Results tagged ‘ Joe Barlow ’

Series Preview: Delmarva at Hickory May 21-24

The Crawdads start their longest homestand of the season (8 games) with a four-game series against Delmarva.

Delmarva (Md.) Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles) (26-15, 2nd SAL North), at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (14-24, 6th SAL North)

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Monday – Wednesday, 6 p.m., Thursday 6 p.m.

 

PROMOTIONS:

Monday – Make-A-Difference Monday (For Safe Harbor, bring Multi-pack Paper Towels, Gas Cards, Grocery Cards, Laundry Detergent or PODS $5 or more in value and receive a free ticket.)

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

Wednesday – Wine Wednesday

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday/ Tribute to Jim Carrey (Dress as a Jim Carrey Movie character to receive a free ticket)

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

WHERE IS IT?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf

 

PROBABLES (Delmarva/ Hickory)

Monday: RHP Brenan Hanifee vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Tuesday: LHP DL Hall vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

Wednesday: LHP Zac Lowther vs. RHP Alex Eubanks

Thursday:  LHP Cameron Bishop vs. TBA

 

Recent Series History:

Delmarva has dominated the series this season, winning five of six overall and two of three at L.P. Frans in April. Since the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation began in 2009, Delmarva has won just one season series, that coming in 2015.

 

About the Crawdads:

A quick road trip at Kannapolis resulted in a 2-1 series loss at Kannapolis, as the final game of the series was suspended Sunday afternoon… Hickory is 10-9 at home this season… After a hot start in May, the Crawdads have come back to earth and are currently at .247/.325/.394 for the month. The team is next to last in the SAL in hits, last in doubles, 11th in runs scored, 12th in total bases and 13th in extra-base hits… The pitching had a good last run through the rotation and as a staff the team had allowed four or fewer runs in six straight before giving up five through five innings in the suspended game. Overall, the Crawdads are 11th in ERA (4.45), 12th in WHIP (1.40) and have walked the second most in the SAL… Defensively, Hickory has committed the fewest errors in the SAL (35 in 38 games). Collectively, Hickory has committed just four since May 9 (nine games).

 

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

CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .257/.333/.486, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K, 3 SB. Last series at Kannapolis: 1-for-10, 3B, 5 K. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL. Joined the team last Wednesday.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 29.2 IP, 25 H, 19 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 5 HB, 20 BB, 41 K, 5.46 ERA, .231 OBA, 1.52 WHIP. Last start 5/19 at Kannapolis: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 HB, 2 BB, 9 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-2nd hit batters, 3rd walks allowed.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 13 games, 3 saves, 18.2 IP, 14 H, 9 R (7 ER), 1 HR, 19 BB, 34 K, 3.38 ERA, .200 OBA 1.77 WHIP. Last game 5/17 at Kannapolis: 1.2 IP, 2 K, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (16.39), T-6th walks.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .235/.297/.412, 6 2B, 4 HR, 6 BB, 37 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 3-for-6, 2B, K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 30): 2018 stats: 37 IP, 39 H, 15 R (14 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB, 5 BB, 39 K, 3.41 ERA, .267 OBA, 1.19 WHIP. Last start vs. Rome: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (1.22).

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts) 31.1 IP, 34 H, 25 R (20 ER), 5 HR, 2 HB, 10 BB, 14 K, 5.74 ERA, .272 OBA, 1.40 WHIP. Last start vs. Rome 5/15: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R (1 ER), 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 K. Twenty-sixth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 33.2 IP, 45 H, 26 R (26 ER), 7 HR, 1 HB, 7 BB, 44 K, 6.95 ERA .321 OBA, 1.54 WHIP. Last start 5/17 at Kannapolis: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson Univ. A native of Duncan, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th HR allowed.

RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 10 games, 16.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 12 BB (2 IBB), 26 K, 1.08 ERA, .113 BA, 1.08 WHIP. Last game 5/19 at Kannapolis 1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB (2 IBB). Eleventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Attended Riverton (Utah) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd lowest OBA by relievers.

3B Tyler Ratliff: 2018 stats: .237/.313/.339,6 2B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 29 K. Last series at Kannapolis: 2-for-9, 2 2B, RBI, 1 BB, 1 K. Hitting .310/.375/.431 in May. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Marshall (WV) Univ. Played at TC Williams High in Alexandria, Va.

OF Franklin Rollin: 2018 stats at Hickory: 6-for-18, 2B, HR, BB, 2 K, 2 SB, 2 CS. Last series at Kannapolis: 4-for-14, 2B, HR, BB, 2 K, SB, CS. Signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. Native of La Romana, D.R.

Tyler Ratliff

Tyler Ratliff is hitting .310/.375/.431 in May (Tracy Proffitt)

 

About the Shorebirds:

Managed by Buck Britton in his first season with the club. He is the brother of Orioles reliever Zach Britton… Delmarva heads to Hickory after dropping two of three at home to Hagerstown (Md.), the Northern Division’s last place team… What had been a solid pitching staff this season, the Shorebirds got knocked around a bit last week as they gave up seven or more runs in three of the last four games – all losses. The one win was a shutout in game one of a doubleheader on Sunday. The team ERA of 3.26 is still fifth in the SAL and they have five shutouts this season. Delmarva has allowed just 20 homers, but are just five behind Hickory in walks allowed… At the plate, the Shorebirds are near the top of the SAL teams. Collectively, they are second in the SAL in batting avg. (.263) and hits, third in runs, total bases and OPS (.723), fourth in OBP (.329) and homers, and fifth in slugging pct. (.394). They are next to last in strikeouts… Delmarva is first in fielding pct. (.976).

