Weekly Farm Recap: Hessman Makes History

Last week in the minors we saw a spectacular organizational debut from a pitcher in Erie, a strong push for the playoffs in West Michigan, and more tough losses in Lakeland. One league concluded its regular season, a few others reached the midpoint of theirs, and history was made in Toledo.

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
47-68, 4th in West Division

The outcome of Toledo’s season has never been in much doubt -- the Mud Hens have been in last place for a quite a while -- so their fans are left to either enjoy games as stand-alone entertainment, or root for individual performances. And last Monday they saw a milestone that is unlikely to ever be broken, as slugger Mike Hessman hit his 433rd career minor-league home run, breaking a record that was set in 1937. Fittingly, Hessman’s shot was a grand slam that put his team ahead 8-6 in the bottom of the 7th inning. And perhaps it was also fitting, in a largely forgettable season, that Toledo went on to lose that game 10-8 in 11 innings. The Hens went just 2-5 and were outscored 38-20, but the week belonged to Hessman, whose brilliant minor-league career deserves to be celebrated.

  • Even outside of his historic homer, Hessman had a pretty darn good week, going 10-for-23 and hitting safely in all six games he played.

  • Lefty Kyle Ryan picked up his first AAA win of the year on Thursday with eight innings of shutout baseball. He gave up just three hits and two walks while striking out eight, pulling his record on the year to 1-9.

  • Luis Cessa made his organizational debut on Wednesday, the last to do so among the six players the Tigers acquired in deadline deals. It wasn’t pretty, as he surrendered eight earned runs in five innings, bringing his ERA in AAA to an ugly 14.40.

AA Erie Seawolves
42-65, 6th in Western Division

The SeaWolves split their six games last week, taking two of three from the Portland Sea Dogs before dropping two of three to the Harrisburg Senators. Michael Fulmer, the main prize in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, was dominant in two starts, earning two wins, while Austin Kubitza picked up the third with his first scoreless outing since April 25th. The offense was led by Wynton Bernard (8-for-25, 3BB, 3SB), James Robbins (7-for-16, HR, 6 RBIs) and newcomer JaCoby Jones, who went 6-for-22, walked five times, stole three bases, and hit a home run off Lucas Giolito, one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

  • Fulmer was spectacular last week, pitching 12 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball while giving up just seven hits and three walks, and striking out 11. His 1.64 ERA is tops in the Eastern League, and he also leads the league with 8.64 strikeouts per nine innings.

  • Bernard struggled in July, but he’s back on track in August. He ranks 4th in the league with 119 hits, has scored the 7th most runs, hit the 5th most doubles, and on Saturday he picked up his league-leading 35th stolen base of the year.

  • Lefty reliever Joe Mantiply quietly continues to get the job done. Last week he pitched four innings of scoreless relief, lowering his ERA to 2.66, which is the second best on the team behind Fulmer.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
9-30, 6th in the 2nd half, 42-66, 6th overall in North Division

Lakeland’s incredible slide continued last week as the Flying Tigers dropped five of their six games, falling to a remarkable 21 games under .500 in the second-half standings. It was a week of extremes, as the squad won 8-0 at Clearwater on Tuesday, only to get outscored 16-0 over their next three games. They scored six runs on Saturday, but gave up eight, and it looked like they might pull off a 1-0 victory on Sunday when Whit Mayberry wriggled out of a jam in the 8th inning. But he couldn’t pull off that trick twice, and surrendered two runs in the 9th, sending Lakeland to their 5th consecutive loss. Kevin Ziomek gave his team two terrific starts, while Brennan Smith chipped in a solid outing in a losing effort. There wasn’t much to talk about offensively, though infielder Curt Powell had a strong week, going 8-for-22 and extending his hitting streak to eight games.

  • Javier Betancourt, one of the team’s most consistent players, went 1-for-2 on Tuesday but was pulled from the game and has since been placed on the disabled list.

  • Ziomek’s inconsistent season has featured a few more downs than ups, but he was absolutely brilliant in two starts last week, pitching 15 scoreless innings and giving up just five hits and two walks while striking out 16. He leads the league with 116 strikeouts on the season.

  • Left-handed pitcher Kyle Lobstein made a rehab appearance on Wednesday, giving up three hits and one run over three innings. It was his first time pitching against live competition since his May 23rd start for the Tigers.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
24-18, 2nd in the 2nd half, 57-54, 3rd overall in Eastern Division

The Whitecaps had a rough go of it two week ago, but they got back to their winning ways last week, coming out victorious in five of their six games, and pulling to within 1 1/2 games of first place. The team swept a mid-week series at home against the Clinton Lumber Kings, and then took two of three from the red-hot Kane County Cougars. The Whitecaps got solid starting pitching from most of their rotation, and strong relief work from Trey Teakell, Adam Ravenelle, and Joe Jimenez. Offensively, the squad was led by Mike Gerber (10-for-29, HR), Christin Stewart (8-for-25, HR), and Rashad Brown (7-for-18, 4 BB).

