Results tagged ‘ CD Pelham ’
DeMarcus Evans, 25th round pick of the Texas Rangers, has found the proverbial magic bean on the mound. The native of Petal, Mississippi – a suburb on Hatttiesburg in the southeastern part of the state – struggled as a starter with Hickory in 2017 and wasn’t trusted with key game situations out of the bullpen in the early part of this year. In 15 outing in the first half, he pitched with lead in only three of them, and even those were games mostly in hand. Just once did he see a game that had a hold or save situation in the balance.
In the second half, Evans been as untouchable as anyone in the South Atlantic League. He has nine saves since the SAL all-star break – five in August – with a 0.66 ERA. Of the 100 hitters he’s faced in the second half, 56 have struck out. Just 18 have reached base. He went from non-descript “guy” to a player that should start showing up on some of the Rangers top-30 prospect lists over the winter.
I talked with Evans in July, but then the “day job” sidetracked me doing anything with this until now. Since the time of the interview, Evans was named the Rangers reliever of the month award in July. Barring a rough rinal 9 days of the month, he’s the odds-on favorite to win it again.
What’s different? The velocity on his fastball went from 91-92 to 95-96 at its beak. The curveball hits the strike zone with frequency and is nearly unhittable at this level. But for Evans, he admits that gaining trust in his own ability has been the biggest hurdle.
In the interview below, Evans talks through his struggles from 2017 and how he conquered some of the mechanical issues, as well as the mental ones.
Demarcus, well first of all, what switch did you find?
Evans: I just been learning to pitch in the bullpen. I have been starting the last 2 years, so I’ve been picking up stuff in the bullpen. I’ve been learning from (Tyler) Ferguson and (Josh) Advocate and all them. I been talking to them. They’ve been helping me out along the way from the first half to the second half.
In the second half, I still remember I was on the mound and skip (Crawdads manager Matt Hagen) came out there and was like “We’re going to need you the second half to come in situations like this to get out of it.”
I pitched against Kannapolis and I think Louis Robert hit a double off the wall and he got to third, and it was like one out. He came out there and talked to me and told me I need you second half. So, then I just start talking to Ferg and he been helping me out on my curve ball and I’ve been trusting myself a lot lately.
The curveball. Is that a new pitch for you? I don’t remember you throwing that.
Evans: No, I’ve been throwing that ever since. They think it’s a slider but its just hard. Because, I try to throw it as hard as I can like a fastball. It breaks like a curveball and sometimes it goes like a slider. Ferguson told me it’s like a breaking ball. It could go like a slider or a curveball.
Do you throw a slider much?
Do you throw much of a change?
Evans: I threw one or two. I used to, but I didn’t have confidence in it, so I just banged it. So, I’ve just been throwing fast ball.
So, you’re pretty much a fastball and a curveball?
Evans: Yes, I have it, but I just haven’t used it. None of the teams have been on my fastball so I’ve been throwing my fastball and curveball.
So, I’m going to be honest with you. I see you come out – you’re at 91 – 92 – you’re a big guy and I’m thinking “He’s gotta throw harder” then all of a sudden 95 – 96. What have you found? What switch on that have you found?
Evans: I’ve been working out a lot harder and running a lot harder and I’ve been using my legs more. I used to just use my arm, but I’ve been staying back on my legs and driving and my velo’s been going up a lot.
Let me go back to the conversation Matt had with you. Was that after they found out (Alex) Speas wasn’t going to come back?
Evans: No, he was here. It was just my first year in the bullpen and so they’ve had been putting me in situations where it was easier for me to come in to get used to it. But then he said, “The training wheels are off and it’s going to be your situation the second half to make a push for the playoffs.”
I actually learned a lot from Speas, too, since he was in the bullpen.
What did you learn from Speas?
Evans: He’s quick, too. He’s just been trusting his stuff and just throwing and not thinking as much. I was just loving that.
I remember both you and Tyler (Phillips) were here last year and you both struggled. You came here when you were 20 and you were – don’t take this the wrong way – but you were still a baby. How much growing up did you do last year?
Evans: I had to do a lot. When I got sent down, I was going to throw out of the bullpen, but they said they still wanted me to start. This year, they said wanted me to go to the bullpen, and I was like, “Oh well.”
I figured out a little stuff at Spokane when I went back. That team was a lot better atmosphere for me with them, and we clicked a lot better. So, I learned stuff from people like Tyler (Phillips). Me and Tyler have been together since we were drafted. I guess I felt more comfortable. Here, I was stressing and trying to be perfect every time I went out.
What was the biggest thing you learned?
Evans: Honestly, everybody tells me, “DeMarcus, when you throw your fastball, nobody can hit it” and all this stuff. I just didn’t trust myself, as much. But now, I’m like, I can do it and I been learning to better myself by having more confidence and trusting my ability more.
Is the game much more mental than you thought it would be when you got into it?
Evans: It was. It’s a lot more mental, but I’m starting to block all of that out and focusing on a tunnel vision. It’s been working ever since.
You said you went back to Spokane and things began to click. What were some things that clicked for you?
Evans: Mechanic wise, staying behind the ball more. Getting out in front and let it come off the fingers.
Who are some guys, maybe more specific, and some of the things they said that helped you?
Evans: Joey Seaver – he’s not with us anymore, he’s with the Pirates. He had me do these drills every day where he’d set these cones behind me and they let me stay straight. He held my belt inside and it made me stay back on my back leg. I worked with (Crawdads pitching coach Jose) Jaimes a lot in spring training on up/down so I can keep my ear over my back shoulder and get out in front with it and use my legs more.
What is the biggest thing mentally that you figured out? I know you mentioned that you’d block things out, but that can be easier said than done. Some guys can do it a couple of times and things creep back in again.
Evans: Sometimes last year, when I was with Matt, I’d do bad walking a lot of guys. I’d get into the dugout and I’d get mad at myself and do stuff. Now, I’m just like, there’s nothing I can do about it except work harder. So now, if I do something bad, I’ll just flush it out, work harder and do better next time.
So, what do you do next time when have a bad outing? You’ve rolled lately, but it’s coming where something is going to happen.
Evans: I’ll just focus on what I need to work on. Like, I had a couple of breaking balls yesterday that I left up, so today I worked on breaking balls and tried to get out front with it. I’m keeping the same mind focus. If they’re going to hit me, they’re going to hit my best stuff, so I just let everything go. Because, I’ll usually hold something back and try to make perfect pitches sometimes. Now, I’m just like, “All right, throw everything. Don’t use max effort, but try to let the ball eat and see if they’re going to hit it or not.”
Petal, Mississippi. You’re 6-4, 240 now?
Why didn’t you play football?
Evans: I did, but
I gotta ask because you’re in the heart of SEC country.
Evans: I had a couple of offers for football, but my main focus is baseball.
Where did you get offers for football?
Evans: I had offers from two JUCOs. I had one from Pearl River and Jones County Community College, which was right down the street from me.
So, why did you decide baseball?
Evans: I thought it would be the best fit for me.
Evans: I think my heart was more with baseball than football because I was always around it since I was little.
What influenced you?
Evans: When I was growing up around two years old, my mom coached at this boys and girls club. So, it was around that time that I started to play baseball. Me and Ti’Quan (Forbes) grew up playing together. I was playing from the time I was two all the way to 16, 17 years old.
I really thought I wasn’t going to play baseball, because I got hurt in my ninth-grade year. It was something in my growth plate. Out of nowhere – I had to sit out three months – I was throwing like 88. I was like, “what in the world happened?” That was about it.
When did you get a sense that you might get to play professionally?
Evans: Actually, my 11th grade going into my 12th grade year. We had this thing where all the best players in the state of Mississippi played in a tournament. I tried out for it and I got home and this man called me. I was like, “Who is this?” It was a man from the Miami Marlins scout team. He said, “Do you want to come play for – you get a free month to come play for Perfect Game.” I had never heard of Perfect Game.
I pitched two innings and the Miami scouts were like, “Wow, that’s nice.” They said my fastball was kind of live. A lot of people were swinging and missing and stuff. So, I went down there, and I was pitching and everybody was swinging and striking out. I struck four batters out and I was like, “Wow, these guys have never heard of me.” I just kept going on and on and on. I had a lot of strikeouts. It was that way the whole summer and that’s when people started contacting me, calling my house, coming to my games.
