Weekly Farm Recap: VSL Tigers Claim Crown

Last week in the minors we saw a new member of the Mud Hens pick up his first AAA win, a new member of the SeaWolves reach a couple of round numbers on offense, and two of the newer members of the Whitecaps power their team to a solid week. There were more losses in Lakeland, a devastating blown save in Connecticut, an impressive week in the GCL, and in Venezuela a championship celebration.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 8/10 - 8/16

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
50-71, 4th in West Division

The Mud Hens split their six games last week, dropping two of three at Indianapolis before coming home and taking two from the Charlotte Knights. The week began with a 4-3 walk-off loss in the 11th inning on Tuesday, but it ended with a solid 6-1 victory over former Tiger Brad Penny. Shane Greene pitching five solid innings in his return to the Toledo rotation on Wednesday, but Kyle Lobstein wasn’t quite as successful in his first start for the Mud Hens this year, surrendering five runs (two earned) in fewer than three innings. And finally, newly acquired pitcher Luis Cessa made two starts during the week, giving up four runs in 11 1/3 innings, picking up his first AAA win, and his first win with his new organization, on Sunday.

  • Reliever Guido Knudson only pitched once last week, striking out two in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Detroit’s 28th-round pick in 2011 now owns a very solid 2.19 ERA in 29 AAA appearances, racking up 10 saves and striking out 37 in as many innings.

  • Drew VerHagen appears to have settled into his role as a long reliever. He gave up a run on Saturday, but it was just his second ER in the last 15 1/3 innings, and his ERA has dropped from 7.36 to 3.76 in that time.

  • Since hitting .317 in April, shortstop Dixon Machado has hit .259, .255, and .255 in the subsequent months, and he’s at just .180 halfway through August. He owns a .499 OPS since the All-Star break.

AA Erie Seawolves
48-71, 6th in Western Division

Like the Mud Hens, the SeaWolves split their six games last week, although all of their contests came on the road. There was no game on Monday, and Tuesday was rained out, so Erie and Portland split a doubleheader on Wednesday. The Sea Dogs took the third game of the series too, but the squad bounced back to win two of three from the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Starters Warwick Saupold and Josh Turley picked up wins, while Chad Green pitched well in a no decision, and Tommy Collier took a tough-luck loss on Thursday despite giving up just two runs in seven innings.

  • Outfielder Jason Krizan came into the year with an outside shot of seeing some time in the majors, but instead he has struggled in AA for much of the season. He had a good week, however, going 8-for-22 with a HR and 6 RBIs.

  • Michael Fulmer made his third start for Erie on Sunday, and gave up three runs in just four innings. That troublesome outing accounted for a full 1/8 of all the runs he has allowed this season, and pushed his ERA over the last ten outings to a robust 0.91.

  • Newly acquired shortstop JaCoby Jones stole his 20th base of the year on Wednesday, and hit his 15th home run of the season on Friday. He is one of just six players in all of minor league baseball with at least 15 homers and 20 or more steals.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
10-35, 6th in the 2nd half, 43-71, 6th overall in North Division

It seems unbelievable, but the Flying Tigers just keep losing at a staggering rate, dropping five of six games last week, and falling to 19 games out of first place. Lakeland continues to struggle on offense, and when they finally do scratch across a few runs, the pitching staff can’t seem to keep the other team’s hitters in check. The team was outscored 30-15 on the week, picking up their lone win on Thursday at Daytona. Brennan Smith collected two losses despite pitching well on Tuesday, and Kevin Ziomek struck out eight over six innings in a loss on Friday.

  • Acquired from the Blue Jays in the David Price trade, lefty Jairo Labourt owns a very impressive fastball/slider mix. Unfortunately, at 5.02, he also owns the second worst ERA in the Florida State League, just ahead of new teammate Jonathan Maciel’s 5.10.

  • It’s been a year to forget for catcher Grayson Greiner, who hit .316 in June, but has batted .200 or below in every other month. His .509 OPS is the 2nd worst in the Florida State League.

  • Right-handed reliever Gabe Hemmer earned his first save in high-A ball on Thursday, striking out four in two perfect innings. He now owns an impressive 1.01 ERA with just 41 hits allowed, 14 walks, and 55 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings between West Michigan and Lakeland.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
28-20, 2nd in the 2nd half, 61-56, 3rd overall in Eastern Division

The Whitecaps continued their strong play, going 4-2 on the week, though they fell to 3.5 games back of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, who have won eight in a row. West Michigan still has a solid grip on the wild card spot, however, and most of the credit for last week’s success goes to the offense. Their first win of the week was a 3-2 squeaker over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, with the Whitecaps scoring twice in the 9th to tie the game, and then once in the 11th to win it. They then won three games in a row, outscoring their opponents 23-13, before falling 9-3 on Sunday afternoon. Joe Jimenez, Spencer Turnbull, A.J. Ladwig, and Jeff Thompson all picked up wins, while Dominic Moreno, Johan Belisario, Trey Teakell, and Gage Smith each earned a save.

  • Catcher Kade Scivicque (9-for-26, 2HR) and outfielder Christin Stewart (8-for-24, 2HR) continue to have strong professional debuts. Stewart knocked in eight runs, while Scivicque scored eight times.

