Series Preview: Hickory at Columbia April 10-12
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (1-3) at Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies (New York Mets) (4-0)
The Hickory Crawdads complete the second leg of their two-city, weeklong road trip at Columbia’s Spirit Communication Park to open the 2017 South Atlantic League season.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Games Monday through Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
BROADCAST: MILBtv.com or through Gameday Audio links on milb.com.
TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $5 for an outfield berm seat to $14 for a “Scout Seat”.
Where is it?:
From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 North towards Charlotte. Take exit 30 to the I-485 outer loop, then I-77 South toward Columbia. Take I-77 to 277 South to Columbia. Take the Farrow Road/SC-555 exit. Turn left onto Farrow Road/SC-555. Continue onto Colonial Drive. Turn left onto Gregg Street. Turn right onto Freed Street. The ballpark is located on the left side of the street.
PARKING: Parking in the general lots is $3 and located along Colonial Dr. as well as Gregg St. Take the complimentary trolley shuttle to the stadium. ADA permit parking is available by the stadium property.
CONCESSIONS: Spirit Communications Park has four permanent stands and 25 specialty carts. The team’s website does not list food offerings.
Probables (Hickory/ Columbia):
Monday: RHP Argenis Rodriguez vs. RHP Colin Holderman
Tuesday RHP Tyler Phillips or RHP Demarcus Evans vs. LHP Blake Taylor
Wednesday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Harol Gonzalez
Recent Series History:
The Fireflies took two of three at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium during the only series the teams played in 2016. This is the first trip by the Crawdads to Spirit Communication Park, which opened last year. The Columbia franchise was previously stationed in Savannah, Ga. and known as the Sand Gnats. This will be Hickory’s first trip to the Mets low-A affiliate since 2014. Since 2009, the first year of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation, the Sand Gnats/ Fireflies hold a 14-13 lead in games played at their home ballparks. Overall, Hickory holds a 29-27 advantage during the same time period.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory is coming off a 1-3 series loss at Greensboro in which the pitching staff struggled with control. The crew walked 12 in an opening-night loss to the Grasshoppers, eight the second night, and finished with 30 in the series. The Crawdads lead the South Atlantic League with ten HRs.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America): Had hits in all four games (6-for-16) with 5 runs scored and two homers at Greensboro. He had one dinger all last season.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Hit a mammoth homer (441’) opening night, but went 3-for-16 in the series at Greensboro with 7 Ks. Showed encouraging signs of discipline, as he worked four walks in four games. He had 18 in 66 games last year.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Had a four-hit game at Greensboro on Saturday and went 6-for-17 in the series. Started at 1B opening night, then shifted to right the remainder of the series.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, 18 MLB.com): Hernandez struggled in his first start on opening night, as he allowed nine of 16 batters to reach base. Control was his downfall as he threw just 33 strikes out of 65 pitches. He can rack up strikeouts at times (three in two innings last Thursday), but Hernandez relies on a sinker to get groundballs.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Singled opening night, had a homer the next game, then suffered through an 0-for-6 on Saturday. Just three Ks over 14 PAs, so he is making contact. Has handled the move to second base well in the early going, turning a couple of double plays and making plays with ease.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Opened the season in RF, then shifted to LF the next two games. Had a 1-for-11 weekend and sat out Sunday’s game.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Did not pitch over the weekend. 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.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Homered in each of the first three games of the series, Forbes went 6-for-11 over the three games he played before sitting out Sunday’s game.
RHP Jake Lemoine: The 2015 fourth-round draftee made his pro debut on Thursday night at Greensboro. Looked rough early, the Univ. of Houston product settled in nicely in his second inning and racked up a pair of Ks, including a 91 mph on the corner for a called third-strike.
1B Preston Scott: Reached base in seven of 13 plate appearances over the weekend, including a pair of homers and a double to account for the three hits. The two homers came in Saturday’s game during which he also stole two bases and reached on a hit and a walk.
About the Fireflies:
Managed by Jose Leger in his third season with the Mets’ low-A affiliate. The Fireflies are coming off a four-game sweep of the Augusta (Ga.) as they outscored the GreenJackets 36-12. Two of the wins came on shutouts. During the sweep, the team put up a .313/.446/.458 slash and worked a SAL-high 32 walks. They also stole 12 bases, the most in the SAL.
Prospects to watch – Columbia:
CF Desmond Lindsey (No. 4 Baseball America, 6 MLB.com). The 2015 second-round pick of the Mets struggled with hamstring issues, missing much of his high school senior season. He again suffered the same injury and was limited to 37 games during the 2016 season at two short-season stops. Showed good plate discipline with 25 walks to 31 Ks in 2016, sporting a .433 OBP. Played 3B in high school, moved to the OF to showcase his speed.
2B/SS Luis Carpio (No. 16 MLB.com, 20 Baseball America) Missed much of 2016 after surgery for a torn labrum. Came back late in the 2016 season, but was exclusively a DH. Went 5-for-16 during the opening-season series vs. Augusta
C Ali Sanchez (No. 21 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) At this point, Sanchez is defensively ahead of the offensive side of his game. Has thrown out 92 of 191 base stealers (48%), though he has 24 passed balls in just 111 games. Struggled to a .535 OPS at short-season Brooklyn in 2016, started this season 4-for-12 over three games.
RHP Harol Gonzalez (No. 28 Baseball America) Led the New York-Penn League with a 2.01 ERA and 88 Ks over 85 innings. Struggled in his opening-night start vs. Augusta, giving up five runs on six hits while walking and striking out three over 3.2 IP. Leaned heavily on fly ball outs until a huge shift in 2016. Posted GO/AO of 0.79 in 2014 and 0.86 in 2015. Went to 1.58 last year.
3B Blake Tiberi (No. 29 MLB.com) Went 3-for-11 over the weekend, shows a patient eye at the plate with 25 walks to just 34 K over 207 ABs. Has not shown much pop for the position, slugging just .319 for his young career.
Others to watch – Columbia:
LF Tim Tebow: The former Heisman Trophy winner slugged a homer in his first official pro AB on Thursday and added a three-run shot on Sunday. Has just three hits total and struck out five times in 14 PAs.
C Anthony Dimino: Played at North Mecklenburg in Charlotte before spending his college career at Belmont Abbey. Went 5-for-6 with a 2B and two walks in the recent series.
IF Michael Paez: Played for the Coastal Carolina during the team’s run to the 2016 College World Series title.
1B: Dash Winningham: Returned to Columbia for a second season, went 7-for-19 over the weekend.
Note of Interest: Hickory last played in Columbia during its 2004 South Atlantic League title run. The Crawdads won games one and two against the Capital City Bombers before completing the sweep at Hickory. Capital City then transferred to Greenville and is now known as the Greenville Drive.