Results tagged ‘ Demarcus Evans ’
Prior to Thursday night’s game at Kannapolis, the Hickory Crawdads hit the quarter mark of the 2018 season. Since losing the first seven games to start the season, Hickory has been right around the .500 mark and is currently at 14-22.
Over the past week, the entire outfield got a makeover. Eric Jenkins was promoted to high-A Down East, Miguel Aparicio went to extended spring and Pedro Gonzalez. Up came 2017 first-round pick Bubba Thompson – along with first baseman Tyreque Reed – and suddenly the Crawdads are 5-3 since.
The three-headed monster behind the plate went to two as Rangers minor league player of the month Melvin Novoa went to Down East. The pitching staff is looking for consistency and two of the early season sparks have come in the former of utility players Justin Jacobs and Ryan Dorow. All in all, the Crawdads are in a better spot than they were in mid-April and with a tweak here and there, they could be a team to watch later this half and all of the second half.
I took a few moments to chat with Crawdads manager Matt Hagen at the end of the last homestand on Tuesday about the first 35 games of the season and what the hopes are for the next 35 games as the season churns along.
It’s the quarter point of the season and, record aside, I know this is about development. First, I want to get an overview of the positives you see in the development side?
Hagen: Record aside, we are trying to develop the ability to win games, too. We put ourselves in such a hole early on the way we came out. We did not swing the bats real well early in the season. The weather was cold and the ball wasn’t carrying. You look at the games we’d win, typically there were some home runs involved.
I think that all three of our catchers have gotten better, that’s why one of them moved up. Infield play has been one of our strengths this season, making the routine plays.
We had the ability to promote an outfielder that had been here for two years, so the work he’d put in paid off.
Our starting pitchers have been better the last few outings If you look at Tyree (Thompson), there’s a few things. AJ Alexy as been throwing the ball better the last few starts. So, we’re definitely getting better on the pitching side. Then I look at the way (Joe) Barlow threw today, (DeMarcus) Evans threw the ball well his last time, Sal’s (Mendez) been throwing lately and the way (Alex) Speas threw yesterday. Those are things to get really excited about from a pitching perspective.
There are a lot of changes that can happen at this level and suddenly you have a whole new outfield.
Hagen: The guys that have shown up have contributed right away. Getting a little fresh blood was great for us and when we get Pedro (Gonzalez) back and healthy – at some point in the future – he’s only going to make us better, too.
And Miguel was sent down, what is he going to be working on at this point?
Hagen: Well, at this point, he’s going to be working on a little bit of everything. He does a lot of things that the organization values, but just like everybody else, he’s got things to work on and hopefully he will make the most of his time down there.
You mentioned at the beginning of the year that you had a lot of hope for the two utility players – Justin Jacobs and Ryan Dorow – and both have really contributed some good innings for you?
Hagen: They’ve been awesome, the ability to plug both those guys in anywhere. JJ might play second one day, first, third, or right field the next day. Ryan, for me, has been a plus infielder no matter what position we’ve put him in. Like I said, they’re both hitting over .300. So, they’ve given us a lot of value and we’re not going to go anywhere without those two guys.
Next step that you’ve got to get to in this second-half of the first half
Hagen: I think we’re just looking for some consistency. We had some games in the first month, or whatever, where we weren’t in the game; we weren’t competitive. I looked over the past week, most of them we’ve been competitive in every game. I think that’s kind of the standard now, is to be in every game when you look up in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning, and feel like we have a chance to win.
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.
***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.”
The first half of the 2017 Hickory Crawdads season was a tough one to watch. Most of the games were blowouts early as pitchers were under an organizational mandate to throw fastballs and learn how to use the pitch before infusing secondary pitches. Some of them figured it out and moved on – Kyle Cody being the best example – others struggled with the concept and went down to Spokane for more seasoning.
Of the pitchers to start the 2018 season, eight spent time at L.P. Frans Stadium last year. Tyler Phillips and Demarcus Evans figured out some things at lower levels and are back again with Phillips snagging a top-30 prospect ranking along the way.
With the returnees and a healthy load of college pitchers, the 2018 version could – and should? – be better equipped to handle what is being asked of them: place the fastball correctly, throw strikes and get outs. A group of eight of them did that during Monday night’s exhibition game against Catawba Valley Community College. Save for a second-inning hiccup by Alex Eubanks, the group that pitched threw gas and made quick work of the overmatched JUCO club.
Starting with Phillips on Thursday at a hitter’s park at Greensboro, we’ll begin to see where he and the Crawdads are to start the 2018 season.
I interviewed Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes about the pitching staff and basically went down the list to get a sense of where everyone is at the start. At least until he had to get to on-field workouts before we could finish.
So below is an overview of many, but not all, of the Crawdads pitchers to start the season.
That was impressive last night. There was no gun, but I’m guessing you ran guys out there throwing 93, 94, 95 pretty much all along the line last night.
Jaimes: Yeah, it was exciting. We have a pretty exciting group. Starting with our rotation, our rotation is a little more experience than last year, so that’s going to make a difference. We’ve got a few college guys and that’s going to help the young kids. Then, when you look to the bullpen, everybody’s around the mid-90s, which is exciting. Hopefully, they can do what you saw yesterday and keep getting better.
There was a lot of talk last year about the Rangers wanting the guys to work fastball, fastball, fastball. They had to spot it so many times, or whatever percentage was set before they started to bring in the secondaries. Are they staying with that or is it being tweaked any?
Jaimes: It’s still going to be a priority to control the fastball. That’s still the number one thing, so we’re going to keep preaching that. Definitely, we’re making some adjustments on the plan, but for the most part it’s going to stay the same. It’s fastball and they’ll learn how to use it and learn how to get outs with it and learn to how to play with it. You’ve got basically six pitches with the fastball – going down and away, down and in, up and in, up and away, middle – so you can do anything you want with your fastball. That’s going to be the main focus again this year. I think with the group that we have this year, they have more experience and a little better command than last year.
Will it be as strict the first time through the order as it was last year?
Jaimes: (hesitating) No, no, no.
I don’t mean to have you give away things, but it at almost seemed like last year, “You will throw the fastball to everybody pretty much the first time through the order.” Like you said, it’s six pitches, but still guys are sitting on it.
