In terms of performance, there hasn't been a better pitcher in the minors lately than Lamb, who struck out eight hitters in 7 1/3 innings yesterday, allowing three runs but only one earned run to lower his ERA to 1.27 in 12 starts with high Class A Wilmington.
That earned run was significant, as it was the first time in 35 2/3 innings that Lamb had allowed an earned run, a stretch that spanned seven starts over the last five weeks. Lamb wasn't even on the mound when he technically allowed his first earned run since June 17, as he left the eighth inning with a runner on second base before the Blue Rocks' bullpen allowed the run to score.
Yeah, pitching your home games in Wilmington helps, but Lamb's numbers aren't coming from smoke and mirrors. Four of Lamb's last five starts have been on the road, his stuff is excellent and he's struck out 85 with 15 walks in 70 2/3 innings in the Carolina League.
Wednesday's Top Performers
• Brandon Belt, 1b, Double-A Richmond (Giants)
If you're trying to find any holes in Belt's performance to date, it's just nitpicking. After adding two more hits including a triple yesterday, Belt is hitting .381/.481/.644 with 63 walks and 62 strikeouts in 93 games between Double-A and high Class A San Jose. Any skepticism of Belt based on his college days at Texas or his fifth-round draft status isn't seeing the big picture either, as Belt has put in considerable work to overhaul his offensive game. Belt transformed his metal-bat swing and extreme closed-off stance and the adjustments have helped him see the ball better and leverage the ball with more authority when he connects. Not only can Belt hit, but the 6-foot-5, 195-pound lefthanded hitter can also move around well for a first baseman; with 15 homers and 18 stolen bases, Belt could become the rare first baseman to go 20/20 this year.
• Hak-Ju Lee, ss, low Class A Peoria (Cubs)
Power isn't Lee's game, but the Cubs' speedy shortstop hit his first home run of the season last night, finishing his night with four hits (including a triple) and a walk. Despite Lee's slender build and well-below-average power, it wasn't his first career home run–he hit two last year in the Rookie-level Arizona League–but his game is built more around spraying the ball to all fields to take advantage of his outstanding speed, something he's done quite well this season.
• Manny Banuelos, lhp, high Class A Tampa (Yankees)
An apendectomy kept Banuelos on the shelf to start the year, but the 19-year-old Mexican has been sharp since returning to Tampa in July. Banuelos struck out a season-high 10 batters in five innings yesterday, and though he walked three and allowed three runs, all three runs were unearned. Banuelos, who has a 1.16 ERA and a 33-8 K-BB mark in 23 1/3 innings, has a clean, repeatable delivery that helps him pound the strike zone and should enable him to move quickly through the system now that he's back and healthy.
• Casey Kelly, rhp, Double-A Portland (Red Sox)
Boston's best pitching prospect has stalled in Double-A, as his usually solid fastball command has wavered and led to a 4.85 ERA in 85 1/3 innings. Yesterday Kelly had one of his best outings of the year, allowing his only run on a solo homer by Toronto's Travis Snider before exiting after six innings with eight strikeouts and one walk. Despite his struggles, remember one thing: Kelly is still 20 years old, so there's no reason to panic.
• Aaron Hicks, cf, low Class A Beloit (Twins)
Hicks came off the disabled list from a right wrist injury after two weeks off and didn't show any rust, going 3-for-5 with a triple and a stolen base. Usually, the No. 1 prospect in the Midwest League doesn't return to the same level for round two, but Hicks still has all the tools and athleticism that make him one of the game's best prospects.
• Jean Segura, 2b, low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels)
With players like Mike Trout and a starting rotation stacked with prospects, it might be easy to lose sight of Segura, who went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a stolen base last night. Now hitting .305/.354/.436 in 88 games games, Segura's combination of speed and superior bat control make him one of baseball's more intriguing second base prospects.
• Shelby Miller, rhp, low Class A Quad Cities (Cardinals)
The Cardinals have kept Miller's innings to a minimum, holding him to 62 1/3 innings over 16 starts to try to protect the health of their 2009 first-round pick. Miller's 16th start was his best to date, as the 19-year-old struck out eight and walked two in five shutout innings. While Miller's 4.04 ERA in the Midwest League is nothing spectacular, he's whiffed batters 33 percent of the batters he's faced with 89 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings thanks to his power fastball and a curve that flashes plus.
• Rymer Liriano, of, short-season Eugene (Padres)
Liriano started the year in low Class A Fort Wayne, but he was overmatched in the Midwest League as pitchers took advantage of his free-swinging ways. Moved down to the Northwest League, Liriano has hit .350/.391/.500 in 30 games, including a 3-for-3 showing with two doubles and two walks last night. What's interesting about Liriano's time with Eugene is that, despite having some of the best raw power in the system, he's stood out more for his speed, as he has yet to hit a home run but has 14 steals in 20 attempts and four triples.
• Luis Domoromo, of, short-season Eugene (Padres)
Domoromo has joined Liriano in the Emeralds outfield, a bit of an aggressive assignment given that Domoromo last year played in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League. An 18-year-old who signed two years ago for $1.25 million, Domoromo chipped in a pair of hits yesterday in his tenth Northwest League game. The Padres helped Domoromo rework his stance since the end of the '09 season, spreading him out more in his setup and helping him get better extension on an already solid swing.
• Guillermo Pimentel, of, Rookie-level Arizona League (Mariners)
Pimentel's franchise record for an international amateur signing bonus fell last week when the Mariners signed fellow Dominican outfielder Phillips Castillo for $2.2 million, edging the $2 million the club gave Pimentel last year. At 17, Pimentel has had some struggles in his first pro season, but this week has been his best of the season, as Pimentel showed off his impressive raw power by homering for the second straight game yesterday, making him 7-for-18 with four extra-base hits in his last four games.
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