Here's a look at the top pitching performers in each league for the week ending June 29:
Travis Banwart, Columbus
(1-0, 0.69 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 3 BB, 15 K)
The 28-year-old right-hander spent seven seasons in the A's system before signing with the Indians in the offseason and could now be as close to cracking the Majors as he's ever been. Although innings vary, Banwart hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since April 21, posting a 3.06 ERA in those 13 starts since. He showed a better ability to strike out batters as well last week, setting a season high with nine punchouts Monday against Lehigh Valley. Banwart is 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 78 strikeouts over 89 1/3 innings for the Clippers.
Pacific Coast League
Taijuan Walker, Tacoma
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 8 K)
What was supposed to be a big rookie season for MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect has met more than its fair share of roadblocks. First, there was the shoulder injury that kept him from starting the season in the Majors, followed by some setbacks that didn't see him restart his rehab with Tacoma until late May. Then, the Mariners decided to option him to Triple-A, even when the rehab assignment was complete, so he could work on things in the Minors. Finally, Tuesday happened. The 21-year-old completed his first shutout with a gem against Oklahoma City. The Mariners paid off the effort by announcing Walker would be back up with the big club and would make his first Major League start of the season Monday.
Casey Lawrence, New Hampshire
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 8 K)
You can't get much closer than Lawrence did to a perfect game Friday. He retired the first 20 New Britain batters he faced in the first game of a doubleheader -- meaning the game would only go seven innings, per Minor League rules -- and even got a 0-1 count on pinch-hitter Mike Kvasnicka before serving up the Rock Cats' only single of the game. Even if he couldn't get the perfecto, it was still the first shutout of Lawrence's career. "This was a first for me," Lawrence told MiLB.com. "Me being a contact pitcher and pitching to contact, you don't get a whole lot of opportunities like this. Normally, I've always been a guy who kind of gives up more hits than innings pitched and stuff like that. My goal is always not to walk anybody, make them earn their way on." He is 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA with 47 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 78 1/3 innings this season.
Dae-Eun Rhee, Tennessee
(2-0, 1.42 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 2/3 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 3 BB, 13 K)
This is the third straight season based primarily out of Tennessee for the 25-year-old right-hander, and by any measure, it's been his best. That's been on perfect display in the second half of the Southern League season, in which he is 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA in three starts. That statement was also punctuated perfectly by his outing Sunday against Montgomery, when he allowed one run on seven hits and struck out a season-high 10 over seven frames. Rhee is 5-3 with a 3.10 ERA but hasn't been able to rack up the K's in bunches outside that gem; he has 59 punchouts in 98 2/3 innings.
James Needy, San Antonio
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 BB, 3 K)
You'd be hard-pressed to find a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez who pitched better than the 6-foot-6 right-hander in June. With six one-hit innings Sunday, Needy finished off the month with a 2-0 record and 1.26 ERA in six starts (35 2/3 innings). "I pride myself in giving my team the best chance to win. I'm going to battle, I'm going to get myself into jams and out of jams. 'Grind' is probably the best word to describe [my approach]," he told MiLB.com on Sunday. "If you're Nolan Ryan or a Double-A pitcher, you're going to get into a jam, and you need to be able to get the tough outs. And I pride myself on being able to get the tough outs, and I hope to be able to do that in the Majors."
Lindsey Caughel, Rancho Cucamonga
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 1 BB, 8 K)
Caughel missed a month and a half from May 6 to June 22, but if there was any worry that he'd take some time getting back into the swing of things, it was erased Saturday with his seven impressive innings at Inland Empire. In two outings since returning to the Quakes rotation, the 23-year-old right-hander has allowed only one run on eight hits and a walk while fanning 13 in 13 innings. He is 4-3 with a 3.81 ERA in nine appearances (seven starts) this season.
Cody Scarpetta, Lynchburg
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 7 K)
There was no doubt that this was going to a Lynchburg pitcher after the Hillcats turned in back-to-back no-hitters Thursday and Friday against Wilmington. Scarpetta's role in Friday's gem comes with quite the back story, too. The 25-year-old right-hander missed the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery and was then released by the Brewers last offseason. He only latched onto a spot the Braves system after pitching in an independent baseball in Pennsylvania, and in his third start with Lynchburg, he tossed seven innings of a no-hitter. "It's been a long road, it's been a journey," Scarpetta told MiLB.com. "And it's very gratifying." The right-hander has allowed four earned runs and struck out 15 over 19 innings in his first three starts for Lynchburg.
