Homers from Ben Rortvedt, good starts from the Hudson Valley rotation, and a Spencer Jones explosion highlight the week.
It was a rough week for the Tampa Tarpons and there were splits at the three levels above them, but plenty of strong individual performances, including a three-game bonanza for Spencer Jones, should make prospect followers happy.
Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Record: 17-22 and 11.5 games back in the International League East after splitting six games with the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals)
Run Differential: -11
Coming up: Off to Charlotte for six games against the Knights (White Sox) starting on Tuesday, May 16th
The RailRiders put some runs on the board last week, and several hitters can feel good about their production, but there were particular players who could impact the Yankees this year who stood out. Oswald Peraza returned from injury to rehab in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and homered in his first at-bat. Speaking of homers, the team leader in that category continued his tremendous recovery from a slow start, as Andrés Chaparro went 8-for-22 with a 1.072 OPS and only struck out three times. He continues to hit his way into consideration for a job in the majors. Perhaps the most noteworthy was the week of catcher Ben Rortvedt, whose two home runs included a three-run walk-off jack. Rortvedt has been jokingly referred to as a fictional player due to the significant amount of time he’s missed to injury since his acquisition from Minnesota last spring, but now that he’s healthy and playing regularly, it is worth watching how much offense he provides while the major league catchers continue to struggle with the bat.
On the pitching side, this was the week of Mitch Spence. Since there are six games played over the course of six days in a series, it is not uncommon for a starter to pitch twice in a week. This was Spence’s week to double up, and he put together two solid starts, striking out nine in a combined 12 innings where he allowed three earned runs. Another starter who was due for a good outing was Sean Boyle, who twirled 5.1 innings of one-hit baseball for a no-decision in his turn. The story out of the bullpen was the return of Matt Krook, who struck out the side in his only inning of work last week. With the Scranton bullpen shuttle running more frequently to New York, it would not be a surprise to see Krook, a member of the 40-man roster, in the big leagues once he proves he is healthy. The Yankees are always looking to add strikeouts to their bullpen, and Krook has whiffed over 18 hitters per nine innings pitched this year.
— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) May 13, 2023
Players of note (stats are season totals):
3B Andrés Chaparro: .896 OPS, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 6 2B, 18 BB
OF Estevan Florial: .903 OPS, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 22 BB, 8 SB
OF Kole Calhoun: 12 for 35, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 2B, 4 BB
C Ben Rortvedt: 9 for 33, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 4 BB
SP Randy Vásquez: 5.50 ERA, 37.2 IP, 20 BB, 45 K
SP Tanner Tully: 3.99 ERA, 29.1 IP, 30 K
RP Matt Krook: 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 26 K
— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) May 13, 2023
Double-A Somerset Patriots
Record: 20-12 and 1.5 games back in the Eastern League Northeast after splitting six with the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
Run Differential: +51
Coming up: Back home for six games against the Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies) starting Tuesday, May 16th
The Patriots probably would have liked taking the series against Portland, considering the Sea Dogs are the only team above them in the standings, but a split in a week where Clayton Beeter had his first stinker and Richard Fitts got roughed up as well is not a bad outcome. There were some positives from the pitching staff, as Blane Abeyta had perhaps his best start of the year, albeit in a loss, and Blas Castano and Will Warren both won solid outings of their own. Abeyta struck out 10 in six innings of work. Out of the bullpen, Lisandro Santos punched out eight in four innings while allowing only a hit and no runs.
A prospect-heavy offense’s stars had their moments last week. While he went 5-for-26 with 10 strikeouts, Everson Pereira still hit three home runs. Jasson Domínguez and Trey Sweeney were 9-for-34 between them, but they combined for 11 walks as well, showing the type of strike-zone awareness that will help them ascend the minor league ladder. Third baseman Tyler Hardman, who had been struggling, had a strong week with a line of .316/.391/.632 in five games.
Career-high Ks for RHP Blane Abeyta pic.twitter.com/Iz0q4tYHjY
— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) May 14, 2023
Players of note:
OF Brandon Lockridge: .300/.366/.457, 7 XBH, 14 SB
OF Jasson Domínguez: .761 OPS, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 28 BB, 12 SB, 21 R
SS Trey Sweeney: .802 OPS, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 6 SB, 18 R
UT Max Burt: 1.064 OPS, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 7 SB, 18 R
SP Will Warren: 2.45 ERA, 29.1 IP, 39 K, 12 BB
SP Clayton Beeter: 3.14 ERA, 28.2 IP, 38 K, 15 BB
SP Blas Castano: 1.77 ERA, 20.1 IP, 23 K, 7 BB
— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) May 13, 2023
High-A Hudson Valley Renegades
Record: 21-12 and a game up in the South Atlantic League North after splitting six with the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles)
Run Differential: +51
Coming up: Back home for six games against the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) beginning Tuesday, May 16th
The Renegades got an up-close look at one of the game’s best prospects in Jackson Holliday, and he lived up to his billing with an OPS of 1.034 in the series, but Spencer Jones, one of the Yankees’ best, may have done him one better. Jones went off (more below) in a week where the high-flying Hudson Valley offense was subdued, and that was only in a three-game stretch after he was mysteriously out of the lineup for the first half of the series. Other than Jones, the only other hitters with an OPS above .800 for the week were infielder Eduardo Torrealba, just down from Somerset, and catcher/first baseman Rafael Flores, who raised his season average to .318.
