Bees Bullets: Salt Lake Takes Series Win Into All-Star Break

Jul 19, 2022, 3:45 PM | Updated: 4:30 pm


Salt Lake Bees celebrate in dugout during game at Smith's Ballpark on Sunday, July 10.

SALT LAKE CITY – After a six tough weeks, the Bees head into the All-Star break on a high note, winning four of six games against division leading Las Vegas.

The Bees won four games in a row for the first time since May 4-7 when they won four straight at home against Tacoma. The Bees (42-48) close the first half of the schedule in third place in the Pacific Coast League West division. Salt Lake sits 7.5 game behind Las Vegas and seven games behind second place Reno.

PCL Player of the Week Jose Rojas

  • A pair of Rojas home runs accounted for every run in a 2-0 Bees victory Thursday night. Rojas also continued his climb up the Salt Lake all-time home run leaderboard with two solo blasts. He finished with four home runs in the series.

  • For a team without a true first baseman on the roster, Rojas looked pretty good on this play

  • Through 55 games with Salt Lake this season, Rojas’ 15 home runs lead the team and his 43 RBI trail only Dillon Thomas (48) and Magneuris Sierra (45). Rojas had an 11-game RBI streak come to an end in the final game before the break. If he can continue swinging a hot bat the versatile defender could find himself with the Angels before too long. As the Angels continue to flounder, a guy that can play both corner outfield spots and has seen time at every infield spot but shortstop could get an extended look at the big league level to close the season.

Dillon Thomas On Fire

  • 19-59, eight runs scored, eight XBH’s, nine RBI- That’s Dillon Thomas‘ batting line over the past 10 games. Thomas saw a nine game hitting streak that included seven multi-hit performances come to an end on Saturday. His eight extra base hits include this blast that found the pool at Las Vegas Ballpark on Wednesday. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Salt Lake’s recent resurgence coincides with Thomas’ hot streak.

Shutout success

  • Angels No. 10 prospect Janson Junk made probably his best start of the season on Thursday night when he delivered six innings of two hit baseball against the  Aviators. Junk had a season high eight strikeouts. Grant Dayton, Jonathan Aro and Ty Buttrey combined to cover the final three innings in shutting out Las Vegas. It was the fourth shutout of the year for Salt Lake.

  • Speaking of Buttrey, the MLB veteran of three seasons thinks his body is coming around after missing all of 2021. Prior to a game on the previous homestand, Buttrey seemed upbeat while saying he’s ‘just a couple of weeks away’. After a difficult June where Buttrey finished the month with a 20.25 earned run average, the Angels designated Buttrey for assignment. After clearing waivers, he rejoined the Bees and has pitched well in July. The stocky right-hander has three clean appearances sandwiched around a July 7 outing in which nobody on Salt Lake’s staff seemed able to quiet a Sacramento River Cat offense that plated 17 runs.

Hitting the Triple-A wall?

  • Ryan Smith (not THAT Ryan Smith) 3 IP, 5 runs, 5 hits, 3 HR, 2 K’s, 1 BB. Rated by as the Angels No. 23 prospect, the left-hander began the season in the starting rotation, starting in eight of his first nine appearances in 2022. A respectable though not spectacular 4.42 earned run average in April gave way to a forgettable May. Smith gave up seven runs on seven hits against Tacoma on May 3, including three long balls. In his first appearance of the season out of the pen a week later, he gave up a pair of hits and hit a batter while surrendering two runs. The numbers didn’t improve after Smith went back to the rotation. In three starts from May 13 through the end of the month, Smith started three times and allowed five earned runs on twice.  He finished June with an 11.43 earned run average, prompting a move to the bullpen as a way to ‘kickstart’ the struggling pitcher. With two clean appearances in 10 chances out of the pen, Smith has been prone to giving up big innings. In the tweet below, you see the third home run allowed by Smith against Las Vegas on July 12.

