Minor League Monday

minors

Welcome to the debut edition of 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.

We have several contributors here at SDI taking on each affiliate. Sarah Powers will cover the Spokane Indians and Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Grant Schiller will cover the Frisco RoughRiders, Jasen Southward will tackle the Hickory Crawdads and Austin Dietz will report on the Round Rock Express.

Be sure to click any affiliates team name 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
8-1 (+2.5)

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This week was a successful, yet nasty, weather adventure for your Spokane Indians. They are currently 8-1 on the young season and sit atop their division by two and a half games. They had a game postponed due to severe weather and another wiped out in favor of a double header the next day. Their only loss on the week came in game two of the double header against the Vancouver Canadians. This team has been fueled by some decent pitching performances and impressive offense led by a newcomer to the Rangers farm.

The star of this team at the moment is 2014 draftee Seth Spivey. Drafted as a catcher, he has actually seen most of his playing time at second base. Over 28 plate appearances, he is currently slashing .500/.571/.625 (1.196 OPS) with two strikeouts and four walks. Also of note is the fact that Spivey is a left-handed hitter and his numbers against right-handed pitching (.579/.636/.737 slash) is worlds better than his hitting against lefties (.200/.333/.200 slash). Defensively, he has an error as a second baseman, out of eighteen attempts, and one error in one game behind the plate—his only appearance thus far at the position. All in all, it has been a productive start to the season for young Spivey.

The pitcher of the week is Nick Gardewine, the Rangers 2013 draftee. After a shaky start to the season, in which he yielded three earned runs on four hits (one of which was a home run), walked one and struck out two – all over 5.0 innings pitched – he rebounded nicely with an outing of 5 inning pitched, one unearned run, two hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. His troubles came against lefty hitters in both games, so that will be something to track over the course of the rest of his starts this season.

My pick to click this week is outfielder outfielder Luke Tendler, another 2014 Rangers draftee. For the work that Spivey is doing in the infield and at the plate, Tendler is doing the same for the outfield thus far. He’s currently slashing .417/.462/.667 (1.128 OPS) in 26 plate appearances. Incidentally, his successes are also coming against right handed pitching, and yes, he also bats left. In eight games in the field, he has committed no errors and has eight putouts.

Hickory Crawdads
Class A (Low)
4-0 (+1) (Second Half)

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It’s been a great start to the second half of the season for the Hickory Crawdads.  They are 4-0 since Lewis Brinson grounded out to drive in the winning run in the South Atlantic League All-Star game and have won their last 7 overall to put them at 45-28. In the last 4 games the Crawdads have outscored the Rome Braves (ATL) 17-8. Their winning streak has positioned Hickory 1.5 games behind Washington’s A affiliate the Hagerstown Suns. On Monday they’ll start a 4 game home series against the casually named Kannapolis Intimidators, the Chicago White Sox affiliate.

The hitter of the week is 6’4 right fielder and power prospect Nomar Mazara. He has an incredibly high ceiling and, after a slow start, is beginning to show why he was so highly touted. In the 4 games after the all-star game he’s gone 6-18 (.333) with a double, triple and 2-run home run which netted him 5 RBI. He’s now tied for 4th in the South Atlantic League with 10 home runs.  Encouragingly, Mazara only struck out 3 times in those 4 games. While he’s a long way from playing in Arlington, he’s certainly someone to watch.

The pitcher of the week is Ricardo Rodriguez. The Venezuelan right hander is 5-1 on the season with a 3.17 ERA and beat Rome in a 1-0 game, thanks to 5 innings of 3 hit baseball. While normally a reliever, he’s started his last 3 appearances and has gone 3-0, only allowing 3 runs. While Cody Kendall has been the best pitcher for Hickory this year with 6 saves and a 1.21 ERA in 23 appearances, Rodriguez has made the most out of his opportunity to start.

