Minor League Roundup: Betts Keeps Bashing

JJ’S GIF OF THE DAY

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper watches a lot of Milb.tv games, actually a frightening amount. For the roundups, he posts some of what he sees for a daily GIF. See something worth a GIF? Send it to him on Twitter @jjcoop36.

Micah Johnson

Micah Johnson (Source: Milb.tv)

When it came to stealing bases, White Sox second base prospect Micah Johnson had gotten off to a slow start. Despite an excellent .354/.447/.523 stat line, Johnson entered this weekend with only two steals in 14 games, a far cry from the 84 steals in 131 games he had last year.

Johnson picked it up this weekend, swiping one base on Friday, then three more, including this steal of third, on Saturday.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE

Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo (Photo by Ken Babbit)

J.D. Martinez, of, Toledo: No, he’s not a prospect, but what a weekend he had. In the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, Martinez, who has 254 MLB games on his ledger, swatted three home runs. He added another in the nightcap, making him the first player in the minors with double-digit dingers. Not a bad afternoon.

Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Pawtucket: After three straight stinkers, Ranaudo settled down and pitched like the Red Sox believe he can. He shut down Buffalo on two hits, two walks and five punchouts over six innings. He’s got the good stuff, especially his fastball and hard curveball, but consistency and health have escaped him so far in his career.

Sean Nolin, lhp, Buffalo: Nolin, who made his MLB debut last year, brings four pitches, deception and plus command to the table. He blanked Pawtucket on two hits and struck out seven on Saturday. He’s fanned 21 in 16 2/3 innings this season against seven walks, and has a future of a back-end starter.

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE

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Jonathan Singleton, 1b, Oklahoma City: Him again? Yes, him again. Singleton, who quite obviously has tired of dining at the many fine barbecue joints in Oklahoma City and instead yearns to try Houston’s Gatlin’s BBQ, swatted another longball over the weekend, giving him seven, as well as an OPS of 1.205, this season. It’s almost time.

Oscar Taveras, of, Memphis: Despite all of Singleton’s shenanigans, Taveras is the highest-rated prospect in the PCL. He homered on Saturday off of Astros fireballer Mike Foltynewicz, and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, including a six-game streak. His longball was his third of the year.

EASTERN LEAGUE

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts, 2b, Portland: He just keeps hitting. The top prospect on a Sea Dogs roster chock full of talent, Betts was 4-for-5 on Saturday with his second home run of the season. Overall, he’s hitting an astonishing .453/.492/.717 and has been held hitless just once this season. He walked twice in that game, meaning he’s been on base in every game this year. If he keeps this up, perhaps one day he’ll join Mssrs. Wilson and Blaylock in the pantheon of marvelous Mookies.

Blake Swihart, c, Portland: The 22-year-old backstop in his first taste of the upper levels has started out strong with stick, and on Friday clubbed his first home run of the season. He’s a switch-hitter with line-drive strokes from both sides of the dish, and so far this season is hitting .349/.364/.512 with a pair of doubles, a triple and the longball. Swihart and Christian Vazquez should be just about ready once A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross reach the end of their Fenway tenures..

SOUTHERN LEAGUE

Micah Johnson

Micah Johnson, 2b, Birmingham: A true leadoff man if there ever were one, Johnson showed off all his skills on Saturday. He was 2-for-2 against Tennessee with three walks and three stolen bases (including two swipes of third). The 23-year-old boasts a mighty fine slash line of .377/.472/.557, possesses 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale (as one would expect from someone with 84 swipes last year). He’s a little rough around the edges at second base, but no matter where he fits defensively, there’s a home for someone with his offensive skill set.

Jake Lamb, 3b, Mobile: A walk-off grand slam isn’t enough for you? (Wow. Greedy.) How about a walk-off, inside-the-park grand slam, in extra innings no less. That’s exactly the feat Lamb pulled off on Saturday, when he ended his team’s win over Huntsville in style. Arizona’s sixth-round selection from 2012, Lamb has begun to show power. He cracked 13 homers in 64 games for high Class A Visalia, then added one more during an impressive Arizona Fall League showing. That, in addition to plus defense and a strong arm at third base, could have a lot of Arizonans saying “I love Lamb.”

