Opening Day Recap: Midwest League

It’s Opening Day around the minor leagues, and things got exciting on the first day on action in the Midwest League. We saw top prospects, including several from the early rounds of the 2011 MLB Draft, and a bunch of extremely close games. Let’s recap.

Bowling Green Hot Rods (TBR) 3, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 0

On Thursday in Bowling Green, Kentucky, early 2011 draftees were at the forefront. Three key players in the game were drafted in the first round or supplemental first round of the 2011 MLB Draft: RHP Archie Bradley, the 6th overall pick by the D-backs, and a couple of supplemental first round picks on the Rays’ side: SS Jake Hager, and OF Kes Carter. Bradley was matched up with yet another 2011 draft pick, Rays 6th rounder Jake Floethe, and both would bring their best stuff. Both lasted  5 innings, with Bradley striking out 7 in his 5, but allowing a run on 4 hits and a walk, and Floethe actually out-dueling him, allowing just 3 hits as he struck out 6 against not a single walk.  The Silver Hawks were 5-hit, overall although Ender Inciarte went 1 for 4 with a triple and Matt Helm did double in 4 trips. The Hot Rods, meanwhile, were led on offense by Hager, who had a big day out of the 8th spot in the order, going a perfect 3 for 3 with a double and a run scored, and Carter, who went just 1 for 4 but made his hit count, chipping in a 2-run double for insurance in the 9th inning. Todd Glaesman drove in the first run for the Hot Rods as part of a 1 for 4 day. Yet another 2011 draftee, the Rays’ high-profile supplemental pick Tyler Goeddel, went 1 for 3 in his professional debut. Drew Vettleson also went 1 for 3 with a walk and stolen base for Bowling Green. It was an exhilarating pitcher’s duel that was close until the 9th, and both of these teams have players to watch moving forward.

Floethe, who throws a low-90's sinker and 11-to-5 curveball, is an interesting prospect for the Rays who slipped in the draft after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2010. Credit: Robert J. Meyer-US PRESSWIRE

Kane County Cougars (KCR) 11, Quad Cities River Bandits (STL), 10

It was a wild one in Davenport, IA as hitting and poor fielding dominated the game. There were a combined 9 errors in the game and 20 hits, and it’s hard to find anything crazier than the 9-run 2nd inning by Kane County and 6-run response by Quad Cities. After a scoreless first inning, things quickly got out of control. After allowing a triple to Lane Adams to begin the inning, Quad Cities pitcher and Cardinals top prospect Tyrell Jenkins made a throwing error that forced in a run before allowing another triple, this one by Justin Trapp. Jenkins lasted just 1.1 innings, allowing 5 runs but just 1 earned. Later in the inning, Adams struck again, delivering a grand slam that gave Kane County a commanding 9-0 lead. But Quad Cities’ Colin Wash homered versus Kane County starter Aaron Brooks before Brooks departed early as well, and 5 hits and a wild pitch later, the score in the game was 9-6. Errors led to single runs by Kane County in the 3rd and 5th before Quad Cities roared back in the 6th, scoring 4 runs including RBI doubles by Matt Williams and Roberto De La Cruz to pull within 11-10. But then suddenly the air was poked out of the offense as Dail Villanueva and Danny Miranda tossed two shutout innings each for Quad Cities, and Matt Ridings tossed 2.1 innings of shutout ball for Kane County, after allowing a few inherited runners to score, and Nick Gaffeo closed it out for the save with a perfect, two strikeout 9th inning. Among the game’s many hitting stars was Adams, who finished 2 for 4 with the triple, the homer, 2 runs, and 4 RBI, and Michael Antonio for Kane County along wiT. Williams, De La Cruz and Walsh for Quad Cities all drove in at least 2 runs. What a game!

Peoria Chiefs (CHC) 5, Beloit Snappers (MIN) 2

This one was a little more clear-cut. Over in Beloit, WI, Chiefs starter Michael Jensen tossed 5 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and the Chiefs won despite not geting a single hit from the 3 to 6 spots in their lineup. Zeke DeVoss went 1 for 5 with an RBI and run scored for Peoria at the top of the order, and the other runs were driven in by Marcos Hernandez, who went 1 for 4, and Pin-Chieh Chen, who went 2 for 3 with a triple and also scored a run. Wes Darvill also went 2 for 4 for Peoria and scored a run. The big stories in this game were the full-season debuts of Twins top prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario for Beloit. Sano wasn’t much of a factor, going 0 for 3 although he did swipe a base after reaching on a fielder’s choice, while Rosario went 1 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Starter Madison Boer struggled for Beloit, allowing 5 runs in 4 innings, although he did strike out 3 versus 1 walk. Four relievers followed Boer with scoreless relief. The Snappers will be a team to watch this season with both Sano and Rosario on their roster, and DeVoss and the Chiefs showed their skills as well.

