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Minor League Roundup: Tabata, Alvarez Hit Speed Bumps

Class AAA Indianapolis: After notching two or more hits for four straight games, Andrew McCutchen has gone 1-for-his-last-13. He came off the bench in yesterday's game, but that because of a planned day off, not an injury. Garrett Jones had a homer and four RBIs Tuesday and currently has a .926 OPS. After a slow start, Steve Pearce has hit .342 in his last ten games. Outfielder Jeff Salazar has also recovered from a slow start and in now batting .296. The Indians' most interesting pitchers continue to struggle--Tom Gorzelanny and Daniel McCutchen were unimpressive in their most recent starts. As you might have guessed from all of the above, Indianapolis has played in a bunch of high-scoring games so far this year.

Class AA Altoona: Jose Tabata left yesterday's game after straining his hamstring, putting the finishing touches on a terrible day in which Brad Lincoln walked four batters and Jamie Romak went 0-for-4. Romak then went 0-for-3 tonight to fall to .141 on the year. There isn't much good news to report here, but Jim Negrych is batting .369, so there's that. Jared Hughes had a strong start tonight, which may make you remember that he threw six no-hit innings in his first start, but his other two starts were terrible. And you can't take that 2.35 ERA at face value--he has seven unearned runs already. UPDATE: Tabata is out 4-6 weeks. 

Class A+ Lynchburg: Pedro Alvarez has gone 0-for-4 with two more strikeouts so far tonight, bring his season totals to .219 with 22 strikeouts. He's also had 15 walks, so I suppose you could posit that it's like Albert Einstein flunking high school math--Little Einstein may not be able to lay off crappy breaking pitches from hurlers who are probably terrified of him, but he'll do just fine against more advanced pitchers whose offerings are a little more consistent. But that just seems like making things up as we go along, and most successful big leaguers hit well in the minors. It's far too early to panic, though, and not every top prospect fares well in his first 100 at bats. And remember, at this point last week Alvarez's OPS was in the high .800s. So at this point, we're really just looking at a poor week.

Anyway, there have been a couple of very minor but still interesting developments in Lynchburg recently. The first is that Michael Dubee, the prospect recently acquired for minor league utilityman Andy Phillips, has been pretty terrific in four relief appearances for the Hillcats, striking out twelve batters against only one walk in his first 6.3 innings. And Chris Cullen, who the Pirates signed as a non-drafted free agent and sent to Lynchburg despite his only being 22, having no minor league experience, and generally stinking up the joint in both college and indy ball, has been terrific in relief so far. It's obviously very early, but if Cullen can keep it up, there'll be a scout out there who deserves a raise.

Class A West Virginia: West Virginia's offense has been--ahem--powered mostly by shortstop Chase D'Arnaud and first baseman Calvin Anderson, which isn't the worst thing in the world, since both are prospects. Each has an OPS above .900. If they keep it up, Anderson will have a pretty clear path up through the system, at least until Alvarez moves to first. D'Arnaud's situation is trickier--Jordy Mercer is playing short at Lynchburg, and while Mercer is holding his own, he's not hitting well enough to warrant a promotion himself. Mercer and D'Arnaud probably are about equals right now in terms of talent and would almost certainly be on the same team if they didn't play the same position. Anyway: Robbie Grossman has hit safely in six straight games at West Virginia and is coming along nicely. He has no triples or homers so far, but that's no cause for concern for a 19-year-old playing in a full-season league. West Virginia's pitchers are considerably less interesting than its hitters, but 21-year-old Kyle McPherson continues to pitch pretty well and lefty Rudy Owens has been solid in the Power's rotation.