Minor League Monday – Week 1
Welcome back to another edition of Minor League Monday. Every Monday during the 2015 season, the folks here at Shutdown Inning will provide you with the a complete rundown of the entire Rangers minor league system. We will provide you with a weekly recap, the current standings, and the current stats of all players so that you can get all of your minor league information with one stop.
Minor League Coordinator Brice Paterik will be covering the short season Spokane Indians, the High A High Desert Mavericks and the AAA Round Rock Express. Minor league writer Austin Dietz will be covering the AA Frisco Roughriders, and prospect guru Grant Schiller will be your go to guy for the Low A Hickory Crawdads.
Click on any minor league teams logo to be taken to their team page (team page will open in a new window).
Short Season Class A
The Indians season will start in late June. Due to the Indians not starting their season for another few months, I will save their preview for a later date when the roster becomes less nebulous.
Class Low A
3-1 (T-1st – 0 GB)
As Hickory got underway in the 2015 South Atlantic League season, the Crawdads benefited from some late-inning heroics. A 1-0 deficit turned into a 2-1 walkoff win on Saturday thanks to some timely hitting off the bats of Travis Demeritte, Jose Cardona and Jose Trevino. The next day the game-winning run was scored in the 8th inning on a Luke Tendler home run. In all, the Rangers Low-A affiliate is off to a 3-1 start.
The Hickory hitter of the week is power-hitting right fielder Luke Tendler. The Rangers selected the 23-year-old in the 29th round of the 2014 draft and placed him in Spokane where he showed very well. In 67 games Tendler slashed .316/.390/.531 with 11 home runs. The North Carolina A&T product continued to get some positive reviews as a power bat in the spring and is an under the radar player to keep an eye on. Through Hickory’s first four games, Tendler is 6-for-15 with two home runs and two doubles.
On the mound, Nick Gardewine had the best week of any ‘Dads pitcher. The 21-year-old tossed four scoreless innings, allowing only three baserunners. Gardewine was a 7th round draft pick out of an Illinois Community College in 2013 and is seeing his first full-season of ball this year after putting up a 4.54 ERA across 71.1 innings with Spokane a year ago. According to Crawdads beat writer Mark Parker (@CrawdadsBeat, the best way to keep up with Hickory), Gardewine’s best pitch was a 93-95 mph sinker which induced five groundouts and a couple of broken bats.
My favorite performance of the week came from relief pitcher David Perez. Perez was known for having dominant stuff (and no control/command) when he was signed out of the Dominican, but after Tommy John surgery in 2012 he lost the majority of three seasons and lost velocity as well. However, Perez was back into the mid-90s during a 2.2 inning stint on Friday. Keep an eye on how he progresses this year, as the Rangers only have one more year of control after this year. If he doesn’t take a big step forward in 2014 his time in the organization may be winding down.
High Desert Mavericks
Class High A (Advanced)
1-3 (5th – 2 GB)
Lewis Brinson started off the High A season with a smash over the center field wall and finished out Opening Night by reaching base four out of his five trips to the plate. In the following games he went 1-11 with four strikeouts. Ryan Cordell has put up the most impressive offensive numbers four games in with a .375/.412/.500 slash line. Outfielder Zach Cone has struggled offensively in the first four games, failing to pick up a hit in 16 at bats and striking out eight times. New to full season ball, farm hands Evan Van Hoosier, Seth Spivey, and Joe Jackson were all stymied with a .214 batting average. First baseman Preston Beck had a solid opening series, only striking out once and putting together a couple of extra base hits.
The most impressive pitching performance of the shortened week was by David Ledbetter. David lasted six innings without allowing a free pass. The only runs against him came on a two-run home run. Every starting pitcher performed admirably, none allowing more than three walks or earned runs in their start. Tyler Smith and Frank Lopez had nearly identical lines in their starts. Both went five innings, allowed six baserunners, three earned runs, and struck out five each. Reliever Cody Ege worked 2.1 innings allowing one hit, a solo shot, and one walk. Strikeouts accounted for five of his seven outs. Pat Kaminska and Juan Grullon were the only High Desert relievers to not allow a run this week.
Pitcher of the Week:
An obvious choice this week as the award goes to David Ledbetter. In the hitter happy California League it’s difficult to put up a goose egg, especially for 6 innings in a start. Props to you David, keep up the good work.
Hitter of the Week:
Yet another obvious pick, this goes to new shortstop convert Ryan Cordell for putting up the best numbers through four games. It appears in this tiny sample size the defensive position switch hasn’t affected the stick.
