The Fort Myers Miracle have been playing some good baseball lately, shaking off a rough start to the 2007 season. The team has been getting some timely pitching, and the middle of their order is really starting to drive in runs. Add to that a leadoff hitter who has played like a Florida State League veteran, and you have the ingredients of a very good High-A ballclub. Against Tampa, the Miracle faced New York Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang, and Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui. If the Miracle can continue to put up runs, and get solid starting pitching, they could be a sleeper in the FSL Western Division.
The past eight games have been solid for slugger Whitney Robbins, who seems to have gotten the timing down in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Robbins has been a great run producer for the Miracle, as well as batting .400 over his past eight appearances. In that time, Robbins has driven in seven runs, and has scored eight times. Slugging first baseman Erik Lis is also hitting well lately, and his starting to drive in runs in bunches. Lis, who put up stellar numbers at Low-A Beloit in 2006, is batting .353 over his last five games, and has driven in six runs. He now has two home runs on the year, and has driven in 13 runs in his last ten games. Edward Ovalle is also starting to lock in at the plate, batting .353 over his last four contests. He has been a great addition to the Miracle outfield.
There is no hotter pitcher in the Florida State League than Jay Rainville, who is battling back from an injury that robbed him of his 2006 season. People are already calling for his promotion to Double-A New Britain, after his 5.1 inning, scoreless outing the last time out. He has now pitched scoreless ball over his last 11.1 innings, and has struck out nine. Left-hander Alexander Smit has turned a corner, and looked great his last time out. Smit struck out seven batters in only five innings of work, shaking off two rough starts to open the season. Eduardo Morlan looks like he is taking a liking to his closer role, as he has been shutting the door for the Miracle as of late.
The Miracle have three position players who are batting under .100 over the past five games, including some guys who really play a key role in the team's success. Infielder/outfielder Juan Portes has really struggled with the stick, and the Miracle are counting heavily on him to turn it around. He is batting only .059 over his last five games, though he has scored three times. Outfielder Eli Tintor, who had a breakout season in 2006, is batting only .067 through his last five contests, with one hit in his last 15 at-bats. He is a good hitter, and should turn the corner soon. Finally, shortstop Toby Gardenhire has fallen into a slump, after surprising some people with a fast start this season. He is batting only .077 in his last four games, with one run scored.
The pitching staff has actually been pitching great as a whole lately, and have given up only 13 runs in their last 44.2 innings pitched. They are getting incredible starting pitching, and their bullpen is starting to take shape. I foresee Zach Ward coming into the rotation, due to his ineffectiveness as a reliever. He is a top starting pitching prospect, and that is the role he is most comfortable in. Angel Garcia was also touched up his last time out, though he has been solid for the Miracle so far this season.
What We Know
The Miracle may end up losing Jay Rainville soon, as he is the obvious choice to be promoted in the Rock Cats need a starting pitcher, now that Anthony Swarzak has been suspended for 50 games. This team is going to rely on their pitching, and also the bats of only a handful of players. Lis and Robbins will continue to hit, as they are proven bats, and the team is going to need guys like Tintor to step up. Steven Tolleson has been absolutely great from the leadoff spot, and they are very happy with his development thus far this season.