 

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

Prospects to watch-Delmarva:

LHP D.L. Hall (No. 4): 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 19.2 IP, 12 H, 6 R (5 ER), 12 BB, 20 K, 2.29 ERA, .212 OBA, 1.22 WHIP. Last start 5/13 at Columbia: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K. First-round pick (21st overall) of the Orioles in 2017 out of Valdosta (Ga.) High. Signed away from a commitment to Florida St.

RHP Brenan Hanifee (No. 8): 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 38.2 IP, 31 H, 12 R (11 ER), 5 HR, 1 HB, 8 BB, 27 K, 2.56 ERA, .223 OBA, 1.01 WHIP. Last start 5/11 at Lexington: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K. Fourth-round pick of the Orioles in 2016 out of Ashby High in Bridgewater, Va. Signed away from a commitment to East Carolina. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th wins (4), 10th WHIP.

LHP Cameron Bishop (No. 14): 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 43 IP, 41 H, 16 R (13 ER), 2 HR, 7 BB, 37 K, 2.72 ERA, .247 OBA, 1.12 WHIP. Twenty-sixth-round pick of Orioles in 2017 out of the Univ. of California-Irvine. Native of Brea, Calif. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 9th innings pitched.

LHP Zac Lowther (No. 15): 2018 stats: 5 games, (5 starts) 25 IP, 11 H, 4 R (4 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB 6 BB, 41 K, 1.44 ERA, .129 OBA, 0.68 WHIP. Last start 5/15 at Columbia: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 HB, 3 BB, 2 K. Second pick in competitive balance round of the Orioles in 2017 out of Xavier. Attended Cuyahoga Heights in Cleveland. Native of Brooklyn Heights Ohio.

RHP Gary Fenter (No. 21): 2018 starts: 7 games (2 starts), 16.1 IP, 23 H, 14 R (14 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 7 BB, 19 K, 7.71 ERA, .338 OBA, 1.84 WHIP. Last game 5/19 vs. Hagerstown: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 K. Seventh-round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of West Memphis (AR) High. Signed away from commitment to Mississippi St.

SS Mason McCoy (No. 25): 2018 stats: .254/.329/.399, 5 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 15 BB, 26 K, 2 CS. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 4-for-10, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB, 3 K. Sixth-round pick in 2017 out of Univ. of Iowa. Native of Peoria, Ill. Attended Washington (Ill.) Community HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st triples

RHP Matthew Dietz (No. 26): 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts) 35.2 IP, 30 H, 13 R (13 ER), 1 HR, 19 BB, 41 K, 3.28 ERA, .229 OBA, 1.37 WHIP. Second-round pick of Orioles out of John A. Logan CC (Ill.). SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th wins (4), T-6th walks.

 

Others to watch-Delmarva:

RHP Tim Naughton: 2018 stats: 1 game, 1.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R (4 ER), 4 BB, 2 K. Made his season debut on 5/20 vs. Hagerstown. Thirty-fourth round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of NC State. Attended Charles B. Aycock HS in Goldsboro.

RHP Cameron Ming: 2018 stats: 1 game, 4.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K. Made his season debut on 5/20 vs. Hagerstown. Fourteenth-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of the University of Arizona. Attended Sandra Day O’Connor HS in Glendale, Ariz.

RF Zack Jarrett: 2018 stats: .290/.362/.510, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 12 BB, 43 K. Last series vs Hagerstown: 3-for-11, HR, 1 K. Twenty-eighth round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of UNC Charlotte. Played his high school ball at Hickory High. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th home runs, 6th runs, 6th total bases, T-7th hits, 9th slugging pct.

2B Kirvin Moesquit: 2018 stats: .282/.356/.380, 5 2B, 3 HR, 16 BB, 37 K, 16 SB, 6 CS. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 2-for-9, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-1st steals, T-4th runs scored (14). Twenty-fourth round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of Seminole St. College (Fla.). Born in Willemstad, Curacao, attended high school at Highland Christian HS (Pompano Beach, Fla.).

C Ben Breazeale: 2018 stats: .220/.340/.366. 6 2B, 2 HR, 13 BB, 19 K. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 0-for-2. Seventh-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of Wake Forest. Attended Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) HS.

1B Ryen Ripken: 2018 stats: .283/.325/.336, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 BB, 12 K. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 1-for-7; Signed free agent deal with Orioles in 2017. Played previously in SAL with Hagerstown (Washington) in 2016. Son of Cal Ripken, Jr.

3B Trevor Craport: 2018 stats: .282/.333/.481, 6 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 9 BB, 19 K. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 3-for-11, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Eleventh-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of Georgia Tech. Attended Norcross (Ga.) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-6th RBI, T-9th runs

LF Jaylen Ferguson: 2017 stats with SS-A Aberdeen: .233/.266/.264, 6 2B, 8 BB, 59 K. Made his debut with Delmarva on 5/20 (0-for-2, K). Ninth-round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of Arlington (Tex.) HS.

The Fire to Win: An Interview with Sam Huff

In writing the feature for the Hickory Daily Record, I had a bit of a writer’s block. I found the subject of this interview, Sam Huff, to be a multi-faceted person and there were so many directions in which I could’ve steered the article.

For the HDR writeup, I chose to go the route of the guy that had his baseball fire sparked at the age of five. As I mentioned in the article, there is a fire there that burns in the baseball soul. This kid wants to win and he wants to win however necessary.

