With the all-star games now in the books for all of the Class A leagues, there were a whole lot more games to watch this weekend then there were last week. Here's a look at some of the stars of the weekend.
Jake McGee, lhp, Double-A Mongtomery (Rays): McGee's recovery from Tommy John surgery has included a lot of highlights and a few starts that he would rather forget. McGee's June 19 start was one of the forgettable ones. He allowed eight hits and seven runs (five earned) in only 3 1/3 innings for one of his worst starts of the year.
He bounced back pretty well. McGee wasn't particularly efficient with his pitches, but he was dominating on Friday. McGee struck out 10 batters in only four innings—he only faced 17 batters total, so he struck out nearly 60 percent of them. He was pulled after four innings because he had already thrown 81 pitches and the Rays are keeping McGee on a tight pitch count.
But those four innings included a whole lot of pitches with purpose, as Montgomery manager Billy Gardner told the Montgomery Advertiser.
"He ate up a bunch of pitches," said Gardner, who said McGee's fastball was so active "it looked like it was disappearing" and gave McGee's slider a sterling review. "With that pitch, he really took a step forward."
Jesus Montero, c, Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre (Yankees): There have been a lot of bytes spent trying to dissect Montero's 2010 troubles. Admittedly, his .254/.317/.422 line is not something he's particularly proud of, but it's also worth remembering that he's a 20-year-old in Triple-A baseball. In comparison, the top two college picks in the 2010 draft, Christian Colon and Drew Pomeranz, are both older than Montero–a year older in Pomeranz's case.
Montero hasn't been able to put together the consistency this season that has been a key part of his success in the past. A 2-for-20 stretch last week lowered his batting average to .235, but Montero has heated up since then. He hit a pair of home runs this weekend as part of an 8-for-14 three-game stretch. Even with his recent struggles, one of Montero's former managers, Torre Tyson, predicted in a Newark Star-Ledger feature this month that Montero will end up hitting .300 this season.
Whether Montero will be catching when he reaches the big leagues is still to be determined, but there are more reasons to be worried—Montero leads the International League with 10 passed balls and has thrown out only 21 percent (17-of-81) basestealers.
J.P. Arencibia, c, Triple-A Las Vegas (Blue Jays): Speaking of catchers, Arencibia, one of the top catching prospects in the Blue Jays' system, has also had some defensive problems this year. Arencibia leads the Pacific Coast League with nine passed balls and has thrown out only 22 percent (12 of 53) of basestealers. But thanks in part to the very hitter-friendly environments of the western leg of the Pacific Coast League, Arencibia is having none of the problems that Montero has had at the plate. Arencibia homered on Saturday and Sunday and is 13-for-27 with four doubles, two home runs, 11 runs scored and nine RBIs over the past six games.
Jerry Sands, of, Double-A Chattanooga (Dodgers): Sands has led the Midwest League in home runs (18) for most of the year, leads the league in slugging percentage and ranks second in the MWL in batting average and on-base percentage. But since he was a 22-year-old college player in a league filled with younger players, there was always an asterisk of sorts attached to his performance.
It's time to drop the asterisk. It's been an amazing week for Sands—he began it by winning the Midwest League home run derby and being named MVP of the Midwest League all-star game (he homered in the game). Then he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga (skipping over high Class A). In his first four games in Chattanooga, he's hit three more home runs, which has moved him into a tie with Mike Stanton for the minor league home run lead.
"His approach at the plate is a very good one," Lookouts hitting coach John Valentin told the Chattanooga Free-Press. "He stays through the ball very well, so he's able to hit not only fastballs but sliders and changeups. As far as trying to fix him, there is no fixing him. He has a good approach already. Can he sustain this success is what we're looking for. They're going to make adjustments to him, and we'll see how it goes."
Brett Jackson, cf, Double-A Tennessee (Cubs): The Southern League has gotten a nice talent infusion this week as Sands, Andrew Lambo and Aaron Miller have joined the Lookouts, Brad Boxberger has been promoted to Carolina and Jackson, one of the Cubs' top prospects, has joined the Smokies. Jackson got the news of his promotion just before a bus-ride back to Daytona on Saturday night. He still had to ride the bus back with the team, then hop on a 5 a.m. flight to Knoxville that got him to the ballpark in time for Sunday afternoon's game. Even with just a couple of cat-naps, Jackson went 2-for-5 with a home run in his Double-A debut.
Robbie Erlin, lhp, low Class A Hickory (Rangers): Erlin has been one of the South Atlantic League's best pitchers all season, but the Rangers' lefthander has never been this good. A hit batter was the only baserunner Erlin allowed in six hitless innings on Sunday. He struck out eight to lower his ERA to 1.34—second best in the minors behind Julio Teheran's 1.26.
Marc Krauss, of, high Class A Visalia (Diamondbacks): Almost all of the Diamondbacks' best prospects are in Class A or below, but Krauss is one Diamondbacks' prospect who isn't that far away from making the jump to Double-A. Krauss has bounced back after a subpar May with a torrid streak to end this month. Krauss has seven-game hitting streak (15-for-32), and he hit four home runs in three games this weekend.
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