My pick to click this week is Joe Jackson. Does that name sound familiar? He’s the great-great nephew of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. He’s also catching for Hickory and doing it well, while having a breakout season. This year he’s hitting .366/.437/.520 for Hickory, and I expect him to do more of the same this week.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Class A (High)
2-2 (-1) (Second Half)

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The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are 4 and 6 over their last 10 games played, but still lead the Southern Division of the Carolina League by a whopping twelve games and boast a 46-26 record on the season. Life after Joey Gallo has been interesting for the club, but there are plenty of other players to track and watch on this club, such as Jorge Alfaro, Nick Vickerson, David Lyon, Chris Bostick, and Preston Beck to name a few. Alex Gonzalez recently left the rotation, but Andrew Faulkner and Sam Wolff are making their pitching presence known as well.

Offensively, Preston Beck is leading the post-Gallo era in Myrtle Beach. In just those games, he’s slashing .303/.442/.424, with nine walks and six strikeouts over 33 at bats. He doesn’t feature the booming power of his former teammate, but over his last ten games in particular he bat has yielded four doubles. Defensively he has spent most of the season at first base, but has also accrued some playing time in right field as well. He has eleven errors in 37 games started at first base and only one error in 18 games started in right field.

The pitching star of the week is Alex Claudio. In 38.2 IP of relief, he’s only walked six and allowed eight earned runs on twenty-eight hits, which is good for a .206 opponent’s average. As a starter, Claudio has pitched a total of 9.2 inning, but was just as effective in extended innings, with one earned run on ten hits, one home run, three walks, and twelve strike outs. Many feel Claudio should be in Frisco, namely based on the way he’s using his changeup to baffle opponents and perhaps a promotion may come his way soon.

New comer Nick Vickerson is my pick to click in Myrtle Beach. He is only four games into his promotion to Myrtle Beach from Hickory, but defensively is splitting time at first base with Beck and offensively announced his return from a 7-day DL stint with a two-run home run on June 20th.

Frisco RoughRiders
Class AA
2-3 (-2) (Second Half)

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This quickly turned into an interesting season for Frisco. They “lost” Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas to the circumstances in Arlington, but gained Joey Gallo, Alex Gonzalez, and Will Lamb in the process. They won the first-half Texas League South Division title and are now 2-2 in their first games of the second half and 1.5 games back of first place. Since they won the first half, they automatically get to play the second half winner in the first round of the playoffs.

Joey Gallo, the new offensive star, has arrived, and his first game was capped off in exiting fashion, as he launched a three-run walk-off home run after striking out three times previously. The strikeouts are still there, but he is still adjusting and getting his timing back in a new league. Defensively he’s looking good so far with only two errors in eleven games played. He gets co-star honors with teammate and infielder Guilder Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been good in his last ten games, slashing .302/.362/.326, with singles and walks being his preferred way of contributing offensively. Defensively he is getting most of his time at shortstop and has only committed four errors on the season. Secret hope all around is that GRod may get some MLB time which may make sense in the context of swapping him out with Luis Sardinas at some point.

There is so much to like about the Frisco pitching that it is truly difficult to pick out a stand out “star” for their recent stretch. With a rotation that boasts Luke Jackson, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alex Gonzalez, there’s a solid chance of 5-6 solid innings from each starter. The pen holds the truly intriguing pieces of late, though. Phil Klein has been the star of the pen, with a sparkling 0.00 ERA in 12.1 innings of relief. He has not allowed any runs, but has allowed two hits, two walks, and had thirteen strikeouts. The most impressive thing about Klein overall is his splits are some of the most equitable between righties and lefties, so he is a true definition of effective thus far in the season.

My pick to click this coming week is also from the pen. Newly promoted Will Lamb is only two games into his promotion, but is also impressing out of the pen.  He’s made two appearances in relief and has allowed one hit, no runs, no walks, and has struck out three.

Round Rock Express
Class AAA
37-40 (-4)

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Another solid week of games for your Express this past week. They went 4-3 over the 7 game stretch including finishing up a series win against El Paso on Monday and splitting their 4 game set with Sacramento. They followed that up by splitting the remaining two games of the week against Fresno. They’ll finish up their 4 game set with Fresno this week, and then get an off day on Wednesday. After that, they hit the road to Memphis for a 4 game weekend series.