I interviewed Huff a day after a game against Rome during which he and pitcher Jean Casanova put together a clinic on how to change the plan of attack against a lineup when the original plan didn’t work.

The night before, I had talked to the two of them about the game. A minor blip on Huff’s night was getting the golden sombrero (4 strikeouts in a game at the plate, for those that don’t know). When I asked him about that, while he wasn’t happy about the strikeouts, in the grand scheme of the game itself, he didn’t care. His team won. He had a part of that win because of the work as a catcher and that’s all that mattered to him. He repeated the mantra over and over, “I just want to win.” I left without the expletive that was a part of one of those statements.

So, inside of a measured speaker, that fire is there and the more it smolders.

There were other areas we touched on in this interview: his development, his leadership, and his curiosity for learning. I think readers will see that curiosity when reading through the interview and how he seeks to soak up information.

Both Huff and catching coordinator mentioned the influence of former Crawdads catcher Jose Trevino on Huff. So, I tracked down Trevino to get his perspective on Huff and what stands out to him.

Said Trevino about Huff:

“He’s different. Swings different. Throws different. He’s a special kid.

“He doesn’t know how dangerous he is yet though and I think being in his first full season, he will start to figure it out. He’s like that baby snake that doesn’t know how poisonous it is, yet. But sooner or later he will know when to strike and how much he needs to take down someone.

“He always wants to learn and he’s always picking my brain about everything! I like being around the kid because he still needs that person to check him back into place at times. It looks funny, a 5’8” dude telling a 6’8” dude something that will help him.

“But yes, a very special kid with a lot of talent. I don’t really compare him to a player in the big leagues right now cause I don’t think you can. Sam Huff is Sam Huff. He’s going to keep getting better and he’s always going to want to learn. Great ballplayer and a better person!”

However, Huff is not just a student for the sake of being a student. He wants to lead. He wants to lead his team. He wants to lead his pitchers. Huff doesn’t appear to be a person to lead in such a way that gives the feeling he that wants the world to revolve around him; he wants to figure out how to make his teammates better—so they can win.

Sam Huff fist pump

Sam Huff with a first pump during a game against West Virginia (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Here is the interview with Sam Huff:

First of all, your three-headed monster at catcher, I guess, is now down to two with you and Pozo. How did the three of you work together where you’re not getting total playing time behind the plate but you’re having to figure that out?

Huff: At the start it was kind of different because we’d play like Melvin, me, Pozo, Melvin, me, Pozo and we kind of had to work off of that. It was kind of hard to get into a rhythm and a groove. Then we’d finally start to get the hang of it and we were like, “Okay, this is our day.”

The day before that we’d get focused on watching and studying. Then the day of, we’d talk to each other. Melvin would say, “Hey, this team is good at hitting fastballs” or “This team likes to hit offspeeds and the fastball away” or “They’re a fast team, so then like to bunt or run.” We just had to almost give each other reports to keep us in the game and to help our pitchers.

Because, our goal is to help our pitchers. Us three together, we knew we all had to come together and help each other, because overall, we want to be good and we like to see each other do good because we’re winning. What I said last night, we like to win and have us three catchers calling good games and our pitchers in the strike zone and keeping them in good rhythm. It helps a lot to talk to each other.

 

Was it hard to get the pitchers into any kind of consistency, though, when you have three different voices coming at them?

Huff: Yeah, because pitchers will want to throw to a different guy, or to one or the other, but we just had to work with it. We had to learn our pitchers by talking, then catching the bullpens, catching the sides and getting an idea of what they like to do. So, every day I didn’t catch, and it was my off day, I would go to the bullpen and catch all the relievers. That’s the biggest part is every night, you’ve got a new guy coming in. You’ve haven’t caught them in two weeks and you don’t remember the ball movements. My biggest thing is I can remember my pitchers.

I live with four: Tyler Phillips, Joe Barlow, Josh Advocate and Noah (Bremer) – he’s coming back from the rehab. I talk to them. I always work with them. I know them like the back of my hand. I love them and it’s just good to talk to pitchers because then they tell you what pitchers think like from a perspective of what they want to do, how they want to do it. What’s their strengths and what’s their weaknesses. How they rank their pitches. That comes into play because you’ve got to know, if he doesn’t have his fastball, what’s his second best and go off that. You can’t just say, “Okay, we’re going to go to his third best,” and that’s not his strength. You got to work to the strengths of the pitcher and understand them.

 

There’s so much that goes into catching, not just handling the pitching staff, obviously the defense, then you’ve got to come out and bring a stick to the plate and hit. Then, there’s so many intangibles. What’s the biggest thing you are working on right now, at this level?

Huff: The biggest thing is being consistent behind the plate, catching, calling the game, maintaining a good pitching staff and how I want to approach hitters. Last night was a really good thing for me as a catcher to learn. If a plan doesn’t work, we can work off of it where we can modify it a little bit. We don’t have to flip the script and get a whole new plan. We just build off of it. It was really cool to understand that. Here’s a team that’s a fastball hitting team. They don’t like curveballs, so, okay, we’ll pitch backwards now. As a catcher, when I see that, it’s going to be easier to call because you understand, because I’m right here and the hitter’s standing right there. So, it’s easier for me, but it has to come from the pitcher, too.

Learning that as a player and hitting and just being consistent. I’m just working on some stuff. Overall, I don’t try to focus too much about hitting, because the biggest thing for me is to become the best catcher and I want to be the best.

Sam HUff hitting

Sam Huff with a home run swing during an exhibition game vs. Catawba Valley CC (Tracy Proffitt)

 

What made you decide you wanted to be a catcher in the first place? You guys take a beating and there’s so much going into what you do at the position.

