Minor League Roundup: Four For Ford (Or History In Hickory)

Today’s roundup features a pair of slugging International Leaguers, two shortstops with great feel to hit, the continued resurgence of Dante Bichette, Kris Bryant continuing to be Kris Bryant, and even more Mookie Betts.

Mookie Meter

Mookie Meter

On the strength of Saturday alone, the Meter registers off the charts. In the Sea Dogs’ 18-0 thrashing of New Hampshire, Betts was 2-for-3 with a double, two runs, an RBI, three walks and his 21st stolen base of the season. Pawtucket can’t be far off.

Bombs Away In Hickory

Mike Ford (Photo by Robert Gurganus)

Mike Ford (Photo by Robert Gurganus)

Entering Sunday afternoon, the order of the day seemed to be a pitchers’ duel featuring Hickory’s Akeem Bostick and Charleston’s Luis Severino, top 10 prospects in the Rangers and Yankees systems, respectively. That order changed very quickly. Instead, the teams combined for seven home runs, including four from RiverDogs first baseman Mike Ford, who became just the third player in South Atlantic League history to turn the trick, joining Pat Garman and Tony Mongeluzzo.

Ford also has another connection with Garman. In 1988, Garman was the first half of two four-homer games in the span of a week. Five days after Garman hit his four longballs, Matt Williams (yes, that Matt Williams) clubbed four as a member of the Phoenix Firebirds. Ford’s day came four days after Double-A Mobile first baseman Jon Griffin did the same.

Even cooler fact? Ford’s achievement happened on the 26th anniversary of Williams’ big day. Basically, Mike Ford: Future Nationals manager.

International League

Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco, of, Indianapolis (Pirates): He’s just about ready for his Pittsburgh close-up, it seems. The 22-year-old Polanco, with his team trailing by three, golfed a 94-mph, down-and-in fastball from Felipe Paulino over the wall at Charlotte’s new palace of a ballpark. He’s slowed down a little of late from his torrid start to open the season, but it’s relative. For any other player, a .319/.392/.538 would be the best mark for a season. Not Polanco, who slashed .400/.457/.632 in April. A scout at the game, however, warned that Polanco did seem to have a bit of an issue with same-side curveballs.

Pacific Coast League

Domingo Santana, of, Oklahoma City (Astros): Es Domingo en Sabado y Viernes! The 21-year-old was on a bit of a tear this weekend, including three home runs between Friday and Saturday. A very good get from the Phillies as the player to be named later in the Hunter Pence deal a few years back, Santana has put forth a very impressive .295/.368/.511 slash line with Oklahoma City, including nine home runs. He has struck out 60 times, however, so there’s obviously work to be done in the discipline department.

Eastern League

Kevin Plawecki, c, Binghamton (Mets): With Travis d’Arnaud struggling at the plate and to stay on the field, Mets fans are getting antsy while they watch Plawecki produce in Double-A. He went 3-for-3 on Saturday with a double, a home run, two RBIs and two walks against New Britain. He’s slashing .333/.371/.508 this season with four home runs (half of his total for all of last year), but reviews of defense coming into the season left much to be desired.

Southern League

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant, 3b, Tennessee (Cubs): Ho hum, another home run for Bryant. That’s No. 13 for the slugging third baseman, who at this time last year was winding down his career with the University of San Diego. He’s second in the Southern League in average, leads in on-base and slugging percentages, not to mention hits, homers, RBIs and stolen bases. Maybe it’s time to get him to Iowa to form a crazy left side of the infield with fellow über-prospect Javier Baez. While he’s there, he can learn under the wing of the newly-signed player coach Manny Ramirez.

Texas League

Rafael Ortega, of, Springfield (Cardinals): After this offseason, Ortega probably had enough frequent-flier miles to take a well-deserved vacation. Waived by the Rockies and Rangers, he wound up with the Cardinals and had himself a fine day on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with a triple, a homer, two runs, four RBIs. He also threw out a runner at the plate. He’s 23, in Double-A, and in the Cardinals organization. Those facts alone make him bear watching, though his OPS is just a scant .725.

Carolina League

Branden Kline

Branden Kline, rhp, Frederick (Orioles): After rough outings in his last two turns, Kline righted the ship on Friday at Wilmington. The righthander, who can bring his fastball into the mid-90s and pairs the offering with a slider and changeup, held a talented Blue Rocks club to just one run over seven innings on seven hits and no walks. He fanned six. He’s walking just more than two batters per nine this year, although he’s allowing more than a hit per inning.

Florida State League

Dante Bichette, 3b, Tampa (Yankees): After two trying years in low Class A Charleston, Bichette just keeps on hitting with the T-Yanks. He homered on Friday and Saturday, and has clearly become more selective at the plate. He’s cooled off a bit after a blistering April, but is still slashing .287/.379/.455. He’s been playing third base lately, but when Eric Jagielo comes back from the disabled list, he’ll likely be relegated to DH again, where he’ll have to hit a ton to keep his prospect status above water.

California League

Hunter Renfroe, of, Lake Elsinore (Padres): An excellent start to the season just keeps getting better. Slowed by a bum hamstring in the spring, Renfroe certainly seems to have made a full recovery. He’s played mostly in right field, but has gotten a few games in center, and on Saturday walloped his 10th homer of the season as part of a 2-for-4 effort with two runs and a walk mixed in. The longball total is tied for second in the Cal League, and is among the league’s top-15 in batting average and slugging percentage.

South Atlantic League

J.P. Crawford

J.P. Crawford, ss, Lakewood (Phillies): At this rate, the Mookie Meter might need a companion Crawford-ometer (or something like that). The young man is simply allergic to outs. He collected two more knocks on Friday and Saturday, including a double, scored a run, drove in two and walked. Through Saturday he was hitting .426/.500/.618 in May and failed to get a hit in just game out of seventeen. He longs for Clearwater, clearly.

Midwest League

Dawel Lugo, ss, Lansing (Blue Jays): Part of Toronto’s cadre of talented youngsters at low Class A, Lugo has heated up a bit of late. He collected four hits on Saturday, and is 10 for his last 25 in the midst of a five-game mini hitting streak. He’s a pure hitter with great feel for the barrel and is striking out in just 16.1 percent of his at-bats this season. Not bad for a 19-year-old. He doesn’t walk much either, however, as shown by his .308 on-base percentage.