Minor League Roundup: Midwest Madness

With the rain and snow gone (for now), some of the game’s top prospects shined around the country. From Triple-A to low Class A, Wednesday’s slate was a feast for the eyes, and for the box scores. The most interesting game of the night, however, offered 18 innings of Midwest League madness. Read on to learn more.

Let’s Get Crazy

Dane Phillips (Photo by Paul Gierhart).

Dane Phillips (Photo by Paul Gierhart).

The low Class A Midwest League on Wednesday produced one of the more insane games of the season. Burlington and Fort Wayne played 18 innings and combined for 12 runs on 31 hits and eight errors in an eventual 7-5 Burlington win. Below are some oddities from the marathon.

• Burlington stole 11 bases in 12 chances against various Fort Wayne pitchers and static catcher Dane Phillips. The 11 swipes are one shy of the total of Fort Wayne leadoff man Mallex Smith, who played all 18 innings but did not register a steal.

• There were eight errors committed in the game, but not a single unearned run allowed.

• How about the night for Fort Wayne’s Ronnie Richardson? The 2012 16th-rounder from Central Florida played 17 innings in right field, collected three hits, stole three bases and walked four times. Then, when his team’s pitchers were exhausted, he moved to the mound. Unfortunately for him, he allowed a pair of runs in his one inning and was saddled with the loss. Talk about hard luck.

International League (AAA)

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman (Photo by Mike Janes).

Marcus Stroman, rhp, Buffalo (Blue Jays): Should he start? Should he relieve? For now, he’s a starter, and on Wednesday he was dominant. Stroman, who offers a hard fastball, a plus cutter, a sharp slider and a developing changeup, whiffed nine batters against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday. He’s got 21 strikeouts in his first 15 1/3 innings, and most agree that no matter the role, he’s going to make an impact in the big leagues.

Trevor Bauer, rhp, Columbus (Indians): Is he finally putting it together? The Indians sure hope so. Bauer, who has seen his fair share of turmoil in his career, has started brilliantly this season. On Wednesday, he continued his hot start, fanning nine Mud Hens over six innings and lowering his ERA to 0.75. He walked one and scattered five hits. He’s still just 23 years old, so there’s plenty of time for him to turn it around and become a vital piece of Cleveland’s future.

Pacific Coast League (AAA)

Randal Grichuk, cf, Memphis (Cardinals): One of the prizes the Cardinals got from the Angels for David Freese, Grichuk is more than holding his own with outfield-mates Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty. Grichuk’s signature is his power, and he’s shown it so far with his new team. He was 2-for-3 on Wednesday with a triple, two RBIs and two runs, and is OPSing a cool .974 through the first two weeks of the season. The rich get richer.

Jon Singleton, 1b, Oklahoma City (Astros): Looks like he really wants to join George Springer in Houston, eh? A day after his teammate left for the big time, Singleton finished 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs and fell a single (of all things) shy of the cycle. So long as he keeps his off-field issues in check, he shouldn’t be in Triple-A in the second half. The best part of Singleton’s evening? His homer came off a pitcher with the last name Houston. DJ, cue up that Alanis!

(Editor’s note: We realize that none of what Ms. Morrissette sings about is actually ironic and neither is Singleton homering off of a pitcher named Houston.)

Eastern League (AA)

Dariel Alvarez

Dariel Alvarez (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Dariel Alvarez, cf, Bowie (Orioles): A Cuban emigre who signed with the Orioles last season, Alvarez might not be able to recognize offspeed pitches and scouts have expressed distaste with his bat path, noting that his uppercut hack doesn’t keep the barrel in the zone long enough. Alvarez has good enough bat speed and potential for power going forth, and he went 3-for-5 on Wednesday with two runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base. He’s already 25, though, so you’d hope he advances quickly.

Kenny Giles, rhp, Reading (Phillies): With the big club’s bullpen getting bashed on a near-nightly basis, this fireballing righty has given fans hope. He dealt with a pair of oblique strains last year, which kept him off the field for a good chunk of the year. Giles brings his fastball consistently in the upper 90s and couples it with a hard-biting slider. With another pair of punchouts on Wednesday, Giles, who entered the year with command as one of the major boxes he needed to check off, has struck out 16 against just three walks in seven innings. Even better, he’s allowed only one hit.

Southern League (AA)

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, lhp, Chattanooga (Dodgers): The Dodgers’ first-rounder from 2011, Reed was drafted out of Stanford as a closer but has converted into a starter’s role in the pros. In his first full workload as a starter last season, Reed worked to a 3.86 ERA but walked 63 in 138 innings. He offers an 89-95 mph fastball, as well as a two-seamer with plenty of life. He also brings a hard slider and a developing changeup. He used his arsenal last night to whiff nine (although he walked three) in six strong innings against Jacksonville. It was his second straight start with nine punchouts.

Andrew Chafin, lhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks): Chafin suffered from a drop in velocity last season in his return to the California League, and his slider also took a step back. Nevertheless, he moved up to Mobile at midseason and focused on contact over strikeouts. He shut down Birmingham for seven innings last night on five hits and three walks with nine strikeouts, a good sign for someone who had walked five in his first 10 1/3 frames this year.

Texas League (AA)

Jonathan Gray, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies): The No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, Gray is finding out that the Texas League isn’t quite the same as the Big 12 Conference. He’s armed with a high-90s fastball and a plus slider but had been tagged for nine earned runs over his first nine innings this year. He got better on Wednesday, silencing Northwest Arkansas for 5 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out five. Those who thought they’d be seeing Gray at Coors by midseason, however, might have to wait a little longer.

California League (Hi A)

Ben Lively

Ben Lively, rhp, Bakersfield (Reds): Lively, who has whiffed 12.3 hitters per nine innings over the first 13 pro starts, was easily the star hurler in the Cal League last night. He fanned 10 Stockton hitters over six innings of two-hit shutout ball. He brings a (ahem) lively fastball that has sat at 89-94 mph this season, but just as importantly he is locating his average curveball, slider and changeup for strikes. Lively’s SO/BB ratio is a perfect 23-to-0 in 17 innings and he’s working on a 12-inning scoreless streak.

Carlos Correa, ss, Lancaster (Astros): Correa’s third-straight multi-hit game included his second home run of the season. The Astros’ No. 1 prospect started the season with a blazing 9-for-16 opening series, followed it up by going 1-for-his-next 23 and now has recovered to go 6-for-15 in his last three games with a triple and a home run.

Carolina League (Hi A)

Miguel Almonte

Miguel Almonte (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Miguel Almonte, rhp, Wilmington (Royals): After a stinker his last time out, Almonte rebounded nicely in his half of the Blue Rocks’ doubleheader. The 21-year-old righty with the three-pitch mix of fastball, changeup and slider whiffed seven over six scoreless frames, allowed only one hit and walked two. Over his first three starts, he’s fanned 18 against five walks. He’s one of the bigger gems on a prospect-studded team.

Jose Peraza, 2b, Lynchburg (Braves): One of Atlanta’s class of talented youngsters at Lynchburg, Peraza has started the season with a few struggles against older competition. He collected three hits, scored and stole a base on Wednesday, upping his early slash line to .255/.296/.314. His game is predicated on speed—he stole 64 bases last year—and defense (though given his organization and position, he’d better be an all-galaxy defender to unseat the man in front of him), so whatever offense he produces at this point is a bonus. He has enough quickness in his hands and coordination to make the Braves believe he’ll hit going forth.

Florida State League (Hi A)

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Dante Bichette Jr. (Photo by Cliff Welch)

Dante Bichette Jr., 3b/dh, Tampa (Yankees): You have to give the credit, where it is due. After two dismal years in the South Atlantic League, Bichette was finally moved up. He’s lost his prospect status, ceded third base to fellow first-rounder Eric Jagielo, and has done nothing but hit this season. The 2011 sandwich pick clubbed his first longball of the year on Wednesday and entered the evening with a .333/.500/.472 line with just eight strikeouts against 13 walks. A big year would go a long way toward silencing critics and put a whole new light on the Yankees’ system.

Rafael De Paula, rhp, Tampa (Yankees): After De Paula sliced through the opposition at low Class A Charleston in the first half of 2013, hitters got their revenge in the FSL. He found out the hard way that hitters at the higher levels weren’t going to be vexed by a hard fastball with no presentable offspeed pitches to back it up. Through three starts this season, he’s collected 19 strikeouts through 14 1/3 innings, albeit with six walks. He projects best as reliever going forth, but the good start this season has to please the Yankees and their fans.

Midwest League (Lo A)

Jacob Scavuzzo, cf, Great Lakes (Dodgers): A former football player and track star, Scavuzzo offers premium athleticism, and led the Pioneer League with 14 homers in 2013. He’s still a bit raw, but he’s got all the ingredients to project a power threat going forth. On Wednesday, he went 1-for-3 with a homer, two runs, three walks and three stolen bases in a win against Beloit. There’s a long way to go, but the Dodgers have to be pleased with the .410 on-base percentage he’s put forth so far.

Chase DeJong, rhp, Lansing (Blue Jays): One of a host of young, talented and projectable arms in Toronto’s stable, DeJong offers an 88-92 mph fastball that team officials believe will gain velocity in the future. He also throws a 12-6 curveball and a developing changeup that has flashed plus in the past. He pitched four innings of two-hit shutout ball with four punchouts on Wednesday, with four strikeouts mixed in. He’s fanned 10 against just one walk in three starts this season.

South Atlantic League (Lo A)

Ryan McMahon

Ryan McMahon, 3b, Asheville (Rockies): Let’s just start with this. McMahon now has as many homers this season as Joey Gallo, the minors’ reigning sultan of swat. He’s athletic enough to have played quarterback at Mater Dei High, making him just the latest in the line of quarterbacks turned Rockies. He went 3-for-4 in the first of two games on Wednesday with a double,  his fifth homer of the year and two RBIs. His sweet swing from the left side and his plus power potential should help him move quickly through the system.

Hunter Harvey, rhp, Delmarva (Orioles): One half of Wednesday’s dream matchup with top Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito in which each man lived up to his billing, Harvey’s afternoon looked a shade better. The 19-year-old righty who brings a mid-90s fastball and a hammer hook fanned seven in six innings while allowing only a hit and a walk. He’s now fanned 18 over his first three starts against just four walks and has worked to a sparkling 1.64 ERA. If he continues on this path, he’ll form a formidable triumvirate with fellow prospects Dylan Bundy—who’s due back at midseason after Tommy John surgery—and righthander Kevin Gausman.