Whitecaps Media Dept

May 15 - May 21 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Hello Gregory Soto

Three of the Tigers full-season affiliates stand at two games under .500, while the fourth is surging toward first place. Last week in the minors we saw a cycle in Toledo, an ugly five-game losing streak in Erie, an impressive debut in Lakeland, and a dominant outing from one of West Michigan’s young starters.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/15 - 5/21

Toledo Mud Hens
20-22, 2nd in the West Division

The Mud Hens began the week in first place, but after going 3-5 they now sit in second behind the red-hot Indianapolis Indians, who have won eight in a row, including four straight over to Toledo to finish the week. Things didn’t start out so badly, with Buck Farmer (7IP, 3ER, 5K) and Efren Navarro (2-for-3, 3RBI) leading the Hens to a 5-3 victory over the Louisville Bats on Monday, William Cuevas (7IP, 0ER, 4K) authoring a 5-2 win on Tuesday, and the club walloping Louisville 16-2 on Wednesday. The Bats got revenge on Thursday, blasting Drew VerHagen for a career-high ten earned runs in just four innings on the way to an 11-2 triumph, and Toledo didn’t win again. The club traveled to Indianapolis for a four-game set, but fell meekly in both ends of a Friday doubleheader, mustering just seven hits and two runs total while losing 6-1 and 7-1. Saturday’s game was much more competitive, with the Hens taking a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 7th, but Farmer started the inning with a HBP and a walk, and Edward Mujica couldn’t bail out his teammate. Toledo scored twice in the 9th and got the tying run to third with 2 outs, but they ultimately fell 8-7. Sunday’s game was probably the toughest of all, because the Mud Hens plated two in the 8th to take a 2-1 lead, only to see Logan Kensing give up a game-tying homer in the bottom of the inning, and Mike Zagurski give up two singles and a sac fly in the 11th to hand Toledo it’s 5th consecutive loss.

  • Several of the Mud Hens veteran leaders had strong weeks. Bryan Holaday went 8-for-25 with a homer and three doubles, Omar Infante went 11-for-29 with three doubles and a homer of his own, and Brendan Ryan broke out, going 9-for-26 with five doubles.

  • Warwick Saupold has been Toledo’s most consistent starter this year, giving up more than three runs just once in his seven starts. Meanwhile, veteran reliever Jeff Ferrell has begun to make his mark for the Hens. He has given up just one hit and one run in 7 2/3 innings, while striking out seven and walking five.

  • Wednesday’s 16-2 win saw the Mud Hens rack up 22 hits, 11 of which went for extra bases. Six different players recorded multi-hit games, nine different players knocked in at least one run, JaCoby Jones hit two homers, and veteran outfielder Alex Presley went 5-for-6 and hit for the cycle.

Erie SeaWolves
19-21, 3rd in the Western Division

Erie had Monday off, and they probably wish that were the case for the rest of the week too, as they dropped their first five games and were outscored 43-22. The club hosted Reading for a three-game set to begin the week, but none of the games were particularly close as the Fightin Phils beat up on starters Matt Crouse (5 1/3IP, 6ER, 3K), A.J. Ladwig (5IP, 5ER, 4K), and Myles Jaye (3 2/3IP, 6ER, 4K) and kept the powerful SeaWolves offense largely in check. The team then hit the road to Altoona, where Christin Stewart hit a grand slam as part of a seven-run first inning, but Wolves starter Tyler Alexander gave up five unearned runs while recording just two outs in the bottom of the first, and Erie managed to lose 11-10. Artie Lewicki gave the club a better start on Saturday (5 2/3IP, 2ER, 5K), but apart from Harold Castro going 4-for-4, and Dominic Ficociello going 2-for-4 with a triple, the offense was largely shut down by the Curve pitchers. The SeaWolves finally got back in the win column on Sunday behind Crouse’s best start of the year (7 2/3IP, 6H, 5K), with a sac fly from Castro, an RBI single from Christin Stewart, and a save from Ruben Alaniz (1 1/3IP, H, K) giving the team a 2-0 win.

  • Once considered a promising prospect, Castro now fits the mold of a solid organization player. His hitting ability has never really been in question, though, as evidenced by his 11-for-26 week. Ficociello is pretty much in the same boat, and his 8-for-20 week now has him hitting .368 for the month of May, and .309 on the season.

  • Erie’s pitching remains a bit of a mess. Ruben Alaniz is the only pitcher currently on the roster with an ERA of 3.00 or better, and the current WHIP leaders are Waldis Joaquin (1.20), who has thrown five innings for the club, and Jairo Labourt (1.36), who is up to 7 1/3 innings.