Jaimes: Yes, it was tough and you saw it. But it’s a great plan and we saw it pay off towards the end of the year in the second half. Guys learned how to use their fastball and learned how to get outs with it and once they implemented the other pitches, it made a huge difference. I think that was one of the biggest turnarounds that we had in the second half of last year, because they were able to pitch with it. They relied too much on their secondary stuff, so again, that’s going to be a main thing.
The rotation, is it still going to be six guys?
Jaimes: Yes, it’s still a six-man rotation. Tyler Phillips will be our opening-night guy. Alex Eubanks will be our second guy. AJ Alexy, that you saw last year, Noah Bremer. Reid Anderson is going to join the rotation and then Tyree Thompson will be the sixth guy.
I’m just going to go down the list and if you can give me a little bit about their stuff and your expectations for them. I’ll just start with Tyler. He just seemed overmatched here last year when he started. Like Miguel (Aparcio), he seemed overmatched and then found himself when he went to Spokane. What do you see from him coming back here that he learned from last year?
Jaimes: I think last year was a big learning year for him. He had a good spring training. He showed up this spring stronger, bigger, but most important, more mature. So, I’m expecting him to lead the rotation and be that guy that’s going to teach the young kids. Stuff wise, I was watching down in Arizona, he was 94-95 (mph) fastball. He’s got a really good changeup and a breaking ball. I think he’s come really far physically and mentally and I’m expecting good things about him this year.
Jaimes: Curveball and it’s improved a lot since last year.
Jaimes: A strike thrower. He’s a very mature guy. I love the way that he handles himself on the mound. It seems like nothing bothers him when he doesn’t have his best stuff. You saw him last night, the second inning he gave up three hits in four pitches. He never lost his composure; he stayed within himself and minimized the damage. So, that’s him. He’s going to be that guy that’s going to be able to bounce back quick. I love the stuff that he brings. He has good movement on his fastball and a really good changeup, cutter and slider. Good command of every pitch.
AJ, he came here and was pretty impressive for a guy who got bounced from his first organization all of a sudden. He had some moments, but all in all not a bad August.
Jaimes: No, he was actually one of our best guys in August. We’re going to continue to build onto what he did towards the end of the year. He had a good spring training, too, so again he’s another guy that’s bigger and stronger, which is good for him. Command wise, it definitely has improved from last year. Again, it’s another guy that we have a lot expectations for.
Curveball for his breaking ball, if I remember?
Jaimes: Yes, curveball and it’s a pretty good one and a really good fastball, which is mid-90s that looks harder than what it is.
Jaimes: He’s a funky guy delivery wise. He hides the ball really well – I think that’s his biggest weapon – the hitters don’t really get a good pickup of the ball. Again, he’s another gut that can play with his fastball on each side of the plate. He has a really good changeup and a nice breaking ball, too. He’s kind of like what you’re going to see from Eubanks; they’re pretty similar guys.
Reid Anderson. He pitched better in the second half, but he always seemed to be the guy that had the one quirky inning or the one quirky moment that would fell him. He’d get 5 2/3 and we could see you’re trying to get him through six and he’d have that one moment where the guy would hit the ball out of the ballpark and you’d be like, “doggone it.” Did he grow up from that last year?
Jaimes: I think so. In spring training at one of his last games, it was the first time he was going to five innings. He got through four innings without any issues, really good. He got to the fifth, the first two pitches he spiked the fastball and threw one over the catcher’s head and went to 3-0. I’m thinking, maybe it’s going to happen what happened last year and he’s not going to get through the fifth and he’ll lose everything. But he did. He went to a 3-0 count and then came back with two good fastballs and struck the guy out and then retired the next two guys with no issues. The next outing, he went six innings without any problem.
So, again, he’s another guy that learned a lot from last year. He knows that he needs to keep the game simple. He knows that he’s preparing himself not to pitch five innings; he’s preparing himself to pitch nine innings. I think that was his main issue last year; he knew that he was about to be done and doubt set in and he couldn’t control it. He’s doing a better job with it.
Remind me of his stuff:
Jaimes: Fastball, changeup, curveball and a cutter.
Jaimes: He’s a real competitor. I love what he brings. I love that he’s a strike thrower. Maybe he’s not that big of a stuff guy, but he’s a pitcher with a fastball, curveball and a changeup. His biggest weapon is that he competes no matter what the situation is. So, I’m excited about having him on the staff and I think he’ll be a big part of it.
Tell me about Alex Speas. I read the stuff about his big fastball, but he doesn’t always know where it’s going. After getting used to things last night, he settled in and pitched a good inning.
Jaimes: I think by him being in the bullpen he’s going to be able to keep the game simple. Definitely, he has some command issues at times, but I think he has improved a lot since last year. He had a really good year in Spokane when he went to the bullpen. Yesterday with the first guy, he was guiding the ball, then he just let it go and you saw it, he had really good stuff. He has a good fastball and a really, really good slider. I think he’s going to be a big part of the back end of the bullpen for us.
Sal Mendez is back. When you and I talked at this same time last year, I asked you who had the best secondary stuff among your staff. You said Sal Mendez’s changeup. How is his progression from last year and what is he coming back to do?
Jaimes: He’s going to be helping to be the leader of the bullpen. He’s going to have the same role that he played last year – a long man, then he’ll spot start here and there. He’s a big changeup guy, but this year’s it’s going to be more of finding a breaking ball. I think it’s doing better, but I think that’s going to be his priority, having the breaking ball to face left-handed hitters.
Going down the list of who was here last year. Joe Kuzia had a cup of coffee and got hit around a bit, but like Phillips, once he got back to Spokane he found himself in the bullpen. He seems like he will be a key bullpen guy that will give you some innings.
Jaimes: Yeah, I’m excited about him. Like you said, when he came up I felt like he wasn’t ready for the competition here. He went down to Spokane and worked on some reliever’s stuff and he got back into a rhythm and had a really good spring training. He’s ready to go.
As you have time, run down a quick couple of things about the bullpen guys.
Jaimes: Demarcus Evans. We had him last year.
He looked more controlled last night, as far as his delivery.
Jaimes: Yeah, I think he’s going to be our guy. I’m excited for him and I think it’s going to be a good thing for him now to be a part of the bullpen and being able to pitch more often is going to help him. Definitely, command wise, it is the main thing that needs work, but he’s doing better. I’m excited to work with him because I know that whenever he finds it, he’s going to be pretty special.
After the top of the second, my first thought was, “Again?”
