Minor League Roundup: Everything Moves In Cycles

Today’s roundup features two members of the Reading Fightin Phils, an outfielder who hit for his third career cycle, and a lightning-armed righty for the Yankees. But first, we’ll start you off with …

JJ’S GIF OF THE DAY

Today’s Minor League GIF is actually a series. In the midst of Pensacola’s 17-1 win over Jacksonville, Donald Lutz put together an epic day. It started slow, as Lutz lined out to shortstop in the first inning. But when he came up in the second, he grounded this double down the line.

Donald Lutz

Donald Lutz doubles (Source: Milb.tv)

Lutz doubled again in the fourth inning and added a single in the sixth inning, giving him an excellent 3-for-4 day with two doubles. But really, his night was only starting.

To lead off the seventh, Lutz swung at the first pitch he saw and did this.

Donald Lutz

Donald Lutz homers (Source: Milb.tv)

With a home run and nine total bases under his belt, Lutz came up in the eighth with a chance to pick up the third cycle of his career if he could just get a triple. Although he weighs 250 pounds, Lutz runs very well for his size. So when he hit this ball off the wall, he was able to make the final leg of the cycle look easy.

Donald Lutz

Donald Lutz triples (Source: Milb.tv)

Lutz also hit for the cycle for low Class A Dayton on July 21, 2011 and for the Reds Rookie-level Gulf Coast team on July 10, 2009.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE

Jose Ramirez, 2b, Columbus (Indians): The small, speedy middle infielder hadn’t shown much pop over his three previous minor league seasons. On Monday, however, he socked two longballs (he had seven total entering the year) as part of a 4-for-5 evening with two runs scored and three RBIs. He also stole his fifth bag of the year, this after leading the Eastern League with 38 swipes in 2013. He’s a pesky, line-drive hitter who can put the ball in either gap. The Indians liked him enough to jump him from Double-A to the majors toward the end of last year, and he might’ve played his way back this year were it not for thumb surgery on an injury he suffered in winter ball.

Brandon Workman, rhp, Pawtucket (Red Sox): After developing his curveball and changeup to the satisfaction of team brass, Workman found himself in the majors last July, first in the rotation and then to the bullpen. He got three games with big club to start the year, but the staff in Boston is crowded this year so Workman is back in the Pawtucket rotation. In his second start since going down, he struck out eight over five innings of three-run ball against Marcus Stroman and Buffalo.

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE

Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson (Photo by Mike Janes)

Jimmy Nelson, rhp, Nashville (Brewers): As detailed in today’s Baseball America Prospect Report, Nelson was the king of the PCL on Monday. He whiffed nine against one walk over seven shutout innings and now has rung up 25 hitters in as many innings. If the Brewers can keep up their scorching start, then an arm like Nelson’s—which produces a hard, 92-96 mph heater and a power slider—could either be used as reinforcements or trade bait down the stretch to acquire that final piece to the team’s playoff puzzle.

Stephen Piscotty, of, Memphis (Cardinals): The Redbirds’ power trio keeps on mashing. Piscotty starred on Monday, clubbing a double and a home run in a win over Oklahoma City. He’s hitting .328/.377/.484 this season, but with Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos and Matt Holliday already in tow and Oscar Taveras ahead on the prospect depth chart, it’s hard to see Piscotty (or the Cardinals’ host of other talented outfielders) moving up any time soon.

EASTERN LEAGUE

Kenny Giles

Kenny GIles (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Cameron Perkins, 1B, Reading (Phillies): Perkins, who filled in quite nicely for Kelly Dugan in Clearwater last season, is tearing the cover off the ball to start his first tour in Double-A. With the help of a very appealing home field in Reading, Perkins has mashed his way to a .421/.459/.719 line to start the year, and has struck out just seven times in 62 plate appearances. He was 2-for-4 on Monday with a double, a two-run homer, two runs scored and three RBIs. He’s got an unorthodox swing and good feel for the barrel, which he’s showing in the early portion of the season.

Kenny Giles, rhrp, Reading (Phillies): The Giles Show continues. Reading’s closer racked up two more Ks and hit 101 again, giving him 18 strikeouts against two hits and three walks in nine innings. It has also begun the call from Philadelphia fans, who have grown weary of seeing their current relievers, to bring Giles to the majors. General manager Ruben Amaro, however, splashed cold water on that idea the other day.

SOUTHERN LEAGUE

Donald Lutz, of, Pensacola (Reds): Lutz hit for the cycle on Monday, and threw in a second double for good measure. JJ’s Gif of the Day (above) has you covered as far as the visuals go, and also notes that this is the third time Lutz has hit for the cycle. His powerful bat earned him a taste of the majors last year, and it’s most assuredly his ticket back. If he returns, he’ll outdistance the fella below in the race to be the most famous Lutz.

