Results tagged ‘ Joe Palumbo ’

Steering the Staff: An interview with Hickory pitching coach Jose Jaimes

There are some people that know how to teach. Hickory Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes appears to be one of them.

When one looks at the pitchers he has mentored over the past three seasons, it’s an impressive list. The last two Nolan Ryan Award winners, given to the Texas Rangers minor league pitcher of the year, both came from the Hickory squad – Kyle Cody in 2017 and Tyler Phillips last year. The minor league reliever of the year in 2018 also pitched at Hickory – Demarcus Evans.

A look at the current Texas Rangers top-30 prospects on mlb.com is a gallery of pitchers that have come through Hickory, or are here now: Hans Crouse (No. 1), Cole Winn (2), Joe Palumbo (7), Jonathan Hernandez (8), Tyler Phillips (13), C.D. Pelham (15), A.J. Alexy (20), Evans (24), Cody (28) and Ronny Henriquez (30).

Jeffrey Springs and Erik Swanson were also here with Jaimes in 2016, seasons during which both made the South Atlantic League all-star team. They, along with Pelham, have ascended to the majors.

Many of the names on the list above had their share of struggles. Some, like Phillips and Evans, went through demotions before coming back and figuring out what they were doing. Others, such as Pelham and Hernandez and Alexy, had to bull through tough times at Hickory, but eventually caught on to what they needed to do.

They common factor among them all is a calm-demeanored pitching coach in Jose Jaimes. In talking with him, now for four seasons, here is a coach that is positive about every pitcher under his care and expects them to succeed.

I had a chance to talk with Jaimes a couple of weeks ago about coaching and what adjustments he has made in that field. He also gives insights about those who worked through their struggles and those who were stubborn and had to learn the hard way that adjustments were needed.

Here is that interview.

Jose Jaimes Reid Anderson

Hickory Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes works with Reid Anderson prior to a game with the West Virginia Power at LP Frans Stadium in Hickory NC on 7/12/2018. (TRACY PROFFITT)

This is your fourth year here?

Jaimes: The fourth year, you’re right.

 

Does this feel like home now?

Jaimes: Yeah, it kind of feels like home, actually. When we got back this year in early April, I told my wife that it kind of felt like we never left. It felt like we were gone for two weeks and then we came back. I like it here.

 

Obviously, the Rangers keep sending you back here, but you have a say in this. What brings you back here year after year?

Jaimes: Well, those decisions are more to the Rangers, but when they tell me I have to go back I don’t mind it at all, because I like the city. It’s a safe city and my wife loves it. So, it makes everything a little easier. I have only good stuff to say about Hickory.

 

This is your fourth year here. What do you know now that you had to learn since your first year back in 2016?

Jaimes: Well, 2016 was my first full-season as a coach. So, I kind of had to adjust to the workload of the players. Coming from extended (spring training) and Spokane (Wash.), they didn’t play that many games. In Arizona, they get an off day a week, so it’s a lot easier to manage the workload of the players. Coming here, it’s a little more difficult because you play 18 games in a row and you’ve got to travel. You got to do a bunch of stuff that you don’t do in short season. So, being able to manage that with the players was probably my biggest challenge my first year.

And then, it’s getting to know the league and to know the teams that we face. I feel like every year has been a little easier. But, it’s always a challenge, because you’re always getting new players and a new staff. So, you kind of have to adjust to them also.

 

Does this feel like a good niche for you to get these young guys in their first full season? Is that something you see yourself doing longer term?

Jaimes: Yeah. I like it here and I like working with the young players, definitely. I think it’s a really important year for these guys and I feel like I can help to get on track on what to expect in a full season and all that. I feel like it’s a good fit for me.

 

How difficult is it to take a group of 13 -14 guys, especially this year where so many of them are new to you, to learn their stuff and what they like to do, and then take some of what is not working for them, and fix what they can do better?

Jaimes: Everything starts for me in spring training. I try to spend as much time as I can with the guys that I know are going to come with me. So, I try to get to know them and what they like to do on the field, and get to know their routines, know what works for them.

That’s how it starts, and then once I get here, probably that first week, I start to put my plan together for them from when I got to know them in Arizona. Then, as the year goes, they start getting to know themselves a little more, so they start to put stuff together that will work for them.

