Series Preview: Columbia (S.C.) at Hickory April 27-30
Columbia Fireflies (New York Mets) (12-9, 3rd SAL Southern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (6-14, 7th SAL Northern)
The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong homestand with a four-game series against the Columbia Fireflies at L.P. Frans Stadium in South Atlantic League action.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Thursday-Friday at 7:00 p.m., Saturday at 6:00 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Promotions: Thursday – “Thirsty Thursday”, NFL Draft Party
Friday – Post-game fireworks, Dynamic Duo Night
Saturday – Ladies Night, featuring Luke Pell from The Bachelorette, Replica Jersey giveaway to first 1,000 through the gate.
Sunday – Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring church bulletin for $6 ticket. The Crawdads will donate $4 back to respective church.)
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section. Games Thursday through Saturday are sold out.
Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.
PARKING: All parking is $3.
CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf
Probables (Columbia / Hickory):
Thursday: RHP Colin Holderman vs. RHP Michael Matuella
Friday: LHP Blake Taylor vs. RHP Edgar Arredondo
Saturday: RHP Jordan Humphries vs. RHP Argenis Rodriguez
Sunday: RHP Gabriel Llanes vs Demarcus Evans
Recent Series History:
The Crawdads took two of three at Columbia during the opening week of the season. In the only series played last year, the Fireflies held a 2-1 advantage.
About the Crawdads:
The Crawdads are struggling to find any sort of groove to kickstart their season and they hope the Fireflies will provide that start. Hickory’s only series win in 2017 was at Columbia April 10-12. Since then, the Crawdads are 3-10. Overall, the Crawdads have lost four straight after a three-game sweep by Rome (Ga.) this week. At home, the Crawdads are 2-8 and have scored a total of 22 runs … At the plate, the Crawdads lineup continues to be all-or-nothing. They are tied for the SAL-lead with 19 homers and have the most Ks in the league. They are third in slugging (.385), but 11th in batting (.230) … A good series vs. Rome brought the Crawdads team ERA below five, but the 4.91 ERA is still last in the league. The team has surrendered the most hits, runs, earned runs, the second most walks and the team WHIP of 1.61 is easily the worst in the SAL. However, the Crawdads allowed just nine runs in three games against the first-place Braves and have shown signs of progress in the starting rotation as of late.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 51 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Went 0-5 for to close out the Rome series, but did have a pair of walks in Wednesday’s game. Continues to show a discerning eye at the plate for his age (18) with nine walks. Has struck out 22.4 percent of the time (20 Ks in 89 plate appearances), which is not out of the norm at this level for a player so young. Shows good speed out of the box and covering ground in center, but has been timid to use it on the bases. Has only two steals (both on 4/22) in five attempts.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Has a higher walk ratio than Taveras (14.3% to 10.1), but is striking out a ton. His 27 Ks is one behind a trio of leaders in the stat and is at an unsustainable ratio of 43%. Thus far, Tejeda has struck out at least once in all 15 games in which he has played. Defensively, Tejeda has rebounded from a slow start. Committed two errors in the first game of the season and just two more since.
OF Eric Jenkins (No. 14 MLB.com, No.26 Baseball America). Second-round pick in 2015 out of West Columbus High (Cerro Gordo, N.C.). Made his first appearance after coming to Hickory this week from extended-spring training. Has a double and two walks over seven plate appearances. Jenkins will have to cut down on the Ks after piling up 154 in 2016. An elite base stealer, Jenkins was third in all the minors with 51 last year. Took in several deep counts during the Rome series, reaching twice after being down 0-2.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. In the midst of a mini four-game hitting streak (6-for-14, with 2 walks), Perez collected his second homer of the season on Tuesday when he drove a ball in on the hands out to right field. Tends to collect strikeouts in bunches. Of the 19 games he has played, Perez has six multi-strikeout games and 10 other games with none.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) Yrizarri has begun to show signs of life at the plate. He has reached base in five of the last seven games and is 8-for-28 in those games. Is battling to lay off breaking balls low and away. Went three straight games without a whiff, but K’d twice in Wednesday’s game.
RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. Was on the path of becoming a first-overall pick in 2015 before back troubles and then Tommy John surgery derailed that promise. He pitched in only three injuries last summer at short-season Spokane before further elbow tenderness caused the Rangers to shut him down. Will be extremely limited in order for him to gain his stamina and to simply get him through low-A ball healthy.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. After just nine walks all last season, Almonte has five already in 15 games. Was 1-for-13 before sitting out of Wednesday’s contest.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Of his four relief outings so far, three of those were scoreless for the 6-4 right hander. His one blowup outing (5 ER over 1.2 IP) has his 2017 ERA at 7.50 with his OBA at .304. Control will be his make or break. Has walked just three of 31 hitters, but has hit four more. Conversely, he has fanned 10 to date over six innings.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Second-round pick 2014 out of Columbia (MS) High. Might be due for a day off after he went 0-for-10 during the Rome series with six Ks. Has started to chase breaking balls of the plate. He is still tied for first with five homers, but has not gone deep since April 17.
