Now that the minor league season is officially underway, Baseball America will be providing you with a daily roundup of all the goings-on around the country. From prospects to suspects to rehabs, our team of experts has everything covered.
For spinning a no-hitter on opening day, Double-A Portland lefthander Henry Owens is the clear standout from Thursday’s action. Boston’s No. 2 prospect, Owens silenced the Reading Fightin Phils for six innings before the rains came. He struck out nine and walked two and threw 59 of his 86 pitches for strikes. Once the weather bagged the game, Owens’ place in history was cemented. Our Vincent Lara-Cinisomo did a brief writeup of Owens’ feat, and the Portland Press-Herald went even more in-depth. Second baseman Mookie Betts (No. 7) backed Owens’ effort with a 4-for-4 night that included a longball.
THE NO.1 SPOT
Here’s how each of our top prospects who were in action fared on Thursday
Atlanta: Lucas Sims — RHP, high Class A Lynchburg: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO
Boston: Xander Bogaerts — SS, MLB Boston: 3-for-4, 2 R (Youngest Red Sox player since Tony Conigliaro to collect hits in each of first three games of a season — h/t @Shesta_Sox)
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — SS, Triple-A Iowa: 0-for-3, BB, 2 SO
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 1B, MLB Chicago: 2-for-4, 2B, R, 4 RBI
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor — SS, Double-A Akron: 2-for-5, R, SB (first hit in RubberDucks history)
Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — SS, high Class A Lancaster: 3-for-4, 4 RBI
Los Angeles Angels: Taylor Lindsey — 2B, Triple-A Salt Lake: 2-for-5, 2 R
New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez — C, Double-A Trenton: 0-for-3, BB, SO
Oakland Athletics: Addison Russell — SS, Double-A Midland: 3-for-5, 2B, R, SB
Philadelphia Phillies: Maikel Franco — 3B, Triple-A Lehigh Valley: 1-for-4, RBI, BB
St. Louis Cardinals: Oscar Taveras — OF, Triple-A Memphis: 1-for-4, R, RBI
San Diego Padres: Austin Hedges — C, Double-A San Antonio: 3-for-4, 2B, RBI, caught a runner stealing
Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez — RHP, Double-A New Hampshire: 5 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO
BEST OF THE REST
• Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (No. 2) touched up rehabbing Reds righthander Mat Latos for a home run in his first at-bat of the season. In Bryant’s second at-bat, Latos plunked him in the rear end with a curveball. It’s hard to gauge intent without being there, but still worthy of an eyebrow raise.
• Angels third base prospect Kaleb Cowart (No. 3) went 5-for-6 with a double, a two-run homer and five RBIs. He also scored three times and stole a base in Double-A Arkansas’ 20-run outburst on Thursday. It’s a promising sign for Cowart after a very rough 2013 season where he never looked comfortable at the plate. Cowart didn’t have any five-hit games and only one four-hit game in all of 2013, so he’s already improved on last season.
• Charlotte third baseman Matt Davidson, the prize in the trade that sent closer Addison Reed to Arizona, started strong in Triple-A. He posted a 3-for-3 night with a pair of doubles, a run and a walk in his debut with the Knights. With Conor Gillaspie in his way, it’s only a matter of time before Davidson’s doing damage at U.S. Cellular.
• The Rockies’ No. 2 prospect behind rotation-mate Jonathan Gray, righthander Eddie Butler got the Drillers’ season off to a good start with a fine start in Double-A. In five innings, Butler allowed one run (earned) on three hits and a walk and fanned five.
• In the same game, shortstop Christian Adames sent fans home happy with a walk-off home run for the Drillers.
• J.J. Cooper wrote about the Cardinals’ logjam of talented outfielders earlier this week, and those prospects produced big-time on Thursday. Randal Grichuk, whom the Cardinals acquired in the David Freese trade with the Angels, went deep and doubled as part of a 3-for-4 night for Memphis, and teammate Stephen Piscotty added a hit, two runs, two walks and a stolen base. Down a level, Double-A outfielders Mike O’Neill and James Ramsey were a combined 5-for-7 with two runs. Low Class A outfielders Kenny Peoples-Walls and C.J. McElroy collected two hits apiece.
• In addition to top Padres prospect Austin Hedges (see above), the rest of the San Antonio Missions put on a show on Thursday night. Shortstop Jace Peterson (No. 7) went 3-for-4 with a home run, three runs, stole a base and scored three times. Outfielder Rymer Liriano (No. 6) doubled, drove in a run and scored. Second baseman Cory Spangenberg collected a hit and scored. Outfielder Yeison Asencio (No. 24) went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs.
• Mets righthander Rafael Montero (No. 3) brushed off any fear (or loathing) of pitching in Las Vegas with six innings of four-hit shutout ball. He fanned five, walked nobody and threw 55 of his 79 pitches for strikes.
• Yankees lefthander Manny Banuelos (No. 11), in his first start since Tommy John surgery and pitching at high Class A Tampa until the weather warms up in the Northeast, spun the first three innings of Tampa’s one-hitter over Lakeland. He struck out three and walked one before being relieved by Dietrich Enns and Tyler Webb.
Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo (No. 8) collected two hits for high Class A St. Lucie. … Nationals second base prospect Tony Renda (No. 13) did the same for high Class A Pototmac. … White Sox second base prospect Micah Johnson (No. 5) tripled and homered in Double-A Birmingham’s season opener. … Marlins righthander Anthony DeSclafani (No.5 ) whiffed seven in six one-run innings for high Class A Jupiter. … Angels catcher Jett Bandy (No. 25) went deep in Arkansas’ 20-7 win over Midland. … Rays catching prospect Justin O’Conner (No. 12), who led the minor leagues with 13 pickoffs in 2013, picked a runner off second base for Double-A Montgomery.
