April 2018

Crawdads Cap Tough Month with a Walk-off Win

On the brink of another loss to Delmarva (Md.) to end a dreadful homestand on the final game of a tough month, the Hickory Crawdads on Sunday erased a five-run deficit over the final three innings, which was capped by a wild pitch that scored a runner from second base to end a three-run, ninth-inning rally and beat the Shorebirds 7-6 at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win for Hickory (8-14) ended both its four-game losing streak and the Shorebirds (16-8) four-game winning streak. The Crawdads also avoided the first sweep by the Shorebirds at L.P. Frans Stadium since July 2008.

The walk-off win was the first by Hickory since defeating the Shorebirds on July 9, 2017 on a solo homer by Blaine Prescott. It was also the first walk-off win by a wild pitch for Hickory since May 23, 2013 when the Crawdads capped a five-run 12th innings as Jordan Akins scored against Kannapolis.

The Crawdads entered the game with a total of six runs over the first five meetings with Delmarva and it looked like they would be snake bit again. After Seamus Curran put Delmarva ahead with a two-run single in the third, the Crawdads cut the deficit in half when Melvin Novoa doubled in Miguel Aparicio. Novoa went to third on the throw home and it appeared he would score the tying run when Sam Huff lined a single up the middle. However, Huff’s liner struck the base umpire and Novoa was sent back to third. Yohel Pozo then fouled out to right to end the inning.

Delmarva’s 2-1 lead increased by four in the seventh when the Shorebirds put the first four on base against reliever Dario Beltre. Jean Carrillo homered, Branden Becker and TJ Nichting both singled and scored on Mason McCoy’s triple. Josh Advocate entered and struck out the first two he faced before Will Robertson lined an RBI double to make it 6-1.

Hickory cut the lead by a run in the seventh but missed a chance for more after loading the bases with one out. The Crawdads settled for an Eric Jenkins RBI grounder.

In the eighth, Scott Burke walked Novoa and Huff to open the inning. Both runners advanced on Pozo’s deep fly to right and scored when Tyler Ratliff got enough on a soft liner to left for a single. Reliever Alex Katz entered and induced Kole Enright to ground into a double play.

The Shorebirds had a chance to increase the 6-4 lead in the ninth as they worked two walks and a hit batter. However, Grant Zawadzki started a 1-6-3 double play during the inning and he struck out Ryen Ripken to get through unscathed.

Delmarva entered the game statistically as the best defensive team in the South Atlantic League but it was its defense that played a hand in the decisive ninth. With one out, Yonny Hernandez and Jenkins walked. Aparicio chopped a bouncer back to Katz on what appeared to be a game-inning double play. Katz initially dropped the ball but recovered and threw to second on time only to have the shortstop McCoy drop the ball allowing Jenkins to reach to load the bases.

Reed Hayes was brought in to face Novoa, who lined a hard single to left to bring in Hernandez and Jenkins to tie the game. On the play, Delmarva missed a chance for an out as when the throw from left fielder Zach Jarrett skipped away past home, Novoa was caught between first and second as Aparicio remained at second on the overthrow. A throw to first from Hayes, who had backed up the play, was in plenty of time to get Novoa, but Ripken never turned to apply the tag as Novoa sneaked by.

With Huff at the plate, a wild pitch by Hayes skipped away from the catcher Carrillo. With the runners taking off, Novoa was caught in a rundown on his way to second. Though he was tagged out after the fourth throw of the play, Novoa stayed in the rundown long enough to allow Aparicio to sprint from second to home to score the winning run.

 

Novoa’s day: The 21-year-old returned behind the plate for the first time since taking a pitch off the right knee in a game against Greensboro on Wednesday. He certainly played a big part of the outcome on Sunday in the batter’s box and defensively.

Novoa went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. (The one out was a hard liner to short.) He had two of the four hits allowed by Hall, including a run-scoring hit in the third.

“He’s a good pitcher,” said Novoa. “But when I go up to home plate and I make good contact I can have a good moment. I want to help my team for at bat and every pitch. It was a good moment for the team and we want it to continue.”

Novoa threw out McCoy attempting to steal in the fifth, the fifth runner nailed out of six trying to steal this season. Manager Matt Hagen said that Novoa blocked seven balls in the dirt as well.

On the game’s final play, Novoa said, “When I got into the rundown, I think I was able to cause some confusion and Miguel was able to score and win the game. “

Series Preview: Delmarva (Md.) at Hickory April 27-29

Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles) (14-7, 1st SAL North) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (7-12, 6th SAL North)

The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong homestand with a three-games series against the Shorebirds.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

GAME TIMES: Friday at 7:00 p.m., Saturday at 5:00 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

 

PROMOTIONS:

Friday – Post-game fireworks

Saturday – Post-game concert featuring Finding Favour

Sunday – Bark at the Park, Red Out Sunday (Wear a red shirt to receive a free ticket to the game), Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring a church bulletin for a $6, $4 is donated back to that organization)

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section. Note: Tickets for Saturday’s game/ concert at $15/ $20.

WHERE?: 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. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 (Delmarva / Hickory):

Friday: RHP Brenan Hanifree vs. RHP AJ Alexy

Saturday: LHP Zac Lowther vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Sunday: LHP DL Hall vs. RHP Reid Anderson

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Delmarva swept a three-game series at home vs. Hickory earlier this month. The Crawdads held a 7-4 advantage in last year’s season series, including a 3-1 mark in the only series played at L.P. Frans. During the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers, Hickory is 72-48 overall, 39-19 at Hickory. The Crawdads have lost one season series to Delmarva since 2009. Oddly that came in 2015, the season Hickory won the SAL title.

 

ABOUT THE CRAWDADS:

The Crawdads lost 2-of-3 against Greensboro to open the homestand but fought the rain as much as they did the Grasshoppers. Games from Monday and Tuesday were rained out, as was the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader… After snapping out of an early season funk during the previous homestand, the Crawdads have scored in just four of the last 30 innings. They were shutout by Columbia (S.C.) in the series finale on Sunday, then used a four-spot in game one Wednesday’s doubleheader to secure their only win of the Greensboro series. Hickory has scored ten runs over the last four games, five coming on home runs. The Crawdads put the ball in play. They are last next to last in strikeouts AND in walks received…The pitching staff has been a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde act recently. Over the last ten games, the Crawdads have allowed two or fewer runs on half of them but five or more in the other half. Walks have hurt the Crawdads cause more than anything else. Hickory has allowed the third fewest hits in the SAL but are third in walks surrendered… The Crawdads are tied with Delmarva for the fewest errors committed (17 in 19 games) in the SAL. Catcher Melvin Novoa has thrown out four of five attempted base stealers.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

CF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10): 2018 stats: .250/.294/.453, 2 3B, 3 HR, 22 K, 3 BB, 4 SB. Last series: 1-for-9 with 5 Ks vs. Greensboro. Came to the Rangers in a trade for C Jonathan Lucory. Originally signed with Rockies in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 3 games (2 starts), 11.1 IP, 12 H, 10 R (9 ER), 1 HR, 10 K, 9 BB, .279 OBA, 1.85 WHIP. Last start 4/20 at Columbia S.C.: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: .250/.276/.357, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 K, 2 BB. Last series 3-for-8, 2B, R, 2 RBI, 1 K vs. Greensboro. Signed with the Rangers in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 6 games (all in relief), 8 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 8 BB, 16 K, 2.00 WHIP. Second among relievers Ks per 9 IP (18.00). Second round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA).

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 25): 2018 stats: .214/.267/.339, 4 2B, 1 HR, 19 K, 2 BB. Last series: 0-5, BB, 2 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Jean Casanova: 2018 stats: 4 games (2 starts), 11 IP, 7 H, 6 R (3 ER), 2 HR, 6 BB, 5 K, .171 OBA, 1.18 WHIP. Last start 4/21 at Columbia, S.C.: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 BB, 2 K, 4/21.

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 4 games (3 starts), 18.2 IP, 14 H, 6 R (5 ER), 1 HB, 5 BB, 15 K, .212 OBA, 1.02 WHIP. Last start 4/22 at Columbia: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 HB, 3 BB, 5 K 4/22.

RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 5 games, 8 IP, 4 BB, 14 K. Leads relivers in OBA (0-for-23). 4 in SAL among relivers 15.75 Ks per 9 IP ration. 4th in fewest baserunners allowed ratio (4.50 per 9 innings).

C Melvin Nova: 2018 stats: .339/.391/.525, 5 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 9 K. SAL top-10: 3rd in RBI (18), 5th batting avg., 9th OPS (.916), 10th OBP. Last series: 0-for-5. Caught 4 for 5 runners attempting to steal this season. The native of Nandaime, Nicaragua signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013.

OF Eric Jenkins: 2018 stats: .286/.342/.471, 1 2B, 3 3B (tied for 2nd in SAL), 2 HR, 6 BB, 20 K, 11 steals (1st n SAL). Last series: 5-for-10, 2B, BB, 4 K, 4 SB. Native of Cerro Gordo, N.C. Was the 2nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of West Columbus High.

IF Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .286/.381/.629, 3 2B, 3 HR, 5 BB, 14 K. Last series: 1-for-7, HR, 2 BB, 4 K. Taken over at second in the absence of Kole Enright. Was 30th-round pick of Rangers in 2017 out of Adrian (Mich.) College. Native of South Haven, Mich.

 

 

ABOUT THE SHOREBIRDS:

Managed by Buck Britton in his first season with the Shorebirds. He is the brother of Orioles closer Zach Britton… Split a four-game series at home vs. Kannapolis, winning the last two and reclaiming first place… Their pitching staff, especially the starters, have carried the team to an extent. Delmarva’s 2.47 ERA is third in the SAL, but it has allowed the fewest runs, courtesy of a league-leading defense (only nine unearned runs). The Shorebirds have surrendered just seven home runs and are third in Ks. The 1.13 WHIP is second in the SAL… The sticks have been fairly consistent as well. The .260 batting avg. is third in SAL., but runs have been at a premium lately with just ten over the last five games. Delmarva is third in hits, tied for fourth in runs scored…Third baseman Trevor Craport and SS Mason McCoy each lead the SAL in assists at their position and they’ve committed just five errors between them. However when runners get on base, those with speed have taken advantage of catcher Ben Breazeale, who has thrown out just three of 16 attempting to steal and just 10-of-48 for his pro career.

 

Prospects to watch-Delmarva:

LHP D.L. Hall (No. 5): 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts), 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R (1 ER), 6 BB, 6 K, .192 OBA, 1.38 WHIP. Last start 4/3 vs. Kannapolis: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K. First-round pick (21st overall) of the Orioles in 2017 out of Valdosta (Ga.) High. Signed away from a commitment to Florida St.

RHP Brenan Hanifee (No.10): 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts), 19 IP, 15 H, 3 HR, 3 BB, 12 K, .211 OBA, 0.95 WHIP. Last start 4/21 vs, Lakewood, N.J. 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, .211 OBA, 0.95 WHIP. Was Fourth-round pick of the Orioles in 2016 out of Ashby High in Bridgewater, Va. Signed away from a commitment to East Carolina.

RHP Michael Baumann (No. 15): Not expected to start in the series. Third-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of Jacksonville Univ. Native of Mahtomedi, Minn. and pitched in HS there. In his opening night start, threw four-hit shutout over five innings with 10 Ks and a walk.

LHP Cameron Bishop (No. 16): Not expected to start in the series. Was 26th-round pick of Orioles in 2017 out of Univ. of California-Irvine. Native of Brea, Calif.

LHP Zac Lowther (No. 17): 2018 stats: 3 games, (3 starts) 16 IP, 5 BB, 31 K, .094 OBA, 0.44 WHIP. Last start 4/22 vs. Lakewood, N J.: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K. SAL Rankings: T-1st Ks, Was Orioles second pick in competitive balance round in 2017 out of Xavier. Named SAL pitcher of the week 4/16-4/22

RHP Gary Fenter (No. 23): 2018 starts: 3 games, 9 IP, 2 BB, 12 K, .257 OBA, 1.22 WHIP. 7th-round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of West Memphis (AR) High. Signed away from commitment to Mississippi St.

SS Mason McCoy (No. 29): 2018 stats:.193/.281/.281, 3 2B, 1 3B, 7 BB, 14 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 2-for-12, 2B, BB, 2 K. Sixth-round pick in 2017 out of Univ. of Iowa. Named to New York-Peen A native of Peoria, Ill.

RHP Matthew Dietz (No. 30): Not expected to start in the series. Second-round pick of Orioles out of John A. Logan CC (Ill.).

 

Others to watch-Delmarva:

RF Zach Jarrett: 2018 stats: .338/.413/.723, 4 2B, 7 HR, 7 BB, 18 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 6-for-15, 2 HR (walk-off HR on 4/26), 1 K. SAL rankings: T-1st HR, 2nd slugging pct., 2nd OPS (1.136), T-2nd runs (16), 4th total bases (47), 6th OBP, 7th in avg., T-7th hits (22), T-10th RBI. Drafted 28th-round by the Orioles in 2017 out of UNC Charlotte. Played his high school ball at Hickory High.

C Ben Breazeale: 2018 stats: .167/.273/.229. 3 2B, 6 BB, 12 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 1-for-11, 3 BB, 2 K. Seventh-round pick of Orioles in 2017 out of Wake Forest.

2B Kirvin Moesquit: 2018 stats: .261/.354/.348, 3 2B, 1 HR, 10 BB, 19 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 3-for-11, 2 2B, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, 1 CS. SAL Rankings: 2nd steals, T-5th runs scored (14). Drafted 24th round 2015 out of Seminole St. College (Fla.). Born in Willemstad, Curacao, attended high school at Highland Christian HS (Pompano Beach, Fla.).

CF TJ Nichting: 2018 stats: .297/.354/.405, 6 2B, 1 3B, 6 BB, 16 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 2-for-13, 2 BB, 2 K. SAL Rank: T-4th doubles, T-7th hits.Drafted 9th round out of UNC Charlotte 2015. Native of Hamilton, Ohio, attended Badin High (Ohio).

1B Ryen Ripken: 2018 stats .310/.355/.345, 2 2B, 4 BB, 7 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 5-for-13,

2B, BB, K. SAL Rankings: 3rd fewest plate appearances/ K ratio 8.86. Signed free agent deal with Orioles in 2017. Played previously in SAL with Hagerstown (Washington) in 2016. Son of Cal Ripken, Jr.

 

Series Preview: Greensboro at Hickory April 24-26

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (10-6, 3rd SAL North) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (6-10, 6th SAL North)

After Monday’s rainout, the Hickory Crawdads hope to start a seven-game homestand on Tuesday with a four-game series with intra-state rival Greensboro

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday (DH) at 10:30 a.m., Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

 

Promotions:

Tuesday – Dollar Dog Tuesday (Dogs admitted for $1 each, Hot Dogs $1 each, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday; NFL Draft Party (Wear an NFL jersey to receive a free ticket)

 TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

 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. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 (Greensboro / Hickory):

Tuesday: Nestor Bautista vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Wednesday: RHP Ryan Lillie/ RHP Taylor Braley vs. RHP Alex Eubanks/ LHP Sal Mendez

Thursday: RHP Edward Cabrera vs. RHP AJ Alexy

 

Recent Series History:

Greensboro opened the 2018 season by sweeping the Crawdads three straight in a rain-shortened series. The Grasshoppers won the 2017 season-series 13-9, but the Crawdads held a 6-5 mark at L.P. Frans Stadium. Greensboro won 3-of-4 at Hickory over the final weekend of the 2017 season to claim the second-half Northern Division title and knock the Crawdads out of the running.

 

About the Crawdads:

After an 1-8 start, the Crawdads have played better baseball over the past week. Hickory swept three from Lexington (Ky.) and split a four-game road series at Columbia (S.C.) over the weekend. Prior to a three-hit shutout on Sunday, the Crawdads bats had awakened. Last in the SAL all three slash categories after the season-opening road trip, the Crawdads put up a .310/.380/.509 slash during a six-game homestand. Hickory is currently fifth in slugging at .389. As a team, they put a lot of pitches in play. The Crawdads are next to last in the SAL in walks received, but have the fourth fewest strikeouts in the league… With the cold weather, offenses around the league have struggled and it could best be shown in the pitching numbers. The Crawdads have a 4.04 team ERA, but that is good for 11th in the 14-team SAL. The staff has allowed the fourth fewest hits in the league. However, walks have hurt, as the team has given up a league high off 66 in 16 games… 2B Kole Enright is on the inactive list, catcher Clay Middleton has been activated.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

CF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10): 2018 stats: .273/.322/.509, 2 3B, 3 HR, 17 K, 3 BB, 4 SB. Is 5-for-14 in last 5 games with 2 HRs. Came to the Rangers in a trade for C Jonathan Lucory. Originally signed with Rockies in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 3 games (2 starts), 11.1 IP, 12 H, 10 R (9 ER), 1 HR, 10 K, 9 BB, .279 OBA, 1.85 WHIP. In last start, allowed three runs on four hits and four walks with two Ks over 3.1 IP. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: .250/.276/.357, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 K, 2 BB. Signed with the Rangers in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 6 games (all in relief), 8 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 8 BB, 16 K, 2.00 WHIP. 18 K/9 IP ratio is second in SAL among relievers. Second round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA).

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 25): 2018 stats: .235/.278/.373, 4 2B, 1 HR, 17 K, 1 BB. 6-for-18 in last 5 games. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Tyler Phillips: 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts), 14.2 IP, 16 H, 7 R (7 ER), 1 HR, 3 BB, 19 K, .276 OBA, 1.30 WHIP. Pitched four-hitter over six innings and struck out eight in last start vs. Lexington. Was 16th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, NJ.

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 3 games (2 starts), 11.2 IP, 11 H, 8 R (5 ER), 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 K, 1.11 WHIP. Allowed two runs on five hits over 5.2 IP in last start vs. Lexington. Was 26th-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out or Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.

LHP Sal Mendez: 2018 stats: 4 games, 10 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 6 BB, 6 K, .176 OBA, 1.20 WHIP. Was the 40th-round pick of the Rangers in 2013 out of Weehawken HS (N.J.)

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts), 14.2 IP, 15 H, 9 R (9 ER), 2 HR, 4 BB, 21 K, .269 OBA, 1.30 WHIP. 12.89 Ks/9 IP ratio is fifth among SAL starters. Gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with six Ks over four innings in his last start. A native of Duncan, S.C., was the Rangers 14th round pick in 2017 out of Clemson Univ.

C Melvin Nova: 2018 stats: .370/.414/.574, 5 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 9 K. SAL top-10: T-2nd in RBI (18), 3rd batting avg., tied-4th doubles, 7th slugging pct., 7th OPS (.988), 8th hits. Caught 4 for 5 runners attempting to steal this season. Snapped 10-game hit streak on Sunday (0-3). Had two or more hits in eight of the ten games. The native of Nandaime, Nicaragua signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013.

OF Eric Jenkins: 2018 stats: .250/.308/.450 3 3B (tied for 2nd in SAL), 2 HR, 5 BB, 20 K, 7 steals (2nd in SAL). Went 0-for-8 in last two games after ending seven-game hit streak on Saturday. Native of Cerro Gordo, N.C. Was the 2nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of West Columbus High.

IF Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .321/.406/.643, 3 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 10 K. Has hits in 8 of the last nine games that he’s played (9-for-25). Was 30th-round pick of Rangers in 2017 out of Adrian (Mich.) College. Native of South Haven, Mich.

 

About the Grasshoppers

Managed by Todd Pratt in his second season (85-67) with the Grasshoppers… Greensboro has won 7 of the last 10 after a 3-1 series win over Charleston (S.C.) this weekend. The Grasshoppers went 4-2 on their last road trip at Hagerstown (Md.) and Lakewood (N.J.)… Greensboro plays a lot of low scoring games. The Grasshoppers have allowed more than five runs in a game just twice but have scored more than five in a game just three times. The staff has a SAL-best 1.11 WHIP. Teams put the ball in play against Greensboro. The staff has allowed the fewest walks and struck out the fewest batters in the SAL, but have given up a league high of 18 home runs. The 2.95 team ERA is 6th in the league… The Grasshoppers are offensively challenged at the plate. At a home ballpark that is hitter friendly, Greensboro is last in HRs (6), last in slugging (.327), 13th in runs scored, 12th in OPS (.632), and 11th in hits.

 

Prospects to watch-Greensboro:

RHP Edward Cabrera (No. 12): 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts) 16.1 IP, 1.65 ERA, 11 Ks, 10 BBs, .075 OBA, 0.80 WHIP. Last start on Saturday, 3 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 K against Charleston. Native of Santiago, D.R., signed with Marlins in 2015.

SS Jose Devers (No. 23): 2018 stats: 3-17, 5 K. Called up to Greensboro on April 19 from extended spring. Obtained by the Marlins from the New York Yankees as part of a deal the sent Giancarlo Stanton to New York. A native of Samana, D.R.

OF Isael Soto (No. 26): 2018 stats: .217/.275/.348, 3 2B, 1 HR, 18 K, 3 BB. Missed entire 2017 season with fractured foot, his third leg injury in three seasons. Signed with Marlins as an international free agent in 2013. Native of Bani, D.R.

 

Others to watch-Greensboro:

RHP Nestor Bautista: 2018: 3 games, 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 1 BB, 7 K, .179 OBA, 0.75 WHIP. Native of New York City, was the 32nd round pick of the Marlins in 2014 out of Ball State.

RHP Ryan Lillie: 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts), 16 IP, 11 H, 5 R (5 ER), 2 HR, 1 BB, 14 K, .200 OBA, 0.75 WHIP. Last start: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Charleston last Thursday. Native of Murieta, Calif., Was the 5th round pick of the Marlins in 2017 out of Univ. of California-Riverside.

RHP Taylor Braley: 2018 starts: 3 games (3 starts), 17 IP, 19 H, 9 ER (7 ER), 4 HR, 6 BB, 14 K, .288 OBA, 1.47 WHIP. Last start: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 9 K vs. Charleston last Friday. Native of Hattiesburg, Miss. Sixth-round pick of the Marlins in 2017 out of Southern Mississippi.

CF Aaron Knapp: 2018 stats: .261/.426/.326, 1 2B, 1 3B, 14 BB, 13 K. Tied for 2nd in SAL in walks. 8th-round pick of the Marlins in 2016 out of California. Native of Roseville, Calif.

 

An Interview with Texas Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels

It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention”. In the business world, necessity can also create a situation in which separate entities are put together and the results are better than imagined. Such is the case between the Hickory Crawdads and the Texas Rangers.

In the fall of 2008 after ten seasons of an affiliation with the then parent-club Pittsburgh Pirates, the Hickory Crawdads were looking for a new major-league team. The Pirates wanted an affiliation with a class Low-A team closer to home, so they hooked up with the West Virginia Power, while the Milwaukee Brewers, who were with the Power, went closer to home and joined up with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. That left three Low-A affiliates – Hickory, Clinton, Iowa and Savannah, Ga. – to tie into three big league clubs – the Texas Rangers, the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets.

The Rangers expressed an interest to get back into the warmer climate of the South Atlantic League and leave behind the Clinton Lumberkings of the Midwest League. That meant either Savannah or Hickory.

The Crawdads expressed interest in the Mets, which decided to stay put in Savannah. For fans at the time, neither Texas or Seattle had much appeal given the distance but at the end of the day the remaining minor league clubs and major league clubs left in the shuffle have to dance, so in came the Texas Rangers.

The partnership has been a good one from the start. The product on the field has been tremendous. At one point, the Crawdads had 14-straight, winning half-seasons and were annually in contention for playoff spots. To date, 51 players plus two others that were previously major leaguers have suited up for the Crawdads. Investments by the Rangers in weight rooms and batting cages, and investments by the city of Hickory into refurbishing L.P. Frans Stadium have made the partnership a strong one. So strong, in fact, that after nine seasons as an affiliate, the Rangers purchased the Crawdads during this past off season.

