May 1, 2010

Minor League Month in Review: Ft. Myers Miracle - April

Ft. Myers Miracle (8-13, tied-5th (last) in the Florida State League - South)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                  Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Yangervis Solarte - 20            Wins: Kyle Gibson - 2
Avg: Yangervis Solarte - .317 ERA: Bobby Lanigan - 0.81
OPS: Yangervis Solarte - .783 IP: Kyle Gibson - 30.67
HR: 5 - tied with 1 K: Kyle Gibson - 28
RBI: Drew Thompson - 7 Saves: Billy Bullock - 3
SB: Chris Cates - 2 WHIP: Bobby Lanigan - 0.90

The Ft. Myers Miracle won the South division in both the first and second half in 2009, but they were ousted by the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the semifinals. Manager Jeff Smith has been promoted to New Britain, which means that Jake Mauer will have to try and fill the shoes the man that has brought two different teams to the playoffs in each of the past three years. Unfortunately, a punch-less roster makes it unlikely that Mauer will be leading the Miracle to another division title.

The Florida State League is a pitcher-friendly environment. That's no secret. But it's also no secret that the Miracle lineup is the weakest it's been in years. But despite scoring a lead-worst 60 runs, the Miracle still managed to win eight games in April.

Not enough can be said about the success of both Kyle Gibson (#5) and Bobby Lanigan. The two-headed monster has a 3-3 record and a 1.33 ERA in nine starts. Gibson was roughed up in his first start, giving up three runs (five total) in 3 2/3 innings. But since that start, the Twins 2009 first round pick is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts. He has a ground-ball/fly-ball ratio of 7.3 (51/7) thanks to inducing 16 ground-ball outs on two separate occasions. In his last start, Gibson threw a one hit, complete game shutout against the Jupiter Hammerheads. As Seth Stohs notes, Gibson was very close to hurling a no-hitter.

Without Lanigan and Gibson, the rotation would have a 4.05 ERA. While still respectable, it would rank 2nd to last in the FSL. But it's important to note that it is improving, which is the good thing. Both Mike Tarsi, Bruce Pugh and Brad Tippett (#43) have all had recent success. In three starts since joining the rotation, Tippett has a 2.51 ERA. Pugh struck out over seven scoreless innings in his last start. And Tarsi has a 3.27 ERA in his last two starts (but he's given up five unearned runs in that same span).

The bullpen has struggled, but since the season opener (when it gave up 13 runs), the bullpen has had a 3.87 ERA. The biggest improvement comes from Shooter Hunt (#48). Hunt gave up five runs in the opener, but since has a 2.02 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. He also has a 5/1 K/BB ratio over that span, which is probably the most important thing to note. 2009 2nd round pick Billy Bullock (#20) has been roughed up in two different outings, but he still leads the team with three saves.

The offense has averaged 2.9 runs/game, but when opponents are scoring an average of 4.9 runs/game, it's hard to believe that they've won any games so far.

Yangervis Solarte is at the top (or near the top) of nearly every single offensive category for the Miracle. Solarte made a couple impressive defensive plays in Spring Training, but I'm willing to bet that he's probably an unknown amongst most Twins fans. He has played second base, shortstop, third base and left field already this season, which is probably the main reason why he has four errors on the season (three of which came in one game).

Two oft-injured infielders, Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson have also made contributions on offense. Thompson is hitting .269/.324/.403 with six doubles and a home run. Kelly had a six-game hitting streak halted by an ankle injury he sustained on April 20th. He hasn't played since, but it's important to note that it is an ankle injury and not a knee injury (which is what has derailed his career up to this point).

Three players that the Miracle lineup is centered around are Evan Bigley, Chris Herrmann and Ramon Santana. But the are hitting a combined .226 (43 for 190) and have driven in only 15 of the team's 60 runs. All three are good hitters, so I'd expect them to "click" at some point, but until then, this offense will continue to flounder.

What's Next?: Aaron Hicks (#1), Angel Morales (#6) and Liam Hendriks (#42) may all be with the Miracle shortly, which should provide a big spark to both the offense and rotation. But with promotions, roster moves need to be made, which will likely mean the end of Gibson's stay in the Florida State League. They have a fairly easy schedule in May. They play both division leaders a combined nine times, but overall, their May opponents have a .488 win percentage.