For those that don’t know the Hickory Crawdads recent history against local colleges, it hasn’t been a good run. With a team that had Andrew McCutchen and Steven Pearce in 2006, the Crawdads needed a 7th-inning rally to defeat Lenoir-Rhyne College, as the school was known as then.
One year later, LRC and Hickory tied and then the series was put on hold until 2015.
Now known as Lenoir-Rhyne University, the Bears used a big game by future LA Dodgers draftee Ivan Vieitez to defeat the Crawdads – a team that won the 2015 South Atlantic League title – 4-3.
One year later, LRU got a ninth-inning homer to defeat the Crawdads 7-4. The game was rained out last year.
This year, the Crawdads scheduled a game with Catawba Valley Community College, one of the better Division II JUCO programs.
The Red Hawks entered the game 24-9 and after an inning-and-a-half they held a 2-0 lead and were the aggressors.
So, you understand my thinking: “Again?” But then the roof caved in and Hickory scored in seven-straight innings to rout CVCC 12-2.
“They’re there because of who they are and our guys are trying to get to that level,” said CVCC head coach Paul Rozelle after the game. “So, it was nice to come out early and put some hits together and get a lead there early.
“That was a positive for us, but they’re pretty good and we just didn’t have enough for them coming down the stretch. That’s a credit to them and how good they are, but what an unbelievable experience for our guys to come out here and get this valuable lesson during the midweek. There’s no team we’re going to play this year that are going to look better than them.”
Red Hawks starter Matthew Dailey used a good mix of pitches and speeds to frustrate the Crawdads lineup early, fanning four of the first seven hitters.
Meanwhile, CVCC scored what turned out to be its only two runs in the second. After Crawdads starter Alex Eubanks needed only nine pitches to get through the first, Graham Mitchell lined a high fastball to left. David Graves sent right fielder Miguel Aparicio sprinting to the wall in right to retrieve a double. Aparicio retraced his same path for the next batter Kyran Russ, whose double scored both runners.
After a walk, Eubanks settled down to strike out the next two and then escaped further damage by getting Cory Watt to ground to second.
The game turned on a basic play in bottom of the second. With two outs and a runner at first, Kole Enright hit a slow, rolling comebacker to the box. Dailey mishandled the grounder for an error and he paid for it when Yonny Hernandez knocked a ball off the wall in left for a two-run triple.
The Crawdads then put together four straight hits in the third and scored them all on Yohel Pozo’s singled and Melvin Novoa’s three-run homer.
“They had a good pitcher,” said Crawdads manager Matt Hagen of Dailey. “He kept the ball down and changed speeds. He’s got a breaking ball and a changeup that he can throw for a strike or throw below the zone if he needs to. It took us a while to figure him out and get him timed up, so give our guys credit.”
Aparicio added a two-run shot in the fourth and the rout was on.
Sam Huff added a mammoth blast in the sixth and Eric Jenkins cleared the 32-foot-high fence in right during the eighth for the Crawdads fourth homer and final run.
The Crawdads sent eight pitchers to the mound – with only the starter Eubanks going two innings -and retired 24 of the last 26 they faced. Together, they struck out 12 and gave up just the three hits in the second. AJ Alexy and Demarcus Evans each fanned two in their lone inning of work.
“We showed everything we’ve got in the bullpen tonight, except for a couple of guys, Hagen said. “We’ve got some good fastballs coming out of the bullpen. That’s the formula for success, get a lead and have those guys throw strikes.”
**The Crawdads starting lineup was the following: Jenkins-7, Aparicio-9, Pedro Gonzalez-8, Pozo-3, Novoa-2, Tyler Ratliff-5, Chad Smith-D, Enright-4, Hernandez-6.
When asked if that would be the general lineup, Hagen responded, “What we threw out there tonight is close to what our starting lineup is going to look like, with the exception of a couple of guys that will rotate in. We’ve got good depth.”
**Rozelle said the difference for his starter Dailey was the inability to adjust to the hitters the second and especially the third time through the order.
“You saw Dailey come out and have success early and punched out a bunch of different guys and changed speeds and his locations were good,” said Rozelle. “But that second and third time through the lineup, they’ve now seen him and now we’ve got to execute even more. We left a couple of pitches up in the zone and good hitters hit them out.”
**Hagen was especially in awe of Huff’s solo homer in the sixth, a towering blast to left center that left the Red Hawks outfielders flat-footed.
“Huff hit a ball that half the stadium couldn’t find,” he said. “It was halfway up the lights in left center.”
**Rozelle was impressed with the run of arms the Crawdads marched to the mound. He said the experience will be valuable for his hitters as they continue through the college season.
“For our hitters, they’re not going to see much like that. In our league, we’re going to see one or two arms a weekend that are going to look like that. It’s understanding how to compete in those at bats and how to grind out and understand which pitches to swing at. They did a great job of getting strike one, and now they’re in control and they can dictate the at bat and we expand the zone, swinging at balls in the dirt because we’re put in the defensive position.”
Arms: Hard to really get a read on the Crawdads pitchers facing an overmatched lineup. They did throw pitches for strikes and, as Rozelle stated, controlled the zone for the ballgame. Eubanks was fantastic in the first, then left pitches up in the second that were spanked. Speas appeared to have the more electric fastball – there was no one in the stands with the speed gun – but control at times was spotty. But in all, those two, along with Noah Bremer, Alexy, Speas, Evans, Jean Casanova, Joe Barlow and Grant Zawadzki were never really extended. Only Eubanks second inning (22 pitches) went past 15 pitches in a single inning.
Bats: As mentioned above, the Crawdads group had trouble with the young, lefty starter at first, then adjusted as Dailey started getting pitches up. However, in what is admittedly inferior competition, the players seemed to go to the plate with a plan, rather than flail-and-bail if it’s close.
What will make Hickory more interesting on offense than the 2017 version are the wheels. They ran the bases well this evening, especially a play in which Hernandez read a play that turned into a diving catch that allowed him to go second to third and eventually score on a wild pitch. It’s not the total team-speed of the 2016 squad, but they’ll make things uncomfortable for opposing pitchers while on the bases, leading to hittable mistakes.
CVCC: There’s a reason they are 24-9 in its classification. They do a lot well on the field and know where to be. CF Cory Watt made a highlight-reel play on an over-the-shoulder diving play. They get the ball in quickly and appear to communicate well.
Dailey looks like a pitcher to watch at higher levels. He did mix speeds well and used the breaking ball to miss bats and until his error was in control of the hitters.