The pitching staff continues to have stars shine each week in the rotation, and this week none was brighter than Chase Hampton. He struck out nine in five innings while having two unearned runs cross the plate and was credited with his first win of the season. Hampton was not the only starter to post a strong outing last week, as Tyrone Yulie had arguably his best turn of the season while matching Hampton’s strikeout numbers and innings and Zach Messinger kept rolling along with five strong innings and seven punch-outs of his own. Out of the bullpen, Danny Watson stopped striking out every single batter he faced, but he still put up four shut-out innings, and Carlos Gomez was dominant in whiffing seven in 3.1 innings pitched.
RAFAEL FLORES HITS ONE OFF THE SCOREBOARD!!!
— Hudson Valley Renegades (@HVRenegades) May 11, 2023
Players of note:
OF Aaron Palensky: 1.096 OPS, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 7 SB, 18 R
SS Alexander Vargas: .795 OPS, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 6 SB, 17 R
INF Benjamin Cowles: .830 OPS, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 15 R
OF Spencer Jones: .955 OPS, 11 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 9 SB, 21 R
SP Chase Hampton: 3.04 ERA, 23.2 IP, 42 K, 9 BB
SP Zach Messinger: 2.03 ERA, 31 IP, 38 K, 11 BB
SP Drew Thorpe: 4.26 ERA, 31.2 IP, 37 K, 14 BB
RP Danny Watson: 2.04 ERA, 17.2 IP, 30 K
Alexander Vargas launches it out of the park for 2-run HOMER!!
4-2 Gades pic.twitter.com/o04DCW1uLf
— Hudson Valley Renegades (@HVRenegades) May 14, 2023
Low-A Tampa Tarpons
Record: 11-22 and 13 games back in the Florida State League West after being swept in six games with the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Twins)
Run Differential: -38
Coming up: Home for six games with the Dunedin Blue Jays beginning Tuesday, May 16th
After giving strong signals that their offense was coming around, the Tarpons ran into the Mighty Mussels. They scored only 13 runs in their series with Fort Myers and got shut out twice, including a loss on Sunday in which they were no-hit. Anyone not named Nelson Medina or Anthony Hall had a tough week. Tampa had 29 hits in the whole series, and Medina and Hall combined for 12 of them. Medina homered and drove in four while Hall scored four times. Jared Serna, who had been red-hot the previous week, was 5-for-27, but he hit two home runs, scored four runs, and knocked in another four.
It wasn’t a great showing for the starting pitchers against Fort Myers, but Justin Lange had another noteworthy turn when he struck out nine in 4.2 innings while walking three. The K’s pop out of Lange’s stat lines, but the bases on balls should draw just as much interest. If he can keep the walks down, he can dominate. Beyond the Lange start, the starters struggled, so the pitching stars of the week came out of the bullpen. Alex Bustamante, Shane Gray, Matt Keating, and Geoffrey Gilbert combined to throw 11 innings without allowing an earned run and punched out 25. That’s dominant relief pitching, and Keating and Gray in particular have been hot of late for the Tarpons.
Players of note:
2B Jared Serna: .327/.407/.519; 14 R, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 6 2B, 11 K%, 11 BB%
OF Nelson Medina: .291/.386/.488; 3 HR, 18 RBI, 6 2B
C/1B Omar Martinez: .253/.385/.430; 3 HR, 15 RBI
SP Justin Lange: 3.70 ERA, 24.1 IP, 45 K, 15 BB
SP Brock Selvidge: 3.94 ERA, 29.2 IP, 29 K, 7 BB
RP Shane Gray: 17 IP, 28 K
RP Matt Keating: 1.23 ERA, 14.2 IP, 23 K
Prospect of the week: Spencer Jones
This is Jones’ second nod as the prospect of the week, and maybe it’s not fair to give it to him in a week where he played only three games, but his impact in the games he played was undeniable. After missing the first half of the series with Aberdeen, where the Renegades lost all three games in his absence, Jones returned for the weekend and went bonkers. Hudson Valley won all three of those games, in no small part because of their center fielder. It’s difficult to do better than this: 8-for-14, four doubles, one home run, six runs scored, six runs driven in, a walk, and two steals. He’s now hitting over .300, slugging over .600, and has a wRC+ of 143 on the season. It’s exciting when the guy who is in the discussion for the best prospect in the organization goes out and plays like it, and Jones is making a push to spend the latter part of the summer in New Jersey.