Huff: I didn’t catch my whole life. I played short when I was little, third, first, the outfield and pitched. I didn’t pitch in high school. I played first base my freshman year.

I watched a guy named Tommy Joseph and Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer. I liked the way they did their catching. I just kind of said, I want to be a catcher. I went to a guy in Arizona – he was Tommy Joseph’s catching coach. Tommy was in the (Arizona) fall league at the time with the Giants, so he’d come and watch and hang out. It kind of got me triggered there. I was in my sophomore year. In my junior and senior year, I caught.

It’s been different. I didn’t think I was ever going to be a catcher when I was younger. I thought I was going to be a third baseman or a first baseman, or the outfield type. It stuck with me. I liked the way it is, that you’re in every pitch. You’re not just standing there, but you’re doing something to help the team win.

 

What is the thing you think you bring to the position? You were playing other positions and now you’re fresh behind the plate. What did you bring to the position that you thought would make it work?

Huff: I thought I received well. I caught the ball. I threw the ball good and I could throw guys out. Blocking, I had to work at it and I’m still working at it, but it’s becoming one of my strengths. I just felt like I could catch and throw really well. I felt like I could bring energy as a player and being able to control my team and help my teammates out, because I want other guys to be good.

To be able to see a catcher, even though he’s down, but he’s still up and going, that’s a leader. I’m just trying to fill the role, because it’s something I want to be, but it’s something I’ve got to work at. Every day I’m working and I’m talking to guys that I feel like are leaders to me and they tell me how they do it and I try to copy that.

 

Who are the leaders to you?

Huff: I feel like Clay Middleton. He’s a really good guy to look after. Tyree Thompson, Tyler Phillips, I could go on. I feel like everybody, in some aspect of the way, is a leader to me. They show me things that I can do different, and they tell me things that I can do different, and I show them things that I’ve improved on that they could do different. So, it’s really cool. As a team, I try and incorporate everybody as a leader. It doesn’t matter how you lead, if you’re just a quiet guy or if you like to talk a lot. If you’re a leader, you’re a leader.

 

You mentioned some guys that got you interested in catching like Mauer and Tommy Joseph. At this stage of you career, who are you looking at as someone you’d like to model your game after?

Huff: I’d like to model my game after Mike Piazza. He wasn’t the best catcher, but he could hit. He’s a Hall-of-Famer, so you can’t say that he’s not that bad of a catcher. But, I really like to model my game after him, because watching video, he had the mentality of, he’s going to beat you. He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t give, you know what, about you.

He plays hard. He wasn’t given the opportunity, he had to work for it. I like watching him as a player, because he had the flow. He had the mentality to just go out there and play to show everyone that he was better than they thought he would be.

 

(Rangers catching coordinator) Chris (Briones) will come in and say, “it’s time to fill my guys up.” What does a guy like Chris bring to you when he comes on a visit?

Huff: We talk about what I can do different and what I’m doing good at. What things he’s seen that I’ve improved on, or I need to improve on. Lately, we’ve just talked about being consistent behind the plate and getting wins, being consistent with the blocking, the throwing, the receiving, calling. I love Chris and love when he comes here and we talk.

We always bring up Trevino because we’re in the same agency and we always talk. I always talk to Jose, so I ask him little things and he just tells me what’s the deal and how to do it. It’s really awesome to have a guy like that talk to me. It’s really cool.

 

What are you looking at as the next step of development for you?

Huff: Just getting better every day at everything. I feel like I can get better at everything. There’s always something I want to improve on. I feel like once I start to get the hang of hitting, then everything will come together. Overall, I want to get better at everything. I’m always anxious to learn. Briones, he knows that and I’m always talking to him about stuff. So, it’s always cool to have him here and pick his brain a little more.

 

You get a call that says you’re going to the major leagues? Who’s the first person you call?

Huff: My parents. My dad first. He’s been there since the start, so he would get the first call. Then my grandma and grandpa, and then my whole family members and my coaches and friends.

 

Who is the biggest factor in your career that is not a family member?

Huff: As crazy as it sounds, my dad’s best friend, Marty Maier, a pitching coach at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. We talk all the time and he’s been playing for a while.

He was kind of the first guy I talked to in baseball when I was a five-year-old kid. He’s a pretty funny guy, but he told me, “This game ain’t easy, but you can do a lot if you just apply yourself. Play every game like it’s your last. Never, ever take anything for granted.” I took that to heart and I really love this game and I like to play.

I thank myself every day and I thank my parents. I thank everybody that’s helped me along this journey. Even though I’m in the ups and downs, I still remember what would I rather be doing: going to school or playing baseball for a living? When you tell yourself that, you really take it to heart. I’m playing a game that’s a kid’s game and I’m having fun with it. So, I try not to take anything for granted. For him doing that and telling me that at a young age, that was really cool and I thank him for that every day.

Huff Jaimes Mendez mound visit

A mound visit with Sal Mendez (left) Jose Jaimes and Huff (Proffitt)

At the Quarter Pole: A look at the Crawdads progress with manager Matt Hagen

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.

Series Preview: Hickory at Kannapolis May 17-20

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (13-22, 6th SAL North) at Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (25-14, Tied for 1st North)

The Hickory Crawdads take a short road trip to Kannapolis where they will face the Intimidators for four games at Intimidators Stadium.

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Tuesday through Thursday 6:30 p.m.

PROMOTIONS:

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday, Mega Money Drop (A helicopter will drop $1,000 after the game).

