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Around the Minors: The week of May 16-22

Sights and sounds from action across Minor League Baseball
With 11 homers for Biloxi, Joey Wiemer stands tied for the Southern League lead with Birmingham's Craig Dedelow. (Mike Krebs)
May 22, 2022

May 22

May 22

Royal decree
Vinnie Pasquantino matched his career high in RBIs with five and homered in Triple-A Omaha's 8-6 win over St. Paul.

Kansas City's No. 4 prospect fell a triple shy of the cycle in a hitting clinic that began with an run-scoring double to right field in the first inning. The 24-year-old sent a big fly to right in the sixth to give the Storm Chasers the lead for good. Pasquantino ended his afternoon with a two-run single to right that kept the Saints out of reach.

The 319th overall pick in the 2019 Draft has had a streaky season so far. His average got as high as .303 and as low as .240 in May. After the designated hitter's 3-for-4 performance, he's sitting at .275 and trending upward.

The rubberband man
Coming off his worst outing of the season in which he didn’t make it out of the first inning, Cade Cavalli bounced back in a big way. The top Nationals prospect fanned four batters over five one-hit, one-run innings while striking out four in Triple-A Rochester’s 4-2 loss to Lehigh Valley.

After walking the first batter of the game, the 23-year-old quickly settled down and set down the next 12 batters in order while picking up three strikeouts. He allowed two walks, a single and a sacrifice fly in the fifth before retiring the final two batters of the inning, striking out Matt Vierling for the final out. He caught three batters looking at fastballs and got one swinging on a breaking ball. The 22nd overall pick of the 2020 Draft, Cavalli has amassed 31 punchouts over 33 1/3 innings this year.

'Martian' starting to lift off
After a slow month of April, in which he hit .225/.247/.324 with one home run in 16 games, Jasson Dominguez has heated up in May. in his latest outing, the 19-year-old went 2-for-4 with his third long ball of the month as Tampa downed St. Lucie, 6-2, for the Tarpons' third straight win.

In the six-game set against the Mets' Single-A affiliate, "The Martian" went 9-for-22, collecting at least one hit in five of the six games and reaching base safely in all six. In addition to Sunday's dinger, Dominguez racked up two doubles and a triple in the series, driving in six runs and scoring five. For the month of May, the Yankees' No. 3 prospect is slashing .299/.382/.567 for a .949 OPS, compared to his .571 mark in April.

All four of Dominguez's homers have come from the left side of the plate, where he's hit .289/.336/.491 for an .827 OPS, compared to a .125/.222/.208 line from the right side.

Milestone mania
With hockey playoffs in full swing, it's only appropriate baseball put together its own version of a hat trick. Or more appropriately, a hat trick of a hat trick.

Kyle Stowers, Matt Gorski and Lars Nootbaar all homered three times Sunday, turning their respective contests into their own personal home run derbies.

Stowers, the No. 8 Orioles prospect, delivered his for Triple-A Norfolk in three consecutive innings. Gorski, Pittsburgh's second-round pick in 2019, has already matched the 17 homers he belted last year for High-A Greensboro, moving into a tie for the Minor League lead with Cardinals prospect Moisés Gómez of Double-A Springfield. Meanwhile, Nootbaar enjoyed a career game at the dish. Playing in just his 11th game since returning from the Majors, he drove in seven runs for Triple-A Memphis. Full story »

Not sitting Adley by
With Adley Rutschman now in the Majors, Grayson Rodriguez didn't skip a beat in his first outing since his former batterymate's promotion.

With ample run support behind him, Rodriguez dealt six more stellar innings in Triple-A Norfolk's 14-3 rout of Charlotte, striking out nine while allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk to move to 4-1 on the season.

The victory was just the latest in a string of terrific outings for Rodriguez. Over his last four starts, the 2018 11th-overall Draft pick has gone 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA, allowing three runs on 12 hits while striking out 33 and walking nine in 21 2/3 innings. Full story »

May 21

Ponce de Leon goes streaking for Rainiers
Daniel Ponce de Leon started his team's night by striking out the side in the first. Then, he did it again in the second.

Then again in the third.

Ponce de Leon, now a Mariners farmhand, struck out the first nine batters he faced -- the same amount as the American or National League record -- before retiring a batter any other way for Triple-A Tacoma.

