Dowdy, Diaz named Midwest League players of the week

Detroit Tigers prospect Kyle Dowdy (Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps)

Detroit Tigers prospect Kyle Dowdy (Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps)

West Michigan Whitecaps RHP Kyle Dowdy and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers middle infielder Isan Diaz respectively were named the Midwest League pitcher and offensive player of the week for the period of July 18-24.

Dowdy made one start during that time, versus the Burlington Bees on Sunday. He pitched a nine-inning shutout, scattering five hits and one walk while striking out three batters.

This is Dowdy’s first season as a professional ballplayer. The Detroit Tigers prospect is 7-2 with a 2.62 ERA, 64 strikeouts and 17 walks in 79 innings (18 games/11 starts) for the Whitecaps.

Diaz batted .500 (11-for-22) in six games this past week, with three homers, two triples, two doubles, six walks, 10 runs batted in, eight runs scored, and three stolen bases. The Milwaukee Brewers prospect is batting .270 with 15 HR, 62 RBI and 10 SB in 98 games with the Timber Rattlers this season.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Chiefs-Whitecaps game ends in 9-9 tie

Will Maddox

West Michigan’s Will Maddox had five hits in Friday’s game. He now leads the Midwest League with a .355 batting average. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

There was a tie in baseball Friday night/early Saturday morning, and former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was nowhere to be seen.*

The Peoria Chiefs and the West Michigan Whitecaps played 15 innings over six hours and two minutes, with the game ending in a 9-9 tie. The Midwest League has a 1 a.m. curfew that doesn’t allow an inning to begin after 12:50 a.m., so the game was called after the 15th inning was completed at 1:11 a.m. The two teams don’t play each other again this season, so the game won’t be resumed and officially ended in a tie.

Tie games are rare, but happen occasionally. This was the first one for the Whitecaps, but the third one for the Chiefs. Peoria had games end in a tie in 2008 (versus the Burlington Bees) and in 2013 (versus the Lake County Captains), because of rain in both instances.

Friday’s game was the longest one ever for both the Chiefs and the Whitecaps. The two teams combined for 48 hits — a new Midwest League record, eclipsing the old mark of 45 set by the Kane County Cougars and the Cedar Rapids Kernels in a 1999 game — 14 walks and six errors (five by the Chiefs).

Two players — Peoria’s Jose Martinez and West Michigan’s Will Maddox — each had five hits in the game. West Michigan’s Derek Hill and Peoria’s Magneuris Sierra, Chris Chinea and Dylan Tice each had four hits. Tice entered the game in the bottom of the 5th inning, replacing Eliezer Alvarez, who had two hits, giving the Chiefs six hits from the No. 3 slot in their lineup.

Two position players pitched in the game. West Michigan’s Jose Zambrano moved from third base to the mound to pitch the top of the 15th inning. He gave up three hits but didn’t allow any runs. Peoria catcher Jose Godoy pitched a perfect bottom half of the 15th.

Chiefs rightfielder Carlos Torres was the only starting player who didn’t get a hit (0-for-7), though he reached base on a walk.

You can see the game’s box score here.

*Selig, of course, decided the 2002 MLB All-Star Game would end in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings, and the ensuing public outcry prompted him to make the outcome of future MLB All-Star Games determine home-field advantage for the World Series.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Hot Rods, Bees winning streaks end; TinCaps lose again

Brett Sullivan HR Derby

Brett Sullivan homered for the Bowling Green Hot Rods on Friday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Burlington Bees saw their winning streaks come to an end Friday, while the Fort Wayne TinCaps lost their eighth game in a row.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels beat the Hot Rods 8-2, thanks in part to a five-run 5th inning that included a three-run homer by Jaylin Davis. Both Bowling Green runs scored on solo homers, hit back-to-back by Brett Sullivan and Manny Sanchez to lead off the top of the 7th inning. Sanchez has homered in five consecutive games, tying current Miami Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich for the Hot Rods franchise record set in 2011.

The Hot Rods had won their previous nine games, matching the franchise record set in 2011.

Burlington’s winning streak came to an end Friday, too, as the South Bend Cubs beat the Bees 4-3 in 10 innings. Carlos Sepulveda’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th gave South Bend the walk-off win.

The Bees had won their last eight games.

At Fox Cities Stadium, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers completed a three-game sweep of the Fort Wayne TinCaps with an 8-7 win.

Wisconsin’s offense was led by Lucas Erceg, who went 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, and three runs batted in. He was promoted to the Timber Rattlers last Tuesday and is 7-for-14 with four RBI in the Midwest League.

Troy Stokes also had three hits for the Timber Rattlers. He hit two doubles and a triple, and drove in one run. Marcus Greene Jr. went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBI for the TinCaps.

Fort Wayne has lost its last eight games. The team starts a three-game road series versus the Beloit Snappers on Saturday.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

LumberKings win 4,000th Midwest League game

The Clinton LumberKings beat the Lansing Lugnuts 7-3 Friday to notch their 4,000th victory as a member of the Midwest League. Luis Liberato and Dalton Kelly each drove in a pair of runs for the LumberKings.

Clinton is the first team to collect 4,000 wins in the Midwest League. It is the league’s oldest team, operating continuously since 1954 (when the Midwest League was known as the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League). The then-Clinton Pirates got off to a great start in the league, finishing second in the eight-team league. (They lost the championship series to the Danville Dans, who were a New York Giants affiliate.)

Clinton is the only current MWL team that was in the circuit when it became known as the Midwest League in 1956. Davenport (now the Quad Cities River Bandits) was the next current MWL team to join the league, in 1960. Appleton (now the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers), Burlington and Cedar Rapids joined the league in 1962.

Clinton won its first Midwest League championship title in 1963, when the C-Sox (a Chicago White Sox affiliate) went 83-41. Clinton won the league title one other time, in 1991, when they went 81-58 as a San Francisco Giants affiliate.

In addition to the Pirates, the White Sox and the Giants, Clinton has been affiliated with the Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres, the Cincinnati Reds, the Montreal Expos, the Texas Rangers and, currently, the Seattle Mariners.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Hot Rods, Bees extend winning streaks

The Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Burlington Bees won their games Wednesday, extending their winning streaks to eight and seven, respectively.

Bowling Green’s 5-4 win gave the team its longest winning streak since notching a franchise-record nine consecutive victories in 2011.

David Olmedo-Barrera led the Hot Rods offense with three hits, a walk and two stolen bases. J.J. Fernandez reached base four times for the Kernels, and blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Burlington’s 7-5 win over the South Bend Cubs was done in comeback fashion thanks to a three-run 9th inning that included an RBI double by Tanner Lubach, an RBI single by Jake Yacinich, and a run-scoring wild pitch.

Eddy Martinez went 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, a solo homer, and three RBI for the Cubs.

Alvarez fans 10 in MWL debut

Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Yadier Alvarez was impressive in his Midwest League debut Wednesday, striking out 10 while giving up only one run on three hits and a walk in five innings for the Great Lakes Loons. He earned the win as the Loons went on to beat the Kane County Cougars 5-1.

Top San Diego Padres prospect Anderson Espinoza didn’t fare as well in his Midwest League debut Wednesday. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out only one batter in three innings in his start for the TinCaps. He got a no-decision in Fort Wayne’s 14-6 loss to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Here is what Baseball America wrote about Espinoza in its Prospect Report this morning, offering a clue as to why the power pitcher may have struggled:

While the man he was traded for — Drew Pomeranz — struggled in his Red Sox debut, the 18-year-old righthander didn’t fare much better in his first game in the San Diego organization. Boston’s No. 3 prospect and No. 15 overall allowed seven hits and four runs in three innings as Fort Wayne was routed by Wisconsin (Brewers). Espinoza can blow the ball by young hitters in low Class A, but before the deal, the Red Sox were challenging him to use secondary pitches, which led to mixed results.

Based on a five-man rotation, my guess is Espinoza will pitch next against the Beloit Snappers at Pohlman Field on Monday night. I’m planning to go to that game as long as the temperature is tolerable — the heat index and humidity are very high today and are expected to remain so for a few days, but Monday’s forecast looks OK as of now.

Duarte promoted after 4-hit game

The Houston Astros promoted prospect Osvaldo Duarte to High-A after the shortstop/outfielder went 4-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI for the Quad Cities River Bandits on Wednesday.

The River Bandits beat the Dragons 6-4 despite Dayton getting a home run from Chris Okey. The Cincinnati Reds prospect has four homers, three doubles and nine RBI in 14 games with the Dragons.

Duarte batted .272 with 3 HR, 23 RBI and 15 SB in 76 games with the River Bandits this season.

Osvaldo Duarte no cap

Houston Astros prospect Osvaldo Duarte (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Cubs-Mariners trade involves four ex-Midwest Leaguers

Former Cougars first baseman Dan Vogelbach is one of four ex-Midwest Leaguers involved in Wednesday's Cubs-Mariners trade. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Kane County Cougars first baseman Dan Vogelbach is one of four ex-Midwest Leaguers involved in Wednesday’s Cubs-Mariners trade. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Chicago Cubs and the Seattle Mariners completed a four-player trade Wednesday, and all four players are former Midwest Leaguers.

The Cubs traded a pair of prospects, first baseman Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn, to the Mariners for left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery and pitching prospect Jordan Pries.

Vogelbach and Blackburn played for the Kane County Cougars in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Montgomery pitched for the 2009 Burlington Bees, and Pries pitched for the Clinton LumberKings in 2012.

Vogelbach batted .284 with 17 HR and 71 RBI in 114 games with the Cougars. This season he batted .318 with 16 HR and 64 RBI in 89 games with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.

Blackburn went 9-4 with a 3.23 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 31 walks in 117 innings (24 starts) for the Cougars. This season he went 6-4 with a 3.17 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 26 walks in 102.1 innings (18 starts) for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies.

Paul Blackburn pitched for the Kane County Cougars in 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Right-hander Paul Blackburn pitched for the Kane County Cougars in 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Montgomery made 12 starts for the Bees, going 2-3 with a 2.17 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 24 walks in 58 innings. This season is his second in the major leagues; he went 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA, 54 strikeouts and 18 walks in 61.2 innings (32 games/two starts) for the Mariners this year.

Pries went 4-0 with a 3.49 ERA, 33 strikeouts and seven walks in 38.2 innings (seven starts) for the LumberKings. He split this season between Double-A and Triple-A, cumulatively going 7-3 with a 4.93 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 21 walks in 84 innings (20 games/12 starts).

Posted in Burlington Bees, Clinton LumberKings, Iowa Cubs, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Pacific Coast League, Southern League, Tennessee Smokies | Leave a comment

Top Padres prospect to make TinCaps debut tonight

Anderson Espinoza pitches for the Red Sox during spring training this year. (Photo by Kelly O'Connor)

Anderson Espinoza pitches for the Boston Red Sox during spring training this year. (Photo by Kelly O’Connor)

Top San Diego Padres prospect Anderson Espinoza is scheduled to make his Midwest League debut in a road start for the Fort Wayne TinCaps tonight.

The right-handed pitcher will face the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who will counter with RHP Jordan Yamamoto.

The Padres obtained Espinoza from the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, giving up left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, who went 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA, 115 strikeouts and 41 walks in 102 innings (17 starts) for San Diego this season. Espinoza started this season in the South Atlantic League, going 5-8 with a 4.38 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 27 walks in 76 innings (17 starts) for the Greenville Drive.

Despite those numbers, Espinoza comes to the Padres organization highly touted by scouts and prospect rankers. Still only 18 years old, the Venezuela native was ranked fourth among Red Sox prospects in Baseball America‘s preseason rankings; last week Baseball America ranked him No. 1 among Padres prospects and No. 15 among all minor-league prospects (4th-best pitching prospect).

Here is part of what Baseball America said about Espinoza in its 2016 Prospect Handbook:

Espinoza’s precocious feel for a high-quality, three-pitch mix and efficient delivery are uncommon traits for a teen, to say the least. Despite his slight build, he generates striking velocity with an easy, repeatable delivery, while also featuring a curveball and a changeup that grade as big-league average now, with plenty of projection for improved command.

Espinoza has front-of-the-rotation talent and could reach the major leagues by 2018 if he stays healthy, Baseball America projected.

(Curious what ESPN’s Keith Law said about Espinoza? Read this story by The Journal Gazette‘s Chris Goff.)

Top San Diego Padres prospect Anderson Espinoza meets members of the media in Fort Wayne before Monday's TinCaps game. (Photo tweeted by TinCaps broadcaster Mike Monaco)

Top San Diego Padres prospect Anderson Espinoza meets members of the media in Fort Wayne before Monday’s TinCaps game. (Photo tweeted by TinCaps broadcaster Mike Monaco)

Paddack keeps dealing for TinCaps

Right-hander Chris Paddack — another highly-touted pitching prospect recently acquired by the Padres — continues to impress in the Midwest League. He made his third start for the TinCaps on Monday, striking out eight while scattering three hits and two walks in five scoreless innings against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. In his three MWL starts, Paddack has a 0.64 ERA (one earned run in 14 innings) with 23 strikeouts and three walks.

Overall this season (including six starts in the South Atlantic League), Paddack is 2-0 with a 0.85 ERA, a 0.59 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. He has given up only 20 hits, five walks and four earned runs.

MWL teams among top merch sellers

Three Midwest League clubs are among the top 25 Minor League Baseball teams in licensed merchandise sales for 2015: the TinCaps, the Dayton Dragons and the South Bend Cubs.

Minor League Baseball released the list in alphabetical order, so I don’t know what the exact ranking of the three teams are, but you can see all 25 clubs here.

This also seems like the perfect time to share the first official photo of my daughter wearing Midwest League gear. Thanks to the TinCaps for sending her a welcome package!

MWLbaby in TinCaps shirt

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Greenville Drive, Midwest League, South Atlantic League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Hernandez, Wiel named MWL players of the week

Quad Cities River Bandits RHP Jose Hernandez is the Midwest League pitcher of the week. (Photo by Jeff Cook/Quad-City Times)

Quad Cities River Bandits RHP Jose Hernandez is the Midwest League pitcher of the week. (Photo by Jeff Cook/Quad-City Times)

Quad Cities River Bandits RHP Jose Hernandez and Cedar Rapids Kernels infielder Zander Wiel respectively were named the Midwest League pitcher and offensive player of the week for the period of July 11-17.

Hernandez made two starts last week, striking out 19 batters while allowing only one unearned run, a walk and six hits in 13 total innings. The Houston Astros prospect picked up two wins to improve to 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 15 walks in 81.1 innings (17 games/14 starts) for the River Bandits this season.

This is the fourth time in the last five weeks that a Quad Cities hurler was named the Midwest League pitcher of the week. Hernandez earned the honor for the period of June 13-19; teammates Albert Abreu and Elieser Hernandez won the award for the periods of June 27-July 3 and July 4-10, respectively.

In six games during the past week, Wiel batted .458 (11-for-24) with five homers, four doubles, four walks, 12 runs batted in, and seven runs scored. The Minnesota Twins prospect is the third Kernels player to win a Midwest League weekly award this season; RHP Fernando Romero was named the MWL pitcher of the week for May 16-22, and catcher A.J. Murray was named the MWL offensive player of the week for May 9-15.

Wiel is batting .249 with 10 HR and 52 RBI in 85 games with the Kernels this season.

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Hernandez strikes out 13 in Quad Cities win

River Bandits RHP Jose Hernandez struck out 13 batters and walked none in six scoreless innings Saturday, leading Quad Cities to a 2-0 win over Lake County after the Captains won the first game of their doubleheader 2-1.

Hernandez is 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 15 walks in 81.1 innings (17 games/14 starts) for the River Bandits this season. He is 3-0 with a 1.49 ERA and 56 strikeouts in his last 10 appearances (54.1 innings).

Captains centerfielder Nathan Lukes hit two solo homers in the first game, including a walk-off shot in the bottom of the 8th inning. (Midwest League doubleheaders consist of two seven-inning games.)

Lukes is batting .301 with two homers, seven triples, 18 doubles, 25 runs batted in, and 14 stolen bases in 80 games with the Captains this season.

Mejia’s hitting streak at 35 games

Former Captains catcher Francisco Mejia went 3-for-6 with a solo homer for the Lynchburg Hillcats on Saturday, extending his hitting streak to 35 games.

Mejia’s hitting streak — the first 24 games of which were in the Midwest League — is the longest in Minor League Baseball this year.

Mejia wasn’t the only former Captains player to do well in Lynchburg’s 15-4 win Saturday. Most notably, outfielder Anthony Santander drove in six runs by slugging a pair of homers (a grand slam and a two-run shot). Five Hillcats players each collected three hits, and three others each had two hits. You can see the game’s box score here.

Posted in Carolina League, Lake County Captains, Lynchburg Hillcats, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment