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Twins Minor League Report (9/8): Wallner Grand Slams, Saints Walk-Off


Three of the Minnesota Twins four full-season affiliates were back in their home ballparks this week, and this proved to be the difference in each of the three victories on the night. St. Paul walked-off the team in front of them in the standings, Wichita and Fort Myers got solid starting pitching, and Cedar Rapids got a big blast from one of their sluggers, but would it be enough?

TRANSACTIONS

  • In Cedar Rapids, RHP Steven Cruz was promoted to the Kernels from Fort Myers, and OF DaShawn Keirsey was activated from the injured list.
  • In low-A Fort Myers, RHP David Festa and SS Mikey Perez were assigned to the Mighty Mussels from the FCL Twins, and LHP Brent Headrick was activated from the injured list.
  • For the FCL Twins, RHP Orlando Rodriguez was sent on a rehab assignment from Fort Myers.

SAINTS SENTINEL
Omaha 5, St. Paul 6
Box Score

With lefty Bryan Sammons getting the start, the Saints found themselves down 5-1 after the top half of the fifth inning. That was due in large part as Sammons couldn’t keep the ball in the yard, with four of those five runs coming courtesy of the longball. He made it through 4 2/3 innings in total, allowing those runs on seven total hits while striking out two Storm Chasers.

Lucky for him, his offense wasn’t going to let that be the story of the game, as they put together a rally in the bottom of the fifth that ended with the score tied. Drew Stankiewicz got it started with a one-out double, then Tomas Telis drove him in with a two-out single to score the first run of the frame. A Gilberto Celestino single was then followed by a Mark Contreras three run blast to knot the game up at five.

It remained that way until the bottom of the ninth inning, as the bullpen trio of Robinson Leyer, Jovani Moran, and Kyle Barraclough combined to hold Omaha to just one hit over the final 4 1/3 innings. Leyer struck out two in 1 1/3 while Moran walked two and punched out two in two innings. That led into Barraclough coming on for the top of the ninth and he delivered two huge strikeouts after a leadoff double and sac bunt put the go-ahead run just 90 feet away.  

The Saints lineup was likely energized by those pitches, and Stankiewicz started the bottom of the frame with a walk, Jose Miranda and Telis followed with singles to load the bases, then Celestino walked it off with a high chopper that allowed Stankiewicz to beat the throw home. Take it any way you can get it when you’re at home, St. Paul Saints!

In all the offense racked up thirteen hits, with the top four in the lineup of Miranda (2-for-5, R), Telis (3-for-5, R, RBI, K), Celestino (3-for-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI, K), and Contreras (2-for-3, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, K) collecting multiple knocks. Stankiewicz also added a double, walk, and two runs scored to the effort out of the nine-hole. Barraclough picked up his eighth win of the season thanks to the walk-off.

WIND SURGE WISDOM
NW Arkansas 1, Wichita 3
Box Score

It was a low-scoring affair in Wichita on Tuesday, with the teams combining for just four runs on 12 hits in the game.

The Naturals got on the board first against Wind Surge starter Cole Sands thanks to a double and single from the first two hitters, then a throwing error on a steal attempt that allowed the runner on third to score. But Sands recovered and got himself out of that jam by getting a pop-out, fielder's choice that nabbed a runner at home, and a lineout to keep the damage to just one run (unearned) in the top half of the first.

Sands then settled in from there and dominated for six innings, allowing no more runs on just two hits and two walks, while striking out five hitters. He was replaced by Kody Funderburk to start the seventh inning with the score tied at one so he’d finish with a no-decision for his efforts.  

Wichita tied the game at one in the third inning when Austin Martin drove in D.J. Burt, who had doubled earlier in the inning, with a single to left field. In the bottom of the seventh the Wind Surge finally took the lead on Andrew Bechtold’s 17th home run of the season, a solo blast to the opposite corner of the field.

That was followed by consecutive doubles by Burt and Aaron Whitefield to put them out front 3-1.

Funderburk kept the score that way for the rest of the game, holding the Naturals to just one hit in three innings pitched, and striking out two along the way, to pick up his third win with Wichita. 

Burt led the offense with a 3-for-3 night at the dish, scoring two runs and picking up his seventh and eighth doubles on the year.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 7, Wisconsin 8
Box Score

Kernels starter Sawyer Gipson-Long came into this game on a streak of three straight starts where he pitched six innings and just two total earned runs, while striking out 21 hitters compared to issuing just four walks. Two of those starts were included in a fantastic month of August where he took home Twins Daily’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month award.