Ponce de Leon whiffed the Sacramento side swinging in the bottom of the first inning, then got two batters looking of his three K's in the second. In the third, he was back to generating bad swings with three more swinging strikeouts to give him nine to start the night. Leading off the bottom of the fourth, No. 5 Giants prospect Heliot Ramos was the first River Cat to make contact, grounding out to short. Ponce de Leon rebounded to strike out two of the next three he faced. Full story»

The need for speed
Over 26 games at two levels last year, Tyler Black stole five bases on seven attempts. The sixth-ranked Brewers prospect topped that in just two games this season. Black complemented a three-hit performance at the plate with three successful swiped bags in the Timber Rattlers’ 9-2 victory over South Bend. The 21-year-old singled in the first and stole second, and then singled again in the second and stole second and third before scampering home on an RBI base hit later in the frame.

This comes two weeks after the No. 33 overall pick in the 2021 Draft went 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts against Fort Wayne on May 7. Overall on the season, Black has eight successful swipes on 11 attempts over 24 games with High-A Wisconsin and is making a case to get a bump on his 50-grade speed.

Wiemer notches first four-hit game
With just three hits over his previous four games, second-ranked Brewers prospect Joey Wiemer bested that total on one night. Baseball's No. 94 overall prospect homered, doubled, scored two runs and drove in one for Double-A Biloxi. Wiemer started his day by notching hits in his first four at-bats at Mississippi. The outfielder singled on a fly to center in the top of the first before doubling on a liner to left field in the third. After connecting on his 11th homer of the season, a solo shot to left in the fifth, Wiemer added a second single on a bouncer through the left side in the top of the seventh.

The performance was Wiemer's first four-hit game since Sept. 7 of last year when he racked up four for High-A Wisconsin. Wiemer had three hits five previous times this season, most recently on May 15 against Birmingham. After a slow start to the month that saw the outfielder tally five hits in his first seven games, Wiemer is now batting .370/.442/.870 over his last 11 games with seven homers and 11 RBIs.

May 20

Luciano, Harrison continue to shine for Emeralds
It’s officially a pattern for Marco Luciano, who homered for the third straight game as High-A Eugene dropped a 4-3 decision to Spokane on the road. The top Giants prospect broke a scoreless tie in the sixth with a two-run blast to left-center that plated eighth-ranked Hunter Bishop, who tripled to lead off the frame. It’s the seventh dinger of the year for the 20-year-old, who also knocked a single to left in the eighth and scampered home later in the inning on a sacrifice fly. MLB’s No. 11 overall prospect is sporting a .308/.371/.558 slash line with 16 runs scored and 15 RBIs over 29 games this season.

On the hill, Kyle Harrison continued his stellar season with five scoreless frames. The left-hander worked around four hits and a walk while whiffing eight. The third-ranked Giants prospect retired the first four batters he faced before working around a pair of singles by fanning the side in the second. Harrison set down the side in order in the third, and worked around another pair of singles in the fourth to escape the frame unscathed. After a leadoff walk in the fifth, MLB’s No. 71 overall prospect induced a ground ball to third before fanning the final two batters he faced. The 20-year-old has not allowed a run in his three start this month and is sporting a 1.55 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 59 strikeouts over 29 innings this season.

Juuuust a bit past the cutoff man
What started off as an average single turned into a not-so-average trip around the bases -- for both the runner and the ball itself. Jonathan Ornelas took the first pitch of the home half of the first and knocked it to left. Corpus Christi left fielder Wilyer Abreu -- who is left-handed -- fielded the ball cleanly, then spun around to his right before throwing the ball in. But he missed the cutoff man at second and went wide of first so Luke Berryhill went to track it down. The first baseman picked the ball up as and saw Ornelas head to third so Berryhill sailed one across the diamond and all the way to the wall, just past the dugout. The RoughRiders leadoff man cruised home for the unique start to the game's scoring.

The Hooks got their revenge with a nine-run fourth inning as they went on to win, 11-9. But Frisco will always have that special start to the game.