  • Since moving up to Triple-A in 2021, Smith has seen his HR/9 innings rate jump from 1.43 homers per nine innings in Double-A to 2.42 with Salt Lake in 2021; and a staggering 2.57 home runs per nine innings in 2022. Couple that with a strikeout rate that his fallen from 24.7 percent in Double-A last season to 19.6 percent this year; and a walk rate that has nearly doubled from 5.5 percent to 10.6 percent in the past year and you begin to see what has led to some of Smith’s struggles. His 14 home runs allowed and 25 walks issued in 2022 are already career highs with half a season to play. It appears as though Smith has simply hit a developmental wall since climbing to the Triple-A level. In order to keep himself in the Angels future plans, Smith will need to improve his command while simultaneously limiting the hard contact that has plagued him with the Bees.

  • On a positive note out of the bullpen, Jonathan Aro may have turned things around after a difficult June that saw him finish with a 7.50 earned run average in five appearances. Through six appearances in July, Aro has delivered just one klunker. It was a July 7 start where he allowed five runs on six hits while laboring to get through just two innings. Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to boil down Aro’s struggles to one thing; starting vs. relieving. Aro has allowed 15 runs, 14 earned while surrendering a .313 batting average against in 14.1 innings as a starter. Out of the bullpen, Aro has thrown nearly double the innings (27.2) while holding batters to a .252 batting average against and giving up just 12 earned runs. Aro’s ability to eat multiple innings also proved to be beneficial when starting pitcher Jhonathan Diaz left in the second inning on Saturday because of an upper body injury. Aro threw four scoreless innings in Salt Lake’s second consecutive shutout. It was their fifth shutout this season.

Two Sides Of Toussaint

  • Acquired from the Atlanta Braves on July third for cash considerations, Touki Toussaint has shown good and bad in two starts with Salt Lake. The one-time top prospect made it just one inning in his first start with the Bees. He gave up two hits, hit a batter and walked two while surrendering three earned runs on July 12. Against the same Las Vegas Aviators team on July 17 , Touissaint threw 47 pitches in 2.2 scoreless innings. It was the longest outing for Toussaint since he went 6.1 innings on May 21. He had pitched out of the bullpen since that appearance until the trade that brought him to Salt Lake

Gatewood rounding into form

  • Jake Gatewood, former Milwauker Brewers first round pick (41st overall) could be rounding into form after beginning the season on the injured list. Gatewood made his first appearance in the Bees lineup on May 11. Batting just .238 overallGatewood is hitting .294 in July with four home runs while striking out just 16 times. The 6’5 infielder certainly looks the part of a power hitter and after 28 home runs in 2021, that home run stroke might be coming around.

Welcome back Jack

  • Infielder Jack Mayfield cleared waivers last week and was assigned to Salt Lake. He didn’t waste much time getting acclimated…

Happy birthday

  • Middle infielder and hit machine Jake Palomaki celebrated his 27th birthday on July 17. Palomaki has slashed .333/.416/.398 with 31 of his 36 hits coming as singles. This is his first taste of Triple-A pitching.

Adios Adell

  • After slashing .239/.333/.587 in 40 games with the Bees, once top-prospect Jo Adell has been recalled by the Angels. After an anemic start that had Adell approaching the Mendoza linehe has gotten hot. In the past 15 games Adell is slashing .300/.327/.420. His strikeout rate of 31.1 percent with Salt Lake would be the eighth highest in MLB. A pointless and interesting note, Adell hit four singles in his last six games with the Bees. Prior to that outburst, Adell had five singles in 35 games played.

Ky Bush at Future’s Game

  • Entering in the third inning with a 5-3 lead, the former Fremont High star stranded a pair of base runners while giving up one hit, walking a batter and striking out one. Nobody put the ball in the air against the ground ball focused pitcher.

Harrison returning

  • Monte Harrison had two hits in nine games with Los Angeles after a June 24 call-up. After being designated for assignment last week, Harrison cleared waivers and has been assigned to the Bees. In 50 games with Salt Lake to begin the season, Harrison contributed six home runs and 24 RBI while stealing 20 bases. He’ll add some much needed depth to the outfield and a bat with MLB experience in the lineup.

On Deck

All of professional gets a much needed break this week. The Bees will be back in action at Smith’s Ballpark on Friday, July 22 as the Tacoma Rainiers come in to town for a three game series Friday-Sunday. Purchase tickets to see the Bees play at Listen to voice of the Bees Steve Klauke on The Zone Sports Network.

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Bees Bullets: Salt Lake Takes Series Win Into All-Star Break