Series Preview: Kannapolis at Hickory April 14-17

Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) 

The Hickory Crawdads open the home portion of the 2016 South Atlantic Season with a four-game series against their neighbor to the southeast, the Kannapolis Intimidators at L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

If you plan to go:

Games Thursday and Saturday are at 6 p.m., Friday is at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

All ticket prices are $9 with VIP tickets going for $14. Parking is $3. On Sundays, the Crawdads offer $6 tickets when presenting a church bulletin.

The Crawdads are giving away 2016 magnet schedules on Thursday, a commemorative 2015 SAL championship banner on Saturday, and a poster schedules on Sunday. All giveaways are to the first 1,000 fans to the gates. There will be post-game fireworks on Friday.

Concessions are basic ballpark fare with a wider selection of items at the Crawdads Café, which is located above the 1B stands. New this year is a mac-and-cheese footlong hotdog.

 

Where is it?:

L.P. Frans Stadium is located on Clement Blvd., approximately 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321. From I-40 east or west, take exit 123 B and follow the signs to U.S. 321 North. The left turn for Clement Blvd. is at the light that houses Pizza Hut, CVS, RaceTrac gas station and Peak Motors.

From the north, take Hwy 321 South to Clement Blvd. and turn right.

From downtown Hickory, take 3rd street NW to the west and follow it until it turns into Clement Blvd. past the U.S. 321 intersection.

 

Probables (Kannapolis/ Hickory):

Thursday: RHP Zach Thompson vs. RHP Dillon Tate

Friday: LHP Tanner Banks vs. RHP Pedro Payano

Saturday: RHP Johnathan Frebis vs. RHP Jonathan Hernandez

Sunday: RHP Luis Martinez vs. RHP Erik Swanson/ LHP Wes Benjamin (piggy back)

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory won three out of four games last week at Intimidators Stadium to open the season. Last year, the Crawdads took a 9-6 season-series win, which included a 5-2 record at L.P. Frans Stadium. Against Kannapolis, the Crawdads are 75-50 since 2009 – the start of the affiliation with the Texas Rangers – 35-23 at LPFS. Kannapolis has one series win at Hickory since 2011, which came when the Intimidators took 2-of-3 in the first week of the 2014 season.

 

Entering the series – Hickory:

The Crawdads return home after a three-game sweep at Greensboro, which wrapped up a 6-1 season-opening road trip, and are a game ahead of West Virginia in the SAL’s Northern Division… At the plate, the Crawdads are tops in the 14-team league with a .429 slugging pct. They also lead the league in homers, total bases and are tied with Lakewood for the most hits. Hickory is second in runs scored, RBI, and team OPS (.734)… Expected to be aggressive on the base paths, the Crawdads have attempted a league high of 24 steals and lead the SAL with 9 caught stealing attempts. They are second in steals with 15…On the mound, the Crawdads pitching staff has allowed two or fewer runs in five of their seven games. Overall, their 2.14 ERA is third in the SAL and they have allowed just one home run… After committing 8 errors during last weekend’s Kannapolis series, the Crawdads had just one during the three-game series at Greensboro.

 

Entering the series – Kannapolis:

Kannapolis swiped two out of three at home against Delmarva (Md.) and went 3-4 on its homestand… At the plate, the Intimidators have scored two or fewer runs in five of their seven games. They are third in hits, fourth with a .254 batting average. Kannapolis leads the league with the most strikeouts… On the mound, the Intimidators are second in the league in strikeouts… In the field, they are tied with Lexington with 10 errors committed and are next to last in fielding pct.

 

Players to watch- Hickory:

RHP Dillon Tate: The Rangers No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, No. 5 by Baseball America. He is also MLB.com’s No. 35 overall prospect and the 8th best RHP. In his opening start of the season, Tate allowed an unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts over 4.2 innings at Kannapolis. It is apparent that Tate will have a higher pitch count than has been the case for a younger pitcher at the start of the season. He threw 85 pitches (52 strikes) in last Friday’s start. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.

RHP Pedro Payano: The MLB.com No. 29 Rangers prospect had a steady start last Saturday, but it was tainted by control issues. Payano held the Intimidators to one run on two hits and struck out seven over five innings. However, he also tied his career high for a game with four walks. Like Tate, it appears that Payano also will be pushed early on with pitch counts, as he threw 91 pitches (45 strikes) in the start at Kannapolis. Armed with fastball/ curve/ change, he will throw any pitch at any count.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez: The righthander is the Rangers No. 20 prospect, as determined by Baseball America, No. 28 by MLB.com. Hernandez was the lone starting pitcher to struggle his first time through the rotation. Needing 73 pitches to record 10 outs, Hernandez gave up 8 runs (6 earned) on seven hits and walked two over 3.1 innings at Kannapolis in his last start on Sunday. His defense committed four errors behind him during the game, but Hernandez had control issues with his fastball, as well. He has allowed the lone Crawdads homer surrendered thus far in 2016

RHP Erik Swanson: The Rangers 8th round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC had a stellar first pro start at Greensboro on Monday, during which he gave up two hits and a walk over five innings and struck out four. Swanson had the sinker working as he recorded 11 groundball outs.

