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
10-14 (-2) (Second Half)
35-27 (-2) (Overall)

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This week saw some very solid pitching for the Indians, and they needed strong showings from their arms. The race for the second half is interesting: there is a tie for 1st and a tie for 3rd, with our Spokane club in the race for 3rd at the moment. They are aiming to win the second half, though, in order to secure a season long division win. They are playoff bound and are very much looking forward to September baseball.

The offense has been up and down the last few games and is probably due for a resurgence soon. Make no mistake, hitting a baseball is hard work in a single game, let alone trying to do it consistently over a week’s time. The offense is due for a huge rebound, and they have two weeks left to get back in a groove and finish out the season on a strong note. Momentum won’t mean much during the playoffs, but any momentum the team can put together will at least help to keep up their confidence going into September.

Special note for the pitching section this week. On August 10, four Spokane pitchers combined for 11 no-hit innings and a 3-0 Spokane win (in extras). This outing was mostly due to a very strong start from Derek Thompson – 5ip, 0h, 0r, 1bb, 5k. Three pen arms came in after and sealed the deal – Shane McCain, Adam Parks, and Luis Pollorena combined for 6ip, 0h, 0r, 1bb, and 9k. Joint efforts like these are rare fun and also serve to highlight some of the great bullpen arms that Spokane has in their arsenal.

Last call for the offense to come back to life and get back into a groove. They were just shut out by the Tri-City Dust Devils 7-0 and really need mutual contribution from the multiple bats that are mired in slumps at this time.

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Hickory Crawdads – A (Low)
31-26 (-5.0) (Second Half)
72-54 (-7.5) (Overall)

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Although we’d love to see our favorite minor league teams make it into the playoffs, sometimes they’re cursed, err, blessed with the spattering of talented players ready to accept the challenge of a promotion to a higher level of baseball. Hickory has been a case study in that very concept this season. They’ve seen and said goodbye to plenty of guys that make GM’s mouth’s water. Guys like Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, Josh McElwee and most recently Ryan Cordell. What I’m trying to tell you, and remind myself of, is that while team success is certainly fun, the development of these players is the end-game.

The hitter of the week is catcher Joe Jackson. As I wrote earlier in the season, he is the great-great-great nephew of the infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Other than a VERY interesting namesake, the other thing that makes him intriguing is the fact that he’s a left handed catcher which is incredibly rare. The 2013 5th Rounder hails from The Citadel where he was a very good hitter who, like now, was mediocre defensively. He’s young, left handed and learning so hopefully he’ll improve there and be a productive piece of this organization. Last week he hit .250 and had 2 home runs, a double and 7 RBI in 6 games.

The pitcher of the week is LHP Frank Lopez. He’s 20 years old, and the kid can pitch. Like most lefties his velocity isn’t overpowering, but after struggling early in his professional career with control, he’s seemingly figuring things out. In 57.1 innings he has a 2.83 ERA and a sexy 67 strike outs to 18 walks.  He throws a fastball, changeup and a nice curveball, all of which he’s been throwing for strikes lately. On Thursday night he was locked into a pitcher’s duel with the Shorebirds and pitched 5 innings of 3 hit baseball while striking out 7.

The pick to click this week is…AWW forget it! I miss you already Ryan Cordell. Your .321/.388/.504 slash line and your team leading 18 stolen bases this year were really fun to watch. I hope you enjoy the surf and sand of Myrtle Beach but selfishly, Hickory won’t be the same… until another stud hitter comes along. So goes minor league baseball.

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Myrtle Beach Pelicans – A (High)
30-26 (+1.0) (Second Half)
74-50 (+12) (Overall)

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The Birds are still on the path to securing a 2nd half division win, which they hope to add to the 1st half win they secured weeks ago. A couple of promotions have retooled the balance of the lineup and this reconfigured crew will have to gel together and keep producing. The pitching was up and down, but Sam Wolff clocked in with a very nice post-DL performance.

Newest Pelican, outfielder Ryan Cordell, is now on the clock for the Birds and had a phenomenal debut with the club. In that game, he went 4-5, with 3 singles and a home run, and no strike outs. He replaces Nick Williams in the outfield and brings a solid defense with him to his new club. He has come a long way since being drafted last year in the 11th round; he could shape up to be a name to keep tabs on if his skills continue to improve as they have this season.

As mentioned earlier, Sam Wolff gets the pitching line of the week honors, and it was well deserved. He’s riding a scoreless streak since coming off the DL near the end of July, and his one start this week was a nice build up to what he’d been working towards. His line was an impressive 5ip, with 3h, 0r, 1bb, and 5k. He was backed up by Luis Parra in relief; Parra was perfect in his 4 innings and struck out five batters as well.

The Birds have two weeks left in the season and the push towards the playoffs will be fun to watch. Despite some of the recent offensive shuffling, this club is still capable of playing good baseball. This is the time to keep cheering on the team and follow them into the post-season.