During the offseason, the field was replaced for the first time since it originally was put into place in 1993 and a new scoreboard was erected after the old one built in 2004 finally went kaput. There is much optimism around for what the future holds for baseball in Hickory.

Last week, Rangers general manager Job Daniels took in a pair of games at L.P. Frans Stadium to get an overview of the club. Now in the tenth anniversary season of the affiliation, Daniels looked back at what made the partnership work, as well as his perspective about the current product on the field.

 

 

First of all, it’s the tenth anniversary season of the Rangers and Crawdads affiliation. My memory from back when this started is that there were a couple of minor league clubs left to dance and a couple of major league teams left to dance and they sort of fell into each other. Now, ten years later the Rangers purchased the club. Let me ask out that relationship over the ten years.

Daniels: From our side it’s been a hundred percent positive. A lot of young players that started here in our system, from a full season standpoint, have reached the big leagues. I think 15 players from that 2013 club started here. We have a big-league coach that was one of the managers here (2009 manager Hector Ortiz). We have Corey Ragsdale as our field coordinator. So, this has proven not just a kind of a development ground for our players but for our organization and our staff as well. There are a lot of good memories here for us and I really feel like we are just scratching the surface.

 

What has been some of the positives that have made this relationship between Hickory, and the ballclub here and the city to where the Texas Rangers would want to invest?

Daniels: Well, I think the ownership there with Don Beaver and Charles Young and that group was really accommodating from day one. A lot of times you have to build up a relationship before there is some give-and-take. From day one, it was more of a familial type of feeling and there was a trust early on. The same goes with the city and with some of the improvements that both groups have facilitated us making here with the cages and the weight room and things of that nature. So, it’s a much more functional spot, with the field this year. The field looks fantastic, it’s the best it’s looked in the ten years since I’ve been coming. I just think about that relationship and that trust from day one rather than having to earn it over a period of five or ten years. It was there day one and it’s continued to stay there.

 

What made the Rangers want to buy in?

Daniels: I think with the minor leagues, sometimes big-league clubs have the tendency to look for the shiniest new object. We have, in our experience, found that the right community, the right affiliate, the right ownership, the right employee group, organizational culture is so important to the development of our players. With the improvements that we’ve made here – this is as nice a field as you’re going to get – and we didn’t want to go back to the Midwest League, and we felt like our ownership group was willing to buy in here, and it allows us to know that we’re going to be here a long time. We did the same with Kinston, so we know we’re going to have two Carolina-based affiliates real close to each other. It’s makes it great for player movement, for coach movement. It’s a great part of the country, from a development standpoint, from a weather standpoint – this week’s cold notwithstanding. So, there was a ton of positives for us and we just said, “let’s anchor in here, we don’t want to go anywhere else.”

 

You mentioned Kinston and the player movement, it has to be a lot easier for you now, rather than having to ship a guy out to High Desert or having to skip High Desert because of this situation or that. I guess you get a truer sense of player development now from level to level.

Daniels: Yeah, we don’t have to play any games there. We’re not worried about the ballparks or the communities or the atmospheres or the fields. You do get some of the places in the California League where you literally have to stop for 20 minutes to let the sun set because otherwise the players can’t see the ball. It’s not the kind of baseball that we want our young players to develop in. We don’t want our pitchers to be afraid to throw changeups because popups are going out of the ballpark. That’s a big piece and them having them so close together really makes it convenient for our staff to be able to work at both facilities and both clubs in a short period of time.

 

Looking at this club this year, a lot of prospect with Pedro Gonzalez probably the top one right now. I know you see snippets and keep tabs on a lot of different things but give me a general overview of what you see with this club early on.

Daniels: I know that the record early is not great, but I think this club is going to be in the thick of it from a winning standpoint. I think the talent is really good and I think the staff is really, really good. Matt (Crawdads manager Matt Hagen) and Chase (pitching coach Chase Lambin) and Jose (hitting coach Jose Jaimes) and Turtle (assistant coach Turtle Thomas), this might be, top to bottom, one of our best staffs. A ton of energy, really positive, a lot of teaching going on, and that’s what you need.

We’ve got a really young group here, but there are a lot of prospects. Pedro is a guy we’re excited about. We really have three catchers here that we think are all legit prospects in (Yohel) Pozo, (Melvin) Novoa and (Sam) Huff. I’m not sure that they realize quite how good they can be or how talented they are because they’re so young. Some of the other outfielders, (Eric) Jenkins and (Chad) Smith and (Miguel) Aparicio. Yonny Hernandez is a good player. There’s quite a few guys here and I’m leaving some out.

The pitching staff is pretty intriguing, too. Tyree Thompson can really pitch. He can really command the baseball – four pitches for strikes. I think he’s going to have a lot of success in this league. He doesn’t maybe draw some of the attention because he’s not quite as big and physical as some of the other guys who are lighting up the radar gun. But he can really pitch and I think that plays and he’s smart and he’s already figured some things out.

Tyler Phillips took a big jump last year and he’s really filled out physically. The delivery is a lot better. Obviously, we took a big hit with (Cole) Ragans getting hurt. He would’ve been here otherwise. There’s a lot of guys here. We look back on the 2013 club and how many guys got to the big leagues in four or five years. We’ll see where we go from a numbers standpoint, but even though this group isn’t quite as heralded as that group was from a prospects standpoint, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re close to that number at the end of the day.

 

It’s a group that the pitching staff is a bit older than what we’ve had in the past and we were a little surprised not to see Bubba Thompson and a little surprised not to see Chris Seise – and I understand he has a shoulder issue. I’ve heard a little talk of the Rangers being not quite as aggressive in some of their assignments here for younger guys. Is that some you guys are making adjustments to?

Daniels: I think, just in general, we’re looking to tap the brakes a little bit. Not to an extreme, but we want to the give the players time and we also want to give our coaches time. We have a lot of good, young coaches at a lot of the lower levels and we’ve got to give them the opportunities to have the reps and the at-bats and the innings to work with these players before we push them up through the system. So, we will probably be a little more conservative than we have been in the past, but I don’t think overly so.

Seise probably had a good chance to be here but he had the shoulder tendinitis. He’ll be okay and he’s started hitting again at extended and he may still get out here. Bubba had a little bit of a knee deal last year, so we’re taking it a little more slowly with him and he could very well get out here, but we’re still deciding some of those things.

Tyreque Reed, another guy that I like, could get here but with the three catchers we need some of the at bats for them at first base. Tyreque is a guy that on his own, probably on merit, very well could’ve been here; it’s just how many at bats you have for everybody and some of those things.

Matt Whatley, he was originally scheduled to come here. We probably would’ve had him come here, too, but we already had three catchers, younger, so we’re going to push him a little bit. There are some extenuating circumstances in general. We’re trying to find at bats for everybody, but generally we’ll probably be a little more conservative than we were three to five years ago.

 

Looking ahead to the relationship with the Rangers and the Crawdads, what are some of the things that the two sides are looking at in the future?

Daniels: I think Mark Seaman does a tremendous job. We’ve been thrilled working with him in the past as a partner and now to be on the same team. I think that those are things that we’ll really defer to Mark on and the ideas he has on how to grow the business. One of the things that, from the Rangers standpoint, back in Arlington we try to be as fan friendly and fan conscious as can be, and very family oriented, which I think dovetails very well with the kind of the values here. I think you’re see a lot more consistency in that area.

Crawdads Bats Heat up: Have a Legendary Night

Winter-like weather here on the east coast has held some plants at a dormant stage in this area. The Hickory Crawdads bats could be included on that list much of the early season.

With more seasonal temperatures last night, the Crawdads bats stirred and had their biggest scoring output in eight seasons at L.P. Frans Stadium as they overwhelmed the Lexington (Ky.) Legends 18-6.

The 18 runs were the most scored by the Crawdads at home since putting up 18 against Lexington on June 6, 2010. Overall, it was the most runs since scoring 19 in a road win at Lexington on August 4, 2016.

Eight of the nine players scored, seven coming across the plate at least twice. Hickory collected 14 hits – eight for extra bases – walked six times and were hit by four pitches.

