The Week Ahead In The Minor Leagues (April 14-20)

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 scheduled for April 14-20

What To Watch At The Park

On the strength of one pitching-prospect showdown alone, low Class A Hagerstown versus Delmarva is our series of the week because of the potential matchup between Nationals top prospect Lucas Giolito and No. 3 Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey.

Lucas Giolito (Photo by Carl Kline).

Lucas Giolito (Photo by Carl Kline).

With a Tommy John surgery already on his elbow and just 39 innings under his belt entering the year, Giolito is clearly the No. 1 prospect in the Washington system. His fastball, which sat comfortably between 93-96 mph in his last start, already rates as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his curveball and changeup grade as a 70 and 60, respectively. At this point, about the only questions about his future involve getting more reps. He’ll get plenty of time to do that this year with Hagerstown and (probably) later with high Class A Potomac.

Giolito alone would be enough to buy a ticket to a game (at least for a prospect watcher), but to have an arm like Harvey on the other side is a bonus of supreme proportions.

The righthander, whom the Orioles popped with the 22nd overall selection last June, started this season with 10 scoreless frames before Greensboro’s Felix Munoz got him for a longball. His early-season performance earned him a spot toward the back of our initial Hot Sheet of the season. Harvey brings his fastball in the low 90s and has touched as high as 97 mph in the past. He couples the pitch with a sharp curveball and a developing changeup.

Besides the two arms, this series will also feature another Baltimore Top 10 Prospect in catcher Chance Sisco, whom the Orioles selected with the 61st overall selection in last year’s draft. Other Top 30 Prospects in the series include Delmarva lefthander Steven Brault (No. 14), who’s gotten touched up early this year but has a four-pitch mix and back-end starter potential,  as well as outfielder Josh Hart (No. 12), a supplemental first-round choice last year. Hart has struggled toward the beginning of the year, but that’s to be expected considering he’s just 19 and played just three games above the Gulf Coast League last season.

Beyond Giolito, the Suns’ roster also boasts righty Austin Voth (No. 15), the Nationals’ fifth-rounder out of Washington, as well as the team’s third-rounder, third baseman Drew Ward (No. 17). Ward, selected out of high school in Oklahoma, has started strong in the South Atlantic League. Righthander Nic Pivetta (No. 22) has whiffed 10 in as many innings this year and walked just two over his first two starts.

The Suns also feature righthander Jake Johansen (No. 8), but he isn’t slated to pitch in that series unless rain muddies the schedule.

MILB.TV Series Of The Week

Charleston at Greenville, Low Class A South Atlantic League, April 14-16. It’s Yankees-Red Sox at the low Class A level, so these 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds can get their feel for the rivalry started early. It’s also a chance to see the Yankees’ most interesting minor league team as catcher Luis Torrens, right fielder Aaron Judge, second baseman Gosuke Katoh and righthander Luis Severino give the RiverDogs a large swath of the system’s young, high upside talent. Greenville is interesting in its own right with center fielder Manuel Margot, second baseman Wendell Rijo and lefthander Cody Kukuk among the names to watch.

Prime Promotions

If you’re looking for star power, check out the Double-A Mississippi Braves on Friday. Not only will three lucky fans walk away with a flat-screen TV, but former Braves star Dale Murphy will be on hand.

If that’s not enough, there will also be the traditional postgame Friday fireworks, and a celebration of all things Yogi Bear with Jellystone Park Promotional Night.

If time travel is your thing, check out the Double-A Mobile BayBears this week. Not only did they hold Futures Day on Sunday, but they’ll also have Turn Back The Clock Night on Friday. Will the fireworks also be old-timey?

On Monday, the Double-A Akron RubberDucks will try to settle an age-old debate with Pop vs. Soda night. No matter how the debate ends (the correct answer is “soda,” by the way), the real winner will be the Ronald McDonald House. All fans are encouraged to bring the tabs from soda cans to donate to benefit the charity.

OstrichIf bobbleheads are your thing, check out the Double-A Reading Fightin’ Phils on Friday, when the team will give out figurines of the big club’s manager and one-time Philadelphia farmhand. Did you know Sandberg’s number is retired in Reading? For a sneak preview of the doll, check out the image at right, which was posted on the team’s Twitter page. Those ostriches, they’re Ruth and Judy, the team’s co-mascots since last season.

On the same night, the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers will distribute bobbleheads of Royals prospect Chris Dwyer, who is currently in the team’s rotation.

Also on Friday, the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, with a mere week of games played at their new ballpark, will hold a tribute the Charlotte O’s, the team’s former identity, which will include a youth jersey giveaway.