Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It was a big week in the Southern League, and for Mobile BayBears (ARZ) slugger Jon Griffin, who homered in an unbelievable five consecutive at-bats, including four in one ballgame Wednesday. Mobile has been on a roll as a whole, and now sits at 28-18, the second best record in the league and three games ahead of the Mississippi Braves in the Southern Division.
The Huntsville Stars (MIL) continue to play good baseball, and own the league’s best record at 31-16, good for a 5.5 game lead over second place Tennessee (CHC) in the North.
Griffin’s week is obviously of note, and he even made ESPN’s SportsCenter, which is rare for the Southern League outside of occasional Michael Jordan footage. The six-foot-six first baseman has homered in three straight games, totaling five long balls and nine RBI over that stretch. He also homered twice on May 13, so now has eight in his last eight games to bring his season total to 10. That total ranks him second behind Cubs prospect Kris Bryant for the league’s top total.
Teammate David Peralta has also been great. The outfielder is 11-for-24 in his last six games. Over that span he has scored seven times, collected four doubles, a triple and a home run as well as eight RBI. He drove in five runs on Wednesday alone.
Speaking of Bryant, he now leads the Southern League in many major offensive categories. His 12 home runs, 40 RBI, 40 runs scored, 56 hits, 24 extra-base hits, 104 total bases, .431 on-base percentage, and .623 slugging are all best in the league.
Standing in his way for the league’s Triple Crown are Mississippi’s Elmer Reyes, who owns a .364 batting average ahead of Bryant’s .335, Peralta, with whom Bryant shares the RBI lead, and a likely promotion to either Iowa or Chicago. The third baseman has an eight game hitting streak for the Smokies.
Huntsville has gotten great performances from many players this season, including outfielder Kentrail Davis, who hit for the cycle last night. The game stretched Davis’ current hit streak to five games, in which he is 9-for-19. Third baseman Jason Rogers saw his nine-game hitting streak snapped in the game.
The Stars pitching staff has also been outstanding. Right-hander Tyler Cravy has been stellar all season. He worked six strong innings May 21 – a no-decision in which he allowed one earned run, and is now 7-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 49.1 innings, and his seven wins lead the circuit.
Lefty Brent Suter continued his strong season with eight scoreless innings May 18. He scattered eight hits and walked one in the win. Suter is now 6-2 with a 1.96 ERA in nine starts. Drew Gagnon has been nearly as good. He tossed 7.2 scoreless innings May 16 and followed that up with an eight strikeout performance over four innings Thursday. The Columbia, CA native now has a 2.35 ERA in ten starts.
It is hard to believe there has been a hotter hitter recently than Jacksonville’s Austin Nola. The 24-year old shortstop has raised his batting average more than fifty points since May 14 with 16-for-34 stretch across those seven games. He doubled seven times and added a triple and a home run while driving in seven runs and also scored seven.
The Chattanooga Lookouts (LAD) have struggled, but first baseman O’Koyea Dickson homered twice this week, which brings his season total to nine. Left-handed starter Chris Reed worked five scoreless innings this week against the BayBears. The 24-year old now owns a 2.19 ERA in nine starts and has struck out 54 hitters and held hitters to a .168 average, both second best in the Southern League.
Catcher John Hicks has been on fire for the Jackson Generals (SEA). He has hit safely in ten straight games, including four in a row with at least two hits. In his last four ballgames, the 24-year old is 9-for-15 with seven runs scored, a home run and two RBI.
Jackson outfielder Leon Landry went through a similar stretch as he collected ten hits in four games, including five doubles. Pitcher Matt Anderson earned a promotion from High Desert and was shelled in his first two starts, but put together seven strong innings Thursday in which he allowed just one unearned run.
Reliever Shae Simmons hasn’t pitched since May 18, but the Braves prospect has done great work this season. The 23-year old right-hander has posted a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings across 17 appearances and has allowed only 13 hits, four walks, and two runs. Drawing comparisons to Craig Kimbrel, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound flamethrower is 12-for-12 in save chances, which leads the league, and has struck out 26 hitters. Teammate Williams Perez is 3-3 with a 1.67 ERA in 54 innings and has held opponents to a .194 batting average.
Richie Shaffer homered three times for the Montgomery Biscuits (TB). Teammate Dylan Floro tossed seven shutout innings in a win against Jacksonville May 17, and has allowed only one earned run in his last 14 innings. He has walked only eight hitters in 52 innings this season.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) outfielder Juan Duran also homered three times as part of a 9-for-21 week. Robert Stephenson struck out six hitters Thursday and eight on Friday, which gives him 61 in 51.2 innings this year. The big-time prospect is 2-4 with a 3.48 ERA and has held hitters to a .199 batting average. Michael Lorenzen did not allow a hit in five scoreless innings May 18, and Is now 2-2 with a 2.26 ERA in nine starts.