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April 16, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Valdez caps breakout game with walk-off hit; Mayer heats up

4/16 Cup of Coffee
: A pair of top-20 prospects broke out of early-season funks as the affiliates were victorious in three of five contests. A previously-slumping Enmanuel Valdez carried Worcester as it snapped a six-game losing streak. Top prospect Marcelo Mayer also emerged from his first-week haze with a big night, though it was not enough as the Drive suffered an extra-inning defeat. Ceddanne Rafaela and CJ Liu starred as Portland kept up its winning ways. Salem split its doubleheader, carrying a no-hitter into the final inning of its nightcap win.


After a rough two weeks to start the year, Enmanuel Valdez seemed to get on track, carrying Worcester to a Saturday evening victory. Valdez, 4 for 31 to start the year, went 3 for 4 with a home run, double, and a walk. He finished the performance with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to walk the game off. David Hamilton continues to be a spark, as the shortstop went 1 for 3 with a double, two walks, two runs scored, and a stolen base. Jarren Duran had a pair of hits, including a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the ninth, setting the stage for Valdez's heroics.

Brandon Walter turned in a solid start,  allowing two runs on four hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out five. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall was in attendance, reporting that Walter outpitched that line and did a good job limiting hard contact. Joe Jacques and Chase Shugart combined for three innings of scoreless relief. AJ Politi got credit for a vulture win. He came on for the ninth in a save situation but surrendered three runs before getting bailed out by Duran and Valdez in the bottom of the frame.


Portland continues to roll, winning its third straight and sixth of seven to being the year. CJ Liu continued the parade of outstanding starting pitching, scattering five hits across five scoreless innings. The 24-year-old righty struck out eight against three walks. New Hampshire reached Rio Gomez for a solo home run before Jacob Webb and Ryan Miller followed with a scoreless inning apiece to slam the door. Ceddanne Rafaela led the way at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a run scored, RBI, and a stolen base. Matthew Lugo doubled as part of a 2-for-5 effort, while Niko Kavadas was on base four times with a single and three walks.


The Drive fell in extra innings despite the best efforts of Marcelo Mayer. The system's top prospect got off to a 2-for-20 start but blasted a two-run homer on Saturday as part of a 3-for-5, four RBI evening. Chase Meidroth continues to be one of the toughest outs in the system, walking four more times to give him 11 free passes in 30 plate appearances. He sports a .389/.633/.611 slash line through six games. Gilberto Jimenez delivered his third double of the season, extending his modest season-opening hitting streak to five games. 

Starter Angel Bastardo allowed three runs on five hits in five innings, striking out seven against just one walk. The seven punchouts tie a career best for the 20-year-old. Joey Stock was saddled with the loss, walking the first two batters of the 10th inning, both of whom came around to score on a grand slam by Nerio Rodriguez (the son of the longtime MLB reliever) off of Graham Hoffman.


Luis Perales had been scheduled to make his second start of the season on Friday, his 20th birthday, but rainy weather necessitated the on-field portion of the celebration be moved to a Saturday doubleheader. Command was an issue for Perales, as he went just 2 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits. He struck out three, walked four, and needed 64 pitches to record those seven outs, throwing just 31 for strikes. The lineup mustered just four hits in the opener. Cutter Coffey walked and doubled, Salem's only extra-base hit of the contest. Fellow 2022 draftee Roman Anthony was also 1 for 2 with a walk, adding a run scored. 

In the nightcap, the Salem pitching staff carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. While that bid fell short, Salem finished off the victory to earn a split in the twinbill. Noah Dean got the start, firing 3 2/3 hitless frames but struggling with his control. He walked six while striking out four and needed 78 pitches, throwing just 39 for strikes. Caleb Bolden went the next 2 1/3, striking out five of the seven batters he saw while walking just one. Carolina reached Marques Johnson for a pair of runs on three hits in the seventh, his only inning of work. Ronald Rosario led the way at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a walk, double, run scored, and two RBI. Coffey exited the contest for precautionary reasons after he was hit by a pitch in the left forearm. 


Player of the Day: Part of the return for catcher Christian Vazquez at the 2022 trade deadline, Enmanuel Valdez had a breakout offensive season. He was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, saw significant playing time in spring training, and entered 2023 as the 15th-ranked prospect in the system. His 3-for-4 performance on Saturday included his first home run of the year and a game-winning base hit, as he raised his slash line from .129/.250/.194 to .200/.317/.371.

Photo Credit: Enmanuel Valdez by Kelly O'Connor