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Frisco RoughRiders – AA
33-23 (+2) (Second Half)
73-52 (+4.5) (Overall)

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Another week, another big prospect promoted to Frisco. This time it is left-handed outfielder Nick Williams. The former 2nd round pick out of Galveston slashed .292/.343/.491 over 94 games in High-A Myrtle Beach. Known for one of the quickest bats in all of minor league baseball and an undisciplined approach at the plate, his development will be one to watch over the next couple years. Williams possesses loud tools, but other factors may stunt his growth. He was included in Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season top 50 prospects list. The RoughRiders went 4-2 over the past week, vaulting them into first place where they have a one game lead over the Oakland-affiliated Midland Rockhounds. Frisco is now 32-23 on the back half of the season and 72-52 overall.

On a team filled with big bats, a surprising name had a fantastic week at the plate. 22-year-old Teodoro Martinez, son of Carlos Martinez, who hit the HR off of Jose Canseco’s head, hit .583 on the week. Martinez picked up seven RBIs, collected four hits in a single game twice and raised his batting average to .288. While on hitters, remember not to panic about Joey Gallo. When he was promoted to Double-A, it was known he’d have struggles as a 20-year-old with lots of swing and miss in his game. Despite a 40.6% K-rate and a recent slump lowering his batting average to .244, his year so far in Frisco has not been a failure. He has continued to work extremely hard through his recent struggles and has still hit 18 bombs. He’s 20 years old with a great makeup. Don’t worry.

The pitcher of the week is 2013 first-rounder Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez. He tossed two gems head-to-head against highly-ranked Rockies prospect Eddie Butler. In the first match-up, Gonzalez went five innings, permitting no hits, one walk, one HBP and two unearned runs. In the second, the 6’2” righty threw seven innings, allowing eight baserunners and one run while striking out eight. His ERA is now down to 2.02 in 62.1 innings since his promotion to Frisco. Opposing hitters are batting just .226 against Gonzalez, and he is inducing 1.7 ground-outs for every flyout. Be ready to see Chi-Chi in the big league rotation at some point in the 2015 season.

My pick to click for this week is OF Nomar Mazara. The recently-promoted 19-year-old is currently sitting on a five-game hitting streak, and over that time is 8-for-19 with two home runs and two walks. Mazara has been on a tear for the entire second half, and despite being so incredibly young, has not been over-matched by Double-A pitching.

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Round Rock Express – AAA
63-65 (-7.0)

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August has not been too kind for Round Rock as the swoon continues for the Express. They have dropped their last 4 games and 8 of their last 9 bumping the season record to 62-65. The woeful stretch has pretty much seen them fall out of the division hunt as Memphis is pulling away winning 7 straight games. Round Rock sits 7 games back of Memphis in 3rd place. Remember when I said last week the race would be close the rest of the season between all of these teams? Yea I guess I may have been wrong. Let’s just hope that with every lousy stretch can bring a terrific one and RR can climb back into it these last few weeks of the season.

Last Sunday they played yet another double header and lost both games to Nashville as the sounds Taylor Jungmann(Texas native) had them quiet and Luke Jackson did not fare too well at all giving up 8 runs in 1 inning. Luke really just didn’t have it that day and then was roughed up again on Saturday. Jackson isn’t pitching that many innings and his AAA ERA sits over 9 as he’s given up more earned runs than he has innings pitched. Right now it seems like a long shot for him to be called up to the big league level in September as the club may want to shut him down and limit his innings. He has thrown 114 on the season and has never thrown more than 130 in a season in his career.

The second game saw the last game Justin Germano pitches for Round Rock as he was later traded. He took a loss allowing 4 runs in 5 innings. It’s of note that Michael Choice hit 2 home runs in the game. Monday’s game with Nashville was postponed. On Tuesday, Round Rock started a series with Reno and it started off well with a 4-3 win in extras. Josh Wilson of all people hit the game winning single in the 12th and that’s about the last time things were looking up for the club. How about Michael Kirkman getting another win out of the bullpen and improving to 5-5? His ERA is down to JUST 4.75 now. I could see him being brought back up come September (I’m Sorry). The next three games all were Reno wins. Round Rock was out pitched in two of them and out slugged in the other. The upcoming week will see Round Rock finish up their series with Tacoma and start one up with Salt Lake.

My hitter of the week could once again be Jared Hoying but I’m going with Ryan Strausborger. The Indiana native had hits in all 5 games he played this week. He hit .315 on the week and drew 2 walks as well. He also slugged 3 homers and drove in 4 runs. The former 16th rounder of 2010 is not hitting .273 on the season in 73 games for Round Rock. The LF is crushing left handed pitching this year hitting over .340 now while just hitting over .240 against right handers. Nothing wrong with a speedy OF platoon player.

Well my options are limited and I have to pick someone so the pitcher of the week is the recently acquired Spencer Patton. The 26 year old has been pretty much nails since coming over to the Express giving up only 1 run in his 10 innings of work. This week he pitched in 2 games throwing 2 and 2/3 innings giving up 0 runs and striking out 3 allowing only 3 base runners to reach. In this run he’s lowered his AAA ERA to 3.51. Not too shabby. I suspect Spencer to be campaigning for Texas in a few weeks.

Watch out for Corey Knebel this week. Seriously, watch him throw if you get a chance. He’s had a bit of rough luck but boy can he get a strikeout when he needs it. If he just commands his stuff even a bit better and lowers that walk total. You have the makings of a freakish closer. Check out his K/9 after you read this. He would have the best stuff instantly if he walked into the ranger’s bullpen tonight. Thank you JD for giving us this 22 year old beast of a reliever.

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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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