TigsTown.com - Wendy Smith

June 20 - 26 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Hot Joey Pankake

Last week in the minors we saw more tough times in Toledo, a scoreless streak end in Erie, rough starts to the second half in Lakeland and West Michigan, developing power in the Dominican, the debut of two more teams, and a number of promotions and professional debuts throughout the system.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 6/20 - 6/26

Toledo Mud Hens
32-43, 4th in the West Division

Toledo’s tough season continued last week as the Mud Hens went just 2-4, falling to 11 games under .500, and dropping to just 9-16 in June. Pitching failed the Hens on a number of occasions last week, but the offense could never find a groove either, and the club was outscored 27-14. Matt Boyd (5IP, 2ER) and Matt Crouse (7IP, 0ER) picked up the team’s two wins, while Bobby Parnell (3IP, ER, 3K) earned two saves. On the other side of the spectrum was Buck Farmer, who gave up 14 hits and 9 runs in 9 2/3 innings, and was saddled with two losses. Offense was hard to come by, with Tyler Collins (7-for-24) and Anthony Gose (6-for-23, HR, 4R) the only two hitters to have noteworthy weeks.

  • Super utility man JaCoby Jones came out of the gates hot this season, hitting his way to AAA in just 20 games. But things have slowed down considerably lately, with a 2-for-18 week dropping his batting average to just .143 over the last ten games.

  • Crouse has never wowed scouts with his stuff, but the soon-to-be 26-year-old southpaw continues to perform well in the minors, and may be putting his name on the short list should the Tigers need an emergency starter. He has split time between Erie and Toledo this season, and has posted a 3.12 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings.

  • The Mud Hens are last in their division, but oddly enough their .556 winning percentage against intra-division rivals is the best in the IL West.

Erie SeaWolves
34-43, 4th in the Western Division

Apart from a two-day break on Thursday and Friday, it was a relatively average week for Erie, as they rode solid offense and occasionally iffy pitching to a 3-3 record. The week began with two tough one-run losses to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, but the Wolves were able to salvage the series finale with a 2-1 win on Wednesday. The club then headed to Hartford where they lost another one-run game in a doubleheader on Saturday, but they fought back to win game two, and then take the series on Sunday with a 5-2 triumph. Josh Turley (7IP, ER, 5K) was the lone starter to pick up a win (the other two went to relievers Paul Voelker and Lendy Castillo), though Tommy Collier (6IP, 1ER) and Myles Jaye (7IP, ER, 5K) both pitched well enough to win. Outfielders Connor Harrell (6-for-22, HR, 6R, 2SB) and Jason Krizan (8-for-18, 6BB) led the offense, while first baseman Dominic Ficociello (8-for-21, HR, 5RBI) had one his best weeks of the season.

  • Ficociello posted a solid .760 OPS in 43 games for Erie last year, but 2016 has been a struggle for him. He has begun to heat up in June, however, and over his last ten games he’s hitting .395 with seven runs batted in.

  • Closer Joe Jimenez made three appearances and earned two saves last week, but he also gave up a run on Saturday night, ending his stretch of 26 1/3 scoreless innings to begin the season. He is still a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities, and his season numbers are staggering: 27 1/3 IP, 11H, 7BB, 46K

  • Two promising prospects, reliever Adam Ravenelle and shortstop Anthony Pereira, made their AA debuts last week. Ravenelle, who worked a scoreless inning on Saturday, is likely to stay with Erie, but the 19-year-old Pereira is simply helping out the organization by filling in at a position of need before heading off to his real assignment.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
35-37 4th in the North Division, 1-3 5th in the Second Half

The second half of the Florida State League season officially began last week, but the Flying Tigers may want to hit rewind and start over after getting outscored 59-33 and struggling to a 2-5 record. The team’s starting pitching largely collapsed last week, with only Jeff Thompson (6IP, 0ER, 5K) and the newly promoted Matt Hall (5 1/3IP, 4ER) picking up wins. Even though he got the win, Hall suffered through his worst outing of the season in his high-A debut, but he was hardly alone in his struggles. Tyler Alexander gave up five runs in five innings (though only one was earned), A.J. Ladwig (4IP, 5ER) and Thompson (4 1/3IP, 6ER) also made their worst starts of the season, and Jairo Labourt made two disastrous starts, giving up ten hits, ten earned runs, and walking eight in just three innings pitched. The offense did its best to keep games close, with Mike Gerber (7-for-24, 3HR, 8 RBI), Christin Stewart (8-for-24, HR, 6BB), and Joey Pankake (6-for-24, 3HR, 6 RBI) all having productive weeks at the dish.

  • Labourt’s 53 walks issued are nine more than any other pitcher in the Florida State League, and are the third highest total among pitchers in all of minor-league baseball. His struggles staying on the mound in June (13IP in 5 starts) mean he is no longer qualified to win the league’s ERA title.

  • Pankake’s strong week vaulted him into second in the FSL home run race with 11, behind Stewart’s 17. Gerber, meanwhile, appears to have recovered his power stroke. The left-handed right fielder hit three homers in his first seven games, then hist just two bombs in his next 54 contests, before going yard four times in his last ten games.

  • Hall wasn’t the only pitcher to make his high-A debut last Friday, as hard-throwing reliever Gerson Moreno also took the trip from West Michigan to Lakeland and closed out Hall’s start with 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the save. The powerful righty now has a 1.03 ERA in 26 1/3 innings this season.

