Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 8/22 - 8/28
Toledo Mud Hens
63-73, 4th in the West Division
There are only eight games left in the Mud Hens season, and they’ve been eliminated from the postseason, but that didn’t keep the club from putting together one of its best weeks of the year. Toledo went 5-2, sweeping a three-game series in Louisville, and then returning home to take two from Columbus, before dropping two to Indianapolis. The five-game winning streak was the longest of the season for the Hens, and it was accomplished thanks to some very impressive pitching. Toledo outscored Louisville 14-5, getting strong starting pitching from Buck Farmer (6IP, 2ER, 4K), Donn Roach (7IP, 1ER, 7K), and Warwick Saupold (7IP, 0ER, 3K). Myles Jaye continued the trend, giving up just one unearned run and striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings against Columbus on Thursday, while Friday’s 5-1 win saw the first rehab appearance of Jordan Zimmermann (3 2/3IP, 0ER, 1K), contributions from the bottom of the lineup, and strong bullpen work. The bats fell silent over the weekend, with Indianapolis spoiling another solid start from Farmer (6IP, 1ER, 7K) in a 2-0 loss on Saturday, and the club scratching out just two runs in a 6-2 loss on Sunday.
- Super utility man JaCoby Jones had a strong week at the plate, going 8-for-22 with four doubles, a triple, three walks, two steals, and five runs scored. The 24-year-old hasn’t really found his power in AAA, but his batting average and on-base percentage have been climbing each month.
- Reliever Joe Jimenez has run into his first speed bumps as a pro in AAA, but he was strong last week, putting no one on base and picking up three saves in as many chances over 2 1/3 innings. The 21-year-old fireballer is now 29-for-30 in save chances this season, and he owns a 1.63 ERA with 73 strikeouts and just 17 walks over 49 2/3 innings.
- Catcher John Hicks continues to be a steady offensive force for the team. He went 5-for-16 last week and threw out the only runner who tried to steal against him. For the season he is hitting .307 with ten home runs, and he figures to join the Tigers as a third catcher as soon as the Mud Hens season ends.
57-76, 4th in the Western Division
Erie’s late-season run of success continued last week, as the club went 4-2 and climbed another spot in the standings. The week started with a three-game sweep of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, beginning with a 4-2 win on Monday that saw the SeaWolves score all of their runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was a four-run sixth inning and a strong start from Josh Turley (6IP, 1ER, 8K) on Tuesday that led to a 5-2 win, and Wednesday’s game was all about strong bullpen work, with Cory Riordan, Adam Ravenelle, and Joe Mantiply combining for 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to let Erie overcome a 6-1 deficit and win 8-7. The team then headed to Altoona where they played three tight games. Artie Lewicki (6 1/3IP, 2ER, 1K) had some tough luck in Thursday’s 5-3 loss, but the club bounced back with 15-hit effort on Friday to squeak out an 8-7 victory. Saturday’s game was the wildest of the week, with the teams heading into extra innings tied at three. Erie took the lead in the top of the tenth on an RBI-triple from Mike Gerber, but Altoona tied it again when the first batter in the bottom of the tenth hit a home run. The Curve eventually won on a walk-off single in the 14th inning, and the Wolves will have to wait until next year for revenge, because Sunday’s game was canceled due to rain.
- Few players in the system have seen their fortunes turn around as dramatically as Grayson Greiner. The towering catcher hit just .183 last season in Lakeland, but last week he went 9-for-21 with a homer, raising his average in AA to .286. He’s been on fire in August, hitting .381 with four home runs, and he has thrown out 45% of potential base stealers in AA.
- Lefty starter Tyler Alexander pitched twice last week, giving up four earned runs on 15 hits while striking out nine in 11 2/3 innings. He has now surrendered 34 hits in 28 1/3 innings for Erie, but the control artist has issued just one walk, and his 5.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the eighth best among all minor league starters.
- Gerber continued his strong second half, going 8-for-24 last week with a homer, three walks, and a stolen base. For the season he is hitting .280 with 29 doubles, six triples, and 18 home runs, and he set a new career high on Saturday by knocking in his 77th run of the year.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
56-72 5th in the North Division, 22-38 5th in the Second Half
It was an absolute dud of a week, with Lakeland going 0-6, scoring more than two runs just once, and tying their season-worst losing streak at eight games. The club dropped four games at Daytona and then two at Dunedin, with Sunday’s game canceled due to rain. The action began on Tuesday with The Flying Tigers and Daytona finishing a game they began on July 3rd, with the Tortugas winning 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off bunt. Daytona then won game two 2-1, with Lakeland’s only run coming on a Wade Hinkle first-inning triple. The bats struggled again in Wednesday’s 7-1 loss, and Thursday’s loss was the most painful of all, because the offense finally managed to plate four runs, but Santiago Garrido gave up the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and then the winning run in the bottom of the 11th. The bats stayed asleep in Dunedin, scoring just three runs on eight hits in two games, and spoiling decent starts from Jeff Thompson (5IP, 1ER, 5K) and Endrys Briceno (6IP, 2ER, 3K).
