|GREAT MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN RACE
Today’s roundup features a pair of 21-year-olds in Triple-A, a triumphant return from Peter O’Brien into the Great Minor League Home Run Race, a Cubs prospect asking you to respect his authority, an A’s prospect with a rare stat line, two White Sox farmhands with excellent days and, of course, The Great Gallo.
Maikel Franco, 3b, Lehigh Valley (Phillies): Will the real Maikel Franco please stand up? The 21-year-old had a positively brutal first half in Lehigh Valley, but has started July on a smoldering clip. He’s got multiple hits in half of his last 10 games, including a single and a double yesterday, the latter of which came off of rehabbing Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano, who allowed just three hits over six shutout innings. There are legitimate concerns about his swing mechanics and approach, but he’s got plenty of bat speed, defense and, perhaps most importantly, time.
Pacific Coast League
Javier Baez, ss, Iowa (Cubs): What in the name of Manny Ramirez has gotten into Javier Baez? Since Ramirez arrived in Iowa to start his term as a player/coach on June 26, Baez’s numbers have been quite good. How good? A slash line of .306/.417/.612 with six doubles and three homers, including last night’s blast, his 14th of the season. It’s a small sample to be sure, but you can bet the Cubs are happy to see one of their top prospects producing. The lesson here? Don’t give up on 21-year-olds in Triple-A.
Peter O’Brien, c, Trenton (Yankees): Welcome back, Mr. O’Brien, it had been far too long. After not going deep since June 23, O’Brien took his frustration out on Hoby Milner, Seth Rosin and the Reading Fightin Phils. He launched longballs No. 26 and 27 on Monday, putting him back within shouting distance of Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo in the Great Minor League Home Run Race. He’s started strong in July, and he needs it after going .198/.250/.386 in June with Double-A.
Myles Jaye, rhp, Birmingham (White Sox): Nine-inning complete games in the minor leagues are extremely rare, but that’s just what Jaye did Monday night. The former Blue Jay, who works quickly and brings his fastball up to 93 mph, surrendered one run (a Jorge Soler longball) on eight hits and no walks with three punchouts in his team’s win over Tennessee. It’s been a rough year for Jaye—his ERA still sits at 6.19 after the gem—who pitched the clincher in his team’s Southern League championship win last year. Perhaps Monday night can be a jumping-off point to better results.
Joey Gallo, 3b, Frisco (Rangers): In what could be easily construed as a sign of an impending call-up, Gallo started at first base Monday night for the first time in his career. Would learning a position affect his game at the plate? Not a chance. The sport’s premier power threat doubled and touched off his 31st homer of the season in Frisco’s defeat of Arkansas on Monday. There’s very little to say about Gallo at this point. He has 31 homers. It’s July 8. Long live the Great Minor League Home Run Race.
Florida State League
Albert Almora, of, Daytona (Cubs): Clearly upset after seeing his omission from our midseason top 50, Almora had a bit frustration to burn off. So, in a doubleheader against Lakeland, he made his point perfectly. Over the two games, Almora went 3-for-7 with a pair of longballs—including one off of top Tigers prospect Jake Thompson—three runs scored and four RBIs. It’s been a down year for Almora for sure, but if there’s anyone in the game mentally tough enough to keep a bad first half from going to his head, it’s Almora.
Tyler Danish, rhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox): Think Myrtle Beach might be a little tired of seeing Danish? In two starts after a quick stint on the DL, Danish has faced the Pelicans twice and strung together a combined 10 1/3 innings and allowed one run on nine hits and two walks while striking out a dozen. Utilizing a funky arm slot, the 19-year-old Danish brings a low-90s sinker and slider to get tons of grounders—his groundout-to-flyout ratio this season is better than 3-t0-1—and success.
Renato Nunez, 3b, Stockton (A’s): After a scorching June, Nunez has kept right on mashing into July. The Ports scored seven runs on Monday, and Nunez drove in six of them. He blasted his 19th and 20th homers of the season, including a seventh-inning grand slam, to go with his 20 doubles. The 20-homer, 20-double is a very select group. Besides Nunez, only Iowa’s Kris Bryant, Erie’s Steven Moya and Jackson’s D.J. Peterson can boast that particular collection of stats.
South Atlantic League
Trey Michalczewski, 3b, Kannapolis (White Sox): Michalczewski has shown well in his first full season of pro ball, and was especially good on Monday, when he went 3-for-5 with a grand slam, two runs and five RBIs. He’s a strong hitter from both sides of the plate but still has work to do adjusting to pro-level pitching and could stand to polish his defense at third base as well. He’s hitting an excellent .298/.379/.482 this season with the Intimidators.