder Victor Padron (9-for-26) and infielder Brett Pirtle (5-for-15).

  • Alexander has been nearly untouchable in his first four pro starts, giving up just two hits and three walks in 13 scoreless innings, while striking out 10.

  • Padron’s .377 batting average is the highest in the New York-Penn League, but only 2 of his 26 hits have gone for extra bases thus far, so he ranks 24th in slugging percentage.

  • Four 2015 draft picks headed from Connecticut to West Michigan, so four players had to go the other way as well, and they were catchers Shane Zeile (1-for-10) and Franklin Navarro (2-for-4), and pitchers Matt Davenport (1 1/3 IP, 3K) and Josh Heddinger (2 2/3 IP, ER).

Gulf Coast League Tigers
11-11, 2nd in Northeast Division

The GCL Tigers, like most teams in the system, had a rough week due to issues scoring runs. The Tigers went 1-4, with two rainouts, and they scored just six total runs in their four losses, before ending the week with a 5-0 win over the Pirates. The squad got solid starting pitching from Endrys Briceno, Beau Burrows, and Gregory Soto, but innings limits, poor fielding, and a lack of offense kept any of them from earning wins, while outfielder Cesar Gonzalez (5-for-13) and first baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni (2-for-10, 2 HR) led the offense.

  • Briceno was one of the organization’s most promising arms before needing elbow surgery in 2014, but his early results in 2015 show promising signs of a full recovery. Last week he pitched twice, giving up two earned runs in 8 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out ten.

  • Outfielder Ignacio Valdez began his GCL career with a brutal 0-for-24 stretch, with 19 strikeouts, but he finally snapped that streak with a double, a walk, and no strikeouts on Saturday.

  • The sample sizes are incredibly small, but with his 1.69 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings, Burrows has a pretty solid case for having the most impressive debut of any 2015 first-round pitcher.

Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
28-26, 2nd

The VSL Tigers had their best week of the year, winning five of their six games, and moving over .500 for the first time since the first week of the season. They actually began their week with a 10-3 loss to the Rays, but then they reeled off five in a row, getting revenge on the Rays on Tuesday, and then sweeping the Cubs and the Phillies. The team won in just about every way imaginable too, with a 9-7 shootout, an 8-3 blowout, a 4-0 gem, and a 2-1 squeaker. The Tigers got terrific starting pitching from Daniel Gonzalez (7IP, ER), Ken Figueroa (5IP, 2ER), Jose Fuentes (5IP, 2K), and Jesus Rodriguez (6IP, 2K), while the offense came primarily from C/1B Jheyser Azuaje (8-for-25, 6 RBIs) and outfielder Hector Hernandez (9-for-23).

  • Rodriguez’s 1.36 ERA is tied for second among pitchers with at least five starts, and he has now pushed his consecutive scoreless streak to 31 innings.

  • Outfielder Franklin Arias went just 4-for-18 last week, but he has now reached base safely in 19 consecutive games.

  • Reliever Adonis Figuera has the second lowest ERA among pitchers with at least 14 appearances, and his 3.50 strikeout/walk ratio is tied with Rodriguez for the best among the league’s 17-year-olds.

Dominican Summer League Tigers
21-21, T5th in San Pedro de Macoris

The DSL Tigers got off on the wrong foot last week, losing their first three games 13-4, 12-7, and 3-0 before bouncing back to win 7-6 and 11-1 and head into Sunday’s DSL All-Star game with a bit of momentum. The most interesting game was that 11-1 win over the Marlins on Friday, when the Tigers sent 16 men to the plate in the first inning, scored all 11 of their runs, and made two outs by getting picked off at first base.

  • Julio Martinez was the lone member of the DSL Tigers to make the All-Star team, and he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game.

  • Shortstop Alexis Garcia went 5-for-9 last week and now has a five-game hitting streak, but perhaps most notably, he pitched on Wednesday, walking one and striking out two in the 8th inning of a 3-0 game.

  • Starter Yei Almonte was the winning pitcher in the 11-1 game, and he now ranks second in the DSL with a 0.68 ERA. It’s a misleading number, however, as he has given up 17 runs, but only 3 have been earned runs.

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