Today's roundup contains an awesome afternoon for Mookie Betts, Javier Baez busting off the shackles, Kris Bryant continuing his assault on the Southern League, Jon Gray's steady dominance, and Phil Ervin's second chance at a first impression. It also contains Jay-Z (for the second time this week), Beyonce, and James Brown. Get funky on Friday, y'all.
What a day for the Mookie Monster. All he did was draw four walks in his first four plate appearances, then hit a walk-off, two-run triple to give the Sea Dogs a 6-5 victory over the visiting Binghamton Mets.
Double Duty Add-Cliffe
In his career with the Yankees, Addison Maruszak played every position except center field and pitcher. One season, he played every position on the infield … in the first week of the season. He caught bullpen sessions, and then caught in games, and then caught a runner stealing. Dude's a gamer, period. So it should come as no surprise that on Thursday he played in two games, for two teams, in two cities.
He started the day as part of the Reading Fightin' Phils, playing right field behind Severino Gonzalez in a Berks County matinee. After the game, he was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but wasn't in the starting lineup. When first baseman Jim Murphy got ejected, however, he was forced in to action. Third baseman Maikel Franco shifted to first base and Maruszak entered at the hot corner.
It's not quite Joel Youngblood playing for two franchises in the same day, but it's still pretty darn impressive.
Hernan Perez, 2b, Toledo (Tigers): With Ian Kinsler in tow, Perez seems to be blocked after making a cameo in the majors last year. With that in mind, Perez will have to keep plugging along in Triple-A, and on Thursday went 4-for-5 with three runs against Lehigh Valley. He's a contact hitter with an all-fields approach and little power and solid defender at second base who can play shortstop in a pinch. He might need a change of scenery to get a shot, especially once Jose Iglesias returns.
Pacific Coast League
Javier Baez, ss, Iowa (Cubs): It's about time. Right, Cubs fans? Baez, one of the best, if not the best, shortstop prospects in the game, was mired in a season-long slump that featured a ton of strikeouts, an altercation with teammate Eli Whiteside (nobody lost an ear, though), and an ankle injury. Thursday, however, all that was in the past. The 21-year-old collected four hits, including two doubles and a longball, scored twice and drove in two runs. This doesn't cure everything, obviously, and doesn't answer all the questions about his approach, but it's a good way to start.
Willy Garcia, of, Altoona (Pirates): Loaded with tools, Garcia on Thursday showed a hint of the potential out the Pirates are hoping to eventually get on a regular basis from the 21-year-old. He doubled and smacked two homers, drove in four runs and scored three times against Akron. One of his biggest issues, however, is plate discipline (as is to be expected from someone his age), and that's played out this season in his 48 strikeouts against just nine walks over 41 games.
Kris Bryant, 3b, Tennessee (Cubs): When Bryant reads this roundup (you know he does), he'll be stunned to find out his day was only the second best effort in the Cubs' system. Top honors obviously go to Javier Baez (see above), but Bryant's night was nothing to sneeze at, even if it is allergy season. Bryant, who a year ago at this time was playing for the University of San Diego, was 3-for-3 with a double, a run, three RBIs and his sixth stolen base of the year. With more nights like that, he'll be able to marvel at Baez while playing on the same infield.
Jon Gray, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies): Fans in Denver have to be absolutely giddy. Their club is within striking distance in the NL West, Troy Tulowitzki is the hottest player in the stratosphere, and Gray is looking as nasty as ever. He allowed one run through six innings on Thursday on five hits and a walk while striking out four. He's used a combo of high-octane heat and a nasty slider to ring up a nearly 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding the opposition to just a .223 average.
Florida State League
Dilson Herrera and Brandon Nimmo, 2b and of, St. Lucie (Mets): The best 1-2 punch in minor league baseball, no doubt. Herrera leads the Florida State League in hits, and Nimmo paces it in walks. It's Abbott and Costello, Ricky and Lucy, peanuts and Cracker Jack, matzo and salsa (OK, maybe that's just me). The dynamic duo was at it again on Thursday against Clearwater. Herrera, acquired in the trade that sent Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh, collected a double, walked and scored twice. Nimmo, who famously was drafted in the first round in 2011 even though he played in Wyoming, which doesn't offer high school baseball, was 2-for-4 with his third homer of the year. The Florida State League all-star game is just a few weeks away; expect both of these fellas to have starting roles.
Francellis Montas, rhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox): After missing the first month of the season with a knee injury, Montas has come on strong, and was incredible on Thursday. Against Salem, Montas lasted eight innings, allowed a run on two hits and a walk and fanned 11 Red Sox. With that outing, Montas now has 23 punchouts in 23 1/3 innings. The big righty brings a heater that lives in the mid-to-high-90s, a slider that flashes plus or better and has a changeup that looks to be in the developmental stages. He came over the White Sox in the trade that sent Jake Peavy to Fenway.
Corey Seager, ss, Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers): Seager on Thursday continued his torrid week with a 4-for-5 effort that included a double and his sixth stolen base of the season. He's 20 for his last 38, including multi-hit efforts in his last five games, and is riding a nine-game hitting streak. In that span he's also got seven doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs. If he were in, say, Double-A, we might be talking about him going up to replace the injured Juan Uribe. Instead, Erisbel Arruebarrena gets the call, while Seager joins James Brown in turning on the heat and building some fire.
South Atlantic League
J.P. Crawford, ss, Lakewood (Phillies): It's been an absolutely amazing first six or so weeks of Crawford's first full season in pro ball. The 19-year-old, whom Philadelphia took with their first-round choice last year, is an on-base machine. On Thursday, he went 1-for-3 with a double, two runs and two walks in Lakewood's nipping of West Virginia. Over the last 10 days, he's at .395/.489/.553 with six doubles. Perhaps more impressively, he's struck out and walked 21 times each. He should reach Clearwater sometime around midseason, where he could set up a J.P. vs. J.O. (Berrios) matchup when he plays Fort Myers. Maybe after the game they could go to PDQ, or get some BBQ, or maybe a BLT.
Phil Ervin, of, Dayton (Reds): For the second time this season, Ervin hit his first home run. He had a longball earlier this month, but rains came and washed out the game, taking with them all of the day's statistics. This time, the blast counted. He finished the day 2-for-5 with the homer and two runs scored, but needs a lot more days like Thursday to break out of his early funk that has him slashing .206/.272/.297 through the first 44 games. For his efforts, we award some Beyonce and Jay-Z (and a Juan Pierre reference!) but thankfully no Solange.