He started this one off on the same foot, striking out the first batter he faced, but unfortunately that was the only out he’d record on the night. The next six hitters went double, walk, single, triple, walk, walk and three runs were on the board before he was replaced by Andrew Cabezas. Three more runs would be charged to Gipson-Long before the inning was over and his ERA with Cedar Rapids in five starts ballooned from 2.35 to 4.63. 

Cabezas would steady the ship for the next 3 1/3 innings, allowing only a single run (on a home run) of his own on four hits and two walks, while he struck out four Timber Rattlers hitters.

While Cabezas was on the mound, the Kernels closed that early gap in a big way thanks to the bat of Matt Wallner, who laced a grand slam to right in the third inning, his 12th home run of the season.

Reliever Tyler Palm recorded one out in the fourth inning before Cedar Rapids cut the lead back to two in the top of the fifth when Edouard Julien launched his 10th homer with Kernels to make it 7-5. 

Palm was back out for the bottom of the fifth in which Wisconsin scratched across an insurance run that would prove the difference maker in the end. In all Palm completed two innings, allowing one run on two hits and a walk, while striking out one batter. Osiris German was brought on with two outs in the sixth and would finish 2 1/3 scoreless innings to keep the game in reach. He allowed two hits and struck out two.

Things continued to look up for the Kernels when they closed the gap to one in the top of the sixth thanks to a two-run shot from Seth Gray, but weren’t able to cash in a two-out double from Wallner in the seventh. 

In the ninth, Julien drew a one-out walk and Aaron Sabato singled to put him in scoring position with Wallner coming up, but the comeback was not meant to be completed as he was struck out swinging to end the game.

The Kernels got multiple hits in the game from Sabato (2-for-5, R, 3 K) and Wallner (3-for-5, R, 2B, GS HR, 4 RBI, 2 K). Julien also finished 1-for-2 with two runs scored, an RBI, three walks, and a stolen base, but as a team they also struck out 15 times, hurting their chances to take advantage when it counted.

With a record of 59-50, the Kernels are tied with the Lake County Captains in the High-A Central League standings, one game back of the Great Lakes Loons for a playoff spot.

MUSSEL MATTERS
Palm Beach 2, Fort Myers 6
Box Score

The Fort Myers lineup used a big fifth inning to put Palm Beach away in this one, but also got some excellent work from their pitchers to keep them at bay.

Left-hander Zarion Sharpe got the start for the Mighty Mussels and mowed through the Cardinals lineup for the first four innings, allowing only one walk and a double through that point in the game while striking out five hitters. A two-out single in the fifth finally got Palm Beach on the board, but the third out of the inning was also recorded on the play so any rally was cut short. 

That run had tied the game at one as Fort Myers got on the board first in the second inning thanks to a Willie Joe Garry ground out that scored Charles Mack, who had doubled earlier in the inning and advanced to third on a Jake Rucker single. 

The home team didn’t strike again until the fifth inning, but they made sure it was a big one. It didn’t really get started until there were two outs, as a Christian Encarnacion-Strand triple scored Will Holland from first before a combination of walks, a wild pitch, and a throwing error made it 4-1. Charles Mack then delivered the big blow, a two-run homer to the opposite field and a 6-1 lead for the Mighty Mussels.

Sharpe allowed another run in the top of the sixth after a leadoff double, but finished his day with six quality innings. He allowed just two runs while scattering five hits and two walks, and punching out eight total Palm Beach hitters, improving to 6-2 on the season along the way.

Matthew Swain was summoned to start the seventh and finished off the Cardinals in the final three innings, allowing only one hit, one walk, and striking out five to pick up his second save of the season.

The Fort Myers offense was led by multi-hit efforts from Encarnacion-Strand (3-for-3, R, RBI, BB) and Mack (2-for-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K), which was plenty of a one-two punch on the game.

COMPLEX CHRONICLES
FCL Braves 7, FCL Twins 3
Box Score

The Braves used a four-run seventh inning to overcome a 3-2 deficit at the time, pulling away from the Twins late in Fort Myers.

