Minor League Monday – Week 4
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
16-7 (1st – +2 GB)
Hickory had their worst week of the season to date, going 3-3 as the bats quieted down from a torrid April. Over six games the ‘Dads managed only 19 runs while giving up 18. This brings Hickory to 16-7 with a two-game lead on second. Baseball Prospectus writer Ryan Parker watched Hickory this weekend, check out his timeline for notes on the prospects on the Crawdads roster.
Hitter of the Week:
In a pretty quiet offensive week no one bat really stood out. The hitter of the week goes to a player who prior to this week had a .083 batting average. After a 6-for-17 week that number now stands at .241. Infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the Rangers 4th-round selection in the 2013 draft and while he hasn’t had much success past rookie ball, I’ve yet to hear from someone who doesn’t think he has a chance to develop into something. Kiner-Falefa has the bat speed you look for and has played 2B, 3B, SS and LF in his three minor league seasons. A crowded infield prevents him from everyday looks, but the Hawaiian’s multi-positional ability helps. There’s a long ways to go, but the 20-year-old has interesting tools.
Pitcher of the Week:
While the offense struggled, the pitching had no such regression. Out of a few worthy candidates, 2013 7th round pick Nick Gardewine had the best performance of the past seven days. The 21-year-old is off to a fantastic start to the 2015 season, allowing earned runs in only one of his first five appearances. His first start of the season came this week and went splendidly as only four batters reached base (three of his own accord) with one crossing the plate. Gardewine managed to throw only 65 pitches in five innings while striking out five.
Pick to Click:
Newly returned from the DL, 20-year-old Yohander Mendez hit higher than normal velocities (sat 92-93 touched 94) in his first 2015 appearance. Mendez uses a three-pitch mix and has had success in every season. Shoulder problems have prevented him from touching 50 innings to this point, but hopefully this year will be different. I am very interested to see what the 6’4” southpaw can produce with a full season of health.
High Desert Mavericks
Class High A (Advanced)
11-13 (T-3rd – 3 GB)
Some somberish news to begin brought to you by Newberg Report’s Scott Lucas:
OF Lewis Brinson out with bad hammy. Not bad. Already missed a few, might be back middle of next week. Ryan Cordell in CF in his stead.
— Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas) May 2, 2015
Ryan Cordell is just filling out his baseball resume this year, taking over center field for all six games this week in the absence of plus defensive centerfielder Lewis Brinson. His .907 OPS is second on the team to utility man Alex Burg who has a few more than half of Cordell’s plate appearances. Speaking of Burg the DH in Saturday’s contest picked up his first four hit performance of the season. The former Washington State (commonly pronounced Wazzu) Cougar currently sits atop the California League OPS leaderboard. It was his only multi-hit performance this week. Luis Parra was knocked around a bit on Tuesday’s start in Modesto. Parra gave up nine runs, eight of them earned on 13 baserunners. He struck out as many batters as he gave up homers at one a piece.
Frank Lopez pitched Monday going seven innings which was the longest outing by any High Desert pitcher this far in the season. Lopez allowed four runs all earned on nine hits yet didn’t walk a single batter. The Venezuelan also struck out three in his start. Former first rounder Zach Cone has looked much improved at the plate over the last stretch of games. In his last 10 games Cone has hit .417 and only struck out 11 times. In his previous at bats Cone had struck out in 34% of his at bats. Cone also picked up hits in 9 of his last 10 games, including five multi-hit games.
Hitter of the week:
Seth Spivey has sure picked it up after anemic offensive production out of the gate. Spivey has a 7 game hitting streak currently and during this streak he has raised his average from .152 to .274. The Brenham Texas Native during the week had a couple of three hit performances and also smashed his first dinger of the season. The big kicker was that Spivey only struck out once this week. Just once in a whole week. That’s what I love seeing most in developing players: less K’s. He also only has one walk on the season, like the Nick Williams of pre 2015.