There were plenty of major league rehab appearances on Thursday night. Here’s a brief look at how major leaguers fared against the farmhands.
LHP Gavin Floyd, Triple-A Gwinnett: 1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO, HR (Kevin Kiermaier)
LHP Mike Minor, Double-A Mississippi: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO, HR (Jake Lamb)
LHP Boone Logan, Triple-A Colorado Springs: IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 2 SO
RHP Mat Latos, Double-A Pensacola: 4 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, HR, (Kris Bryant)
RHP Mike Adams, high Class A Clearwater: IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO
C Devin Mesoraco, Double-A Pensacola: 0-for-0, 2 BB, RBI
2B Gordon Beckham, Triple-A Charlotte: 0-for-3, SO
OF Cody Ross, Triple-A Reno: 2-for-2, RBI
STINKERS OF THE NIGHT
In his first turn with his new organization, righthander Nathan Karns proved he still has a little bit of rust. In the newly renovated Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Karns, who entered the season as Washington’s No. 9 prospect before a late-spring swap, walked seven against one strikeout and allowed six runs (five earned) before yielding to Merrill Kelly. It’s too early to panic, obviously, but it wasn’t a great beginning for someone who performed well enough last season to earn a three-start stint in the major leagues.
Staying in the International League, Pawtucket righthander Allen Webster will have to be a lot better if he hopes to crack Boston’s crowded rotation this summer. The Red Sox’s No. 4 prospect struggled with command in his team’s loss to Lehigh Valley on Thursday evening. Webster allowed three earned runs on seven hits and and two walks over 3 2/3 innings exiting. He struck out four and allowed a home run to Cameron Rupp, the Phillies’ No. 16 prospect.
In the Texas League, Arkansas righthander Mark Sappington—the Angels’ No. 5 prospect—came out with a clunker but was the beneficiary of an offensive explosion in a 20-7 win over Midland. Sappington, who finished last season in Double-A, surrendered six runs (all earned) on eight hits and three walks over three innings. He struck out three and gave up a longball to Rockhounds second baseman Dusty Coleman.
WEATHERING THE STORMS
Weather made a mess of the offseason for many teams, so it is only fitting that it impacted the start of the season at ballparks around the minors.
Seven of the scheduled 58 Opening Day games yesterday were rained out, including the Frisco RoughRiders, who had fans take cover on the concourse during a severe thunderstorm threat that led to tornados within a few miles of the ballpark.
That will make you want to leave early.. Storm rolling through during the Frisco RoughRiders ballgame.. pic.twitter.com/unWADMJt1W
— FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) April 4, 2014
A photo of a menacing-looking cloud formation making the rounds on Twitter was not of a tornado, Frisco vice president of communications Scott Burchett said, but rather the leading edge of the storm that caused the team to clear the field in the second inning with the RoughRiders and Northwest Arkansas Travelers tied at 2.
"We would have cleared out the ballpark way sooner than that if we had a funnel cloud that close," Burchett said.
Baseball-sized hail that hit in a neighboring county was the biggest threat and the team does have evacuation procedures they follow in case of a tornado—a drill employees practiced in the days leading up to the season, Burchett said.
Frisco had just two games rained out last season and the region has been mired in a drought for several years, so the rain was unexpected and not entirely unwelcome. The timing just could have been better.
"That's the way baseball works," Burchett said. "It hasn't rained here in a month and then Opening Day hits and the skies open up . . . We definitely needed the rain, it just happened to hit in the second inning of our home opener."
Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Lookouts (Southern) home opener was delayed roughly 30 minutes by a skydiver who was injured during a pregame ceremony. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Justin Silvia, a member of a local skydiving team, suffered a broken leg during a crash landing at AT&T Field following the National Anthem.
"When I got out there, he was talking and sitting up on his side," Lookouts general manager Rich Mozingo told the Times Free Press. "He seemed to be in good spirits, but he was obviously in a lot of pain because of his leg. He definitely came down hard, and his partner said the plan was to follow each other in.
"I don't know where the disconnect was, because he didn't follow his partner in. Maybe that had something to do with it, but the crowd was awesome in giving him a warm reception while he was heading off the field."
The Tacoma Rainiers (Pacific Coast) had their home opener rained out for a second straight year. The biggest crowd of the night belonged to the Buffalo Bisons (International), who drew 11,052 to Coca Cola Field for their Opening Day game against the Rochester Red Wings—a turnout that local reporters described as smaller than past years, according to Red Wings beat writer Jim Mandelaro.
The Pawtucket Red Sox (International) drew the second-largest crowd at 10,746, followed by the Greensboro Grasshoppers (South Atlantic) with 9,920. On the other end of the attendance ladder, the Beloit Snappers (Midwest) drew just 282 fans to Opening Day—though 38-degree first-pitch temperatures may have influenced the no-shows.
— Josh Leventhal
Baltimore righthander Kevin Gausman, the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect, was held off from his scheduled start on Thursday night and replaced by knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa, a one-time member of Baltimore’s 40-man roster. The Orioles are traveling to Detroit this weekend, and inclement weather is expected. With that in mind, the Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encinas reports, they decided to hold back Gausman in case of a doubleheader.