Minor League Monday

minors
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
7-10 (-1.0) (Second Half)
32-33 (Overall)

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The Indians returned to action this week after getting a much needed three-day break, thanks to the Northwest League All Star game. Our very own Jose Trevino took home game MVP honors, which he secured by delivering two doubles for the North team. This week also saw some roster movement and some interesting things may result from these changes. All in all, it’s been a happy return to the diamond for the club.

Let’s all say hello to newcomer, Josh Morgan. He is the 3rd round pick from the 2014 draft, is straight out of high school, and was coaxed away from a collegiate stint at UCLA by the Rangers. He, as do many of the kids fresh from high school, reported to Arizona League play and was promoted to Spokane 6 days ago. He is a middle infielder (are you surprised?) and split his time between second and shortstop over 30 games. Now that he is in Spokane, he will continue to get time in the infield and is also expected to bring his ability to get on base via a single or a walk with him. Power will not be his game, but he’ll fit in well with the likes of Seth Spivey, who also has a keen sense of being productive when it comes to getting on base.

Nick Gardewine checks in with the pitching line of the week, as he hadn’t had an effective outing since June 28th. He went 6.0 innings pitch, matching a season high for him. The key to his success was the ability to limit contact on his pitches and actually inducing strike outs – he fanned a season high eight batters! It appears the three-day break did him some good, and hopefully this will be a sign of things to come. The club has a ring to play for in September, and Gardewine will be important in that rotation.

As we say hello to Josh Morgan, let us all say a (hopefully final) goodbye to catcher Marcus Greene. He has worked very hard to make it out of Spokane, the level he was asked to repeat after spending his first pro ball season there in 2013. He leaves Spokane with a .318/.446/.466 slash line, a weighted on base average of .430, a strike to walk ratio of 0.87, and a wRC+ of 158 – in layman’s terms, he found ways to get on base, showed some occasional power, and contributed to creating and cashing in on scoring chances. A small implication of this move is that Jose Trevino, previously entrenched at third base, will now receive consistent catching time for the duration of the season.

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Hickory Crawdads – A (Low)
29-21 (-3.0) (Second Half)
70-49(Overall)

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The Crawdads are trying to get into 1st place in their division and winning two consecutive series in a week’s time should help. Unfortunately, they’re still three games out, but they did receive some new faces this week, faces that may just help them find a way to the top. They have 19 games left in the season, are 18 games away from elimination. Time is of the essence for the Crawdads, so here’s hoping they have something up their collective sleeve. It would be fun to see them join the other affiliates who’ve clinched a spot.

Joe Jackson is making an appearance on this report again and is the hitter of the week in Hickory. He slashed a respectable .333/.429/.444 this week. Most of his contributions were due to singles and walks, but he did get two doubles on his ledger as well. He is now joined by Marcus Greene, who is up in place of the promoted Kellin Deglan, as the battery for the rest of the season. These two will be key in keeping the pitching rotation in check and finding ways to contribute with their bats.

Pitching ruled this week. Collin Wiles had quite the week, over his two starts this past week. In a combined 10.1 innings pitched, he gave up 9 hits, 0 runs, 0 home runs, 1 walk, and struck out 9 batters. His last outing saw him strike out a season high 5 batters; his second best rate was 4 K in a game (twice). The most important thing to glean from these two outings is to make note of the fact that he went 5+ innings in consecutive outings, something he had not done yet this season. This is nice to see and will hopefully mean more extended innings for him in the rest of his starts this season.

One of the new faces to make it to Hickory is pitcher Luis Ortiz. There are some things to remember about young Luis: he is a self-taught pitcher, he was drafted in June (at age 18) out of Sanger, California, and started the year in rookie league Arizona. He’s now in Hickory, skipping Spokane outright. He gave up 3 runs, walked 3, and struck out 15 (!!!) batters in 13.1 innings of AZL ball. In his first low-A appearance, he went 3 innings, only allowed one base runner (a walk), and struck out 2 batters. He’s good. He has our attention, so don’t blink and miss something potentially special when he takes the mound this season. He may also be one of the things that pushes Hickory towards the playoffs.

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Myrtle Beach Pelicans – A (High)
29-21 (+5.0) (Second Half)
73-45 (Overall)

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The ‘Birds were practically perfect in every way this week, record wise. They swept two series, increased their division lead to 5.0 games, and seem to be back on an offensive warpath. If they hold on, or further increase this lead, they will secure an outright division victory over both halves of play. The Birds found a much needed balance of good pitching and timely hitting this week and were rewarded. Whether this is sustainable during the last three weeks of play is the question. Watching the answer unfold will be worth it, though.

The offense as a whole gets props for what amounted to a collective effort this week. In the wake of Jorge Alfaro’s promotion to Frisco and Kellin Deglan’s return to the beach, they still managed to put runs on the board and not waste the efforts of the pitching staff. They averaged 4.1 runs per game and, when your pitching staff roughly yields an average of 2 per game, that’s pretty much what this club needed to get itself out of the funk it was in near the end of July and beginning of August.

Chadwick Bell, or Chad (to his friends), checks in with his first appearance and the pitching line of the week. He went 5.0 innings pitched, gave up 1 run on 2 hits, walked 2, and struck out a season high 6 batters. This was his best outing of the season and will likely set the bar for him the rest of the season. As stated earlier, the pitching was as good as it could have been this week and that trend needs to continue throughout the rest of the season and into September.

A reliever to keep an eye on is lefty Cody Ege. He is riding a 5 inning scoreless streak and a 14 inning homerless streak as well. In those same 14 innings, he’s also only walked one batter. Combine him with Jose Leclerc and you have good options for end of game scenarios.

