Monthly record: 16-12 (30-24 overall; 1st place in Southern League’s Northern Division)
AVG – Charcer Burks .289
OBP – Charcer Burks – .403
HR – Jason Vosler/Jeffrey Baez – 8
RBI – Jason Vosler -32
IP – Zach Hedges – 58.1
ERA – Trevor Clifton – 2.36
Saves – Andury Acevedo – 3
K’s – Jen-Ho Tseng – 47
The first-place Smokies hold their own destiny in their hands. With about 18 games to go, they can secure a playoff spot for the fall. Almost all of the players won a championship at Myrtle Beach in one or both of the past two years.
Here are three keys to this team’s potential championship run.
- Starting pitching – Clifton, Tseng, Hedges, Preston Morrison and Duane Underwood make the best starting five in the organization. Four of them had sub-3.30 ERA’s in May.
- Relief pitching – Daury Torrez is having his best year as a Cubs prospect and James Pugliese is not far behind. Ryan McNeil got off to a rough start but is improving every outing. The same holds true for David Garner. Brad Markey was excellent in April, but has struggled in May.
- Timely hitting – This heading should probably read “Timely OBP.” With six players above .350, the Smokies are on base at regular intervals, which provides the ability to score runs even when they are not hitting. Even without Trey Martin, who got off to a smoking start in April, the Smokies can be in any game.
Given the dearth of starting pitching in Iowa, I would not be surprised to see two or three of the Smokies starters moved up once they clinch a title. Underwood, Tseng, and Hedges have the most innings at AA, while Morrison and Clifton are actually pitching the best. I tend to lean toward Hedges right now and that’s mainly an age thing. Remarkably, Clifton and Tseng are still only 22.
When it comes to position players, there are not a lot of options. All the position players at AA may have to wait for a trade before moving up to Iowa. Eloy Jimenez at Myrtle Beach really takes precedence over everyone else at this point.
Player to watch
Andrew Ely has made the most adjustments but gets little pub. He hit .327 in May with a .422 OBP. While Vosler, Burks, and Ian Rice are getting all the headlines, Ely has done the best job of hitting and getting on base to be driven in.
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