Friday – Chicken-Fried Friday, Kids Run the Bases

Saturday – Post-Game Fireworks

TICKETS: Advance tickets: Adult General Admission $6.50/ Children $5.50; Adult Reserve $8.50/ Children $7.50. Add $1.50 to each ticket the day of the game.

WHERE IS IT?: From I-85 take Exit 63 (Lane Street). From I-85 South, turn left; I-85 north, turn right. Stadium Drive will be on the right.

PARKING: All parking is $2.

CONCESSIONS: Intimidators Stadium is your no-frills ballpark with traditional burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, BBQ sandwiches, etc.

 

PROBABLES (Hickory/ Kannapolis)

Thursday: RHP Alex Eubanks vs. LHP John Parke

Friday: RHP AJ Alexy vs. LHP Parker Rigler

Saturday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. TBA

Sunday: RHP Reid Anderson vs. RHP Lincoln Henzman

 

Recent Series History:

Kannapolis swept earned its first sweep of the Crawdads of any kind since at least 2004. Hickory won the season series in 2017 12-10, which included a 7-5 edge at Intimidators Stadium. Since the start of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers in 2009, Hickory is 96-66 against Kannapolis, 51-35 at Intimidators Stadium. The Intimidators last won a season series vs. Hickory in 2010 (7-9).

 

About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads split a four-game series at home against Rome (Ga.) and went 4-3 during their recent homestand…The offense at times continues to struggle at scoring runs. Though it is at .256/.332/.381 with runners on base, Hickory is third-to-last in runs scored as the Crawdads have trouble starting rallies early. Leading off an inning, the Crawdads have a .223/.290/.394 mark. Also 22 of the team’s 29 homers have been solo shots. Oddly, Hickory is last in doubles. In the middle of the pack of the SAL statistically, the slash line of .226/.294/.343 on the road has been a big part of why they are 3-13… Though better in recent days – Hickory allowed four or fewer runs in four of the last six contests – the staff ERA (4.86) during May is 12th out of 14 teams in the SAL. Overall, the Crawdads have give up the second most walks in the SAL and are 12th in WHIP (1.42).

Ryan Dorow

Ryan Dorow went 5-for-11 in the recent series against Rome (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

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

CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: 8-for-25, 3 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 SB. Last series vs.Rome: 4-for-16, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL. Joined the team last Wednesday. Had at least one hit in five of the six games he played, two or more hits in three of them.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 24 IP, 23 H, 19 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 4 HB, 18 BB, 32 K, 6.75 ERA, .256 OBA, 1.71 WHIP. Last start 5/11 vs. Columbia: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 HB, 7 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd walks allowed, T-4th hit batters.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 12 games, 3 saves, 17 IP, 12 H, 8 R (6 ER), 1 HR, 16 BB, 30 K, 3.18 ERA, .190 OBA 1.65 WHIP. Last game 5/14 vs. Rome: 1 IP, 2 K. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (15.88), T-8th walks.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .219/.286/.396, 5 2B, 4 HR, 6 BB, 36 K. Last series vs. Rome: 2-for-9, 1 BB, 5 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 28.2 IP, 39 H, 24 R (24 ER), 6 HR, 5 BB, 36 K, 7.53 ERA .328 OBA, 1.53 WHIP. Last start 5/19 vs. Columbia: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 8 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson Univ. A native of Duncan, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th HR allowed, 8th earned runs allowed.

RHP Jean Casanova: 2018 stats: 7 games (4 starts), 23.2 IP, 23 H, 12 R (9 ER), 5 HR, 1 HB, 9 BB, 15 K, 3.42 ERA, .247 OBA, 1.35 WHIP. Last start 5/12 vs. Rome: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 K. Thirty-fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) HS. Born in the Dominican Republic. Has allowed at least one HR in all four of his starts. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-10th home runs allowed.

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 31.2 IP, 30 H, 14 R (13 ER), 2 HB, 10 BB, 32 K, 3.69 ERA, .250 OBA, 1.26 WHIP. Last start 5/13 vs. Rome: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 HB, 2 BB, 4 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville (Pa.) Univ. Attended New Egypt (N.J.) HS.

RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 9 games, 15 IP, 10 BB, 26 K, 0.60 ERA, .095 BA, 1.08 WHIP. Last game: 5/15 vs. Rome 2 IP, 1 H, 5 K. Eleventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Attended Riverton (Utah) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd lowest OBA by relievers (5-for-42, .127). 4th SAL among relievers Ks per 9 IP ratio (16.39).

UT Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .300/.383/.471, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 BB, 31 K. Last series vs. Rome: 5-for-11, 1 SB, 4 K. Thirtieth-round pick in 2017 out of Adrian (Mich.). Attended South Haven (Mich.) HS. Has started to see more playing time, rotating around the infield. Played in four straight and five of the last six games.

OF Franklin Rollin: 2018 stats at Down East: .209/.277/.279, HR, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 SB, 2 CS. Played in just 16 games at Down East, sent to Hickory on Monday and will slide into a fourth outfield role at Hickory. Signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. Native of La Romana, D.R.

RHP Tyler Ferguson: 2017 stats at Hickory and Down East: 36 games, 1 save, 47.2 IP, 48 H, 40 R (35 ER), 9 HR, 13 HB, 26 BB, 57 K, 6.61 ERA, .254 OBA, 1.55 WHIP. Sixth-round pick by the Rangers in 2015 out of Vanderbilt Univ. Attended Clovis (Calif.) West HS. Started the season on the disabled list, assigned to Hickory last Saturday.

