Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/23 - 5/29
Toledo Mud Hens
22-26, 4th in the West Division
The Mud Hens had one of their better weeks of the season, going 4-2, posting two shutouts, and finishing with a walk-off win on Sunday night. Things got off to a great start on Tuesday when Chad Bell and four relievers combined to shut out former Tigers prospect Adam Wilk and the Durham Bulls 5-0. A rehabbing Shane Greene struck out seven over 3 1/3 scoreless innings the next night, but the Bulls fought back to win 5-3 before Toledo took the series on Thursday, holding on for a 5-4 victory over Tampa’s top prospect Blake Snell. The Hens then welcomed in the Buffalo Bisons for an eventful three-game series. Daniel Norris pitched a gem (6IP, 0ER, 8K) in an 8-0 win Friday night, but the Bisons got revenge the following night with a 3-0 win. The Hens took a 1-0 lead late into Sunday night’s series finale, but Bobby Parnell surrendered two runs in the top of the 8th inning, in part because of a fielding error by Steven Moya. The towering outfielder made up for it in the bottom of the 9th, however, parking a Dustin Antolin pitch over the wall in right-center for a two-run, walk-off home run.
- Norris has struggled quite a bit in Toledo this year, but he appears to be back on track. In his last three starts he has surrendered just four runs in 18 innings, while striking out 19 and walking 5.
- Moya’s home run was his 10th of the season in AAA, and it came in his first game back in Toledo after spending two-and-a-half weeks with the Tigers. Despite the missed time, he is now tied for the International League lead in homers, and still ranks in the top ten in batting average, runs scored, and runs batted in.
- Bell authored 11 scoreless innings last week, striking out eight and giving up just five hits, though he did walk seven batters. He has hasn’t given up a run in four of his five outings since coming to Toledo in the Bobby Wilson trade.
20-29, 4th in the Western Division
Erie won three times last week, but still suffered its fifth consecutive losing week, and they can once again blame their woes on run prevention. The offense averaged six runs per game, but the pitching staff gave up seven runs or more in the last three games of their four-game set at Reading, and again in the first game of a home series against Richmond, leading to a four-game losing streak. The arms did come through Monday, Saturday, and Sunday, however, with starter Myles Jaye picking up his first two wins in the Tigers organization, and Tommy Collier out-dueling Kyle Crick on Sunday. The bullpen had a particularly rough week, with previously reliable arms like Joe Mantiply (2IP, 3ER), Kurt Spomer (4IP, 4ER), and Paul Voelker (1 1/3IP, 4ER) all having painful outings. The return of super utility man JaCoby Jones has provided a huge boost to the offense, as he had a monster week at the plate, going 10-for-28 with four home runs and 14 RBIs, while Corey Jones (10-for-22) and Jeff McVaney (11-for-28, 2HR, 12 Runs) also provided some offensive fireworks.
- JaCoby Jones played six games in center field and one game at third base last week, after playing four games at third and one in center the previous week. The 24-year-old has reached base safely in all 12 of his games this season, is currently in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, and has multiple RBIs in six of his last seven.
- Relief ace Joe Jimenez made his long-awaited AA debut on Sunday, after posting a 1.37 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 105 innings in the low minors. How did he handle his jump in competition? With three swinging strikeouts, and the 33rd save of his career.
- Voelker’s blown save on Tuesday was particularly tough. Erie scored three times in the top of the 9th against Reading to take a 9-7 lead, but in the bottom of the inning Voelker surrendered a walk, a single, a walk, and a walk-off grand slam. After giving up zero runs in 7 1/3 innings in April, he has given up ten runs in 7 2/3 May innings.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
27-23, 3rd in the North Division
The Flying Tigers remain comfortably in 3rd place after a 3-4 week that saw them win one game at home against Charlotte, drop two of three at Dunedin, and then return home to lose two of three to Clearwater. The offense exploded for 29 runs in wins on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday, but scored just 11 runs total in the week’s other four games. Lefty Jairo LaBourt kicked things off on Monday with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball, while the other two wins went to Jeff Thompson and A.J. Ladwig. Tyler Alexander pitched extremely well on Friday (6IP, 1ER, 8K), but took a no decision and saw his streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run end at 40. Shortstop A.J. Simcox shook out of an 0-for-21 slump to go 12-for-30 with nine runs scored last week, while Wade Hinkle (3HR), Ross Kivett (3HR), Christin Stewart (2HR), and Zach Shepherd (2HR) helped provide a surprising power explosion.
- Stewart began the week with a 2-for-4 outing and his 14th homer of the year, and he ended the week with a 1-for-2 game, with three walks and his 15th home run of the season. In between he went 1-for-18 with six strikeouts.
- LaBourt is a classic example of the “effectively wild” pitcher. He has walked the second most batters in the Florida State League, and he is issuing free pases to nearly 20 percent of the batters he faces. He’s also striking out ten batters per nine innings, and his .147 batting average against is the lowest in all of high-A ball.
- Second baseman Joey Pankake has struggled to hit for average for most of the season, but he had a solid 7-for-26 week and hit his 7th home run of the season on Friday, good for the fifth most in the FSL. He has also made only one error in 38 games in the field.
West Michigan Whitecaps
22-18 3rd in the Eastern Division
The Whitecaps are rolling. The week began with a 3-0 loss at Fort Wayne, but West Michigan then reeled off five wins in a row, taking two at Bowling Green and then coming home to win three against the Dayton Dragons. The Caps are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and have used a combination of timely hitting and strong pitching to go 17-8 in the month of May. The team’s starters combined to give up just five earned runs in 34 2/3 IP (1.30 ERA) on the week, with wins going to Jordan Smith (5IP, 2ER), Beau Burrows (5 1/3IP, 0ER), Kyle Dowdy (7IP, 1ER), and relievers Jonathan Maciel and Gerson Moreno. Moreno also picked up his 5th save of the season, while his bullpen partner Jake Shull earned his 6th and 7th saves. The offense was once again paced by Will Maddox (7-for-23) and Jose Azocar (7-for-20), while Shane Zeile provided the power (8-for-23, 2HR, 8 RBIs).
- Burrows was one of seven high-school pitchers taken in the first round of the 2015 draft. He leads them all in ERA (2.03), batting average against (.213), and WHIP (1.05), and is second to Mike Soroka in innings pitched and strikeouts.
- Zeile’s two-homer week makes him the runaway team leader with three longballs, while Will Allen, David Gonzalez, and Leo Laffita each have one. West Michigan ranks last in the Midwest League with just six team homers.
- Zeile also hit his fifth triple of the season on Saturday night. No catcher in minor-league baseball, or Major League Baseball, has more triples this year.