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Frisco RoughRiders – AA
29-21 (E) (Second Half)
69-50 (Overall)

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This past week involved more roster moves which brought two big-time prospects to Frisco. OF Nomar Mazara, just 19 years old, was promoted all the way from Low-A Hickory, where he hit .264/.358/.470. C Jorge Alfaro was moved to Frisco as well, promoted from High-A Myrtle Beach after slashing .261/.318/.440 over 100 games. The pitching staff received a boost as RHP Wilmer Font was activated from the DL. To make room, C Carlos Garay was sent to the AZL Rangers, LHP and change-up specialist Alex Claudio received a promotion to Triple-A and OF Chris Grayson was placed on the 7-day DL. The Riders went 3-3 over the week. Frisco now sits one game back of the first-place Midland Rockhounds after clinching a playoff spot with a first-half division win. The race for the second-half title in the Texas League Southern Division looks to be a two-team race as Corpus Christi and San Antonio are quickly falling behind.

The hitter of the week was newly promoted C Jorge Alfaro. Through five games in Double-A, the top-50 prospect boasts a slash-line of .350/.458/.650 with two home runs and, perhaps more importantly, three walks. Alfaro walked at a rate under 6% while at Myrtle Beach and is well-known for his overly aggressive approach. The former 16-year-old signing out of Colombia showed off his impressive strength by depositing an outer-half fastball which he hit off the end of his bat over the opposite field fence. Fellow C Pat Cantwell deserves an honorable mention after putting together another successful week at the plate. The defensively skilled backstop went 6-for-13 over the seven-day stretch, raising his second-half average to .302 after hitting a measly .216 during the first half.

Recently-acquired RHP Jake Thompson was the pitcher of the week for Frisco after two stellar outings. The main piece of the Joakim Soria trade went 10.2 innings and allowed just one run, seven hits, four walks and struck out 17. Over the course of the 2014 season in which he has played at High-A Lakeland, Double-A Erie and Double-A Frisco, Thompson has struck out 108 batters in 108.2 innings. In his last outing, his work in progress change up dropped 3-4 mph mid-game, which is a development to keep an eye on in his next start as the pitch had previously been just a few ticks below his fastball.

The pick to click for the next week is RH reliever Keone Kela. He has always been a hard thrower, but his velocity has ticked up even more lately. Where he was sitting 95-97 earlier in the year, he sat 98-99 and touched 100 in his last outing. He currently has a 1.97 ERA in 32 Double-A innings, and with the combination of his walks decreasing (five in last 10 outings after 16 in first 19) and his velocity increasing, that number may descend even further.

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Round Rock Express – AAA
61-61 (-5.0)

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It has been a very bizarre week for Round Rock in terms of the schedule as the year of the rain out and double-header continues. The Express were scheduled for one double-header this week and ended up playing two (they have another one scheduled for Sunday the 10th). Obviously, this wacky schedule can throw off starting pitching plans but it can also give the bullpen some extra rest.

The five games RR did get in this week resulted in them going 2-3 and losing the final three games. They finished up their six game series with Memphis first and ended up losing it only getting two wins, both on August 4th. Next, the series with Nashville was plagued by interruptions and so far RR has lost twice on August 8th. This stretch of games has seen Round Rock fall to only 2 games over .500 at 61-59. They sit three games behind first place Nashville and 1.5 games behind second place Memphis. All three of these teams have stayed steady the last 10 games going 5-5. Like it has been over the last month, this division race is neck and neck (and neck). Even last place New Orleans sits only 4.5 games out of first. For Round Rock to qualify for the playoffs, they must win their division.

The roster activity has slowed down and the Rangers didn’t really do anything other than activate Geovany Soto from the DL (he was on rehab assignment with RR) and DFA’d Chris Gimenez and Jerome Williams. We shall see if Chris accepts a minor league assignment to come back to Round Rock. We also learned Philly claimed Williams on Sunday so his time in our organization is over.

My hitter of the week for this week is Ryan Rua. The Ohio native has hits in his last four games and is slashing .314/.368/.514 over his last 10 games. This week he went 7 for 16 with four doubles, four runs scored, one homer, one walk, and three RBI. He was used strictly at 3B for the week. In 110 minor league games this year, Ryan is slashing .296/.365/.480 with 16 homers and has only struck out 85 times in 402 At Bats. With 40-man spots open, it could only be a matter of time before the 24 year old’s contract is purchased and he’s playing in Arlington.

My pitcher of the week is a bit of a challenge, as Round Rock didn’t use a single pitcher more than one time. However, I’m going to go with Lisalverto Bonilla as he pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Derek Holland on August 4th. The 24-year-old Dominican had a rough season last year with RR but he’s bounced back this year posting a 3.79 FIP in his 52 innings. He’s always posted good strikeout numbers but the spotty command and walks have hurt him. His ERA may not look good this year but a .363 opponents BABIP has a lot to do with that. In his outing this week, Bonilla gave up four base runners and struck out two. I am always intrigued by relief pitchers’ who have swing and miss stuff, so I intend to monitor Bonilla a bit more closely the rest of the season.

My player to watch for the upcoming week is Brett Nicholas. The former Mizzou Tiger has been pretty hot over his last 10 games slashing .333/.355/.467. It’s been a welcome sight as the team struggles to score runs. I would like to see the extra base hits go up a bit more as he does play a power hitting position at 1B/DH. As a 6th round pick in 2010, Brett’s ceiling isn’t really all that high. He is probably nothing more than a Mitch Moreland type of player at best. He could be a candidate to be taken in the Rule 5 this winter as I really don’t see Texas adding him to the 40-man roster. There are just too many other players that need to be addressed.

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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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