Lake County Captains (CLE) 4, Fort Wayne Tincaps (SDP) 3

Here was another turbulent game that was decided by errors, although you wouldn’t get that from the score. Padres catcher prospect Austin Hedges had a rough night defensively while his teammate Jace Peterson did as well, and former Indians first rounder LeVon Washington really impressed for Lake County. Another player to debut was Indians 2011 first rounder Francisco Lindor. The game was crazy right from the start. After Washington walked to begin the game for Lake County, Lindor grounded into a fielded choice. Ho hum so far. But then Lindor stole second, and after two passed balls by Hedges, scored the game’s first run. The Tincaps answered in the 3rd, as Peterson laced a 2-run double, and that was it for the scoring until the 7th inning. Both starting pitchers pitched well as Frank Garces struck out 9 and allowed just the unearned run in 6 two-hit innings, and Felix Sterling struck out 4 as he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits in 5 innings for Lake County. Fort Wayne tacked on an insurance run in the 7th as Hedges got the run he allowed earlier back with an RBI single following a Taylor Whitmore triple, but the Captains still had some fight left. Luigi Rodriguez singled to begin the 8th for Lake County before Washington laid down a bunt, and Hedges’ throw to first ended up in the outfield to pull Lake County within a run. A Jordan Smith single later in the inning tied the game up. Then in the 9th, a Peterson error gave the Captains a baserunner with 2 outs in the 9th, and then Rodriguez delivered a go-ahead triple as the Captain overcame a 3-1 8th inning deficit to win 4-3. Washington and Rodriguez each went 2 for 4 for Lake County, with Washington walking and scoring a run, while Rodriguez delivered the huge RBI triple and also scored. Lindor ended up going 0 for 4 in his full-season debut. On the Fort Wayne side, Peterson went 2 for 3 and drove in 2 with his double, but his error proved costly, and although Hedges went 1 for 3 with an RBI, he struggled immensely defensively. Both these teams feature loads of talent, and hopefully we can continue seeing flashes of that ability over the course of the season.

Burlington Bees (OAK) 8, Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 2

This one over in Clinton, Iowa, was one-sided from early on. The LumberKings took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd on a Steven Baron RBI single, but Jharmindy De Jesus was gunned down at home later in the season on a cutoff throw fielded by B.A. Vollmuth, and from then on it was all Bees. The Bees exploded for 6 in the 3rd inning behind RBI singles by Ross Consigli along with Vollmuth, and the coda was a grand slam by Dusty Robinson later in the inning. Drew Granier and Nathiniel Kilcrease each through 4 one-run innings for Burlington, striking out 3 each and walking 1 each to keep the LumberKings in check. Robinson, who went 2 for 3 with the grand slam, was the hero for the Bees, and Chih Fang Pan and Sean Jamieson each had two hits for BUrlington as well. Baron went 2 for 3 with an RBI for Clinton. There will be some great days and some considerably worse ones for both of these teams, but today it was clear who was in control.

Dayton Dragons (CIN) 3, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 0

Justice French was in control his entire outing. French, a 6’4″, 215 right-hander who was the Reds’ 25th round pick in 2011 out of Macon University in Georgia, dominated the Whitecaps, tossing 6 shutout innings and allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8. With French dealing, all the Dragons needed was three middle-inning runs to coast to victory. Steven Selsky went 3 for 4 with a run scored for Dayton, but SS Juan Perez, the Reds 26th round pick in 2011, had a night to remember, tripling twice in three trips, driving in a run and scoring another. On the West Michigan side, 18 year old Danry Vazquez looked overmatched after jumped from the GCL to full-season ball in 2012, going 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts- but French was dominating everyone- but Aaron Westlake, the Tigers’ 3rd round pick in 2011, did go 1 for 4 with a single. The Whitecaps have considerable promise but were simply manhandled by French and the Dragons on this evening, and we’ll have to see if the Reds end up having something with French.

 

Opening Day is always exciting, and the Midwest League was no exception. This is just the start of what will be an exciting season.

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Tags: Aaron Westlake Archie Bradley Arizona Diamondbacks Austin Hedges Cleveland Indians Drew Vettleson Eddie Rosario Francisco Lindor Jace Peterson Jake Floethe Jake Hager Justin French Kes Carter LeVon Washington Midwest League Miguel Sano Minnesota Twins San Diego Padres Tampa Bay Rays Tyler Goeddel Tyrell Jenkins Zeke DeVoss

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