Sandy Baez set a career high by striking out nine Clearwater batters over six innings last Wednesday.The mark didn't last long.
Sandy Baez set a career high by striking out nine Clearwater batters over six innings last Wednesday.
The mark didn't last long.
The Tigers' No. 10 prospect set a new personal best with 11 punchouts over a season-high seven frames Tuesday afternoon in Class A Advanced Lakeland's 2-1 loss to Dunedin at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He allowed one earned run on two hits and one walk and threw 62 of his 92 pitches for strikes.
Baez fanned a pair in the first, third and fourth innings and one in the fifth before striking out the side in the sixth, pushing him into double digits in K's for the first time in his career. He added one more for good measure in his seventh and final frame. Blue Jays right fielder Connor Panas and catcher Michael De La Cruz were the only members of the Dunedin starting nine not to strike out against Baez.
Gameday box score »
The 23-year-old right-hander's only run allowed came in the seventh. He walked Cavan Biggio to begin the inning, and the Jays third baseman took second with a steal. After Panas reached on an error by Zac Shepherd at third, De La Cruz plated Biggio with a single up the middle to tie the game at 1-1. Dunedin had a chance to do more damage with two runners in scoring positon and two outs later in the inning, but Baez got Bradley Jones swinging to end the threat.
Tuesday's outing was just the latest in a string of impressive performances in June for Baez. The Dominican Republic native missed most of April with a right oblique strain and had struggled in his return, carrying a 7.76 ERA into the season's third month. However, he's allowed just two earned runs on six hits and six walks while striking out 27 batters over 19 innings over three starts this month. He's struck out 38 percent of the batters he's faced in June, and his 27 punchouts are third-most among Class A Advanced pitchers since June 1 behind A.J. Puk (29) and Luis Reyes (28).
This is a new phenomenon for the right-hander, who struck out 18.4 percent of the batters he faced in 2016 at Class A West Michigan in his full-season debut. Ranked at No. 16 entering last offseason, Baez climbed to the No. 10 spot in the Tigers' system on the strength of a 65-grade fastball that can reach the upper-90s. His slider was considered average and his changeup a notch below, but if he can add better secondary offerings to his impressive velocity, high-strikeout totals could be more common going forward.
Reliever Jeff Thompson took the loss after giving up a walk-off double to Lane Thomas in the ninth that scored Panas from first.
No. 20 Blue Jays prospect Angel Perdomo also put together a strong start for Dunedin, fanning eight while giving up one unearned run and three hits in five innings.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.