Minor League Roundup: Gallo’s Humor

Today’s edition features a truly frightening evening from a Rangers monster masher, a gem from the Twins’ best healthy prospect, the return of dominant Jesse Biddle and a pair of RiverDogs raking.

NEWS AND NOTES

After a year and change on the shelf with a gruesome knee injury, Rays shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee made his season debut for Triple-A Durham.

Manny Machado (Photo by William Parmeter).

Manny Machado (Photo by William Parmeter).

After getting the nod as our Series of the Week, the weekend tilt between high Class A Lancaster and Rancho Cucamonga just got a little more spice. The Dodgers announced on Wednesday that ace Clayton Kershaw will make a rehab start with the Quakes on Friday. Kershaw versus top Houston prospect Carlos Correa will be appointment viewing, if you’re in the area.

Lansing reliever Jairo Labourt, the No. 12 prospect in Toronto’s system, lasted just two batters on Wednesday before being yanked.

Alex Speier of WEEI reports that lefthander Trey Ball will be bumped to low Class A Greenville from extended spring training, and righthander Pat Light will be moved to high Class A Salem.

At right is a photo sent in by reader William Parmeter, a photographer in the Fort Myers, Fla. area, of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado making a couple of rival fans very happy. You can check out more of Parmeter’s photos on Instagram under the handle wparmeter.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE

Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Alex Meyer, rhp, Rochester (Twins): The tall fireballer, dealt from the Nationals to the Twins in the Denard Span deal, tossed a gem on Wednesday. Meyer, who can get his heat into the triple-digits, punched out 11 Pawtucket hitters over 6 2/3 scoreless frames with just three hits and three walks blemishing his ledger. In addition to the hard fastballs, Meyer also offers a plus knuckle-curve and a changeup that has the potential to be an excellent third offering. If he irons out his command, look out.

Jose Ramirez, 2b, Columbus (Indians): Two days after socking two homers, Ramirez was back to his old tricks on Wednesday. He collected three hits, including a double, and stole three bases against Christian Bethancourt, possessor of one of the minor’s best throwing arms. Ramirez, who suffered a torn ligament in this thumb that required surgery over the winter, is a line-drive hitter with plus speed and the potential to be a top-of-the-order pest. With Francisco Lindor on the way and Jason Kipnis locked in, however, there are questions as to whether his future is in Cleveland.

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE

Scheduled off day

EASTERN LEAGUE

Jesse Biddle, lhp, Reading (Phillies): After a surprising assignment back in Double-A, Biddle started the season with a few scuffles. After his last two starts, however, it’s clear he has bacon on the brain. The Philadelphia native struck out 10 over seven innings of two-hit shutout ball. More important because of his control issues last year, he issued just one walk. Over his last two outings, he’s gone 14 innings, allowed four hits, two runs, one earned, walked two and struck out 21.

Stetson Allie, 1b, Altoona (Pirates): It seems so long ago that the Pirates drafted Allie as a pitcher, doesn’t it? This is his third season as a hitter, and he’s begun his tour of the Eastern League by showing off his power stroke. Allie was 3-for-3 Wednesday with three runs, a double, two home runs (including a grand slam), five RBIs and two walks. He’s got five longballs this season, but he’ll still have to work to convince evaluators that he’d be anything more than a one-trick pony at the next level.

SOUTHERN LEAGUE

Corey Black (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Corey Black (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Corey Black, rhp, Tennessee (Cubs): The hurler Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t want to give up in order to pry Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs last season, Black worked six no-hit innings on Wednesday with eight punchouts and three walks. On the smaller side, Black still brings the heat. His fastball sits consistently in the mid-90s and he hit 100 when he was in the Yankees’ organization. His next best pitch is a hard slider, and the curveball improved greatly last year. He’s battled command issues early this year, something he’ll have to iron out to avoid a future as a reliever.

Curt Casali, c, Montgomery (Rays): Acquired in late spring of 2013 when the Tigers decided to keep Rule 5 selection Kyle Lobstein, Casali added catching depth to an organization bereft of backstops. He’s gotten better as a defender, and showed he has plenty of offensive chops when the Rays moved him to Double-A in the middle of last season. He’s started last year where he left off, and on Wednesday clubbed a double and his first home run of the season in the Biscuits’ win.

TEXAS LEAGUE

Jonathan Gray

Jonathan Gray (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Jonathan Gray, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies): The third overall pick from last year’s draft has found out the hard way that everything (including ERAs) are bigger in Texas. Gray, a righthander from Oklahoma armed with a fastball that touches triple-digits and one of the best sliders in last year’s draft class, was touched for 10 runs (nine earned) in his first two outings. That includes a trainwreck that lasted just two outs. He threw up zeroes his next time out, and allowed just one run over six innings of one-run ball on Wednesday. He whiffed eight.

