By Jason Patterson / Jacksonville Suns
→The South Division is suddenly tighter top to bottom than the North, due in large part to a solid week from the Blue Wahoos. All five teams are within six games of first. By the way, tickets went on sale this week to see the current division leaders (Biloxi Shuckers) in the franchise’s first ever home game next month.
→Birmingham’s Regions Field was listed as the third best venue in all of Minor League Baseball by Baseball America. It’s a good thing, since the Barons have enjoyed as many home dates as anyone else in the league so far (20-along with Montgomery, Mississippi and Jacksonville).
→Chattanooga’s power surge continues, the Lookouts 35 homers lead the league. The deep balls and an impressive 8-2 mark across the past ten games has kept the club out front in the North. The Lookouts are still the cream of the crop with a league best 23 wins and .622 winning percentage.
→A balanced attack is keeping the Smokies in the thick of the North race. Tennessee has the Southern League’s highest team batting average (.267) and lowest staff E.R.A. (3.11) entering play on Monday. If the Smokies had played even .500 ball on the road to this point (9-11 away from Kodak), they would be tied for the division lead.
→Conversely Mississippi is using small ball to challenge for the lead down South. The Braves are the only team still looking to reach double digits in homers on the season. With three straight wins, they are now just 1/2 game back of the Shuckers.
Southern League Spotlight…
This week’s spotlight rests on Mobile’s Zach Borenstein (D’Backs #26/-) and the second Southern League cycle of the young season.
Who would have dreamed that something which has only happened thirty-eight times in the long and storied history of Southern League Baseball would occur in back to back weeks?
Try telling Borenstein hitting for the cycle is a once in a lifetime event, this most recent feat accomplished by the BayBears outfielder stands as his second in just over a year. The twenty-five year old secured all four legs of the cycle in exactly the same order for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers on April 20, 2014.
This time around, Borenstein singled in the first and tripled to lead-off the third, ahead of his first homer of the season in the fourth frame. The Illinois native’s double to center in the eighth inning sealed the deal.
Mobile eventually lost Saturday’s game 10-9 to the same Birmingham Barons team which celebrated Tim Anderson’s (White Sox #2/#2) cycle just a week earlier.
-Rankings listed use the format Baseball America/MLB.com-
Tennessee– Highly regarded catching prospect Kyle Schwarber (#4/#4) came within a triple of joining the Southern League cycle club in securing back to back three hit games this past week. Those were peak moments of an 8-for-15 stretch in which he homered three times and drove in six runs alongside seven scored. Schwarber’s offense has also been timely, delivering a go-ahead homer in a 9-4 win during the Montgomery series. Schwarber is tied for the league lead with 9 dingers (Adam Brett Walker-CHT) and his 1/12 HR’s/per AB ratio remains the best in the league.
Dominican product Frank Batista has posted a league best 1.28 E.R.A across 42 plus innings pitched, Batista remains unbeaten at 4-0 in seven starts for the Smokies.
The Cubs promoted Billy McKinney (#6/#8) from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach this past week, the outfielder shined with a pair of double in his Smokies debut.
Mississippi– Braves right-hander Andrew Robinson has been solid in relief, picking up two victories across the past ten games and striking out eight in seven innings pitched.
Tyrell Jenkins is the only SL pitcher with a pair of complete games on the year, the entire rest of the league has only doubled him with four. Jenkins sits 5th in innings pitched with 45.0, trailing Chattanooga’s Tyler Duffey by 7 2/3 innings. Check out what Duffey did with those seven innings below.
Outfielders K.D Kang and Mallex Smith (MLB #15) have led the charge offensively. Smith had eleven hits and was responsible for one of just two Braves homers across the past ten games. Kang went 6-for-12 with a pair driven in and three scored from May 13-15 igniting Mississippi’s modest streak.
Ten contests beyond his call up to Triple-A Gwinnett, Daniel Castro’s (#25/—) .389 batting average (35 for 90) continues to provide the benchmark for SL hitters.