- It’s been a year of strange production for outfielder Ross Kivett. The 24-year-old native of Ohio went 0-for-16 last week, but he did walk four times. On the season he’s hitting a paltry .209, but he has 11 home runs, 12 steals, and he’s fourth in the Florida State League with 69 walks.
- Thompson has been a solid member of the Lakeland rotation all year, and his 3.52 ERA is the lowest of any qualified pitcher on the team. He has limited hits (99) and home runs (6) in his 117 2/3 innings, but he has issued 66 free passes. The righty has walked at least two batters in 20 of his 26 outings this season.
- The official box score for Tuesday’s first game includes 2/3 of an inning pitched for starter Tyler Alexander, and home run number 19 for Christin Stewart. When the game was completed, Stewart was busy walking three times in Erie, and Alexander was sitting on the SeaWolves bench. Other players who started that game but did not finish it include Mike Gerber (promoted), Kade Scivicque (traded), and Joey Pankake (injured).
West Michigan Whitecaps
67-61 3rd in the Eastern Division, 28-33 6th in the Second Half
West Michigan’s second-half swoon hasn’t been quite as dramatic as Lakeland’s, but the Whitecaps had another tough week, going 3-4 and getting outscored 42-25. The week began with a four-game set at South Bend, where the Caps were outhit by the Cubs 14-2 in an 8-2 loss. The two teams combined for 26 hits the next night, with West Michigan pulling out the 6-5 win behind four-hit nights from Will Allen and Jose Azocar. Wednesday’s game was the wildest of the week, with the Whitecaps coming back from an 8-2 hole to tie the game in the eighth inning and take a 9-8 lead in the tenth, only to see South Bend plate two in the bottom of the inning to win it. Thursday’s finale was tame in comparison, but West Michigan was surely happy to get the 2-1 win as starter Kyle Dowdy and relievers Drew Smith and Zac Houston combined to strike out 16 batters. The club then headed to Fort Wayne, where they suffered a 2-1, walk-off loss when Marcus Greene homered off of Trent Szkutnik in the bottom of the ninth. The TinCaps demolished West Michigan on Saturday, putting up 20 hits and 15 runs, but the Whitecaps managed to pull off the 7-3 win on Sunday thanks to a 15-hit attack.
- Will Maddox had another strong week, going 11-for-27 with five walks and four stolen bases. He raised his batting average four points to .345, and is now just three points behind Midwest League leader Luis Arraez.
- Outfielder Azocar had a quality week at the plate, going 7-for-24 with four RBI, but he also picked up two more outfield assists on Saturday, giving him a league-best 16 on the season.
- Recent draftees Mark Ecker and Zac Houston continue to do fine work out of the West Michigan bullpen. Ecker gave up no runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings last week, while Houston gave up one hit and no runs in 2 2/3 innings. The duo have given up just one earned run on 12 hits in 25 innings for West Michigan, with 33 strikeouts and 12 walks.
38-30 2rd in the Stedler Division
Connecticut posted a solid 4-3 week, but they weren’t able to make up any ground on the two teams ahead of them in the standings. The week began with the Tigers beating the Staten Island Yankees 1-0 behind a strong tandem start from Austin Sodders (3IP, 0ER, 5K) and Jordan Smith (4IP, 0ER, 5K) to finish off an impressive sweep of the Wild Card leaders. But then the club went into Hudson Valley and were swept in three games by a red-hot Renegades squad that has now won 12 games in a row. Kyle Funkhouser was roughed up a bit (2 1/3IP, 3ER, 2K) in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss, and the offense could only muster four hits over the next two games, losing 4-2 on Wednesday, and 4-0 on Thursday. But with their backs against the wall, the Tigers fought back, sweeping three from the last place Vermont Lake Monsters to stay within striking distance. Locke St. John was dominant (7IP, 0ER, 6K) and Connecticut hung four earned runs on first-round pick A.J. Puk in Friday’s 6-3 win, the offense exploded for 16 hits and 11 runs on Saturday, and the club completed the sweep with a 3-0 win that featured terrific pitching and an impressive three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth on Sunday.
- Offensive production was spread fairly evenly throughout the team last week, with third baseman Josh Lester (7-for-22) and outfielder Cole Bauml (6-for-23) having the most noteworthy weeks at the plate. The two players are tied for the team lead with 14 doubles.
- St. John’s. 2.32 ERA is the fourth best in the New York-Penn League, while his 60 strikeouts are good enough for sixth. Fellow southpaw Gregory Soto also registers in the top ten with his 2.52 ERA.
- Connecticut currently sits four games behind the Lowell Spinners in the Stedler Division, and 1 1/2 games behind Staten Island for the Wild Card. The club has just eight games remaining, but the next three are at Staten Island, and the three after that are home against Lowell.
