This look back at the Texas League covers action from May 19 to May 26.
Welcome to the Texas League Week in Review, a dazzling new piece of content I will be personally delivering right to your front porch every week. I hope you enjoy!
Texas League North (Affiliate, Record, Last Week’s Record)
Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals), 25-22, 3-5
Tulsa Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers), 23-23, 6-2
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals), 21-25, 3-5
Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels), 19-28, 4-4
Texas League South (Affiliate, Record, Last Week’s Record)
Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers), 30-16, 5-4
Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros), 28-18, 5-3
Midland RockHounds (Oakland A’s), 24-22, 4-5
San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres), 15-31, 3-5
Leading Off, Tulsa Drillers
The Drillers did not score last Friday or Saturday, getting shutout in Northwest Arkansas by a combined score of 6-0. They bounced back to win the final two games of the series and then went on to sweep the Texas League’s best team through a month and a half, the Frisco RoughRiders. Four straight wins deemed the Dodgers Double-A affiliate the top team in the Texas League in the past eight days.
Cody Bellinger, the club’s top position prospect according to MLB.com, had himself a big week. The power hitting first baseman hit .444 with four home runs and eight RBI in eight games, capping off the stretch of games with two home runs accounting for all three of the Drillers’ runs in their May 26th win over Frisco.
Batting Second, Corpus Christi Hooks
The Houston Astros’ Minor League teams have been loaded with talent in the past several years. The Corpus Christi Hooks have been a great benefactor of this, and while many like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr. and most recently Joe Musgrove have graduated from the level, the team still boasts a talented roster and one of the game’s best young players.
Led by Alex Bregman, last summer’s second overall draft pick, the Hooks went 5-3 this week and have pulled within two games of the 30-win RoughRiders. Bregman continued his torrid pace, hitting .364 with three home runs. He split eight games between shortstop and third base as he’s groomed all over for the Major League Astros.
In The Hole, Frisco RoughRiders
The league’s best team and the only club in the Texas League with 30 wins is the Frisco RoughRiders. On the topic of perennially great Minor League systems, the Texas Rangers are always near the top of the list. This season they’ve got some red hot sluggers Ryan Cordell (see our feature here) and Ronald Guzman (and see his feature here), but this past week saw the arrival of two top pitching prospects, Luis Ortiz and Yohander Mendez.
Sandwiched between Yu Darvish‘s final rehab last Sunday, Ortiz and Mendez made their Double-A debuts in great fashion. Mendez, the club’s 13th ranked prospect according to MLB.com, went first. He threw five innings, gave up three runs and continued his stellar strikeout numbers with seven.
Ortiz (ranked 4th) pitched Monday evening and supported by 11 runs dominated the San Antonio Missions. He threw six innings of one-run baseball and struck out six batters to just one walk.
Two dominant outings from two of the team’s top arms is an encouraging sign for a team chock full of them so far this season.
Batting Cleanup, Arkansas Travelers
On the topic of deep Minor League teams, the Los Angeles Angels’ front office hasn’t done their system any favors. Dealing away piece after piece to try and win now with Mike Trout and the money they’re paying Josh Hamilton, the Double-A squad has paid the price in star power but manages still to maintain a very competitive team.
Arkansas was the only team to split the eight games played in the allotted time frame. An older team for the level with only pitcher Eduardo Paredes younger than 23-years old, this team still boasts several multi-dimensional athletes and has one playing great in the name of Bo Way.
With Sherman Johnson promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake at the beginning of May, it’s Way whose .293 average leads the club. Way was a seventh round pick in 2014 and the outfielder stole 27 bases last season. He’s up to seven so far in 2016 and has a tidy 15.4% strikeout rate. He hit .345 this week with four doubles and a triple.
Hitting 5th, Midland RockHounds
The younger brother of “Moneyball,” Midland was the one other Texas League team to play a ninth game this week due to a Thursday doubleheader in Frisco. After getting swept in the day-night seven-inning affairs, the A’s Double-A affiliate split a series against Corpus Christi and won their week’s last series in Springfield against the North division leading Cardinals.
Matt Chapman was selected by the A’s 25th overall in 2014. In his third year of professional ball, he’s transitioned from third base to shortstop, now playing games at both to expand his repertoire. His bat hasn’t been affected by such a transition and the results in the past week are a fine example.
Hitting just .267, he smacked four home runs including two on May 26th. Chapman’s 13 home runs lead the Texas League.
Coming in at 6th, Springfield Cardinals
The North division leaders didn’t have the best week, going 3-5 including losing two of three to the North’s bottom team Arkansas. Not exactly a bad week but certainly not one the division leader wanted to have.
The Cardinals top 12 prospects reside above or below Double-A, but 13th ranked third-baseman-turned-catcher Carson Kelly is giving Springfield excellent production from the backstop. From the 19th to the 26th he was scorching and actually registered a higher batting average (.522) than on-base percentage (.500). On top of reaching base in half of his AB’s he drove in four runs, all coming in his last two games of the week. He struck out only once in six games.
Not So Lucky 7th, Northwest Arkansas Naturals
After winning the World Series in 2015, the Kansas City Royals haven’t experienced great success in 2016. Maybe if they had a little spending money. The Naturals have fallen on hard(er) times as well after competing for the championship in 2015.
A 3-5 week dropped Northwest Arkansas to 21-25 but they are only 2 1/2 games back from division leading Springfield. Top prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. remains inactive due to suspension, opening the door for someone else to establish themselves for both the Naturals and the Royals future.
With the MLB team struck by injuries this season, especially to the infield, Kansas City has been aggressive with that part of the depth chart so far this season. Hunter Dozier earned a well deserved promotion to Triple-A Omaha and Ryan O’Hearn came up to take his spot on the NWA roster.
O’Hearn has started out pretty well at the new level, with numbers fueled by a big week. He hit .360 with a .467 OBP and walked five times in 30 plate appearances. Kansas City is always developing intriguing prospects and 2014’s 8th round pick seems to be one indeed.
And 8th, San Antonio Missions
A Craig Kimbrel to Boston trade reloaded part of a farm system that was torn apart a season prior by new General Manager A.J. Preller. However, neither Manuel Margot or Javier Guerraresides in San Antonio. The Missions, simply put, are depleted. But you don’t have to look far on any Minor League roster to find yourself very interested in something.
The Padres’ Double-A squad lost four of five before winning two games where they allowed just one-run.
Kyle Lloyd pitched six innings and allowed just three hits without a run in the club’s second win of the week on Wednesday. On Thursday they won again over this week’s 7th ranked Northwest Arkansas 4-1 behind another six dominant innings, this time from Bryce Morrow, who also three-hit the Naturals and allowed just one run.