Mobile– BayBears right-hander Aaron Blair (#3/#3) struck nine batters across 7 2/3 innings of action Sunday against the high powered Birmingham offense. The D’Backs prospect remains at 2-2 on the year after receiving a no-decision in Mobile’s 4-3 walk-off win.
Chattanooga– Baseball’s #12 overall prospect (as rated by MLB.com) was selected as the Twins Minor League player of the week for the stellar eight game stretch he just completed. Miguel Sano (#2/#2) went 11 for 29 with 3 walks, 3 homers, 4 doubles, 8 runs driven in and 7 runs scored.
Travis Harrison (#30/#17) has truly emerged of late, finding space center stage amongst the crowded roster of talented prospects in Chattanooga. Harrison has driven in nine runs during the Lookouts past ten games and now leads the SL in doubles, with 14.
Pitching prospect Tyler Duffey (#16/#19) twirled seven strong innings while allowing just a single run and striking out twelve Biscuits with nothing to show for it on Sunday. The Lookouts gave up a run in the 9th to lose the game 2-1. Duffey’s 12 K’s pushed him one ahead of teammate Jose Berrios (#3/#4) for the league lead with 54 total punch outs. Berrios kept his talent on display this past week as well, with the league’s first complete game shutout of ’15 in a 3-0 win over the Barons.
Jackson– Mariners right-hander Trey Cochran-Gill (#20/#20) made two appearances this past week, securing wins in both. The twenty-two year old provided four innings of scoreless ball which included three K’s against Biloxi and Tennessee.
Jabari Blash has 10 RBI in as many games, posting a .444 average since May 8th. The Generals haven’t had a day off since the 5th (and will not until the 31st), just fine with their right-fielder, who went 4-for-5 and drove in seven in a single contest last Tuesday night.
Pensacola– Reds top prospect Robert Stephenson (#1/#1) picked up his first win of the season this past week after dropping his initial four decisions. Stephenson worked five innings without allowing an earned run in Jacksonville on Wednesday.
Biloxi– With seven players locked up in second position with four wins, Brewers right-hander Tyler Wagner (#9/#11) stands alone at the top with five. Wagner became the first pitcher to reach five W’s last Tuesday night in Jackson. Wagner is 5-0 with a 1.91 E.R.A. and 34 K’s in 47 innings of work.
Wagner’s teammate Jorge Lopez (#15/#12) also grabbed headlines with six straight punch outs on Friday night. He ended up just two shy of the SL record eight in a row. Lopez has struck out eight batters in each of his past two starts.
Montgomery– Boog Powell (MLB #16) logged a 3-for-4 performance in the mid-week against Tennessee, scoring twice in the contest. These numbers were just a part of the center fielder’s 7 for 17 stretch across the past five games.
Blake Snell’s (#9/#10) scoreless innings streak continued to grow thanks to Montgomery’s 14-0 shutout of Tennessee on Tuesday. Snell was responsible for seven of the scoreless frames, pushing his total to 40 entering this week’s action. He is expected to be on the mound today in Chattanooga for the Biscuits.
Daniel Robertson’s (MLB #2) next RBI will be number thirty on the season. The Rays prospect has driven ten runs home during the Biscuits past ten contests, propelling him to the SL lead in that category with 29 total.
-Weekly honors handed down by the league office each Monday at Noon-
▪ Player of the Week: Jabari Blash (Mariners), OF, Jackson
▪ Pitcher of the Week: Jose Berrios (Twins #3/#4), RHP, Chattanooga
Series To Focus On…
Mississippi Braves @ Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Monday May 18 – Wednesday May 20 — Braves lead series 2-0
Three games remain to settle this series with major implications on the South Division’s suddenly tightened race.
Mississippi has won a pair of one run games to get the series underway, including an extra inning contest on Sunday.
Both teams entered the final three games of the series with 7-3 marks across their past ten games. The Braves could potentially snag the division lead for the first time this season with an effective wrap to the five-game set.