Minor League Monday

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Welcome back to ShutDown Inning’s Minor League Monday’s! Here you will find a detailed report of each and every one of the Texas Rangers’ farm teams.
We will have stats, players of the week, players to watch, weekly recaps, and more! Be sure to check back every Monday for a new report so that you can be on top of your game when it comes to the up and coming Texas Rangers.

Be sure to click any affiliates team logo to take you to their team website for more detailed information. (Team site will open a new browser window)

You will notice under some of the affiliates that their record has reset and they are in the second half of their season. For a complete rundown of how the minor league standings, first and second half of the season works, please follow the links to their homepage and click standings.

Spokane Indians
Short Season Class A
11-19 (-4) (Second Half)
36-32 (-3) (Overall)

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This was a bad week for the Indians, to put it succinctly. They lost a season-high six games this week and are five games back in the second half standings. From getting trounced 21-12 by Tri-City or losing a pitching duel 2-1, this is definitely a week to move on from, and it’s time to start the rebound. They have eight days of play before the playoffs start, so it’s time to get the offense in a groove and push towards a championship.

Josh Morgan has been the most consistent guy at the plate over the last week and has at least one hit in each game over the same time. He has made the most of his promotion from the Arizona League, and it will be interesting to see where this young man starts out next season. Reminder: he’s only 18 years old and is a member of the draft class of 2014. He’s responded well, as a third round pick, and his future will be fun to track. Yay for more middle infield prospects!

Nick Gardewine didn’t get a win in his most recent outing, but that should not detract from the fact that he pitched a gem for the Indians. He went a strong seven innings, with no runs, no walk, and eight K’s on his ledger. He’s been on a roll over his last three starts and seems to be rounding into form, which can only mean good things for the playoff run. Hopefully, he will get to move on from Spokane next season since this is his second year repeating the level.

The offense needs to come around and get going again. Easier said than done, obviously, but there are some big bats still mired in slumps, and it’s time for them to bust loose again. There are eight games left, so let’s cheer the Indians on and gear up for playoff baseball!

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Hickory Crawdads – A (Low)
34-29 (-6.0) (Second Half)
75-57 (-8.5) (Overall)

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After a disastrous stretch that all but eliminated Hickory from playoff contention, they bounced back with a nice 4-2 week against Delmarva, Augusta and Hagerstown. Hickory is still going to miss the playoffs but considering all the movement they had to deal with this season, it’s not shocking. I’ve really enjoyed following the team this year and next week plan to debrief the entire season.

The hitter of the week is 24 year old outfielder Zach Cone.  Cone was the 37th overall pick in the 2011 draft and is coming off of a torn left Achilles in April of 2013. He’s 6’2 and weighs around 205 pounds and was known for terrific defense and a suspect hit tool in college at Georgia. While he’s continued to struggle with the bat this year he had a great week last week hitting .389 and only striking out three times in 20 plate appearances.  With young players, especially ones taken so highly in the draft, you’ll take every bit of optimism you can get and hopefully this week is something that Cone can build on as we head into next year.

The pitcher of the week is again…LHP Frank Lopez.  He had another really solid outing this week against the Augusta Green Jackets. Lopez scattered five hits over six innings of work and didn’t give up a single, solitary run. He also struck out five Green Jackets while walking just one. Lopez is the most intriguing pitching prospect not named Ortiz at Hickory for me. I imagine if he continues to perform like this, he won’t spend much more time in Hickory North Carolina, birthplace of Madison Bumgarner and Rick Barnes.

I don’t have a pick to click this week. Instead I’m going to enjoy the last week of the season for Hickory. In my first season covering a minor league team I’ve absolutely fallen in love with baseball at this level. There is something really special about watching young kids that are developing before your eyes. There are no private jets taking players from one city to the next. There aren’t 35,000 fans in the seats cheering their names as they walk into the batter’s box. There are just baseball players with their entire futures ahead of them. It’s pretty magical.

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Myrtle Beach Pelicans – A (High)
32-30 (E) (Second Half)
76-54 (+11) (Overall)

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It’s been a down week for the Pelicans as they won two of six games and were even shutout in a game 2-0. The playoffs are around the corner, though, so the team will be focused on getting through the last eight games of the season and prepping for the first round of games. They are still a very talented squad and can certainly do good things in the playoffs.

The offense is in a bit of a downturn of late and needs to break through. Sustaining success in the wake of “losing” guys like Gallo, Williams, and Alfaro is a big task to undertake; however, this club is still capable of seeing guys like Brinson, Cordell, and a couple of others step up and produce at the plate. If the team expects to win a ring, they’ll need contributions in every facet, and these last eight games will be key to getting some kind of fuel added to the fire.

The same goes for the pitching side. It’s been fun seeing Gonzalez, Claudio, Faulkner, and a small handful of others get promoted to various upper levels, but they are missed, to be sure. One bright spot for the Pelicans is getting to see Cody Buckel achieve more success than was anticipated this season. They’ve seen some great relief pitching from Jose LeClerc in the closers role and there is enough talent still present for this club to go for it in the playoffs; the team just needs to feed the fire and get into a groove over the next three weeks of play.

Baseball is a difficult sport, made even more difficult in the minors by the constant threat of inconsistency and roster fluctuation. This club has something big to play for still. and it will be fun seeing them join the other Rangers affiliates in September. Cheer them on and hope that they will be able to be one of the clubs with a ring at the end of their season.