Did you have offers to play baseball in college?
Evans: I had USM (Southern Mississippi), Tulane, every JUCO in the southern part – San Jacinto, Chipola. I had Alabama State, Jackson State.
Anything thoughts about playing and not signing?
Evans: I did sign. I dual committed. I was going to go to Hinds Community College, where Chad Bradford was the pitching coach. I was like, if I go anywhere to pitch, I’ll probably go there because he pitched in professional baseball and he’d probably give me a lot of good aspects of the game.
All of the sudden, I got drafted by Texas. I wasn’t going to go because they drafted me the third day. I was like, “No, I’m going to go to school.”
Why did you decide to come out?
Evans: I had a long talk with my agent. He was like, “If you want to play professional baseball, then go. It’s a better percentage if you go out of high school than out of college.” A lot of kids go into college and get hurt and stuff like that. So, my agent said, “If you want to go, then just go and you don’t have to worry about nothing. Just keep going and you don’t have to pay me until you get to the big leagues.”
Who’s been the biggest influence for you?
Evans: I’m very close, player wise, with C.D. (Pelham). I talk a lot with Keone Kela. Coaching wise, Jono Arnold, he’s the pitching coach at Spokane now.
Tell me about Keone Kela. He’s now a closer and eating it up.
Evans: We started hanging out last year. It was me, Ti’Quan and C.D. We all hang out with him and he’d always take us out to eat and stuff. He’d talk to us about the game and how we should play it. I’ve learned a lot from him.
He’d tell us, “You’ve got to go out there and change your mind focus. Don’t dwell on it, if you go out there and do bad. Just be ready to go next time, when they call your name.” I’d talk to him about how the bullpen works, because I’d never been in it. How to recover, because everybody’s different.
I don’t mean this in a bad way, but he has an attitude, doesn’t he? I don’t mean it in a negative, but it’s what you’ve got to have in the bullpen, I guess.
Evans: He’s a competitor.
Does that rub off on you?
Evans: Emotion wise, I don’t try to show as much. I get fired up, but I don’t try to show it.
You get a call to the major leagues, what does that mean to you and who’s the first person you call?
Evans: Ohhhh. That would mean a lot; that’s what I’m working for. The first person I’ll call will probably be my mom.
She was your first coach.
Evans: My mom coached me in everything from soccer, basketball, football, everything. She coached me from the sideline.
Was she an athlete?
Evans: She played basketball at JUCO. (Pearl River CC).
What did she teach you as an athlete?
Evans: I used to have a lot of anger problems. She always told me, “You’ve got to go out there and give it all you’ve got because a lot of kids don’t get the chance to do it.” That’s just stuck with me ever since.
Did she have to get on you?
Evans: Yes, a lot.
More than other kids?
What was the biggest thing she’d get on you about?
Evans: I used to get mad if I’d strikeout, or if I’d walk a lot of people, I’d get mad all the time and throw stuff.
When you have a pre-game that has the Red Power Ranger and Dale Murphy throwing out first pitches back-to-back and the box manager announces the attendance dressed in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume, the game itself must be weird.
After the offenses were dormant early, the Hickory Crawdads and the Lexington (Ky.) Legends battled back-and-forth until a play at the plate settled the contest, which the Crawdads won 6-5 on Saturday at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win snapped the Crawdads (24-38) losing streak at three and sent the Legends (30-32) to their fourth loss in five games on the current road trip.
Well, not much in the first 5 ½ innings. Lexington’s Jace Vines (KC’s 2016 4th round pick from Texas A&M) held the Crawdads without a baserunner until the fifth and a hit until the sixth. Meanwhile, his counterpart Walker Weickel allowed two hits, walked two and struck out five over his four innings.
Lexington scored in the fifth against reliever Christian Torres. Rudy Martin walked, stole second and scored on Angelo Castellano’s single to left.
Alex Kowalczyk broke up the fledgling perfect game with a leadoff walk in the fifth. In the sixth, Jose Almonte laid to rest Vines’s no-hit bid with a clean single through the left side of the infield. Yeyson Yrizarri singled up the middle before Vines walked Anderson Tejeda to load the bases. After Vines fanned Eric Jenkins, Leody Taveras ambushed a first-pitch fastball and drove it over the funeral home sign in center for a grand slam, his fifth homer of the season to make it 4-1.
“It happens in the game,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “(Vines) was throwing well against us the first five innings. We got to the sixth inning and finally had some quality at bats and got the no-hitter out of the way with Almonte’s single and Yrizarri had a great at-bat. Obviously, Taveras get the first-pitch fastball for the grand slam. Up to that point, we didn’t have anything going, but you’ve got to play nine innings. That’s what we’ve been preaching to them all year.”
Matt Smoral picked up for Torres in the seventh and after striking out the first two hitters, he walked the bases loaded. C.D. Pelham entered to face Emmanuel Rivera, who hit the lefty’s second pitch out to left for his fifth homer of the season.
The Crawdads fought back to tie it a 5-5 in the seventh, when Ti’Quan Forbes and Yrizarri pieced two doubles together for the tying run.
Lexington threatened in the eighth when it put Gabriel Cancel on second with one out. Yeison Melo ripped a Pelham pitch to left – or it would have landed there if not for the diving play of Forbes at third, who made the catch and fired to second to complete an inning-ending double play.
What turned out to be the winning tally started in the eighth when Eric Jenkins had a hustle double and moved to third on Taveras’s infield hit. Yanio Perez hit into a fielder’s choice to erase Taveras, but Jenkins inexplicably stayed at third. After Kowalczyk lined out to short, Forbes brought in Jenkins with a single.
Things got harrowing for the Crawdads in the ninth as Pelham hit Martin with a pitch with one out. After Pelham struck out Khalil Lee, Castellano singled Martin to second. Rivera hit a grounder up the middle that SS Tejeda knocked down, which seemingly would’ve kept Martin at third. Except, Martin ran with his head down and either didn’t see manager Scott Thorman with a stop sign, or Thorman didn’t throw one up. Martin circled around third and sprinted for home. Tejeda’s throw to the plate was in plenty of time to allow Ricky Valencia tag Martin sliding in.
Yes, Taveras is back.
I thought Taveras was on the way to his usual pest-like self again on Friday. When he’s on, Taveras is marvelously skilled at picking out his pitch. Whether it’s a first-pitch fastball, like on the grand slam, or a 9-pitch AB as in the first inning, he will seek out his pitch, and more often than not, smack it hard somewhere.
But he’s bunting?
After Friday night’s ninth-inning loss Spike Owen was pulling out the stops to get a win. AFter Jenkins double in the eighth, Taveras fouled off the first two pitches on failed bunt attempts before connecting on a slow roller that set up the final run of the game. Hickory has only 8 sac bunts this season – Tejeda has 3 of them – it just seemed a weird strategy to take the bat out of your second-best hitter.
Forbes making noise like a duck:
Or he could if he gets a promotion to the Down East Wood Ducks. He offers stellar defensive play every night, but it’s been the stick that has held him back. He continues to see fastball and is willing to drive it where it’s pitched. Tonight, he got pitches in and he knows what to do with them. A great play at third deprived him of three hits.
Eric, oh Eric:
There is so much raw talent, but wow, there seems to be some baseball acumen missing at times. In the sixth with the bases loaded, he swung through a fastball up – a big swing, when just putting the ball in play most likely gets a run. Later in the AB, he fouled off a high slider that screamed “hit me”. Jenkins did work the count in the AB, but eventually flew out to shallow left. When he is in a key situation in an inning, he tends to overswing.
Him holding at third with runners on the corners and no outs was just odd – just as odd as it was for the Legends to play back for a double play with no outs and the go-ahead runner at third in the eighth.
A pair of homers, including one that capped a three-run inning in the sixth, helped the Hickory Crawdads to a come-from-behind 6-4 win over the Asheville Tourists Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Crawdads (19-30) snapped a six-game skid and set them up for a chance to split the series after the Tourists (20-27) took the first two of the four-game set Thursday and Friday. First pitch of Sunday’s finale is scheduled for 3 p.m.
