Over the first half of the season, the Miracle pitching staff was putting numbers that rivaled any other team in Minor League Baseball. They had a solid set of starters, a great closer, and some top prospect trotting out in the middle innings. There offense was another story however, as basically only Erik Lis was hitting. Adding a couple of big-time prospects from their Low-A affiliate, the Miracle now have a potent lineup, and one of the better starters in all of Minor League Baseball.
Jeff Manship, the best overall starter in the Twins Minor League system this season was promoted to the Miracle in late June, after being a Midwest League All-Star for the Beloit Snappers. He posted a 7-1 record for the Snappers, notching a 1.31 earned run average, and was obviously too good for the Midwest League early on.
Beloit closer Robert Delaney was amazing since Opening Day, setting the Beloit Snappers save record in a little over a half a season. Coming out of nowhere this season, Delaney has established himself as one of the better relief pitching prospects in the Twins organization, and has not missed a step since being promoted to the Florida State League.
However, it has been the additions on offense that have really been turning the Miracle season around. Mired in the bottom of the Florida State League in batting average, the Miracle got a boost when Midwest League All-Stars Danny Valenica, and Brian Dinkelman were promoted to the team. Since their promotion, the Miracle lineup has a dangerous look to it, and the other Miracle hitters are heating up as well.
During the past ten games, of which the Miracle have won seven, the team is batting at a .291 mark, way above their season average. Dinkelman and Valencia are both hitting over .300, with Dinkelman batting a ridiculous .385 over his last nine games. Valencia is batting .308 over his last ten games, driving in 11, and smacking two home runs.
Slugger Erik Lis has taken suit from Dinkelman and Valencia, as he tries to get his batting average back above .300. In his last ten games, Lis is batting .317, and looks much better at the plate now that he has some sluggers protecting him. Shortstop Steven Tolleson is also beginning to heat up, batting .297 over his last nine, which is a very nice clip in the Florida State League.
One guy who has really benefited from the extra protection in the lineup is Juan Portes, who is batting over .430 in his last nine games. Once one of the better position player prospects in the Twins organization, Portes is beginning to look once again like a top prospect, and has scored eight times in the team's last ten games. Catcher Jeff Christy is also flourishing, batting .294 over his last nine, which is way above his career average.
The Miracle are going to need these hitters to continue to produce, now that the team has lost two of their top arms to the New Britain Rock Cats. Oswaldo Sosa and Yohan Pino are both gone, leaving the Miracle some big holes to fill in their rotation.
One key for the Miracle will be the continued growth of Jay Rainville, who missed the entire 2006 season due to injury. Rainville is one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the Twins organization, and is coming off one of his better stretches this season. Over his last 11.2 innings, Rainville has struck out ten, and has allowed only three earned runs.