Home run O'Hoppe
There's home run happy, and there's the stretch that Logan O'Hoppe is having. The Phillies' No. 5 prospect has six dingers in his last six game, including jacks in four straight contests for Double-A Reading. O'Hoppe's latest bop was an 0-2 solo shot to left center. The catcher also singled in the 6-2 loss to Somerset for his fourth straight multihit game.

“I haven’t been trying to hit them,” O’Hoppe told “Tyler Henson, our hitting coach, has been trying to help me a lot, and we’ve made some adjustments; not so much in my swing, but just my approach as far as what I’m looking for, and it’s really helped. He’s a great brain to learn from.”

Reese Olson was in the mood for strikeouts on Friday night. The first six outs recorded by the Tigers' No. 17 prospect all came via the punchout. And after logging *only* one in the third inning, he was right back to it with three whiffs in the fourth. In total, Olson struck out a career-high 11 as he allowed two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Erie. The 22-year-old right-hander sports a 3.60 ERA with 54 strikeouts against seven walks in 35 innings this season.

The SeaWolves relievers kept the strikeout ship cruising to with nine more. Shea Spitzbarth, Gerson Moreno and Zac Houston each fanned three to bring the team's total to 20. Brendan White then got the final out to secure Erie's 8-7 win over New Hampshire.

May 19

Returning with a bang
Following a brief but superb first taste of the Majors, Royce Lewis made a statement in his return to the Minors. Baseball's No. 42 overall prospect led off the game with a homer, singled twice and stole his ninth base for Triple-A St. Paul, which lost to Omaha, 11-2. Lewis has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games for the Saints.

Of course, part of that was interrupted by an 11-game cameo with the Twins, and the 22-year-old made the most of it. Lewis clubbed his first two big league homers, including a grand slam, and slashed .308/.325/.564 with five RBIs in 11 games for Minnesota.

The top overall pick in the 2017 Draft has performed even better with St. Paul, batting .333 with a 1.061 OPS, 12 extra-base hits, 12 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 10 attempts over 25 games.

Big night leads to reminiscing
George Valera grew up 10 blocks from Yankees Stadium. At age 13, the native of Queens, N.Y., wound up moving to the Dominican Republic. It ended up being key to his dream of playing professional baseball.

"Most of the time my dad would be taking care of me because my dad got in an accident [when I was young]," Valera said. "So he practiced with me and took me everywhere. When I played in New York, I played a lot of travel ball, and he'd go with me and he coached me. He used to play baseball, he never played pro or anything. He just loved the sport. In the Dominican Republic, baseball is everything over there."

Now, the 21-year-old is ascending the Guardians' system and MLB Pipeline's rankings as the No. 43 overall prospect in the game. And nights like his two-homer, five-RBI effort for the Double-A RubberDucks will only add to his growing legend. Full story »

Finding his swing
After being stuck in neutral for the better part of six weeks, Nick Pratto may have kicked his season into gear.

Baseball's No. 58 overall prospect homered twice, drove in three runs and scored three times to power Triple-A Omaha past visiting St. Paul, 11-2. Pratto added a pair of walks to his first multihomer game of the year and reached safely in three of his four plate appearances.

The 23-year-old entered the night 5-for-29 (.172) with 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats this month.

"I was due for one," the slugger said of his big game. Full story »

Sticking with what works
Wilmer Flores arrived at Double-A Erie this week looking to stick with what worked so well for him at High-A West Michigan. It didn’t take long for the big right-hander to settle in against Eastern League hitting. He tossed five scoreless innings of one-hit ball in his Double-A debut, walking one and striking out seven to help the SeaWolves sweep a doubleheader from New Hampshire.

“First inning, I was feeling really nervous,” Flores said after the game. “So when the first inning was done, I feel like, ‘Whew!’ I was relaxed. I felt like me again.”

Flores struck out five of his first seven batters, three of them swinging at breaking balls, then settled into a groove of easy outs on contact before fanning back-to-back batters on breaking balls to close his outing. He allowed just two balls out of the infield, and retired his final 12 batters following a leadoff walk in the second inning. His lone hit allowed was a first-inning double from Rafael Lantigua. He drew 10 swings and misses, but also spotted corners with his fastball for called strikes.