TEXAS LEAGUE

James Ramsey, of, Springfield: Were it not for the presence of Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, Ramsey might be at Triple-A. Those three men exist, however, so he’s stuck back at Springfield, where he’s reaping the benefits. Ramsey notched three more hits over the weekend, including his league-best fifth home run. In addition to longballs, Ramsey also leads the Texas League in hits, slugging percentage and OPS.

Zach Borenstein, of, Arkansas: On Sunday, Borenstein collected a single, double, triple and a home run. That’s what we in the business call: a cycle. The Phillies’ Ryan Howard came a double away from one on Sunday. Carlos Correa missed by a homer. Jonathan Singleton was a single shy on Wednesday. But not Borenstein. No, he doesn’t settle for almost. He finishes what he starts. As a tribute, here’s a great song about cycles.

CAROLINA LEAGUE

Brian Johnson, lhp, Salem: After a pair of very rocky starts, Johnson was immaculate on Friday evening. He spun six perfect innings in Winston-Salem with five punchouts. At his best, he operates with a low-90s heater, a plus curveball and a changeup and slider/cutter hybrid. The Red Sox would like to believe Friday’s outing is a springboard to a successful rest of the season and a jump up a crowded Boston prospect board.

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Jimmie Sherfy

Jimmie Sherfy (Photo by Larry Goren)

Jimmie Sherfy, rhrp, Visalia: We’ve highlighted the exploits of plenty of closers in this space before—Richmond’s Derek Law and Reading’s Ken Giles specifically—and we’ll do so again today. Sherfy, a smallish righthander with a max-effort delivery, has been dominant this season. He fanned all three hitters he faced on Saturday, making his numbers all the more impressive. In all, he’s whiffed 17 against two walks and one hit in seven shutout innings. He’s armed with a mid-90s heater that has been clocked as high as 98, as well as a plus slider with the potential to be plus-plus in the future.

Carlos Correa, ss, Lancaster: We all know the background with Correa. No. 1 overall pick two seasons ago, mature beyond his years, performed at every level. He came a longball away from the cycle on Saturday and is hitting .281/.338/.469 with a pair of bombs and 14 RBIs. Combined with Singleton above and George Springer in the big leagues, the future is looking scorching for the Astros.

FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE

Peter O’Brien, c, Tampa: What can one accomplish in seven innings? If you’re O’Brien, a lot. The brawny backstop launched two homers and doubled in his team’s thrashing of Daytona. The questions with O’Brien, however, surround his defense and ability to hit for average, and he’s started to answer one in the early going. He’s hitting .370 for Tampa and is catching fairly regularly with the occasional start in right field mixed in. With his early home run output, though, one thing is clear: No one man should have all that power. The clock’s ticking, he’ll just count the hours … until he’s in Double-A.

Brandon Nimmo, of, St. Lucie: After a very good year in Savannah, Nimmo has bursted out of the gate in the Florida State League. The toolbox from Wyoming has put together an early line of .381/.480/.508 through 16 games, including 12 walks, good for third-best in the league. On Saturday afternoon, Nimmo put together a 4-for-5 day with a triple, two RBIs and a stolen base.

SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE

Trey Michalczewski, 3B, Kannapolis: A former tight end in high school, Michalczewski offers the expected athleticism that comes with such a pedigree. His offensive game is more polished than one would expect, and at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll hit for some power down the line. He’s moved off of shortstop, where he played in high school, and is working to adjust to third base. Here’s video of him from last night’s 4-for-4 effort.

MIDWEST LEAGUE

Clint Frazier

Clint Frazier (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Braden Shipley, rhp, South Bend: Making his first start of the year after dealing with a little bit of biceps tendinitis, Shipley looked no worse for wear. Arizona’s first-rounder from last season lasted five shutout innings, gave up five hits, walked one and struck out four. He and Aaron Blair, the team’s first-rounder from 2011, form a formidable 1-2 punch. If talented righty Jose Martinez moves up soon, look out.

Clint Frazier, of, Lake County: Another late arriver to the Midwest League, Frazier stayed in extended spring training for a few extra weeks before reporting to Lake County yesterday. The No. 2 prospect in the Indians’ system behind only Francisco Lindor, Frazier offers hitting and power with plenty of bat speed. He’s still learning the finer points of the outfield. He was 1-for-5 last night with a run and an RBI.