In today’s roundup, things get out of hand in the Pacific Coast League, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez go off, Brian Johnson strikes out everyone, Aaron Blair and Joe Ross keep it going in Double-A, Brandon Finnegan keeps dealing, David Dahl finds his groove in the Cal League and Trea Turner stays blazing hot.
The Great Minor League Home Run Race
|MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN RACE
The heat in Texas over the last week has been matched only by Joey Gallo‘s bat. The Double-A Frisco third baseman homered twice this weekend, and has gone deep in five of his last seven games, pushing his sport-wide lead to 36, or three better than Kris Bryant. With four games this month, it’s not out of the question that he could reach 40 before August. And that’s insane. To put it in perspective, through July 27 last season, the minor league leaders—George Springer, Ryan Rua and Mauro Gomez—had 28 homers apiece. As you can see by our leaderboard, four players have more than that this year. One of those players, Peter O’Brien, also went deep this weekend, swatting his 31st blast on Saturday. In 171 games entering this season, O’Brien had 32 career homers. He’s got 31 in 99 games this year. Similarly, Matt Olson had 32 homers in 184 career games before this year. He has 29 this season, the latest of which came Saturday. He’s played 104 games.
As a former umpire, I feel for Brian Hertzog. I really do. He was the referee—er, home plate umpire—on Saturday for the game between Reno and Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League. For one inning, everything was gravy. Then all hell broke loose. After order was restored, the bottom of the box score looked something like this:
Albuquerque Isotopes shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Albuquerque Isotopes shortstop Walter Ibarra ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Pedro Baez ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Carlos Frias ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Reno Aces Manager Phil Nevin ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Reno Aces catcher Blake Lalli ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Reno Aces pitcher Kameron Loe ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Reno Aces left fielder Aaron Cunningham ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Reno Aces first baseman Mike Jacobs ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd);
Reno Aces pitcher Andrew Chafin ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd)
For those counting, that’s 10 ejections in one inning, the result, obviously, of a brawl. Want proof? Here you go.
So what happened? KOLO’s Ben Ross broke it down on Twitter.
Isotopes infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena not happy about being thrown at. A few pitches later he struck out, then shoved Aces’ Blake Lalli
— Ben Ross (@BenjaminARoss) July 27, 2014
Benches cleared, dozens of players involved right behind home plate. Brawl went into the net and pushed net right into first row of crowd
— Ben Ross (@BenjaminARoss) July 27, 2014
Really awful sight to see. Arruebarrena is going to be suspended for a long time. — Ben Ross (@BenjaminARoss) July 27, 2014
As you can see from the video, the fight not only was ugly, but spilled near the row of seats behind home plate. That’s pretty reckless and unconscionable, even by brawl standards. If you’re going to fight, at least keep it on the mound.
Between Arruebarrena and Alex Guerrero—though that was hardly his fault—it’s been a bad year for the Dodgers’ high-priced international imports.
International League • AAA
Francisco Lindor, ss, Columbus (Indians): The Indians’ best prospect is also one of the top youngsters in the game. He hit two home runs in April. He also hit two more in May. Then he hit two more in June. Then he hit two on Saturday, in his fifth game since being promoted from Double-A Akron. Canal Park, where Akron calls home, has surrendered 74 homers all season, 34 fewer than Columbus’ Huntington Park. With that in mind, Lindor might just like his new home.
Pacific Coast League • AAA
Javier Baez, 2b/ss, Iowa (Cubs): Those rough first few months sure seem like a distant memory. In a doubleheader on Saturday, Baez went 3-for-7 with a double, a homer in each game, two runs and six RBIs. He also played both games at second base, which is significant for obvious reasons. After two brutal months to start the year, he’s found himself again. Case in point: Baez is hitting .301/.352/.656 in July with eight longballs.