  • Infielder Kody Eaves was off to a solid start to season before straining his hamstring in early May. He returned to action on Tuesday and had a rough 2-for-23 week, but those two hits happened to both be 3-run homers.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
21-23, 4th in the North Division

Lakeland’s offense took a bit of a hiatus last week, scoring just 20 runs in eight games, and the pitching wasn’t quite strong enough to overcome the lack of production, leading to a 3-4 week. Sandy Baez (4 1/3IP, 3ER, 5K) took the loss on Monday as the offense managed just seven hits in a 6-0 loss to St. Lucie, but timely hits from Ross Kivett and Tim Remes were all Spencer Turnbull (7IP, 0ER, 6K) needed to shut down the Mets the next day in a 2-0 Flygers win. Kivett and David Gonzalez both picked up three hits on Wednesday, but the rest of the offense only recorded one hit, and Lakeland fell 3-2 in 11 innings. Thursday was another tight affair, with Wade Hinkle knocking in a pair of runs and Matt Hall (6IP, 0ER, 4K) putting together one of his strongest starts of the year, only to have newly promoted reliever Bryan Garcia pick up a blown save and a vulture win in his first high-A outing. Friday’s game was suspended due to rain, with Lakeland leading Clearwater 3-0 in the bottom of the third, spoiling what looked like another promising outing from Beau Burrows (2IP, 0H, BB, 2K). The game resumed on Saturday and the Flying Tigers took a 5-3 lead into the 9th, only to see Mark Ecker give up four singles and a walk in a hugely disappointing 6-5 walk-off loss. Lakeland also dropped the second game on Saturday, with the offense mustering just one run on five hits, and Baez giving up four runs on nine hits in just four innings. The Flygers were able to salvage one game in the series, though, thanks to an impressive start from Kyle Funkhouser (7 2/3IP, 3H, 2ER, 10K), late-innings homers from Ben Verlander and Luis Valdes, and an 11th-inning walk-off single from Verlander.

  • Funkhouser’s stellar high-A debut was a continuation of his impressive performances in West Michigan. The 2016 4th-round pick now owns a 4-1 record with a 3.00 ERA on the season, and his strikeout rate (13.6 K/9IP) ranks in the top five in all of minor league baseball.

  • Hinkle and Kivett were pretty much the whole offense last week. Hinkle went 10-for-25 with a homer and five RBIs, while Kivett went 9-for-26 with a double and three steals.

  • Hall had a rough first five starts of his season, failing to finish the 6th in any outing, getting bounced before he reached the 3rd in two starts, and giving up 15 ER in just 25 2/3 innings. But he has turned it around in his last three starts, giving up just two runs over 19 innings, striking out 16 batters, and lowering his ERA from 7.64 to 4.17.

West Michigan Whitecaps
28-14, 2nd in the Eastern Division

The Whitecaps went 4-2 and lost one game to rain, which for them constitutes a mediocre week, as they are now 13-5 in May. A pair of soon-to-be Flying Tigers led the team to a 2-0 win on Monday, with Kyle Funkhouser (6IP, 6H, 3BB, 8K), Eduardo Jimenez (2IP, 2H, 3K), and Bryan Garcia (IP, 2K) combining to shut out the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Tuesday’s game saw a strong start from Eudis Idrogo (7IP, 3ER, 3K), and the Whitecaps put together some late-inning heroics, getting a two-out, game-tying single in the bottom of the 9th from Daniel Pinero, and a walk-off single from Blaise Salter in the bottom of the 10th for a 4-3 win. Bowling Green exacted some revenge on Wednesday, battering West Michigan for 19 hits in a 10-1 drubbing. The Caps fell again on Thursday, the first time they’d lost back-to-back games since mid-April, when Lake Country spoiled Anthony Castro’s best start of the season (6 2/3IP, 2ER, 5K) by scoring twice in the bottom of the 8th to pull out a 4-3 win. The Whitecaps came back strong to win the series behind dominant starting pitching, as Austin Sodders (6IP, 2H, 0ER, 6K) absolutely stifled the Captains’ bats in a 4-0 win on Friday, and Gregory Soto overpowered the opposition to the tune of 12 strikeouts over seven innings in a 6-2 triumph on Saturday.

  • Sodders and Soto continue to put together remarkable seasons. Both southpaws rank in the top five in the league in ERA, and together they own a 9-0 record with 0.99 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and 85 strikeouts in 72 2/3IP. Soto’s 12 punchouts were a career high, and the most by a West Michigan pitcher since Spencer Turnbull struck out a dozen on September 1st, 2015.

  • Salter (9-for-22, 4 doubles) Jacob Robson (7-for-21, 6 RBIs), and Danny Woodrow (11-for-24, 4 Runs) all had terrific weeks at the plate. Robson ranks second in the league with a .336 batting average, and Salter has a league-best 19 doubles, which puts him on pace for 61 on the season, which would shatter the Midwest League record.

  • With Garcia moving on to Lakeland, the Whitecaps need a new closer, and it appears that role will be filled by either Jason Foley or Jimenez. Foley gave up one run and struck out four in three innings last week, while Jimenez whiffed five in four scoreless innings. Both pitchers can run their fastballs up near triple digits, and together they own a 1.40 ERA with 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 38 2/3IP.

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