For just the 18th time in 49 games, and the first time since their last win on May 20, the Crawdads scored first. With two outs and the bases empty, Leody Taveras singled to left and reached second when 3B Travis Snyder’s throw to second for the force sailed over Max George’s glove as he covered the bag. Facing Brandon Gold, Ti’Quan Forbes then launched a three-run blast, a high-arching shot that kissed the batter’s eye in center. The homer was Forbes’s sixth of the season, but the first since April 17.
However, the Tourists rebounded quickly against Crawdads starter Matt Ball with two runs each in the second and third innings. In the second, Manny Melendez, Carlos Herrera and Joel Diaz all singled, with Diaz’s hit scoring Melendez. Ball then struck out Robbie Perkins, but a run scored when Diaz took off for second on a double-steal attempt. Herrera scored on the play as Diaz got caught in a run down between first and second.
In the third, Vince Fernandez singled and scored when Jose Gomez hit a sinking liner that Taveras closed in on and attempted to make a diving catch. The ball fell in and scooted past Taveras to the track, turning the play into an RBI triple. Gomez then scored easily on Willie Abreu’s double to the RCF track.
The Tourists had a chance to tack on more runs in the fourth when Ball walked the bases loaded after two outs. However, Ball settled down and struck out Gomez to end the inning.
Hickory held the deficit to 4-3 until the sixth when it scored the decisive runs. Anderson Tejeda singled and then scored all the way from first when Gold fielded Franklin Rollin’s swinging bunt and threw it down the right-field line. Rollin went to third on the play and scored when Valencia lofted a deep fly just over the fence in right for his second homer of the season.
After Ball got out of the bases-loaded jam in the fourth, he and C.D. Pelham allowed just one baserunner until Pelham walked Abreu to start the eighth. With the tying run at the plate, Pelham struck out Melendez and Herrera. Jake Lemoine was then summoned to face Diaz, who swung at the first pitch and hit into a force play.
Asheville threatened in the ninth after Perkins reached on an error by Forbes and Lemoine walked Fernandez with two outs. However, Gomez ended the game when his soft liner was snagged in the hole at second by the leaping Blaine Prescott.
Forbes getting the money swing back; at least, I think he is:
I sent out a tweet Friday night that it appeared Forbes was getting close.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Feel like Ti’Quan is close: hitting ball middle away. Took drive to warning track in CF, last AB was 11 pitches</p>— Mark Parker (@CrawdadsBeat) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CrawdadsBeat/status/868275387561857025″>May 27, 2017</a></blockquote>
The first pitch fastball from Gold was a no-doubter to center. Forbes did try to pull a couple of pitches away and both turned into grounders to short. However in the eighth, he sent the same pitch up the middle for a hard-hit single. He’s still plenty quick enough on the fastball, but secondary pitches away have given him trouble. It appears that he is trying to use his hands more on those pitches – that is when he recognizes them.
It’s only natural during a losing streak to see players try to do something to put the team on their backs. For the most part, he 18-year-old Taveras has been immune from that, but over the first few games of the homestand, it looks like he is trying to do too much.
Though he doubled on Thursday – with the help of a deflection off the 1B’s glove – he seemed impatient on his final three ABs with just three pitches for each one, all strikes with four swing-and-misses – an unusual amount for him.
On Friday, Abreu stole second and moved to third on the overthrow by the catcher. Taveras backed the play up correctly, but even with no real chance for the out at third, he threw it anyway. The ball landed on the protective screen behind the third-base dugout. Add to that a K and a couple of weak grounders – two pitches on each of those ABs – and you have a kid that is trying to do too much. Eight Ks in 7 games (through Friday) was not like him.
Tonight, his dive into center was ill-advised – perhaps he didn’t read it well as it was hit directly to him – and what should’ve been a single to set up first and second with one out turned into a run with another at third.
Taveras is very good at ambushing fastballs, or working long counts to get a pitch he can do something with. The single in the first tonight was classic-Taveras. Hitting left-handed, he served an 0-1 fastball away into left. Later in the eighth, we saw him work the count and earn a walk. That serves him well when he doesn’t get those first-pitch fastballs.
The rally that almost wasn’t:
After the Crawdads had four – four! – runners thrown out on the bases Friday night in a one-run loss, including pinch-runner Franklin Rollin, who was inserted as the tying run in the seventh and then proceeded to get picked off, a near disastrous start to the sixth almost occurred. If it had, I think manager Spike Owen would’ve had a coronary on the field.
Anderson Tejeda opened the inning with a lined single to right. As Tejeda rounded the base at first, a throw from Willie Abreu in right was already on the way behind him and nearly picked him off as he scampered back to first.
Was this closing day?:
The first few innings had the feel of the final day of the season, as the hitters went hacking. Gold needed just 51 pitches to get through the fifth inning and the Tourists hitters went hacking against Ball. Of the seven hits allowed by Ball over the first three innings, five of those were on the first or second pitch as the hitters saw a flat fastball.
Gold went on to record a complete game, despite the loss, needing just 93 pitches. He did a good job of pounding the strike zone (71 strikes) and getting the Crawdads to swing at his pitches early for weak contact. In fact, just six of the 34 Crawdads saw five or more pitches.
A smooth CD:
Like fine music, this C.D. (Pelham) was smooth and kept the Tourists in a relaxed state. As Gold did, the 6-6, 235 lb. lefty got outs quickly (39 pitches, 26 strikes over three innings) then finished them off with either a change or a slider. The slider was especially good to lefties as three of the four Ks came courtesy of that pitch. Given the rough treatment Pelham got at Lexington (KY) on Wednesday (2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER), the bounce back was badly needed.
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (18-25, 6th place South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals) (19-24, 5th place Southern)
The Hickory Crawdads play the last three games of an eight-game road trip at Whitaker Bank Ballpark
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Monday-Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.
Promotions: Monday: Kids Eat N’ Play for Free (Kids 12 and under eat and play in the kids play area for free); Mommy/ Son Date Night; Super Hero Night. Tuesday: $1 day (Dollar hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream sandwiches, Pepsi products). Wednesday: Hunt Brothers ½ price pizza
TICKETS: $6 for bleacher seats. $9-$23 in advance, add $2 the day of the game.
Where is it?: I-75 North/I-64 Wast to exit 113. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto North Broadway toward downtown Lexington. Follow North Broadway for approximately one and a half miles, past New Circle Road (Highway 4). Turn right into the stadium located adjacent to the Northland Shopping Center.
PARKING: $3-$5. Parking is available at the ballpark as well as other spaces within a 10-minute walk.
CONCESSIONS: Whitaker Bank Ballpark offers a wide variety of food items for fans including Big L’s Gourmet Dogs, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Colonel Cobb, Kona Ice, Kettle Cory, Broadway Cantina and more. For dining, there is the Kentucky Ale Taproom. http://www.milb.com/documents/2/4/0/46314240/Legends_2013_Tap_Room_Menu_v3_opt_0evaa6fd.pdf
Probables (Hickory/ Lexington):
Monday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Travis Eckert
Tuesday: RHP Kyle Cody vs. LHP Andre Davis
Wednesday: RHP Michael Matuella vs. RHP Jace Vines
Recent Series History: The Crawdads went 10-5 against the Legends in 2016, which included 5-of-7 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The teams played sporadically for several years prior to 2016. In 2015, Hickory all four games, which were all played at Lexington. Before that, the teams played all games for three seasons at Hickory, with the Legends edging the Crawdads 9-7.