  • First baseman Will Kengor also had a strong week at the plate, going 7-for-22, and on Tuesday he hit the first home run of his professional career.

  • Artie Lewicki has now made ten starts for the Whitecaps this season. He missed two months with an injury, and in his first three starts back he gave up 11 runs and 24 hits in 15 innings. In the six starts since, he has given up ten runs in 30 2/3 IP (2.93 ERA).

  • Outfielder Ross Kivett struggled to a .214 average in July, and August has been even worse for him, as he’s just 1-for-24 this month. His batting average was .307 on June 28th, but now sits at .267.

Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers
24-23, 2nd in Stedler Division

The Connecticut Tigers had a very strong week, winning five of their seven games, and moving to within three games of first place. It could have been even better though, as the Tigers lost 6-5 in 14 innings on Tuesday, and then dropped a heartbreaker to the Lowell Spinners on Saturday night. Josh Lester hit a home run to put Connecticut up 2-1 in the top of the 9th, but young Gerson Moreno, in his third inning of relief, gave up two runs for the walk-off loss. Sandy Baez and Ryan Castellanos both made two solid starts on the week, while Spenser Watkins added a strong start of his own, and 2015 draftees Tyler Alexander, Drew Smith, and Matt Hall continued to dominate.

  • Outfielder Victor Padron had a terrific week, going 11-for-26 with three walks. His .341 batting average leads the league, though he has only five extra-base hits in 37 games.

  • Catcher Will Allen also had a very productive week, going 6-for-17 and knocking in eight runs.

  • Five members of the team were named to the New York-Penn League All-Star game in Aberdeen, MD on August 18th: Alexander, Allen, Padron, Smith, and Watkins.

Gulf Coast League Tigers
21-15, 1st in Northeast Division

The GCL Tigers went 4-2 on the week to increase their division lead to 5 1/2 games at the halfway point in their season. The summer’s rainy weather led to another postponed game on Monday, and then doubleheaders on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Tigers split the Tuesday twinbill against the Pirates, swept The Yankees1 team on Wednesday, and then beat the Yankees2 squad in Friday’s first game, before having the second game suspended due to rain. Eudis Idrogo continued his strong season with a seven-inning complete game win on Tuesday, while Toller Boardman also picked up a win, and 2015 first-round pick Beau Burrows notched his first professional victory with three scoreless innings on Wednesday.

  • Burrows hasn’t allowed a run in 15 innings, and in that time he has given up seven hits and five walks while striking out 16.

  • The Tigers’ offense has been led this year by college graduates and Michigan natives Blaise Salter (.305/.350/.421) and Giancarlo Brugnoni (.208/.400/.583).

  • Victor Mueses has been effectively wild in his stateside debut, giving up just one run while walking 12 and striking out 17 in 16 1/3 innings.

Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
38-32, 2nd

The VSL Tigers made a valiant effort to catch the seemingly untouchable Rays, beginning the week with two wins against the first-place squad, but rainouts on Wednesday and Saturday, and losses to the Cubs on Thursday and Phillies on Friday made it impossible for the Tigers to take first place. Jaier Villarroel picked up his first win of the season on Monday, while Esmiero Del Valle improved to 2-3 on the season with six innings of one-run ball on Tuesday. That game also marked the high point of the season for touted outfielder Luis Torrealba, as he went 3-for-5 with two home runs and 5 RBIs. The VSL regular season is now over.

  • No player from this year’s team ended up leading an offensive category, but rather remarkably, third baseman Moises Bello finished second with 43 runs scored despite collecting just 48 hits and posting a .592 OPS.

  • A couple of Tigers pitchers made the leaderboard, however, with Jesus Rodriguez tied for the most wins (6) and Hector Rodriguez leading the league with 14 saves.

  • The Tigers and Rays begin a a best-of-three series on Monday, August 10th to determine the VSL champions, with the Rays hosting two of the games.

Dominican Summer League Tigers
28-32, 6th in San Pedro de Macoris

The DSL Tigers had a solid 4-2 week but still managed to drop a spot in the standings, and are now just one game away from being eliminated from postseason contention. The offense was largely responsible for the good week as they erupted for 49 runs, beginning with a 19-4 thrashing of the Rangers2 squad on Monday. The pitchers also did their part, particularly during a two-game sweep on Friday and Saturday, when the Tigers outscored the Marlins 12-5.

  • Center fielder Sauris Mejia had a strong week at the plate, going 11-for-22 with two home runs and nine runs scored. He has now hit safely in nine consecutive games.

  • Highly touted outfielder Julio Martinez also had a productive week at the dish, going 7-for-20 with five walks and eight RBIs.

  • Lefty Felix Viloria threw five shutout innings on Thursday, giving up just two hits and no walks while striking out four. He now has a 2.58 ERA on the season over 52 1/3 innings, and has racked up 56 strikeouts against just 12 walks.


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