Keeping An Eye on the Minor Leaguers
David Stearns arrived in San Antonio on Monday to take a closer look at all the aspiring major league ball players suiting up for the Missions, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Stearns, the Brewers' president and general manager, liked what he saw in two games at Wolff Stadium. "Two impressive offensive explosions, so it was fun to see," Stearns said.
On his last night in town, the Missions lived up to their billing as the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League and all of Triple-A.
They exploded for 22 hits in a 19-1 victory Tuesday over the Reno Aces. Both the hits and runs scored were season-highs for the Missions, who won their sixth straight and improved to 46-26, the best record in Triple-A.
In an interview before the game, as Stearns discussed injuries to outfielders Corey Ray and Tyrone Taylor, he talked about how the team has pulled together and prospered without them.
"It says something about the depth of this team and how they've come together," Stearns said.
Later in the evening, after the Missions polished off the Aces to complete a four-game sweep and a 6-1 homestand, the ball club's depth stood out again.
The Missions won the game handily, even though Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon, the Brewers' No. 1 and No. 5 prospects, respectively, both were relatively quiet offensively.
On a night that belonged to Jacob Nottingham (4 for 5, six RBI), Tyler Saladino (4 for 6, five RBI) and Cory Spangenberg (4 for 6, four RBI), Hiura and Dubon had just one hit apiece.
"It's a deep team," Stearns said. "They did a really good job."
Missions manager Rick Sweet said the team has 68 games to play and added that "we've got a long way to go."
"But, if you're going to be some place, you might as well be at the top," Sweet said. "I do like that. I do like being there. But I also know we've got a long way to go.
"I just can't let my mind waver and let things slide and get off track because I know things are going to change.
"I know how this game works. If I knew I was going to keep this club the rest of the year, I'd be all for it. But I know it's going to change and it could change drastically."
After Reno's Abraham Almonte homered on the first pitch of the game, the Missions countered with five runs in the first inning, five in the second, four in the third and three in the fourth.
Nottingham, who hit a two-run homer in the second, thoroughly enjoyed the break out.
"Oh, it was awesome," he said. "No. 1 through 9 (in the order) swung the bats really well. We were hitting our pitches. Our pitching did a great job today. It was all around just a great game for us."
Brewers president in town
David Stearns got into town Monday just in time to see Mauricio Dubon's three-hit, four-RBI performance in an 8-4 victory over the Aces.
It was Dubon's third straight three-hit game.
"Mauricio seems to be a guy who has always performed when I've been in town," Stearns said. "I saw him in Colorado Springs last year when he went on a tear as well. It's fun to see. He's a special talent. He's a kid who can do a lot on the baseball field."
Ever since Dubon suffered a season-ending knee injury last May, the Brewers have been monitoring his progress closely.
"He's battled back and, from what I can see, he's right back where he was," Stearns said. "Offensively, he's been on a great run of late. It's fun for all of us to see. He's putting in the work and is continuing to put in the work, and it's great for us, and great for them."
Stearns on Hiura
The Brewers' president said Missions second baseman Keston Hiura continues to make strides in his development.
"He's getting more and more accustomed to playing every day at second base," Stearns said. "That's something that has been new for him. It's not something that he did a lot as an amateur. So, it's been a challenge for him to get through that and work through that, and he's done a really nice job with it.
"From a hitting perspective, he came into pro ball as a very accomplished hitter, someone who had a very nice routine and performed at a high level throughout his life, and we've continued to see that. He's someone who knows what he's doing at the plate, and is continuing to make adjustments.
"When he started off this year, he was striking out probably more than he would have liked. And we've seen, really, since those first two or three weeks, a concerted effort on his part to understand what pitchers are doing to him and adjust."
Proud of the system
Stearns is happy to see that Brewers minor league affiliates like the Missions (46-26), the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers (41-29) and the Class A-Advanced Carolina Mudcats (39-30) are all enjoying winning seasons.
"We're proud of where we are as a minor-league system," he said. "We've traded a lot of good players out of our system over the last few years. We've traded some really nice talent to help support our major league team. Sometimes you have to do that."
But, Stearns said, it's important for the organization to have a consistent pipeline of talent to feed the major league club.
"We think we still have that coming," he said. "We may not have quite the depth we've had in years past because we have traded many players. But we've had a number of guys step forward in their development this year, and that's all we can ask for."
Stearns said he didn't really know what to expect this season in the way of wins and losses through the minor league system.
"Our general philosophy is, if we have good players and we develop them appropriately, we're going to win games at the minor league level. It's really tough to go into a minor league season and know which teams are going to be very strong and which teams may have a little bit of a tougher time.
"Sometimes it depends on the ages of the players in a particular league. But, we've really performed up and down the system this year. We've got very good teams everywhere. I think every team has a chance to be a playoff team in our organization. So that's exciting."
Taylor in rehab games
Missions outfielder Tyrone Taylor was scheduled to begin on Tuesday a minor league rehab assignment in Arizona with the AZL Brewers Gold.
The assignment is for five games over six days, followed by an evaluation of his progress, Missions manager Rick Sweet said.
Taylor (wrist) and Corey Ray (finger) are both on the injured list. Both were Missions starters earlier in the season. Ray went on the IL on May 23 and Taylor on May 26.
Sweet said Ray has received clearance "possibly" to start hitting off a tee "at some point in the next few days."
Stearns said "it's been a really productive week" in Arizona for both Ray and Taylor.
"Those are two really good outfielders," Stearns said, "two guys who we thought were going to be a big part of this team here and eventually make their major league debuts at some point this year.
"So, for this team to accomplish what it's accomplished over the first half, without those guys being a big part of it, it says something (about) the depth of this team and how they've come together and performed."
American Southern Division - San Antonio 46-26, Round Rock 42-29, New Orleans 40-32, Oklahoma City 29-41.
Pacific Northern Division - Sacramento 36-35, Fresno 36-35, Tacoma, 34-38, Reno 29-42.
The team will travel Wednesday, followed by a Thursday night test at the Omaha Storm Chasers to start a five-game trip.
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