About the Crawdads: Hickory dropped the final game of a five-game series at Kannapolis, but won the weekend series 3-2. It is the third series the Crawdads won this season, the first against a team other than Columbia (S.C.). Overall, the Crawdads have won 5 of 7 over the past week and climbed out of the cellar of the Northern Division… The Crawdads are in danger of snapping a streak of 14 straight half-seasons above .500, stretching back to the second half of the 2009 season. Hickory will have to win 17 of the final 27 to avoid a losing record… The Crawdads lineup has been humming in May, but will have to do so for a while without Yanio Perez, who is on the disabled list with an undisclosed injury. Perez (.356/.429/.630) leads the SAL in batting average and is in the top three in on-base pct., slugging pct. OPS, hits, homers and total bases. Still, Hickory’s .284 average is the second highest in the SAL for May and the lineup scored 4+ runs in three of the four games since losing Perez. The Crawdads are third in the SAL in homers, OPS (.715) and slugging (.397), fourth in RBI and total bases. However, they are near the bottom in walks received and on-base pct. (.318)… On the mound, Hickory remains well entrenched at the bottom of the SAL in ERA (5.52), and WHIP (1.55), runs and earned runs allowed, and next to last in hits and walks allowed. However, this past week has arguably been the best for the staff and the Crawdads will run the two hottest starters for the first two games. During the five wins this past week, Hickory allowed just 11 total runs. In the two losses, it gave up 18. Hickory has allowed seven or runs 18 times in 43 games, 12 of those during the last 23.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Went hitless in three straight games for just second time this season during the Kannapolis series and sat out his first game of the season on Sunday. His slash for May is still .300/.324/.457.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. The rate of strikeouts has lessened (40% in April, 29% in May), but so has the rate of walks (14.3% in April, 8.8% in May). Went 4-for-18 during Kannapolis series with 7 Ks, but three of the hits were doubles.
LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Is 8-for-43 (.186) since joining the Crawdads on May 10, but had a three-run double at Kannapolis on Sunday.
RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. After two rough starts, he gave up just one run on three hits and fanned four at Kannapolis on Thursday. Pitches have tended to catch a lot of the plate far as the SAL is hitting .410 against him over 8.1 innings (16 hits to 45 hitters faced).
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No.17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. Pitched one-hit ball over seven innings and fanned six last Monday against Greensboro. Over his last four starts totaling 25.1 innings, Hernandez has allowed five runs on 20 hits with five walks and 26 Ks.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. Saw a 10-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday. A stretch of at least one hit in 13 of 14 games moved his batting average from .155 on May 4 to .250.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Has perhaps begun to heat up after a prolonged slow start with an injury mixed in. Is 6-for-17 over his last five games with two walks on Sunday. His nine walks so far this season equals his entire output for 2016.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. After two straight outings which yielded runs, Ferguson allowed just one hit in a scoreless outing on Saturday. Has fanned 22 of the 65 batters he faced, but walked or hit 12.
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHP Kyle Cody: Sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky. Returning to the city where he started for the Wildcats in college. Save for a poor start vs. Charleston (S.C.) on May 10, Cody has had a decent run this season. In his last outing on Tuesday, Cody pitched a four-hitter over seven innings and fanned 10. Held the opposition to fewer than two earned runs in four of seven starts.
1B Carlos Garay: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of La Victoria, Venezuela. Played this season at high-A Down East before he was assigned to Hickory this weekend due to the injury to Perez. Went 4-for-9 with an RBI in his first two games.
C Ricky Valencia: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of Valencia, Venezuela. Enters the series with a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19) and four RBI in that stretch.
LHP C.D. Pelham: 33rd-round pick in 2015 out of Spartanburg Methodist College. Has become a reliable arm out of the pen. Over his last seven outings (13 innings), Pelham has fanned 17 of the 59 hitters he’s faced (29%) and allowed just two earned runs on 17 total baserunners.
About the: Legends
Managed by Scott Thorman in his first season with the Legends after two years as the skipper at the Royals rookie-level club at Burlington (73-63) …Lexington returns home after a 5-3 Georgian-road trip to Augusta and Rome. The Legends are tied for the worst home record in the SAL at 5-12. Lexington has played just three home games this month (1-2)… Despite winning two of three from the Braves, the Legends pitching took it on the chin in surrendering 24 runs and playing an 18-inning affair on Friday. Earlier this season, the Legends gave up a SAL record 30 hits during a 22-4 loss to Hagerstown (Md.). Lexington has given up 46 homers in 43 games, seven more than Greensboro. The Legends are also last in hits allowed, next to last in runs allowed, and 12th out of 14 teams in ERA (4.85), WHIP (1.47) and walks allowed… A free-swinging team at the plate, the Legends can run up some numbers. They are second in runs and homers, RBI, total bases, third in hits, doubles, and OPS. Lexington is also second in Ks… The Legends have done well at shutting down the running game with catchers combining to nab 42.9% of runners trying to steal.
Prospects to watch – Lexington:
RF Khalil Lee: (No. 12 Baseball America, No. 13 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2016 out of Flint Hill High (Oakton, VA). Was the Gatorade player of the year in Virginia last year. The Legends leadoff hitter takes a lot of pitches as he leads the SAL in Ks and is fourth in walks. Tied for 9th in runs. Posted a .213/.338/295 slash in May. A threat on the bases with 11 steals (5th in the SAL), though he has been caught six times.
C Meibrys Viloria (No. 14 MLB.com, No. 18 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Cartagena, Colombia. Was the MVP in the Pioneer League (rookie) at Idaho Falls in 2016 after posting a .376/.436/.606 slash. After a .186 average in April, Viloria has been hot in May at .339.422/.679 with four homers and 16 RBI in 15 games. Enters the series with an RBI in six straight games and seven of eight. Behind the plate has thrown out 17 of the 40 runners trying to steal.
CF Marten Gasparini: (No. 19 MLB.com, No. 22 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Ruda, Italy. Signed the largest contract given to a European prospect. Hit .196 as the Legends starting shortstop last year and has not been much better (.186) in 2017. Committed 48 errors last year precipitating the move to center. Has just four extra-base hits this year in 35 games.
SS Ricky Arcena (No. 27 MLB.com) Signed as an international free agent in 2014 out of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R. Like Gasparini, the stick has been light and the game a bit fast in the field (60 errors in 115 pro games). Started the last road trip with hits in five of the first six games, before an 0-for-7 with 6 Ks over the final two games.
Others to watch – Lexington:
LF Kort Peterson: 23rd-round pick in 2016 out of UCLA. Tabbed to the Appalachian League post-season All-Star team in 2016, as well as a Royals organizational All-Star by MLB.com. Fifth in the SAL in OBP (.405) and tied for 10th in hits. Enters the series with a seven-game hitting streak and hits in 16 of the last 18 games (26-for-77, .338). Is 8 for his last 17.
RHP Jace Vines: Fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M. Expected to make his third straight appearance as a starter on Wednesday (10 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 1 HB, 1 BB, 4 K). Enters the series with a 1.67 ERA as a starter. Relies on defense to make plays (1.81 GO/AO) with just 24 Ks in 40.1 innings overall.
RHP Grant Gavin: 29th-round pick in 2016 out of Central Missouri. Has struck out 23 of 81 batters faced (28%). Has allowed one earned run over 21 innings (0.43 ERA) and the league is hitting .130 against him.
1B Joe Dudek: Non-drafted free agent in 2016 out of Kentucky. Enters series with seven-game hitting streak (10-for-26, .385) with three walks. Has reached base in all ten games since he joined the Legends. Was teammate of Crawdads P Kyle Cody.
Had the Crawdads lineup not put together 12 hits, Saturday night’s 14-2 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers might be one of the uglier losses in my own memory here.
Eleven walks, three hit batters, a wild pitch, an error on a throw to first following a strikeout, two passed balls all added up to every bit of that 14-2 defeat.
To the Grasshoppers credit, the lineup was patient and took advantage of the opportunities given them. Greensboro went 10-for-28 RISP and still stranded 14 for the game.
It started so innocently. Crawdads starter Demarcus Evans needed just ten pitches to get through the first. Good, lively fastball and three F-8’s later we’re thinking, here we go. Then it happened…
Hit batter, walk, walk, K, then a walk to .134 hitter Luis Pintor sent manager Spike Owen to the mound with a matter-of-fact walk to remove Evans. Reid Anderson entered and gave up a two-run single to Corey Bird (4-for-5) and a run-scoring double to Aaron Knapp (3-for-5, 5 RBI).
In the third, with one out, Colby Lusignan and Eric Gutierrez singled. Anderson K’d Boo Vazquez, but a passed ball on strike three scored Lusignan from third. Then, hit batter, Pintor’s RBI single, Bird RBI single and Knapp’s three-run homer made it 10-0 after three.
Grasshoppers starter Dylan Lee then just had to throw strikes and he did. Through seven scoreless innings, he scattered seven hits and struck out two.