Pick to Click:
Joe Jackson is my pick to click for this week. He made solid contact and is seeing the ball well, drawing a couple of walks. Next week his numbers should better reflect his progress.
1-3 (T-3rd – 3 GB)
Thursday evening saw Opening Day for the kids on the farm across professional baseball and Dr Pepper Ballpark was rocking from the get go. The hard work and time put in over the spring gets to come to fruition. The smell of the fresh cut grass can bring anyone to arousal. Yes, Opening Day is special to everyone across the nation. There is just nothing quite like it in sports in my opinion. Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys was in the house to throw out the first pitch and mingle with the fans. Several of SDI’s staff writers also were in attendance. It was a sell out and all the new amenities were ready to roll just as much as the players.
The Riders opened up the season on a six game home stand and started with the Arkansas Travelers (LAA) for three games. The NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) will come to town after that for three as well. We will be looking at just the first four for now.
In Game one the Riders beautiful opening day lineup featured highly touted prospects Nick Williams, Nomar Mazara, and Jorge Alfaro, among others. Not too shabby if you ask me. Of course we all know they are without top prospect Joey Gallo for a week or two, so it’s going to be even nicer soon enough. The Riders fell behind early as a couple of run scoring singles from Cal Towey and Michael Snyder gave Arkansas some 1st inning momentum. Chalk it up to a little Opening Day jitters for Alec Asher. His fastball now only sits in the low 90s so he has to command his pitches better to get hitters out. Guilder Rodriguez scored the first Riders run in the third inning. A couple of passed balls and Maz knocked him in with a sac fly. Isn’t that nifty? Asher finished up his day after four innings, allowing just the two runs. Coming in to pitch next was Cody Buckel. The Riders actually gave him a lead to work with as a Drew Robinson dinger made it 3-2. But it just was not Buckel’s night. He scattered seven hits and a walk, leading to five earned runs in just one inning of work. I hope for his sake he has better days ahead of him. The Travelers had six doubles in this game, which was a big key for their win. The Legend, Jorge Alfaro, opened his season with two doubles, a run scored, and a laser beam pickoff of Brian Hernandez at 3rd base in the 9th inning. Talk about mid season form. Rehabbing reliever Tanner Scheppers worked an inning and struck out the top three batters of the Arkansas order. Regardless of the result, it’s great to see the kids back in action.
Game two saw the exact same score and result from the previous day. Today it was Andrew Faulkner taking the mound against 25-year-old Albert Suarez. It was a short evening for Faulkner as he racked up 72 pitches and didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning. He walked two, struck out two, and surrendered only one run. Kyle Lotzkar came in for him and got hit with the loss as he gave up four more runs while only getting four outs. Cal Towey got the big crushing hit. His three run double in the 4th was all Arkansas would need. Frisco did out hit Arkansas in this one as they had 14 to the Travs 11. They just didn’t get enough of them when they needed it. Nick Williams had three hits and Maz had two along with an RBI. The Riders pitching staff racked up 11 strikeouts too, which is nice to see. Chad Bell had five of them. The runs will be coming soon.
Game three was a shutout with Frisco on the wrong end of it. Jake Thompson started and went four innings. He gave up five hits, one walk, two earned runs, and struck out three. The long ball did him in as Arkansas took him deep twice (Johnson and Davis). The new skipper Joe Mikulik removed him in the 5th at 76 pitches after a hit by pitch. He’s just tuning it up. Nothing went well offensively for Frisco as they managed only three hits including Alfaro’s 4th double of the series. Traveler’s starter Tyler Deloach was terrific through six innings. He only allowed two hits and two walks while striking out five. He finished with a Game Score of 71. The former 26th round pick for LAA has decent stuff and posted solid strikeout numbers last year but control seems to be his issue. Scheppers pitched again for his rehab assignment and recorded two outs before being ejected by the first base umpire for throwing behind a batter. He walked two and picked up another strikeout. He’s just about ready to come back and send Phil Klein to Round Rock. Even though it was Bark in the Park Day, sadly the Rider’s bark was much bigger than its bite.
Game four saw the Royal’s NW Arkansas team roll into Frisco. They have some names to remember though fans won’t see the biggest as top prospect Raul Mondesi Jr was placed on the DL – tough luck for scouts. The pitching matchup was TCU standout Brandon Finnegan vs Jerad Eickhoff. Today it was Eick who proved to be better as he lasted five innings to Finny’s three. The seven strikeouts that Eickhoff put up were encouraging as was him only allowing two runs. JT Wise hit a three-run bomb in the first inning to open the scoring and Maz reached base three more times (Yawn). Buckel worked a scoreless 6th inning allowing only two base runners, much better than his Thursday outing. Scheppers came in for another rehab outing and posted a clean 1-2-3 7th inning.