Eastern League • AA
Brian Johnson, lhp, Portland (Red Sox): Very quietly, in the shadow of the Mookies and Swiharts and the Marreros and Ranaudos and Websterses, the big lefthander from Florida has had himself quite a season. With stuff that could best be described as better than crafty (he is a lefty, after all) but a couple of ticks below overpowering, Johnson has carved up the Carolina and Eastern leagues this year with nearly equal aplomb. Friday, however, was his coup de grace. Against New Britain, Johnson allowed one hit over seven shutout innings, walked three and struck out a dozen. Before Friday, his high point for punchouts was eight. Since April 18, he’s allowed more than two earned runs in a start only once.
Southern League • AA
Aaron Blair, rhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks): It seems Mr. Blair has found his new digs in the Southern League a tad more hospitable than those in California. On Saturday he went seven strong innings against Jackson, surrendering only one run (a solo homer) on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. In his first two turns with the BayBears, he’s punched out 16 over 13 2/3 innings with only the one run and one walk.
Jesse Winker, of, Pensacola (Reds). According to BA correspondent C. Trent Rosecrans, Winker suffered a partially torn tendon in his right wrist in a car accident earlier this month and tried to play through it, but it appears he won’t return before the end of the minor league season “Whatever the next step is, I’m hoping I can come back for the last week of the season,” Winker told Rosecrans. “We just have to wait and see with this process, when it heals. The doctor said two-to-four weeks, so I just have to sit back and let it heal.”
Texas League • AA
Joe Ross, rhp, San Antonio (Padres): Like Blair, Ross is having a fine go of it in his first couple of turns at the next level. On Saturday, he faced off against Joey Gallo and Frisco and came away mostly unscathed. He let up one run on six hits and a walk and struck out eight. In two starts, the California League all-star who brings a solid four-pitch mix has fanned 13 in as many innings and walked just one.
Florida State League • Hi A
Byron Buxton, of, Fort Myers (Twins): It’s always nice to see Buxton’s name not connected to the word “injured.” After a few days off after getting hit by a pitch, the game’s best prospect was back at it again on Saturday, swatting two doubles and driving in three runs against Tampa. He’s played just 16 games this season, but he has hits in 10 of them and multiple hits in four of them. Stay well, sir.
Carolina League • Hi A
Brandon Finnegan, rhp, Wilmington (Royals): The Royals gave Finnegan some more slack on his leash, and he gave them some more results. Upped to four innings on Saturday, Kansas City’s first-rounder once again stymied Lynchburg. Over those four frames, he allowed two hits and a walk and struck out five. In four starts so far this year, he’s put forth 11 shutout innings, allowed just three hits and a walk and fanned 11. Keep going like that, and he’ll find himself in Northwest Arkansas pretty soon.
California League • Hi A
David Dahl, cf, Modesto (Rockies): It didn’t take long for Dahl to make his presence felt at the next level. In his third game in the Cal League, Dahl went 3-for-4 with a triple and homer and was a double shy of the cycle. Those were his first three hits with the Nuts. After performing quite nicely with low Class A Asheville, the promotion was well-earned.
South Atlantic League • Lo A
Austin Dean, lf, Greensboro (Marlins): In April, Dean hit .280/.368/.387 with the Grasshoppers. That was his worst month of the year. His numbers have gradually ticked up ever since, and it’s become very clear that he has an excellent feel to hit. He went 1-for-4 with a homer on Saturday and is riding a nine-game hitting streak. In July, he’s put up a gaudy .389/.473/.526 line with four of his eight homers for the year. Even cooler? His middle name is James, so he gets extra points for being Austin James Dean.
Midwest League • Lo A
Trea Turner, ss, Fort Wayne (Padres): After three years in North Carolina State, Turner seems to be adjusting the heartland just fine. In 12 games in the Midwest League, he has eight multi-hit games. The 2014 first-rounder went 3-for-4 on Saturday with two runs, two RBIs, a walk and a stolen bases, and is 11 for his last 16 at the plate.