Ismel Lopez was next up for Hickory and Greensboro got him for single runs in the fifth and sixth. Pintor walked and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Lusignan. In the sixth, Knapp’s sacrifice fly brought in Jarett Rindfleisch.
An unearned run made it 13-0 in the seventh. James Nelson earned the golden sombrero, but got all the way to second when catcher Alex Kowalczyk’s throw to first to complete a strikeout went into right. Vazquez eventually singled him in.
Finally in the ninth against CD Pelham, Vazquez and Rindfleisch hit back-to-back doubles.
The Crawdads got their runs in the ninth as Ti’Quan Forbes and Yeyson Yrizarri each had RBI singles.
Our internet combined with Gameday’s brain fart late in the game skewed pitch counts from the sixth inning on. By my count, I had the Crawdads combining for 234 pitches with 125 going for strikes. Just 28 first-pitch strikes to 55 hitters.
Evans threw just 19 strikes out of 42 pitches to get five outs.
What may be:
Getting the feeling that there will be some changes made and it could be a wakeup call for some guys. Tonight was the quarter-mark of the season and we now see what the reality is. Guys are not throwing strikes or commanding pitches in the strike zone. With manager Spike Owen having to go to the pen in the first through third innings too often, guys in the bullpen are shouldering a ton of work. The rotation and pitching roster may look different when the Crawdads go to Kannapolis on Thursday.
Tough night for Kowalczyk:
Whether it was the strain of trying to will pitchers into, or catching nearly every day for a week after sitting out until last week, Kowalczyk had a tough night. Two passed balls in the third, several other pitches that were simply dropped and then the error in the seventh on a routine throw to first. He had a ground single in the fourth, but otherwise K’d twice and bounced to second.
Leody busts it:
After a tough night Friday (2 Ks and a GIDP), Taveras was his young self again Saturday. After a Willie Mays, cap-fall-of-the head running catch in the first, he lined an 0-1 pitch hard off the mound, which bounced high into centerfield. He grounded to short and third in his next two ABs, but both times he sprinted hard to first and made both routine plays close. Taveras got rewarded for that hustle in the ninth when he beat out an infield hit to third.
Yay for Yay-Yay:
Yeyson Yrizarri had the best AB I can recall seeing in the third. (This was with the team down 10-0). A 9-pitch adventure, during which he spoiled five different 1-2 pitches, turned into a hard-hit single to left on a hanging curve. An infield hit in the fifth, a double into the LF corner in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth and he winds up with a four-hit night. Add in a leaping catch of a liner to save two runs in the fifth and that’s a pretty good night for a guy during a game when he, and others, could’ve mailed it in.
Anderson at second:
Anderson Tejeda looks pretty comfortable at second and I think I could get used to seeing him there. Made two difficult plays look easy as he charged in on both and made the quick, across the body throw to first on the run.
Yanio is Yanio:
Three hits, two of them smoked, and I think he’s getting ready to go to Columbia, S.C. with Taveras for the SAL all-star game.
Rollin is rollin’
Franklin Rollin went 1-for-5, but could’ve easily had three more hits. Lined hard to first twice and to short to end the game. Just one of those nights.
As a matter of fact:
Several hitters torched the ball but found gloves. Along with Rollin’s smashes, Ti’Quan Forbes smoked a liner to third in the seventh that nearly doubled off Perez at third. Rollin’s smash to first did double off Yrizarri in the third. Almonte had a hard hit liner to center in the fifth. Hickory had 12 hits, but could’ve had more.
The Hickory Crawdads shook off the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies with a tying run in the ninth and a walk-off RBI double by Preston Scott in the tenth to claim a 9-8 win in front of 4,325 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Crawdads (9-14) is the third in a row during the four-game series, which concludes Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Columbia (12-12) has dropped four of its last five games and six of eight.
Columbia’s outfielder Tim Tebow did not play. The crowd behaved and were quite well-mannered. Only one chant of Tebow occurred in the ninth inning.
What really happened?:
For the third straight game, the Crawdads offense got in gear and carried the team to the walk-off win. After scoring just 22 runs over its first 10 home games, Hickory now has 28 over the last three.
Columbia took a 3-0 lead after its first two at-bats. In the first, Andres Gimenez, the New York Mets No. 8 prospect (MLB.com) who was just added to the Fireflies roster, homered in his first stateside at-bat, a towering blast over the 32-foot high billboards in rightfield. Gene Cone added a two-run double in the second.
The Crawdads, who lead the Sally League in homers, added two in the second as Yanio Perez and Preston Scott snacked back-to-back solo blasts to left against starter Harol Gonzalez.
The Fireflies got the two runs back in the fourth. Jay Jabs singled and Desmond Lindsay walked before a passed ball moved both runners up. Ali Sanchez slammed a liner off the back of starting pitcher Argenis Rodriguez. 3B Ti’Quan Forbes scooped the ball up and made the play to first, but Jabs scored on the play. Milton Ramos doubled in Lindsay.
Yanio Perez then continued his assault on Fireflies pitching with a three-run homer to left to tie the game at 5-all. For the season, Perez is now 10-for-20 in six games with a double, four homers, four walks, 8 runs scored and 11 RBIs.
Hickory took the lead in the fifth as Yeyson Yrizarri singled in Eric Jenkins and scored himself on Forbes’ groundout.
The see-saw affair continued in the sixth when Columbia scored three times to take an 8-7 lead. Sanchez singled in two runs before Cone’s grounder brought in Lindsay for the go-ahead run.
The score remained there until the bottom of the ninth when Anderson Tejeda doubled to start the inning. One out later, Yrizarri squeezed in a single through the left side of the infield. Taveras then lofted a blooper just beyond the reach of the shortstop Gimenez, who had retreated to center, to score Tejeda. Matt Blackham then struck out Forbes and Ricky Valencia to end the inning and send the game to the tenth.
A perilous moment occurred in the tenth, when Ramos drove a deep fly to left. Eric Jenkins trotted back to the track, then dropped the ball and allowed Ramos to reach second. However, C.D. Pelham recovered to strike out Cone looking to end the threat.
In the bottom of the tenth against new reliever Joseph Zanghi (0-2), Perez got his third hit of the game with a hard single to left. Scott then lasered a double to the wall in left center to score the winning run.
Pelham (1-0) pitched two-hit ball over three scoreless innings with three strikeouts to keep the Fireflies at bay. Jake Lemoine preceded Pelham’s work with two shutout innings of his own.
Tejeda base savvy:
I have to make note of a couple of brilliant base-running plays by Anderson Tejeda in the game, both occurring on second-to-third plays.
In the third, Yeyson Yrizarri hit a grounder to Ramos at third. Ramos made the diving stop to his left and threw to first on his knees for the out. Watching the play, Tejeda crept off the bag at second and then scrambled to third ahead of the return throw.
After he doubled in the ninth, Yrizarri’s grounder was just out of the reach of Ramos and Gimenez at short. Tejeda, anxious initially, waited until the play developed before making his move to third.
A near disaster in the OF Part 1:
Columbia’s Luis Carpio lined a shot to the gap in right-center field. Perez from right and Taveras from center both tracked the ball with neither calling the other off. The two converged and bumped, but Taveras made the catch and held on. The two had a conversation before returning to their positions. For a brief moment, it looked scary.
A near disaster in the OF Part 2, or Jenkins part 1:
There’s no gentle way to put this. On the play in left in the tenth, Jenkins trotted and pranced to the track and then put the glove up for the nonchalant catch. Except he didn’t make the catch. It didn’t look good.
Jenkins part 2:
In talking with Eric some on Saturday, he talked about some of his adjustments, especially in addressing the strikeouts from 2016. He talked about not following the swing high, but keeping the swing up the middle. An emphasis on working the count is also a part of his approach. For the most part, he’s done well with getting deep into counts and putting the ball in play. Though the average hadn’t shown it, he hadn’t been giving away at bats.
The two steps forward this week is now a step back. First AB was a one-pitch, weak grounder to 1B. The second AB was a one-pitch fly to LF. He reached on an infield hit in the fifth, then was looking on three pitches in the seventh and tried to muscle up a pitch in the ninth and struck out.
Taveras mastery at the plate:
In this homestand, Taveras has seen 102 pitches. He has swung and missed just five. Think about that when considering this is an 18-year-old. Three of those were vs. Braves No. 6 (MLB.com) prospect Ian Anderson.