Florida State League
Luis Severino, Tampa
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 6 K)
Last offseason, Severino climbed the prospect rankings to become the Yankees' highest-rated right-handed Minor League pitcher. Now it might not be long at all until he's considered the best pitching prospect in pinstripes, period. After stumbling some with three runs allowed over 4 2/3 innings in his first start following a promotion to Tampa, the 20-year-old, who throws a mid-90s fastball to go with a slider and changeup, tossed six no-hit frames against Clearwater on Wednesday. Between Tampa and Charleston, he has posted a 2.76 ERA with 84 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 78 1/3 innings. "It's very rare," Tampa pitching coach Danny Borrell told MiLB.com. "I know other people may see it every now and again, but for me, he's a very rare commodity, given everything he's got going for him. I'm just glad to see it's all coming with us."
Daury Torrez, Kane County
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 7 K)
Not a bad week to be a Kane County Cougar as Torrez combines with teammate Kyle Schwarber to sweep the Midwest League honors this week. The 21-year-old right-hander tied season highs in both innings pitched and strikeouts with his gem against Wisconsin on Thursday. He's shown remarkable control of late, walking only one batter in four June starts (24 innings). His 1.5 BB/9 rate this season ranks fourth among Midwest League hurlers.
South Atlantic League
Lucas Giolito, Hagerstown
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 9 K)
The Nationals' top prospect continued to live up to his billing with one of the best starts of his young career. Giolito's nine strikeouts were a career high, and his six innings pitched matched his longest outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2012. The 19-year-old right-hander has tossed only 54 2/3 innings this season as the Nats keep a cautious eye on workload, but he has certainly impressed, going 3-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 61 strikeouts in that span. Giolito was named to the US Team roster for next month's Futures Game at Target Field.
New York-Penn League
Reynaldo Lopez, Auburn
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 8 K)
If you can manage to not allow any hits over a decent stretch in a given start -- obviously, easier said (or typed) than done -- then there's a decent chance you'll end up on this list somewhere. As such, Lopez has been honored as the NYPL Pitcher of the Week here. After proving ineffective with six runs allowed in 7 2/3 innings in two outings at Class A Hagerstown, he's been downright untouchable at Auburn, where he is 1-1 with only two earned runs allowed on six hits and seven walks to go with 13 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
Andrew Leenhouts, Salem-Keizer
(1-0, 0.69 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 17 K)
The Giants' 23rd-round pick out of Northeastern back in 2012 was solid in the Northwest League last season (9-2, 2.39 ERA) and is starting to show flashes of his old self with the Volcanoes. After serving up three earned runs on five hits in just 1/3 of an inning on June 18, the 24-year-old left-hander rebounded to scatter two hits over six scoreless innings Monday. He carried that momentum into an 11-strikeout, one-run-on-two-hits showing over seven frames Saturday. He holds a 3.44 ERA through four starts and, despite the hiccup, has held opponents to a .191 average in the early going.
Daniel Missaki, Pulaski
(1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 8 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 9 K)
Some of the world's best athletes are competing in Brazil for the World Cup right now. Meanwhile, one of the South American nation's own is dominating up here in the Appy League. Missaki, who just turned 18 back in April, hasn't given up a run in either of his two starts for Pulaski. In those 15 innings, he's struck out 17, walked only two and given up only five hits. He was one out away from a one-hitter -- and his first complete game -- Thursday against Bluefield but was pulled after giving up a hit in the ninth.
Jose De Leon, Ogden
(1-0, 2.77 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 18 K)
De Leon's award this week is brought to you by the letter K. His 18 strikeouts -- 12 of which came Monday in a seven-inning outing against Orem -- were tied for the most in the Minors last week. (Iowa's Tsuyoshi Wada also fanned 18 but was outshined by Walker in the PCL.) The week was just what the 21-year-old right-hander needed after giving up six runs on six hits in just 3 2/3 innings during his season debut June 18. Through three appearances (16 2/3 innings), he's put up a 5.40 ERA with 22 strikeouts and six walks.