Melvin Novoa led the way with three extra-base hits (a homer and two doubles), four runs scored and three RBI. Along with Novoa, Eric Jenkins and Yohel Pozo each hit their first homers of the season.

After the Crawdads put up four in the first, they put the game away with nine in the third. Miguel Aparicio’s three-run triple and Novoa’s two-run blast were among the highlights.

The Legends cut their deficit to 13-6 after bringing in four in the sixth. However, the Crawdads answered with four of their own to squelch any hopes of a comeback. Jenkins’s three-run triple was the big hit of that inning.

Tyree Thompson (1-1) was the beneficiary on the mound for Hickory. The right-hander gave up five runs (two earned) on five hits over 5.2 innings with two strikeouts. Jean Casanova threw two scoreless innings of relief and Sal Mendez struck out two during a scoreless ninth.

Thoughts:

***I wanted to write a little bit about Eric Jenkins on Saturday, but time constraints worked against me there. I’m certain the Rangers would like to see the youngster finally put together the natural tools he has and take a step forward in 2018. Contact can still be an issue (15 Ks in 47 PAs), but, at least to me, it seems on this home stand that he is willing to battle more rather than give up ABs. The 21-year-old is in the midst of a mini five-game hit streak and has multi-hit games the last three.

The game that got my attention was Saturday’s contest at West Virginia. After taking off Friday following a three-K effort the night before, Jenkins had one of those games were his natural ability stood out. He just missed reaching on a bunt in the first. One inning later, he turned on a 0-2 offering and ripped it into the corner for a two-run triple. In the third, a bunt single plus a steal of second. In the fifth, a walk and a steal of second. Defensively, he made arguably his best catch of the three seasons with Hickory, a leaping catch in left to rob Dylan Busby of a homer.

Eric Jenkins HR rob

With a plethora of center fielders in the Texas Rangers system, Jenkins, who was the Crawdads starter at that position in 2016, has been taken out of the conversation for now. But if he puts together those natural tools of speed and occasional power, the mentions of him by others could return.

Anderson Chillin’: Crawdads Starter Freezes Legends Lineup on a Cold Night

At a game that begin with the temperature at 50 degrees and the wind gusting in the neighborhood of 20 mph, starting pitchers Reid Anderson of the Hickory Crawdads and Andres Sotillet of the Lexington Legends did everyone a favor. They threw strikes.

Hickory scored two in the third and made them stand up for a 2-1 win in a game that lasted two-hours, 15 minutes at L.P. Frans Stadium Monday night.

Anderson, a native of New Egypt, N.J. had no issues with the frigid temperatures that dropped into the upper 30s by game’s end with light snow flurries swirling as fans left the ballpark.

“I’m used to Northeast baseball,” said Anderson. “I love pitching in this. It makes hitters a lot more tentative, so I just attacked them.”

Attack he did, as Anderson put together arguably his best start over the two seasons of his Crawdads career. The right-hander was the story for much of the game as he retired the first 15 hitters on his way to the longest outing of the season to date for a Crawdads starter. Lasting 6.1 innings, Anderson gave up one run on three hits and struck out six.

“He looked really strong and was rested,” said Crawdads manager Matt Hagen. “His tempo was tremendous.  He was like, ‘Give me the ball’, throw a strike, ‘Give me the ball’, throw a strike, which is something that we preach. When you see a guy go out there and create tempo, it’s fun to watch.”

Working quickly, Anderson, who had just two three-ball counts, used a fastball/ changeup mix with an occasional curve thrown in. The game plan was keep the hitters back on their heels.

Said Anderson, who threw 86 pitches (58 strikes) “We had a plan to go in and just not trying to nitpick pitches but going right at them.”

With only 56 pitches tossed over the first five innings, it was a curious question as to just how long Anderson would be allowed to take a stab at a perfect-game bid if it developed deeper. As the game approached the middle innings, the thought of that rare accomplishment began to creep into Anderson’s mind.

“It’s hard to not think about it,” he said. “It’s always in the back of your head, but you’ve got to push that away and focus on the next batter at hand.”

Although the Crawdads committed three errors for the game, the Crawdads play in the field had much to do with Anderson’s success.

The first challenge to Anderson’s perfect-game came on back-to-back plays in the fourth. Marten Gasparini lifted a high fly ball that carried to the track in straight-away center. Fighting the wind, Pedro Gonzalez cruised back, turned his body twice before twisting against himself to make an over-the shoulder, basket catch.  With the Crawdads shifted to the right side, the next batter, Nick Pratto sliced a pitch into left that Eric Jenkins sprinted to and made a diving catch.

“Jenkins almost overran the ball,“ Hagen said. “The wind pushed it back so much. Give those guys credit, it was not an easy night to be an outfielder.”

On the infield, third baseman Tyler Ratliff handled a bad hop on the backhand and threw to first. Later, Justin Jacobs had a mini-bad hop as he went to field a grounder and step on first.

“Those guys did a great job, said Anderson. “They had my back all night and they made incredible plays behind me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Lexington countered with Sotillet, who was nearly Anderson’s equal. The right-hander pounded the strike zone to the tune of 49 strikes out of 63 pitches. On the way to striking out six, he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 20 hitters.

“Their starter did a great job, too,” Anderson said of the pitching duel. “That definitely helps you focus in and it helps you really bear down because you know you don’t have much room to work with. I think everyone would prefer having a big lead and pitching in that, but tight games really help you lock in.”

The only troublesome inning for Sotillet came in the third with the help of an odd defensive play. With one out, Yonny Hernandez was hit by a pitch. Jenkins lifted a ball into shallow center that Gasparini charged and then attempted a diving catch. The umpire immediately ruled the ball in play, but thinking he had made the catch, he fired to first for a double play attempt and thereby missing a chance to catch the lead runner Hernandez at second for a force play. Miguel Aparicio hit a seeing-eye single to right that scored Hernandez and Jenkins scored when right fielder Seuly Matias’s throw home went to the backstop.

The Legends opened the sixth with their first base runner, a single to left by Oliver Nunez. Sebastian Rivero blooped a single to right and a wild pitch moved both up. One out later, a contact play resulted in Nunez getting caught in a rundown trying to score. Anderson got out of trouble with a groundout by Gasparini.

Lexington’s only run came in the seventh when Matias doubled. A wild pitch bumped him to third and Matias scored on MJ Melendez’s sac fly.

The Legends threatened in the eighth and ninth innings. Facing DeMarcus Evans in the eighth, Rivero got a four-pitch walk and went to third when Evans fielded Ricky Aracena’s sac bunt and threw wildly past first. Cal Jones struck out and then Gasparini flew out to Jenkins in shallow left with Jenkins easily throwing out Rivero at home trying to score.

The suspense built again in the ninth when with one out Matias reached second on an infield hit and a throwing error. Alex Speas struck out Melendez, but a wild pitch put runners on the corners. Speas gathered himself and fanned both Guzman and Nunez to end the game.

 

Thoughts:

***The fastball from Alex Speas has been as advertised. We don’t yet have a speed-gun reading available at the ballpark, but judging by the swings from the hitters during the two outings I’ve seen him it has life and it gets there in a hurry. However last night, it was the breaking ball that did a lot of the dirty work among the nine missed bats in his inning. It appeared to have that falling-off-the-table sink, one of which Melendez flailed at and catcher Melvin Novoa had to chase down near the Crawdads dugout.

He didn’t panic with a runner at third and one out but continued to throw the pitch and trusted Novoa to make plays if needed. Speas then set up Nunez for a fastball on the inside corner for a called third-strike that ended the game.

Said Hagen of Speas: “You take the error away and then the wild pitch that got away from Melvin, it was a tremendous inning. Either way he ended up with four strikeouts. Watching him from last year to this year, and to see the progress and the maturation has been really fun to watch. To go from where he was at as a starter to coming in as a reliever and hoping for a good result to coming in as a reliever and knowing that you’re going to get really good results coming into the game.”

