Here's a look at the top pitching performers in each league for the week ending Aug. 18:
Charlie Haeger, Pawtucket
(2-0, 1.50 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 6 BB, 11 K)
Haeger missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and is still trying to regain command of his knuckleball -- he ranks fourth in the Minor Leagues with 76 walks on the season. Though he still walked six batters in 12 innings, the 29-year-old Haeger won back-to-back home starts last week, holding Louisville and Buffalo to one run each over six innings apiece. Haeger has a 4.39 ERA overall in 22 starts between Double-A Portland and Pawtucket but is 2-1 with a 2.35 mark in four August outings.
Pacific Coast League
Justin Marks, Omaha
(1-0, 0.82 ERA, 2 G, 0 GS, 11 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 14 K)
At the end of June, Marks was 1-9 with a 7.04 ERA and had lost seven consecutive starts. Since then he's 5-3 with a 2.82 mark. The 25-year-old left-hander's rebound continued last week as he fired 11 strong frames out of the bullpen, allowing one earned run while fanning 14. Marks has been hard on left-handed hitters all season, holding them to a .196 batting average, while allowing righties a .310 mark.
Keith Couch, Portland
(2-0, 1.13 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 1 CG, 16 IP, 14 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 8 K)
Though only 13 of Couch's 27 appearances for the Sea Dogs have been starts, the 23-year-old right-hander is tied for the league lead with two complete games and ranks second with 10 victories. Couch added to both totals last week, winning a pair of games and going the distance in Portland's 2-1 win at Harrisburg on Sunday. Couch has not dominated Eastern League batters -- he's allowed more than a hit per inning and is not a big strikeout pitcher -- but he's won seven of his last eight decisions.
Justin Nicolino, Jacksonville
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 BB, 13 K)
Part of the big offseason trade that sent Jose Reyes, among others, to Toronto last winter, Nicolino struggled in his first five Double-A starts after his promotion from Class A Advanced Jupiter, posting a 6.94 ERA. The 21-year-old southpaw found his footing against Birmingham on Friday, however, fanning a career-high 13 batters over six scoreless innings in the opening game of a doubleheader against Birmingham. Nicolino still owns a 5.52 ERA in the Southern League, but he's won his last three decisions after dropping his first two Double-A games.
Tim Cooney, Springfield
(1-0, 1.29 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 7 K)
For the second straight week, Cooney takes home Texas League honors. For the second straight week, his victim was the Frisco RoughRiders. After fanning 10 RoughRiders over eight one-run frames at home on Aug. 8, the 22-year-old left-hander struck out seven while allowing just two hits over seven innings Thursday. Cooney notched the win on Thursday, his first in four starts, and went over the century mark in strikeouts. He's fanned 105 batters in 134 innings in his first full season.
Johnny Barbato, Lake Elsinore
(0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 7 K)
After 42 relief appearances, Barbato made his first start of the season on July 31. It did not go well, as the 21-year-old Florida native gave up five runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. The right-hander has improved in each of his three starts since, culminating in six scoreless frames at Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday. Barbato allowed just three hits while fanning a season-high seven and did not walk a batter.
Alec Asher, Myrtle Beach
(0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 3 BB, 8 K)
Like Cooney in the Texas League, Asher is another back-to-back winner. After holding Frederick to three hits over eight frames on Aug. 11, the 21-year-old right-hander limited host Carolina to just one hit while striking out eight in six scoreless innings Friday. Though Asher didn't earn his ninth win in the game, he took over the Carolina League strikeout lead with 125 in 123 1/3 innings on the season.
Florida State League
Pat Ludwig, Bradenton
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 7 K)
After making 23 relief appearances for Class A West Virginia in the first half of the season, Ludwig has served primarily as a starter since joining Bradenton on July 2. Wednesday saw easily the best of his 10 Florida State League appearances, as the 23-year-old Yale product yielded just two hits over seven scoreless frames in the Marauders' 3-1 win over visiting Palm Beach. The right-handed Ludwig fanned a season-high seven in the victory.
Kevin Brandt, Bowling Green
(0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 3 K)
An 18th-round pick out of East Carolina in 2012, Brandt was all but perfect in his Midwest League debut at Lake County on Monday. The 23-year-old left-hander allowed one walk over six scoreless, no-hit frames, recording 12 groundouts against just two flyball outs. Brandt was promoted to Bowling Green from short-season Hudson Valley -- after holding New York-Penn League hitters to a .197 average in 45 innings, he's off to an even better start with the Hot Rods.
South Atlantic League
Parker Bridwell, Delmarva
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 14 K)
Bridwell came into Friday's start against visiting Lakewood having allowed 12 runs -- nine earned -- on 17 hits over 10 1/3 innings in his previous two starts. The rangy right-hander rebounded to fan a career-high 14 batters over eight scoreless frames for his eighth win of the season. Bridwell yielded just two hits and did not walk a batter for just the second time in 23 starts this season. He ranks second in the Sally League with 131 strikeouts.
New York-Penn League
Mark Meadors, Williamsport
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 0 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 6 K)
Just down the road from the Little League World Series, Meadors helped the Crosscutters step into the spotlight Sunday by contributing three hitless frames in Williamsport's combined no-hitter. The 21-year-old right-hander notched his first win as a pro earlier in the week with two no-hit innings against Auburn and has now tossed seven straight innings over three appearances without allowing a hit. He's holding New York-Penn League batters to a .183 average.
Richard Alvarez, Spokane
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 11 K)
After allowing runs in each of his first four appearances for the Indians, Alvarez owned a 10.38 ERA. He's given up just two more earned runs in nine outings since then, culminating in a pair of scoreless games last week. The right-hander, who turned 21 on Wednesday, allowed one hit while fanning a career-high seven batters over a career-long five innings at Tri-City on Tuesday, then struck out four more in two innings against Hillsboro on Saturday. His ERA now stands at 2.49.
Austin Malinowski, Elizabethon
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 G, 1 SV, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 9 K)
A Minnesota native taken with the Twins' 16th-round pick in 2011, Malinowski has thrived in the Elizabethton bullpen as a 20-year-old. The left-hander made three scoreless appearances last week, allowing two hits over seven innings in total. After being plagued with control problems earlier in the campaign, Malinowski did not walk a batter last week and has held Appalachian League hitters to a .174 average on the season.
Ben Lively, Billings
(0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 10 K)
Lively has yet to pitch more than four innings in a game, but he's been remarkably effective in his 11 starts for Billings since being selected by the Reds in the fourth round of the 2013 Draft. In his first seven outings -- each covering three frames -- the 21-year-old right-hander did not allow an earned run. After finally being charged with runs in back-to-back games earlier this month, Lively was perfect this week, retiring all 21 batters he faced -- 10 by strikeout. Though he owns an 0-3 record, Lively has a tremendous 0.79 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 34 innings overall.