→With the first two series of the new season in the books, no club sits more than 3 1/2 games out of first place in either division
→Montgomery enters the week riding a league best 3 game winning streak. The Biscuits have also smacked a SL high 10 homers and own the season’s only 4 home run performance.
→As is often the case early in the year, pitching has been dominant around the league. Of the 45 games played, nearly one-third (12) have been shutouts, with every team except the Braves and Barons shutting out an opponent at least once across the season’s first 12 days.
→The defending Southern League champs will be wearing their visiting grays and batting first all this week in the River City as they host Biloxi for the first time. Jacksonville is also making history by continuing its remarkable 20 game home stand to begin the 2015 campaign.
→A number of former Southern League stars are making MAJOR (as in major league) national headlines right out of the gate in 2015. Kris Bryant’s (22 HR in just 68 SL games in ‘14) high profile Cubs call-up followed a high impact opening homestand for Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb (’14 SL batting champ). This past week also saw Giancarlo Stanton (’09,’10 SL Alum) break the Marlins franchise home run record.
Southern League Spotlight…
This week’s spotlight is on Tennessee’s Albert Almora Jr (#7/#6). The top rated center-fielder in the Chicago Cubs organization posted a five-hit performance on April 18th to lead the Smokies over the Blue Wahoos by a 7-1 final. Almora Jr became the first Smokies player since Steve Clevenger in August of 2010 to accomplish the impressive feat.
-Rankings listed use the format Baseball America/MLB.com-
Montgomery– Nine players have blasted more than a single home run thus far in the Southern League, three of them play for the Biscuits. Johnny Field (#27/—) was responsible for half Montgomery’s four HR total during Saturday’s 12-5 win over the Suns. Highly regarded Rays prospects Justin O’Conner (#3/#1) and Tyler Goeddel (#17/#23) are the other Montgomery players with multiple homers on the year.
Chattanooga– Chattanooga’s balanced roster features the league leaders in both home runs and punch-outs. For all the attention Bruxton and Sano have received in the Twins system, it is Adam Brett Walker (#17/#13) who stands alone atop the SL leaderboard with four homers. Top pitching prospect Jose Berrios (#3/#4) has also impressed with 20 K’s in just 11 innings pitched.
Birmingham– Despite accumulating a league leading five doubles, White Sox outfield prospect Jason Coats has only logged one RBI and two runs scored for the Barons.
Biloxi– Orlando Arcia (#2/#1) and Yadiel Rivera (#13/#23) have posted impressive streaks to begin the season. Arcia has reached base safely in all nine games the Shuckers have played, while Rivera is riding a seven game hitting streak to gain attention throughout the Brewers system.
Mobile– With twelve RBI’s, D’Backs prospect Alex Glenn is the only player in the league having crossed over into double figures in the category. Glenn has put up those numbers without a single long ball, though he is tied with two other players for the league lead in triples (2).
Closer Enrique Burgos (#29/#22) has nailed down his first three save opportunities this season without allowing a run. In fact, Burgos (who is tied with Mississippi’s Ryan Kelly for the league lead in saves) has allowed just a single hit in his four appearances.
Mississippi– Catcher Chris O’Dowd (acquired from COL via trade in late January) launched a 12th inning home run which brought the 4 1/2 hour marathon contest (the SL’s longest game of the year) in Jackson to a close with a 6-5 win over the Generals Friday night. Mallex Smith (—/#16) and Daniel Castro (#25/—) have also made their mark. The duo has combined to score sixteen runs in nine games, a striking total which matches the production of Pensacola’s entire team through the first week and a half. Smith has also swiped a league-leading 6 stolen bases and hasn’t been caught yet. He isn’t the only speedster in Mississippi, the club’s 14 thefts to this point have doubled up the closest SL tallies. The Braves also lead the league in run production, with 46 runs scored (t-TEN) and 42 RBI’s.
-Weekly honors handed down by the league office-
Player of the Week: Daniel Vogelbach (Cubs #25/#15),1B, Tennessee Smokies (batting .484 on season with 4 doubles and 2 RBI)
Pitcher of the Week: Tyler Duffey (Twins #16/#19), RHP, Chattanooga Lookouts (tossed 7 innings of 2 hit ball vs Barons on Wednesday- 8 K’s 1 BB)
Series To Focus On…
Chattanooga Lookouts @ Tennessee Smokies
Saturday April 25-Wednesday April 29
These Volunteer State rivals enter the week tied atop the North Division with identical records. The opener on April 25th has been hyped as “Super Hero Night” at Smokies Stadium. In reality, there should be a number of extraordinary talents and memorable feats on display throughout this entire series.
Both teams have posted a 6-3 mark thus far, which currently stands as the best overall record in the Southern League.
This initial series between the two clubs tabbed by many as the favorites to battle for the division crown throughout the season is also a showdown of the minors’ #1 (Cubs) and #2 (Twins) prospect rich organizations entering 2015, as ranked by Baseball America.