Every week during the minor league season, we’ll take a look at the best matchups of the week, from a prospect and a promotions standpoint. This week we’ll look at the games from April 7-13.
WHAT TO WATCH (MILB.TV)
New Hampshire at Reading, Tuesday, April 8: This is a little bit speculative as the pitching matchup could be outstanding or not so impressive depending on what the Blue Jays and Phillies decide to do. Righthander Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays) and lefthander Jesse Biddle (Phillies) were supposed to be face each other on Monday night in a game that was rained out. If the two teams push both starters back to tonight, it should be the best pitching matchup of the night.
Oklahoma City at New Orleans, April 7-11: There likely won’t be all that many chances to see Astros outfielder George Springer in the minors before he heads to Houston. This week is a chance to see him against one of the better pitching staffs in the Pacific Coast League as New Orleans (Marlins) should throw Brian Flynn and Adam Conley against the RedHawks. Monday night’s game will also be a chance to see Astros righthander Mike Foltyniewicz.
Iowa at Memphis, April 11-12: Memphis won 3 of 4 against Iowa in their season-opening series. They’ll have a rematch in Memphis this upcoming weekend. More importantly for prospect watchers, it’s a chance to see Javier Baez, Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk on the same field.
WHAT TO WATCH (AT THE PARK)
If you’re in the southern part of the country, you’d be wise to head over to L.P. Frans Ballpark on Thursday to check out the Hickory Crawdads against the Asheville Tourists. Yes, the series bleeds into the next week, but it’s too prospect-heavy to resist. Combined, the ‘Dads and Tourists feature 15 top 30 prospects (six for Hickory, eight for Asheville), including five players—outfielders David Dahl and Raimel Tapia and infielders Ryan McMahon, Ronald Guzman and Travis Demeritte.
Guzman, who missed most of last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee and later an injured right hand, showed big-time power in batting practice in Hickory’s season-opening set at Greensboro. He hit at least five balls out during his three rounds, including two to the opposite field that left the park with little more than a flick of his wrist. He’s got a pair of doubles in the early going, but the Rangers bet $3.45 million three years ago that the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Guzman could unlock the power potential from his massive frame.
Like Guzman, Dahl is trying to regroup after a lost season. The first high school outfielder ever taken in the first round by Colorado was banished to extended spring training for most of last April for making his own airline reservations after departing spring training for Asheville. A week after he returned, Dahl tore his right hamstring and missed the rest of the year. He’s still got plenty of potential—and slugged .563 in the opening weekend—but is trying to make up for lost time among a host of similarly talented teammates.
Beyond the top 10 lists, players to keep an eye on in that series include toolsy Hickory outfielders Lewis Brinson and Jairo Beras—the former of whom is repeating the league after whiffing 191 times in 447 at-bats with Hickory last season. The Tourists also feature outfielder Max White, powerful catching prosect Jose Briceno and strong-armed righthander Johendi Jiminian, who touched 95 in minor league camp last month.
Hirsute Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson is slated on Monday to make his second rehab appearance with the high Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Later this month, the Quakes will celebrate Wilson’s glorious facial hair with perhaps the only known bobblebeard. Wilson pitched a scoreless inning against San Jose last Saturday.
On Monday, the Bowie Baysox will put a twist on a minor league staple when they turn their Mutt Monday into a tribute to beloved TV star Lassie. If you’re going to get stuck in a well in Maryland, you might as well schedule it for then.
On Wednesday, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs will offer up bobbleheads of not one, but two of their players. Fans can get their hands on a doll of Cody Asche, who has graduated to the hot corner at Citizens Bank Park. The next night, the Pigs will give away bobbles (baubles?) of Jonathan Pettibone, who surprisingly failed to make the big club this year and instead finds himself in the Triple-A rotation.
Sticking in the International League, the Louisville Bats on Thursday will pay tribute to Cincinnati all-star outfielder Jay Bruce with a commemorative stein, to be given to the first 2,000 adults through the turnstiles. Also on Thursday, the Richmond Flying Squirrels will host the Richmond Flying Circus. The act consists of acrobats and fire jugglers, and will perform prior to Richmond’s contest with Bowie.
Friday will feature plenty of fun promotions including Marvel Comic Book Night from the Mobile Bay Bears. All the music played that night, plus plenty of other touches around the park, will carry a superhero theme. The Jackson Generals, Mobile’s Southern League brethren, will send one lucky fan home on Friday night with a new flat-screen TV. The Eastern League’s Akron RubberDucks on Friday will give away a blue coin bank shaped like, you guessed it, a rubber duck. The bank goes to the first 1,000 fans inside Akron’s scenic Canal Park.
The Flying Squirrels will kick off the weekend on Saturday with Too Big To Fail night, which coincides with the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (which was, in theory, too big to fail). To mark the event, the Flying Squirrels will give away chips from the iceberg that sank the ship. Please do not try to authenticate these chips. The Sacramento River Cats jump on the Internet meme bandwagon by hosting #Caturday. During this promotion, fans can share pictures of their cats with the hashtag #Caturday. The team will then choose to best pictures to put on the video board.
If you’ve had a stressful week, head on over to the Albuquerque Isotopes, who will host a pregame yoga session for their fans. There will be classes for first-timers, beginners and advanced practitioners. Fans can get discounted tickets at three local studios: 3B Yoga, Dragonfly Yoga and SWEAT Yoga.