Pitcher of the Week:
Tyler Smith pitched Wednesday’s contest against Modesto and allowed only a single earned run in six innings. Any starter who can give up less than two earned runs in this run happy environment doesn’t have to do much more to earn pitcher of the week here in my little section of MLM. Smith struck out five and allowed five hits paired with a pair of walks, lowering his season ERA to 4.29.
Pick to click:
My pick to click this week is Zach Cone. It appears as if Cone is starting to put it all together in terms of becoming a baseball player rather than just a toolsy athlete. Look for him to have a big week.
11-12 (2nd – 2 GB)
The Rider’s finally seem to be getting it together this year as they have won six of their last seven games all of which happened this week. Maybe it’s just the Gallo effect on the team that’s given them life. The team is 6-3 with him in the game and is scoring a little over four runs per game. Nomar Mazara and Williams seem to be cooling off lately. They were red hot to begin the year but both have seen their batting averages dip below .300 now. Speaking of Nick Williams, he has doubled his walk total so far this year. In his stint with Frisco last year, it was around three percent. So far this year it is over six and hes taking more pitches. An even greater development is his strikeout percentage is down to 17 percent right now. That could be a huge step in his growing process if he walks some more and makes more contact. The Rider’s finish up their eight game road trip today and then return home for four evening affairs with the Missions. In a note that I may not have gotten to, SP Jerad Eickhoff was promoted to Round Rock back on the 23rd replacing Wandy Rodriguez who went to the big club. The Riders have since abandoned the piggyback starter tandem of Victor Payano and Jose Leclerc and are simply starting them normally. Drew Robinson continues to slug the baseball as he hit two more dingers on the week pushing his organization-leading total to seven on the season. He still has a long ways to go with his hit tool but he seems to be an interesting name to monitor as the season progresses. It should be noted that Frisco is in the middle of a 20 games in 20 days stretch as their next day off will be May 13th.
Hitter and Pitcher of the Week
My hitter of the week is Jorge Alfaro. The Columbian Phenom had eight hits, a walk, two HBP, and a stolen base this week. He got the deserved day off Sunday day game after a full days work and hopefully not because of being hit by a pitch twice the night before. The Legend continues to rack up the strikeouts as his percentage is over 30 but he’s slashing .313/.378/.448 on the year and continues to work on his receiving and game calling.
My pitcher of the week has to be Alec Asher. The right-hander was excellent on Saturday against Corpus pitching six innings of shutout ball striking out five in the process. He was mixing his pitches well and most importantly he retired star Carlos Correa every time. He threw 93 pitches, 68 of which were for strikes. He pounded the zone and was rewarded. With the effort, he lowered his ERA to 3.65 and FIP to 3.43 in five starts thus far in 2015.
Pick to Click
Last week worked pretty well with my pick of Alfaro and this week I am going with the big fella Joey Gallo. Gobbles gets off the schneid and cranked a few dingers this week. He’s been hot and rocketing some doubles off the wall. Dude is hitting .333 in his first 9 games since his return to the DL with five doubles and a triple. How are the strikeouts looking you say? Sadly, I must report that his K percentage is at 34. Still got some work ahead of him.
Carlos Correa, SS, #3– Argument can be made he has been the best prospect in baseball to begin the season. Through 21 games, Correa has a 1.115 OPS and has been a big time menace to Rider’s pitching especially. In his six games against Frisco, he has been on base ten times and has stolen four bases. General Manager Jeff Luhnow has stated the team has confidence in Jon Villar and Marwin Gonzalez while Jed Lowrie is recovering from a multi month injury. However, if the Astros’ continue to own the best record in baseball, they might consider Carlos if he keeps this up. Think of the David Price situation for the Rays when he was brought up.
Hunter Renfroe– OF, #50– Renfroe’s slow start continues on. He still has a wRC+ of 45. His strikeout percentage is still over 30. Yet, he may be on a Choo pace as he’s had some minor success and is putting some better at bats together. In four games against Riders’ pitching he has four hits and four RBI.
