Minor League Monday – Week 2
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
6-3 (T-1st – 0 GB)
The Hickory Crawdads had a successful week despite having three games rained out. The bats were hot, plating 30 runs in a five-game week while the staff was inconsistent. Overall, the team went 3-2 with a +7 run differential, raising the ‘Dads record to 6-3 on the young season which puts them in a tie for the Northern Division’s lead. Keep in mind that the minor league season is split into two halves making each game more important. The first half division winner and second half division winner each make the South Atlantic League playoffs.
Let’s take some time to appreciate one of the best minor league promotions you will see all year:
I am not entirely sure what this entails, but any promotion that involves Spongebob in any capacity is one I can get behind as it is the greatest show of all-time.
Hitter of the Week: There were a few worthy candidates from a week in which the Crawdads scored five or more runs in all but one game. Eduard Pinto, Michael De Leon, and Luke Tendler each had big weeks. But the biggest bat of the past week was catcher Jose Trevino. The powerful catching prospect slashed .500/.500/.750 with a home run in over 16 plate appearances. Trevino was a 6th round pick in the 2014 draft out of Oral Roberts where he caught Chi Chi Gonzalez. The 22-year-old hit nine bombs in his 72-game stint with Spokane last year where he spent much of his time away from the dish. This year Texas has committed to him as a catcher and he is an interesting under-the-radar guy given his position and raw pop.
Pitcher of the Week: The honors this week go to 20-year-old former first-round pick Collin Wiles. The 2012 draftee is back in Hickory for the 2015 season after posting a 4.06 ERA in 2014. In his first start of the season, Wiles got his season off to a blazing (haha get it? It’s 4/20. *plays Dr. Dre all day*) start. The Kansas high school product tossed six shutout innings while allowing only four runners to reach base. This is the right-handers fourth year in the organization, making it a crucial one for him to take a step forward as he still sits in Low-A.
Pick to Click: My pick to click is 6’4” righthander Kelvin Vasquez. The 22-year-old was touching 97 on the gun while throwing five shutout innings on Tuesday. Vasquez has a live arm and has always posted high strikeout numbers when healthy. Keep an eye on this one.
High Desert Mavericks
Class High A (Advanced)
5-6 (4th – 3 GB)
In Sunday’s contest the Mavericks had as many runs in the second inning (11) as they did the first four games of the year. Baseball is just weird sometimes. Other weird things that are also cool include Ryan Ledbetter relieving his twin brother David in the 3rd inning of an otherwise not so fun Saturday contest. David allowed nine earned runs through 2.1 innings while Ryan allowed only one on a solo shot in 1.2 innings. This California League can be very cruel to pitchers who aren’t having the best day.
Ryan Cordell leads the team in mostly every offensive category while batting cleanup most nights and playing shortstop. That’s pretty darn neat if I do say so myself. He does have one more error than Elvis Andrus at shortstop, but it’s a tough position that Ryan hasn’t played at in almost six years. He hit both his dingers in Thursday night’s game, both in the hitter-friendly home park of High Desert. I wish I could have seen the game but alas we no longer have Myrtle Beach and Nathan Barnett. Evan Van Hoosier had a fantastic week, raising his batting average 112 points in six games. Evan collected four extra base hits as well as his first three free passes of the year. Van Hoosier struck out thrice in his first three games of the season but did not have a game of that nature this week. Catcher Alex Burg only played in two contests but reached base eight times. In Sunday’s game Burg hit a two-run bomb, one of his two hits on the day where he reached base twice more on walks.
Cody Ege worked in two games for High Desert last week. Ege went two and 2.1 innings in those appearances, striking out a total of eight. Saturday Cody allowed one run on four hits but struck out five without giving up a walk. Starter Tyler Smith allowed seven hits in four innings in Friday’s game. Tyler in both starts has struck out five, allowed one walk, and one homer in each. Cole Wiper allowed a couple of earned runs in a four inning start on Sunday. Reliever Pat Kaminska worked 2.2 innings on Saturday and only allowed a hit in those scoreless innings. Kaminska also struck out three in that appearance.
Hitter of the week:
Preston Beck has reached base at least twice in every game since Tuesday. Beck smashed two doubles in Wednesday’s game and piled on three more on Friday. Preston is putting up a solid walk rate of 10.6% paired with a not shabby 17% strikeout rate.
Pitcher of the week:
Frank Lopez started Wednesday’s game and pitched six brilliant shutout innings. The 21-year- old Venezuelan allowed three hits and a single walk on 72 pitches. Frank lowered his opp. batting avg by .045 in a single start. Lopez also notched five K’s in his second start of the season.
Pick to click:
After a decent opening week I believe Lewis Brinson is finding his footing in High Desert. He’s making more consistent solid contact but this past week more often than not his line drives were finding fielders. I doubt that will continue much longer. Also Brinson racked up three steals this past week and it’s always a good sign when fast guys are being aggressive on the base paths. Look for him to put up big numbers this week.