Hitter and Pitcher of the Week
It’s a shorter week as the season opened on Thursday but my weekly hitting star was 25-year-old Tyler Pastornicky. He’s hitting 2nd in the lineup and making the most of it. He slashed .455/.571/.636, scored three runs, and only struck out once. Tyler has 239 career big league at bats so this isn’t a prospect we are talking here, though he had a sub .300 OBP during that time. Still, he’s played in the Bigs and has some experience. Time will tell how he fits into things down the road but he is looking like the every day 2B right now.
The pitcher of the week is the only guy that appeared in three of the first four games and that is one Tanner Scheppers. He was on a rehab assignment and a mission to impress. In his 2-2/3 innings of work, he struck out five while allowing just two walks. According to Tepid Participation, his velocity was 93-95 and touched 96. Oh, his week also consisted of an ejection that got the first Mikulik vs Plate Umpire argument. Hopefully for the Rangers’ sake, this is the last time he makes this report. The bullpen needs him.
Pick to Click
The Pick returns for another season and my first one this year is the big fella, 1B/DH JT Wise. The 28-year-old is slugging .500 so far and hit his first homer Sunday afternoon. He should see plenty of fastballs if he hits in the middle of this lineup. He does have a .861 career minor league OPS including a 1.027 last year.
In this section I will be giving you the top names of the opposition to look at for the upcoming week. The Riders’ so far have only seen Finnegan and Hunter Dozier as the Angel’s AA squad doesn’t have much fun to offer. This week we will only see one guy with Mondesi unfortunately on the DL and a trip to Arkansas after the home stand wraps up. FYI- I will be using Baseball Prospectus’ preseason top 101-prospect list for this section.
NWA- Hunter Dozier, 3B, 95. – The 23-year-old first rounder has 3 potential plus tools and has some serious size. He very well could be the future of the position for KC if Moustakas doesn’t ever figure it out.
Round Rock Express
Pacific Coast League
1-3 (4th – 2 GB)
With the injuries to Derek Holland and Ryan Rua there have been a few roster moves. Carlos Peguero was called up to replace Rua but since it its only the 15-day variety, Peguero will have to force the issue in limited big league time to stay on the 25-man roster for long. Expect Anthony Ranaudo or Wandy Rodriguez to be the likely candidates for filling Holland’s hole in the rotation. Also more injury notes: Lisalverto Bonilla was moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL because of his right elbow impingement. Round Rock also received right fielder Alex Hassan who was claimed off waivers from the A’s on the 9th.
Ranaudo pitched Opening Day in style, throwing five shutout innings without walking an Oklahoma City batter. Hanser Alberto worked his usual magic leather in the shortstop hole during this shortened week and hit a solid .286 as well. Switch-hitting backstop Tomas Telis did what he does best by accumulating four times as many hits as strikeouts. Second baseman Thomas Field hit the only Express homer of the week. That, coupled with a single and three walks, aided a liveable .651 OPS. My favorite left-handed hitting Round Rock center fielder Jared Hoying had a tough week going 3 for 16 with eight strikeouts and no walks. On the bright side, Hoying was a homer away from the four game long cycle. Michael Choice had a similar offensive week to Hoying posting a .176/.176/.235 slash line. Choice paired that with nine strikeouts. Infielder Kyle Blanks played in thee of the four contests and worked a walk in 11 plate appearances and didn’t pick up a hit.
Pitching bright sides were provided by six relievers who pitched at least one inning without allowing an earned run. Alex Claudio worked in two games for 3 1/3 innings and only allowed three baserunners. Also included in that list are David Martinez, Spencer Patton, Juan Perez, Jon Edwards, and Jimmy Reyes. Unfortunately it was more of the same from Luke Jackson. In a four inning start Jackson allowed five hits, two of which left the yard. He struck out two, walked three, and gave up five runs. Chi Chi Gonzlaez‘ AAA debut went well. Gonzalez pitched five innings allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks.
Pitcher of the Week:
As you can probably guess my pitcher of the week was Anthony Ranaudo with his solid Opening Day performance that wasn’t one upped in the following three games.
Hitter of the Week:
This week the winner is Carlos Peguero. In two games the outfielder went four for six with a double, triple and a walk.
Pick to Click:
With Carlos Peguero called up for what I’m assuming will be the whole 15 days Ryan Rua is DL bound, Ryan Strausborger will likely receive more consistent plate appearances. This should lead to improvement on a less than stellar opening week.