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Frisco RoughRiders – AA
36-26 (+2) (Second Half)
76-55 (+4.5) (Overall)

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With the regular season nearing its close, the RoughRiders now sit at 35-26. Frisco is currently one game up on the Midland Rockhounds and play the Oakland affiliate in five of the team’s final nine games. Regardless of the outcome of the second half division race, Frisco makes the playoffs as they won the division in the first half. The Riders went 3-3 over the past week, really struggling on the mound where they allowed 29 runs over the past five games.

The hitter of the week honors go to slick-fielding shortstop Hanser Alberto. The 21-year-old hit .368 on the week and now sits on a seven-game hit streak. After hitting .224 over his first 24 games in Frisco, Alberto has an average of .308 since. His numbers have seen a large boost over last year’s. In 2013, Alberto slashed .223/.263/.291 between Myrtle Beach and Frisco. This year, the Rule-5 eligible shortstop has slashed .267/.301/.376 between the same two clubs. Any offensive contribution from Alberto is significant since, with his fielding and throwing abilities, it won’t take much production at the plate for him to become a major league utility infielder.

Starter Alec Asher had a very productive week on the mound, allowing only three runs over his two starts. The former 4th round pick struck out 11 and allowed eight base runners, all on hits, in 12 innings. This lowered his ERA on the year to 3.86. Asher has succeeded at Double-A this season despite being only 22 years of age and is known for his pitchability, or the ability to keep batters off-balance. At 147 innings on the season, Asher is already 13.2 innings over his career high.

The pick to click for the next week is OF Nick Williams. The top prospect has adjusted to the Double-A level over the past week with a hit in seven of his last eight games. As he faces the pitching staffs of Midland and San Antonio, groups with many veteran pitchers and a lack of quality stuff, over the next seven days, Williams should be able to eat up soft fastballs and early-breaking curves.

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Round Rock Express – AAA
67-68 (-7.0)

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The 2014 minor league season is just about in the books as we head to the final week of the year. The Express is pretty much out of the race at six games back with only 10 games to play. Stranger things have happened, but it’s about as likely as Yu Darvish pitching another meaningful game in 2014. The race for first in the division is neck and neck between Memphis and Nashville as they each have identical record at 73-61. Round Rock’s upcoming week will be starting a four-game series in Las Vegas and then finishing out the year with a series at home against Nashville. So there is still time to get to Dell Diamond and see your Express one more time.

Round Rock did manage to have a pretty nice record this past week as they went 5-2 winnings games against Tacoma and Salt Lake. The pitching was plentiful in most of the wins as they got great outings from Robbie Ross, who went eight innings in a win on Wednesday, and even Derek Holland pitched well in his latest rehab start going 5 innings giving up two earned runs (though we now find out he’s been scratched from his next start and could be shut down). They also got some really solid bullpen work as Spencer Patton pitched in 3 games without allowing any runs and Nate Adcock also pitched in a few games without allowing any runs. Despite the news of top prospect Corey Knebel being shut down for the year with an elbow injury, the week couldn’t really have gone much better. I suppose if you really like Chris Gimenez, you may have been sad to know he was traded as well.

My hitter of the week is a familiar face, as I recognize the CF Jared Hoying. I’m really not sure what got into Jared since early June, but his average is up to .259 now as he continues to just rake in the middle of the lineup. He collected 12 hits this week goingt 12 for 29 with a pair of walks. (That’s a .413 batting average and .451 on base percentage). He had a homer, a double, a triple, six runs, and drove in seven runs to go along with those healthy percents. He should get a look in September for Texas at one of the corner spots. I would rather shut Choo down to get him healthy and let Hoying/Choice play over the likes of Dan Robertson. No offense to Dan but he doesn’t have a future with this club. Obviously, the problem with Hoying coming up is that he isn’t on the 40-man roster. So someone would have to go to the 60-day DL or designated for assignment. The two candidates that could be sent to the 60-day DL are Tanner Scheppers and Yu Darvish.

My Pitcher of the Week is Spencer Patton. The former Royal farmhand is the de facto closer for Round Rock right now, and he pitched in three wins this week, picking up saves in two of them. He threw three innings, allowed two hits, no runs, no walks, and he struck out four. So yeah, he was pretty good. Over his last 10 outings, Patton has a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings of work. He won’t light up the radar gun, but he commands his stuff well and changes speeds. There seems to be some comparison out there of Patton to the man he was traded for—Jason Frasor. The organization would certainly take it, but that’s his ceiling. Spencer is not on the 40-man roster, so we will just have to wait and see if he is with the Rangers come September.

I want to give you two players to really click this week—Michael Choice and Luis Sardinas. Both players are hitting over .300 in their last 10 games and seem to be finding their stroke. Choice even had a two homer game on the 21st against Vegas. As top prospects in the system, it’s nice to see them hitting, especially Choice, who has had a season to forget. Luis didn’t really do anything to complain about, but if he’s ever going to be a big league regular, he will need to hit since he doesn’t walk or have much power. Defense can only take him so far.

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SDI Minor Leagues
The SDI Minor League Staff is led by Minor League Coordinator Grant Schiller who covers Spokane, High Desert, and Frisco. Minor league enthusiast Travis Smith covers the Hickory Crawdads and Round Rock Express. Occasional contributions are courtesy of Billy Casey.

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