D-backs Farm Rumblings: Relievers dominating; Pavin Smith gets hot

Jun 3, 2019, 7:29 AM

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While there are a trio of D-backs minor league relief pitchers (you’ll read more below) dominating opposing hitters, it’s only right to point out the efforts of Jackson Generals first baseman Pavin Smith to lead off this week’s recap.

Smith, a first-round pick out of Virginia in 2017, was absolutely torrid at the plate last week, hitting .542 (13-for-24) with five doubles, a home run and four RBI as the Generals grabbed a share of first place in their division. Smith ended the week with four straight multi-hit games, including back-to-back four-hit contests. In his last four games, the 23-year-old has raised his season average 45 points to .261.

Here’s a look at everything else going on in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system.

Reno Aces (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)

For the week: 2-5
For the season: 23-34 (3rd place in Pacific Northern Division; 5.5 games behind Tacoma)

The Aces rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to give them a 7-6 win over Albuquerque in the opening game of a five-game series Wednesday night. Second baseman Marty Herum singled in Yasmany Tomas and Wyatt Mathisen to tie the game and Juniel Querecuto reached home on an error to give Reno a one-run lead. Right-hander Kevin Ginkel, a former Arizona Wildcat, struck out the side in the ninth to nail down the win. In two innings, Ginkel did allow two base hits (both in the eighth) but struck out six batters. The hard-throwing 25-year-old has a ridiculous 44 strikeouts in just 24.2 innings this season in Jackson and Reno.

Matt Szczur and Mathisen led the offensive charge for Reno with three hits apiece while combining for seven RBI in an 11-6 win over Albuquerque Saturday night. Mathisen, a 25-year-old infielder, had a single, a double and two home runs on the night. He scored four times and drove in three. Szczur had two singles and a three-run home run. It was his third three-hit game of the week and his fifth in only 16 games for Reno this season.

Congratulations to Reno slugger Cody Decker, who hit his 200th minor league home run Tuesday night.

Thirteen of Decker’s home run total have come while he’s been a member of the Diamondbacks organization, but amazingly, over his 11-year minor league career, he’s homered for 11 different teams.

Jackson Generals (Double-A Southern League)

For the week: 4-3
For the season: 32-23 (Tied for 1st place with Montgomery in the North Division; 2.0 games ahead of Chattanooga)

Sam Lewis and Matt Brill combined on a three-hit shutout in a 4-0 seven-inning win over Chattanooga Wednesday night. The game was the second game of a double-header and was a makeup contest from a washed-out date in April. Lewis, a 27-year-old right-hander, allowed just two hits and didn’t walk a batter over six innings while striking out seven.

Right-hander Connor Grey combined with relievers Damien Magnifico and Junior Garcia on a three-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over Chattanooga Thursday. Grey, a 20th-round pick out of St. Bonaventure in 2016, baffled the Lookouts over the first six innings, allowing just two hits while striking out four. Magnifico and Garcia finished the game with three innings of relief. Jamie Westbrook and Galli Cribbs Jr. led a 16-hit night with three hits apiece.

Tough one for the Generals Friday night as Chattanooga rallied for three runs in the ninth, erasing a 4-2 deficit, and eventually won in 10 innings, 6-5. The Lookouts got three runs in the top of the ninth off of Brill, but first baseman Matt Jones led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run to knot things back up at 5-5. But Chattanooga’s Calten Daal singled in Tyler Stephenson with the go-ahead run with two outs in the top of the 10th to give his team the win. One bright spot for Jackson was shortstop Jazz Chisholm’s two-hit night. It was the D-backs’ top prospect’s first multi-hit game since May 7.

Saturday night, it was Jackson’s turn to rally late. Trailing 4-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth, the Generals scored three times to get a 5-4 walk-off win over Chattanooga. Pavin Smith’s fourth hit of the night, a single to right, scored Westbrook to make it 4-3. Two batters later, Jeffrey Baez scored Daulton Varsho on an RBI single to tie the game at 4-4. The next hitter, Ben DeLuzio, singled in Smith to provide the winning margin.

Ramon Hernandez and Jones hit back-to-back home runs, highlighting a five-run 10th inning as the Generals outlasted Birmingham 14-12 Sunday. Hernandez jacked a three-run shot to break a 9-9 tie and Jones followed that up with his second long ball of the year.

Visalia Rawhide (High-A California League)

For the week: 6-1
For the season: 37-15 (1st place in North Division; 13.5 games ahead of San Jose)

Every Visalia batter got at least one hit, led by Mark Karaviotis’ three, in a 12-4 pasting of Inland Empire Monday night. Karaviotis drove in three runs, while Yoel Yanqui, Anfernee Grier and L.T. Tolbert each had two. On the mound, right-hander Justin Vernia allowed two runs over five innings for his second win of the season.

Lefty reliever Mack Lemieux continued his outstanding 2019 season Tuesday night. The 22-year-old fired two innings of scoreless relief and picked up the victory in a 6-4 win over Inland Empire. Lemieux allowed a hit and a walk while striking out three in pushing his season record to 4-0. More impressively, the former sixth-round pick has allowed only one earned run in 21.1 innings this year — that’s an ERA of 0.42. After three pro seasons as a starting pitcher, Lemieux shifted to the bullpen this year and has found it to his liking. His WHIP is just 0.89 and California League hitters are batting just .151 against him this season.

Visalia put on a pitching clinic Wednesday night. Matt Mercer, Cole Bartlett, Kyler Stout and West Tunnell combined on a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Inland Empire. Mercer, a right-hander and a fifth-round pick out of Oregon last summer, went five innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven. Bartlett, Stout and Tunnell partnered on four innings of clean relief, only allowing two walks in the process. Karaviotis and Luis Alejandro Basabe each had RBI singles in the seventh to supply the offense for the Rawhide.

Catcher Renae Martinez jacked a grand slam home run with one out in the top of the ninth, breaking a 6-6 tie and giving the Rawhide a 10-6 win over Modesto Saturday night. The win was Visalia’s seventh straight and pushed their record to 37-15, the best in all of Single-A baseball. Martinez finished the night with five RBI while Basabe had a triple and a home run and drove in three.

Kane County Cougars (Single-A Midwest League)

For the week: 3-3
For the season: 30-26 (3rd place in Western Division; 6.5 games behind Quad Cities)

Alek Thomas and Zack Shannon each homered and Justin Lewis and Andy Toelken were strong on the mound in Kane County’s 9-1 seven-inning win over Peoria Tuesday. Lewis allowed just one run over 5.1 innings in picking up his third win of the year.

Thomas, the D-backs’ seventh-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had himself a week. The 19-year-old batted .444 (8-for-18) with three doubles, a home run and six RBI. Thomas also had four straight multi-hit games and enters this week riding a nine-game hitting streak. His .311 season batting average is the best on the team (among qualified hitters) and ranks seventh in the Midwest League.

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