June 1, 2010

Twins Minor League Month in Review: New Britain Rock Cats - May

New Britain Rock Cats (14-36, 6th (last) in Eastern League Eastern Division)

               Team Leaders - Hitters                   Team Leaders - Pitchers    
               Hits: Ben Revere - 57                    Wins: Kyle Gibson - 3
Avg: Ben Revere - .315 ERA: Kyle Gibson - 1.37
OPS: Erik Lis - .812 IP: Mike McCardell - 57.67
HR: Steve Singleton - 4 K: Carlos Gutierrez - 40
RBI: Rene Tosoni - 21 Saves: Chris Province - 4
SB: Ben Revere - 18 WHIP: M. Williams/K. Gibson - 0.95

New Britain continued to struggle in May, with little improved from April. After winning only 25% of their games in April, they finished May with a 30% win percentage. The starting pitching continued to do well while the bullpen continues to struggle. The offense, however did make a big improvement, scoring 1.5 more runs per game.

The offensive leader of the month was without doubt Ben Revere. Revere hit .274/.361/.306 through 62 at-bats in April, but hit .336/.412/.429 in 119 May at-bats. He hit eight extra-base hits, including his first Double-A home run and walked almost twice as many times as he struck out. He also stole 12 bases, giving him 18 on the season, which is good for second most in the Eastern League.

Steve Singleton also had a great month, hitting .313/.355/.509 with 14 extra-base hits in 112 at-bats. He continues to struggle against left-handed pitching and with runners on-base, but Singleton is a solid all-around player who will get everything to click eventually. He probably won't be able to follow the "trend" of being promoted mid-season, like he's done since 2008, but it won't be because of poor play.

Yangervis Solarte was promoted to New Britain on May 12th. Since his promotion, Solarte has hit .312/316/.494 with eight extra-base hits. Solarte was the only consistent hitter in Ft. Myers, so with New Britain's offensive struggles, the Miracle lost their offensive leader. The Rock Cats have won eight of 19 games since Solarte's promotion. He doesn't have a set defensive position, but his bat is too good right now to keep out of the lineup. The Rock Cats will continue to find a place for Solarte as long as he continues to hit.

After getting off to a great start, Rene Tosoni struggled a bit in May. A shoulder injury has summoned Tosoni to full time DH duties, which may be effecting him a little. Tosoni's numbers in May weren't horrible, but they were down from April. He hit eight extra-base hits and walked 17 times in May, but his OPS dropped .134 points. His shoulder injury has prevented him from being called-up to Triple-A Rochester, and until he's able to play the field, he'll remain in New Britain.

The starters, as a collective unit, wasn't as good as their numbers suggest. Yes, they had a collective 3.97 ERA. But it weren't for Kyle Gibson and Carlos Gutierrez, that 3.97 ERA becomes a 5.21 ERA.

Gibson made four starts for the Rock Cats and despite moving up a level, his numbers were even better than they were in Advanced-A. Gibson was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA and a 42/13 GB/FB ratio. He struggled in his last start, but he still went five innings and gave up only two runs. He's one of the hottest pitchers in the Minor Leagues right now, but he probably won't be moving through the system as quickly as people would think. The Twins have made it known that they will be careful with Gibson this year, as he's just a year removed from a stress fracture in his right forearm. Gibson may be in New Britain for a while, but I still wouldn't be surprised to see him in Triple-A Rochester before the year is done.

Carlos Gutierrez had a great month, posting a 2-2 record and a 2.15 ERA. He struck out 24 batters, walked 13 and had a 2.95 GB/FB ratio. I still think Gutierrez's future is as a closer, but he'll remain in the rotation as long as he's pitching like this. He has now appeared in 32 games with New Britain (half as a starter), and he has a 4.87 ERA.

Tyler Robertson, David Bromberg and Michael McCardell all struggled in May. Robertson made six starts on the month, one of which came for Triple-A Rochester, and was 0-5 with a 5.93 ERA. On a bright note, he did have a 48/13 GB/FB ratio on the month, He has only made it through five innings two times and continues to walk too many batters. After four April starts, David Bromberg looked to be on cruise control. But when May came, Bromberg lost all control of his pitches and started becoming very hittable. He finished May 1-3 with a 6.15 ERA. McCardell, has made 10 starts on the season and still hasn't won a game. But not all of the blame cane be placed on him. In each of McCardell's five May starts, the bullpen gave up an inherited runner. Also, three of the team's seven blown saves came when McCardell had started. Still, all three of these pitchers need to turn things around quickly, which can hopefully salvage the season from being a complete embarrassment.

The Achilles Heal for the Rock Cats this season has been the bullpen. After a 6.04 ERA in April, the Rock Cats pen had a 5.44 ERA in May. The unit blew seven saves in 10 opportunities and had a 3-7 record. They have allowed 33% of their inherited runners to score, but there were only nine games in which they didn't inherit a runner in the first place.

The biggest turnaround came from Chris Province, who lowered his ERA to 6.23 after having a 10.03 ERA following April. He was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA and two saves in 13 appearances. Joe Testa also made an improvement, but he still had a disappointing month. His 5.17 ERA in May helped lower his season ERA to 8.22.

Matt Williams and Loek Van Mil were promoted from Ft. Myers, but neither have been lights out. Williams was 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA in 10 appearances for the Rock Cats. Van Mil only appeared in two games, and hasn't pitched since May 22nd.

Spencer Steedley, the Rock Cats best reliever, went on the disabled list with a forearm strain. He has been out since May 5th and there's no timetable for his return. The Rock Cats desperately need to revamp their relief corps, and getting Steedley back soon would definitely help.

What's Next?: June is typically a very busy month for promotions, and I do expect both Joe Benson (#11) or Chris Parmelee (#13) to return to New Britain at some point...The Rock Cats don't have a terribly difficult schedule in June, but they do face the Altoona Curve six times and the Trenton Thunder four times. The Curve lead the Eastern League West and the Trenton Thunder are second in the Eastern League East.


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