Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/16 - 5/22
Toledo Mud Hens
18-24, 4th in the West Division
It was a rough week on the road for the Mud Hens as they went just 2-5 and have now lost eight of their last ten games. Daniel Norris put together one of his best starts for Toledo on Monday (7IP, 3ER) but the offense could only scratch across one run against the Buffalo Bisons in a 4-1 loss. Thad Weber (7 1/3, 0ER) and the offense returned the favor the next night in a 7-1 win, but Buffalo took the rubber match on Wednesday. The club then traveled to Lehigh Valley on Thursday for what was the wildest game of the week. The Hens plated two runs in the top of the 9th to tie the game at three, and then scored twice in the 12th inning to go up two runs. But Bruce Rondon gave up two hits, two walks, and two runs to knot the score at five. Toledo took a two-run lead again in the 14th, only to see Angel Nesbitt give up three consecutive doubles and blow the lead. Finally, having exhausted their pitching staff, the Mud Hens resorted to using catcher Miguel Gonzalez to pitch in the bottom of the 15th, and the Iron Pigs pulled off the 8-7 win. Toledo lost on another walkoff the next night, and the teams split a doubleheader on Sunday. Norris picked up the week’s other win with five innings of one-run ball, while the offense was led by Chad Huffman (9-for-30, HR, 7 RBIs) and Casey McGehee (10-for-31).
- Outfielder Anthony Gose didn’t let his demotion to Toledo affect his play, going 6-for-19 with four walks in his first five games with Toledo, though he did also strike out ten times.
- Lefty starter Matt Boyd took a no decision on Friday night, giving up two runs over six innings and striking out a season-high nine batters. He’s among the league leaders in ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP, and figures to see some time in Detroit after Jordan Zimmermann’s injury.
- Thursday’s 15-inning affair lasted four hours and forty-eight minutes, saw 15 pitchers (and 1 catcher) take the mound, and included a total of 493 pitches.
17-25, T4th in the Western Division
The SeaWolves outdid the Mud Hens in terms of losses and misfortune, going just 1-5 on the week, and twice losing games with late-inning bullpen implosions. Erie began the week by getting swept in a three-game home series against the Harrisburg Senators, with Tuesday’s 6-2 loss coming after Ruben Alaniz and Joe Mantiply combined to give up five runs in the top of the 9th inning. The club had a day off and then appeared to get back on track with six late runs of their own in a 6-1 win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Friday, but they were blanked 9-0 on Saturday, and Alaniz struggled again on Sunday, giving up four runs in the 8th inning in an eventual 6-5 loss. On the positive side, Erie did see the return of top prospect JaCoby Jones, and he wasted little time getting back on track, going 7-for-21 with three doubles and a steal in five games.
- The SeaWolves as a team failed to hit a single home run last week. This after hitting a home run in all seven games the previous week, homering 12 times as a team, and getting four bombs from Dean Green alone.
- Jones brings speed and power to Erie’s lineup, but he also brings defensive versatility. He played four games at third base last week, one in center field, and could see time at shortstop, second base, and either corner outfield spot soon.
- Alaniz began his season in Erie with 9 2/3 scoreless innings over seven appearances, with 13 strikeouts and just three hits allowed. In his last four outings he has given up 11 hits and 10 runs in 4 2/3 innings, and seen his ERA skyrocket from 0 to 6.28.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
24-19, 3rd in the North Division
Rain cost Lakeland one of their scheduled games last week, but the Flying Tigers managed to put together a solid 3-3 mark despite a mid-week three-game losing skid. The offense scored just six runs in their three games at Palm Beach, but rebounded to cross the plate 16 times in their three home games against the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Starter Tyler Alexander was spectacular in two starts, picking up two wins by pitching 14 scoreless innings. The week’s other win went to Austin Kubitza in a relief role, his first career win at the high-A level, while Gabe Hemmer and Joe Jimenez each picked up saves. Outfielder Christin Stewart had an unusually quiet week (3-for-21, 4 BB), but veteran infielders Casey Frawley (9-for-21, HR, 7 RBIs) and Joey Pankake (5-for-17, HR, 6 Runs) helped pick up the slack.
- On Friday lefty starter Kevin Ziomek made his first competitive appearance since spring training, giving up five runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. Detroit’s 2013 2nd rounder led the Florida State League in innings pitched and strikeouts last season.
- Alexander gave up 13 hits and only recorded six strikeouts in his 14 innings last week, but he also didn’t walk anyone. His 1.68 ERA is 2nd best in the FSL, and he hasn’t given up an earned run in his last 35 innings pitched.
- Catcher Grayson Greiner had a brutal 2015 season in Lakeland, posting a .504 OPS that would have been the second worst among all FSL hitters, had he qualified. It’s a different story in 2016, however, as the big, 6’6” backstop leads his team with a .301 batting average.
West Michigan Whitecaps
22-18 3rd in the Eastern Division
The Whitecaps enjoyed a solid 4-2 week, taking two games at home from the Bowling Green Hot Rods, and then winning two of three on the road from the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Pitching was the name of the game last week, with the four victorious pitchers combining for 20 scoreless innings. Sandy Baez made the best start of his pro career on Tuesday, giving up just two hits and striking out five over seven innings to earn his first win of the season, while Matt Hall continued his dominance of the Midwest League with 6 2/3 scoreless innings the next day. Thursday saw major leaguer Shane Green strike out five over a three-inning rehab start in Fort Wayne, with last year’s first-round-pick Beau Burrows chipping in five scoreless innings of his own to earn the win. And Toller Boardman picked up the W on Sunday in relief of starter Kyle Dowdy, who gave up just one earned run over five innings. The offense was bolstered by 24-year-old Cuban signee Leonardo Laffita, who went 8-for-19 with five runs scored and his first HR in affiliated ball. Will Maddox (8-for-22), Jose Azocar (8-for-22), and David Gonzalez (7-for-19) also chipped in on offense, while Derek Hill returned from the DL and went 5-for-15 with three steals in four games.
- Hall improved his record to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.69, which is the third lowest ERA in all of minor-league baseball. He also ranks 11th in all of the minors with a 2.15 FIP.
- Reliever Drew Smith began the year on the disabled list, made an appearance on May 2nd, and then hit the DL again. He returned last week with two scoreless, hitless innings, though his control faltered a bit (3BB).
- Azocar ranks in the top-20 in the league with his .299 batting average, and he picked up his ninth outfield assist of the season last week. No other outfielder has more than seven assists, and six Midwest League teams have nine or fewer outfield assists.