“I think the key tonight was the slider,” Flores said. “I was able to throw it for strikes. It helped me to get back into counts.” Full story »

Meet them with St. Louis
NEW YORK -- The future is about to become the present for the Cardinals, who are promoting top prospects Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore for their weekend series in Pittsburgh.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol made the announcement following the Cardinals' 7-6 loss to the Mets. Gorman will join the team on Friday and is expected to start at second base in the team’s series opener against the Pirates. That game will stream exclusively and for free on Apple TV+.

Liberatore is then slated to start on Saturday. The Cardinals are using him to fill the rotation vacancy that arose after playing a doubleheader earlier in the week. Full story »

May 18

Life throws you curveballs
Henry Davis was placed on the injured list with a left wrist injury. MLB's No. 21 prospect was promoted to Double-A Altoona on May 10 after producing a .341/.450/.585 slash line and nine extra-base hits -- including five homers -- over 22 games for High-A Greensboro.

He was hit by a pitch in the first inning of his Eastern League debut but remained in the game, finishing with a homer and a walk. Davis sat out the next game, and was again hit by a pitch in the first inning of the Curve's May 12 matchup. He played all nine innings, going 0-for-3, but has not appeared in a game since.

Two lessons in getting ahead
The Rangers’ ninth- and 10th-ranked prospects launched go-ahead homers in High-A Hickory’s 6-3 win over Greenville. Evan Carter smacked a two-run homer in extra innings, while Luisangel Acuña hit a solo jack.

Acuña’s drive came in the third inning with the game knotted at 1. He took a 1-0 pitch and parked it over the wall in right field to put the Crawdads in front. He added a double, a single, a stolen base and a run scored to his day, and the 20-year-old is batting .263/.349/.526 in 10 games after missing most of April with a hamstring strain.

With the game tied going into extras, Carter took advantage of the free runner and smacked a two-run dinger to lead off the 10th, his fourth blast of the year. The 50th overall pick of the 2020 Draft, the 19-year-old Carter is faring well in his sophomore season, slashing .296/.374/.513 with more RBIs (22) than strikeouts (20) in 28 games.

Taking flight
The Orioles are getting a lot of power out of their top position player prospects. No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman (Triple-A Norfolk), third-ranked Gunnar Henderson (Double-A Bowie) and No. 4 Colton Cowser (High-A Aberdeen) all homered in their latest outings.

Rutschman and Henderson have gone yard in back-to-back games, with Henderson teeing off three times over the course of those games.

Baseball's No. 1 overall prospect launched his second homer in as many days to left field in Norfolk's 8-7 victory over Charlotte. Henderson followed up a two-homer game with a blast on a line drive to left in Bowie's 6-3 loss to Hartford. And Cowser got in on the home run parade with a long ball to left on a 3-1 pitch in the sixth, providing the sole offense in Aberdeen's 2-1 loss to Rome.

Mission: Unhittable
As the great Yogi Berra said, "It's like déjà vu all over again." And for San Antonio, it might feel that way.

For the second time in three games, the Double-A Missions had four pitchers combine on a no-hitter. Ryan Lillie, Michel Baez, Osvaldo Hernandez and Mason Fox delivered the feat in a 4-0 blanking of Midland at Nelson Wolff Stadium.

None of the four hurlers who completed the nine-inning gem appeared in the club's previous no-no Sunday. That feat was accomplished by Lake Bachar, Moises Lugo, Carlos Belen, Kevin Kopps. It was the 16th nine-inning no-hitter in franchise history, and the ninth thrown in the Minors this year. Full story »

Now that's a favorable first impression
Making his first appearance in a competitive game since being selected with the seventh overall pick in last year's Draft, Frank Mozzicato turned in three scoreless innings in Single-A Columbia's 13-2 loss to Myrtle Beach.

A month and one day shy of his 19th birthday, the southpaw struck out three over three innings, working around a hit and three walks. He threw 36 of 57 pitches for strikes.

Kansas City is taking a deliberate approach to its No. 7 prospect's first season, having held him in extended spring training through the first six weeks of the Minor League campaign and keeping a careful eye on his innings.

May 17

Steering his way to a milestone
Natural cycles are the rarest type of cycle. They’re also the most dramatic, allowing the player to punctuate his achievement with a roundtripper and then celebrate with a jog.