GCL Tigers West
29-27 3rd in the Northwest Division
The Tigers West went 3-3 in their final full week of action, taking two games from the Yankees East, dropping two games to the Yankees West, and then splitting two games with the first-place Phillies. The club used solid pitching from Matt Manning (3IP, 1ER, 4K) and four relievers to eke out a 2-1 win on Monday, and then Daniel Gonzalez (5IP, 0ER, 7K) and Dalton Lundeen (4IP, 0ER, 3K) combined to blank the Yankees East 4-0 on Tuesday. The Yankees West turned the tables on the Tigers, holding them to a single hit in a 4-1 loss in game one of a Thursday doubleheader, and then beating up on Ken Figueroa (6IP, 4ER, 4K) in the nightcap. Anthony Castro was spectacular (5IP, 1ER, 9K) on Friday against the Phillies, but the offense could only muster two runs in a 3-2 loss. The bats were quiet again on Saturday, managing just three hits, but Manning (3IP, 0ER, 5K) and Oswaldo Castillo (3IP, 0ER, 4K) made them count in a 3-0 win.
- Progress has been slow for 2014 bonus baby Julio Martinez, but he has improved incrementally in each month of the season. He owns a .697 OPS in August, and in his last ten games he’s hitting .281 with four runs scored and six RBI.
- Manning is unlikely to pitch again this season, so he ends his first taste of professional ball with a 3.99 ERA in 29 1/3 innings, having given up 27 hits, walked seven, and struck out 46. He has the second highest strikeout total among 2016 first-round picks, trailing only Zack Burdi’s 48 Ks in 33 innings.
- Serving mostly as a long reliever, Castillo has picked up wins in each of his last three outings. Since returning to the GCL from Connecticut in early August, the 20-year-old has tossed 11 scoreless innings, and given up just four hits and two walks while striking out 11.
GCL Tigers East
20-36 3rd in the Northeast Division
It was an ugly week for the East club, as they went just 1-5 and were officially eliminated from playoff contention. For most of the season they’ve had one of the GCL’s weakest offenses, but last week they were mostly done in by poor pitching. They plated six runs on Monday, but the pitchers struggled to keep the Yankees West bats in check, giving up nine runs on 11 hits. Tuesday’s game was closer, thanks to a strong start from Stanley Martinez (5IP, 1ER, 6K), but the Yankees scored a run in the bottom for the ninth for a 4-3 walk-off win. The offensive outburst didn’t carry over into Thursday’s doubleheader with the Braves, as the Tigers were outscored 10-2 in a pair of losses, but the bats did perk up again in their final series. They were out-slugged 8-5 on Saturday, but finally broke into the win column on Saturday with a 5-4 triumph over the Yankees East.
- First baseman Moises Nunez had a very strong week at the plate, going 8-for-24 with a home run and six RBI. He has split time between the West and East teams this year, combining to hit .260 with four homers and 23 RBI in 36 games.
- Reliever Hector Rodriguez has quietly put together a very solid U.S. debut this season. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings last week to lower his season ERA to 2.10, and in his last ten outings the 19-year-old Venezuelan has allowed just two earned runs over 19 innings.
- Infielder Geraldo Gonzalez is the youngest player on the team, having been drafted in the 34th round this year out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Pro ball has been a struggle for him so far, but last week he went 6-for-12 with five runs scored, two stolen bases, and his first extra-base hit as a pro.
33-36 4th in the San Pedro Division
The DSL Tigers saw their season end in anticlimactic fashion, as they went 2-2 to begin the week, and then had their final three games of the season canceled due to rain. They opened up their schedule with a planned doubleheader against the Angels, but they were destroyed 12-0 in the first game, and rain pushed game two to Tuesday. They fell 8-1 to begin the day, but bounced back in grand fashion in the second game, winning 4-0 as starter Edgar Escalona threw a 7-inning no-hitter. Wednesday saw the club play it’s final game of the year, a 4-1 win over the Brewers led by starter Julio Guante (5IP, 0ER, 3K). The team ends its season with a 33-36 record, 17 games out of first place.
- Outfielder Juan Ramirez ended up leading the team in runs scored (44), hits (66), triples (5), and walks (39), while fellow outfielder Jose Quero led the team in RBI (34), on-base percentage (.459), and slugging percentage (.425). Shortstop Jorge Ynirio led the team with 15 doubles, third baseman Luis Laurencio hit six home runs, outfielder Darwin Alvarado was tops with ten stolen bases, and catcher Gustavo Figueroa led the team with a .336 batting average.
- Escalona struck out four and didn’t walk any batters or hit anyone in his no-hitter. The only thing preventing him from a perfect game was a catcher’s interference error on Figueroa in the fifth inning. The 18-year-old Venezuelan finishes the season with a 3-4 record and a 3.46 ERA, and he surrendered just six earned runs in his last six starts.
- Guante finishes the season with the lowest ERA on the team at 2.17, while Eddy Castro’s 1.15 WHIP led the team, Adonis Reyes had the most saves (5), and Alfredo Silva led the club with 51 strikeouts..