Minor League Notebook: 7/19

A heavy rain system moving through Florida cancelled 2 of the farm's 6 games on Monday - and unfortunately, the other 4 didn't go too well, with Erie the only team coming out on top (and even they needed extra innings). The Mudhens also lost a game in their chase for first place, as a loss coupled with a Columbus win put them back at a 1.5 games out of first.

AAA Toledo 52-45, 2nd place in West division
The Mudhens lost a game in their chase for first in the division, with a 9-6 loss on Monday in extra innings to Syracuse. Adrian Burnside was the starter but had a rough go of it, giving up 4 runs in 3 innings (including 5 walks) before being sat. However, the damage came in the 10th inning when Steve Colyer allowed the go-ahead runs to get on base and into scoring position. John Ennis relieved him, but allowed both inherited runs to score, plus one of his own. Colyer got the loss. At the plate, Joe Vitiello had 2 Home Runs and all 5 of Toledo's RBI. Nook Logan had 2 hits and a stolen base also.

Nook Logan has slowly improved his batting average, but that hasn't changed his status as a prospect. Logan, for all his hype, is still a slap hitter with little patience or power. He does lead the International League in steals, but has only taken 19 walks on the season, a real problem when you can't hit .330 like Alex Sanchez does. Simply put, Logan is natural leadoff hitter that has yet to show he can get on base enough to warrant hitting in the leadoff slot. His OBP is just .303, and he leads the Mudhens in strike outs with 89. He may have been pegged by Randy Smith as the leadoff hitter of the future, but as of now he looks to be more of a backup Outfielder and pinch runner at the major league level.

AA Erie 49-44, 3rd place in Southern division
The Seawolves broke their 3-game losing streak on Monday with a 6-3 win over Altoona in 11 innings. Preston Larrison got a no decision for his start, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits but only surrendering 2 runs. He also struck out 3. Roberto Novoa got the win in relief, pitching a scoreless 10th, before Erie put up 3 runs in the 11th. Juan Tejada went 3-for-6, including a 3-run Home Run in the 11th that provided the game winning runs. Curtis Granderson also went 2-for-5 with a run scored, and Kurt Airoso had a solo Home Run.

It took a little bit of time, but Juan Tejada's power has finally come around. He's always had power to the gaps and been a big run producer, but he had never hit more than 11 Home Runs in a season. All that is changing as Tejada's game winner was his 16th of the year, with still a third of the season left to play. Tejada shows some patience at the plate (29 walks in 288 at bats), but most importantly is simply hitting the cover off the ball, almost a necessity for a First Baseman (especially one whose defense isn't spectacular like Tejada's). Tejada's OPS is currently .876, easily best on the Seawolves. With Tejada's emergence and Carlos Pena's continued inconsistency, a position battle could be brewing next Spring.

High-A Lakeland 10-15, 5th place in West division
The state of Florida was hit hard by rain on Monday, and so Lakeland's game (as well as most of the other games played in Florida) was cancelled. No word yet on a makeup date.

Low-A West Michigan 8-15, 6th place in Eastern division
West Michigan fell again on Monday, losing to Kane County 6-1. Jordan Tata kept the Whitecaps in the game, pitching 7 strong innings, allowing only 1 run on 7 hits while striking out 5. But then Chris Homer relieved Tata, and Kane County proceeded to light up the bullpen, allowing a 5-run 8th that the offense couldn't make up. West Michigan again struggled offensively, with just 6 hits (and again, all were singles). Andrew Graham drove in Garth McKinney for the lone Whitecap run.

It's times like these when some times a prospect emerges, helping carry a team that's struggling. The starting pitching has been good, but not one of the players has been able to step up and provide consistent hitting to propel West Michigan to a few wins. Kody Kirkland, Eric Rodland, Garth McKinney and even Kelly Hunt have the potential to turn it up and provide a lift, but thusfar none have been able to do so. Kirkland has struggled all year, Rodland and Hunt have been in serious dry spells, and McKinney (while possessing tons of power), just can't make consistent contact to become a run producer (just 24 RBI in 277 at bats). For the Whitecaps to avoid a complete meltdown over the final 6 weeks of the season, they'll need one of these hitters to step up. Only time will tell if any of them can.

SS-A Oneonta 15-14, 2nd place in Stedler division
Oneonta suffered a tough loss Monday, falling to Jamestown 5-4. Lavon Lewis took the loss, allowing 5 runs in 7 innings, not his best start of the year. Juan Llamas and Rafael Mendez led the charge at the plate, each with 3 hits apiece (Llamas also had 2 runs scored).

Juan Llamas has been a big bat for Oneonta, but his production should really be expected, considering he's a 24-year old playing in a league with 19-year olds or recent draftees just out of college. Llamas probably wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the injury to Wilkin Ramirez (who was due for a promotion after last year's performance in the GCL), but nevertheless, it's hard to see why the Tigers placed Llamas there when there are surely other youngsters in need of playing time.

Rookie GCL Tigers 10-13, 2nd place in Northern division
Like Lakeland, the GCL was completely wiped out Monday. The GCL Tigers are scheduled to play the Phillies on Tuesday.

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