Forget the batting race or the quest to find out which California League slugger will finish with the most home runs. The chase most worthy of attention this season might be that of Braves pitchers vying for the strikeout title in their own organization.
Lefthander Mike Minor struck out eight Triple-A batters over seven innings for Gwinnett on Friday. He leads all Braves pitchers with 144 punchouts and ranks fourth in the minors. The 22-year-old Minor's feat is doubly impressive seeing as it's his first full season and he's racked up strikeouts exclusively at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
Righthander Randall Delgado has been battered in his first two starts for Double-A Mississippi (six runs on nine hits in nine innings), but he also has managed to strike out 11 batters. The 20-year-old ranks second in the Braves system with 131 strikeouts, seven more than righthander Julio Teheran, who also received a recent promotion to Double-A.
In making his second start for Mississippi yesterday, Teheran, 19, pushed his strikeout total to 124 by fanning seven and allowing no hits through 5 2/3 innings at home against Mobile. Reliever Ty'Relle Harris completed the no-hit bid with 3 1/3 innings of near-perfect relief. Harris, a 19th-round pick last year from Tennessee, struck out six of the 12 batters he faced, walking one, in his Double-A debut. The Teheran-Harris combined no-no was the second in Mississippi franchise history, the first coming courtesy of Tommy Hanson on June 25, 2008, when he fanned 14 Birmingham batters over nine innings.
In case you're curious, the Braves pitchers who round out the organization's top five are Gwinnett righthanders Todd Redmond and Brandon Beachy. A 25-year-old, sixth-year pro, Redmond has gone a pedestrian 8-10, 4.51 in Triple-A this year, though he does have 109 whiffs in 127 2/3 innings. Oh, and he threw a no-hitter of his own, going the full nine on the road against Louisville on May 28.
We've detailed Beachy's light-speed ascension elsewhere at Baseball America, but a quick recap: He went from nondrafted college junior sign in ’08 to Double-A all-star in ’09 to (as of last Tuesday) Triple-A starter in about two years. Ever the hard-charger, Beachy with his 107 strikeouts trails Redmond by just two—and this despite spending most of the first half in the bullpen.
Too Good For Tampa
Emerging Yankees phenom Dellin Betances has returned from Tommy John surgery better than ever. Pitching for high Class A Tampa yesterday, the 22-year-old righthander struck out 11 of the 19 Fort Myers batters he faced. Betances walked one and allowed another batter to reach via hit, but for six innings of work, that's not bad at all. Righthander Philip Bartleski pitched three perfect innings to preserve Tampa's one-hitter.
The Yankees claim that Betances has returned from TJ surgery minus the mechanical flaws that used to plague him, and thus his command has improved by a grade or two. The numbers bear this out. In his 11 starts since coming off the disabled list, Betances has scaled career peaks for both strikeouts (10.7) and walks (2.4) per nine innings. The one thing he hasn't done—this season or in any other—is pitch in Double-A. That seems destined to happen soon enough.
The Rich Get Richer
With their 7 1/2-game advantage on Buffalo, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees seem assured of a Northern Division championship, which would be their fourth in a row. In fact, since shifting their International League operations from Columbus to Scranton for the ’07 season, the Yankees have seldom been seriously challenged. Pawtucket came the closest, pulling to within 2 1/2 games in in ’08.
So in what came as bad news to the rest of the IL, Scranton added slugging third baseman Brandon Laird on Monday. He promptly went 4-for-4 with two solo homers and three runs scored in his Triple-A debut. He now leads the Yankees organization with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs, having done his previous damage with Double-A Trenton.
Laird replaces veteran third baseman Chad Tracy, who hit the cover off the ball for three weeks with Scranton—.324/.356/.662 with six homers—but elected to opt out of his contract after the Yankees acquired veteran bats Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns at the trade deadline.
Seven Up, Seven Down: The Best And Worst Full-Season Minor League Teams
Five full weeks remain in the minor league season. Can anyone surpass Double-A New Britain for title of worst team? They've been consistently bad all season and remain on target for 100 losses. That's hard to do in just 140 games.
Low Class A Great Lakes has jumped out to a five-game lead in projected wins. After recently winning 11 game in a row, Triple-A Durham would seem to be a prime challenger.
The PACE category here is simply each team's win (or loss, below) total extrapolated over the full season. Triple-A leagues play 144 games, while the other eight full-season leagues play 140-game schedules.
|TOP EIGHT MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS • THROUGH AUG. 2
|1||Great Lakes Loons||70||33||.680||Midwest||LoA||Dodgers||95|
|3||Cedar Rapids Kernels||63||38||.624||Midwest||LoA||Angels||87|
|4||Lake Elsinore Storm||65||41||.613||California||HiA||Padres||86|
|Lakewood BlueClaws||65||41||.613||South Atlantic||LoA||Phillies||86|
|NW Arkansas Naturals||63||41||.606||Texas||AA||Royals||85|
For perspective, follow this link to last year's full-season bests and worsts.
|BOTTOM SEVEN MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS • THROUGH AUG. 2
|1||New Britain Rock Cats||31||77||.287||Eastern||AA||Twins||100|
|2||Jupiter Hammerheads||34||68||.333||Florida State||HiA||Marlins||93|
|4||Birmingham Barons||37||68||.352||Southern||AA||White Sox||91|
|6||Rochester Red Wings||39||70||.358||International||AAA||Twins||92|
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