5-5 (2nd – 2 GB)
The new season is beginning to settle in as the first full week of action finishes up. The Riders had five games to get to this time as all the games against Arkansas area teams trudges on. The opening home stand finished up Tuesday and Frisco ended up going 2-4 but were still competitive in all of them. After the off-day Wednesday, they hit the road up to Arkansas and opened a six-game road trip with the Travelers and Naturals. Joey Gallo remains out of the lineup as he continues to recover from his heel surgery but reports are positive. He was out of the boot and taking fielding practice as of Monday. I imagine he gets activated this week, which is bad news for the poor NW Arkansas pitching staff.
Game 5– The week started with the second game of this three-game set with NW Arkansas. Victor Payano started against JC Sulbaran. The first inning was a bit rocky and Payano flirted with disaster walking three, but was able to escape without giving up a run. The first run of the game was scored on Drew Robinson’s 2nd homer of the year in the 5th inning. He later homered again in the 8th. It was his first multi-home run game of his pro career. The Riders had a 6-0 lead going to the 7th but pitcher Jose Leclerc let the first four reach and three ended up scoring. If you can believe it, Nomar Mazara collected two more hits. He’s pretty good. Francisco Mendoza was able to nail down a save in the 9th for the Riders second win of the season.
Game 6– I attended this game personally and Alec Asher started the game opposed by NWA top prospect Miguel Almonte. Almonte was wild to begin the game, hitting two batters and issuing a wild pitch. Nick Williams drove in a run to give Frisco the early lead. Asher gave it right back the following inning with some spotty command himself. It was a 30 plus pitch inning with three walks and a wild pitch. Jorge Bonafacio hit the game decisive homer in the 6th and NWA cruised from there, getting rehabbing Ranger Kyuji Fujikawa for three runs in the 8th. In other positive news, Maz had two more hits bringing him over the .400 mark.
Game 7– Frisco kicked off their first road trip with a shutout of Arkansas. Andrew Faulkner pitched 5 2/3 innings and racked up seven strikeouts. Reports are he touched 95 velocity wise. Nick Williams had four hits and Drew Robinson had the only RBI but he technically didn’t knock it in – he walked with the bases loaded. Robinson also had a fielder’s choice ground out that got their first and only needed run of the game. Albert Suarez pitched well for the Travelers in the loss, going six innings allowing one earned run. This further proves that a pitcher win and loss record should rarely be acknowledged.
Game 8– This trend of scoring two runs thing for Frisco continued again as they won 2-0 behind Jake Thompson’s six strong shutout innings. He continues to feature the changeup that he has been working to develop. Despite Arkansas leading the league in hitting as a team coming into this series, Frisco pitching has shut them out through 18 innings. Small sample but impressive none the less. Nick Williams homered in the 2nd for his first of the year and that would be all Frisco needed. Cody Buckel worked a scoreless 7th inning only allowing a base hit. Jorge Alfaro hit his 5th double and scored a run.
Game 9– The Riders scored two runs for the fourth straight game but this time they gave up too many and were unable to finish the sweep. Jerad Eickhoff was shaky early but he still managed to get through five innings and strikeout seven. Mazara got another hit and now has a modest six game hitting streak. The same can be said for Nick Williams who also has a six-gamer going as he picked up two more hits. Those two are pretty decent I guess. In an interesting scoring note, Chad Bell pitched the final three innings of the game and picked up a blown save along with the loss, giving up three runs. With four straight games only scoring two runs, the team is getting Gallo back at the right time. They’ve scored 30 runs in their first nine games.
Hitter and Pitcher of the Week
My hitter of the week goes to the kid from Ball High School in Galveston, Nick Williams. He was red-hot this week going 10 for 20 with a homer, double, two runs scored, a steal, and only struck out twice. That’s a .500 OBP and .700 SLG. Not too shabby for the free swinging lefty. His week included a four-hit game Thursday in the win against Arkansas. The four hits ties his minor-league career high which hes done three times in the past.
The pitcher of the week is Will Lamb. The former 2nd round pick is now pitching exclusively out of the bullpen after beginning his pro career working as a starter. He has just never developed enough command of his stuff but his two appearances this week were fairly dominant. He worked two and a third scoreless outings, striking out four. He didn’t allow any base runners in the appearances, which is also nice to see. The lefty can help his cause by cutting down on those walks, which are still too high even for a relief pitcher where walks are more forgivable.
Pick to Click
My pick to click is piggybacking pitcher Victor Payano. The youngster should get two “starts” this week against NW Arkansas on Sunday and then the following Saturday against Corpus. His first outing of the year against NWA was a success as he pitched four innings and didn’t allow a run. He struck out four and allowed just one hit. Unfortunately the command was a bit spotty as he also issued five walks. Still, the 6’-5″ Dominican is an intriguing arm to watch this year as he will continue starting games, but never throwing more than four or so innings. IF he could fix whatever the issue is that keeps him from limiting the walks, he could turn some heads.
