The Rock Cats have won 16 of their first 28 games to open the 2007 season, and are currently one of the hottest teams in the Eastern League. The team has won its last five contests, dating back to May 6, and has pushed their record above the .500 mark. They have also won eight of their last ten contests, including a double-header sweep of the Binghamton Mets on May 3. Currently, the team is second in the Eastern League in team batting average, posting a .266 mark as a team, though they are fourth to last in earned run average (4.11). They have been getting better pitching lately, and are starting to become a major player in the Eastern League standings.
There is no hotter hitter in the Twins farm system than Felix Molina right now, as the sweet-swinging second baseman is in the middle of a 16-game hitting streak. Molina is now tenth in the league in batting average, with a .315 mark, and has raised his average from well below the Mendoza Line. His .315 batting average is good for third in the organization, and he is one of only two Rock Cats regulars who is batting over .300 this season. The other player being David Winfree, who has battled back from injury to hit .313 through his first 17 games this season. In his last four games, Winfree has hit safely in each contest, including three multi-hit efforts. Of his 20 hits this season, eight have gone for extra-bases.
The Rock Cats have been getting better starting pitching lately, and the bullpen has been better as well. Brian Duensing has been one of the more consistent pitchers in the Twins organization this season, and he is currently ninth in the league with a 2.14 earned run average. Nick Blackburn has also been great on the bump this month, as he has an earned run average under 3.00 in his four appearances, including three starts. J.P. Martinez and Jose Mijares have been great out of the Rock Cats bullpen, as Mijares has held opponents to a .170 batting average from his closer role. Martinez has a sweet 1.56 earned run average through his first ten appearances of 2007, and has handcuffed opponents to the tune of a .217 batting average.
Rashad Edlridge is batting only .213 through his first 16 games with the Rock Cats this season, and he has the second lowest batting average of anyone on the Rock Cats. Brandon Roberts is still batting under .200, but he has looked slightly better at the plate lately. Trevor Plouffe got off to such a hot start to the 2007, but as of May 12, he is not batting only .246 on the season. Slugger Brock Peterson was expected to provide the punch in the middle of the lineup for the Rock Cats this season, but he has only one home run this season. Garrett Guzman is also batting below his potential, as he is a much better hitter than his .240 batting average would suggest.
The Cats also have some arms who are struggling this season, including Tristan Crawford, who has an ERA over 6.00 since being demoted from Rochester. Starter Jesse Floyd has been hit hard at times, and has a 5.74 mark after six appearances this season. Daniel Powers, who had such a good season in 2007, has really struggled from the Rock Cats bullpen in 2007, posting a 7.11 mark in his first nine outings. Batters are hitting a ridiculous .386 against him, which is by far the highest batting average against a single pitcher this season. Outside of Martinez and Mijares, the bullpen has been very shaky, and how this plays out will be crucial to the success of the Rock Cats in 2007.
What We Know
Trevor Plouffe's recent struggles do not worry Twins brass too much, as an adjustment period is always going to happen when you make such a tough jump in your professional career. Plouffe's start was very unexpected, and he is going through now, what most expected him to go through at the beginning of the year. It's baseball, and a growth period is to be expected, especially when you are one of the younger prospects in the league. Nick Blackburn has been great lately, and could be one of the first promoted to Rochester if guys like Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, or Scott Baker get promoted to Minnesota. He has been going deep into games, which is a great sign at this point of the season. Also, Brandon Roberts has looked decent lately, but signs from him have been few and far between. The Rock Cats are streaking right now, and they could seriously make some real noise in the Eastern League this season.