TigsTown.com - Paul Wezner

May 1 - May 7 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Christin Stewart Bigly

It was another eventful week in the minors, with plenty of walk-off heroics and late-inning drama. Last week in the minors we saw controversial finishes in Toledo, a rehabbing all-star help end a losing skid in Lakeland, stellar pitching in West Michigan, and a power-hitting prospect save the day in Erie.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/1 - 5/7

Toledo Mud Hens
15-12, 1st in the West Division

A scheduled off day on Monday and a rainout on Thursday meant it was a relatively short week for Toledo, but the Mud Hens made up for it by playing four tight games, and finishing with a 3-2 record to remain in first place. The week didn’t start out great, when a shortage of starters led to the Hens calling up A.J. Ladwig from Lakeland to make his AAA debut. He was roughed up (5IP, 12H, 6ER, 2K) but the offense didn’t help him much, putting up just five hits in a 9-2 loss. The Indianapolis Indians got to Toledo’s starter Drew VerHagen on Wednesday (5 2/3IP, 8H, 5ER, 5BB) but the bullpen and offense bailed him out, and in the 10th inning an Indians meltdown led to a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch of Alex Presley, and Arcenio Leon closed out the 6-5 win. With the series finale rained out, the Mud Hens headed back to Toledo to take on the Louisville Bats over the weekend. Buck Farmer (7IP, 8H, 3ER, 8K) made a strong start and the offense scratched out single runs in the 1st, 6th, and 7th innings to tie the game, before Steven Moya singled home Presley in the bottom of the 10th for the walk-off win. Saturday night’s game was a wild affair that saw Toledo blow a 7-3 lead in the 9th inning, then Louisville scored the eventual winning run on a strange play in the 10th inning that was a ruled a strikeout and a wild pitch, but catcher Bryan Holaday was ejected for arguing it was a foul ball. Things got wild again in the late innings on Sunday, when the Hens took a 5-4 lead into the 9th, only to see another controversial play lead to a tie game and the ejection of Toledo manager Mike Rojas. This time the Mud Hens were able to overcome it, winning 6-5 in the 10th on a walk-off double by Michael Almanzar.

  • A roster crunch meant Catcher John Hicks returned to Toledo last week after a productive stint in Detroit, but he doesn’t appear to be sulking about the demotion. He went 4-for-16 in four games last week, but he made the hits count, racking up a double, a homer, and five RBIs.

  • Farmer ranks 2nd in the International League with 35 2/3IP, 11th in ERA (2.78), and 5th in strikeouts (35), but he still doesn’t have a win to his name on the season.

  • The Mud Hens got nearly identical production from two outfielders who are at different points in the careers. Rookie JaCoby Jones was rehabbing with Toledo and went 5-for-20 with two doubles, a home run, six runs scored, and two stolen bases. Meanwhile, the veteran Presley went 7-for-21 with two doubles, a homer, six runs scored, and a stolen base.

Erie SeaWolves
13-14, 3rd in the Western Division

Rain and wet grounds led to to the cancellation of two doubleheaders in Erie last week, but the SeaWolves were still able to get in six games and post a 3-3 record. They began the week with a three-game set at the Bowie Baysox, with Tyler Alexander (7IP, 7H, 3ER, 2K) losing a bit of a pitcher’s duel on Monday, in part because the offense was only able to muster two runs on 12 singles. Tuesday saw a much more efficient Erie offense, with the club scoring five runs on six hits, including two in the 8th and two in the 9th to tie the game, only to see Bowie walk off 6-5 winners in the bottom of the 10th. The Wolves made sure to salvage one game in the series on Wednesday when they scored 11 runs on 14 hits, thanks in part to a 5-for-5 performance from Mike Gerber, and a six-run 7th that included a huge 3-run double from Christin Stewart. Erie returned home to take on the first place Trenton Thunder, and they pulled out the series opener 4-3 behind a great start from Anthony Vasquez (8 1/3IP, 3ER, 4K) and timely hits from Logan Watkins, Grayson Greiner, and Gabriel Quintana. Then the rain hit and washed out doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday, but the teams were able to meet for two on Sunday. Trenton blanked Erie 6-0 in game one, but the SeaWolves battled hard in the second game, getting a three-run homer from Stewart in the 3rd, a game-tying solo shot from Stewart in the 8th, and a walk-off single from A.J. Simcox in the 9th to pull out the 5-4 win.

  • Stewart just keeps producing, even in relatively quiet weeks. He went 5-for-21 with two doubles, two homers, five walks, and seven RBIs, and he practically won Sunday’s series finale by himself, knocking in Erie’s first four runs of the game. He now leads the Eastern League in home runs (8) and RBIs (22), he’s tied for 2nd in walks (16), and he ranks 4th in OPS (.994)

  • Reliever Paul Voelker was suspended for 50 games last week for testing positive for Amphetamine, but that opened up the window for lefty Jairo Labourt, who had been dominating in Lakeland. He made his AA debut on Sunday, giving up two hits and a run in two innings, but he struck out three, and most promisingly, he didn’t walk anyone. Labourt walked 70 batters in 87 innings last year, but this season he has given up just three free passes in 15 2/3.

