With 120 affiliated teams now in action, it can be tough to keep track of all the goings-on in the vast world of the Minor Leagues. Each Monday, MiLB.com will do its best to help you sort through the clutter by providing a peek at the week ahead.
The world's most powerful Triple-A battery makes its home debut
Game: Portland @ Fresno
When: April 19, 10:05 p.m. ET
The most highly touted pitcher-catcher combo in Minor League Baseball is, without a doubt, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. The duo is expected to make an impact in San Francisco in the very near future, possibly even this season, but for now they're in Fresno. Bumgarner, a 20-year-old lefty, has struggled in his first two starts, but both of those outings were on the road, and perhaps pitching in the friendly environs of Chukchansi Park will turn things around. Posey has had no such issues, as the sweet-swinging backstop has hit .357 and scored nine runs over his first 10 ballgames.
Salem faces off Against an unhittable Hillcat
Game: Lynchburg @ Salem
When: April 19, 7:05 p.m. ET
Lynchburg's Matt Fairel has stormed out of the gate this season, hurling 11 1/3 shutout frames over his first two starts en route to a pair of victories. The 22-year-old lefty was especially dominant on April 14 against Salem, tossing six hitless innings before being removed as a result of the dreaded pitch count. He'll face off against Salem yet again on Monday, looking to extend his impressive streak of both hitless and scoreless innings. Will the Red Sox batsmen be able to figure him out a second time through? Salem leads the Carolina League in runs scored, so it will be doubly impressive if Fairel can shut it down once again. Keep an eye on Salem catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who posted consecutive five-RBI games on Friday and Saturday and is hitting close to .500 on the season.
Full speed ahead, say Captains
Games: Great Lakes @ Lake County April 20-22, Lake County @ Bowling Green April 23-25
When: April 20-25
Lake County shifted from the South Atlantic to the Midwest League prior to the 2010 campaign, and their response to playing in a new circuit was to win their first nine games. Fort Wayne finally put an end to the Captains' winning ways on Saturday, but this week the club will seek to continue its hot start versus Great Lakes at home and Bowling Green on the road (the latter team also shifted to the Midwest League this season, but with far more pedestrian results). Slugging left fielder Bo Greenwell has led the Captains offense thus far, and the most magnificent moundsman has been flame-throwing Joseph Gardner (18 strikeouts over nine innings).
Keepin' it Villarreal in Lakeland
Game: Brevard County @ Lakeland
When: April 20, 10:30 a.m. ET
Brayan Villarreal has been mowing down Florida State League hitters in this nascent 2010 campaign, striking out 17 over 9 1/3 innings thus far. He was especially impressive on Thursday, taking a no hitter into the sixth inning en route to picking up a win against the Clearwater Threshers. The native of Venezuela better make sure he gets a good night's sleep prior to his next start, as it will take place at the unnatural baseball hour of 10:30 a.m. His opponents will be the Brevard County Manatees, aquatic cows who have stayed true to their docile and non-aggressive nature so far by failing to hit a ball out of the park. That's right -- 11 games and counting without a home run. Maybe they should play Manatee-ball instead.
Obligatory mention of the Minor League's star attractions
Games: Reading @ Harrisburg, Louisville @ Indianapolis
When: April 21, 10:30 a.m. ET, and April 22, 7 p.m. ET, respectively
Unless you have been living under a rock (and if so, congratulations on thinking outside of the box when it comes to domestic arrangements), then you have heard of Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman. One was the first overall pick in last year's draft, a hurler whose talents are so prodigious that he just may usher in a new era of peace and harmony in American society. The other is a fire-balling Cuban who throws the spheroid at speeds that border on the supernatural. Strasburg takes on the Reading Phillies at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Chapman is due to toe the slab at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Indianapolis. So who would you rather watch? It's like the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones; you have to have a favorite.
Getting better with age
Game: Albuquerque @ New Orleans
When: 10 p.m. ET
We live in a youth-obsessed society, and that goes double for the prospect-oriented world of Minor League Baseball. Therefore, it's always worthwhile to take a step back and tip our hats to the veterans. A good game in which to do this will be Thursday's matchup between Albuquerque and New Orleans. Taking the mound for the Isotopes will be 33-year-old Josh Towers, who has compiled a 2.25 ERA over his first two starts. He'll hope for some offensive support from fellow 33-year-olds John Lindsey and Jay Gibbons, both of whom have averages over .400 and slugging percentages over .800. So instead of indulging in the knee-jerk ageism that is so prevalent within sports, how about simply giving these guys the credit they deserve? They've still got it.