LHP Wes Benjamin: Will piggyback with Swanson for now. The 22-year-old was the Rangers fifth round pick in 2014 out of Kansas. Had Tommy John surgery while with the Jayhawks in 2014. In his first outing last Monday, Benjamin earned a four-inning save at Greensboro during which he allowed three baserunners (one hit) and struck out two.

2B Andy Ibanez: Continues to be among the conversation when considering the hottest hitter in the minors at the start of the 2016 season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (14), doubles (5), total bases (24), batting avg. (.560), OBP (.607), slugging (.960) and OPS (1.567). Last week at Kannapolis, Ibanez went 9-for-17 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, 6 RBI and three runs scored. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16. He is splitting time at second with Frandy De La Rosa and DHing.

CF Eric Jenkins: At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7. Had a tough weekend at Kannapolis with seven strikeouts in 14 plate appearances, including a “Golden Sombrero” in Saturday night’s game. Jenkins struck out six more times at Greensboro, but started to make better contact in the series with three hits, including his first pro homer, over the final two games.

IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro this week. During the three-game series, the Orange Co. California native went 4-for-10 with a homer, a double and four RBI.

RF Jose Almonte: Had a nice weekend series at Kannapolis, going 5-for-11 (all singles) and walked twice. Overall, the Dominican Republic native has a .318/.400/.455 slash with four RBI and five runs scored. He hit his first homer of the season at Greensboro and only his third overall as a pro.

 

Players to watch-Kannapolis:

LF Landon Lassiter: The 22-year-old attended North Davidson High in Lexington and UNC  Chapel Hill. Was drafted two different times prior to finally signing with the White Sox after being picked in the 21st round in 2015.  His 4-for-4 game vs. Delmarva on Wednesday placed him behind only Ibanez in the SAL with a .526 batting avg. Lassiter is third in the league in OBP (.571) and OPS (1.256). He also had three hits in the game that Hernandez started on Sunday.

CF Tyler Sullivan: Tied for third in the SAL in walks (5), he has a slash of .333/.455/.444. Went 6-for-16 against Hickory last weekend. Sullivan was the White Sox 14th round pick in 2015 out of Pacific.

1B Corey Zangari: The White Sox sixth-round pick out of Carl Albert High in Midwest City, OK. He is currently the White Sox’s No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com and No. 13 prospect according to Baseball America. Went only 3-for-16 against Hickory, but had three hits including a homer over the last two games vs. Delmarva to push slash to .231/.310/.346.

SS/3B Johan Cruz: Currently the White Sox’s No. 16 prospect from MLB.com and No. 27 by Baseball America. Struggled versus Hickory last weekend at the plate (4-for-17, 6 Ks) and on the field (3 errors). Had two hits and three RBI in a game that Hernandez started for Hickory last Sunday.

C Seby Zavala: No. 26 prospect by Baseball America. Was the 12th round pick of the White Sox in 2015 out of San Diego St. Started the season 0-for-16 before putting up a 2-for-4 game vs. Delmarva on Wednesday. Had Tommy John surgery in 2013.

1B/ OF Zach Fish: Has the Intimidators only homer through seven games this season – a three-run blast vs. Hernandez on Sunday. Named the Big XII Conference Player of the Year at Oklahoma St. He was the Rangers 4th round pick in 2011 out of Gulf Lake High (Mich.).

RHP Zach Thompson: A native of Burleson, Tex., Thompson was the White Sox fifth round pick in 2014 out of Texas-Arlington. Allowed one run on five hits and struck out eight over five innings in his lone start of the season, which came against Hickory last Saturday.

LHP Tanner Banks: The White Sox 18th round choice in 2014 out of Salt Lake CC helped pick up the Intimidators first win of the season on Sunday, as he held Hickory to three earned runs on six hits and struck out five over five innings.

RHP Luis Martinez: No. 29 prospect by MLB.com. Made 24 starts for the Intimidators last season as a 20-year-old and allowed 155 baserunners in 108.2 innings. So far in two 2016 starts, Martinez has given up just 13 baserunners in 10 innings. He has 10 Ks and one walk, a promising improvement after a 69/ 53 ratio in 2015. Had Tommy John surgery in 2011.

RHP Taylore Cherry: Was the 32nd round pick of the White Sox in 2015 out of UNC Chapel Hill. Is listed at 6-9, 290 lbs.

 

Notes of Interest: Like last season, it appears the Rangers will play a bit of merry-go-round with the Crawdads roster to accommodate a six-man rotation that will actually contain seven pitchers, as Erik Swanson and Wes Benjamin throw in a piggyback situation. For now, it is Swanson and fellow starter Peter Fairbanks switching places on the active list… Crawdads reliever Jacob Shortslef is on the DL with a cut on his pitching hand…Kannapolis RHP Drew Hasler is the son of former Crawdads pitching coach (1993-1994) Curt Hasler, now the White Sox minor league pitching coordinator… Crawdads catcher Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis pitcher Alex Katz were teammates at St. John’s. Katz surrendered his first pro home run last Sunday – to Sanchez.

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