Tigers minor-league report: Almanzar, MSU’s Salter on a tear

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Blaise Salter

Triple-A Toledo

Who’s hot …

Michael Almanzar, 3B: He’s only 26, which is why four home runs and a .316 batting average in his last 10 games aren’t to be ignored. Almanzar isn’t a lifelong Tigers prospect. He signed last autumn as a minor-league free agent following years in the Orioles system. He is 6-3, 190, a right-handed batter, and a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. On the season (43 games), he is batting .265, with seven home runs and a .776 OPS.

Bryan Holaday, C: Picking it up after a slow-poke spring, Holaday is hitting .300 in his last 10 games. He, of course, has big-league crust from his days with the Tigers and Rangers.

Bruce Rondon, RH reliever: Beginning to look more like the reliever the Tigers could, and should, count on yet this season. In his last seven games, Rondon has allowed but one run in seven innings, on five hits, with nine strikeouts and two walks.

Jeff Ferrell, RH reliever: Has been scored on only once in his last eight games. His season numbers at Toledo (25 games): 1.57 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13 hits, 31 strikeouts, eight unintentional walks. Ferrell has pitched in the past for the Tigers. He is 26, 6-4, 205, and was a 26th-round pick in 2010 (Pitt Junior College).

And who’s not …

Steven Moya, OF: .182 in his last 10, .164 on the year, with a .547 OPS. Getting perilously close to the end, perhaps, for Moya, whose 2017 year has gone from bad to gruesome.

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Double-A Erie

Who’s hot …

Jairo Labourt, LH reliever: Big pitching story here for the Tigers. He has premium stuff, with exceptional numbers in 2017: No runs in his last 10 games. On the year (23 games): 1.18 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .185 opposing batting average, 38 innings, 24 hits, 51 strikeouts, and eight walks. He turned 23 in March, is 6-4, 205, and was part of the Tigers’ trade with Toronto in 2015 that sent David Price to the Jays and brought Labourt, Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd to Detroit.

Harold Castro, 2B: Having a steady year at age 23 and with a mixed-bag of seasons behind him. Batting .305 on the year. Not much of an OPS (.686) because of three walks and a .376 slugging percentage, but the Tigers will at least wait and take what they’re getting from this left-handed hitting Venezuelan who is 6-0, 165.

And who’s not …

Mike Gerber, OF: Cold snap for Gerber: .156 in his last 10 games. He’s likely to revive, quickly.

Single-A Lakeland

Who’s hot …

Dustin Frailey, LF: Was a 19th-round pick a year ago (Cal-State Bakersfield) and is one of the few Flying Tigers swinging a steady June bat: .367 in his last 10 games, and .365 in the 17 games since he moved to Lakeland’s roster. Frailey bats right-handed, is 5-10, 180.

Sandy Baez, RH starter: Back on track after a tough spring, with injuries and some bruising early efforts. In his last two starts, Baez has allowed one run in 12 innings, giving up four hits and striking out 16. He’s 23, 6-2, 180, and was signed out of Juan Baron, Dominican Republic.

Gerson Moreno, RH reliever: One of the farm system’s true prizes, Moreno hasn’t allowed a run in his last 10 games. The data: 10.2 innings, eight hits, 14 strikeouts, two walks. He throws high-90s heat, is only 21, is 6-0, 175, and was signed out of Yamasa, D.R.

Matt Hall, LH starter: Hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts, with 19 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Hall was a sixth-round pick in 2015 (Missouri State).

And who’s not …

Jose Azocar, OF: Setback year for a prospect who just turned 21. Big problem: Azocar swings at everything. Not till he begins laying off ugly stuff will he reunite with last year’s luster. He has walked eight times in 57 games, has 50 strikeouts. The season numbers: .220 batting average, .246 on-base percentage, .304 slugging percentage, .549 OPS. Disturbing digits that won’t reverse until Azocar disciplines that swing.

Single-A West Michigan

Who’s hot …

Blaise Salter, 1B: It has been an, uh, Blaiseing spring for Salter, who is crushing the ball at a .376 clip in his last 10 games and who on the year is batting .330 with an .885 OPS. He is a baseball hound who can tell you in a nanosecond who, for example, played second base for the ’96 Astros. Salter has six home runs and 29 doubles in 66 games. He was a late pick two years ago out of Michigan State and has had a bust-out 2017.

Austin Athmann, C: He took his time warming up, then turned scalding hot. Athmann is hitting .333 in his last 10 games. A year ago, he was a 14th-round pick (University of Minnesota). Bats right-handed, goes 6-2, 210.

Cam Gibson, OF: Likely soon will be punching his ticket to Single-A Lakeland. Batting .293 in his last 10 games, and .328 for the month. He was a fifth-round pick in 2015, and, like Salter, is a former Michigan State star.

Austin Sodders, LH starter: Still hasn’t lost a game. Stingy on runs. And having a super-steady year 12 months after the Tigers got him in the seventh round out of Cal-Riverside. He’s 7-0, with a 1.40 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.

Jason Foley, RH reliever: The saga continues for an undrafted pitcher whom the Tigers followed and signed a year ago. He is 3-1 on the season, with a 1.55 ERA, and has only been scored on once in his last seven games. He has 36 strikeouts and four unintentional walks in 29.1 innings. Foley, 21, is 6-4, 215.

Zac Houston, RH reliever: Opposing hitters are batting .186 against him and have struck out 36 in 26.2 innings. Has allowed 18 hits and 15 walks, but only three walks in his last eight innings. Houston is 6-5, 250, and was an 11th-round pick in 2016 out of Mississippi State.

And who’s not …

You’ve been playing too well, Whitecaps. Tough to find a backseat pitcher or hitter.

Twitter @Lynn_Henning