TigsTown.com - Wendy Smith

July 25 - 31 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Good Zac Shepherd

It was a down week throughout the Tigers system, with the affiliates combining to go just 19-27. Last week in the minors we saw more impressive outfield defense in West Michigan, a lengthy losing streak in Connecticut, walk-off wild pitches in Erie and the GCL, extra-innings heartbreak in Toledo, and a strong week from an Australian in Lakeland.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 7/25 - 7/31

Toledo Mud Hens
48-60, 4th in the West Division

The Mud Hens suffered through another losing week, dropping four of their six games, though for the second consecutive week they did enjoy to company of some rehabbing big leaguers. The week began in ugly fashion, with the club being swept in a three-game series at Durham to stretch their losing streak to five games. Tuesday’s game was the toughest to swallow, because the Hens blew a 4-1 lead in the 9th inning, and then lost in the 14th. They righted the ship once back in Toledo, beating the Gwinnett Braves 6-2 behind a decent rehab start from Jordan Zimmermann (4IP, 1ER, 1K) on Friday, and blanking the Braves 6-0 on Saturday thanks to the efforts of Matt Crouse (7IP, 0ER, 2K). It looked as though they might sweep the series in a wild, back-and-forth affair on Sunday. The Hens took a 6-1 lead early, but found themselves trailing 8-7 in the bottom of the 9th when Dixon Machado hit a two-out, game-tying home run. Unfortunately Joe Jimenez, in just his second AAA appearance, couldn’t hold the lead in the 10th inning, and the Braves prevailed 9-8.

    • On Tuesday, slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez made his first appearance in a Mud Hens uniform since April of 2014. The rehabbing star went 8-for-30 in five games, with three RBI and eight strikeouts.

    • Reliever Preston Guilmet has been an unsung hero for the Mud Hens all season long. He leads the team, and the league, with 49 appearances, and his 2.22 ERA is the lowest on the team among pitchers with at least 30 innings.

    • Veteran infielder Casey McGehee continues to have a strong season at the plate. He went 7-for-26 last week, and he leads the International League with 34 doubles, while his .326 batting average is good for third best in the IL.

Erie SeaWolves
44-64, 6th in the Western Division

Erie fell to last place after going 2-4 last week, with three one-run losses adding a little more pain to an already difficult season. The Wolves began their week by getting swept in a three-game set at Altoona, spoiling a very solid start by Artie Lewicki (6 2/3IP, 2ER, 5K) on Monday, and losing 11-10 on a walk-off wild pitch from Paul Voelker on Wednesday. The club bounced back with two home wins over Reading on Thursday and Friday thanks to quality outings from Tommy Collier (4IP, 0ER, 7K) and a rehabbing Daniel Norris (6 2/3IP, 3ER, 7K), but they fell 4-3 on a game that was suspended on Saturday night and completed Sunday morning.

    • Mike Gerber’s first full week in AA went swimmingly, as he batted 8-for-21 with five RBI, four walks, and his first HR for Erie. In 99 games this year he is batting .288/.353/.494 with 15 home runs.

    • Erie still owns the worst team ERA in the Eastern League (4.55), but starters Collier and Myles Jaye have been doing their best to improve that. Collier’s 2.99 ERA is the third lowest in the league and his 1.17 WHIP is the fourth best, while Jaye ranks second in strikeouts with 104.

    • Outfielder Jason Krizan had a very nice week at the plate, going 10-for-24 with seven RBI. The 27-year-old is hitting .293 in AA this year, with a career-high nine home runs, and his .372 on-base percentage is the third best in the Eastern League.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
45-56 5th in the North Division, 11-22 5th in the Second Half

The Flying Tigers were unable to build off their strong performance the previous week, falling four times in five games last week. They began their action by losing two one-run heartbreakers to the Dunedin Blue Jays, with both games featuring 8th-inning bullpen collapses for Lakeland. Their lone win of the week came on Thursday courtesy of a strong start from Matt Hall (6IP, 2ER, 8K), and five homers from the offense, including Christin Stewart’s league-leading 23rd blast of the season. Things got ugly from there, with the St. Lucie Mets scoring seven runs in the first the next day and cruising to a 16-3 laugher, and coming back the next day with a 6-3 win, spoiling a terrific start from Tyler Alexander (6IP, 2H, 0ER, 3K). Sunday’s outing made it into the top of the 2nd inning before the action was halted due to rain.