West Michigan Whitecaps
39-28 3rd in the Eastern Division, 0-4 8th in the Second Half

Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Classic served as the halfway point in the season, and like their peers in Lakeland, the Whitecaps may want to go back in time a bit. West Michigan returned from the break and was immediately swept in a four-game series at the Lansing Lugnuts to run their losing streak to six. All four starters struggled last week, though Kyle Dowdy (3 2/3IP, 4ER) and Eudis Idrogo (1 2/3IP, 4ER) were let off the hook by strong offensive performances. Sunday’s loss was particularly tough, as the Whitecaps took a 7-5 lead into the eighth inning, only to give up seven runs and eventually fall 12-9. The offense did make some noise, led by Will Maddox (5-for-18, 3RBI), Brett Pirtle (7-for-16), and catchers Franklin Navarro and Arvicent Perez (combined 7-for-14, HR), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the poor pitching.

  • With Gerson Moreno now in high-A, and relievers Jake Shull and Josh Laxer both on the disabled list, it appears Whitecaps Manager Andrew Graham will turn to Drew Smith to close out a games. Last year’s 3rd-round pick had been pitching well, but he entered Sunday’s game with no outs, the score tied at 7, and the bases loaded, and proceeded to give up two earned runs on three singles, a sac fly, and a wild pitch.

  • The Whitecaps ended the first half of the season with players near the top of the leaderboards in a number of categories. Derek Hill is in the top five in runs scored and stolen bases, Maddox and Jose Azocar are both in the top ten in hits and batting average, and Will Allen is in the top five in runs batted in.

  • The Midwest League All-Star Classic was a wild, 11-10 game in which four of the five Whitecaps representatives saw action. Maddox went 1-for-3 with a 2-run single, while David Gonzalez went 1-for-2, with his single sparking a four-run ninth inning for the victorious East team. On the mound Moreno recorded the first two outs of the eighth inning, while Dowdy retired the final two batters in the ninth to preserve the win and earn a save.

Connecticut Tigers
6-4 2nd in the Stedler Division

The Connecticut Tigers had a solid first full week of action, winning four of six games overall, and taking two of three in their first homestand against the Brooklyn Cyclones. The team’s roster is still heavily in flux, to the point that Ryan Castellanos (6IP, 2ER) is the only one of the four winning pitchers from last week still on the team. Daniel Gonzalez (3 1/3IP, 1ER, 6K), Victor Mueses (2IP), and Felix Viloria (2G, 4IP, 6K) have all been moved to the GCL West team. The team’s hitters are still settling in as well, with Joey Havrilak (6-for-23, 4R), Josh Lester (6-for-20), and Blaise Salter (6 RBI) providing much of the offense thus far.

  • Lester struggled to a .359 OPS in 19 games with West Michigan earlier in the year, but he’s off to a strong start through nine games in Connecticut, posting a .920 OPS thanks in part to five extra-base-hits and eight walks.

  • One pitcher who appears poised to stay in Connecticut is Eduardo Jimenez. Injury meant the hard-throwing right-hander missed all of 2014 and tossed just 5 1/3 innings last year, but he pitched three scoreless outings last week, picking up two saves, and striking out four.

  • A number of 2016 draft picks made their professional debuts last week, including outfielder Sam Machonis (10th round), catcher Aaron Athmann (14th), second baseman Will Savage (16th), third baseman Hunter Swilling (29th), and pitchers Austin Sodders (7th), Zac Houston (11th), Joe Navilhon (21st), and John Hayes (25th).

GCL Tigers West
1-1 3rd in the Northwest Division

GCL Tigers East
0-1 3rd in the Northeast Division

The Gulf Coast League kicked off last Friday, with the Tigers fielding two teams for the first time. The GCL Tigers West squad more closely resembles traditional GCL Tigers teams, offering a mix of recent college and high school draft picks and advanced teenagers from Latin America, while the GCL Tigers East squad is made up of less advanced Latin American players, and appears to be the replacement for the now defunct Venezuelan Summer League Tigers. With only a handful of games in the books, there isn’t much to talk about yet, but there were several notable season debuts. Recent draft picks Daniel Pinero (9th round) and Chad Sedio (27th) both hit their first professional home runs last week, while two of the system’s most promising arms returned to action on Saturday. Spencer Turnbull struck out two over two scoreless innings after missing the entire first half of the season with an undisclosed injury, while Anthony Castro gave up two runs and struck out eight over four innings in his first game action since injuring his elbow in 2014.

DSL Tigers
7-12 7th in the San Pedro Division

The Dominican League Tigers are still struggling to find their footing, but they has a respectable 3-4 week, and they did manage to hit their first two home runs as a team. The week began with a loss to the Brewers, but the squad bounced back by shutting out the Yankees2 squad twice in a row. They then ran into a bit of a buzzsaw in the form of a Cardinals team that beat them three times in a row and outscored them 29-14, but the Tigers ended the week with a solid 12-8 victory over the Braves.

  • Outfielder Juan Ramirez continues to lead the team in most offensive categories, including hits (25), runs (17), triples (3), walks (17), RBIs (12), and stolen bases (3).

  • Ten of the team’s sixteen pitchers have made at least one start so far this season, with Adonis Figuera leading in innings pitched (15 1/3), Julio Guante boasting a 0 ERA through 14 innings, and Perkyn Rodriguez leading the team with 15 strikeouts..

  • The team’s two home runs both came off the bats of catchers. Gresuan Silverio went yard on Thursday, while Pedro Hurtado hit a grand slam on Saturday.

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