Aledmys Diaz, ss, Springfield (Cardinals): Diaz, who signed with the Cardinals for four years and $8 million over the winter but has faced questions about his age in the past, cracked his third homer of the year on Wednesday night as part of a 2-for-5 night with two RBIs and two runs scored. He’s hitting .297/.313/.547 but has fanned 16 times and walked just once. He clearly will need more seasoning before he’s ready to help in St. Louis.

CAROLINA LEAGUE

Joey Gallo, 3b, Myrtle Beach (Rangers): Gallo, a man who has a career as a cover model for romance novels should baseball not pan out, hit three home runs on Wednesday night, upping his season total to nine, second in the minors behind only the since-promoted J.D. Martinez. He had six RBIs, scored four times and walked thrice. He did not strike out. The man who missed a month of the season and still struck out 172 times did not strike out on Wednesday. In 111 games last season, he was sans whiff just 18 times. The only thing scarier than Joey Gallo with fewer strikeouts, perhaps, are dogs that shoot bees when they bark.

Raul Mondesi, ss, Wilmington (Royals): The frontman of a tooled-up Wilmington lineup, Mondesi went deep for the first time in 2014 on Wednesday. The longball was part of a three-hit night that also included three runs and a stolen base. He’s one of the most gifted players in the organization, if not the sport, and draws raves for his makeup. He runs home to first in four seconds flat and has great instincts for the game. He could be in Double-A before he turns 19.

FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE

Angelo Gumbs (Photo by Mike Janes).

Angelo Gumbs (Photo by Mike Janes).

Angelo Gumbs, 2b, Tampa (Yankees): The tooled-up Gumbs has had his last season and a half foiled by injuries and, perhaps, an early jump to high Class A Tampa. He’s got both footspeed and bat speed to spare, and he’s started the season quite nicely in his second go-round with Tampa. Gumbs collected three hits in four trips on Wednesday, including a triple, and also swiped his second bag of the year. He’s hitting .342/.360/.411 in the early going.

Colin Moran, 3b, Jupiter (Marlins): The Marlins’ first-rounder from 2013, and nephew of former big leaguer B.J. Surhoff, got into his first game of the year on Wednesday night and collected two singles in four trips. He spent the first part of the season recovering from a sprained MCL in his left knee. He projects as solid hitter with 20-plus homers a season and adequate enough defense to stay at third, although he probably won’t crack SportsCenter’s Top 10 any time soon.

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Jesse Winker (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Jesse Winker (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Brandon Drury, 3b, Visalia (Diamondbacks): Drury, a piece of the trade that banished Justin Upton from Arizona, clubbed two homers on Wednesday—including a grand slam—as part of a 3-for-5 evening with three runs and five RBIs. He’s hitting .302/.351/.570 in the early going, including five home runs and 20 RBIs. He’s got average power, good discipline and the chops to be an average third baseman going forth.

Jesse Winker, of, Bakersfield (Reds): Winker was 4-for-4 with two doubles and a three-run home run last night, bringing his season slash line to .338/.418/.558 with three homers and 20 RBIs. He’s got a simple, short swing and has adjusted his finish. If everything comes together, he could be a plus hitter with the potential for plus power.

SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE

Abiatal Avelino, ss, Charleston (Yankees): One of the brighter spots on a prospect-laden RiverDogs squad, the 19-year-old has started quite nicely this season. He was 4-four-6 on Wednesday with four singles, as well as his ninth steal of the year. That total is tied for the league lead with three other players. He was neck and neck with Phillies standout J.P. Crawford for the most praised shortstop in the Gulf Coast League last season, and is slashing .319/.390/.406 so far this season. He’s got uncanny baseball instincts, and the Yankees showed their faith in him with an aggressive assignment to start the year.

Aaron Judge, of, Charleston (Yankees): After missing all of his debut season with a torn right quad muscle, Judge has shown why the Yankees spent one of their three first-round choices on him last season. He started a little bit slowly, but has come on strong over the last 10 games, during which time he’s 17-for-36, including nine knocks in his last four games. He’s got light-tower power, but his huge frame and long arms lead evaluators to believe he won’t hit for much average as he climbs the organizational ladder.

MIDWEST LEAGUE

Ismael Guillon, lhp, Dayton: Fact: Guillon walked 95 hitters in 121 1/3 innings last year. Fact: Guillon is on the Reds’ 40-man roster. Fact: Guillon was brilliant on Wednesday, striking out 11 over seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball. He didn’t walk a hitter. Fact: The last time Guillon pitched and did not issue a walk came on July 27, 2012. Fact: Wednesday night was just third game of Guillon’s 73-outing career in which he did not issue a walk. In honor of this momentous occasion, here’s some Janet Jackson:

Adam Plutko, rhp, Lake County: It can’t be easy pitching with a College World Series ring on your finger. Plutko, who brings four average pitches and plenty of guile to the table, fanned 10 against two walks in 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday. Still, he let up four runs (all earned) on six hits in a no-decision against Lansing. His heater operates from 87-91 mph, and his changeup is the best of his offspeed selections.