RHP Derek Heffel: 2017 stats at AZL Rangers: 11 games (6 starts), 44.1 IP, 40 H, 16 R (14 ER), 1 HR, 14 BB, 50 K, 2.84 ERA, .242 OBA, 1.22 WHIP. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Madison Area (Wisc.) Technical College. Attend St. Catherine’s HS in Racine, Wisc. Started season at Extended Spring, assigned to Hickory last Saturday.

 

About the Intimidators:

Kannapolis is managed by Justin Jirschele in his second season with the team (93-82). The Intimidators won the SAL North first-half title and went on to the playoffs before losing in the championship series to Greenville (S.C.)…The Intimidators have the SAL’s best mark in May at 11-3 after winning five of seven during the recent road trip to Asheville and Greenville (S.C.)…Kannapolis far outpaces the rest of the SAL with a .285 batting avg. (Delmarva is second at .267). It also leads in OBP (.351), runs scored, hits, RBI, total bases, and OPS (.774). The Intimidators are second in doubles and slugging pct. (.423)…The team’s pitching has also been solid with a staff ERA of 2.97… Kannapolis has been nearly unbeatable at home in 2018, going 15-3. The Intimidators have yet to lose back-to-back home games this season.

 

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

CF Luis Gonzalez (No. 18): 2018 stats: .328/.389/.547, 8 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 14 BB, 33 K, 3 SB. Last series at Asheville: 7-for-20, 4 2B, 3 HR, 5 R, 6 RBI, 3 K. Third-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Univ. of New Mexico. Born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Attended high school at Catalina Foothills in Tucson, Ariz. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd batting avg., T-3rd total bases, 4th OPS (.936), 4th hits, 5th slugging pct., 6th OBP, T-8th home runs

C Evan Skoug (No. 22): 2018 stats: .204/.325/.398, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 19 BB, 36 K. Last series at Asheville: 2-for-11, 2B, 3 R, RBI, 3 BB, 3 K. Seventh-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Texas Christian Univ. Native of Libertyville, Ill. Big 12 Co-player of the year in 2017. First-team All-American). Has thrown out 6-of-15 base stealers in 2018. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-6th walks

RHP Tyler Johnson (No. 25): 2018 stats: 13 games, 15.2 IP, 12 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 8 BB, 30 K, 2.30 ERA, .211 OBA, 1.28 WHIP, 6 saves. Last series at Asheville: 2 games, 2 IP, 1 H, 3 K, 2 saves. Fifth-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of South Carolina. Native of Midlothian, Va. and attended Trinity Episcopal HS there. Pitched for USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st Ks-per 9-inning ratio among relievers (17.23), T-2nd saves, T-5th games.

RHP Lincoln Henzman (No. 26): 2018 stats: 8 games (8 starts), 43.2 IP, 43 H, 20 R (12 ER), 5 BB, 36 K, 2.47 ERA, .249 OBA, 1.10 WHIP. Last start 5/14 at Asheville: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K. Fourth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Native of Lexington, Ky. and attended Lexington Christian Academy. First-team All-American and NCBWA Stopper of the Year in 2017. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st innings pitched, 3rd fewest walks per 9 innings among starters (1.03), T-10th hits allowed.

1B Justin Yurchak (No. 28): 2018 stats: .254/.372/.303, 6 2B, 23 BB, 123 K. Last series at Asheville: 6-for-14, 2 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI, 1 K. Twelfth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Binghamton (N.Y.) Univ. Attended Shenendehowa HS in his native Clifton Park, N.Y. Played at Wake Forest his freshman season. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd walks.

 

Others to watch-Kannapolis:

LHP John Parke: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 36 IP, 28 H, 10 R (9 ER), 1 HR, 3 HB, 6 BB, 31 K, 2.25 ERA, .214 OBA, 0.94 WHIP. Last start 5/11 at Greenville (SC): 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB. 21st round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of South Carolina. Attended Greenville (SC) High. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-2nd wins (4), 8th WHIP.

LHP Parker Rigler: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 33.2 IP, 26 H, 15 R (12 ER), 1 HR, 18 BB, 31 K, 3.21 ERA, .208 OBA, 1.31 WHIP. Last start 5/12  at Asheville: 4 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 K. Thirty-first-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Kansas State. Attended Edmond (Okla.) Memorial HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd walks

2B Tate Blackman: 2018 stats: .305/.381/.430, 4 2B, 4 HR, 14 BB, 41 K, 1 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Asheville: 4-for-11 2 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Thirteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Ole Miss. Attended Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) SAL Top-10 Rankings: 9th batting avg., 9th OBP, T-8th hits, T-9th total bases

SS Laz Rivera: 2018 stats: .365/.408/.511, 8 2B, 4 HR, 4 BB, 21 K, 4 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Asheville: 5-for-14, 2B, 2 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI, 2 K. Twenty-eighth round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Tampa. Played at Univ. of Miami and Chipola CC (Fla.) before going to Tampa. Played at Columbus High in Miami. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st batting avg., 1st hits, T-3rd total bases, 4th runs scored, 5th OBP, 5th OPS (.919), 8th slugging pct.

LF Craig Dedelow: 2018 stats: .270/.285/.453, 13 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 32 K. Last series at Asheville: 6-for-15, 3 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 K. Ninth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out Indiana Univ. Attended Munster (Ind.) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st at-bats, 1st doubles, 6th hits, T-8th RBI.

