|GREAT MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN RACE
Today’s roundup features a promotion for Cleveland’s top prospect, a big day from a Rangers utilityman, a strong debut from a Diamondbacks hurler, two standout days from Royals arms, and the latest hitter to join the 30-homer club.
Movin’ On Up
After an extra week and change in Double-A post-Futures Game, the Indians pulled the trigger and moved all-world defensive shortstop Francisco Lindor to Triple-A Columbus. Likely the team’s shortstop in 2015, Lindor has held his own with the bat in Akron, posting a .278/.352/.389 line as a 20-year-old against much more advanced competition. To take his place, the Indians moved Erik Gonzalez from high Class A Carolina. Gonzalez, a Carolina League all-star, had hit .289/.336/.409 with the Mudcats.
With Durham’s defeat of Rochester on Monday, manager Charlie Montoyo moved into first place all-time for wins at the helm of the Bulls. The win was his 614th, eclipsing Bill Evers’ mark. Montoyo tied Evers on Friday in Gwinnett. Evers, the manager from 1998-2005, amassed a career mark of 613-533.
“To do it with a great franchise like this, and right now to be the winningest manager; I’m very humbled by it, I really am,” said Montoyo after the record-breaking victory. “I want to win just like everybody else, but I never thought about numbers. I just do my job, that’s how I look at it.”
Micah Johnson, 2b, Charlotte (White Sox): He’s only played 11 games this month, but he’s scorched the ball most of the time. He banged out three hits on Monday, including a double, and drove in a run. He also stole his 19th base of the season (his ninth with Charlotte). It was the fourth time this month he’s recorded three hits, and his sixth multi-hit game. He’s gone hitless just twice this month. He plays excellent defense at second base, but could stand to take a few more walks and pick his spots a little better when stealing bases.
Pacific Coast League
Ryan Rua, UT, Round Rock (Rangers): After hitting his way out of Double-A, he’s continued to hit at his new level. He homered twice on Monday as part of a 3-for-4 day with five RBIs. He’s going to have to keep his bat hot if he wants to find an everyday home in the big leagues, because he’s not a spectacular defender. He’s spent most of his time at third base this season, but has also seen action at second base (his original position), first base and left field (where he played last night). He’s recorded hits in 14 of 18 games this month on the way to a .304/.347/.536 line with four homers and 12 RBIs.
Peter O’Brien, c/1b, Trenton (Yankees): And then there were three. With his home run last night, O’Brien joined Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo as minor leaguers with 30 or more home runs. More importantly, however, at least as far as his development is concerned, was the rest of the day. In a doubleheader with New Hampshire, O’Brien collected five hits—including two doubles and the home run—scored three times and drove home one run. Before last night, O’Brien had been 1 for his last 20. That one, of course, was a longball.
Aaron Blair, rhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks): On Monday, this space talked about Archie Bradley‘s boffo outing and its use as a jumping-off point for Diamondbacks fans who want to get excited for the future. On Monday night, Blair made his case to be part of that hope. In his first start after a promotion to the BayBears, Blair went 6 2/3 innings, allowed three singles and a double, walked nobody and fanned nine. He’s up to 90 strikeouts and 21 walks in 79 innings this season across two levels.
Christian Binford, rhp, Northwest Arkansas (Royals): Kansas City’s undisputed master of control was at it again on Monday, when he stymied Arkansas for seven innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out seven. Despite stuff that’s not overly impressive, he commands the strike zone like no other. Over his last two months, he’s struck out 42 and walked just three, and hasn’t walked more than one in any start since May 20.
Brandon Finnegan, rhp, Wilmington (Royals): Not a bad start to a pro career, Mr. Finnegan. Not bad at all. The Royals took the TCU ace in the first round in June and, because he was so advanced, sent him to high Class A to start his career. He’s made three appearances so far, none longer than three innings. The three-inning outing came Monday in a matinee against Lynchburg, and he excelled, allowing one hit and no walks with four strikeouts. That’s the only hit he’s allowed so far. Over seven career frames, Finnegan has surrendered just the one single, walked nobody and fanned six.
Sebastian Elizalde, of, Bakersfield (Reds): Signed out of Mexico last May, Elizalde has done nothing but rake this season. Granted, he did most of his damage as a 22-year-old in low Class A, but he hasn’t stopped hitting since a promotion to high Class A about a month ago. He clubbed his fifth homer with Bakersfield Monday night, and went 2-for-4 with the three-run bomb. In the hitter-happy Cal League, he’s hit .315/.366/.589 with five doubles, five homers and 16 RBIs.
Florida State League
Taylor Cole, rhp, Dunedin (Blue Jays): Yes, he’s a little bit old for the level, but it’s hard to ignore Cole’s dominance Monday and over the course of the season. In a matinee against Bradenton, the Brigham Young alum whiffed 12 in 6 2/3 innings of two-hit shutout ball with only one walk on his ledger. He missed two years on his Mormon mission, and as a result lost some of the zip on his fastball. Still, he commands the zone and gets hitters to chase at pitches. So far, that’s worked. He’s fanned 134 in 108 2/3 innings this season.
South Atlantic League
Jamie Callahan, rhp, Greenville (Red Sox): There haven’t been many great moments for Callahan this year, but Monday night certainly stood out as a highlight. The 19-year-old whiffed seven in five shutout innings against Asheville, a team bursting with powerful bats. Still, consistency has been the name of the game for Callahan, who brings a low-90s fastball and a mid-70s slider to the table. He’s been tagged quite a bit this year, but has also had his share of shining moments along the way.
Kevin Ziomek, rhp, West Michigan (Tigers): Why guys like Ziomek and Buck Farmer are still in low Class A is a bit of a mystery, but they’re dominating the level nonetheless. It was Ziomek’s night on Monday, and he didn’t disappoint. He whiffed 11 over seven innings of three-hit shutout ball before handing things off to Adam Ravenelle, a former Vanderbilt Commodore like Ziomek, who did the rest. Ziomek throws his fastball between 86-92 mph and couples it with three average or better offspeed offerings.