Round Rock is now 37-40 on the season and (while in last) is still 4 games back of New Orleans for first place in a now tightly contested PCL American Southern division. Nashville is in 2nd place and is 2.5 games back, and 3rd place Memphis is just 3 games back. The Express can take a little solace in that of the 4 teams in the division, they are playing the best baseball—owning a 6-4 record in their last ten games.

The Rangers made a few moves that impact the Express in that they sent down Robbie Ross, Jr., who was struggling at the big league level and recalled Aaron Poreda. They also added some depth and insurance at first base by signing Carlos Pena (Yes, THAT Carlos Pena) to a minor league deal on Tuesday. Pena is 36 and coming off a pretty dismal season last year for the Royals and Astros. In 85 games for Houston, Pena slashed .209/.324/.350 with 8 homers and 25 RBI. He also appeared in 4 games for KC’s AAA team. Despite seeming done last year, the Rangers are giving their former 1st round pick a shot this year to see what he has left. With all the injuries they’ve sustained at first base, they likely figured no harm could come in kicking the tires on him. I’ll get to more on Pena’s week in a bit.

The hitter of the week was close between a couple of vets, but I’m going to give it to Adam Rosales. He went 6 for 25, but he drew 6 walks, which results in a .387 OBP for the week. He hit 3 homers, 2 doubles, and had 1 stolen base. Rosey is now up to .281/.355/.430 slash line with 290 plate appearances. If Sardinas were to get hurt, Rosales is likely the first to be called up to the big club (though he’s not on the 40 man anymore).

My pitcher of the week is Neftali Feliz. Yeah, I’m as pumped to write that as you likely are to read it. Nefti appeared in 3 games this week and looked great picking up 2 saves. He tossed 4 innings and only allowed 1 base runner to reach via a walk. He had 4 strikeouts, and of his 55 total pitches, 35 of them were for strikes. Since May 25th, Feliz has faced 42 total batters (11 innings) allowing a .158/.238/.289 opponents slash line and striking out 12. I’m not sure of his recent velocity, (It doesn’t seem to be publicly available) but one encouraging note is he was able to pitch on back-to-back days in his first two outings this week. That’s an important step for him in determining when he can finally be recalled to the big club.

Robbie Ross, Jr. got his first start of the year for The Express on Sunday against Fresno. He went 4 innings and gave up 1 hit, 2 walks, no runs, and struck out 2. He had his 2-seam fastball going early resulting in 6 outs on grounders, including one double play to end his day in the 4th. He’ll be down here for a while as he works on his game, but that’s an encouraging start for sure. Phil Erwin pitched another solid game on Thursday as he shutdown the Rivercats for 6 innings of work. Erwin allowed 4 hits, 4 walks, 1 earned run, and struck out 5. He threw 104 pitches including 64 for strikes. In 6 games so far, Carlos Pena is hitting .400. He slugged his first home run on Sunday (a moon shot) and actually received an intentional walk later in that game after the homer. He’s walked 4 times (1 intentional) and only struck out twice. I don’t anticipate him keeping this up, but it is pretty cool to see him produce immediately off the street. If Snyder continues to struggle with Texas or this Donnie Murphy injury is serious (I bet by the time this is published we’ll find out he’s out for the year), it may not be long before we see Pena in Texas again. I know, I really can’t believe it either.

My pick to click last week didn’t really work out as Roman Mendez appeared in two games and was roughed up in both outings pretty good. This week, I’m going with a hitter and taking Bryan Peterson. Since June 10, Bryan is hitting .344 with a .387 OBP, slugging 3 homers and 6 doubles. With Fresno’s team ERA of 4.44 and Memphis’s at 4.08, I see it as a good chance for Peterson to keep his hot hitting going.

With this week coming to an end, we have officially passed the halfway point in the MiLB season. It may seem like a long grind, but September will be here before you know it. So let’s enjoy this second half of the season, and hopefully your Express make some noise.

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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