Welcome to The Athletic‘s weekly baseball column focused on what’s happening in the minor leagues, where you’ll find a synopsis of notable hot and cold streaks, videos of interesting plays, news and prospect notes from the previous week.
Let’s get rolling…
These guys are on fire
• What’s better than tallying a two-homer, five-hit line in your team’s boxscore? Starting the next game with a home run on the first pitch you see, tying the bow on an insane few days. That’s what Dodgers shortstop prospect Jacob Amaya did over the weekend. The 23-year-old, who is on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, snapped out of a 6-for-29 start with a stretch of nine hits in 14 at-bats during the last three games of Double-A Tulsa’s series against the Springfield Cardinals. His output from him: three doubles, three homers, one walk and seven RBIs. He owns a 1,207 OPS, the third-highest mark among Dodgers farmhands. Amaya, who fell out of Keith Law’s ranking of Dodgers prospects after ranking 19th in 2021 and 11th in 2020, also added to a defensive highlight reel that includes this charging play during which he lost his glove.
Gonna wrap up this historic day for SS Jacob Amaya. He just got another hit and is now 5-5 with 2 home runs, 2 doubles, a single, 6 RBI, and 2 of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see. Amaya also hit a home run yesterday and is 7 for his last 9#dodgers #jacobamaya pic.twitter.com/P19UUatWO1
— Dodger Poke Report (@dodger_poke) April 24, 2022
• Pete Crow-Armstrong is strong-arming competition in his comeback from the shoulder surgery that ended his debut season after six games last year. The Mets’ 2020 first-rounder, now with the Cubs, is hitting .326/.463/.581 with seven stolen bases in eight attempts after going 10-for-24 in a series against the Orioles’ Low-A affiliate. He showed off his wheels in the six-game set, including on a steal of home and on this inside-the-parker (the first homer of his pro career).
We’ll take that!
First career home run for Pete Crow-Armstrong is an inside-the-park two run homer!
Shorebirds 8, Pelicans 3 in the bottom of the seventh pic.twitter.com/YNHu2yMPgR
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) April 20, 2022
• The pitcher who posted the highest strikeout rate (40.5 percent) of anyone with at least 90 innings last year is back to his old tricks. daniel espino, the Guardians’ top pitching prospect and their first pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, struck out 11 batters to open his start for Double-A Akron against the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) last week. I have flashed his 99-100 mph fastball with good control of it. A few hard-hit balls marred his final line, but he wound up with the victory and 14 total strikeouts. Espino, 21, has not seemed fazed by his first taste of Double-A competition. He has struck out 30 of 50 batters faced (60 percent!) and has issued only three walks in 13 2/3 innings.
#Guardians 21yr old RHP Daniel Espino was amazing tonight for Akron striking out a career high 14 including 11 consecutive to start the game!
Line – 5.0(IP) 3H 2R 2ER 0BB 14SO (66 Pitches 49 Strikes)
— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) April 24, 2022
• The only pitcher with a higher strikeout rate this season is the Phillies’ Andrew Painter, who also racked up 14 Ks on Saturday. He opened his day with a strikeout of yankees perspective Jason Dominguez and then had a streak of 13 consecutive strikeouts to end his five-inning outing for the Clearwater Threshers in the Low-A Florida State League. Painter, the No. 13 pick in last year’s draft, is enjoying a commanding start to his first full season in the pros. Across 12 innings, the 6-foot-7 right-hander has given up only four hits and three walks. Opponents have yet to push across an earned run in his three outings from him. He also pitched four no-hit innings against the St. Lucie Mets in his second start of the year.
• One of the Cardinals’ recent scrapheap pickups is off to such a hot start he has now twice been named the player of the week in the Double-A Texas League. outfielder Moses Gomez was 12-for-23 with three home runs against Amaya’s Tulsa team last week. Gomez, 23, is batting .455 with nine homers and 18 RBIs for the season. His 1,649 OPS is the highest among qualified minor leaguers. Gomez’s robust performance comes on the heels of a season in which he batted .171 with a 38 percent strikeout rate in 76 games for the rays‘Double-A affiliate. He had batted .246 with almost three times as many strikeouts (533) as walks (157) in six years as a pro when he signed with the Cardinals in the offseason.
When will we get to see him?
• Short stop Oneil Cruz is the 23-year-old Pirates perspective known to thoroughly demolish pitches (watch this one he swatted onto a building behind right field at the Rays’ spring training complex). He made his opponent pay up for the first time this season on Sunday. Click play below and stay tuned for his leisurely jog around the bases. And the peek he took at his imaginary watch from him. Then stick around for the casual bat toss that took a whole 5 seconds.