*** This is a game Anderson likely loses in 2017. He would have games like this where he would dominate for several innings but a quirky inning or a bad pitch would get away and cost him the game.  In a preseason interview, pitching coach Jose Jaimes said Anderson is better prepared this season to go deep into games. Anderson agrees and talked about his mindset on the mound this season.

Anderson said, “Mainly it’s just not trying to think ahead. Last year, I would go out there I would be in the first inning and I’d already be thinking about the sixth. This time, I’m just focusing batter to batter, pitch to pitch and not trying to get ahead of myself.”

Series Preview: Lexington (Ky.) at Hickory April 16-18

(Late getting this together and I haven’t proofread yet, so be kind.)

 

Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals) (8-2, 1st in SAL South) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (1-8, 7th SAL North)

The Hickory Crawdads continue the season-opening homestand with a three-game homestand against Lexington. The Legends travels to Hickory after a three-game series at Augusta (Ga.)

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Monday and Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

 

Promotions:

Monday – Make-A-Difference Monday (Donate an item $5 or more in value to receive a free ticket). Pajama Night (Wear your pajamas to receive a free ticket.)

Tuesday – Dollar Dog Tuesday (Dogs admitted for $1 each, Hot Dogs $1 each, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products

 

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

 

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. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 (Lexington/ Hickory):

Monday: RHP Andres Sotillet vs. RHP Reid Anderson

Tuesday: RHP Nolan Watson vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

Wednesday: LHP Garrett Davila vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

 

Recent Series History:

Lexington won 7 of 11 against the Crawdads in 2017, including a split of the eight games played at L.P. Frans. The Crawdads hold a 21-18 advantage since the Legends began their affiliation with the Royals in 2013, but are 12-13 at home.

 

About the Crawdads:

The rough start to the season may have reached a new low with a loss in the final game of the rain-shortened, three-game series with the West Virginia Power. Up 11-8 with a chance to win the series, the Power scored seven runs to win the game… The Crawdads entered the series with the Power last in the SAL in all three slash line stats (.182.239/.251). They are still last in OBP (.281) and slugging (.338), but against the Power, Hickory was .314/.349/.475 with 13 extra-base hits in three games… Defensively, Hickory is currently at the top of the SAL with just six errors (.981 fielding pct.). Four of the six have been charged to catchers and pitchers.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

CF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10): 2018 stats: .229/.250/.371, 1 3B, 1 HR, 14 K (tied for 5th in SAL), 1 BB, 3 SB. Came to the Rangers in a trade for C Jonathan Lucory. Originally signed with Rockies in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): Not expected to pitch in the series. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: .258/.281/.355, 1 HR, 6 K, 1 BB. Signed with the Rangers in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 3 games (all in relief), 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 7 K, 1.62 WHIP. Second round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA).

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 25): 2018 stats: .120/.154/.240, 1 HR, 8 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 2 games (1 start), 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R (unearned), 2 BB, 4 K, OBA .158, 0.83 WHIP. Was 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville Univ. Native of New Egypt, N.J.

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 2 games (1 start), 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R-ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1.33 WHIP. Was 26th-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out or Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.

RHP Tyler Phillips: 2018 stats: 2 games (2 starts), 8.2 IP, 12 H, 7 R-ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 11, K, .324 OBA, 1.73 WHIP. Was 16th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, NJ.

RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 3 games, 4 IP, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R. Was 11th round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Native of Riverton, Utah.

OF Eric Jenkins: 2018 stats: .235/.278/.294 1 3B, 2 BB, 13, K, 6 steals (tied for SAL lead). Native of Cerro Gordo, N.C. Was the 2nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of West Columbus High.

IF-OF Justin Jacobs: 2018 stats: .438/.500/.625, 3 2B, 2 BB, 3 K. After not playing the first five games of the season, he has started the last four. Non-drafted free-agent out of Gonzaga. Native of Auburn, Wash.

IF Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .385/.467/.692, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 4 K. Went 4-for-8, HR, 2 R, BB in last two games vs. West Virginia. Was 30th-round pick of Rangers in 2017 out of Adrian (Mich.) College. Native of South Haven, Mich.

 

About the Legends

Managed by Scott Thorman in his second season (70-77) with the Legends… Lexington has not had a winning record since the days of Jose Altuve and J.D, Martinez in 2010 as a part of the Houston Astros system. After losing 80 or more game the last three seasons, the Legends are 8-2 to begin this season and were 2-1 at Augusta to start their current road trip… The Legends have staked their early surge on pitching. Their 2.12 team ERA is the best in the SAL and they’ve allowed the fewest hits… Defensively, the Legends are quite porous with 21 errors in the 10 games, third most in the SAL. Melendez has shown a big arm behind the plate, throwing out four of the ten attempted base stealers. However, he has four errors and a passed ball in ten games.  A trio of third basemen have combined for six errors… The lineup has much promise but are a work in progress. Lexington is last in the SAL in batting (.212) and 12th in OBP (.297) and are already above 100 Ks in 10 games (3rd in SAL). However the Legends are in the middle of the pack in runs scored because of their speed. They are tied for the SAL lead in steals and just off the pace in triples…Royals No. 6 prospect CF Michael Gigliotti is on the disabled list.

 

Prospects to watch:

1B Nick Pratto (No. 2): 2018 stats: .303/.378/.485, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 11, K, 1 SB. First-round pick of the Royals in 2017 out of Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS.

RF Seuly Matias (No. 3): 2018 stats: .286/.342/.686, 1 3B, 4 HR, 2 BB, 17 K, Tied for 1st in SAL in HRs, 3rd with 10 RBI, tied for 3rd total bases (24), 1st in Ks (17), 4th slugging, 5th OPS 1.028. Signed with Royals as international free agent in 2015. Native of La Isabela, D.R.

C MJ Melendez (No. 4): 2018 stats: .300/.391/.600, 2 2B, 2 3B, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 SB. Second-round pick of the Royals in 2017 out of Westminster Christian HS (Miami, FL).

LHP Daniel Tillo (No. 19): Not expected to pitch in the series.

SS Jeison Guzman (No. 20): 2018 stats: 259/.286/.407, 2 3B, 1 BB, 11 K, 2 SB. Signed with Royals as international free agent in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP Janser Lara (No. 27): 2018 stats: 1 game, 1.2 IP, 1 BB, 2 K. Signed with Royals as international free agent in 2015. Native of San Cristobal, D.R.

 

Others to watch – Lexington:

RHP Andres Sotillet: 2018 stats: 1 game (start), 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R (0 ER) 2 BB, 5 K. Signed with Royals as international free agent in 2015. Native of Cumana, Venezuela.

RHP Nolan Watson: 2018 stats: 2 games (2 starts), 10.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 2 BB, 11 K, .138 OBA, 1.16 ERA. First-round pick of Royals in 2015 out of Lawrence North HS (Ind.) Native of Indianapolis, Inc.

LHP Garrett Davila: 2018 stats: 2 games (2 starts), 8.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 6 BB, 8 K, .265 OBA, 1.73 WHIP. Fourth-round pick of Royals in 2015 out of South Point HS (Gastonia, NC).

RHP Tyler Zuber: 2018 stats: 4 games 5 IP, 1 H, 1 HB, 8 K. Tied for first in SAL with 3 saves.

 

Power Cruzing: West Virginia takes early lead, evens series

In similar circumstances to game one of the series, the West Virginia Power took advantage of an error in the first to score three times and never trailed during a 6-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads in front of 2,925 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium Friday night.

The Power (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak with the win and evened the series with the Crawdads (1-7).

In game one of the series Thursday, the Crawdads used a first-inning error to score four unearned runs on the way to a 6-2 win. On Friday, the roles were reversed.

After Crawdads starter Jean Casanova (0-1) retired the first two batters in the first, Dylan Busby hit a high pop-up near home plate. Catcher Sam Huff settled under the ball, which carried to the fair side of home plate and ticked off the glove for the error. The Power made Hickory pay with a double by Mason Martin and a three-run homer by Oneil Cruz.

Miguel Aparicio cut the deficit to 3-1 with his first homer of the season, a high drive off the top row of billboards in right. Ryan Dorow added his first blast of the season in the second.