3B Anthony Villa: 2018 stats: .364/.419/.494, 10 2B, 8 BB, 24 K. Last series at Asheville: 6-for-13, 2B, 4 R, 2 RBI, BB, 3 K. Nineteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of St. Mary’s (CA) College. Attended San Ramon Valley HS (Danville CA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd doubles. T-3rd triples, T-8th total bases.

Series Preview: Hickory at Kannapolis May 1-3

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (8-14, 6th SAL North) at Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (14-10, 3rd SAL North)

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Tuesday through Thursday 6:30 p.m.

PROMOTIONS:

Tuesday– Baseball Bingo

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday

 TICKETS: Advance tickets: Adult General Admission $6.50/ Children $5.50; Adult Reserve $8.50/ Children $7.50. Add $1.50 to each ticket the day of the game.

Where is it?: From I-85 take Exit 63 (Lane Street). From I-85 South, turn left; I-85 north, turn right. Stadium Drive will be on the right.

PARKING: All parking is $2.

 CONCESSIONS: Intimidators Stadium is your no-frills ballpark with traditional burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, BBQ sandwiches, etc.

 

PROBABLES (Hickory/ Kannapolis) (Note Crawdads pitchers supplied by Rangers media mailings/ Kannapolis probables based on usage by team to date. All pitching assignments scheduled to change):

Tuesday: RHP Tyler Phillips vs. LHP Parker Rigler

Wednesday: RHP Tyree Thompson vs. RHP Kade McClure

Thursday: RHP Alex Eubanks vs. Lincoln Henzman

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory won the season series in 2017 12-10, which included a 7-5 edge at Intimidators Stadium. Since the start of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers in 2009, Hickory is 96-63 against Kannapolis, 51-32 at Intimidators Stadium. The Intimidators last won a season series vs. Hickory in 2010 (7-9).

 

About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads salvaged the final game of three against Delmarva (Md.) over the weekend and settled for a 2-4 homestand against the Shorebirds and Greensboro… Hickory is 2-8 on the road, but split the last roadtrip 2-2 at Columbia… The Crawdads remain solid defensively with a SAL-low 18 errors committed. That has helped minimized some damage by the pitching staff, which had some rough patches over the homestand with six or more runs allowed in three of the final four games (25 total). Walks continue to plague the team as the staff is tied for second with 82 in 22 games. The group has struck out 184, the third fewest in the SAL… At the plate, Hickory is solidly in the middle of the SAL in slash stats .242/.309/.377. They put the ball in play for the most part. The Crawdads are next to last in Ks and last in walks received.

 

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

CF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10): 2018 stats: .229/.267/.414, 2 3B, 3 HR, 25 K, 3 BB, 4 SB. Last series vs. Delmarva (Md.): 0-for-6, RBI, 3 K. Came to the Rangers in a trade for C Jonathan Lucroy. Originally signed with Rockies in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 4 games (3 starts), 14 IP, 18 H, 16 R (15 ER), 2 HR, 2 HB, 12 BB, 13 K, 9.64 ERA, .321 OBA, 2.14 WHIP. Last start 4/27 vs. Delmarva.: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 1 HB, 3 BB, 3 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: .250/.299/.347, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 BB, 14 K. Last series vs. Delmarva 1-for-8, 2 R, 2B, 1 BB, 2 K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 7 games (all in relief), 10 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 10 BB, 18 K, 3.60 ERA, .211 OBA 1.80 WHIP. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (16.20).

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 25): 2018 stats: .222/.279/.381, 4 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 22 K. Last series vs. Delmarva: 2-7, 2 R, HR, 1 BB, 3 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Tyler Phillips: 2018 stats: 4 games (4 starts), 21.2 IP, 21 H, 8 R (8 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 3 BB, 23 K, 3.32 ERA, 256 OBA, 1.11 WHIP. Last start 4/25 vs. Greensboro: 7 IP (complete game), 5 H, 1 ER, 1 HB, 4 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J.

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 4 games (3 starts), 15.2 IP, 15 H, 10 R (7 ER), 2 HR, 2 BB, 7 K, 2.78 ERA, .231 OBA, 1.02 WHIP. Last start 4/25 vs. Greensboro: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 K. Twenty-sixth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out or Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 4 games (4 starts), 19 IP, 25 H, 16 R (16 ER), 4 HR, 4 BB, 25 K, 7.58 ERA .313 OBA, 1.53 WHIP. Last start 4/26 vs. Greensboro: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 HR, 4 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson Univ. A native of Duncan, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th HR allowed

C Melvin Nova: 2018 stats: .358/.411/.552, 7 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 3 BB, 10 K. Last series vs. Delmarva: 4-for-8, R, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB, K. Caught 5 for 6 runners attempting to steal this season. Native of Nandaime, Nicaragua signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd RBI, 4th batting avg., T-4th doubles, 5th OBP, 6th OPS, 8th slugging pct., T-10th hits (24)

OF Eric Jenkins: 2018 stats: .289/.337/.439, 1 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 11 R, 13 RBI, 7 BB, 25 K, 12 steals, 2 CS. Last series vs. Delmarva: 3-for-12, R, RBI, 2B, BB, 5 K, 1 SB. Native of Cerro Gordo, N.C. Was the 2nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of West Columbus High. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st triples, T-2nd triples.

RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 6 games, 9.1 IP, 7 BB, 17 K. Eleventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Attended Riverton (Utah) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: Leads relievers in OBA (0-for-27). 2nd in SAL among relievers Ks per 9 IP ratio (16.39). 4th in fewest baserunners allowed ratio per 9 innings (6.75).

