D-backs minor league report: Jackson pitchers off to strong start

Kevin Cron has four home runs in five games for the Jackson Generals.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Double-A Jackson Generals are off to a 4-1 start and in first place in the Southern League’s North Division thanks to a stellar mix of starting pitching and offensive fireworks.

The Generals won their fourth in a row Monday, 5-2 over Birmingham. Starting pitcher Alex Young gave up five hits and one run over five innings while striking out three, continuing an impressive run of starts by the Generals’ staff.

In their first five games, Jackson’s starting pitchers have surrendered three runs in 26 innings, with a 30-6 strikeout-walk ratio. Taylor Clarke, the organization’s fifth-ranked prospect according to mlb.com, (two hits, one walk, seven strikeouts) and seventh-ranked Brad Keller (four hits, one walk, five strikeouts) each pitched five scoreless innings, Eric Jokisch gave up six hits and one run in a six-inning stint, and Josh Taylor allowed seven hits, one run and struck out nine in five innings.

At the plate, infielder Kevin Medrano is hitting .643 with a .722 on-base percentage, Dawel Lugo is hitting .450 with a pair of home runs and first baseman Kevin Cron is hitting .364 and leads the league with four home runs following a three-homer game on Saturday, which happened to be the Generals’ first loss — 8-7 in 10 innings.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever done that on any level, definitely never did it in pro ball,” Cron told milb.com. “The only thing that probably would have made it better is if we pulled out a win.”

Lugo, the D-backs’ fourth-ranked prospect, was 4 for 6 with two homers in a 20-5 win over Birmingham on Sunday.

Triple-A Reno

The D-backs top minor-league affiliate is off to a 2-3 start following Monday’s 5-2 win a Fresno.

Frank Duncan, acquired from the Pirates in a trade for Phil Gosselin, had a strong start, giving up three hits, one walk and one run in six innings. Enrique Burgos pitched the ninth for his first save.

Ketel Marte, beaten out by Chris Owings for the starting shortstop job in spring training, continued his hot start for the Aces with two hits, giving him a .444 average (10 for 22) through five games. Second baseman Ildemaro Vargas is also swinging a hot bat — .429 (9 for 21) with a home run.

Braden Shipley has the Aces’ other win, but only after getting roughed up for six runs and 11 hits over five innings. Top-ranked prospect Anthony Banda also had a rough first start for Reno, lasting only two and two-thirds innings while giving up three hits, four walks and four runs (two earned).

Single-A Kane County

The Cougars are off to a 5-0 start, having allowed just three earned runs in their first five games. Jon Duplantier, drafted in the third round last summer, gave up one hit, walked two and struck out eight in five scoreless innings against Clinton on Friday night. It was the first start of Duplantier’s professional career, after he pitched just one inning last summer for Hillsboro. Duplantier did not get credit for the 3-0 victory, as all of the Cougars’ runs came after he was removed from the game.

Sam McWilliams also pitched five shutout innings in his first start for Kane County, giving up two hits, and Ryan Atkinson had 10 strikeouts over five and two-thirds scoreless innings.

Anfernee Grier, the D-backs’ top draft pick last year, is hitting .250 through five games. Shortstop Jasrado Chisholm, the organization’s No.3 prospect, and outfielder Marcus Wilson are each hitting .389 with a home run.