The Texas Rangers announced the initial roster for the 2018 Hickory Crawdads. A total of 28 players are on the list with three to be pared off before opening day begins on Thursday, April 5 at Greensboro.
Six of the 28 players assigned to Hickory are currently on the Rangers top-30 prospect according to MLB.com. They include outfielders Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10) and Miguel Aparicio (18), catcher Sam Huff (25), and pitchers A.J. Alexy (17), Alex Speas (23), and Tyler Phillips (30).
Twelve of the 28 listed on the initial roster spent some time at Hickory last season, including eight pitchers.
Among the pitchers, five of them – Alexy, Phillips, Reid Anderson, Demarcus Evans and Sal Mendez – made starts for the Crawdads in 2017. Also returning are Dario Beltre, Joe Kuzia and Grant Zawadzki.
The four position players returning to Hickory are catcher Yohel Pozo, infielder Ryan Dorow – his only game with the Crawdads was a start in the final game of the 2017 season – Aparicio and Eric Jenkins, who will spent at least part of a fourth season in Hickory.
Below is a brief look at all 28 players on the initial roster:
Josh Advocate (6-1, 195 lbs., 24 y/o) RHP
The native of Mohave Valley, Ariz. pitched in 18 pro games (1-3, 3.63 ERA) out of the bullpen with rookie-affiliate Arizona Summer League (AZL) Rangers and short-season Spokane (Wash.) after his 20th round selection out of Long Beach State. Was a first-team All-Big West Conference pick in 2017. Played one season at Cochise (Ariz.) College and was a first-team Small School All-American in 2012 while at River Valley (Ariz.) High. Also played football in high school and was a first-team All-State pick as a free safety.
A.J. Alexy (6-4, 195, 19) RHP
The native of Honey Brook, Pa. was obtained by the Rangers last summer as part of a four-player deal that sent Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Assigned to Hickory after the trade, he made five starts (1-1, 3.05) and struck out 27 in 20.2 innings. Held opponents to a .180 batting average, the third-lowest among all full-season minor league pitchers (min. 90 innings). Originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 11th round in 2016, he was signed away from a commitment to Radford. Was a catcher before switching to the mound in his junior season in high school (Twin Valley, Elverson, Pa.). Also wrestled in high school. Currently the No. 17 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com.
Reid Anderson (6-3, 185, 22) RHP
The native of New Egypt, N.J. made 28 appearances (13 starts) for Hickory in 2017 (1-11, 5.30). Was a starter almost exclusively in the second half of the season. The 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville Univ. (Pa.) in 2016, he attended college as an outfielder and moved to the mound during his sophomore season. Went 8-1 in 2016 and made three relief appearances during Millersville’s run to the Division II final. Played baseball and basketball at New Egypt High.
Joe Barlow (6-3, 195, 22) RHP
The native of Riverton, Utah made 16 relief appearances (6-1, 2.00) for Spokane in 2017. An 11th-round pick of the Rangers out of Salt Lake Community College in 2016, he struck out 64 of the 158 batters faced (40.5%) in 45 innings. Barlow was second in the Northwest League in opponents batting average (.177) and fifth in Ks-per-9-innings (12.80). A two-way player in college, he also caught 25 games in college. Pitched in high school at Riverton.
Dario Beltre (6-3, 210, 25) RHP
The native of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic made his first full-season appearance last year since signing as an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2010. Made 11 appearances with Hickory (1-0, 2.60) with 19 Ks in 17.1 innings before ending the season on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. Missed the 2016 season due to elbow surgery. Fanned 173 in 153.1 innings during his pro career.
Noah Bremer (6-5, 200, 21)
The native of Berkeley, Calif. was the sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of the University of Washington. Ranks third in innings, sixth in strikeouts and tied for sixth in starts among all hurlers in school history. In his pro debut with the AZL Rangers and Spokane, he made 12 relief appearances (1-0, 2.61) with 30 Ks and four walks in 20 innings. Held opponents to a .152/.211/.212 slash. Was an All-Pac 12 pick in 2017. Pitched in high school at Berkeley.
Jean Casanova (6-3, 155, 21) RHP
Was the 35th-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) High. Spent both pro seasons with the AZL Rangers. Made 11 appearances (five starts) with the rookie affiliate in 2017 (5-2, 2.70) and 47 Ks in 36.2 innings. Moved to the U.S. in fifth grade from the Dominican Republic. His cousin Raul played in the majors from 1996 to 2008.
Alex Eubanks (6-2, 180, 22) RHP
The native of Moore, S.C. made 10 of his 11 appearances with Spokane (3-0, 1.17) after his 14th-round selection by the Rangers out of Clemson last June. Struck out 25 and walked just two in 16.1 innings. Made 16 starts for Clemson as a redshirt sophomore last year and walked just 1.73 per nine innings with the Tigers. Was an all-state as a senior at Byrnes (S.C.) High.
Demarcus Evans (6-4, 270, 21) RHP
The native of Petal, Miss. started the 2017 season with Hickory. A shoulder strain placed him on the disabled list in May and he rejoined the club after a rehab assignment with AZL Rangers. Finished the season at Spokane. With the Crawdads (2-5, 4.85), the Rangers 2015 25th-round pick (Petal High) made 12 appearances (six starts) with 46 Ks in 29.2 innings. Held opponents to a .170/.250/.250 slash in five starts at Spokane. As a high school senior, chosen as one of baseball’s “Dandy Dozen” by The Clarion-Ledger.
Joe Kuzia (6-4, 196, 24) RHP
A free agent signee of the Rangers in April 2017, the native of Cape Coral, Fla. had a four-game stint with Hickory last summer (1-1, 12.79). Spent the rest of 2017 with Spokane where he made 16 appearances. Had the lowest walk-per-9 inning rate (0.86) among Northwest League relievers to go with a 12.93 K-per-9 inning rate. Previously pitched professional with Garden State in the independent Can-Am League, as well as Bridgeport and New Britain in the independent Atlantic League. Was first-team All-Big East at St. John’s in 2014. Pitched in junior college at Herkimer County (N.Y.) CC and at Seymour (Ct.) High. where he also lettered in basketball, football and indoor track.