  • Teakell’s save was the first of his pro career, and he now sports a 1.02 ERA over his first 35 1/3 professional innings.

  • Turnbull’s win on Thursday was his 10th of the year, and it also marked the first time this season that he has pitched into the 8th inning. There are currently 39 pitchers in the Midwest League who have thrown at least 100 innings this season, and Turnbull is the only one who has yet to give up a home run.

Short-Season A Connecticut Tigers
26-27, 3rd in Stedler Division

The Connecticut Tigers limped into their all-star break with a 2-4 week, and fell into 3rd place in the process. They won on Monday and Sunday, but took a rainout and four losses in between, including a stunning 4-3 loss to the Vermont Lake Monsters on Friday that saw 2015 11th rounder Jake Shull give up a 2-out, walk-off grand slam. The team’s two wins went to Trent Szkutnik and Josh Heddinger, both in relief of recent draftee Tyler Alexander, who gave up one run in six innings across two starts.

  • Ryan Castellanos had his worst outing of the season on Saturday, giving up five earned runs in just four innings, but this year’s 25th-round pick still sports a tidy 2.55 ERA in 35 1/3 innings this year.

  • Connecticut doesn’t have a lot of firepower, ranking in the bottom third of the league in most offensive categories, but all-star outfielder VIctor Padron continues to hit well, going 6-for-22. He leads the league with a .331 average, and he has reached base safely in 38 consecutive games.

  • Shull’s blown save spoiled Sandy Baez’s best start of the season (6IP, H, 5K). A right-hander from the Dominican Republic, Baez gave up 18 ER in his first 24 IP, but has given up just five runs in his last 22 innings.

Gulf Coast League Tigers
27-16, 1st in Northeast Division

The GCL Tigers had an outstanding week, going 6-1 and stretching their lead in the division to 9 1/2 games. The squad won both ends of a doubleheader on Monday, with Alfred Gutierrez picking up one of his two wins on the week in the early game, and Eudis Idrogo pitching an absolute gem in game two, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out 11 in a seven-inning shutout. The Tigers also got strong starts from Toller Boardman, Beau Burrows, and Miguel Soto, and solid relief from Michael Vinson, Logan Longwith, and Francisco German.

  • Outfielder Felix G. Santana had a strong week, going 9-for-20, and hitting his first Gulf Coast League home run.

  • Idrogo’s shutout was the second time this year that a GCL Tigers pitcher produced a double-digit strikeout game, joining Alec Kisena’s 10K game on July 11th. Idrogo’s 1.78 ERA is the third best in the league.

  • German doesn’t turn 19 until December 26th, making him the youngest member of the team, but he has had a strong stateside debut, posting a 2.57 ERA and having allowed 15 hits and 6 walks in 21 innings, while striking out 26.

Venezuelan Summer League Tigers
38-32, 2nd, VSL Champions

The VSL season came to an end in the best way possible last week, with the Tigers topping the Rays in game three of the championship series to win the league title. Starter Ken Figueroa led his team to a 7-1 victory in Game One on Monday, giving up just one run over six innings. A balanced offensive attack featured four hits from Jose Salas, two knocks apiece from Luis Torrealba and Jheyser Azuaje, a solo home run in the 4th inning from Hector Hernandez, and a grand slam from Moises Bello in the 8th to blow open the game. Tuesday’s Game Two was a scoreless nail-biter through five until the Rays broke through for two runs in the sixth against Tigers’ starter Jose Fuentes, and then added five more runs in the late innings for a 7-1 victory. A rainy Wednesday pushed the deciding game to Thursday, when the Tigers pounced on the Rays early, scoring two runs in the first and knocking the opposing starter out before he retired a batter. The squad tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning, while Jesus Rodriguez and Daniel Gonzalez combined to throw eight innings of two-hit, shutout baseball. Hector Rodriguez led the VSL in saves this season, but he made things very interesting in the 9th, giving up two runs, and loading the bases before striking out the potential winning run and bringing home the title.

  • The Tigers lost to the Rays the first eight times they played this season, and through 17 contests they were just 3-14. But they bounced back in a big way, besting Tampa’s VSL squad in nine of their last ten meetings, including the championship series.

  • It was the Tigers’ second consecutive VSL title, and the 2014 team also won in three games after having the third contest rained out.

Dominican Summer League Tigers
29-37, 8th in San Pedro de Macoris

The DSL Tigers were eliminated from playoff contention after going just 1-5 last week, and they now have just six more games until their season is over. The pitching fell apart for most of the week, surrendering 39 runs in their first five games before Stanley Martinez stepped up with five scoreless innings in a 4-1 win on Saturday.

  • Second baseman Hector Martinez played just once between July 25th and August 13th (that one game was a 3-for-4, 6-RBI effort), but he came back strong last week, going 4-for-13 with his 5th HR of the year. His .340 batting average is good for 10th in the league.

  • Outfielder Julio Martinez hit all four of his home runs in a three-game span in early July. He has performed solidly overall, but he left Tuesday’s game after just two at-bats, and he hasn’t played since.

  • Closer Malvin Martinez pitched three times last week, giving up just one hit and one walk over 3 2/3 innings, while striking out three. His season ERA is 1.57, and he has given up just 25 hits and 10 walks while striking out 39 in 34 1/3 innings.

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