Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 7/4 - 7/10
Toledo Mud Hens
41-50, 4th in the West Division
The Mud Hens had their second consecutive 8-game week, and they ended the first half of their season on a solid note by going 5-3. The action began in Columbus, where the Hens dropped games on Monday and Wednesday, with Thad Weber throwing a brilliant 4-hit shutout in between. The club split two games in Indianapolis, with Corey Riordan (7 2/3IP, 5H, 0ER, 7K) nearly matching Weber in the win, and the Hens then returned to Toledo for a three-game sweep of the Louisville Bats. Weber won two games on the week, while the other wins went to Riordan, Chad Bell (3IP, 1H, 4K) and Matt Crouse (6IP, 3ER, 3K). The offense averaged nearly six runs per game thanks to strong performances from Jeff McVaney (8-for-17, 4BB, 6R), Casey McGehee (12-for-20, 6R), and Tyler Collins (7-for-29, 3HR, 11RBI). The news wasn’t all great, however, as both Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones were removed from the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday due to effort issues. Jones returned for the nightcap, but Gose cleared out his locker, didn’t report to the park on Sunday, and may have played his last game in the Tigers organization.
- Catcher John Hicks hit his ninth and tenth home runs of the season last week. He has about 50 games left to match his career high of 15, which he set in 2012 in the hitter-friendly California League.
- The veteran Riordan had been struggling in AA Erie, posting a 4.53 ERA over 18 starts, but he has been fantastic in his first two starts in Toledo, giving up just one earned run over 14 2/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts and no walks.
- Most Mud Hens have the next few days off, but McGehee and Chad Huffman will head down to Charlotte, North Carolina to take part in the AAA All-Star Game on July 13th.
37-54, T5th in the Western Division
It was another very tough week in Erie, as the SeaWolves only managed to win once in seven tries, and they now sit in a tie for last place. Monday’s game at Harrisburg was rained out, but the club lost three of four to the Senators before coming home to Erie and suffering through a three-game sweep at the hands of the Altoona Curve. Both the offense and the pitching struggled last week, as the team was outscored 47-18, though Tommy Collier (12IP, 3ER, 7K) pitched two strong games, and Josh Turley picked up the week’s lone win with six innings of shutout baseball. There wasn’t much to write home about on offense either, but Corey Jones (9-for-27, 2HR) and Jason Krizan (9-for-24) both had strong weeks.
- Jones has hit safely in 17 consecutive games, matching a career high he set for Lakeland back in 2011, and raising his batting average nearly 40 points. His five home runs is one shy of his career high, also set in 2011.
- The SeaWolves have used 15 different starting pitchers in 2016, and only David Martinez, who was released by the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday, signed by Erie on Friday, and threw four innings of one-run ball on Saturday, has an ERA lower than 3. Collier is the next closest, with a 3.11 ERA that ranks sixth best in the Eastern League.
- The Eastern League is also off for the next few days, but Collier, Jones, Krizan, and Connor Harrell are all heading to Akron, Ohio for the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 13th. Krizan is also participating in the Home Run Derby on the 12th. Meanwhile, closer Joe Jimenez spent his Sunday in San Diego at the Futures game, where he retired the only batter he faced on three pitches.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
38-46 5th in the North Division, 4-12 5th in the Second Half
The struggles continued for the Flying Tigers last week, though a 3-4 week can be considered progress considering they had been just 1-8 to begin the second half of the season. Perhaps a strange travel schedule had something to do with the lackluster baseball, as the team began the week at home vs. the Clearwater Threshers, then traveled to Clearwater on Tuesday, returned to Lakeland to play the Threshers again on Wednesday, traveled to Tampa on Thursday, and then came back to Lakeland for a three-game set with the Palm Beach Cardinals. A.J. Ladwig (6IP, 5ER), Tyler Alexander (6 2/3IP, 4ER, 6K), and Burris Warner (2IP) picked up the wins, but Matt Hall (6 1/3IP, 1ER, 6K) was probably the best starter for the team last week. The offense was solid, scoring 40 runs, and it was once again thanks to home runs, as the Flying Tigers extended their league lead by smashing 12 more homers last week.