    • Alexander continues to post some of the best results of any starter in the Florida State League. His 2.13 ERA is second best in the league, his 1.00 WHIP is fourth best, and his 82 strikeouts are tied for the 11th best total.

    • Third baseman Zac Shepherd has had a very difficult season by just about any measure. He’s hitting just .196, and he has made 25 errors in 91 games, but last week his bat woke up, and he went 7-for-19 with two home runs and seven RBI. He became the fourth member of the Flying Tigers to reach double-digits in home runs this season, and his 43 walks is the second highest total on the team.

    • Reliever Gerson Moreno spent his first 25 innings of the season dominating Midwest League hitters to the tune of a 1.08 ERA, 27 strikeouts, and 11 saves in 13 chances. A mid-season promotion to Lakeland has proven very challenging for the 20-year-old Dominican, however. He pitched twice last week, giving up four earned runs over 1 2/3IP to raise his high-A ERA to 10.97.

West Michigan Whitecaps
55-45 3rd in the Eastern Division, 16-17 4th in the Second Half

The Whitecaps went 3-3 in their six games last week, taking one from Burlington and two from Lake County, but getting swept in three games at Ft. Wayne. Monday’s 4-3 win over the Burlington Bees came on a walk-off single from Will Allen, while the weekend wins over the Lake County Captains featured terrific starting pitching from Kyle Dowdy (7IP, 1ER, 9K) and Ryan Castellanos (6IP, 1ER, 5K), who was making his Midwest League debut. The three mid-week losses didn’t feature a lot of positives, though Eudis Idrogo (5IP, 1ER, 3K) did make a solid start, and the team put up a 15-hit attack, including Cam Gibson’s team-leading 4th home run of the season, in Friday’s 8-7 loss.

    • Dowdy was terrific in July, posting a 4-1 record and a 1.87 ERA over 33 2/3IP. He has become the ace of the West Michigan staff, and his 2.51 ERA is the fifth best in the Midwest League.

    • Outfielder Jose Azocar has been one of West Michigan’s most consistent performers all season. His batting average dipped a bit in July, when he hit .261, but he went 7-for-23 last week, and he hasn’t finished a game with his batting average under .300 since May 22. He also stole his 12th base of the season last week, and he racked up three more outfield assists, giving him 14 on the year.

    • Zac Houston picked up his first professional save on Sunday with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The 2016 11th rounder now owns a 0.61 ERA with 26 strikeouts in his first 14 2/3 professional innings.

Connecticut Tigers
22-20 3rd in the Stedler Division

Connecticut had another tough week, going just 2-5 and falling into third place in the division standings. The week began on the wrong foot, with the team losing both ends of a doubleheader to Mahoning Valley on Monday, and then dropping the series finale to the aptly named Scrappers, who used two errors to tie the game at 3 in the ninth, and then hit a walk-off three-run homer to end it. The Tigers returned home to lick their wounds, but they could only muster one run against Tri-City, and dropped their eighth consecutive game. The club did get revenge with a tight win of their own on Friday, and the they clinched the series with an 8-2 triumph over the ValleyCats on Saturday behind a strong start from Austin Sodders (4IP, 0ER, 5K). The club got another strong start from Kyle Funkhouser (4IP, 0ER, 4K) on Sunday, but some late bullpen issues led to a Vermont Lake Monsters win.

    • Left-hander Gregory Soto is one of the more promising young arms in the system, and he had his best start of the season on Friday, striking out six over five scoreless innings. The 21-year-old southpaw has has some walk issues (21 in 32IP), but he owns a solid 3.38 ERA and has 27 strikeouts.

    • The Tigers have just two batters hitting over .260 this season, and only three players have hit home runs for them. As a team, they have the third worst batting average in the New York-Penn League, and their six home runs is the second lowest total.

  • The Tigers grabbed right-hander Joe Navilhon out of Southern California in the 21st round of the 2016 draft, and he has been terrific in his first taste of pro ball. He tossed 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball last week, and his 0.60 ERA is reflective of the fact that he hasn’t given up a run in more than a month.

