By Jason Patterson / Jacksonville Suns
→The second half of the 2015 Southern League season is underway. In case you missed it, the North Division shut out the South 9-0 at the All-Star showdown at Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium. Biloxi and Chattanooga secured first half division titles, locking down spots in the coming post-season.
→The Shuckers picked up right where they left off at the break separating the schedule’s seventy game symmetry. Biloxi has won a league best three straight on the road heading into Monday.
→Three North Division clubs served immediate notice of their intentions related to the second half pennant race. Birmingham, Montgomery and Tennessee all matched Biloxi’s performance with a 3-1 start to second half action.
→Big League impact remains visible around the league. Next week’s “EYE” will include a special feature on the Southern League representatives in the upcoming 2015 Futures Game. In rehab news, last week began for Jacksonville with Marlins slugger Michael Morse homering in Chattanooga and ended with Jose Fernandez on the hill in the River City.
→Congrats are in order for the Barons and the city of Birmingham. Regions Field was voted best Double-A ballpark in the country this past week in a national poll conducted by Ballpark Digest.
Southern League Spotlight…
This week’s spotlight rests on the extremely talented German born baseball star appearing nightly at AT&T Field in Chattanooga. Max Kepler (#12/#14) is quickly becoming one of the more recognizable names in Double-A.
Overshadowed for most of the first half by high-profile prospects Byron Buxton (#1/#1), Miguel Sano (#2/#2) and Jose Berrios (#3/#4), as well as, high-impact slugger Adam Brett Walker II (#17/#12), Kepler has quietly posted attention getting numbers.
Minnesota’s scrappy outfield prospect is coming into his own as multi-tool player who drills the ball effectively to all fields. Take in his current season stats: a league leading .349 AVG, alongside 3 HR, 32 RBI and 11 SB. Perhaps most impressive are his eight triples, second only to the Twins newest big league lineup staple, Buxton, who finished his time in the Southern League with twelve.
Kepler has been tabbed by several media outlets as a player to watch heading into the Major League Baseball Futures Game. As mentioned above, next week’s spotlight will be a full exploration of Southern League representatives in the minor league showcase to be held Sunday July 12 at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
-Rankings listed use the format Baseball America/MLB.com-
Pensacola– Reds starting pitcher Timothy Adleman provided eight shutout innings of work on Saturday in Mississippi to begin his second half with a splash, striking out five Braves and scattering just four hits.
Top infield prospect Jesse Winker (#3/#2) is leading the club at the plate, hitting .364 with twelve hits, 3 RBI’s and 6 runs scored in the Wahoos past ten contests.
Montgomery– Rays center-fielder Joey Rickard is off to the best second half start for the Biscuits. Fresh off hosting the All-Star Game, fans in the Alabama state capitol have watched the outfielder post a .500 average (8-for-16) with a pair of homers, 6 RBI’s and 6 runs scored in his last five games.
Jacksonville– Terrence Dayleg is 6-for-15 with a homer, 5 RBI’s and 3 runs scored across his past four games, leading the way offensively for the Suns. His offensive surge and the rehab appearance of Jose Fernandez (MLB Starter) stood as the initial highlights of the second half for the Marlins farm club.
Birmingham– White Sox prospects Christian Marrero and Danny Hayes have sparked the Barons solid start to the second half with two home runs apiece and a combined six driven home in the past five games. All-Star Game MVP Tim Anderson (#2/#2) has started the second half strong, the short-stop is 7-for-22 with four runs scored in his past five contests. Anderson is still tied with teammate Jacob May (#10/#13) for the league lead in steals with 25 each.
Tyler Barnette has accumulated twelve punch-outs in his last ten innings of work, the numbers stretch across his past three appearances as a starter/reliever for the Barons.
Chattanooga– The dynamic trio of Adam Brett Walker II (#17/#12), Max Kepler (#12/#14) and Miguel Sano (#2/#2) are reaching heights unseen night after night on the banks of the Tennessee River. Walker remains the league leader in HR’s (22) and RBI’s (66), going 14-for-39 with 5HR and 14 RBI’s in his last ten contests. Sano secured player of the week honors with an 11-for-20 clip marked by three homers and ten RBI’s in just his last five. Kepler’s average in the ten game stretch was an eye-popping .553, he scored eight times, drove in nine runs and posted twenty-one hits including half of his eight triples this season.
It hasn’t been offense alone grabbing headlines in Chattanooga, Jose Berrios (#3/#4) notched his league best eighth win with a strong seven innings during which he allowed just a single earned run and struck out six in Montgomery on Sunday.
Mobile– The Outfield combo of Sacrates Brito (#19/#15) and Zach Borenstein (#26/-) have led the BayBears into the final seventy games. Brito has become proficient in three-baggers tying the highlighted Kepler for the lead among active players with eight. Triples have been just a part of Brito’s 6-for-14 performance across the past five contest. Borenstein contributed by driving in six runs and scoring four across the same stretch.
Tennessee– Cubs catching prospect Taylor Davis has homered three times in his past four games for the Smokies. His sudden display of power alongside a combined thirteen RBI’s in the same stretch by infielders Stephen Bruno and Dan Vogelbach (#25/#13) have forged a solid second half beginning in Kodak.
-Weekly honors handed down by the league office each Monday at Noon-
▪ Player of the Week: Miguel Sano (Twins #2/#2), 3B, Chattanooga
▪ Pitcher of the Week: Tim Adleman (Reds), RHP, Pensacola
Series To Focus On…
Montgomery Biscuits @ Tennessee Smokies
July 1 – July 3
A pair of North Division playoff hopefuls seek separation atop the standings during this brief three-game set heading into Independence weekend.
The Smokies and Biscuits finished as the first and second runners up to Chattanooga across the first seventy games and no one in the North is off to a faster start than these two in the second half.
If Birmingham stumbles against Chattanooga, the winner of this series could be alone in first place as fans file into Southern League ballparks for 4th of July celebrations this weekend.
A Look At The Standings…