- Mike Gerber struggled through most of April and May, but turned things around by hitting .315 in June. He’s off to an even better start in July thanks to a 9-for-21 week that included three home runs, six runs scored, and 11 runs batted in.
- Alexander’s four earned runs on Friday matched a season high, but last year’s 2nd-round pick has been steady all year. He has pitched at least five innings in 13 of his 15 appearances this season, his 2.24 ERA is the third lowest in the Florida State League, and his 1.04 WHIP is fifth best.
- Joey Pankake hit two homers to bring his season total to 14 and move into 2nd place alone in the FSL, but teammate Christin Stewart stayed six ahead of Pankake by blasting two longballs of his own. Stewart also missed games on Saturday and Sunday to participate in the Futures Game, where he flew out to deep left in his lone at bat.
West Michigan Whitecaps
47-36 2nd in the Eastern Division, 8-8 3rd in the Second Half
The Whitecaps went 4-2 for the second straight week to pull to .500 and jump three spots in the second-half standings. The offense led the way to begin the week, scoring 23 runs in two wins against the Great Lakes Loons. The bats went silent after that, scoring just eight runs in the next four games, but the pitching stepped up to take two of three from the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Sandy Baez picked up two wins on the week, highlighted by a stellar outing on Sunday (8IP, 1ER, 6K), while the other two wins went to starter Kyle Dowdy (6IP, 0ER) and reliever Yordy Cabrera (3IP, 0ER, 3K), who also earned the save on Saturday. Offensive contributions were spread across the team, with Will Maddox (9-for-23), Jose Azocar (7-for-24), Arvicent Perez (8-for-18), Jose Zambrano (7-for-16), Brett Pirtle (7-for-22), Will Allen (7-for-19), and Rashad Brown (6-for-14) all hitting well.
- Baez and Dowdy now lead the team in innings pitched with 76 and 64 1/3 innings, respectively. Baez has been especially terrific in the second half of the season, with a 3-0 record, a 1.89 ERA, and 16 strikeouts against just 3 walks in 19 innings.
- Catcher Arvicent Perez played in his 200th career professional game on Sunday. He now owns a career triple slash of .287/.313/.378, and he has thrown out 42% of attempted base stealers. He has never had a four-hit game, but on Tuesday he went 5-for-5 at the plate, with his fourth triple of the season.
- Tuesday’s wild 15-10 win over Great Lakes saw the Whitecaps fall behind 4-0 in the top of the 2nd, but storm back with nine runs in the bottom of the inning. Two innings later the Caps were down 10-9, but two in the 7th and four in the 8th gave them the win.
15-8 1st in the Stedler Division
The Connecticut Tigers had their best week of the young season, finishing 5-1 and moving into sole possession of first place. The club reeled off those five wins to begin the week, completing a three-game sweep at home against the Williamsport Crosscutters, and then taking two at the Lowell Spinners, before dropping Sunday’s series finale. Connecticut’s pitching was terrific all week, with the starters giving up just four earned runs in 25 1/3 innings, and the bullpen just as good, surrendering three earned runs in 23 2/3. Josh Lester (6-for-16, 4RBI) and Tanner Donnels (5-for-12, 4RBI) were the two big run producers in an otherwise balanced offensive attack.
- Locke St. John owns a career 4.14 ERA in pro ball, but he’s off to a terrific start in Connecticut this season. He pitched 11 scoreless innings last week to drop his ERA to 0.94, which is 4th best in the league, and his 23 strikeouts is tied for the 9th.
- Connecticut’s 15-8 record is tied for 2nd best in the league, but they appear to be using smoke and mirrors to rack up the wins. As a team, they rank 6th (out of 14) in ERA despite ranking 12th in WHIP, and they are 5th in runs scored, despite ranking 10th in OPS.
- There were a few notable moments for 2016 draftees last week. Pitcher Zac Houston (11th round) earned his first professional win with a scoreless inning on Tuesday, shortstop Daniel Pinero (9th) played his first game above rookie ball on Saturday, and Bryan Garcia (6th) made his pro debut on Sunday, giving up two hits and striking out one in one inning of action.