The Power regained their initial three-run lead in the third. Cruz walked and Kyle Watson reached on an infield hit that chased Casanova. Sal Mendez entered and recorded two straight grounders, the second by Ryan Peurifoy scored Cruz. Chris Sharpe blooped a single into short right to bring in Watson and the Power led 5-2.

From there, the Crawdads threatened several times with runners scoring position in five of the last seven innings. Melvin Nova singled and scored on Tyler Ratliff’s double to get Hickory back within 5-3. However, Yohel Pozo grounded to third and Gavin Wallace fanned Huff to strand the runner.

Dorow doubled with one out in the fourth, but never advanced. Pozo double to start the sixth, but he, too, never moved.

Cruz’s second homer of the night in the seventh pushed the Power ahead 6-3 before Pedro Gonzalez tripled and scored to create what turned out to be the final margin.

The Crawdads loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but reliever Evan Piechota struck out Gonzalez to end the attempted rally.

Piechota then worked around a two-out single in the ninth to record the three-inning save (1).

Wallace got the win (1-0) with six innings of work during which he gave up three runs on eight hits.

 

Thoughts:

***This felt like a game that Hickory would win. The Power stranded seven over the first four innings and the Crawdads responded each time West Virginia scored. However, the inability by Hickory to capitalize on presented opportunities ultimately doomed the team. The Crawdads went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position for the game and left 10. Through 7 games with RISP, the team is at .190/.239/.206. It feels like the pitcher has the advantage rather than the other way around.

***First home appearance for Alex Speas and it looked sharp. Cruz touched him for the second homer, but the pitch appeared to be a fastball that was down and away. Cruz lined it opposite field, down the line in left. Otherwise, Speas brought a live fastball (sorry, no speed gun readings) with a change and breaking ball (looked like a slider) that kept hitters honest. He fanned four of the last five swinging.

***Wallace didn’t appear to have his best stuff. Was told by the Power radio guy that keeping his sinker down was the key to his success. Wallace left a good bit up that Hickory hit hard. But Wallace mixed in the secondaries well until he could find the touch on the sinker and he went on to record nine groundball outs. While fastball command wasn’t there, the control was as he issued no walks. He seemed poised when in troubled and never panicked. After the Power pulled their starter after the first on Thursday, Wallace’s outing was a balm to the Power’s staff.

***Casanova should have been out of the first with just six pitches, but the error started a chain of events from which he never recovered. Like Wallace, he also had command issues with the fastball and it was punished. One wonders what his evening would be like had the error not happened. However, he seemed to panic and was never the same.

***The first “Wow” moment for me this season was Gonzalez’s triple in the seventh. He took a Piechota offering and lined it hard into open grass down into the right field corner. Gonzalez was in full stride between first and second… and then accelerated. It was another gear!

 

Trusting the Process: The Development of a Low-A Hitter

After a brutal season-opening road trip that saw the team score 10 runs in six games, the Hickory Crawdads scored four runs in the first on the way to a 6-2 victory over the West Virginia Power Thursday night. It was the team’s initial win of the season.

The Crawdads came home holding up the bottom of the South Atlantic League in most offensive statistics. The .182/.239/.251 slash was easily the worst in the league in all three categories. Yet, in talking with the coaches, the collective feeling is that the team performed well overall and they were in a period where they couldn’t catch a break.

As one looks at where the team is at the plate, the big picture of how they will perform ultimately at the plate is still coming into focus and it will develop over a longer period of time than a week. The bad start perhaps has skewed perception of what this team will be eventually. Put the slump in the middle of July and the average fan will shake it off as a bad week. Yet, we see the numbers what they are and panic.

Fans must remember that class Low-A is a laboratory of minor league baseball. The guys have showed potential at rookie and short-season level – that’s why they are even at Hickory – but now the real work begins: the process of becoming a professional hitter.

I took some time Thursday to talk with Crawdads hitting coach Chase Lambin about the mindset of the hitters coming off the road trip and about “The Process” of learning about hitting at a professional level.

 

I know it’s a long season and I know this isn’t the way you wanted to start, but you and I talked prior to this, that it was a little bit of a perfect storm with Delmarva (Md.) throwing some guys, the cold weather, etc. Take me through the week of your hitters and the mindset of where they are at the moment.

Lambin: Yeah, it was tough. It’s challenging for them and it’s even challenging for us as a staff. Through it, it was remarkable to see the resilience the guys had and how their work didn’t change and how their attitude didn’t change.

We had some meetings where guys said powerful things and every day the energy in the dugout and the clubhouse was strong. It’s a resilient bunch, but it’s a young bunch. So. They’re going to have their bumps, especially early. Maybe, we didn’t expect it to be this early and this big of a bump, but it’s part of it and part of the process. It’s part of what the maturation process is about and learning how to handle adversity and especially in an environment they’ve never been in.

 

You guys always talk about “the process”. Jose Jaimes (Crawdads pitching coach) will talk about “the process” and (Crawdads manager Matt) Hagen, and so on. What is the biggest part, as far as your hitters, of getting them to understand the process of getting from here to the next level and on up to Arlington, or wherever they are going?

Lambin: It’s understanding the routine, understanding their body, understanding their mind and all those things have to come together. If one is missing, you’re going to struggle. You’ve got to know what you’re doing before the game. You’ve got to have a plan in your approach when you go to the plate. You’ve got to understand your movements. It takes time to learn those things.

They’ve all been successful at lower levels, but that level doesn’t ask you to do as much. Each level you go up has new challenges where you have to be a little more dialed in with each one of those things. That’s what they’re doing. They’re young. They’re 18, 19-years-old and they’re trying to figure out themselves and their approach and their plan, and they will because they’re tremendous athletes.

 

What’s the biggest hurdle in getting them to trust that process?

Lambin: The adversity that baseball puts on them, and the doubts and fears and anxiety that the game puts in your mind. I mean the game is a great equalizer and it will challenge you and it will rip your guts out and make you feel miserable. So, how do you take that pain and turn that into good?

On the other side of pain is growth. That pain is a part of it, like you’re being hardened from the inside-out. You have to explain it like, “I don’t want you to struggle, but this is a part of it and it’s better now than in Arlington.”

This is what you have to do and the game will expose you. It’s exposing some of them that they don’t have a clear plan. They don’t have a clear approach. They don’t trust the routine. They don’t understand their swing. This will show you that you need to make these adjustments because until then, if they’re batting .330 every year, they’ll be like, “This coach doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

 

Who is the person right now – and I get it, it’s six games in – that has the best understanding of where they are in that process?

Lambin: That’s a good question. There are some cerebral guys that are good thinkers. (Kole) Enright has been pretty good in the conversations I’ve had with him mid-game. Pedro Gonzalez is a sharp tack. He talks through what he’s feeling, what he’s seeing from the pitcher and what he going to do in the next at-bat. Chad Smith is another smart one. Justin Jacobs and (Ryan) Dorow are the college kind of veterans. They are the guys that are lower end on talent but they’re higher end on approach and plan and the mental toughness. So, combining all those together, they each have their shortcomings, but they’re all getting better.

 

Who is the person right that you think in the long run will get through that process? Maybe they don’t understand right now, but you talk to them and you see – maybe it’s not the ability necessarily – but you see they’ll have a chance to work through that?

Lambin: I think Pedro is a combination of talent and the mind and the deliberate work ethic. He asks questions and he’s hungry to learn and he’s humble enough to know that he needs to learn.

Some of these guys are so talented that that humility hasn’t hit yet. This six-game losing streak and batting .180 will give you some of that humble pie. Pedro stands out for me. (Miguel) Aparicio’s got a really good feel for hitting. (Yohel) Pozo is a tremendous, instinctual hitter. He’s still learning the thought process that goes behind it, but he’s the type that is just going to hit and hit and hit. He’s an unbelievable barrel finder.

There’s a lot of guys on this team. For me, my job is not to pick who’s going to be a big leaguer. Some are more advanced that others, but my job is to teach them up to be big leaguers.

 

What’s the biggest hurdle for you as a coach to help them get over that?

Lambin: Building trust as a coach is always difficult. I feel like that’s one of my strong suits. I teach with empathy and kindness and service, and I’m not a dictator.

