Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 7/18 - 7/24
Toledo Mud Hens
46-56, 4th in the West Division
The Mud Hens had a solid 4-3 week, although it ended on a bit of a sour note. The action began on Monday with Daniel Norris making the first, and better, of two rehab starts during the week. The 23-year-old southpaw struck out four Pawtucket Red Sox, walked one, and gave up five hits and one earned run over four innings, while Chad Bell picked up the win with two innings of relief. The Sox won on Tuesday, but Toledo took the series with a 3-2 win on Wednesday thanks to a superb start from Buck Farmer (6 2/3IP, 0ER, 9K). The Hens then headed to Norfolk where Bell and Joe Mantiply picked up wins in relief on Thursday and Friday, but the Tides came back to win the final two games of the series, including a 10th-inning walk-off loss on Sunday in which L.J. Hoes stole home to end the game.
- Norris’ second start of the week was a rough one, as he gave up five runs on five hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings on Saturday. Jordan Zimmermann, on the other hand, was strong in his rehab start on Sunday, pitching four scoreless innings and striking out two.
- A couple Mud Hens infielders had very strong weeks, with Chad Huffman going 11-for-26 with seven extra-base hits and seven runs scored, and Dean Green going 11-for-18 with two homers and eight RBI.
- Farmer has had a difficult year, getting shuffled back and forth between relief work in Detroit and starting in Toledo (it happened again on Sunday), but he has been strong in four July starts for the Mud Hens, posting a 3.18 ERA with 26 strikeouts and just 3 walks in 22 2/3 innings.
42-60, 5th in the Western Division
Erie’s rough season continued with a 2-5 week, though SeaWolves fans did get some good news with the call up of one of the system’s better prospects. The week began in Erie with a three-game set against Harrisburg, but the Senators took the first two games by a combined score of 10-3. Erie won the finale on Wednesday thanks to a strong start from Artie Lewicki (5IP, 2ER, 6K) and multi-hit games from Wynton Bernard (3-for-5, 2R), Tyler Bortnick (3-for-4, 3R), and Corey Jones (2-for-4, 2R, 2RBI). The SeaWolves then headed to Bowie where they dropped three of four to the BaySox, with all three losses coming by just one run, and the lone win coming in 12 innings.
- Outfielder Mike Gerber made his AA debut on Friday, after tearing up the Florida State League for the better part of two months. He went 4-for-13 in his first three games with Erie, hitting two doubles, walking twice, and knocking in three runs.
- Closer Joe Jimenez suffered his first blown save of the season on Friday, giving up three hits, a walk, and two runs in the walk-off loss. He bounced back the next night with a spotless 12th inning to earn his 21st save of the year.
- Veteran shortstop Gustavo Nunez returned to Erie on Thursday after missing nearly two months due to injury. He promptly homered in his first game back, and went 8-for-19 with four stolen bases in four games.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
44-52 5th in the North Division, 10-18 5th in the Second Half
The Flying Tigers had their best week in some time, going 5-2, despite losing one their hottest hitters to a promotion. The action began with three straight wins at Fort Myers, where the Flying Tigers out-slugged the Miracle 24-17 to earn wins for Matt Hall (5 2/3IP, 2ER, 5K), Jeff Thompson (7IP, 0ER, 5K), and Burris Warner. Wednesday’s 13-10 win was particularly noteworthy because Lakeland scored ten runs in the final two innings, and six of their batters had multi-hit games. That offense disappeared back home when the Flying Tigers scored just three times in dropping the first two games of a four-game set against the St. Lucie Mets, but the bats perked up again on the weekend, scoring 18 times to split the series. Thompson (6IP, 2ER, 7K) picked up his second win of the week, while Confesor Lara picked up his second win of the season with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on Saturday.
- The homer-happy Flygers hit ten more longballs last week, giving them 90 for the season. They hit just 51 for all of 2015, and they already have their highest team total since 2008, when they hit 125.
- Outfielder Christin Stewart went 11-for-27 with eight RBI and his league-leading 21st home run last week. He also hit three doubles, making him the first Flying Tigers with 20 homers and 20 doubles in the same season since Jeremy Laster in 2008.
