Series Preview: Hickory at Greensboro April 6-9
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (0-0) at Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (0-0)
The Hickory Crawdads and Greensboro Grasshoppers open the 2017 South Atlantic League season with a four-game series at First National Bank Field in Greensboro.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Games Thursday through Saturday are at 7:00 EDT with a 4 p.m. start on Sunday.
TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $7-11.
PARKING: Parking at the ballpark is $5. There are independently operated parking lots nearby that charge a varied amount. Metered parking about a block away from the outfield is free after 6 p.m. on weekdays and is free on weekends.
CONCESSIONS: First National Bank Field is more of a AA park and so the concession offerings are a vast upgrade from what a smaller Low-A ball park provides. Other than basic ballpark fare, there is a BBQ stand, Sausage Shack, Philly Steaks Sandwiches, Mexican fare, and a Burger of the Month. There are also veggie options. Here is the entire menu.
Where is it?:
From Hickory, take I-40 East to exit 218 B / Freeman Mill Road. That will turn into Edgeworth St. and the ballpark will be on the right. (Edgeworth and Bellemeade St.)
Thursday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Jordan Holloway
Friday: RHP Kyle Cody vs. RHP Alejando Mateo
Saturday: RHP Emerson Martinez vs. RHP Dustin Beggs
Sunday: RHP Edgar Arredondo vs. LHP Dylan Lee
rRecent Series History:
Hickory took an 12-9 season-series win vs. the Grasshoppers in 2016, which included a 7-4 mark at then-called NewBridge Bank Park. Since the stadium opened in 2005, Greensboro is 55-42 at home vs. the Crawdads, 35-34 during the Rangers affiliation (since 2009).
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 MLB.com and Baseball America): Given the strong finish by Hernandez in 2016, it was a little surprising to see the right-hander back donning the Hickory uniform again. After an 8.87 ERA and a .305 OBA in July, the 20-year old gave up just 10 ER over his final 28.2 innings in August/ September (3.14 ERA) and opponents hit just .210 in that stretch. Development of his changeup and keeping his delivery under control was under the agenda last year. Now as the “senior” member of the staff, Hernandez may be primed to step forward as a more dominant force on the mound. He can rack up Ks (10 in a game vs. Lexington last May), but his success comes with groundball outs (1.19 GO/AO).
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): The big righty (6-4, 225) had a dominant tenure with Spokane (1.78 ERA, 46 Ks/ 10 BBs 30.1 IP), then struggled to find his command after he joined Hickory for the final month of 2016 (10 Ks/ 18 BBs 13.1 IP). Brings an overpowering fastball/ slider, but the Vanderbilt product’s goal is simple to start the season: find the plate.
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America): Observers say he has an intriguing combination of power and speed, along with a good makeup for an 18-year-old. Had an adequate K/BB ratio (55 K/ 25 BBs over 333 plate appearances) and 21 extra-base hits in 73 games last year. The curious thing will be to see how he adjusts to SAL pitchers that spin the ball. For former top-end, 17-18-year-old Crawdads outfielders that spent two seasons here (Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara, Jairo Beras for example), the first year was frustration personified as each racked up Ks swinging at breaking balls off the plate. Patience with the process could be needed by fans.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Over the first 24 seasons of Crawdads baseball, only 2013 OF Nick Williams put together a season that had double-digit totals in doubles, triples and homers. Tejeda did that over three levels last season when he had 14 doubles, ten triples and ten homers in just 66 games. Will need to work on plate discipline (73 Ks in 269 ABs), but his gap-to-gap approach at a young age is certainly an interesting proposition to monitor as he gets older and wiser. Played exclusively at shortstop last year and will have to work on slowing the game down as he made 17 errors in 45 games.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Seems strange to type 2B by his name as he led all SAL shortstops in fielding last year. Shows good range and the arm is a cannon. At the plate, showed good power for a young player. But, Yrizarri could be frustrating to watch. Seemed to take his time in the field in making plays, though his arm bailed him out. He also swings at EVERYTHING. Does make decent enough contact, but had ONLY 9 WALKS. Hopefully the second season will be the charm on developing plate discipline.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): The biggest hurdle for the 20-year-old last year was staying on the field. A bit of surprise when he was assigned to Hickory last year, Almonte made the player development folks look smart when he put up a .278/.343/ .444 slash and popped eight homers in 57 games. Missed a lot of the 2016 season with injuries to both shoulders. He worked in the offseason to strengthen his upper body. Like Yrizarri, plate discipline will be a key for him as well (55 Ks/ 8 walks with Hickory).
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Started slow, but gained confidence and seemingly strength as the season wore on. Came to Hickory with a reputation of the game being too fast for him in the field, he was as solid defender as there was in the league last year. In the first half, he hit for a .239/.299/289 slash. The second half, it went to .261/.316/.376. Twenty of his 28 extra-base hits came in the second half. Will be interesting to see if that confidence continues to build in his second season with the Crawdads.
C Ricky Valencia: Played just 41 games last year – 22 behind the plate – the organizational soldier will get a chance to play on a fulltime basis for the first time in his pro career. Brings a power bat to the lineup, but how much he can hold up through the rigors of catching in the heat of North Carolina summers will be something to watch.
RHP Jake Lemoine: The 2015 fourth-round draftee will make his pro debut with Hickory after struggling with a shoulder injury. The Univ. of Houston prospect will start the season in the bullpen with bite-sized game appearances for now.
Prospects to watch-Greensboro:
RHP Jordan Holloway (No. 15 Baseball America, 16 MLB.com): After a solid short-season with Batavia in 2015, he took a step backwards when he struggled with control with the Grasshoppers (15 walks/ 31 innings over eight starts) then was shut down with a triceps injury after a demotion back to Batavia. MLB.com has his fastball and curve both at 60 on the 20-80 scale, but can he control it?
RHP Sam Perez (No. 18 MLB.com, 23 Baseball America): A reliever for Missouri State, Perez may get a chance to start in the Marlins system, though he is not expected to do so in this series. Scouting publications note his durability (91 innings over 36 games his senior season) as well as his intelligence. The combination may serve him well vs. the younger players of the SAL. He may get a chance to move up the ladder quickly if the Marlins decide to keep him in the pen.
2B Justin Twine (No. 26 MLB.com, 28 Baseball America): An athletic kid that played several sports in high school, the Falls City, Tex. native – the second-round pick of the Marlins in 2014 – has struggled to put that into baseball ability. Has K’d 276 times over 970 ABs and works very few walks. Drafted as a SS, the Marlins moved him to 2B where he led the SAL in fielding last year. This will be the third year with the Grasshoppers, and although he is still just 21, time is pressing for him to put things together.
Notes of Interest: Holloway is the Grasshoppers youngest player and one of just two 20-years-olds on the roster. Eleven of the Crawdads 25-man roster are younger than Holloway, five of those are expected to be in the lineup this evening (Almonte, Forbes, Taveras, Tejeda, Yrizarri) … Hickory manager Spike Owen was originally slated to be the team’s manager last year. However, Owen became the Rangers interim third-base coach when Tony Beasley (Hickory manager in 2002) was diagnosed with cancer and left the team to receive treatment… Grasshoppers manager Todd Pratt, a 14-year major league veteran, played for the old Greensboro Hornets in 1986, then an affiliate with the Boston Red Sox. Owen played shortstop for the Red Sox in that season’s World Series… Crawdads RHP Edgar Arredondo is the youngest player ever to appear in a Mexican League game. He was 15 when he suited up for Quintana Roo in 2013.