GCL Tigers West
9-5 3rd in the Northwest Division
The Tigers West had a strong 4-2 week, and now own the 3rd best record in the GCL, and yet they fell one spot in the standings because the Blue Jays and the Phillies are off to tremendous starts. The squad’s week began with three consecutive one-run victories, taking two from the Yankees East, and then splitting two-game sets with the Braves and the Phillies. Two of the week’s wins came in walk-off fashion, with catcher Jheyser Azuaje knocking in two on a single to win 3-2 on Monday, and first baseman Nico Buentello capping off a 3-hit day with a game winning single on Wednesday. Wins on the week went to starters Jose Vasquez and Daniel Gonzalez, and relievers Jorge Baez and Dalton Lundeen.
- Vasquez was terrific in two starts last week, tossing 11 innings of one-run ball and striking out ten. He leads the team in innings pitched, his 1.06 ERA is tied for 7th best in the GCL, and his 0.76 WHIP is 5th best.
- Shortstop Chad Sedio has slowed down a bit after a very hot start, but he still ranks among the league leaders in triples, RBI, stolen bases, and slugging percentage.
- Matt Manning had a rough outing in his second career start, giving up five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Ten of the sixteen outs he has recorded as a pro have come via the strikeout, and he currently has a BABIP against of .615.
GCL Tigers East
7-6 1st in the Northeast Division
The Tigers East had a decent 3-3 week, but they remain in first place because the Braves, Pirates, and Yankees East squads are all at least four games below .500. The week began with two close games against the Yankees West, a 2-1 loss and a 10-8 win, but the club then lost twice in blowout fashion to the Phillies, and then blew out the Yankees East twice. The team got strong starting pitching performances from Javier Villarroel (5IP, 0ER, 2K), Francisco German (5 1/3IP, 1ER, 7K), and Ronaldo Lopez (5IP, 2ER, 3K), though only Lopez recorded a win. A rehabbing Shane Zeile made a solid impact for the club, going 3-for-7 with two runs scored, and he threw out two of the three runners who tried to steal against him, while young shortstop Jose Salas had a very solid week, going 6-for-20 with six RBI.
- Outfielder Franklin Arias went just 4-for-18 last week, but three of those hits were doubles, and he now leads the league with five two-baggers.
- Spencer Turnbull made his third rehab start on Tuesday after missing the first half of the season with shoulder discomfort. Unfortunately, the 2014 2nd-round pick left the game after facing just four batters.
- Pitcher Carlos Lara showed promising signs on the mound in 2014. But his return to the GCL in 2015 was an absolute disaster that saw him give up 18 earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings, thanks mostly to his 20 walks and 8 hit batters. He’s back again this year, and appears to have turned things around. Serving as the team’s closer, he is 2-for-2 in save opportunities, and has walked just one batter in six innings, while striking out eight.
15-15 4th in the San Pedro Division
It was an incredibly wild, incredibly successful week for the DSL Tigers, as they went 5-1, moved up two spots in the rankings, and outscored their opponents 77-39. The week began in utterly ridiculous fashion, with the Tigers using 19 hits and 15 walks to beat the Angels 27-1, and it ended in exciting fashion, with the club scoring twice in the bottom of the 9th on Saturday to tie the Cardinals, and then winning on a walk-off double in the 11th. With the team scoring 11 runs per game, there were plenty of offensive standouts last week, including Darwin Alvarado (11-for-22, 9R), Jose Quero (13-for-28, 11R, 9RBI), and Ildemaro Escalona (8-for-19, HR, 8RBI).
- The precocious Juan Ramirez had yet another fantastic week, going 10-for-26 with five walks, eight runs scored, six runs batted in, and two steals. He has hit safely in 12 consecutive games, and he ranks 3rd in the DSL in batting (.365), 2nd in runs (29), 1st in hits (42), 4th in RBI (23), 2nd in walks (26), and 5th in OPS (.964).
- Ten different pitchers have started at least two games for the Tigers, and none of them have thrown the 24 innings required to qualify for the ERA title. If they had, Jesus Paricaguan would rank in the top 15 in both ERA (1.19) and WHIP (0.93).
- Monday’s 27-run laugher took more than four hours to complete, and saw the Angels give up one home run, five doubles, and 13 singles. The teams combined for five errors and 12 wild pitches, and Angels starting pitcher Wilkel Hernandez was ejected after pitching to one batter.