Carlos Correa, SS, 3– The Astros top prospect and former number one overall pick in 2012. This 6’4 205 pound beast of a human is just 20-years-old and has four potential Plus Plus tools in his bat, power, glove, and arm. He is super athletic and despite his size, plays the middle infield very well. His problem could be that he just becomes too large and outgrows SS. Nothing wrong there, as his bat should fit just fine at 3B. Carlos broke his leg last year and it limited him to just 62 games but he slashed .325/.416/.510 at High A Lancaster. This year he’s off and running, slashing .351/.442/.649 in nine games with Corpus. The dude is a stud and even realistically projects as a first division role six player. He’s going to give Ranger fans fits in a few years.
Mark Appel- SP, 35– The Astros selected Appel with the first overall pick back in 2013 and he hasn’t had as much success in his brief minor league career as the previous player has. The former Stanford product is a towering 6’-5″ 225 pounds and looked to be a future top of the rotation (TORP) pitcher in the making. He struggled with some mechanics while at High A Lancaster last year, resulting in some bad numbers. It didn’t help things that he was pitching in the Cal League of course. After he was promoted to Corpus, he fixed some things and finished 2014 strong, posting a 2.99 FIP in nearly 40 AA Innings. Scouts see him as a three or four in rotations, which isn’t the end of the world. However, if the Astros had a do-over with that pick, I bet they wish they had taken Kris Bryant who went next to the Cubs.
Round Rock Express
Pacific Coast League
5-5 (2nd – .5 GB)
After a slow offensive start to the season, the Express bats found some life this week, scoring at least seven runs in all but two contests. Hanser Alberto continues to hit, posting a .310/.310/.310 slash line. Through 29 trips to the plate, Alberto has neither a walk nor an extra base hit. Hanser, Trever Adams, and Tomas Telis are all hitting .310 or better without a single extra base hit. Alex Hassan had a phenomenal game in the Sunday double header. After an 0-4 start to the day, Hassan ended up going 3-7 across the two games. In the fourth inning, Alex drilled the daylights out of a fastball left up and over the plate, and it went right over the center fielder’s head to the base of the wall. In the second game Hassan appeared much more comfortable in the box, taking more close pitches and making more solid contact. On Sunday Michael Choice hit his first dinger of the season. In the double header Choice, for the first time that I’ve seen this season, stood out among the average AAA hitter. He showed the plate discipline he’d been lacking earlier in the season and the ball finally stung off his bat. Choice also didn’t have any of the wild hacks I’d been accustomed to seeing from him earlier in the year. I love seeing encouraging signs like that. Thomas ‘Boomstick’ Field still leads the team in dingers with four through nine games. Ryan Strausborger played center field in the second double header game on Sunday with some excellent defense.
Chi Chi Gonzalez struggled with command in his start this week. Through 4.2 innings Gonzalez allowed five earned runs on nine hits and three walks. Chi Chi wasn’t missing bats as much as he would like, only striking out one. Luke Jackson looked better this week but wasn’t nearly efficient enough in his pitch count, needing 89 pitches to get through 3.2 innings. On the bright side Luke only allowed two hits and didn’t allow a run. That’s always a good sign. Wandy Rodriguez threw two solid innings in a start Friday before a rain delay ended his day. He struck out three and allowed a run on three hits. Wandy has pitched in the MLB and throws with his left arm. These are qualities shared by one Ross Detwiler, whose spot in the rotation might have become available after yesterday’s rough outing. Ross Wolf took over after play resumed and threw six innings of work. Another south paw, Sam Freeman worked his first inning in Round Rock on Saturday. Sam K’d two and a walk was the only baserunner allowed in his 2015 debut. A rehabbing Kyuji Fujikawa worked a perfect inning against Memphis in that same game.
Hitter of the week:
This week Jared Hoying was locked in at the plate, raising his average over 100 points. Hoying also smashed three doubles and three triples this week, including two three baggers in Monday’s contest. The strikeout numbers are still problematic, as well as the lack of walks. Those numbers must, and likely will, improve as the season progresses. Jared looked comfortable at the plate throughout the week, more so than he did during the first few games of the season.
Pitcher of the week:
Spencer Patton still has yet to allow an earned run through 4.1 PCL innings. Patton had two appearances last week. In Tuesday’s game Patton worked a dominant two innings, allowing only one hit and striking out five batters. Spencer also pitched the final inning of Sunday’s second contest. His fastball command has been impeccable this season, especially last week. Though 93-mph two seamers aren’t necessarily the attractive profile from a bullpen guy, Patton has been impressive so far in Round Rock. His slider command has been superb as well, working both sides of the plate effectively. If Patton keeps this up he could take a pen spot from a struggling Texas reliever. I think he’s earned it; really smart folks think so too.
Pick to click:
Over the last few games Michael Choice has started to show some signs of life. This is encouraging given his potential to finally see him start to look more like the same guy that wreaked havoc in Surprise in 2014. I’m anticipating more encouraging results in the batters box this coming week from the good ol’ Texas boy.