The Twins got a solid start from left-hander Wilker Reyes, who allowed just one run (unearned) on one hit and a walk in five innings. He struck out two. Orlando Rodriguez got saddled with the loss as he allowed four runs on two hits and two walks in his 1 1/3 innings pitched. John Wilson allowed an unearned run in 2/3 of an inning, and Erasmo Ramirez finished the final two innings allowing one run on one hit and three walks while striking out one hitter.

The Twins offense had just five hits on the game, and the big one was a two-out solo home run from Nelson Roberto in the sixth inning. LaRon Smith scored the first run of the game in the second inning thanks to a bases loaded wild pitch. And their third run came right before Roberto's home run in the sixth thanks to a sac fly from Noah Cardenas to score Smith. Smith and Alexander Pena each drew three walks on the game, and Pena and Emmanuel Rodriguez each also stole a base in the loss. 

TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Pitcher of the Day - Cole Sands, Wichita Wind Surge (6 IP, 4 H, R, 2 BB, 5 K)
Hitter of the Day - Matt Wallner, Cedar Rapids Kernels (3-for-5, R, 2B, GS HR, 4 RBI, 2 K)

PROSPECT SUMMARY

#1 - Royce Lewis (rehab) - Out for season (torn ACL)
#2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-for-4, RBI
#3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) - Did not pitch
#4 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - Did not pitch
#5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) - Injured List (elbow strain)
#6 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - 2-for-5, R
#7 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - Did not pitch
#8 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) - Injured List (right elbow strain)
#9 - Chase Petty (Complex) - Did not pitch
#10 - Keoni Cavaco (Fort Myers) - Did not play
#11 - Josh Winder (St. Paul) - Injured List (right shoulder impingement)
#12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 3-for-5, R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 K
#13 - Gilberto Celestino (St. Paul) - 3-for-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI, K, walk-off single
#14 - Drew Strotman (St. Paul) - Did not pitch
#15 - Noah Miller (Complex) - Did not play
#16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) - 1-for-3, R, HR, RBI, K
#17 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Out for season (Tommy John surgery)
#18 - Misael Urbina (Fort Myers) - 0-for-3, R, BB, 2 K
#19 - Cole Sands (Wichita) - 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R (zero earned), 2 BB, 5 K
#20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-4, K

WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Omaha @ St. Paul (1:05 PM CST) - RHP Drew Strotman (7-3, 4.80 ERA)
NW Arkansas @ Wichita (7:05 PM CST) - RHP Austin Schulfer (6-7, 4.56 ERA)
Cedar Rapids @ Wisconsin (12:05 PM CST) - RHP Cody Laweryson (1-4, 4.94 ERA)
Palm Beach @ Fort Myers (6:05 PM CST) - RHP John Stankiewicz (0-0, 2.70 ERA)

Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

 


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Nice to see Sands have a really good game against good competition.  I really like his stuff I just hope he stays healthy.  The Wichita bats have gone cold recently.  Without Boyd they seem lost and or they have faced better teams lately as well.  Whatever the case I hope they find their Mojo again.

Encarnacion-Strand is having quite the debut.  I was a little nervous about that pick when the Twins made it as he looked like another slow footed power only guy but if he can hit like that all the way up then,  Wow.  Looks like a good pick right now but the knock on him was his stroke might not hold up against higher velocity pitching.  I guess we will find out before too long because if he keeps hitting like this he is going to move up fast.

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Got a question for you, Steve?  I go to the box score every day expecting to see Encarnacion-Strand put up an 0-4 or something similar.  Today's 3 for 3 with a walk has me just shaking my head.  The kid is flat out hotter than hot.  Should he continue hitting like this for the ten or so games remaining, will you guys include him in your Top 20 this winter?  And he isn't doing this in the Complex League, he is doing it in low-A ball and the Florida State League. 

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30 minutes ago, roger said:

Got a question for you, Steve?  I go to the box score every day expecting to see Encarnacion-Strand put up an 0-4 or something similar.  Today's 3 for 3 with a walk has me just shaking my head.  The kid is flat out hotter than hot.  Should he continue hitting like this for the ten or so games remaining, will you guys include him in your Top 20 this winter?  And he isn't doing this in the Complex League, he is doing it in low-A ball and the Florida State League. 

It might be possible Encarnacion-Strand is just that much better than the competition at Low-A, but his BABIP is .556 suggesting many of his hits are just pure luck. His BB to K rate also looks pretty rough, but at Low-A, he could just be aggressive at the plate and feasting on mistake pitches.