One of those was tonight in the ninth when he wailed violently at a 1-0 fastball from Matt Blackham with runners on the corner. He settled down, worked the count full, then put the bat to the ball. It wasn’t a full-swing, but he made enough contact to loft the ball into short center for the game-tying RBI single.
In the fifth, he yanked an 0-2 off-speed pitch to RF for a single. Two innings later, it was an 0-2 fastball off the plate that he served to left.
Looking back through my mind’s eye, I remember how good Jurickson Profar was as an 18-year-old here. More walks than Ks, he would spoil two-strike pitches to the point of driving opposing pitchers batty. At 17 and early 18, Nomar Mazara, though he fanned a good bit, would battle and battle with two strikes. For me, at least for now, Taveras is right up there as far as strike-zone judgment.
Perez zeroed in:
After the two homers, he saw only curveballs during a full-count walk in the fifth. In the eighth, he crushed a change which wondered over the plate that Gimenez made a leaping catch of. The single in the tenth, also a fastball, was smoked to left.
Baserunning rally killers:
Both teams made curious decisions on the bases that stunted run-scoring innings. In the fourth, Columbia scored two and took a 5-2 lead with seemingly more on the way. With one out and Cone at the plate, Ramos wondered off the bag at second as Cone bunted through a pitch. Alex Kowalczyk saw the play and calmly threw to second for the pickoff. Cone then struck out to end the inning.
Hickory took a 7-5 lead with two in the fifth and had runners at the corners with two outs. With the count 2-2 to Preston Scott, Perez took off from first. When the throw from the catcher Sanchez went to second, Taveras scrambled for home. Luis Carpio cut off the throw at second and easily gunned down Taveras at the plate.
The walk-off win is the second of the season for the Crawdads and the first over the Mets Low-A affiliate since a 17-inning win over Savannah on 5/9/15, when Jose Cardona lined a homer into the leftfield corner. The day after, manager Jose Leger, who had argued Cardona’s homer was foul, was ejected during the home-plate meeting.
This was an ugly one for Hickory Crawdads fans, but a delight for many of the 4,998 fans (announced as such anyway) cheering on their hometown Greensboro Grasshoppers at First National Bank Field. The Grasshoppers took the lead in the bottom of the first and went on to the easy win in the season opener for both.
A cool, brisk night had little effect on the offenses as they combined for 36 baserunners. Unfortunately for the Crawdads, 25 of them wore the Grasshopper white uniforms. The hit column was fairly close (13-9 Greensboro) as were the extra-base hit totals (6-4 Greensboro). What killed Hickory was 12 walks. Well that, and RF Dalton Wheat who had a chance at the reverse cycle by the fifth inning.
Wheat, signed by the Miami Marlins after being named the top independent league prospect by Baseball America in 2016, literally put on his work gloves and went to work on the Crawdads pitching staff.
After Hickory settled for a run in the first, despite three hits and walk, the left-handed hitting Wheat – he is from Kansas – lined a two-run shot just over the fence in left. The liner was most impressive given that it was into a 15-25 mph wind. Wheat capped a five-run second with a two-run triple and later scored on Colby Lusignan’s double. In the fourth, Wheat got a hustle double into the Bermuda triangle between three Crawdads defenders meeting in CF and later scored.
Wheat’s attempts to complete the cycle fell through as he walked in the fifth and seventh. A snag of Wheat’s hot smash by 1B Yanio Perez in the eighth spoiled the chase for history.
Alex Jones and Corey Bird each had three hits, and Justin Twine walked three times.
Hickory’s night was salvaged at the plate on homers by Anderson Tejeda and Ti’Quan Forbes. Yanio Forbes went 2-for-4 with an RBI double.
Texas Rangers 2015 fourth-round pick Jake Lemoine made his pro debut after missing two seasons with shoulder problem. He walked two and struck out two over 1.2 IP.
Kaleb Fontenot was the most effective of the quintet of Crawdads pitchers on the mound, allowing just one hit and striking out two over 1.1 IP.
Momentum thwarted early:
Hickory had a chance to put its collective claws between the Grasshoppers thorax and head early.
Blaine Prescott opened the season with an infield hit, but was caught stealing. Tejeda walked and moved to second as Leody Teveras reached on an infield hit. Perez sliced a long flyball that rainbowed just inside the line in right to score Tejeda and putting runners at second and third.
To that point, Grasshoppers starting pitcher Jordan Holloway had struggled with his command, as with a bit of bad luck on the three hits. Facing Jose Almonte, a 1-0 fastball went up and in, but Almonte was unable to check his swing. Now 1-1 instead of a 2-0 count, Holloway gathered himself and went on to fan Almonte. The next hitter Ti’Quan Forbes went ahead 2-1, but missed a fastball and eventually whiffed.
Wheat’s two-run blast in the bottom put Greensboro in front and it never relinquished the lead.
He’s only 18, but at 5-11, 185-pounds, Anderson Tejeda showed he can crank a fastball with the best of them at this level. His solo blast in the third was legendary. Greensboro’s staff has the technology to measure these things and they said it was 106 mph off the bat and it went 441 feet.
Here is the pic off the field. Above the red Budweiser sign there is what looks like 2/3 of a goal post. Above that is a LED decorated tree. It went past that tree.
In the fifth, Tejeda just missed a bunt single as the ball traveled up the third-base line before trickling foul at the bag.
Forbes 2016 carry over:
I can make an argument that 3B Ti’Quan Forbes was most improved Crawdads player in the second half of 2016. His slash line was remarkably better and his defense at third was stellar.
He’s continued to bulk up and the power was on display with a lined two-run homer to left. Greensboro’s stat folks had the blast timed at 109 mph off the bat. He had the best play of the night when he charged and barehanded a bunt halfway down the line and fired a bullet to first on the run for the out.
These cleats were made for walking:
Twelve walks by Hickory pitching will certainly get the ire of coach Jose Jaimes. With the guys coming from Arizona last week and two days of hard rain here, Tuesday was the only day the pitchers could get side work in. I don’t know if that would have an effect, but almost no one had command of the fastball, save Lemoine’s sixth inning.
Starter Jonathan Hernandez appeared bothered by the cold or wind or lack of control or whatever. He put together a strong final month in 2016, but last night’s start was a step back. Three walks, just five of 16 hitters started with a first-pitch strike, and 32 balls to 33 strikes on the evening. Fastballs were 92-94 range according to the Greensboro board, but often missed Valencia’s target arm side. Those that stayed over the plate were often punished.
Luke Lanphere at 90-91 mph fared little better as he walked three of the 14 he faced and threw 32 strikes over 58 pitches.
Jake Lemoine took a bit to find his feel and threw more secondary offerings than anyone I saw. From my high angle, many of those looked to be sliders. He had a strong sixth and point the exclamation point on things with a 91 on the glove-side corner to catch Aaron Knapp looking.
CD Pelham had a forgettable debut with four walks to the six batters he faced.
IT’S OPENING DAY!
Over the next 152 days, 25 players that will start the season at Hickory seek another step on their individual journeys toward what they each hope will end at the major leagues. But for now, they are all teammates and will work towards the common goal of winning games and hopefully playoff spots.
As the season’s first pitch is thrown, the Crawdads roster will have eight returning players from the 2016 squad, including tonight’s starting pitcher Jonathan Hernandez and his batterymate Ricky Valencia.
Three 2016 starting position players will rejoin the squad at the start, including third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes and shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri – who will play more at second this season. – and right fielder Jose Almonte.
Other pitchers returning to the mound are Emerson Martinez, Luke Lanphere and Tyler Ferguson.
The Crawdads top prospects are led by the Texas Rangers No. 1 overall prospect CF Leody Taveras. Others include SS Anderson Tejada (No. 8 MLB.com), Yanio Perez (No. 15) – who will play OF and 1B – Yrizarri (17), Hernandez (18) and Almonte (29).