- Jairo LaBourt picked up his first career save on Sunday, giving up one run over three innings. The 22-year-old lefty stumbled badly this season as a starter, posting a 7.48 ERA and walking 42 batters in 43 1/3 innings, but he may have found new life as a reliever. The walks are still too high (18), but in 25 innings out of the bullpen he owns a 2.88 ERA and has struck out 29 batters.
West Michigan Whitecaps
52-42 2nd in the Eastern Division, 13-14 4th in the Second Half
The Whitecaps had a scheduled day off last week, and though they played six games, they only went 3-2 in the record books thanks to one of the most epic tie games the Midwest League has ever seen. The week began with the Clinton LumberKings finishing a three-game sweep of the Caps, sending West Michigan to their fourth consecutive loss. The Whitecaps then returned home and were not terribly gracious to the visiting Peoria Chiefs, winning 11-1 on Wednesday, and 6-4 on Thursday. Then came Friday’s 15-inning, 9-9 tie, in which Peoria took the lead in the 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, and 10th innings, only to see the Whitecaps tie it up in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 10th innings. The 15th inning saw West Michigan infielder Jose Zambrano throw a scoreless frame and Peoria catcher Jose Godoy blank the Caps, and then the game was called due to rules about starting an inning after 12:50 AM. The rest of the week wasn’t quite as exciting, with West Michigan losing to Burlington 8-5 on Saturday, although Kyle Dowdy was stellar (9IP, 0ER, 3K) in Sunday’s 8-0 shutout of the Bees.
- Outfielder Derek Hill went 9-for-31 with three stolen bases last week, including a 4-for-9 performance with two doubles, a steal, and an outfield assist in the 15-inning game. His nine July steals are the second best monthly total of his career, behind the 13 he swiped in May of 2015.
- Infielder Will Maddox had a remarkable week, going 16-for-29 with multiple hits in all six games, including a 5-for-8 performance on Friday. He’s now batting a league-best .356, and he has 41 multi-hit games this season.
- Friday’s epic tie lasted six hours and two minutes, and featured 13 different pitchers (including the two position players), 6 errors, 14 walks, 19 strikeouts, 486 pitches, and the teams combined for a Midwest League record 48 hits.
20-15 2nd in the Stedler Division
Connecticut fell out of first place after a tough 1-4 week that began with a 13-4 triumph over the Vermont Lake Monsters, but ended with four consecutive losses and a rainout. Monday’s win featured a solid outing from Kyle Funkhouser (3IP, 0ER, 2K), capable relief from Ryan Castellanos (6IP, 4ER, 2K), and a 13-run offensive attack led by outfielder Cole Bauml, who went 5-for-6 with three doubles and four RBI. The offense scored just nine runs in the next four games, though, spoiling decent outings from starters Alfred Gutierrez (4IP, 2ER, 4K), Locke St. John (5 1/3IP, 2ER, 3K), and Gregory Soto (4 2/3IP, 2ER, 2K).
- Castellanos leads the New York-Penn League with five wins, despite starting just twice this season. He has appeared in seven games and earned a decision in all of them.
- Bauml’s big game was part of an 8-for-22 week that pushed his average up to a team-leading .311. He also leads the team in runs scored (18) and OPS (.786).
- The Tigers drafted Austin Athmann in the 14th round this year out of the University of Minnesota, and the 21-year-old catcher had a solid week, going 5-for-14 and connecting for his first professional home run.
GCL Tigers West
14-12 3rd in the Northwest Division
It was a steady, 3-3 week for the Tigers West club as they took two from their organizational mates to the east, dropped two to the Yankees East, and then split two with the Braves. The wins on Monday and Friday both came via late-inning comebacks, while all three losses included one inning in which the Tigers opponent scored at least seven runs. Anthony Castro (5IP, 2ER, 4K) was the only starter to record a win, with the other two victories going to relievers Jorge Baez and Colyn O’Connell, but Ken Figueroa (12IP, 4ER, 8K) made two solid starts, and Noel Ovalles (4IP, 0ER, 3K) and Matt Manning (3IP, 0ER, 4K) also made good starts. The team’s offense averaged 4 1/2 runs a game last week, with most of the damage coming off the bats of Chad Sedio (5-for-21, HR, 7RBI), Niko Buentello (7-for-17, 2HR, 6RBI), and Ignacio Valdez (4-for-20, 3HR).