The scouting report on him basically states he's a DH with a cannon arm but his run tool is ranked lower than any I've ever seen at 30 and a crude, upper-cut swing that generates home runs, but too many Ks. A standard Falvey pick. Can't be effective in the field because he's too slow to cover any position, hits home runs, strikes out a lot.

I do feel the linked scouting report seems to strike a bit of an unnecessarily pessimistic tone, but it provides some insight.

https://primetimesportstalk.com/2021/06/28/mlb-draft-profile-christian-encarnacion-strand/

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I'm liking Celestino showing his bat may well be able to stick. Seeing his OPS climb up to a level which could project into starter caliber play for the Twins is encouraging. It'd be nice to give Celestino a few at bats at the MLB level again. It's not like releasing Cave or Refsnyder would hurt anybody.

Palacios has just absolutely cratered over the past few weeks. Part of me wonders whether or not the mental side of being one of the best shortstops in MiLB and still not getting a promotion or call up has him down... or maybe being relegated to a utility guy who isn't a starting every game? It was a lot of fun to root for him across the season and a real bummer to see him slump so hard to end the year.

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3 hours ago, bean5302 said:

It might be possible Encarnacion-Strand is just that much better than the competition at Low-A, but his BABIP is .556 suggesting many of his hits are just pure luck. His BB to K rate also looks pretty rough, but at Low-A, he could just be aggressive at the plate and feasting on mistake pitches.

The scouting report on him basically states he's a DH with a cannon arm but his run tool is ranked lower than any I've ever seen at 30 and a crude, upper-cut swing that generates home runs, but too many Ks. A standard Falvey pick. Can't be effective in the field because he's too slow to cover any position, hits home runs, strikes out a lot.

I do feel the linked scouting report seems to strike a bit of an unnecessarily pessimistic tone, but it provides some insight.

https://primetimesportstalk.com/2021/06/28/mlb-draft-profile-christian-encarnacion-strand/

Hopefully he is Albert Pujols light or something but more likely the scouting reports catch up to him.  In the report I read one of the concerns was that aggressiveness at the plate was part of his success but the higher you go that can and usually does become a liability as pitchers exploit that.  K rate is important because there is a certain point where it is so much of a liability that even when a player generates positive outcomes they cannot overcome the negatives of non contact outs.  Walk rate is key because it forces pitchers to pitch and put balls over the plate.

Given what you have there his BABIP looks similar to how Wallner started his season.  So he is due for regression with nothing in the numbers to make it appear he can sustain this for long and could drop precipitously once pitchers exploit his weaknesses.  Still it is always fun to watch guys do well and give us hope and I do have hope that he will be better than his current numbers indicate.

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4 hours ago, bean5302 said:

It might be possible Encarnacion-Strand is just that much better than the competition at Low-A, but his BABIP is .556 suggesting many of his hits are just pure luck. His BB to K rate also looks pretty rough, but at Low-A, he could just be aggressive at the plate and feasting on mistake pitches.

The scouting report on him basically states he's a DH with a cannon arm but his run tool is ranked lower than any I've ever seen at 30 and a crude, upper-cut swing that generates home runs, but too many Ks. A standard Falvey pick. Can't be effective in the field because he's too slow to cover any position, hits home runs, strikes out a lot.

I do feel the linked scouting report seems to strike a bit of an unnecessarily pessimistic tone, but it provides some insight.

https://primetimesportstalk.com/2021/06/28/mlb-draft-profile-christian-encarnacion-strand/

Not a bad take, but.... he has 13 K's.  13 in 53 AB.  While he only has 2 BB (and I will absolutely concede the SSS) that doesn't scream pretty rough (yet :)).

Otherwise we shall see from here, but that is awesome to see a kid hit the ground running like that.

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7 hours ago, roger said:

Got a question for you, Steve?  I go to the box score every day expecting to see Encarnacion-Strand put up an 0-4 or something similar.  Today's 3 for 3 with a walk has me just shaking my head.  The kid is flat out hotter than hot.  Should he continue hitting like this for the ten or so games remaining, will you guys include him in your Top 20 this winter?  And he isn't doing this in the Complex League, he is doing it in low-A ball and the Florida State League. 

I don't know enough about him yet, but similar hot start for him so far to Edouard Julien earlier this year, and that made me put Julien near or in my top 20.

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