Sal Mendez (6-4, 185, 23) LHP
The native of Weehawken, N.J. made 25 appearances (6-6, 4.71), including nine starts, with Hickory in 2017. Spent part of August on the disabled list with a strained quad. Was the Rangers 40th round pick in 2013 out of Weehawken High. Missed first two pro seasons with an elbow injury. Threw a no-hitter in high school. Signed away from a commitment to Howard (Tex.) College. Father Sabah played two seasons in the New York Yankees system and one year with the Minnesota Twins chain in the 1970s.
Tyler Phillips (6-5, 191, 20)
The native of Lumberton, N.J. started the 2017 season with Hickory and struggled (1-2, 6.39 in his seven appearances (four starts) before an assignment to Spokane. With the Indians, the Rangers 2015 16th round pick out of Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.) had 12 Ks in his final start of the season. Had an 18-0 career record in high school and posted a 1.02 ERA his senior season.
Alex Speas (6-4, 180, 20) RHP
The native of Powder Springs, Ga. made 16 appearances (7 starts) for Spokane (1-6, 6.15) in 2017 with 45 Ks in 33.2 innings. Was ranked the 12th-best prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America. The Rangers drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft out of McEachern (Ga.) High and signed him away from a commitment to Auburn. Threw 8.1 scoreless innings with the AZL Rangers in his pro debut season in 2016. Was an Under Armour All-American. Baseball America had him as the 11th-best high school pitching prospect before the 2016 draft. Signed away from a commitment to Auburn. Currently the Rangers No. 23 prospect according to MLB.com
Tyree Thompson (6-4, 165, 21) RHP
The New Orleans native made 13 starts (5-1, 3.15) for Spokane in 2017 and was second in the Northwest League in ERA, fourth in WHIP (1.24). The Rangers 26th-round pick in 2016 was the first player drafted by MLB out of Edna Karr (La.) High, where he threw six no-hitters and two perfect games in his high school career. Signed away from a commitment to play baseball and basketball at Northwestern St. (La.)
Grant Zawadzki (5-10, 200, 25) RHP
The native of Shrewsbury, Mass. signed a free-agent contract with the Rangers in February 2017. Split time with Spokane, Hickory and high-A Down East last season. Made seven relief appearances with Hickory (0-1, 7.71). Previously pitched in the San Diego Padres organization as well as with Lancaster and Southern Maryland in the independent Atlantic League. Played collegiately at Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC and Bryan College (Tenn.). Went to St. John’s High (Shrewsbury).
Sam Huff (6-4, 215, 20) B-T: R-R
The native of Phoenix spent both pro seasons with the AZL Rangers after his selection in the seventh-round of the 2016 draft out of Arcadia High. Posted a .249/.329/.452 slash in 49 games last season. Tied for the AZL lead with nine homers and was fourth in total bases. Named to the post-season AZL All-star team. Reached base safely in 24 of 28 games in 2016. Named to Arizona Republic’s All-Arizona baseball team in 2016 after hitting .554 with 14 homers and 49 RBI. Signed away from a commitment to Grand Canyon Univ. Currently the Rangers No. 25 prospect according to MLB.com
Clay Middleton (6-0, 205, 24) B-T: R-R
The native of Oviedo, Fla. spent both pro seasons with Spokane, splitting time behind the plate and at first last season. Posted .263/.323/.415 slash in 39 games with four homers and 17 RBI last season. Was the 22nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bethune-Cookman University. Named first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2016. Played high school ball at Hagerty (Fla.) High.
Melvin Novoa (5-11, 215, 21) B-T: R-R
The native of Nandaime, Nicaragua signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. When he appears in a game for Hickory, Novoa will be the first Nicaraguan to play for the Crawdads. Hit for a .281/.338/.467 slash with four homers and 15 RBI in 38 games last season at Spokane. Was suspended for the 2016 season after testing positive for PED.
Yohel Pozo (6-0, 201, 20) B-T: R-R
The native of Maracaibo, Venezuela signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. In his first full-season assignment last season, posted .338/.373/.465 slash with two homers and 15 RBI at Hickory. His .338 batting avg. is the eighth highest in Crawdads history for a player with a minimum of 150 plate appearances. Opened the 2017 season with Spokane before joining Hickory in July. Threw out 35.1% of baserunners for the Crawdads in 2017. Named to 2016 post-season AZL All-Star Team after hitting .341 for the AZL Rangers.
Ryan Dorow (6-0, 195, 22) B-T: R-R
The native of South Haven, Mich. played in the final game of the 2017 for Hickory (1-3, double) after suiting up for 40 games with the AZL Rangers. A 30th-round pick last June out of Division III Adrian College (Mich.), he posted a .296/.382/.384 slash. Named MVP of Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association three straight seasons. He is the first player drafted by MLB out of Adrian since 1974 (Sherwin Rogers by Baltimore). Played baseball, soccer and basketball at South Haven. Named to all-state baseball team his senior season.
Kole Enright (6-1, 175, 20) B-T: S-R
The native of Winter Garden, Fla. was the third-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of West Orange (Fla.) High. After posting a .313/.378/.420 slash with the AZL Rangers in his first pro season, played in 67 games at Spokane last season when he hit .233/.314/.323 with three homers and 20 RBI. Named to the Orlando Sentinel all-area team in his senior season. Signed away from a commitment to Stetson Univ.
Yonny Hernandez (5-9, 140, 20)B-T: S-R
Signed as an international free agent in 2014, he made his stateside debut as a pro last May with AA Frisco (Tex.), where he went 0-for-3. The native of Planta, Baja, Venezuela spent much of the season with the AZL Rangers (32 games) before ending the season at Spokane (18 games). Hit his first pro homer in three seasons with Spokane last year.
Justin Jacobs (6-1, 195, 22) B-T: L-R
The native of Spokane, Wash. signed with the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent in 2017 after playing college ball at Gonzaga. Played in 48 games with the AZL Rangers posting a .326/.438/.431 slash. Was second in the AZL in hits (59) and on-base percentage (.438), sixth in batting avg. Named a JUCO All-American at Lower Columbia College (Wash.). Played high school ball at Auburn Riverside (Wash.).
Tyler Ratliff (6-2, 210, 22) B-T: R-R
The native of Port St. Lucie, Fla. played mostly with Spokane in his initial pro season after his selection by the Rangers in the 17th round out of Marshall Univ. last June. After hitting .500 in eight games with the AZL Rangers, Ratliff hit .264/.330/.421 with the Indians six homers and 25 RBI. Named to the Northwest League All-Star Team. Was a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week during his sophomore season. Played in high school at T.C. Williams (Va.).
