An early home run from Hudson Potts provided Fort Wayne starting pitcher Michel Baez with more than enough breathing room as the big right-hander fired five scoreless innings to lead the TinCaps past Dayton, 3-0, and into the Midwest League finals.Baez, San Diego's No. 7 prospect, was staked to a
An early home run from Hudson Potts provided Fort Wayne starting pitcher Michel Baez with more than enough breathing room as the big right-hander fired five scoreless innings to lead the TinCaps past Dayton, 3-0, and into the Midwest League finals.
Baez, San Diego's No. 7 prospect, was staked to a lead before he even took the mound after Potts put Fort Wayne on the board in the bottom of the first with his two-out solo shot over the wall in left-center field. The 21-year-old righty took over from there, as he overcame a shaky first inning to allow just two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over the next five innings.
MILB Video - Title: Baez fans seventh batter - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1827370683
Baez's outing began inauspiciously as Dayton leadoff hitter Randy Ventura reached on an infield throwing error and then advanced to third base with one out on an errant pickoff throw. Taylor Trammell then drew for a walk for the Dragons to put runners on first and third base, though Fort Wayne would cut down both runners on the basepaths in an attempted double steal.
Baez struck out the side in the second inning and fanned a pair in two other frames. He ultimately retired eight of the final nine batters he faced in the outing, throwing 44 of his 71 pitches for strikes.
"His [6-foot-8] stature gives him great leverage to throw that upper-90s fastball," Fort Wayne manager Andy Contreras told MiLB.com. "He also can drop in that curve and changeup when he wants to that keeps the hitter off balance. Good pitchers can do that. If you can manage to control two -- and in his case three -- pitches, you'll be successful."
Potts (Padres' No. 23), meanwhile, would later add a double to finish the game 2-for-4. The 18-year-old third baseman slashed .253/.293/.438 over 125 games in the Midwest League and became just the third player in franchise history to hit 20 home runs in a single season. He swung the bat particularly well during the second half, producing a .278/.312/.512 in 65 games.
MILB Video - Title: Potts' solo homer - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1827359383
Monday's playoff win marked Baez's second in as many starts for Fort Wayne. In his previous outing, on Sept. 6, the right-hander gave up five hits while striking out nine in seven scoreless innings to pace the TinCaps in Game 1 victory over Bowling Green in Game 1 of the circuit's semifinals.
Baez's dominance in the playoffs comes on the heels of an eye-opening campaign in the Midwest League in his first U.S. campaign after signing for $3 million.
Making 10 starts for the TinCaps, the Cuba native posted a 2.45 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP in 58 2/3 innings. He racked up 82 strikeouts against eight walks in that span, all while holding opposing hitters to a .192 clip.
"[Baez's] poise and competitiveness in his first year as a pro have been outstanding," Contreras said. "He's a soft-spoken guy that doesn't exert a large amount of excess energy. He just does what he needs to do and he's been a solid force for us all year."
The rest of the best performances from top prospects Monday
• A's No. 6 prospectJesus Luzardo was nothing short of dominant as he and three other Class A Short Season Vermont hurlers combined to toss a one-hit shutout against Mahoning Valley and secure a berth in the New York-Penn League finals. The 19-year-old left-hander allowed one hit and one walk in five innings while facing one over the minimum. He struck out five and generated seven ground-ball outs. Contributing at the plate was outfielder Greg Deichmann (No. 16), who plated a run with a sacrifice fly, while third baseman Will Toffey (No. 29) scored a run and finished 1-for-5 out of the leadoff spot.
• Astros No. 6 prospectColin Moran reached base three times en route to scoring a pair of runs as Class A Quad Cities defeated Cedar Rapids, 6-1, in Game 3 of the Midwest League semifinals. The 24-year-old third baseman, currently on a rehab assignment with the River Bandits, went 1-for-2 with a two walks in the contest. Quad Cities leads the best-of-five series, 2-1.
• D-backs No. 24 prospect Andy Yerzy hit a two-run homer and collected multiple hits for a second straight game, thought it wasn't enough to keep Rookie-level Missoula from falling to Great Falls, 8-5, in a season-ending loss in the Pioneer League semifinals. The 19-year-old catcher finished the regular season on a tear, hitting .330 with eight home runs over his final 27 contests before going deep twice in postseason play.
• Blue Jays No. 8 prospect Nate Pearson was sharp in a no-decision for Class A Short Season Vancouver, tossing four innings of one-run ball against Eugene in Game 3 of the Northwest League finals. He scattered three hits while compiling four strikeouts and two walks as the Canadians edged Eugene, 2-1, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. The hard-throwing righty has now recorded 14 strikeouts while allowing four hits in eight innings across two postseason starts.
• Cubs No. 23 prospect Cory Abbott allowed one hit over three scoreless innings in Eugene's loss against Vancouver. The 21-year-old right-hander issued a pair of walks, struck out three and generated three ground-ball outs in the outing, throwing 25 of his 44 pitches for strikes.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.