Mark Appel– SP, #35– Appel will face off today against Jake Thompson for the second time this season at home. Last time out he got rocked against Midland. In four innings he gave up seven hits and six runs and didn’t record a strikeout. The 6’-5″ power right-hander hasn’t looked like he did down the stretch in 2014. His FIP is well over four so far in four starts. Yet, that remains a small sample and he could be working on things. He did appear wilder with command walking two and issuing a wild pitch. Last time out against Frisco he went four innings and gave up two runs.
Matt Olson– 1B- Unranked– This 6’-5″ 230 pound slugging first basemen is not on the BP 101 but he might be close. Outside of Gallo and Bryant, Olson may have the rawest power in all the minor leauges. He hit 37 Home Runs in 2014 for High A Stockon. This year for Midland he is slashing .264/.426/.583 with six HR’s in just 22 games. He was drafted in the 1st round by Oakland in the supplemental stages back in 2012 (Same as Gallo). The left-hander has had some issues with strikeouts as most power hitters do but they are still in the 20-29 percent range, which is pretty paltable. He has a good approach and gets plenty of walks (shocking right?) Matt could be Ike Davis or Billy Butler’s eventual replacement in Oakland in a year or two.
Round Rock Express
Pacific Coast League
16-7 (1st – +4.5 GB)
This week with the Express began with a few Roster moves. On Monday Round Rock swapped relievers with the big club: Alex Claudio for Tanner Scheppers. On Wednesday to make room for Mitch Moreland’s injury replacement Kyle Blanks the Rangers had to kick Alex Hassan of the 40-man roster and DFA him. Alas Oakland reclaimed Hassan on Saturday.
Round Rock began the week with a series in Memphis during which the Express took three of four against the Cardinal’s affiliate. After a travel day Wednesday the Express began a four game series against the Nashville Sounds which Round Rock would sweep by outscoring the Sounds by a mark of 25-15. Spencer Patton, who has been brilliant this year, finally allowed his first run on Thursday. Through 9.1 innings this year Patton has allowed a single earned run, 12 base runners, and 14 strikeouts. Chi Chi Gonzalez had his longest start in AAA this week. Gonzalez let up two earned runs on seven baserunners and two strikeouts. Fret not about the lack of K’s, Gonzalez was putting in some good work on incorporating his curveball more often. Development ain’t all about pure numbers.
Sam Freeman and now Scheppers as well, are the only Express pitchers without an earned run on the season. Freeman worked two outings on the week combining for 1.2 innings. Infield staple Ed Lucas played in all six games this week and reached base 11 times on three walks and eight hits. Luke Jackson started twice this week, the second start was more successful than the first. On Monday Jackson needed 65 pitches (30 strikes) to last three innings. Jackson walked five and allowed three runs, only striking out one batter. On Sunday Jackson went five innings on 93 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. He allowed 12 baserunners but only one of those was a walk. Jackson did a good job of working out of trouble by only allowing 1/3 of those runners to cross the plate. Some bright notes on Jackson’s season so far is that he hasn’t plunked a batter yet and all of his two homers came in the first start of the season. Progress has been made from last year even if it’s difficult to see.
Hitter of the week:
Tomas Telis absolutely wrecked shop in the PCL this week. In his five games Telis collected 15 total bases, raising his slugging percentage .091. Telis also slugged his first homer of the year on Sunday.
Pitcher of the week:
Phil Klein only worked a single appearance this past week but it was a beauty. 2.2 shutout innings with one hit allowed and four strikeouts. It was Klein’s longest outing of the year yet all but 1 of his outings have been 2+ innings this season.
Pick to click:
Chi Chi Gonzalez is poised for a dominant outing today. He has had many solid starts this year but none so far I’d categorize necessarily as dominant. Expect that to change today.