Miguel Aparicio (6-0, 175, 19) B-T: L-L
Signed as an international free agent in 2015, the native of San Carlos, Venezuela struggled as an 18-year-old during a 25-game stint (.176/.255/.247) with Hickory last season in his stateside pro debut. Re-assigned to Spokane, he put together an all-star season with the Indians (.293/.333/.395). Was second in the Northwest League in hits (86), fourth in runs (47) and the third-hardest player in the league to strikeout. Named by Baseball America as the 13th-best prospect in the NWL. Currently the Rangers No. 18 prospect according to MLB.com.
Pedro Gonzalez (6-5, 190, 20) B-T: R-R
The native of Santo Dominguez, Dominican Republic was obtained by the Rangers from the Colorado Rockies last August in a deal for catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Originally signed by the Rockies as an international free agent in 2014. Went 0-for-17 with Spokane in six games after the trade. Before the trade, he put up a .321/.388/.519 slash with 25 extra-base hits in 45 games with the Rockies rookie affiliate at Grand Junction (Colo.). Named the seventh-best prospect in the Pioneer League by Baseball America. Originally a shortstop in the Rockies organization, moved to centerfield in 2016. Currently the Rangers No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com.
Eric Jenkins (6-1, 170, 21) B-T: L-R
The lone North Carolina native (Cerro Gordo) on the Crawdads roster was drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2015 draft out West Columbus High. After playing in 51 games with the AZL Rangers in his pro debut season, he hit .389/.421/.444 with the Crawdads in the final five games of 2015 and started in left during the playoffs. Led the South Atlantic League with 51 steals in 2016. Started the 2017 season with a hamstring injury before rejoining Hickory last May. Hit .216/.266/.310 in his final 60 games with the Crawdads. Also played basketball in high school. Signed out of a commitment to UNC Wilmington.
Chad Smith (6-2, 193, 20) B-T: L-L
The native of Snellville, Ga. played for Spokane (.277/.354/.447) for a second-straight season in 2017 before a shoulder injury shut him down for the season after 39 games. A fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of South Gwinnett (Ga.) High, he was as Northwest League all-star in 2016. Named a Perfect Game second-team All-American as a high school senior. Signed away from a commitment to the Univ. of Georgia.
Another game during the homestand, another blowout loss.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers scored the first five runs and went on to an 8-2 win over the Hickory Crawdads Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for Greensboro (21-15) was an important win as the Grasshoppers are tied with Lakewood (NJ) for second place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division, with both teams a game behind Hagerstown (Md.). The Grasshoppers have won 9 of 10 – including the first two games of the current four-game series – and 12 of 15 to get into the division chase.
Meanwhile, Hickory (13-23) has dropped four of five and 8 of 11. Only Augusta (11-24) has a worst record in the Sally League.
Poor command and untimely defensive play was again the downfall for the Crawdads. Today, it was starter Tyler Phillips that took the brunt of things early.
Greensboro scored two in the first, which started when Eric Gutierrez was hit by a pitch – the first of five on the day. Boo Vazquez followed with a bouncer to SS Yeyson Yrizarri. His feed to start a potential double play was a slow, underhanded toss to 2B Blaine Prescott covering the bag. With the runner sliding in, Prescott’s turn and subsequent and relay to first was off the mark, which allowed Vazquez to reach. The misplay proved to be a key part of the inning as Jarett Rindfleisch doubled in Vazquez. One out later, Corey Bird singled in Rindfleisch.
Greensboro added three unearned runs in the fourth. With one out Vazquez lined a single to right and went to second when Rindfleisch was hit by a pitch. The inning began to unravel when a grounder by Luis Pintor was fielded in the hole by Yrizarri, who then attempted a force play at third. However, Ti’Quan Forbes dropped the throw, which allowed the runner to reach and loaded the bases. From there, Bird’s sacrifice fly scored Vazquez and Austin Knapp singled in two more. Phillips’s (1-2) day was done after he walked Justin Twine.
As has been the case lately, that was more than enough for starter Braxton Garrett. The Miami Marlins top prospect pitched five innings of two-hit ball to pick up his first pro win (1-0). One of the few mistakes Garrett made was a high changeup that Yanio Perez hit high off the billboards in right for his eighth homer of the season.
Matt Ball entered the game in relief of Phillips and after he got the Crawdads out of further damage in the fourth and stranded two more in the fifth, Greensboro tagged him for a run in the sixth when Colby Lusignan singled in Justin Twine.
Tyler Ferguson entered the game in the eighth on the heels of five scoreless outings (7.1 IP), but he too was not immune to the week of wildness. Bird and Knapp both singled and advanced to second and third on a fly to right. James Nelson walked and then Bird scored on a wild pitch. Lusignan was walked and Gutierrez was hit by a pitch to score Knapp and end Ferguson’s day. Kaleb Fontenot retired the final two batters of the inning pitched a perfect ninth to prevent further scoring.
Leody Taveras accounted for the final run in the ninth with a towering homer off the batter’s eye.
The beat goes on:
This afternoon’s game was the 16th time in 36 games the Crawdads have allowed seven or more runs, the tenth in the last 16 games.
In the four games during the homestand that went nine innings, Hickory has combined to throw 750 pitches with just 440 going for strikes. Today’s total: 189 pitches with 116 for strikes.
What next?: With the short outings by the starters this week – only Edgar Arredondo reached five innings – the bullpen has been taxed. Only Jake Lemoine has not seen since Thursday, and that outing was the second straight poor one for him (2.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB). I would not be surprised to see the Rangers make some roster moves to help with a stretched-out bullpen, but then perhaps a rotation spot or two come open for grabs. Argenis Rodriguez (13.80 ERA in 5 appearances, 4 starts) has already been sent to Arizona. Phillips (6.39 ERA in seven outings, four starts) and Demarcus Evans (7.88 ERA in seven outings, 3 starts) could be the next to at least come out of the rotation.
One-quarter of the season is gone and adjustments have not been made. Those adjustments may need to come in Arizona and/ or Spokane.
#1 vs. #1
The matchup I wanted to see was a pair of top-100 prospects squaring off: Garrett vs. the Rangers top prospect, Taveras.
In the first, Taveras ambushed a first-pitch fastball by Garrett that was down, but served hard into right. The southpaw then caught Taveras leaning the wrong way, but Taveras was able to beat the throw to second for the steal.