GCL Tigers West
16-15 3rd in the Northwest Division

Last week marked the middle of the GCL season. The Tigers West got off to a rough start, losing their first three games of the week, but they bounced back to take games on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday’s game was postponed because of rain. The week began with a tough 7-6 loss to the Phillies that saw a strong start from Anthony Castro (5IP, 1ER, 3K) go for naught after some poor defense led to five late runs for the Phillies. The offense was completely shut down the next day, and then the Blue Jays squeaked out a 2-1 win on Wednesday. The bats woke up in a 5-1 win on Thursday, and they finished the week by holding off the Yankees West for a 7-6 win. The team also got solid, if short, starts from Jose Vasquez (3IP, 0ER, 2K) and Matt Manning (3IP, 0ER, 4K).

    • Jacob Robson was selected in the 8th round of this year’s draft, and the young centerfielder from Mississippi State got off to a rough start, hitting just .190 through his first 13 games. But he has now hit safely in eight in a row, including going 6-for-15 last week, to bring his average up to .270, and he ranks second in the GCL with 12 stolen bases.

    • Vasquez now sports a 2.79 ERA and 25 strikeouts through 29 GCL innings this season. He ranks 16th in the league in ERA, and his 1.07 WHIP is good for 12th.

  • Outfielder Ignacio Valdez (5-for-12, HR, 3RBI) and third baseman Randel Alcantara (2-for-11, 2HR, 3RBI) both did some damage at the plate last week. Valdez is now tied for the league lead in home runs with six, while Alcantara is tied for third with five. Both rank in the top-10 in the league in slugging percentage.

GCL Tigers East
12-19 3rd in the Northeast Division

The Tigers East played five relatively low-scoring games last week, winning three times to stay within 1 1/2 games of first place in the division, despite their poor overall record. Monday saw a 4-2 win over the Yankees East thanks to a stellar outing from Stanley Martinez (5IP, 1H, 0ER, 7K) and multi-hit games from shortstop Jose Salas, catcher Bryan Tejeda, and third baseman Moises Bello. Xavier Javier (5IP, 1H, 0ER, 7K) matched Martinez on Wednesday, but five errors led to four unearned runs and a 4-2 loss. The next three games all saw the Tigers score the tying run in the top of the 9th inning. Friday’s game ended in the bottom of the inning when former Tigers draft pick Nick Shumpert scored on a wild pitch to give the Braves a 4-3 win, but the Tigers scored in the 11th inning on Thursday to beat the Pirates 3-2, and again on Saturday to beat the Braves 4-3.

    • Martinez and Javier both lack to innings to qualify for the league ERA title, but if they did, Martinez would rank eighth in the league in strikeout percentage (29.7%), and Javier’s 0.77 WHIP would be good for fourth.

    • Catcher Shane Zeile was on a rehab assignment last week, playing two games apiece with the Tigers East and West squads. He went 6-for-8 with a home run and five RBI for the East team, before being sent up to West Michigan on Saturday

  • Carlos Lara’s impressive bounceback season continued last week with 4 2/3 of scoreless relief. He gave up three hits and struck out five while picking up a win and a save, and he now owns a 0.60 ERA through 15 innings, with 18 strikeouts and just 3 walks.

DSL Tigers
25-23 4th in the San Pedro Division

The DSL Tigers had a solid 4-2 week, picking up a sweep of the Yankees2, and then splitting series with the Cardinals and Braves. Both victories over the Yankees were one-run affairs, with Eddy Castro (6IP, 4H, 0ER) picking up the win on Monday, and Dionis Munoz throwing 3 1/3 innings of solid relief to get the win on Tuesday. The offense scored six runs to win on Wednesday, but then took the next two games off, getting outscored 13-2, before breaking out again on Saturday for a 9-6 victory. There are 24 games left in the DSL season, and though the Tigers have performed well, they sit nine games behind the division-leading Rockies.

    • Catcher Gustavo Figueroa turns 18 in September, which somehow makes him the oldest catcher on the DSL roster. He has also been the most effective offensive player on the team, hitting safely in seven consecutive games, and going 6-for-12 last week to raise his batting average to .346.

    • Alfredo Silva threw three scoreless innings last week to lower his team-best ERA to 1.42. He ranks second on the team with seven starts, and fourth on the team with 31 2/3 innings, yet he’s one of only two pitchers on the staff who hasn’t earned a decision this season.

  • The club’s positive record last week was impressive considering their two most consistent offensive performers didn’t provide much help. Jose Quero didn’t play in a game, and Juan Ramirez went just 3-for-20 with one walk and one run scored.

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