  • Dominic Ficociello led the team in hitting with a 10-for-23 week, though all the hits were singles. The 25-year-old infielder impressed in spring training only to get off to a slow start in Erie, but he’s hitting .359 over his last ten games.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
16-15, 4th in the North Division

The Flying Tigers had a painful 2-5 week, dropping their first five games to fall two spots in the standings. The club began by hosting Charlotte for four games, but the Stone Crabs were rude guests, beating up on Matt Hall in a 7-5 win on Monday (4IP, 9H, 5ER, 8K), and then handing Beau Burrows his shortest start of the season (4IP, ER, 6K, 82 pitches) in a 2-0 win on Tuesday. Lakeland took a 5-1 lead on Wednesday thanks to a six-hit, four-run 3rd inning, but Charlotte fought back, scoring three times in the 6th and twice in the 8th to take a 6-5 lead, and then former Flygers reliever Drew Smith closed it out for his first save in the Tampa organization. The Stone Crabs finished the series by plating five runs early off Spencer Turnbull on Thursday, and then holding on as Lakeland chipped away but ultimately fell 5-3. Hitting the road wasn’t the immediate answer for Lakeland’s woes, as Kyle Dowdy (6IP, 3ER, 2K) pitched decently, but fell 4-2 to Palm Beach because the Flying Tigers’ ten hits could only produce two runs. Hall was finally able to halt his club’s second 5-game losing streak of the season by stifling the Cardinals hitters (6IP, ER, 6K), though he did get some help from a rehabbing J.D. Martinez, who hit a two-run homer, as well as catcher Arvicent Perez (3-for-4, 2RBIs) and infielder Chad Sedio (2-for-4, 2RBIs). Lakeland took the series on Sunday in a 14-inning marathon that saw Burrows atone for his previous rough outing (7IP, 5H, 7K), and Jose Azocar shook off a rough day (0-for-6, 4K) to plate the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly.

  • Burrows makes this list every week, but it’s hard not to include him given his performance so far this season. The 20-year-old righty now leads the Florida State League with a 1.16 ERA and 40 strikeouts, he ranks second with 38 2/3 innings pitched, and his 1.01 WHIP is good for 7th. It’s likely he’ll be climbing up prospect lists soon.

  • There weren’t any stellar offensive performances last week, though outfielder Ross Kivett had a solid 9-for-27 week with a homer and two steals, and veteran Cuban infielder Luis Valdes went 9-for-25 with a double and three runs scored.

  • A handful of players made their season debuts last week, including last year’s 19th-round pick Dustin Frailey (4-for-7), 27th rounder Sedio (2-for-8, 2RBI), and pitchers Jake Shull (3 2/3IP, K) and Endrys Briceno ( IP, 3H, ER) .

West Michigan Whitecaps
19-11, 2nd in the Eastern Division

The Whitecaps keep rolling, riding strong pitching to a 4-2 week and series wins over the Clinton LumberKings and the Kane County Cougars. Clinton was first into town, and they took game one 5-4 by knocking around Kyle Funkhouser (2 2/3IP, 6H, 3ER, 3BB, 5K) and Zac Houston (1 1/3IP, H, 2ER, 3BB, 3K) and holding off a late charge. West Michigan took the next game 3-2, riding a terrific start from Eudis Idrogo (7IP, 2ER, 6K), lockdown relief from Jason Foley (2IP, 3K), and big hits from Josh Lester (2-run HR) and Daniel Pinero (RBI triple). It looked like the LumberKings might take the series on Thursday, but the Caps sent 12 men to the plate and scored eight runs in the 6th inning, then cruised to a 9-3 victory. The first game of the Cougars series was much like the first game against Clinton, with Kane County knocking out Whitecaps starter Anthony Castro early (3IP, H, 3ER, 3BB) and then dropping the knockout blow on reliever Joe Navilhon (2 2/3IP, 3H, 3ER, 4K) in a 7-5 win. But then the West Michigan pitchers decided they wouldn’t allow any more runs, with Lester knocking in the only run in Austin Sodders’ dominant 1-0 win on Saturday, and Pinero and Cole Bauml providing all the offense in Gregory Soto’s terrific 2-0 win on Sunday.

  • Soto (6IP, 3H, 5BB, 8K) and Sodders (6IP, 4H, BB, 9K) were both outstanding last week, and the southpaws now ranks first and second in ERA in the Midwest League. Soto hasn’t allowed an earned run in 28 innings this season and batters are hitting just .141 against him, although he has allowed 15 walks to go along with his 29 strikeouts. Sodders has only surrendered two earned runs in 26 innings, he has racked up 34 strikeouts and just 7 walks, and batters are hitting just .193 against him.

  • The Tigers drafted Jacob Robson in the 8th round last year in the hopes that he could be a speedy top-of-the-order hitter. He has basically been as advertised so far, as he went 9-for-22 last week with a double, five walks, and four runs scored, and he ranks among the league leaders in batting average and on-base percentage. However, there is one quirk to his early season performance: the fleet outfielder is now 0-for-5 in stolen base attempts this season.

  • West Michigan’s starting pitching has been great this year, but the back end of the bullpen is also looking like one of the league’s best. Foley has given up just six hits and one run in 13 2/3 innings while getting boatloads of grounders, while Eduardo Jimenez owns a 0.61 ERA and struck out five in 2 1/3 innings last week, bringing his season total to 22 Ks in 14 2/3IP. Closer Bryan Garcia owns a less-than-stellar 3.97 ERA, but he gave up three earned runs in his second outing of the season. Since then he has given up just two runs and struck out 17 in 9 1/3 innings.

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