 

About the Intimidators:

Kannapolis is managed by Justin Jirschele in his second season with the team (82-79). The Intimidators won the SAL North first-half title and went on to the playoffs before losing in the championship series to Greenville (S.C.)… Kannapolis returns home after a 3-4 trip to Delmarva (Md.) and Lakewood (N.J.). The Intimidators threw a two-hitter in the finale against the BlueClaws but lost 1-0 as they stranded 13. They were shutout twice on the trip and scored 19 runs over the seven games – ten of those came over the first two games of the series at Lakewood… Kannapolis at the plate is second in batting (.263) and hits, and third in OBP (.332) and doubles…Kannapolis has been stingy with runs this season with a team ERA of 2.36. The WHIP of 1.12 is third in the SAL.

 

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

CF Luis Gonzalez (No. 18): 2018 stats: .310/.386/.448, 3 2B, 3 HR, 12 BB, 25 K, 3 SB. Last series vs. Lakewood (N.J.): 7-for-15, 2B, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Third-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Univ. of New Mexico. Born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Attended high school at Catalina Foothills in Tucson, Ariz. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th (27), T-9th walks, 10th batting avg.

C Evan Skoug (No. 22): 2018 stats: .150/.268/.233, 2 2B, 1 HR, 10 BB, 24 K. Last series vs. Lakewood: 1-for-8, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Seventh-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Texas Christian Univ. Native of Libertyville, Ill. Big 12 Co-player of the year in 2017. First-team All-American). Has thrown out 4-of-6 base stealers in 2018.

RHP Tyler Johnson (No. 25): 2018 stats: 8 games, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 3 BB, 19 K, .171 OBA, 0.87 WHIP, 3 saves. Fifth-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of South Carolina. Native of Midlothian, Va and attended Trinity Episcopal HS there. Pitched for USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

RHP Lincoln Henzman (No. 26): 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts), 25 IP, 26 H, 16 R (8 ER), 3 BB, 20 K, 2.88 ERA, .252 OBA, 1.16 WHIP. Last start 4/27 vs. Lakewood: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), 5 K. Fourth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Native of Lexington, Ky. and attended Lexington Christian Academy. First-team All-American and NCBWA Stopper of the Year in 2017. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-9th innings pitched. T-9th hits allowed.

1B Justin Yurchak (No. 28): 2018 stats: .205/.363/.247, 3 2B, 18 BB, 17 K. Last series vs. Lakewood: 2-for-10, 3 R, 1 RBI, 6 BB, 1 K. Twelfth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Binghamton (N.Y.) Univ. Attended Shenendehowa HS in his native Clifton Park, N.Y. Played at Wake Forest his freshman season. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd walks

 

Others to watch-Kannapolis:

LHP Parker Rigler: 2018 stats: 4 games (4 starts), 20.1 IP, 13 H, 4 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 8 BB, 16 K, 0.89 ERA, .181 OBA, 1.03 WHIP. Last start 4/25 vs. Delmarva (Md.): 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K. Thirty-first-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Kansas State. Attended Edmond (Okla.) Memorial HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd ERA, 5th OBA.

RHP Kade McClure: 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts), 29 IP, 27 H, 10 R (8 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB, 11 BB, 29 K, 2.48 ERA, .245 OBA, 1.31 WHIP. Last start vs. Delmarva 4/26: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R (2 ER), 1 HB, 4 BB. Sixth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Attended Mentor (Ohio) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd innings pitched, T-7th hits allowed, T-7th walks allowed, T-10th strikeouts

2B Tate Blackman: 2018 stats: .333/.387/.488, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 BB, 28 K, 1 SB, 2 CS. Last series at Lakewood: 4-for-11 (was 4-for-5 on 4/27), 2B, R, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 3 K. Thirteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Ole Miss. Attended Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd hits (28), 6th batting avg., T-9th total bases

SS Laz Rivera: 2018 stats: .333/.356/.471, 6 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 15 K, 3 SB, 2 CS. Last series at Lakewood: 4-for-14, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Twenty-eighth round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Tampa. Played at Univ. of Miami and Chipola CC (Fla.) before going to Tampa. Played at Columbus High in Miami. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd hits (29), T-6th doubles (6), 7th batting avg. T-8th runs scored (15), T-9th total bases.

 

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

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

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

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

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

 

PROMOTIONS:

Friday – Post-game fireworks

Saturday – Post-game concert featuring Finding Favour

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

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

WHERE?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf

 

PROBABLES (Delmarva / Hickory):

Friday: RHP Brenan Hanifree vs. RHP AJ Alexy

Saturday: LHP Zac Lowther vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Sunday: LHP DL Hall vs. RHP Reid Anderson

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

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

 

ABOUT THE CRAWDADS:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

ABOUT THE SHOREBIRDS:

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

 

Prospects to watch-Delmarva:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Others to watch-Delmarva:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

If You Plan to Go:

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

 

Promotions:

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

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

 

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

 

Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

 

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf

 

Probables (Lexington/ Hickory):

Monday: RHP Andres Sotillet vs. RHP Reid Anderson

Tuesday: RHP Nolan Watson vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

Wednesday: LHP Garrett Davila vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

 

Recent Series History:

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

 

About the Crawdads:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Legends

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

 

Prospects to watch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Others to watch – Lexington:

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

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

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

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

 

Crawdads Win Exhibition: Snap Lengthy Winless Streak vs. Colleges

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.”

Quotes: 

**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.”

 

Thoughts: 

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.

Meet the 2018 Hickory Crawdads

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:

PITCHERS                                                                                                           

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).

 

CATCHERS

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.

 

INFIELDERS

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.).

 

OUTFIELDERS

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.