We had three different players receive Player of the Week votes. Bradenton infielder Tsung-Che Cheng won out in the voting by putting up a .389/.560/.611 slash line in 26 plate appearances. That OPS was the sixth best in the system for the week, but no one ahead of him reached 20 plate appearances, so he got the nod for not only the quality, but quantity of quality work. Cheng also adds defensive value and brings plenty of speed to the lineup. He’s been a solid presence at the top of the Bradenton lineup this year and in the middle of the field, mostly playing shortstop, but he’s seen some time at second base recently as well.
Cheng just turned 21 years old at the end of July. This is his second season in the Pirates system, with a delayed arrival due to the 2020 minor league season being wiped out. He batted .312 for the FCL Pirates last year in 38 games, with 32 runs, 31 RBIs, 16 steals, 30 walks and a .941 OPS in the pitcher-friendly league. After the season, he got experience against older competition by playing winter ball in Colombia, helping lead his team to a Caribbean Series title, the first for the country.
This season saw Cheng have his best month in April, when he had a .791 OPS in 20 games. A minor injury in late May during a slide into third base kept him out for three weeks and he was slow to get going after his return. He still has a .736 OPS for the season, which is 54 points above league average, and coming from someone whose value goes beyond the bat. Cheng has 20 stolen bases this year and he has committed just six errors in 298 chances, while making some outstanding defense plays and showing off range. For comparison, the rest of the Bradenton shortstops have 18 errors in 153 chances.
Cheng is likely going to move up to Greensboro to begin next year, still at 21 years old for most of the season. You’d like to see a strong finish this year, but those late summer games in the Florida State League are brutal on everyone, especially when it rains every evening just being game time and becomes a special kind of humid as the games are starting, usually in a slight delay. Bradenton is likely going to have some big games coming up with just over a full month left in the season, as they open today tied for first place in their division for the second half title. Cheng’s going to get a chance to be that spark plug at the top of the lineup, setting the table with his on base skills and speed, while anchoring the defense. So far the young infielder has handled the job well.
TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS
Player of the Week: Mason Martin .391/.500/.522, 0 HR, 1 SB, 28 PA
Analysis: Mason Martin has been struggling straight through since winning our Player of the Month award in April. He started off August the right way, with a 1.022 OPS in 28 plate appearances, drawing five walks. That walk rate is a great sign, as is six strikeouts for the week. He’s the Triple-A leader in strikeouts right now for both leagues, so any improvement in that area is a plus, but doing it while putting up a 1.022 OPS is a big plus. Jamie Ritchie had a 1.000 OPS in 13 plate appearances. Jared Oliva had a strong week with a .957 OPS in 19 PAs, collecting three doubles, a triple and three steals. Rodolfo Castro had an .896 OPS in 28 PAs, picking up a double, triple and a homer. Travis Swaggerty had an .833 OPS, driven by nine walks in 25 PAs.
On the pitching side, Travis MacGregor had two solid relief outings, leading to 4.1 shutout innings and five strikeouts. Cody Bolton threw 3.2 shutout frames in two relief games, with two hits, no walks and three strikeouts. Miguel Yajure had the best start for the Indians, allowing one run in five innings. He gave up one run in four innings in his last outing. Roansy Contreras allowed one run in four innings and struck out nine batters.
DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE
Player of the Week: Andres Alvarez .278/.381/.667, 2 HR, 2 SB, 21 PA
Analysis: Andres Alvarez won a split decision for the Altoona Player of the Week. He had a 1.048 OPS in 21 PAs, with two homers and two steals. July was his worst month so far this season, though he still had a respectable .743 OPS, and he currently has an .853 OPS for the year, with 17 homers and 19 steals in 20 attempts. Jared Triolo had a nice week, as the left side of Altoona’s infield did big things for the week. He had a .970 OPS in 24 PAs, with two doubles and three triples. He has a .746 OPS for the year, with 25 extra-base hits, 20 steals and 55 walks. No one else on Altoona came within 190 points of reaching the minimum .800 mark for inclusion in this article.
JC Flowers lost a split decision for the Altoona Player of the Week. He went 5.1 innings over two relief appearances, allowing one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts. After putting up a 4.05 ERA in April, his highest ERA in the last three months was his 3.00 mark in June when he briefly was used as a starter. Jeffrey Passantino tossed four scoreless on one hit in his only relief appearance. The rest of the Altoona starters had their share of trouble last week.
HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS
Player of the Week: Hudson Head .539/.600/1.077, 2 HR, 0 SB, 15 PA
Analysis: Hudson Head only had 15 plate appearances last week, but he made the most of them, going 7-for-13 with a double, two homers and two walks, giving him the best OPS for the system last week. Overall it hasn’t been a great season, with a .236 average, a high strikeout rate and more caught stealing than stolen bases, but he’s still young for the level and has kept pace with last year’s stats. Endy Rodriguez made it here with one huge game. He was our Player of the Month for July, as well as winning the same award for the league. He started the week with five hits in one game, helping him to a 1.188 OPS in 16 plate appearances. Dariel Lopez picked up 27 at-bats last week and collected 11 hits, helping him to a .984 OPS. That was after putting up a 1.042 OPS in July. Yoyner Fajardo hit .400/.455/.500 in 22 PAs. Abrahan Gutierrez just missed the cut-off, but a .300 average and a .790 OPS in 25 PAs is still pretty good.
Jack Carey allowed just one earned run in 5.2 innings over a start and a relief appearance, though he gave up five runs total. He was the only pitcher for Greensboro with a 3.00 or less ERA last week, who pitched more than three innings.
LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS
Player of the Week: Tsung-Che Cheng .389/.560/.611, 0 HR, 2 SB, 26 PA
Analysis: Besides Cheng, Bradenton had just one hitter put up an .800+ OPS, and no one else was close enough to sneak into the summary. Juan Jerez hit a double, two homers and stole two bases, giving him an .844 OPS in 22 PAs. His .828 OPS last month was his best of the year, so he’s been on a bit of a hot streak since returning from injury. I’ll note in this summary that 2022 third round pick Jack Brannigan had a 1.227 OPS in 14 plate appearances, but his time was split evenly between the FCL and Bradenton, so he didn’t play enough to qualify for either team.
On the pitching side, Mitchell Miller had six strikeouts in 3.2 scoreless innings. Since July 1st, he has allowed one run in 15.1 innings. Valentin Linarez allowed one unearned run in six innings during his start last week. He allowed two hits, three walks and struck out five batters. Carlos Lomeli allowed one unearned run in his four innings. That run was the gift runner in extra innings. Joelvis Del Rosario allowed two runs (one earned) in five innings during his weekend start. The 21-year-old has a 3.48 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 59 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. Bubba Chandler walked four batters in 3.1 innings, but he allowed just one hit and one run. He had a .619 OPS in 14 plate appearances last week.
FCL: Omar Alfonzo .273/.385/.546, 1 HR, 0 SB, 13 PA
DSL: Isaias Uribe 0.00 ERA, 6:0 SO/BB, 5.0 IP