MILB

Bees Looking To Get Hot As They Head Into Dog Days Of Summer

Jun 27, 2022, 6:39 PM | Updated: 6:43 pm
kean-wong-touches-home-following-home-run...
Photo courtesy of Salt Lake Bees and Asay Family Photography

SALT LAKE CITY – After finishing May in first place and winners of six of 10 to close the month, the Salt Lake Bees have fallen flat in June.

A 7-16 June record has seen the Bees fall from first in the Pacific Coast League West division to 7.5 behind the Las Vegas Aviators.

Salt Lake was firing on all cylinders in May, finishing with a 15-11 record, 27-22 overall. Taking home the PCL Player (1B David MacKinnon) and Pitcher of the month (Davis Daniel) awards.

So what has led to the recent struggles?

It’s easy to point to the injuries that have piled up for the parent-club Los Angeles Angels. Second baseman David Fletcher went down in mid-May, forcing the Angels to call up Luis Rengifo and his .313 batting average. According to MLB.com, Fletcher is participating in baseball activities but progressing slowly. Los Angeles hopes to have him back in early July.

More recently, relievers Jimmy Herget and Austin Warren hit the injured list, forcing the Angels to dip into the Bees pitching staff for depth. Injuries to both relievers are considered minor and they are expected to return in July.

Since June 11, six different Bees pitchers have gotten a traditional call-up along with Oliver Ortega serving as the Angels 27th man for a doubleheader. On the positional side, MacKinnon, infielder Jack Mayfield, catcher Matt Thaiss and outfielder Monte Harrison have each put Salt Lake in their rear-views, instead plying their trade at the major league level.

In all, 38 different players have found their way onto the field for Salt Lake in June.

Can the roster turnover at least partially explain the losing? Probably not.

Manager Lou Marson used 42 players last month but the Bees finished four games over .500 in May.

Frankly, roster churn is a large part of the equation in minor league baseball. Needs at the big league level will always take priority over a win in Triple-A.

Looking at the stats, Salt Lake’s pitching has taken a dip in June. The Bees earned run average has jumped more than a run per game from 5.09 in May to 6.17 through 23 June games. Salt Lake has already allowed 14 more hits and 21 more runs in three fewer games. Salt Lake pitchers have given up a .292 batting average against after limiting opponents to a paltry .249 last month.

Much of that can probably be explained away by looking at the weather. Increasing summer temperatures allow for better carry on hits in a Pacific Coast League that can have video game-like offensive numbers at times.

Offensively, losing outfielder Dillon Thomas to the Houston Astros in mid-June was difficult. Thomas hit .295 for Salt Lake in 2022 with 10 doubles and eight home runs. Following the loss of Thomas, the hot hitting David MacKinnon earned his first major league call-up. MacKinnon was raking, hitting .375 in June while knocking in 10 runs to go along with 12 extra-base hits.

With infielder and leading hitter Michael Stefanic still on the injured list, Marson was left trying to fill a lineup missing three .300 hitters.

Jose Rojas has done an admirable job picking up the slack in the power department. His seven home runs in the month are great but he’s striking out 25% of the time.

Just two current Bees have hit better than .288 in June: Kean Wong is right at .288 with one home run and 12 RBI while outfielder Magnueris Sierra has hit .333. Catcher Matt Thaiss hit .306 in the month but was recalled by Los Angeles after placing Matt Duffy on the IL earlier in the afternoon.

Overall, Salt Lake’s run production has declined dramatically. After averaging 6.7 runs per game in May, they have dropped to 4.8 runs per game in June. Team wide batting average has also dropped 12 points.

Salt lake has scored six or more runs in a game just seven times in June, winning four of those games.

How can the Bees snap out of their funk, close June on a heater and head into July with momentum?

It will all come down to the offense.

The PCL is traditionally a high-scoring and league and less than five runs of offense per game isn’t going to cut it. The return of Dillon Thomas after a couple of weeks in Houston’s system adds a high average bat with some power. If Angels former top-prospect Jo Adell can snap out of his June swoon and make a little more contact at the plate (he is striking out at a higher than 40% rate), that would add another impact bat.

With Wong’s on-base ability and Rojas’ home run power could help round out the offense and put Salt Lake in a position to make a second-half run.

On Deck

Salt Lake (34-38) travels to the pacific northwest where they will face the Tacoma Rainiers (28-43) in a six-game series. The series opener is set for Tuesday, June 28 with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. (MST). All Salt Lake Bees games can be heard on The Zone Sports Network.

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Bees Looking To Get Hot As They Head Into Dog Days Of Summer