- The Tigers selected Buentello out of Auburn in the 18th round of this year’s draft, and he’s off to a great start in his pro debut, ranking in the top five in the GCL in doubles (8), home runs (4), walks (13), and OPS (.967) through 25 games.
- Figueroa’s 4.15 ERA is nothing to write home about, but the 20-year-old has proven to be an innings-eating strike thrower this year, with just three walks in a league-leading 30 1/3 innings pitched.
- Brandyn Sittinger was selected out of Division II Ashland University in the 17th round this year, and he’s been working as a reliever in his first taste of pro ball. He has a 1.23 ERA through 7 1/3 innings, and picked up his first two professional saves last week.
GCL Tigers East
9-17 3rd in the Northeast Division
The Tigers East had their second consecutive awful week, going just 1-5, getting swept by the Tigers West and the Phillies, and splitting a series with the Yankees West. The lone win of the week came in walk-off fashion on Thursday, with Franklin Arias singling in Isrrael De La Cruz for the winning run, and Carlos Lara picking up his first win of the season. The offense struggled for most of the week, scoring just 11 runs in their five losses, and recording just eight extra-base hits in six games. The starting pitching was actually quite solid all week, with Stanley Martinez (4IP, 1ER, 5K), Xavier Javier (5IP, 1ER, 5K) Francisco German (4IP, H, 8K) Yei Almonte (6IP, 1ER, 2K), and Jhonny Mateo (5IP, 1ER, 4K) all pitching well, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the weak bats, iffy relief, and poor defense.
- Lara’s first win of the season was immediately followed up by his first loss of the season, as well as his first earned run of the season, as he gave up a run on a single, a sac bunt, and a single in the bottom of the 10th inning on Thursday. He still sports an impressive 0.87 ERA with 13 strikeouts and just three walks in 10 1/3 IP.
- German’s eight strikeout performance set a new career high, and propelled the hard-throwing young Dominican into a tie for the fifth most punchouts in the GCL.
- Johandry Cortez turned 18 in May and has spent much of the season as the team’s third catcher, so he hasn’t played a lot. But he made the most of his time last week, going 2-for-6 with the second HR of his pro career.
21-21 4th in the San Pedro Division
The DSL Tigers had a full week, playing seven games in six days, but going just 3-4. The week began with a pretty ugly 10-2 loss to the Nationals, but the club came back the next day behind a strong start from Eddy Castro (5IP, 1ER, 5K) and solid relief from Julio Guante (4IP, 1ER, 1K) to pick up a 3-2 win. They lost two games on Wednesday against the Angels, resuming July 2nd’s game in which they were down 6-0 in the 2nd inning, eventually losing 9-6, and then dropping game two 6-2. The Angels completed the three-game sweep the next night in a wild game that saw both teams score a run in the 10th inning, and then the Angels outscore the Tigers 3-2 in the 11th to take home the 8-7 win. The club did end the week on a solid note, sweeping the Brewers with a walk-off on Friday and a 8-0 shutout on Saturday. Guante picked up two wins on the week, while the third went to Adonis Figuera, who struck out three in his lone inning of work on Saturday.
- It was another pedestrian week by outfielder Juan Ramirez’s standards, as he went 5-for-17 with four runs scored. The DSL leader in walks had gone eight games without taking a base on balls, but then he walked seven times on Thursday and Friday, before leaving Saturday’s game after just one at-bat.
- The DSL pitching staff has had 11 different hurlers start a game this year, and 14 different pitchers finish a game. Edgar Escalona leads the team with seven starts, while Adonis Reyes and Esmeiro Del Valle have each finished six games. Jose Ramirez is the only pitcher who has neither started nor finished a game this year.
- Third Baseman Luis Laurencio doesn’t turn 18 until October, but he already stands 6’2 and weighs 215 lbs. He has flashed promise with the bat this season, leading the team with four homers and adding ten doubles for good measure, but he also leads the team in strikeouts (49) and errors (20) in just 37 games.