Two Rock Cat hitters currently stand in the top ten in the Eastern League Batting Average race. First baseman Whit Robbins had a hot bat in May, and is currently hitting .337, while second baseman Brian Dinkelman continued to be the Rock Cats' most consistent hitter with a .330 average. Third baseman Danny Valencia was also a valuable run producer, and his .284 average puts him in the league top 25. Robbins' offensive tear included an impressive 11 game hitting streak where he batted .463, and also pitched in with at least an RBI in each of the 11 games.
Steve Tolleson was promoted on May 30th to the struggling Rochester Red Wings. His roster spot allowed the reactivation of top Twins' catching prospect Wilson Ramos, who had been injured since May 8th. Tolleson was only batting .258 at the time of the move, but his versatility and experience combined with Rochester's need for a middle infielder paved the way for his promotion.
Valencia missed some games in the first half of May with a nagging hand injury. With the Rock Cats adding Valencia and Ramos to a lineup led by Dinkelman and Robbins, June will be a promising month for the Rock Cats offense, which needs to support their struggling pitching staff.
New Britain's pitching was shaky in May, as they now stand at eighth in the Eastern League in ERA and tenth in WHIP. Even though the Rock Cats' ERA and WHIP went down, they are currently third in the league in strikeouts with 404, which is only 14 shy of the first place Trenton Thunder.
The Rock Cats bullpen flexed their muscle for most of May, particularly the duo of Robert Delaney and Anthony Slama. Delaney's performance earned him a well-deserved promotion to Rochester. With New Britain this year, he was 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 32 hits allowed in 36 innings, with a minuscule WHIP of 1.06. Anthony Slama performed well in the closer role, with 12 saves, which is second in the Eastern League. His record is 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA and a mind-boggling 47 strikeouts in 31 innings. The one-two punch of Delaney and Slama gave the RockCats' confidence that there was little chance for a comeback win when the Cats carried a lead into the 8th inning.
The starting rotation so far this season is below 50% at 18-20, which has caused most of New Britain's struggles so far this year. The main bright spot has been former first round pick Matt Fox, who is recovering from arm issues that have plagued his minor league career. Even though his velocity is down, Fox is learning to mix his pitches, posting a 5-2 record a 2.81 ERA and allowing 51 hits in 57 2/3 innings, and striking out 45 this season. The rotation has potential with some impressive outings by Jeff Manship and Cole Devries. Eastern League veterans Ryan Mullins and Jay Rainville have been inconsistent. Mullins recently turned in a 5 inning, 7 strikeout performance against Portland.
What to Watch For
Be sure to pay attention to the Rock Cats' explosive offense in June, which will be needed to carry the starting rotation that needs to get on track. With a lineup that includes at least four potential .300 hitters including Dinkleman, Valencia, Robbins, and Ramos, they could be an offensive force to be reckoned with in the Eastern League. Valencia's hand appears to be fine, and Ramos has started fast in June at a .370 clip.
The starting rotation should improve, especially if Manship and Mullins can follow up recent wins with good performances. Both showed signs of potential last year, but have not lived up to those standards this year.
Twins' OF prospect Ben Revere is hitting .333 in Fort Myers, and has excelled at every level he's been at thus far. Look for Revere to be promoted to the Rock Cats by early July. The next pitching prospect to move up to New Britain could be Michael McCardell, who is 7-3 with a 3.73 ERA with Fort Myers. Eastern League veteran Jason Jones has been struggling at Rochester, and could end up in New Britain to rediscover the success he enjoyed at Trenton in 2007 and 2008.