I get with them on their level. I understand the struggles they’re in, I’ve been through it. I’ve been down that road and back 100 times. This game has ripped my guts out. So, I get on their level and I let them know this is going to be hard, but I also know how to work. I show them how to get after it and to have clarity and to have the right intentions with their work and in their process. In doing so, they start to listen to me more.

It’s challenging because they’re still young and their retention level. They may understand it for one day, but to get them to understand it the next day, it’s like they forgot everything when they fell asleep. It’s like a blank slate again the next day. It’s like, “Man, I need you to remember what I told you yesterday.” But at this level, you’ve got to tell them over and over again.”

 

Is there a point as a coach were you guys as coaches step back and let the failure be a part of the process? You see what they’re doing and let them get the golden sombrero.

Lambin: Failure is a gift. It’s part of being a baseball player. It’s going through the failure and rebuilding, fail, rebuild. The way you’re rebuilding your mind, and then your body and your routine.

Yeah, it’s hard, because I want them all to go bat .330 from start to finish and have a great year. But, the reality of it is that you sometimes have got to let them – it’s just like a young kid learning how to walk. If you’ve never let them fall, then they’ll never learn how to walk. You got to let them fall like a parent would let a child fall. They’re like my children in that sometimes I want to make it easy on them and make the fall stop, but sometimes pain is a great teacher. Nobody wants to go to its class, but pain will let you know.

It’s hard on me sometimes, because every time they get out, I feel it in my heart. It hurts me, but I want to grow and get better, too.

 

Melvin Novoa

Melvin Nova strokes a double during the Crawdads 6-2 win over West Virginia Thursday night (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Series Preview: West Virginia at Hickory April 12-15

West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) (3-4, Tied for 4th SAL North) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (0-6, 7th SAL North)

The Hickory Crawdads start the 2018 home scheduled with a four-game series against the Power, who are making their first road trip of the season.

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Thursday and Friday, 7:00 p.m., Saturday, 6:00 p.m., Sunday, 3:00 p.m.

 

Promotions:

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday, Fill the Frans Night (If the Crawdads have 4,000 in attendance all fans receive a free ticket to another game.), Magnet Schedules to first 1,000 fans.

Friday – Post-game Fireworks

Saturday – Texas Rangers night, Poster Schedules to first 1,000 fans

Sunday – Jackie Robinson Day, Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring church bulletin for a $6 ticket, $4 goes back to the bulletin’s organization), Fun in the Sunday

 

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

 

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. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 (West Virginia / Hickory):

Thursday: RHP Travis MacGregor vs. TBA

Friday: RHP Gavin Wallace vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Saturday: RHP Evan Piechota vs. A.J. Alexy

Sunday: TBA vs. Reid Anderson

 

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads were 3-7 against the Power in 2017, with West Virginia sweeping Hickory in the only three games played at L.P. Frans. Hickory has not won a home series against the Power since 2014, which is also the last time it won a season-series. West Virginia is 17-9 against the Crawdads the last three years, 4-9 at Hickory. Both teams switched affiliates prior to the start of the 2009 season – the Pirates moved from Hickory to West Virginia and the Rangers aligned with Hickory. Since those partnerships began, the Crawdads own a 44-40 edge in the series, 22-20 at home. The clubs faced each other in the 2015 SAL Northern Division Playoffs when Hickory took 2-of-3 en route to the championship

 

About the Crawdads:

The 2018 season started about as poorly as could be imagined. Hickory was swept in three games at Greensboro and then suffered the same fate at Delmarva (Md.)…The bats have shoulder much of the blame, putting up ten runs in the six games. Among the 14-team South Atlantic League, Hickory is last in batting avg. (.182) on-base percentage (.239), slugging pct. (.251), runs scored (the next team has double the number of runs), hits, total bases and walks … On the mound, the Crawdads have held their own. The 4.13 ERA is 11th in the SAL, but the Crawdads have allowed the fewest hits in the league and have surrendered just two homers…Defensively, Hickory has committed just four errors, three of those on either pickoffs or a catcher’s interference. Behind the plate, catchers have nailed half the runners (4 of 8) trying to steal with Melvin Nova catching all three of the attempted base-stealers.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

CF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10): 2018 stats: 4-for-20, two-run HR, 2 steals, 11 Ks. Came to the Rangers in a trade for C Jonathan Lucory. Originally signed with Rockies in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 1 start, 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: 5-for-21, 2 runs, 1 RBI, 1 BB. Signed with the Rangers in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 2 games (both in relief), 2.1 IP, 2 H, 4 BB, 3 K. Second round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA).

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 25): 2018 stats 2-for-17, solo HR, 6 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 states: 1 game (start), 5.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K. Was 14th-round pick 2017 out of Clemson. Native of Duncan, S.C.

RHP Jean Casanova: 2018 stats: 1 game (relief), 2 IP, 1 K. Was 35th-round pick by the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukeegan (Ill.) High. Born in the Dominican Republic but moved to the states in fifth grade.

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 2 games (1 start), 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R (unearned), 2 BB, 4 K, OBA .158, 0.83 WHIP. Was 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville Univ. Native of New Egypt, N.J.

OF Eric Jenkins: 2018 stats: 5-for-24, 1 BB, 9 K, 2 steals in 4 attempts. Native of Cerro Gordo, N.C. Was the 2nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of West Columbus High.

2B Kole Enright: 2018 stats: 3-for-15, 2 doubles, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 SB. Is the lone Crawdads everyday hitter slugging over .350.

 

About the Power:

Managed by Wyatt Toregas in his second season (72-71). The Power opened the season with a weeklong homestand. Split a four-game series with the defending SAL champs Greenville (S.C.) before they dropped the final two of a three-game series against Lakewood (N.J.)…Not to the extent of the Crawdads, but West Virginia has also struggled at the plate, posting a .211/.304/.417. The Power is 12th in batting avg. and 11th in OBP. They are tied for the SAL-lead with Lexington (Ky.) with 8 HRs, but all of them came during a three-game stretch when the Power scored 26 of their 34 runs… The Power has struggled on the mound with a 5.21 team ERA and a 1.61 WHIP, both of which are next to last in the SAL. They have given up 71 hits in seven games, and the defense has contributed to 13 unearned runs already.

 

Prospects to watch – West Virginia:

CF Lolo Sanchez (No. 10): 2018 stats: 6-for-26, 3 doubles, 1 HR, 3 BB, 10 K. Native of Santo Dominguez, D.R. Was signed as an international free agent in 2015.

SS Oneil Cruz (No. 14): 2018 stats: 2-for-21, 1 HR, 4 BB, 12 K, Native of Nizao, D.R, Originally signed as an international free agent by the L.A. Dodgers in 2015. Traded to the Pirates last summer for former Crawdads LHP Tony Watson.

LF Calvin Mitchell (No. 16): 2018 stats: 6-for-22, 2 triples, 1 HR, 4 BB, 3 K. Native of San Diego, Calif. Was second-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Rancho Bernardo HS.

RHP Travis MacGregor (No. 25): 2018 stats: 1 game (start), 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 12 K. Native of Tarpon Springs, Fla. Was second-round pick of the Pirates in 2016 out of East Lake HS.

1B Mason Martin (No. 26): 2018 stats: 5-for-20, 2 doubles, 2 HRs, 5 BB, 9 K. Native of Kennewick, Wash. Was 17th-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Southridge HS. Was Gulf Coast League MVP in 2017.

LHP Braeden Ogle (No. 29): 2018 stats: 1 game (start), 3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 BB, 4 K. Was fourth-round pick of the Pirates in 2016 out of Jensen Beach HS (Fla.)

 

Others to watch – West Virginia:

RHP Gavin Wallace: 2018 stats: 1 games (start), 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R (3 ER), 2 BB. 4 K. Native of Staten Island, N.Y. Was 15th-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Fairfield Univ.

RHP Evan Piechota: 2018 stats: 1 game (start), 5 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 7 K. Native of Livonia, Mich. Signed with the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent in 2016. Pitched in college at Madonna Univ. (Mich.)