In the fourth, Garrett used a fastball and change to get ahead 0-2. Taveras ignored a curve and fastball that both went low, fouled off another pitch (Don’t remember what it was) before Garrett froze him with a curveball on the 1B corner of the plate.
Impressions of Garrett:
The No. 7 overall pick made his second pro start and from what I could pay attention to – we had computer issues in getting the game info to New York – he impressed. Fastball ran 90-94 mph with some life and he mixed in a changeup liberally that stayed armside, as well as a curveball from the first inning on.
I mentioned to the stringer working the game with me in the third that the curveball seemed very loopy. He must have heard me from the press box because right after that, Garrett tied up the right-handed hitting Franklin Rollin up with back-to-back 11-5 curves that bore in on the hands as he swung through both.
As stated above, the only real mistake was the high change that Perez punished.
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.
Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (19-15, 3rd South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (13-21, 7th SAL Northern)
The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong homestand with a four-game series against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at L.P. Frans Stadium in Sally League action.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Saturday 6:00 p.m., Sunday 3:00 p.m., Monday 6:00 p.m., Tuesday 10:30 a.m.
Saturday: Post-game concert featuring Christian artist Aaron Shust
Sunday: Mother’s Day; Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring your church bulletin to the ticket office for a discounted $6 ticket. The Crawdads will then donate $4 of each ticket to that respective church.)
Monday: Make a Difference Monday (Donate any non-perishable canned-food item at the gate (at least $5 value) for the Food Pantry for a free ticket.
Tuesday: Education Day; Business Card Special (Show a business card at the ticket office for a $5 ticket)
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section. Tickets for the Christian Concert are $15 for regular seats, $20 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. 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):
Saturday: LHP Dylan Lee vs. RHP Demarcus Evans
Sunday: LHP Braxton Garrett vs. RHP Tyler Phillips
Monday: RHP Michael King vs. RHP Jonathan Hernandez
Tuesday: RHP Jordan Holloway vs. RHP Kyle Cody
Recent Series History:
The Grasshoppers opened the 2017 season with a 3-1 series win at home. Overall since 2009 – the start of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation – Greensboro is 66-64 overall, but the Crawdads are 32-28 at L.P. Frans Stadium.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory took the final game of a three-game series against Charleston (S.C.), but were blown out by a combined 25-6 in the first two games… Pitching is a major concern for the squad. Not only is the team last in the SAL in ERA (5.64), WHIP (1.57), runs allowed and earned runs allowed, but also is on pace to set club records in all categories along with hits allowed. Hickory has given up 10+ runs eight times this season, four of those have come in the last seven games… Often the Crawdads are playing catch up as the opposition has scored first in 23 of 34 games. In games they have scored first, the Crawdads are 4-7… The offense continues to plug along, hitting .289 in May. However, Hickory scored just eight runs in the three-game series with the RiverDogs. That output has been indicative of the Crawdads play at home, where they’ve scored just over three runs per and have a .224/.291/.353 slash… As a team, they are third in the SAL with 30 HRs and tied for first with Greensboro with 11 triples.
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. Saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end on Friday when he fanned twice and hit into a double play. Is one of two Crawdads (Ti’Quan Forbes) to play in all 34 games this season. Posted a .350/.357/.550 slugging pct. in May.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Went 1-for-7 in the series vs. Charleston with four Ks. Has 16 walks, but 40 Ks in 115 plate appearances.
LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Joined the Crawdads at the start of the homestand and went 3-for-9 with a double. Also walked and was hit by a pitch.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. Has asserted himself as THE big bat in the lineup over the last couple of weeks. Went just 1-for-10 with a walk in the Charleston series. Is one of the few hitters to hit well at home, posting a .351/.439/.649 slash. Five of his seven homers and 14 of 23 RBIs have come at LP Frans. Has also feasted against lefties at a .406/.459/.844 clip.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No.17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. Has been the lone wolf of the starting rotation this season, or at least the last three starts. In his last outing, Hernandez struck out ten over 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on six hits. Prior to that, he gave up two runs on five hits over 7 innings and got 11 groundball outs. His changeup is his make-or-break pitch.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) to start the season, Yrizarri is back over .200 (.217) with hits in six of seven games. Went 4-for-8 in the series vs. Charleston. Lefties have contained him, however, at a .152/.152/.273 clip.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Since missing a week with a leg injury, Almonte is 6-for-33 (.182) since his return.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Working on a string of five straight scoreless outings covering 7.1 innings with 14 Ks.
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHPs Demarcus Evans and Tyler Phillips: The two had worked in tandem this season, but will now be in the rotation as full-fledged, solo members. Evans has a better ERA (3.12 to 12.00) and strikeout ratio (34% to 25%) as a reliever, while Phillips has been better as a starter (5.40 ERA to 8.10).
RHP Kyle Cody: 6th-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky. Along with Hernandez, he had been steady in the rotation, but was roughed up in his last outing (5 ER, 5 H, 2.2 IP). Has lost four straight starts, but prior to that last start, he had allowed just four earned runs (three homers) and fanned 11 over 15.2 innings in that stretch.
P Kaleb Fontenot: 21st round pick in 2016 out of McNeese St. His 14 Ks per 9 IP is the fifth best among SAL relievers. Is unscored upon in six of nine outings, but gave up three runs in 2.1 IPs vs. Charleston on Wednesday. However, he did fan five in that appearance and he has 18 Ks in his last 10 innings.
About the Grasshoppers:
Managed by Todd Pratt in his first season… The former major league catcher was the head coach at West Georgia Tech the past five seasons… Greensboro saw its seven-game win streak snapped last night at Lexington (Ky.), but has still won 10 of the last 13… Despite playing in a hitter-friendly home park, the Grasshoppers have just 20 homers this season, eight of those in 17 road games, Conversely, the pitchers have allowed 32 HRs, the second most in the Sally League. However, just eight of those are surrendered on the road… Collectively, the Grasshoppers hitters get deep into counts, as they are tied for first in walks and are second in strikeouts… Greensboro will test the arms of the Crawdads catchers as it is third in the SAL in steals and caught stealing attempts…. The Grasshoppers are 8-0 in one-run games and 10-3 when they score first… Defensively, Greensboro is third in the SAL in fielding pct.
