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Puk, the A’s No. 2 prospect and No. 59 on the Top 100, posted double-digit strikeouts for the second time in three starts on Wednesday as he struck out 11 batters over 6 2/3 innings for Class A Advanced Stockton. He allowed one earned run on five hits and a walk in the outing, with 67 of his 92 pitches going for strikes, though the performance wasn’t enough to keep the Ports from falling to Visalia, 3-0.
Puk’s 11 strikeouts left him one shy of his career high, which he set against a loaded Lancaster lineup on June 3. For the season, the 23-year-old left-hander has piled up a California League-best 98 strikeouts in 61 innings (14.5 strikeouts-per-nine). That total ranks second among all Minor League hurlers and trails only Triple-A Oklahoma City’s Wilmer Font (102 strikeouts).
Beyond the strikeouts, Puk has pitched to a 3.69 ERA over 14 outings (11 starts) in his first full professional campaign.
For Visalia, left-hander Cody Reed (second round, 2014) picked up the win behind six scoreless innings of two-hit ball. The D-backs’ No. 19 prospect struck out eight and issued one walk in his best performance since being promoted to the California League.
The rest of the best performances from top prospects Wednesday
• No. 12 overall prospect Rafael Devers (Red Sox’s No. 1) connected on his 11th home run for Double-A Portland, matching the career-high total he posted in each of the last two seasons, in 115 and 128 games. Overall, the 20-year-old third baseman is hitting .305/.366/.548 in his first taste of the Eastern League.
• No. 14 overall prospect Mickey Moniak (No. 1 overall, 2016) went 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI to lead Class A Lakewood in a rout of Delmarva. It was the first career four-hit game for the Phillies’ No. 2 prospect, who’s hitting .274/.332/.404 with 21 extra-base hits through 58 games.
“The past week-and-a-half or couple weeks, by my standards, I’ve been struggling a little bit. I haven’t been sticking to my approach at the plate,” Moniak told MiLB.com. “Tonight, I wanted to just focus on getting a good pitch to hit, and when I got a pitch, doing some damage with it. For the most part, I was able to do that, and it was a good night for sure.”
• No. 24 overall prospect Brent Honeywell (No. 72 overall, 2014) scattered four hits over six scoreless innings en route to his third straight win for Triple-A Durham. The Rays’ No. 2 prospect threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes, in the outing while recording seven strikeouts and seven groundouts. He owns a 4.22 ERA with a 71-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 Triple-A starts.
“He’s got an extra gear when he needs it and he’s got a high baseball IQ for a 22-year-old in Triple-A,” Durham pitching coach Kyle Snyder told MiLB.com. “Trusting those instincts and understanding how he’s arrived at certain counts within an at-bat, whether it’s reading swings or just knowing what the next pitch should consist of, he understands where the value lies and what the hitter is suggesting to him and how he can achieve the swing-and-miss in the two-strike counts.”
• No. 98 overall prospect Jack Flaherty (No. 34 overall, 2014) tossed six strong innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits, to record his first win with Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals’ No. 5 prospect struck out 10 — his second double-digit strikeout performance of the season — and issued one walk. In what has been a breakout season, the 21-year-old righty-hander owns a 1.66 ERA through 13 starts, during which he’s held opposing hitters to a paltry .197 clip.
• Astros’ No. 14 prospect Yordan Alvarez went 3-for-3 with his seventh home run and three RBIs to pace Class A Quad Cities in a win over Cedar Rapids. The 19-year-old first baseman is having a monster U.S. debut, with a .371/.471/.649 batting line, seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 28 games. On the mound, fellow international signee Cionel Perez (No. 16) struck out six in 5 1/3 scoreless frames to record the win.
• Blue Jays’ No. 16 prospect Ryan Borucki (15th round, 2012) was a tough-luck loser for Class A Advanced Dunedin despite striking out 10 batters for the second time in four starts. The 23-year-old lefty worked a season-high seven innings, allowing one unearned run on four hits and one walk while tossing a season-high 98 pitches (67 strikes). He’s posted 76 strikeouts against 18 walks in 62 1/3 innings (13 starts) in 2017.
• Opposing Borucki for Palm Beach (and picking up the win) was Cardinals’ No. 30 prospect Ryan Helsley (fifth round, 2015), who yielded just two hits and one walk while striking out in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. The 22-year-old righty, now 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA, has not allowed an earned run in four of his past five starts.
• Cubs’ No. 11 prospect Thomas Hatch (third round, 2016) was at his best as he tossed a career-high eight scoreless innings to help Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach clinch the Carolina League Southern Division first half title. He surrendered six hits (five singles), walked one and struck out seven.
• Royals’ No. 10 prospect A.J. Puckett (second round, 2016) set a career high with nine strikeouts as he worked 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk, to pace Class A Advanced Wilmington in a shutout of Lynchburg. After struggling to throw strikes early in the season, the 22-year-old righty has issued five walks in his last 22 2/3 frames.
“When you try to do too much with your pitches and you try to be too fine, you start throwing balls,” Puckett told MiLB.com. “I think that’s something I was doing a lot at the beginning of the season. With my walks being up pretty high, which is not something I’m very proud of, it’s good to see in this outing that I know better of a mentality of attacking the strike zone.”
• Starting game one of a doubleheader for Class A Advanced Lakeland, Tigers’ No. 6 prospect Kyle Funkhouser (fourth round, 2016) tossed seven innings of four-hit ball to record his first career shutout. He issued one walk and struck out three while inducing another 11 outs via ground balls. The Louisville product has a 1.73 ERA with 34 strikeouts over 31 1/3 innings (five starts) in the Florida State League.
• Tigers No. 27 prospect Grayson Greiner (third round, 2014) went 2-for-3 with two home runs and a career-high six RBIs in Double-A Erie’s win over Binghamton. The 24-year-old backstop hit a pair of three-run shots in the contest, giving him home runs in three straight games and four total in that span.
“I felt good tonight. I’ve been working hard in the cage before games with hitting coach Phil Clark, just trying to make a couple minor adjustments to my swing, and it paid off tonight,” Greiner told MiLB.com. “I was able to get a couple pitches I could drive and was fortunate they were able to go over the fence. It’s always rewarding to have results when you work on something.”
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