Most of the time it comes from them. Sometimes I’ll give a suggestion, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones making the decision. That isn’t working for me, or other stuff they’re doing in their routines, thing like that.

 

Do you ever get guys that are stubborn and they have to figure that stuff out?

Jaimes: (Laughing) Yeah. That’s part of it. You’ll always get that guy that wants to do their own things. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go until they can’t handle that. Then, they realize that they need to listen a little more.

 

How difficult is it to stand back when you see something that you know is not going to work, and they’re getting pounded, and you see the teammates’ reactions that something is not working?

Jaimes: I think that comes with experience. I think, maybe, my first couple of years as a coach, I always tried to jump in right away. But then, with experience, you kind of get to learn to be a little more patient and let the game take care of that. Sometimes, you need to let them come to you.

You always want them to tell you what they didn’t do right, or if they need to change. Sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming to them. I think the best thing, sometimes, is to let them come to you and ask for advice.

 

In your four years, you’ve had Kyle Cody, Edgar Arredondo, Joe Palumbo to name a few. Who is the guy that struggled some early, but you saw the light switch on, that gave you the most pleasure to see that?

Jaimes: There’s a couple, but definitely Joe Palumbo was one of them. I had him in 2014 and 2015. We always saw the potential that he had, but early in his career he didn’t challenge himself and he didn’t put in the effort in practice. Once he started changing that mentality and you started seeing the difference. The velo went up. The command got better. He became more of a true pitcher. It was probably one of the more exciting stories I’ve had in my career.

 

The 2017 and 2018 seasons, the first month to six weeks were tough. You and I would talk, and I know those were tough times. Part of that was what the Rangers were wanting to see the guys in commanding the fastball. How difficult was that to go through as a coach? You knew what the outcome was going to be, but still guys are getting beat up and they’re not happy.

Jaimes: That’s what we teach the players, is that we have to stay with the process. It was a plan that we put together for them. Yeah, it was tough to see it, but we always tried to stay positive, because at some point, that plan was going to pay off. And it did.

It was tough but watching the guys those first five or six weeks start to command their fastball better and getting to know that they can pitch with their fastball. It was cool to see. It was tough, but sometimes you have to stay with the process.

 

Who is the most talented pitcher you’ve had?

Jaimes: Oooo, that’s a tough one. We’ve had a few of them. Demarcus Evans.

Demarcus, for me, is one of the most talented pitchers because, obviously the size. He’s a big guy. He has a plus-fastball at 94-95, but when you look deeper at what kind of fastball he has, you look at the spin rate and the type of vertical movement that he has, that’s what makes his fastball so special. That’s why he has so many swing-and-misses on fastballs at the middle of the plate.

Kyle Cody was another one. Big fastball with some sinker action, then with the slider that he has. Those two pitches play very well.

Crouse, obviously. He’s a big talent and throws pitches for strikes. I love the way that he competes. To me, that’s special. He’s not afraid. He likes a good challenge. So, you pull the talent and then you add the type of person and athlete that he is, and the mentality he has, that makes him even better.

 

So, what’s the feeling like when you see guy like C.D. (Pelham) get a call up? Now, you start seeing the guys get the brass ring, what does that mean to you?

Jaimes: When I think about C.D. – you remember those first couple of months in 2017, he struggled. Then, he started putting it together halfway through the year. When I saw him when he got called up last year, it kind of almost made me cry, because I know how hard he worked and I know how much patience he had with the process. Sometimes, he tried stuff and it didn’t work, but he gave his best effort.

When you see guys like that make it to the big leagues, it makes you feel good for them, because you know how hard they work. He’s a special kid and a great guy, a good teammate and he was always good with the coaches.

 

What’s your path to the big leagues, or do you see a path? Do you like this part of the process in the teaching and developing?

Jaimes: Yes, I love teaching. I would like to see myself at some point, in a few years, getting into the big leagues. That’s the ultimate goal, for sure. But, as long as I have a job and doing what I like, I’ll be okay.

 

What made you want to do it in the first place?

Jaimes: My last year, when I played, I was the oldest Latin kid on the team. We had a lot of Latin players, so I kind of took them under my wing. So I started guiding them to what they were going to face when they went to Spokane. So, that’s when I started liking the teaching part. They were listening to what I was saying, so that’s when coaching started to become more intriguing to me. I knew my playing career was probably going to be pretty short, so I thought, ‘you know what, if I get to stay in baseball and I can coach, I’ll be fine.’