SP Matt Ball: Obtained in a trade with the White Sox in 2016. Posted a 1.60 ERA in 50.2 IP with Hickory after the trade by the Rangers. Throws a heavy sinker that gets ground balls and thus, relies on his defense to make plays. Had nearly two-and-a-half groundball outs for every fly out with Hickory.
About the Fireflies:
Managed by Jose Leger in his third season (163-135) with the Mets Low-A affiliate. (The Fireflies were based at Savannah, Ga. prior to 2016… Columbia took two of three against Asheville, but were 3-4 overall during the just concluded homestand… Offense has been the struggle for the Fireflies as they were shut out three times during the last homestand and scored a total of 15 runs. Columbia’s .221 batting average is 13th in the 14-team league. The Fireflies provide little power with just six homers as a team and are tied for the fewest extra-base hits in the SAL. However, it is a patient team. Their 86 walks are the most in the SAL and they often use those to manufacture runs. Columbia is third in steals and sixth in runs scored… The Fireflies do bring an impressive group of arms to Hickory. Six of the 12 wins are by shutouts and overall, the 2.56 ERA is third in the SAL. They have surrendered the fewest walks and lead the SAL with a 1.03 WHIP. Only five homers have been hit vs. Fireflies pitching. The pitching staff is backed by a league-best defensive unit that has given up just 15 errors and has thrown out 45.8 percent of base stealers, second in the SAL.
Prospects to watch –Columbia:
CF Desmond Lindsey (No. 4 Baseball America, No. 5 MLB.com). Second-round pick 2015 out of Out-of-Door Academy, Sarasota, FL. 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. Currently at .143/.286/.186. Seeing a lot of pitches, but it could be perhaps that he’s not seeing the ball with discernment. Has 23 Ks – at least one in 16 of the 17 games he’s played in – and 11 BBs in 70 plate appearances.
2B/SS Luis Carpio (No. 15 MLB.com, 20 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Caracas, Venezuela. Missed much of 2016 after surgery for a torn labrum. Came back late in the 2016 season, but was exclusively a DH. Has played mostly 2B this season. In the midst of a 2-for-25 skid with six Ks, he was 5-for-9 against the Crawdads in early April with two steals.
C Ali Sanchez (No. 20 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Carora, Venezuela. At this point, Sanchez is defensively ahead of the offensive side of his game. Is currently third in the SAL in nabbing base stealers. Entered this season with 24 passed balls in just 111 games, but has just one so far this year and has yet to commit an error. At the plate, however, he is 6-for-47 with just two walks.
3B/ SS Milton Ramos (No. 22 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2014 out of Heritage High School (Plantation, FL). In his second season with the Fireflies, he has found full-season leagues tough to solve. After posting a .220/.292/.273 slash in 2016, it’s even worse this season as he is at .179/.233/.179 at the start of this season (10-for-56). Ramos did have a four-game hitting streak from April 18-21, but that has fizzled to an 0-for-10 his last three games. He does put the ball in play (12 Ks in 60 PAs), but with little authority. Defensively, he’s yet to commit an error.
3B Blake Tiberi (No. 29 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2016 out of Louisville. Missed two weeks with an undisclosed injury, returning 4/24/ Currently 3-for-18 with a double.
Others to watch – Columbia:
LF Tim Tebow: Signed as a free agent in 2016 out of the SEC Network. Went 9-for-20 during the recent homestand with three doubles and a triple – his total for the season. Had two homers in his first three games, but has not homered since. Hickory held him to 1-for-10 with four Ks and a double play at Columbia
2B/SS Michael Paez: 4th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Played for the Chanticleers during the team’s run to the 2016 College World Series title. Has two of the team’s six homers this season, including a solo shot during Wednesday’s win.
RHP Colin Holderman: 9th round pick out of Heartland CC (IL). Threw six shutout innings with 11 Ks against Hickory on April 10. Has lasted just seven total innings over his last two starts with four total whiffs.
RHP Jordan Humphries: 18th round pick out of Crystal River High (FL). Currently 2nd in the SAL with 34 Ks, 4th in WHIP (0.71), and 10th in the SAL with a 1.42 ERA. Fanned 12 over 6.2 innings in his last start on Monday.
Notes: The Crawdads are assured its worst April since before 2002. As a Rangers affiliate, the worst April start was a 11-12 mark in 2014. They went 10-11 in 2009. As a Pirates affiliate, the worst mark was a 10-13 record in 2006… Hickory is also on pace to break its own SAL record for strikeouts in a season, which was set by the 2013 squad with 1,403. The current pace would take them to 1,421… RHP Emerson Martinez was promoted to High-A Down East. OF Travis Bollin and IF Brallan Perez were both sent to Rangers extended spring… Top-30 prospect RHP Harol Gonzalez was placed on the disabled list by the Fireflies.