Pittsburgh, he’s waiting. So are we.
(There was plenty of controversy when Cruz began the season in Triple A and not the big leagues. It is important to note Cruz is off to a slow start, batting .204 with 19 strikeouts to six walks. He also has made only two starts in the outfield, where he figures to get a fair bit of playing time upon his eventual return to the major leagues. So it may yet be a while before he’s back with the Pirates.)
Transactions of notes
• Detroit Tigers perspective Parker Meadows will make his upper-minor debut on Tuesday with Double-A Erie after a promotion from High-A West Michigan. The 21-year-old showed a consistent power stroke to start the year but saw his slash line drop to .230/.288/.525 after a slow series last week. Still, his nine extra-base hits and four home runs ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the High-A Midwest League at the time of his promotion. The 2018 second-rounder— ranked No. 14 in the Tigers’ system by Law — ended up playing 234 games across three seasons (2019, 2021 and 2022) with the Whitecaps in part because the affiliate was promoted from Low A to High A before the 2021 season. He is the younger brother of Tigers’ outfielder Austin Meadows.
• Adley Rutschman, the top prospect in baseball, will make his season debut in a rehab stint with the High-A Aberdeen IronBirds this week. Rutschman has not appeared in a game since he strained his right triceps as major-league spring training got underway in mid-March. the injury ended what looked like a real chance for the catcher to make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster.
Heartwarming moment of the week
• Almost a year after being hit in the head by a 100-mph comebacker to the mound and getting 16 plates and 32 screws installed in his skull, Rays reliever Tyler Zombro made his 2022 debut on Sunday. As he warmed up for the second inning in a series finale against the same team he faced when he sustained his gross injury, players from both dugouts stepped onto the field to give him a standing ovation.
the moment @T_Zombro24 was announced as the new pitcher in Norfolk, with both teams coming out of their dugouts to applaud Z.
— Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) April 24, 2022
Zombro, who was added to Triple-A Durham’s active roster three days before his outing, shared his gratitude for the moment in a tweet on Monday afternoon: “Thank you guys for making this day special for myself as well as my family. A very special group of players (and) staff alike on your side that made this a series I’ll never forget.”
Learn more about Zombro’s journey back to the mound in this piece by The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli from February.
plays of the week
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 24, 2022
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 20, 2022
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 24, 2022
— Greensboro Grasshoppers (@GSOHoppers) April 24, 2022
odds and ends
• Our baseball writers often compile notebooks on the state of the farm systems of the teams they cover. Check out these recent stories from Melissa Lockard (Athletics), Katie Woo (Cardinals), Matt Gelb (Phillies), Rob Biertempfel (Pirates) and Keith Law (Orioles, Nationals and Rangers).
• There was talk last year that the new format of six-game series in the minor leagues could lead to players becoming chippy and picking fights by the end of the long series. We didn’t really see that trend emerge last season, at least not on social media. But we’re now three weeks into the season and there have already been two significant brawls. The Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets) and Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox) cleared the benches on Thursday after Portland’s Marcel Rentería hit Binghamton’s Tyreque Reed on the hand in the third game of the series.
Looked like Renteria was claiming the HBP actually hit Tyreque Reed’s bat. Reed took it as directed towards him, I guess. There hasn’t been previous bad blood this series.
Ejections (outside of Reed) are still being sorted out over five minutes later.
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) April 21, 2022
A fight broke out between the Double-A Altoona Curve (Pirates) and Richmond Flying Squirrels (giants) on April 16 when Altoona’s Oliver Garcia threw behind Jacob Heyward after the umpire appeared to issue verbal warnings to both players. Garcia was ejected, then dugouts cleared. Broadcasters mentioned that tension seemed to start building after Richmond’s Tyler Fitzgerald was hit two innings earlier in the sixth. Richmond, which had come from behind to take a 6-4 lead in the seventh inning, went on to win the game.
• Minor League Baseball has returned to canada. And so have problems for players who are unable to play in Canada on their current work visas. Giants outfield prospect Jairo Pomares was placed on the organization’s development list and shuttled over to extended spring training last week while his teammates with High-A Eugene traveled to Vancouver to play the first game at Nat Bailey Stadium in more than 900 days.
Andrew Baggarly wrote about the Giants’ Cuban slugger last month.
to medallion. A 400-year-old miracle floating in the ocean. A four-country odyssey out of Cuba to begin a new life. Jairo Pomares has experienced much more than most 21-year-olds. And the Giants’ brilliant hitting prospect is poised to do great things. https://t.co/A8TfXk05wg
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) March 8, 2022
(Photo by Jacob Amaya: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)