Here is the expected lineup for the Crawdads to start the season: C Ricky Valencia, 1B Yanio Perez or Preston Scott, 2B Yeyson Yrizarri, 3B Ti’Quan Forbes, SS Anderson Tejada, LF Travis Bolin, CF Leody Taveras, RF Jose Almonte. Perez and Scott are both expected to see some time in outfield. Yrizarri and Tejeda will switch spots on occasion with Yrizarri likely to also see some time at 3B. Forbes may get some reps at 1B. Isaias Quiroz will back up Valencia behind the plate.
The starting rotation announced so far: Jonathan Hernandez, Kyle Cody, Emerson Martinez, Edgar Arredondo, Argenis Rodriguez and a tandem of Tyler Phillips and Demarcus Evans in the sixth slot.
The collection of bullpen arms are as follows: Reid Anderson, Tyler Ferguson, Kaleb Fontenot, Luke Lanphere, Jake Lemoine, Sal Mendez and C.D. Pelham.
Below is a snapshot view of each player that will start the season at Hickory.
2017 HICKORY CRAWDADS PLAYER CAPSULES
REID ANDERSON (RHP, 6-3, 185)
2016 Pro Season: 14 games (2 starts) at Spokane (Wash.), 36 2/3 IP, 1 HR, 20 BB, 18 K, 3.44 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .238 OBA.
About Anderson: A native of New Egypt, N.J., Anderson, 21, was the Texas Rangers 17th-round pick in 2016 out of Millersville (Pa.) Univ., where he was a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Scholar Athlete. Pitched two innings in Division II College World Series championship game. Entered college as outfielder, began pitching while a sophomore.
EDGAR ARREDONDO (RHP, 6-3, 230)
2016 Pro Season: 12 games (12 starts) at Dominican Summer League (DSL) Rangers 1, 62 IP, 0 HR, 4 BB, 56 K, 3.97 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .260 OBA.
About Arredondo: A native of Novalato, Sinaloa, Mex., Arredondo, 19, signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. Appeared for Quintana Roo of the Mexican League in 2013, the youngest ever to debut in a Mexican League game at 15 years old. Had elbow surgery in November 2013 and missed all of 2014.
KYLE CODY (RHP, 6-7, 245)
2016 Pro Season: 12 games (9 starts) at Spokane, 47 1/3 IP, 4 HR, 13 BB, 53 K, 5.13 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .293 OBA.
About Cody: A native of Chippewa Falls, Wisc., Cody, 22, was the Rangers sixth-round pick in 2016 out of the University of Kentucky. Was 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA in ten SEC starts in 2016. Drafted in the second by the Minnesota Twins in 2015 but returned to the Wildcats for his senior season. Was the 2012 Gatorade Wisconsin High School player of the year.
DEMARCUS EVANS (RHP, 6-4, 270)
2016 Pro Season: 14 games (12 starts) between Arizona Summer League (AZL) and Spokane, 55 IP, 3 HR, 37 BB, 75 K, 2.95 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .193 OBA.
About Evans: A native of Petal, Miss., Evans, 20, was the 25th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Petal High School. Allowed fewer than two runs in 4 of 6 starts in the AZL before a promotion to short-season Spokane on 8/3.
TYLER FERGUSON (RHP, 6-4, 225)
2016 Pro Season: 23 games between Spokane and Hickory, 43 2/3 IP, 2 HR, 28 BB, 56 K, 3.92 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .190 OBA.
About Ferguson: A native of Fresno, Calif.., Ferguson, 23, was the Rangers sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Named to the Northwestern League All-Star Team while at Spokane, he struck out 37 percent (46 of 124) of the batters he faced in the circuit. Made several relief appearances for Vanderbilt en route to the 2014 College World Series title. Three-time Southeastern Conference Honor Roll.
KALEB FONTENOUT (RHP, 6-1, 180)
2016 Pro Season: 19 games (3 starts) at Spokane, 36 2/3 IP, 3 HR, 16 BB, 41 K, 4.17 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .266 OBA.
About Fontenout: A native of Ville Platte, La., Fontenout, 23, was the Rangers 21st round pick in 2016 out of McNeese St. Was an All-Southland Conference starter his senior season at McNeese St., set a school record with 28 straight scoreless innings.
JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (RHP, 6-2, 173)
2016 Pro Season: 24 games 2 starts) at Hickory, 116 1/3 IP, 14 HR, 49 BB, 85 K, 4.56 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .252 OBA.
About Hernandez: A native of Santiago de los Caballos, D. R., Hernandez, 20, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.Baseball America has Hernandez as the 17th best Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 18. His father, Fernando, pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers during a 14-season pro career.
LUKE LANPHERE (RHP, 6-2, 198)
2016 Pro Season: 13 games at between Spokane and Hickory, 71 2/3 IP, 9 HR, 22 BB, 57 K, 3.64 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .272 OBA.
About Lanphere: A native of Highland, Calif., Lanphere, 21, was the Rangers 21st round pick out of Citrus Valley (Calif.) High School in 2013.Was promoted to Hickory on August 4.
JAKE LEMOINE (RHP, 6-5, 199)
2016 Pro Season: Did not pitch.
About Lemoine: A native of Bridge City, Tex., Lemoine, 23, was the Rangers fourth round pick in 2015 out of Univ. of Houston. Suffered a should injury in 2015 while at college and has not pitched professionally. Had rotator cuff surgery March 2016. Named to USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2014. Rangers picked him the 21st round in 2012, but Lemoine opted to attend Houston.
EMERSON MARTINEZ (RHP, 6-1, 199)
2016 Pro Season: 24 games (6 starts) between Hickory and AA Frisco (Tex.), 64 2/3 IP, 3 HR, 28 BB, 53 K, 3.48 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .249 OBA.
About Martinez: A native of Guigue, Venezuela., Martinez, 22, signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. Completed six or more innings in four of six starts with Hickory. His twin brother Kevin is a catcher in the Milwaukee Brewers system.
SAL MENDEZ, (LHP, 6-4, 185)
2016 Pro Season: 14 games (9 starts) at Spokane, 57 2/3 IP, 5 HR, 24 BB, 46 K, 3.75 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .276 OBA.
About Mendez: A native of Weehawken, N.J., Mendez, 22, was the Rangers 40th round pick in 2013 out of Weehawken High. Had Tommy John surgery in 2014, made his pro debut in 2015 and posted a 2.58 ERA over 52 1/3 innings with the AZL Rangers. Tossed a no-hitter while a senior in high school.
CD PELHAM (LHP, 6-6, 238)
2016 Pro Season: 16 games (7 starts) at Spokane, 38 IP, 0 HR, 43 BB, 50 K, 6.16 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .243 OBA.
About Pelham: A native of Lancaster, S.C., Pelham, 22, was the Rangers 33rd round pick in 2015 out of Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College. Drafted in the 25th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, but he opted to attend college.
TYLER PHILLIPS (RHP, 6-5, 191)
2016 Pro Season: 13 games at Spokane, 58 2/3 IP, 2 HR, 20 BB, 57 K, 6.44 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, .307 OBA.
About Phillips: A native of Lumberton, N.J., Phillips, 19, was the Rangers 16th round pick in 2015 out of Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.). Went 18-0 in his high school career, including a 9-0 mark with a 1.02 ERA in his senior year. Was to attend Manatee CC (Fla.) before opted to sign a pro contract.
ARGENIS RODRIGUEZ (RHP, 6-3, 192)
2016 Pro Season: 14 games (9 starts) at AZL Rangers, 56 2/3 IP, 4 HR, 5 BB, 54 K, 4.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .272 OBA.
About Rodriguez: A native of La Vega, D.R., Rodriguez, 21, made his stateside debut last season and walked just two percent of the batters he faced, the second-lowest among all qualifying minor leaguers in 2016. Threw 17 scoreless innings as a reliever.
SHAQ MATTA (B-T: S-R, 5-8, 175)
2016 Pro Season: 6 games at Frisco (Tex.), 1-for-14, 6 K.
About Matta: A native of San Juan, P.R. signed with the Rangers in 2015 as an international free agent. Made is stateside debut in 2016 with the Rangers AA squad. Spent 2015 with DSL Rangers. He will start the season on the disabled list.
ISAIAS QUIROZ (B-T: R-R, 5-10, 210)
2016 Pro Season: 25 games at AZL Rangers, 6 R, 16 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 9 BB, 27 K, .222/.332/.333
About Quiroz: A native of Bergenfield, N.J., Quiroz, 20, was the Rangers 20th round pick in 2014 out of St Joseph’s High (N.J.). Spent all three previous pro seasons in the AZL, had 18 starts behind the plate in 2016. Had committed to Howard (Tex.) JC before signing with the Rangers.