Prospects to watch –Greensboro:
LHP Braxton Garrett (No. 1 MLB.com, No. 1 Baseball America, No. 37 MLB.com top-100, No. 80 Baseball America top-100): First-round pick (7th overall) out of Florence (AL) High School. Pitched for the 18-and-under USA World Cup team in 2015, which won the gold medal. Published reports rated his curveball as one of the best in the 2016 draft class. Made his pro debut last Sunday vs. Rome (4.2 IP, 1 H, 1 unearned run, 3 BB, 4 K).
3B James Nelson (No. 10 MLB.com, No. 18 Baseball America): 15th-round pick in 2016 out of Cisco JC (Texas). Did not start the season with the Grasshoppers until April 21. Currently has a 10-game hitting streak with multiple hits in eight of them and 2+ hits in 9 of 12 games. Went 7-for-14 at Lexington. Made 12 errors in 40 games last year, but just three so far in 2017.
RHP Jordan Holloway (No. 15 Baseball America, 16 MLB.com): 20th round pick in 2014 out of Ralston Valley High, Arvada CO. After a solid short-season year with Batavia in 2015, he took a step backwards when he struggled with control with the Grasshoppers (15 walks/ 31 innings over eight starts) then was shut down with a triceps injury after a demotion back to Batavia. The control issues remain with 17 BBs in 34.2 IPs this season. However, he showed his promise on 4/28/17 at Asheville when he threw five no-hit innings – though he walked three.
RHP Sam Perez (No. 18 MLB.com, 23 Baseball America): Fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Missouri St. Gave up 14 earned runs in 9.1 innings over his first five relief outings, but has been unscored upon in his last three appearances. SAL hitters have touched him for a .321 average.
2B Justin Twine (No. 26 MLB.com, 28 Baseball America): Second-round pick in 2014 out of Falls City (TX) High. In his third season with the Grasshoppers. Ks have held him back. He entered the season with 276 strikeouts in 970 ABs and is at 35 out of 98 in 2017. Still just 21, but the Marlins patience may be wearing thin for a third-year guy hitting .153/.222/.194.
Others to watch –Greensboro:
RHP Michael King: 12th-round pick in 2016 out of Boston College. Named the SAL pitcher of the week on April 16 after allowing two hits over seven innings at Lakewood (NJ). He equaled that in his last start on Wednesday at Lexington (KY).
RHP Kyle Keller: 18th-round pick in 2015 out of SE Louisiana. Fifth in the SAL with five saves, has 15 Ks over 11.1 innings.
Notes: Crawdads IF Blaine Prescott was activated from the disabled list (hamstring) with C Shaq Matta going to extended spring.
Game Story April 18: West Virginia 8 Hickory 3
The Hickory Crawdads continue to sputter on offense and for the second straight night had little answer for a hot West Virginia Power offense in an 8-3 defeat Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win by the Power (6-7) is the fifth in a row and the sixth out of seven games following an 0-6 start. West Virginia has scored 40 runs in the last three games and has posted five or more runs six of the last seven outings. (5-1 in those games).
Meanwhile, Hickory (5-8) has dropped three of the last four during the homestand. The lineup has scored eight runs over those four games and just 14 over the six games of the homestand, which closes Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against the Power.
Despite wildness by both pitchers, neither team had a hit until the fourth when Stephen Alemais tripled to right-center with one out in the fourth. One out later, Alemais scored when a fastball by Demarcus Evans went to the backstop.
The Power then broke the game open against reliever Tyler Phillips with three in the fifth and four in the sixth. With one out, Logan Ratledge singled, stole second and then moved to third on a fly to right. Hunter Owen singled him in and scored on Carlos Munoz’s lined homer to right.
West Virginia batted around in the sixth for the third time in two games. Sandy Santos doubled in a run before Ratledge’s sac fly scored Clark Eagan. Ty Moore’s double scored Santos and Munoz capped the inning with an RBI single.
Hickory got on the board without the benefit of a hit in the fifth. Jose Almonte walked and advanced to second when 3B Owen’s throw went wide of the bag. A Blake Cederlind wild pitched moved Almonte to third from where he scored on Travis Bolin’s grounder.
The Crawdads went hitless until the sixth When Yanio Perez lined a single into the right field corner, moving Franklin Rollin to third after he reached on an error. 2B Trae Arbet dropped the relay throw back to the infield and allowed Rollin to score.
The final run by Hickory came in the seventh when Valencia double and scored on Rollin’s sac fly.
Much was made about the wildness of the pitching staff. For the most part that has settled in as the guys have begun to get into a routine. What has gotten my attention in this homestand are plate appearances in which Crawdads hitters are ahead in the count.
I first noticed it on Friday with a couple of at-bats by Yanio Perez during which he had checked swings on fastballs ahead 2-0 or 2-1. Then, I noticed times when guys would be ahead 2-0, 3-0, 3-1 and then make weak outs.
This evening, Power pitchers through eight innings and thrown 128 pitches with only 73 strikes (55 balls). Despite the wildness, Hickory managed just three hits and four walks. Combined with four errors – three of those allowed hitters to reach – there was opportunity for the Crawdads to do damage. However, Hickory was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
In hitter’s counts, the Crawdads and 12 different counts of 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1 and went 1-8 with 4 walks. A key at-bat early in the game for me was the bottom of the third. After Valencia reached on a five-pitch walk against a struggling Oddy Nunez – who threw 19 balls to 25 strikes – Travis Bolin went hacking at the first pitch and hit into a force play, which should’ve been a double play ball. Simply, it seems as if guys are trying to put the team on their backs, rather than at a solid plate appearance.
Evans evens out:
At 6-4, 270, righthander Demarcus Evans can hurl the spheroid hard. But in the early going, there was not much a clue as to where it was going. After a strikeout of Ratledge to open the game. Evans preceded to post a walk, hit batter and another walk, with many of the pitches missing wildly to the third base corner of home. After a 28-pitch first (12 strikes), he settled down to a nice outing, allowing just two other baserunners However, the damage was done and Evans needed 77 pitches to get through the fourth.
Forbes cools off:
Ti’Quan Forbes went 0-for-4, but it was anything but quiet. A long liner in the 6th hooked just to the foul side of the LF foul pole. That on top of a sharply hit 4-3 grounder was the highlight of his night.
Other than Forbes, one of the few Crawdads making solid contact right now. Went 1-for-3. The hit, a lined gapper to the wall in LCF. Had another liner that was a scorcher to the 2B for the out. Seeing the ball quite well for now.
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.