Ceddanne Rafaela lived that reality, hitting for a natural cycle in High-A Greenville’s 11-6 win over Hickory. The No. 27 Red Sox prospect became the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle, and the second player in the Minor Leagues this season. Reds No. 4 prospect Matt McLain notched the milestone for Double-A Chattanooga on April 17.

Rafaela began his milestone night at Flour Field at the West End by looping a single to center field in the first inning. He legged out a double in the third, clanged an RBI triple off the center-field wall in the seventh and pulled a solo homer to left in the eighth. In the process, Rafaela scored three runs and drove in two. Full story »

Announcing your presence with authority
If the beginning of Michael Busch's new tenure seemed familiar, that's because it mirrored the end of his Double-A stint.

Added to the roster earlier in the day, baseball's No. 64 overall prospect homered in his second at-bat and added a single to help Triple-A Oklahoma City beat El Paso, 13-5, at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Busch homered in his final game for Double-A Tulsa on Sunday.

Having flied out in his first plate appearance, the 24-year-old provided an instant jolt in his second at-bat with a towering 101.1 mph two-run shot to left-center field in the third inning. Full story »

A home run race in May?
It's very early on in the season, but there's a bit of a chase for the title of Minor League home run king already in the works. And it's between a pair of Cardinals prospects -- second-ranked Nolan Gorman and unheralded Moisés Gómez. It seems like whenever the No. 31 overall prospect tees off for Triple-A Memphis, there's a response from the 23-year-old outfielder at Double-A Springfield.

Gorman now sits on 15 long balls for the season after teeing off to right-center field for a solo shot in the fourth inning of the Redbirds' 8-2 victory over the Stripers. Not long after, Gómez lined his 16th to left in the fifth frame of the Cardinals' 11-9 loss to the Wind Surge.

The duo followed the same pattern in Sunday's games, as Gómez followed Gorman's long ball against Norfolk with one of his own vs. Amarillo. This kind of back-and-forth is making for must-see MiLB.TV.

Don't sleep on Grayson
For all the speculation surrounding the impending promotion of Adley Rutschman, the spotlight has shifted some in recent days from Grayson Rodriguez, his battery mate and the top pitching prospect in baseball.

But that doesn’t mean Gray-Rod isn’t still dealing.

Rodriguez was dominant again for Triple-A Norfolk, racking up a season-high 11 strikeouts across 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over Charlotte. Rutschman and Orioles No. 8 prospect Kyle Stowers pitched in a two-run homer apiece in support of Rodriguez, who dialed his fastball up to 99.2 mph in the outing.

Through eight Triple-A starts, the 22-year old righty sports a 2.65 ERA and 57-13 strikeout-to-walk rate across 37 1/3 innings. The 87 pitches Rodriguez threw Tuesday were a season high, and his 5 1/3 innings also matched his season high. He leads the International League in strikeouts and is the first pitcher in the league to reach the 50-strikeout mark. Full story »

They're gonna need some more baseballs
A home run derby broke out at Hodgetown in Amarillo, Texas, as Tulsa slugged nine dingers against Amarillo, recording the most homers hit by one team in a Double-A game since at least 2005 and the fourth most in a full-season Minor League game in that same time frame.

The Drillers hit four in the ninth inning, turning a 12-10 deficit into a 15-12 lead that wasn't relinquished. Seven players homered for Tulsa, and Kody Hoese (the Dodgers' No. 24 prospect) and Ryan Ward went deep two times each.

With the Sod Poodles adding four long balls, the contest featured the second-most dingers (13) hit by both teams in a full-season Minor League contest since at least 2005. Full story »

'Tis the season to make jumps
Top talents across the baseball landscape took big steps forward last week. San Diego's No. 1 prospect CJ Abrams got his first taste of Triple-A ball and homered twice in his debut for El Paso. At Triple-A Norfolk, top Baltimore prospects Grayson Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman squared off against Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore in a battle of four Top 100 players. Pittsburgh's No. 2 talent Henry Davis made the leap to Double-A Altoona, where he homered in his Eastern League debut. Elsewhere in the Minors, milestones kept coming, including three-homer games by Norfolk's Ryan McKenna, Sacramento's Austin Dean and Frisco's Trey Hair, as well as no-hitters by Single-A Fort Myers, Double-A San Antonio and Tennessee. Look back on the week that was.