The Hickory Crawdads return home to face the Delmarva Shorebirds in a three-game series tonight through Wednesday at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Monday: Matthew Grimes (RH, 3-1, 4.93 ERA) and Ariel Juado (RH, 6-0, 3.00); Tuesday: Sebastian Vader (RH, 2-2, 3.09) and Luis Ortiz (RH, 2-0, 0.66); Wednesday: Bennett Parry (LH, 3-3, 2.95) and Cody Buckel (RH, 0-0, 0.00).
Entering the series:
Hickory (29-14) burst out of an offensive tailspin with a ten-run, 14-hit effort Saturday night at Kannapolis, followed by eight runs on 10 hits yesterday afternoon. The Crawdads still lead the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division by four games over the West Virginia Power– who will play at Lakewood (N.J.) this week – and now lead third place Delmarva (22-21) and Hagerstown by seven games.
As close as one game behind Hickory on May 4, the Shorebirds are 7-12 since after dropping three out of four at West Virginia over the weekend. Delmarva scored only four runs on 15 hits in losing the final three games of the series. A bigger loss for the Shorebirds is that of second baseman Steve Wilkerson (.309/ .417 /.391) to the disabled list. He is second in the SAL in OBP.
Players to watch – Delmarva
3B Jomar Reyes: The youngest player in the SAL stands an imposing 6-3, 220 lbs. He is currently the number 11 prospect (mlb.com) in the Orioles system. Already at 14 XBH’s in 148 at bats, he also has 32 strikeouts. Reyes is 13-for-48 (.342) in his last ten games, but went 1-for-12 with four Ks at West Viriginia.
C Jonah Heim: No. 18 prospect of the Orioles (4th round, 2013- Amherst, NY) is at .260/ .290/ .373 for the season. Has thrown out only 11 of 42 runners attempting to steal.
CF Jay Gonzales: The Orioles 10th round pick (Mt. Olive Coll., NC) last year leads the SAL in runs scored and is fourth in walks. He also has 45 strikeouts in 181 plate appearances (24.8%)
LF Conor Bierfeldt: The 29th round pick of the Orioles in 2013 (Western Connecticut St.) leads the SAL with 41 RBI. In his second season with the Shorebirds, Bierfeldt has 30 homers in 222 pro games, but has struggled to a .225/ .313/ .423 slash line this year.
RP Zeke McGranahan: Attended Riverside High in Durham, NC (23rd round 2014- Georgia Gwinnett College), he currently has a 0.87 ERA in 20.2 innings with 28 strikeouts. He also is susceptible to wildness as shown by his 17 walks.
RP: Donnie Hart: Currently is tied with Hickory’s John Fasola with a SAL-high nine saves and has yet to allow an earned run. Hart is a 27th round pick (2013) out of Texas St.
Players to watch – Hickory:
SP: Cody Buckel: Expected to make his second start of the season for Hickory on Wednesday. He started the season at AA Frisco before joining the Crawdads last week. Once on the short-list of top pitching prospects for the Rangers, Buckel suddenly couldn’t find the plate in 2013 (9 Ks/ 28 BBs in 9.1 IP at Frisco). Still only 22, he hopes to re-connect with the magic he had at Hickory in 2011 (8-3, 2.61 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 120 Ks, 27 BBs in 96.2 IP).
SP: Ariel Jurado: Winners of six out of seven starts, the sinkerballer has walked only four (34 Ks) in 39 innings. His 0.92 walks-per-9 innings is the second lowest in the SAL.
SP: Luis Ortiz: His 0.66 ERA would lead the SAL, but he is seven innings shy of posting a qualifying mark. Like Jurado, Ortiz has also been stingy with the free passes, issuing only four (25 Ks) in 27.1 innings.
RPs: David Perez and Adam Parks: The duo is second and third in the SAL respectively in Ks-per-9 innings among relievers. Perez’s ratio is 12.76, while Parks is at 12.33.
1B: Rock Shoulders: Finally broke his hitless streak (0-for-28) since joining the Crawdads on May 16. Hickory is looking for Shoulders to provide some of the power he showed with the Cubs farm system during which he posted 43 doubles and 30 homers in 208 games over the past two seasons.
RF Luke Tendler: After smashing SAL pitching with a .346/ .378/ .708 line in April, it’s dropped to .241/ .323/ .289 in May. Still, he is tied for first in the SAL with 13 doubles, is second in total bases with 79, and fourth in slugging at .491.
C Jose Trevino: Like Tendler, May has not been kind to the backstop (.247/ .256/ .325). He’s also struggled this season at LP Frans, hitting only .208 (.313 on the road). However, he shown life lately with four hits in his last nine ABs with two doubles.
3B Josh Morgan: He’s been the contrarian in the Crawdads struggles at the plate in May, posting a .312/ .384/ .416 line. During the Kannapolis series, Morgan went 7-for-18 with two walks and blasted his first homer of the season.