Today’s roundup features a sneaky-good Cubs hurler, an under-the-radar Red Sox prospect, a Padres speedster, a Yankees first-rounder and a College World Series champion mashing in Asheville.
On Thursday, Mr. Betts was at his best for Double-A Portland. The Eastern League’s unquestioned top performer went 3-for-5 with a home run, three runs, three RBIs and his league-best 18th stolen base. Dating back to last season, his on-base streak is now at 70, and with one more day on base he’ll tie a few notable recent streaks, including those by Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar (hat tip, BA correspondent Alex Speier).
International League (AAA)
Bryce Brentz, of, Pawtucket (Red Sox): It’s no secret that as a corner outfielder Brentz is going to have to hit the hell out of the ball to find a spot as an everyday player in the big leagues. With that in mind, he did just that on Thursday, when he swatted two doubles and a solo home run, scored thrice and drove home two runs in Pawtucket’s shutout of Indianapolis. He’ll need a lot more of these days, however, because he’s slashing just .230/.335/.430 for the season.
Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Kyle Hendricks, rhp, Iowa (Cubs): Very quietly, Hendricks is having a fine season. He comes equipped with a sinking fastball that sits in the 85-92 mph range and a solid changeup, as well as a pair of fringy breaking balls, and he commands the strike zone par excellence. On Thursday he whiffed 11 over eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball and for the season has punched 54 in 50 innings against just 11 walks.
Eastern League (AA)
Henry Ramos, rf, Portland (Red Sox): This guy needs a nickname. Is Hammerin’ Hank taken? Several minutes pass . . . I get it. Stop yelling. We’ll find a new one. In any case, the 22-year-old Ramos is hitting like he wants to reestablish his prospect status. He went 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, two runs and an RBI on Sunday and has been slapping the stitches off the ball this season. He’s hitting .460/.500/.720 in May. I know what I’m about to say is blasphemous and possibly even sacrilegious, but could it be that the hottest Sea Dog right now isn’t named Mookie?
Southern League (AA)
Tyler Cravy, rhp, Huntsville (Brewers): When your star outfielder is strutting about the clubhouse, extolling the potassium-based virtues of the kiwi fruit (look it up), you just need a little bit of Cravy in your life. The righthander provided just that on Thursday, allowing a run on four hits and no walks over six innings against Birmingham. He struck out three, and for the season has used his sinker/slider combination to yield a tasty 0.78 WHIP as well as a nearly 6.0 SO/BB ratio.
Texas League (AA)
Alex Yarbrough, 2b, Arkansas (Angels): Yarbrough has done nothing but produce since being drafted out of Mississippi two seasons ago. It’s been more of the same this year, and on Thursday he kept on keeping on. He went 3-for-5 with two homers, three runs and six RBIs, and so far this season has slashed .308/.337/.436. He has struck out 41 times against just eight walks, however, so there’s obviously work to be done.
Carolina League (Hi A)
All games rained out
Florida State League (Hi A)
Eric Jagielo, 3b, Tampa (Yankees): Thursday was a day of firsts for Jagielo, the Yankees’ first of three first-rounders a year ago. He collected his first multi-homer game, as well as his first grand slam. Those firsts came as a part of the biggest game of his young career, a 3-for-5 effort with the two longballs, two runs and five RBIs. After a slow April, he’s picked it up in May, slashing a very fine .298/.340/.702 with five longballs. To you, Eric, we say: Awesome, great job.
California League (Hi A)
Danry Vazquez, rf, Lancaster (Astros): Vazquez, acquired in the deal that sent Jose Veras to the Tigers last summer, is taking to the Cal League quite nicely, and on Thursday had himself a very nice evening. The 20-year-old outfielder collected two doubles and a home run as part of a 3-for-4 effort with a run and two RBIs. He’s a line-drive hitter who entered the year needing to refine his selectivity and overall plate discipline, and so far has taken 14 walks. He’s a bat-first corner outfielder going forth and projects to develop pop as he grows into his body.
South Atlantic League (Lo A)
Pat Valaika, ss, Asheville (Rockies): The championship ring from UCLA’s run to glory isn’t weighing down Valaika, it seems. The Bruins shortstop from last season has put together an excellent start for Asheville, including a Tourist de force (I’m so sorry) on Thursday night. The 21-year-old was 4-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and stole three bases against Lexington in one of the two SAL games played on a rainy day around the region. He’s off to a .353/.389/.546 start with four homers and 20 RBIs.
Midwest League (Lo A)
Mallex Smith, of, Fort Wayne (Padres): Having 80-grade speed is great, but you’ve got to be able to get on base to use it. Smith, who leads the minors with 28 swipes, is doing just that. He went 3-for-5 on Thursday with two more steals, and boasts a .377 on-base percentage. As you might imagine, he’s a slap hitter with little power. He’s got a below-average arm in center field, and coming out of the draft was raw on defense.