Robert Stephenson, rhp, Pensacola (Reds): After a trainwreck his last time out, Stephenson got back on track on Monday. The Reds’ top prospect whiffed seven over five innings of one-run ball against Jacksonville, moving his season K total to 21 in 16 1/3 innings. He’s issued 13 walks, however (although seven came in his last start), including three on Monday. Command is one of the final boxes Stephenson needs to check before he’s ready for the big time, and it looks as if he’s still got some work to do.

TEXAS LEAGUE

Luke Jackson, rhp, Frisco (Rangers): The second highest rated arm in the Rangers’ system, Jackson was brilliant on Monday. The first-rounder from 2010 struck out eight over seven shutout innings with three hits and no walks on his ledger. After a disaster in his second turn, Jackson has recovered brilliantly. In his last two starts he’s worked 13 scoreless innings, allowed six hits, walked two and fanned sixteen. He still has work to do with his secondaries, however, and some scouts view him more as a reliever over the long term.

FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE

Dwight Smith Jr.

Dwight Smith

Jeimer Candelario, 3b, Daytona (Cubs): After holding his own at low Class A Kane County as a 19-year-old last season, Candelario has struggled a bit out of the gate this season. He swatted two doubles, drove in two runs, scored and walked on Monday in a win over Clearwater. Candelario’s swing is polished for someone his age, with good balance and a quick, line-drive stroke. He’s got just enough skills to play third base, but could be forced over there if, say, Javier Baez has to move off shortstop in the near future.

Dwight Smith, of, Dunedin (Blue Jays): Smith’s hot start continued on Monday, when he went 2-for-5 with two runs and a walk. He’s slashing .343/.389/.478 over the first 16 games. His problem is being a corner outfielder without power, though his discipline could lead to plenty of walks down the line and lessen the burden to hit the ball over the fence.

CAROLINA LEAGUE

Joey Gallo, 3b, Myrtle Beach (Rangers): Joey Gallo, triples machine? The brawny third baseman collected two hits last night, including his second three-bagger of the year, which equals his total for last season. He’s leading the Carolina League in longballs, slugging percentage and OPS, and isn’t far behind in on-base percentage and RBIs. He’s mashing, and Carolina League pitchers are learning hard lessons.

Simon Mercedes, rhp, Salem (Red Sox): One of the more under-the-radar arms in Boston’s system, Mercedes was electric in three perfect innings on Monday at Winston-Salem. The 22-year-old sat between 95-97 mph with his fastball in the first innings, then eased it down to 92-94 in the second inning, when he was working on cutting the pitch. He toyed with his offspeed pitches in the third inning (although he mixed them throughout), including a wipeout curveball at 81 mph to strike out Courtney Hawkins and end the game.

Tyler Marlette

Tyler Marlette (Photo by Paul Gierhart)

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Tyler Marlette, c, High Desert (Mariners): An offensive catcher, Marlette was 3-for-5 on Monday with a longball, three RBIs and his second stolen base of the season. He’s hitting .265/.375/.441 to start the year, and has thrown out 50 percent (7 of 14) of would-be basestealers. Scouting reports noted that Marlette had a strong arm, but could stand to improve his receiving and footwork.

Danry Vasquez, of, Lancaster (Astros): The Astros received Vasquez in the Jose Veras trade last season, and he’s started a bit slowly. Though he’s hitting just .246/.303/.361, he was 2-for-4 with a double, triple, two runs and an RBI on Monday against Inland Empire. He’s primarily a bat-first prospect, so a good showing in the hitter’s paradise of the Cal League would help his prospect stock.

SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE

Luis Severino, rhp, Charleston (Yankees): The best outing of the young season for the electric righthander. Severino’s pitch count has been compressed early after throwing just 44 innings last season. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowed three hits, walked nobody and struck out eight. It was the longest appearance this year for Severino, who offers a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup that has touched as high as 90 in the past, and a slider that could be plus in the future. He’s the most talented arm in the Yankees’ system by a wide margin.

Ryan McMahon, 3b, Asheville (Rockies): What can you say about McMahon at this point? He tagged another home run on Monday, boosting his total to seven for the season. Asheville is a strong hitter’s park, but he’s doing it away from home, too. His slash line on the road? Just .346/.433/.885. That’s all. No big whoop. Lefthanders, however, are holding him to a .154 average in the first month.

MIDWEST LEAGUE

Mitch Nay, 3b, Lansing (Blue Jays): The 20-year-old supplemental first-rounder made plenty of swing changes in extended spring training last season, and the adjustments are paying dividends this year. He was 2-for-3 with a double, a run and three RBIs on Monday and is hitting. 333/.369/.417 this season. He’s got work to do to stick as a third baseman, but could play in a corner if necessary.