RICKY VALENCIA (B-T: R-R, 6-0, 216)
2016 Pro Season: 41 games at Hickory, 12 R, 31 H, 5 2B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, .244/.342/.378.
About Valencia: The native of Valencia, Venezuela, Valencia, 24, was signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2011. Split time behind the plate and a first in 2016, played in a career-high 41 games last year. Went 4-for-13 in four games for Hickory in 2015. Had a brief stint at AA Frisco (Tex.) in 2015.
TI’QUAN FORBES (B-T: R-R, 6-3, 188)
2016 Pro Season: 120 games at Hickory, 50 R, 107 H, 16 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 6 SB, 25 BB, 106 K, .252/.316/ .335.
About Forbes: A native of Columbia, Miss., Forbes, 20, was the Rangers second round pick in 2014 out of Columbia High. In 2016, led all SAL 3B in fielding pct., assists and double plays. Made just 16 errors at the position over 108 games. Had originally committed to Ole Miss before signing with the Rangers.
BLAINE PRESCOTT (B-T: R-R, 5-10, 181)
2016 Pro Season: 54 games at Spokane, 33 R, 64 H, 16 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 11 SB, 20 BB, 50 K, .282/.345/.447
About Prescott: A native of Amarillo, Tex., Prescott, 21, was the Rangers 28th round pick in 2015 out of Midland (Tex.) College. Finished 2016 ranked among Northwest League leaders in doubles, OPS and homers. Missed all of 2015 pro season and much of the college season with hamstring injury. Played in 2014 JUCO World Series and named to All-Tournament Team. Drafted in 16th round by Los Angeles Angers in 2014. Had committed to Texas Tech before signing with the Rangers.
ANDERSON TEJEDA: (B-T: L-R, 5-11, 160)
2016 Pro Season: 66 games combined at DSL Rangers, AZL Rangers, Spokane, 46 R, 76 H, 14 2B, 10 3B, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 7 SB, 18 BB, 73 K, .283/.326/.520.
About Tejeda: A native of Bani, D.R., Tejeda, 18, was signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2014. Named by Baseball America as the number four prospect in the Northwest League and No. 11 in the Arizona League. Had the most triples of any Rangers minor leaguer in 2016.
YEYSON YRIZARRI: (B-T: R-R, 6-0, 193)
2016 Pro Season: 118 games at Hickory, 53 R, 121 H, 27 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 53 RBI, 20 SB, 9 BB, 91 K, .269/.292/.389.
About Yrizarri: A native of Puerto de Ordaz, Venezuela, Yrizarri, 20, was signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. Named to South Atlantic League All-Star game in 2016. Led all SAL shortstops in fielding percentage, assists and total chances. Named to the Northwest League All-Star team while at Spokane in 2015. Hit in seven of nine games while filling in as the shortstop at AAA Round Rock. He is the nephew of former major league shortstop Deivi Cruz.
JOSE ALMONTE (B-T: R-R, 6-3, 205)
2016 Pro Season: 61 games at AZL Rangers and Hickory, 33 R, 54 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 8 SB, 9 BB, 59, K, .277/.341/ .451.
About Almonte: A native of Santo Domingo, D.R., Almonte, 20, signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. Had two shoulder injuries in 2016 that limited his playing time. MLB.com rates him as the 29th best prospect in the Rangers system. Played in the Perfect Game World Showcase and named to the Dominican Prospect League All-Star Game in 2013.
TRAVIS BOLIN (B-T: R-R, 5-11, 208)
2016 Pro Season: 34 games at AZL Rangers and Spokane, 18 R, 33 H, 8 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 7 SB, 12 BB, 41 K, .270/.350/ .426.
About Bolin: A native of Berrien Springs, Mich., Bolin, 22,was the Rangers 32nd round pick in 2016 out of Davenport Univ. (Mich.). Named NAIA All-American and Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference player of the year in 2016.
YANIO PEREZ (B-T: R-R, 6-2, 205)
2016 Pro Season: Did not play.
About Perez: A native of Havana, Cuba, signed with the Rangers in 2016 as an international free agent. Played on Cuba’s 18 and under team at the World Cup in Taiwan. Currently resides in Mexico City.
PRESTON SCOTT (B-T: R-R, 6-2, 210)
2016 Pro Season: 47 games at Spokane, 28 R, 39 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB, 30 BB, 49 K, .239/ .382/.288.
About Scott: A native of Hanford, Calif., Scott, 23, was the Rangers 34th round pick in 2016 out of Fresno Pacific Univ. (Calif.). Named first-team All-Pac West in 2016. Played one season at Fresno City College and was first-team all CVC. His father Tim played major league baseball with San Diego, Montreal, San Francisco and Colorado.
LEODY TAVERAS (B-T: S-R 6-1, 171)
2016 Pro Season: 73 games combined at DSL Rangers, AZL Rangers, Spokane, 42 R, 83 H, 14 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 33 RBI, 18 SB, 25 BB, 55 K/ .271/.324/.366.
About Smith: A native of Tenares, D.R., Taveras, 18, was signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2015. Named by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Arizona League and the Northwest League in 2016. Cousin of former major league outfielder Willy Taveras.
SPIKE OWEN (Manager)
2016 Pro Season: Was the interim third base coach for the Texas Rangers. Originally named to manage at Hickory in 2016 before going to Arlington.
About Owen: A native of Cleburne, Tex., Owen,, 55, is currently in his ninth season with the Rangers organization. He was the manager at High-A High Desert (Calif.) in 2015 and led the Mavericks to the semifinal round of the California League playoffs. Before managing, Owen was a coach at AAA Round Rock and the system’s infield coordinator. Owen had a long major league playing career, suiting up with Seattle, Boston, Montreal, the New YorkYankees, California and Texas. He played in the World Series with Boston in 1986. In college, Owen played in the College World Series with Texas in 1981 and 1982, picking up a selection to the All-Tournament team in 1982. He also received All-Southwest Conference honors both seasons.
JOSE JAIMES (Pitching Coach)
2016 Pro Season: Was pitching coach at Hickory.
About Jaimes: A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Jaimes, 32, is currently in his ninth season as a coach in the Rangers organization. He has spent time with the Rangers AZL and DSL clubs before moving up to Spokane for the past two years. Jaimes signed with the Rangers as a player in 2001 and pitched for six years in the system. He and his wife Karina had their first child Stephanie this past offseason.
KENNY HOOK (Hitting Coach)
2016 Pro Season: Was the hitting coach at Spokane.
About Hook: A native of Kansas City, Mo., Hook, 46, is in his fourth season with the Rangers, which has also included two seasons at AZL Rangers. Prior to joining the Rangers, Hook was the manager of the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association. Other coaching stops include Benedictine (Kan.) College and Odessa (Tex.) College. He played professionally at Amarillo in the independent Texas-Louisiana League.
SHARNOL ADRIANA (Assistant Coach)
2016 Pro Season: Coached at AA Frisco (Tex.)
About Adriana: A native of Willemstad, Curacao, Adriana, 46, is in his second season as a coach in the Rangers system after a long playing career. Adriana played eight seasons of affiliated baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays chain before bouncing 14 seasons in Mexico. He also has international experience with the Netherlands national team in =three Olympic games and two World Baseball Classics. He was the captain of the Dutch team in the 2008 Olympics at Beijing.
DUSTIN VISSERING (Trainer)
About Vissering: A native of East Peoria, Ill., Vissering, 28, is in his second season with Hickory and his fourth overall with the Rangers. He was previously at Spokane in 2015 and the AZL Rangers in 2014. Vissering has also worked in the Kansas City Royals organization. He did his undergraduate work at Illinois St. and has a master’s degree from Western Illinois.
ADAM NOEL (Strength & Conditioning)
About Noel: A native of Joplin, Mo., Noel, 27, is in his second season with the Rangers after he served in the same role for the AZL Rangers. He earned a Masters of Art in Kinesiology while working as a grad assistant at San Jose State. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2012 with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology.