Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In the last seven days, the Montgomery Biscuits (TB) have made a big move in the standings, going 6-1. The club has now won eight of their last nine ballgames and sits in first place in the Southern League’s Southern Division with a 14-7 record, two games ahead of the Mobile BayBears (ARZ).
The Huntsville Stars (MIL) lead the Northern Division by two games following a 4-3 week. All three losses came at the hands of Mobile.
Despite leading the league in most major offensive categories, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) are just 8-13 and are tied with Mississippi (ATL) for last place in the Southern Division after a 1-6 week. The lone win for Cincinnati’s Southern League affiliate was a 17-1 rout of Jacksonville (MIA) on April 21.
Pensacola’s Donald Lutz hit for the cycle Monday against Jacksonville as part of a 12-for-29 week that included two home runs, six RBI and seven runs scored. The big left-handed hitting left fielder leads the Southern League with a .729 slugging percentage.
Mega prospect Kris Bryant had a hit in every game this week – 11 total including his fourth home run of the season. The Cubs third base prospect had five RBI and is now hitting .304 with a 1.001 OPS on the campaign.
Catcher Curt Casali, who went 11-for-19 with eight walks over the course of the week, led the Biscuits offensively. The 25-year old is currently on an eight-game hitting streak and leads the league in batting average and on-base percentage, posting a line of .373/.549/.529 in 16 games. In his last five, the California native is hitting .615 with one homer and six RBI.
White Sox infield prospect Micah Johnson continued his solid 2014 season at the plate with 11 hits this week, raising his batting line to .358/.453/.543. He had five stolen bases this week, including three on April 19, and connected for his third homer of the season for Birmingham.
A fact that escaped my attention until witnessing it first hand in Pearl, Mississippi Monday, Brewers’ prospect Jason Rogers has been working exclusively at third base for the Huntsville Stars this season to broaden his positional flexibility and increase his chances of making it to Milwaukee. The 2013 organization Player of the Year, who has played first base and outfield in the past, has committed two errors this season, one coming this week, but looked comfortable at the hot corner to me.
For Jacksonville, infielder Danny Black is currently on a seven-game hitting streak, while J.T. Realmuto collected two three-hit games this week. Over his last seven ballgames, the catcher is hitting .500 (13-for-26).
The Mississippi Braves have struggled so far this season, particularly at the plate, but have gotten a boost from shortstop Elmer Reyes. Since his first game April 15, the 23-year old Nicaragua native has hit .406/.441/.625 with six extra-base hits and eight RBI. Though he has been charged with four errors so far, Reyes is also capable of making spectacular defensive plays as well.
All season, outfielder David Peralta has been solid for Mobile. The left-handed hitter had one of the best offensive performances of the Southern League season Tuesday in Huntsville, going 4-for-4 with two home runs, seven RBI and three runs scored. To date, Peralta has posted a line of .325/.372/.513 with a league leading 19 RBI in 21 games.
The Chattanooga Lookouts (LAD) got strong weeks from second baseman Darnell Sweeney and outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez. The switch-hitting Sweeney had 11 hits and a homer, while Cavazos-Galvez had hits in all five games he played, including five doubles.
Corey Black tossed six no-hit innings against Birmingham Wednesday, allowing only three walks in the Tennessee victory. The 22-year old Cubs prospect leads qualifying starters with a .121 batting average allowed. He is 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA in four appearances.
Jacksonville’s Andrew Heaney continues to impress. April 20, the lefty held Pensacola to just one run over seven innings. He surrendered only three hits, struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
The Stars had two standout pitchers this week, with two very solid starts by Tyler Cravy. The twenty-five year old posted ten shutout innings with ten strikeouts and only allowed seven base runners. The right-hander outdueled Atlanta’s Gavin Floyd Friday night before shutting down Tennessee Thursday. He is now 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and held hitters to a .193 batting average.
Teammate Brent Suter worked into the ninth inning before allowing a hit Wednesday. He gave up only the one hit and one walk in eight-plus. The lefty has not allowed more than one run in any of his four starts this season and leads the Southern League with a 0.60 WHIP and is second with a .134 batting average allowed. The Harvard product is 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA thus far.
Montgomery’s Victor Mateo struggled in his first two starts this season, but was dominant this week collecting two wins with 14 scoreless innings combined against Mississippi and Jacksonville. He allowed eight hits, issued only one free pass and struck out 14 batters.
Mobile’s Andrew Chafin and Chase Anderson continue to rank first and second in the Southern League in ERA. Chafin beat Huntsville with six strong innings Monday, while Anderson lost Sunday after allowing two earned runs in seven innings.
The Braves’ Shae Simmons collected eight more strikeouts in five innings this week – working two innings twice in three appearances. The reliever now has 18 K’s in 11.1 innings this season and has yet to allow a run. Only eight batters have even reached base against the 23-year old.