Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

April 10 - April 16 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Really Efren Navarro Good

The first full week of minor-league action brought with it a mixed bag of results. West Michigan and Lakeland both so their offenses struggle, but things were much rosier at the higher levels where we saw a wild comeback and walk-off win in Erie, and a terrific week in Toledo, led by great performances from a group of veteran hitters.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 4/10 - 4/16

Toledo Mud Hens
8-3, 1st in the West Division

Apart from losing their home opener on Thursday, the Mud Hens had an almost perfect week, going 6-1 overall and surging to the best record in the International League. The week’s action began with a three-game set at Louisville, but Toledo’s pitching absolutely silenced the Bats, with William Cuevas (6IP, 3H, 6K), Warwick Saupold (6IP, 6H, 3K), and Buck Farmer (6IP, 9H, 2ER, 2K) all giving their team a great shot to win, and the bullpen putting up nine shutout innings to finish off all three games. The club then returned home to begin a four-game series with the Indianapolis Indians, and though they fell 5-1 in the home opener, the offense soon kicked in and scored 19 runs as the Hens reeled off three consecutive wins. Toledo took early leads on Friday and Saturday and held on to win both games thanks to an impressive start from Drew VerHagen (6IP, 3H, ER, 3K) on Friday, and some stellar relief and offensive fireworks from Efren Navarro (3-for-3, BB, 2HR, 4RBIs) on Saturday. Sunday’s game saw the team get down early, only to mount an impressive late comeback, capped off by a 6-run 7th inning that began began with two walks, a balk, and a throwing error.

  • VerHagen’s six-inning win on Saturday was his longest outing as a pro since July 11th, 2014. The big right-hander is recovering nicely from thoracic outlet surgery, and he’s already thrown ten innings this season after tossing just 19 2/3 all of last year.

  • The Hens have three veteran hitters who are off to torrid starts in John Hicks, Jim Adduci, and Navarro. Hicks went 7-for-17 last week to raise his batting average to a league-best .467, Aducci, who spent the last two years playing in Korea, went 8-for-21 with a triple, a homer, and seven runs scored, and Navarro went 8-for-19 with two homers and eight RBIs.

  • It was an interesting week for a few members of the Mud Hens bullpen. Blaine Hardy pitched five total innings and picked up the win in both of his outings, giving him a league-best three W’s; Joe Jimenez made his MLB debut on Thursday and was back in Toledo on Friday to pick up his second save of the season; and after two ugly big-league outings Bruce Rondon made his 2017 Mud Hens debut with a scoreless inning on Saturday.

Erie SeaWolves
6-3, 2nd in the Western Division

The SeaWolves had a very strong week, particularly on the offensive side of things, where they averaged nearly six runs a game and won four of six contests. They took two of three at home against the Bowie Baysox, kicking the week off with an exciting 9-8 walkoff win in the 10th inning. The club was down 7-0 heading into the 3rd inning, but Victor Alcantara, Ruben Alaniz, Mike Zagurski, and Jeff Ferrell combined to give up just five hits and one run over the remaining seven innings, and Erie’s high-powered offense did the rest. Mike Gerber hit a 2-run homer and scored four times, Christin Stewart doubled, tripled, and scored twice, and Gabriel Quintana knocked in three runs, including the game winner in the 10th (his 2nd walk-off hit of the young season). Tuesday’s 4-2 win wasn’t as exciting, but the club got timely hitting from Greyson Greiner and Jason Krizan, and a strong start from Anthony Vasquez (7IP, 8H, 2ER, 2K). Erie dropped Wednesday’s series finale 8-6, and then hit the road for the first time this year. They fell to the Binghamton Mets 7-5 on Thursday, but bounced back to take the series thanks to strong starts from Artie Lewicki (5IP, 5H, ER, 3K) and Matt Crouse (5IP, 4H, ER, 2K).

  • No Erie hitter had a better week than the veteran outfielder Krizan, who went 8-for-23 with two home runs, three doubles, eight RBIs, a stolen base, and five walks.

  • Zagurski is 34 and spent the last two years pitching in Japan, but he hasn’t missed a beat in his return to American baseball. He threw five scoreless innings in three outings last week, hasn’t been scored on in seven total innings, and with 12 strikeouts he has the highest K% in the Eastern League.

  • Shortstop A.J. Simcox also had a strong week at the plate, going 5-for-17 with a double, a triple, and seven runs scored. He currently ranks third in the Eastern league with nine runs scored.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
5-6, T5th in the North Division

It was a pretty darn ugly week for the Flying Tigers, as they lost their first five games and fell into last place, but they were able to salvage a 2-5 week with wins on Saturday and Sunday. The week started ugly with a 5-0 loss that saw the offense manage just four hits and starter Matt Hall bounced after just 1 2/3IP. The batters suffered from some cluster luck on Tuesday, putting up nine hits but leaving eight men on base to spoil a strong start from Beau Burrows (6IP, 6H, 2ER, 6K), and the bats fell silent again with just four hits on Wednesday. The Flygers then took a trip to Port Charlotte for a four-game set with the 0-7 Stone Crabs, only to have Spencer Turnbull (4 1/3IP, 4H, 5ER, 5BB, K) take a bit of a beating in a 9-5 loss on Thursday, and the offense leave a dozen men on base and the bullpen blow a late lead for a 3-2 loss on Friday. The club was finally able to exorcise some demons on Saturday with a 12-hit, 10-run outburst that saw Jose Azocar, Ross Kivett, Wade Hinkle, and Will Maddox combine for eight hits, eight runs scored, and seven RBIs. And on Sunday Beau Burrows (5IP, 4H, 4K) picked up his first high-A win and Gerson Moreno (IP, 3H, ER, K) recorded his first save of the season thanks to timely RBIs from Will Allen, Ben Verlander, and Arvicent Perez.

  • Kivett went 11-for-31 on the week, hitting in all seven games to raise his batting average to a team-best .300, while Azocar went 9-for-31 to reach .280. Both rank in the top ten in hits in the Florida State League.

  • Burrows is off to a terrific start to the season. His 15 1/3 innings lead the league, his 1.17 ERA ranks eighth among pitchers with at least ten innings, and his 13 strikeouts is good for seventh.

  • The Flying Tigers have the most prospect-laden bullpen in the system, with Drew Smith, Mark Ecker, and Moreno all potential late-inning relievers in the majors. Smith has given up one earned run and struck out seven in five innings, while Moreno has given up one run and struck out six over 4 2/3. Ecker has run into the most trouble with three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he’s also striking out 38% of the batters he faces.

West Michigan Whitecaps
5-5, T4th in the Eastern Division

The Whitecaps were able to shake off their early-season run-scoring issues a bit last week, but it didn’t help their overall record as they went just 2-4 to fall to .500 on the season. Things started off on a sour note, with the club getting swept in a three-game set at Dayton. Their offensive woes continued on Monday and Tuesday when they lost 2-0 and 3-2, spoiling strong starts from Austin Sodders (5IP, 2H, 6K) and Gregory Soto (5IP, H, 4K). The Caps had the lead late on Tuesday, but a throwing error by Eduardo on an attempted sacrifice bunt led to two runs. West Michigan’s offense erupted for eight runs on Wednesday, matching their total output from the first six games combined, but it wasn’t enough as the bullpen once again coughed up the lead in the 8th inning. Things got better when the club returned home and took two of three from the South Bend Cubs. All three contests were tight affairs, with the wins going to Alfred Gutierrez (2 1/3 IP, 2H, 2K) and Jason Foley in relief, and strong offensive contributions came from Anthony Pereira, Blaise Salter, and Jacob Robson.

  • Wednesday’s wild 10-8 loss began with Kyle Funkhouser on the mound. Last year’s 4th-round pick was dominant in his first Midwest League start, but he was the opposite last week, getting shelled for six hits and seven earned runs in just two innings.

  • The offensive uptick at the end of last week was largely led by Robson, Salter, Pereira, and shortstop Daniel Pinero. Together the four combined to go 20-for-65 with 11 runs scored, 7 extra-base hits, 3 home runs, 12 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases.

  • Reliever Zac Houston was saddled with a blown save on Saturday when he entered the game with two men on and gave up a run-scoring single and a groundout, but he still hasn’t allowed an earned run this season, and he’s picking up where he left off last year. He has given up just one run in 25 1/3 innings for the Whitecaps, with 14 walks and 38 strikeouts.

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