Wilmington center fielder Bubba Starling is raking since the start of the second half of the Carolina League season. Mandatory credit: Wilmington Blue Rocks

Carolina League: Bubba Starling, Michael Burgess red hot


ALL HAIL THE second half of the Carolina League season, when some of our favorites move on and some up-and-comers make their debut.

This year typified that annual migration as this week saw the departure of such league luminaries as Wilmington’s Hunter Dozier (to Double-A Northwest Arkansas) and Lynchburg’s Jose Peraza (to Double-A Mississippi).

Numerous call-ups dot the second-half rosters as well. We’ll highlight about a half-dozen of them below as we go team-by-team in resetting the league for the second half. For now, what you need to know is no hitters have been as hot at Wilmington’s Bubba Starling and Frederick’s Michael Burgess, while no lineup has been quite as torrid as Carolina’s (though Winston-Salem gave it a go).

LYNCHBURG

At the plate: Peraza departs after strafing the Carolina League for a .342 batting average and 35 stolen bases. He got off to a fast start at Double-A, hitting .522 (12-for-23) with 10 runs scored. All-Star Kyle Wren is angling to join him soon. He kicked off the second half hitting at a .368 clip (7-for-19) with three doubles and five runs scored. Daniel Castro matched Wren’s hitting output (.368) with a double and triple and four runs scored. The hottest Hillcat might be Will Skinner, who is batting .583 (7-for-12) in his last three games with four doubles and a home run. Newcomer Jose Martinez surfaced this week and has four hits in his first two games, including a pair of doubles. Emerson Landoni was demoted from Double-A in concert with Peraza’s promotion (due more to Peraza’s success than anything Landoni had done wrong) and has responded with nine hits in 16 at-bats, including three doubles and a home run.

On the mound: Cody Scarpetta made his second start for the Hillcats, tossing seven inninings in a win against Winston-Salem. He allowed six hits, one earned run and fanned five.

POTOMAC

At the plate: No team has seen as much churn as the Nationals this season, in part due to its location just down the road from the parent club. Two big-leaguers began their rehab in Potomac this week and lifted the Nats to victory on Monday. Bryce Harper was 1-for-1 with a run scored and a walk. Wilson Ramos went 3-for-4 with a home run and three runs batted it. As for the kids who belonged there, Tony Renda cobbled together an eight-game hitting streak in which he batted .313 with six runs and seven RBIs. Khayyan Norfork had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Monday, but during that stretch he swatted .375 (12-for-32) with six doubles, six runs scored and five RBIs. Will Piwnica-Worms also has been hot of late, collected two hits in five of his past seven games, including the last three entering Tuesday night’s games. In that stretch, he has hit .423 with three doubles and a home run.

On the mound: Dakota Bacus picked up just his third win of the season despite pitching quite well since mid-May. He went seven innings on Monday against Salem, scattering eight hits but allowing just one run to lower his earned run average to 3.39.

WILMINGTON

At the plate: Dozier’s departure was inevitable after a torrid month leading up to the All-Star break. He checked out of Wilmington after hitting .295 overall with 18 doubles and four home runs. His departure seemingly devastating an already meek offense, but the Blue Rocks have responded in his absence. Front and center in that effort has been none other than Starling. The super-streaky first-rounder has embarked on his hottest stretch of the season. Starling has two or more hits in all five games since the break. That works out to a .478 batting average (11-for-23) with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. He has driven in five runs and scored seven. Catcher Zane Evans also has picked up the pace. He’s batting .324 over his past 10 games with three doubles, a home run and eight runs scored. He also has walked more than he has struck out (six walks, four strikeouts). Daniel Rockett is the third piece to the puzzle. The 2013 organizational all-star is batting .322 over his past 10 games.

On the mound: 2013 compensatory pick Sean Manaea obviously has an embarrassment of riches in his talented left arm but he continues to be light years from harnessing it. In his latest up-and-down outing, Manaea went five innings in a loss to Myrtle Beach, allowing four hits, including a home run. He walked two and struck out six as his ERA moved to 4.89. The All-Star duo of Jonathan Dziedzic and Christian Binford fared better. Dziedzic received a no-decision in a game that went to extra innings, but allowed just one run while scattering seven hits and fanning seven over six frames to lower his ERA to 2.69. Binford improved to 5-3 by pitching into the seven inning of his lone start. He allowed six hits, but walked none and fanned six. He gave up three runs, but his ERA remains among the league’s best at 2.35.

FREDERICK

At the plate: Burgess, put simply, is on fire. He injected himself into the Carolina League home run leader conversation with five home runs over his past seven games. During that stretch, Burgess has batted a whopping .500 (14-for-28) with three doubles and a triple to go with the yard art. He has 11 bombs on the season, one behind active leader Jason Coats (overall leader Joey Gallo hit 21 before his call-up to Double-A). Sammie Starr has provided some support for Burgess, batting .400 since the break (8-for-20). Two recent call-ups from Delmarva promise to boost the Keys’ offense further. Mike Yastrzemski and Trey Mancini have combined for 11 hits, seven runs and eight RBIs since their arrival at the break.

On the mound: Parker Bridwell was Dziedzic’s opponent on the mound during that extra-innings affair against Wilmington. He was sharp, allowing just two hits and two walks over six scoreless innings while fanning five. His 4.07 ERA is somewhat the result of bad luck, as he has allowed just 39 hits in 59 innings this season. Only three of those hits have been home runs. He also has 57 strikeouts against 24 walks.

CAROLINA

At the plate: You may not have heard of Joe Sever before reading this sentence, but you might hear a lot more about him in years to come. For one, he’s the nephew of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. More important to this forum, the Mudcats newcomer was hitting .432 (16-for-37) in the 10 games leading up to Tuesday’s contest. He had a seven-game hitting streak on the line and had hits in eight of those 10 games. Meanwhile, LeVon Washington continues to motor along with nine hits in his last 18 at-bats (.500) with two doubles and five runs scored. Luigi Rodriguez has sparked to life with a shiny .480 mark (12-for-25) during an eight-game hitting streak. Yandy Diaz, another new face, has opened the second half with eight hits and a .363 batting average. He has three doubles and seven RBIs. In fact, it seems as if everyone in the Mudcats order has had a streak of one kind or another. Todd Hankins also has eight hits since the break, batting at a .421 clip with six runs and six RBIs. Jeremy Lucas has seven hits in 17 at-bats since the break, good for a .412 mark.

On the mound: Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando each earned their seventh wins of the season. Morimando went six innings, allowing six hits and two runs against Frederick. Meanwhile, Merritt overwhelmed Myrtle Beach to the tune of eight innings of three-hit ball. He allowed one run and fanned five as his ERA dropped to 1.61.

MYRTLE BEACH

At the plate: The Pelicans have suffered something of a post-Gallo hangover during the start of the second half, but while the offense is in a funk, let’s take a look at the catching position where top prospect Jorge Alfaro has been splitting time behind the dish with the unheralded duo of David Lyon and Kevin Torres. Alfaro has just two hits in 15 at-bats since the break. Meanwhile, Lyon and Davis each are batting over .300. Lyon (.352 since the break) has a double and home run with three runs scored. Torres (.333) has two runs scored and three RBI.

On the mound: Sam Wolfe joined the Carolina duo in the seven-win club with a victory against Wilmington on Friday. He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk while fanning four. His ERA improved to 2.60. A day later, Andrew Faulkner drifted through his worst outing of the season, allowing nine hits and five runs in five innings. He got a no-decision, but saw his ERA rise to 2.69.

WINSTON-SALEM

At the plate: The Dash’s Big Three of Tim Anderson, Courtney Hawkins and Jacob May might have to be considered the Fantastic Four after Jason Coats smashed a pair of home runs to take the active Carolina League lead at 12. In the meantime, that trio is raking as well. May had fallen off the radar with an abysmal first six weeks, but has heated up nicely with the weather. He is batting .457 in his past 10 games and .329 during the month of June with 11 stolen bases. Anderson has 10 hits in his past 32 at-bats (good for a .313 average) while Hawkins is hitting .316 (6-for-19) since the break and swatted his 11th home run. Newcomer Omar Narvaez, fresh from Kannapolis, introduced himself with authority in his first two games, swatting a double and two home runs. Last, but not least, Keon Barnum, owner of a number of streaky performances this season, is in the midst of another hot stretch. He is batting .421 since the break (8-for-19) with five runs scored.

On the mound: The Dash’s huge offense benefitted Terance Marin, who picked up his first win of the season against Salem with seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball. He walked two and fanned 10. Tony Bucciferro improved to 5-5 with six scoreless innings against Salem. He walked none and fanned eight.

SALEM

At the plate: Mario Martinez is an unheralded 24-year-old who had been knocking around the Detroit system since 2007 before the Red Sox signed him last year. His current .288 batting average also is unremarkable … until you find out how he got there. Martinez has hits in 14 of his past 15 games entering Tuesday’s contests. He has batted .311 during that stretch with an impressive 18 RBIs. Matt Gedman returned from injury recently and has five hits in his past three games. Catcher Carson Blair is 9-for-19 since the break. Newcomer Jantzen White, fresh off the bus after a .330 run through the South Atlantic League at Greenville, has five hits since the break with five RBIs.

On the mound: All-Star Justin Haley was roughed up a bit at Potomac on Monday, coughing up eight hits and five runs in six innings as he fell to 5-3. Joe Gunkel made his High-A debut a memorable one by picking up a win at Winston-Salem. He pitched into the sixth inning, surrendering three runs on three hits while fanning three.

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