Jose Jaimes Melvin Novoa Tim Brennan.JPG

Jose Jaimes (center) with catcher Melvin Novoa and pitcher Tim Brennan (Proffitt)

Forbes HR fortune leads Crawdads Victory

Ti’Quan Forbes lined a solo homer in the sixth and a pair of relief pitchers spun five shutout innings to give the Hickory Crawdads a 4-3 win over the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, Hickory (48-43 overall, 10-11 second half) salvaged the final contest of a three-game series with their South Atlantic League Northern Division rival and snapped a four-game home losing streak. Lakewood (39-51, 11-10) had won the first two games of the series and the loss interrupts a stretch in which the BlueClaws had won six of their last seven.

The Crawdads will begin the back half of the two-team homestand on Friday as they host the West Virginia Power in a four-game series.

After Hickory’s Dillon Tate and Lakewood’s Jose Taveras breezed through the first inning, both hand trouble keeping the opposing lineups in check during their remaining tenures on the hill.

The BlueClaws struck first in the second. Damek Tomscha singled to left to open the inning. One out later, Wilson Garcia sneaked a groundball through the right side before Deivi Grullon singled in Tomscha. Tate held Lakewood at bay from inflicting further damage as he got Grenny Cumana and Brendon Hayden to ground out.

Hickory answered in the bottom of the inning, as Josh Altmann doubled and scored on Tyler Sanchez’s bloop single to left-center.

Lakewood countered in the third when Tomscha’s sacrifice fly scored Zack Coppola. Sherman Lacrus quickly brought the Crawdads even again to start the bottom of the inning when he homered to left-center – his first of the season.

Grullon cracked his third homer (6) against the Crawdads in as many games in the series to put the BlueClaws up again 3-2 in the fourth. Lakewood put two other runners aboard in the inning, but Tate worked out of the inning by getting Josh Tobias to foul out to Forbes along the dugout at third.

A Lakewood error got the Crawdads even again in the fifth. With two outs, Frandy De La Rosa singled and moved to third on Dylan Moore’s bloop single to right. With Josh Altmann at the plate, BlueClaws catcher Grullon attempted a pickoff of Moore at first. First baseman Wilson Garcia allowed the throw to trickle away, which allowed De La Rosa to scamper to the plate with the tying run.

In the sixth, Forbes lined a fastball from Ismael Cabrera (0-1) just over the wall in left-center, which turned out to be the final margin of the game. That single-run margin, however, was not without peril. After Joe Palumbo (6-3) was relatively untouched from the fifth through the seventh innings, the BlueClaws threatened after one out in the eighth. Brandon Hayden walked and Zack Coppola placed a single into shallow left field.

Manager Steve Mintz brought in Garrett Brummett to replace Palumbo. Cornelius Randolph greeted Brummett with a sharp single to right that loaded the bases.

Brummett got Josh Tobias to pop up to De La Rosa at second and Tomscha followed with a popup in front of home plate. With a quartet surrounding the play, it took a diving play by first baseman Altmann to complete the out and hold the BlueClaws scoreless.

From there, Brummett retired the side in order in the ninth for his first pro save.

Rome Strikes (Out) for Win

The Rome Braves rallied with single runs in the eighth and ninth inning to claim a 3-2 over the Hickory Crawdads Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The loss for the Crawdads (27-17) combined with a win by Hagerstown (Md.) at Lakewood (N.J.) dropped Hickory into second place by a half-game in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. The Crawdads have lost five of the last six games.

Although Rome (17-27) remains at the bottom of the Southern Division standings, the Braves continue to confound the Crawdads and have evened the series record at 4-4.

What Happened?:

Hickory’s Pedro Payano and Rome’s Patrick Wiegel held the opposing offenses in check for the most part, though each contributed to their own trouble in the game.

Rome used defensive miscues to get onto the scoreboard in the second. With one out, Carlos Castro singled to right and moved to second on a passed ball by Chuck Moorman. After Payano struck out Lucas Herbert, Payano’s attempted pickoff of Castro bounced into center and moved the runner to third. Leudys Baez blooped a single to left for the RBI.

Ti’Quan Forbes got Hickory even in the third with his first pro home run, a fly ball that carried over the fence in left.

Wiegel returned the favor with a miscue of his own that gave Hickory the lead in the fifth. With one out, Eduard Pinto singled. Forbes followed with a bouncer back to the mound. Wiegel turned to second for the force play, but instead bounced the ball into centerfield, which allowed Pinto to go to third. Moorman’s groundout to second scored Pinto.

Though the Braves struck out three times in the eighth, Rome used two of those whiffs to score the tying run. With one out, Blake Bass struck out Austin Riley, but the pitch bounced to the backstop and allowed Riley to reach. Riley stole second and Jonathan Morales walked to end Bass’s night. Reliever Joe Palombo struck out Justin Elliott, but Carlos Castro loaded the bases with his second hit of the night. The Crawdads appeared to be out of the inning as Herbert struck out, but his strikeout pitch went to the backstop with Riley scoring on the play.

Rome scored the go-ahead run in the ninth as Ray-Patrick got an infield hit, stole second, and scored on Austin Riley’s double with two outs.

LeDarious Clark singled and stole second with two outs, but got no further as Pinto bounced back to the mound to end it.

 

Sloppy ‘Dads Hinder Efforts:

At times Monday, Hickory looked like a team that was tired from a weeklong road trip. Alejandro Salazar hit what looked like a routine single in the first. However, when centerfielder Eric Jenkins was slow to retrieve the ball, Salazar turned it to a hustle double, sliding into second easily.

Frandy De La Rosa appeared to lose track of the count as he remained in the batter’s box to hit after a third strike was called for the out.

Chuck Moorman didn’t seem his usual steady self behind the plate as the passed ball and two wild pitches all came on breaking balls by three different pitchers.

 

Forbes Stock up or down:

Ti’Quan Forbes showed in the course of Monday’s game the inconsistent season that has played out thus far.

At the plate, Forbes took a hanging curveball from Wiegel and served it out to left. However, with runners at second and third, Forbes mistimed a first-pitch fastball from new reliever Grayson Jones and hit it into a 4-6-3 double play.

At third base, Forbes made a hard-charging, barehanded play on a bunt by Justin Ellison in the sixth. In the ninth, Forbes bobbled an easy roller to extend the inning.

 

Impatience at the plate:

Of the 33 hitters Hickory sent to the plate on Monday, 21 of them saw four or fewer pitches. Eleven of them faced 1 or 2 pitches.

 

Payano not what it seems:

Payano needed 91 pitches to get through six innings and his fastball wasn’t without control issues, but his line score looks worse than it appeared. Of the seven hits he gave up over six innings, only Castro’s liner in the second was well struck. His curveball throughout the game had good snap to it with several missed bats, including all three strikes in a five-pitch K of Castro in the fourth.

Series Preview: Greenville at Hickory April 18-20

The Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers affiliate) host the Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) for a three-game series Monday through Wednesday at L.P. Frans Stadium to close out a seven-game homestand.

If you plan to go:

Games Monday and Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. with Wednesday’s tilt at 10:30 a.m.

Persons can get into the game free on Monday by bringing an item to support the Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry. Items needed are diapers, socks, men’s undershirts, light bulbs, batteries, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, or air fresheners. Item(s) must be $5 or more in value.

Tuesday is Dollar Dog Day. Dogs are admitted for $1 each and hot dogs are $1 each at the concession stand. The Crawdads will have 16 oz. craft pints and 22 oz. Pepsis for $2.

Wednesday is the first Education Day of the year.

Concessions are basic ballpark fare with a wider selection of items at the Crawdads Café, which is located above the 1B stands. New this year is a mac-and-cheese footlong hotdog and an updated version of the CLAWlossal

 

Where is it?:

L.P. Frans is located on Clement Blvd., approximately 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321. From I-40 east or west, take exit 123 B and follow the signs to U.S. 321 North. The left turn for Clement Blvd. is at the light that houses Pizza Hut, CVS, RaceTrac gas station and Peak Motors.

From the north, take Hwy 321 South to Clement Blvd. and turn right.

From downtown Hickory, take 3rd street NW to the west and follow it until it turns into Clement Blvd. past the U.S. 321 intersection.

 

Probables (Greenville/ Hickory):

Monday: RHP Anderson Espinoza vs. RHP Peter Fairbanks

Tuesday: LHP Logan Boyd vs. LHP Brett Martin

Wednesday: RHP Roniel Raudes vs. RHP Dillon Tate

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory and Greenville split a four-game series at LPFS last season in the only meetings between the clubs. The Crawdads have taken 9-of-12 the last two seasons. Since 2009, which is the start of the Rangers-Crawdads affiliation, Hickory is 34-29 overall, 23-21 at home. Overall, since the Drive began play in 2005 after moving from Columbia, Greenville holds the series lead 52-49, including a 28-24 mark at LPFS.

 

Entering the series – Hickory:

The Crawdads are 9-2, which is their best 11-game record to open a season since at least the 2000 season. (There are no game-by-game records available prior to 2000.) They are tied with the West Virginia Power for first in the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Northern Division… Hickory took the final two games of the four-game series with Kannapolis and have won 6-of-7 overall.

At the plate: the Crawdads are tied with Greenville with a .423 slugging pct., trails only Greenville in OPS (.760) at .758 and are second in batting avg. at .265. The Crawdads lead the SAL in total bases and are second in hits.

On the mound, the team ERA of 2.00 is second in the SAL and as a group have allowed the fewest HRs (2) in the league. Despite the number of errors, especially early on, Hickory has given up just six unearned runs

In the field:  After eight errors over the first four games of the season, the Crawdads have just five over the last seven.

On the bases: Hickory has a SAL-high of 35 steal attempts with 15 caught stealing. Eight different players have at least one steal with six putting up two or more. Dylan Moore leads with five and has yet to be caught.

 

Entering the series –Greenville:

The Drive are 7-4 after taking the final three games in their series at Columbia (S.C.) this weekend and sit two games behind first place Charleston (S.C.) in the SAL’s Southern Division. Greenville is in the midst of a stretch of games in which it had a three-game winning streak, a three-game losing streak, and now its current three-game winning streak.

At the plate: After scoring 25 runs over the first eight games of the season, Greenville exploded for 24 over the final three games, which included nine home runs against Fireflies pitching. That explosion has put them into the SAL lead with 13. They have more homers than doubles (12) and trail only in Hickory in total bases.

On the mound: As a group, the Drive is around the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, though their 2.66 ERA is fourth in the league. That ERA may need to be given more weight as to its excellence, considering that their home ballpark in Greenville is a hitter’s park. The relief pitching in many cases have been nearly lights out. Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Fernandez and Kuehl McEachern have combined to strike out 18 and walk one over 16.1 scoreless innings.

In the field: Next to last fielding pct. (.957), Greenville has 17 errors on the season, eight of those in the last five games. Infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe has four.

 

Players to watch- Hickory:

RHP Peter Fairbanks: The 22-year-old was the Rangers 9th round pick in 2015 out of Missouri. Allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks over five innings with four Ks in his first start at Greensboro last week.

LHP Brett Martin: The 2015 SAL All-Star returned for a tune-up of his repertoire and it has worked well out of the gate for Hickory in 2016. Unrattled after a rough first inning during opening night at Kannapolis, the native of Morristown, Tenn. has allowed one earned run over nine innings with 12 K and four walks. He is prone to hits, as Martin sports a .264 OBA in his career, including ten hits allowed this year. Martin is the Rangers No. 11 prospect according to MLB.com, No. 18 by Baseball America.

RHP Dillon Tate: The Rangers No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, No. 5 by Baseball America. He is also MLB.com’s No. 35 overall prospect and the 8th best RHP. In his opening start of the season, Tate allowed an unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts over 4.2 innings at Kannapolis. He returned for the home opener last Thursday to strike out ten Intimidators over six innings and allowed four hits. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.

LHP Joe Palumbo: Has been tough to face in his two outings, as he has struck out 12 over 6.1 innings. That ratio of 17.05 K’s-per-9 innings is tops among relievers. Palumbo was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist in N.Y.

2B Andy Ibanez: Has arguably been the best hitter in the SAL over the first week-and-a-half of the season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (18), doubles (7), batting (.439), slugging (.732), extra base hits (9), total bases (30) and is third in OBP (.489). Baserunning has been a problem area early on as he has been caught stealing five times with three pickoffs. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16.

CF Eric Jenkins: At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7. Had 13 strikeouts during the opening week-long road trip, but has adjusted for now with just three over the weekend. Has blazing speed with which he uses well to track down balls in the gaps. On offense, Jenkins will lay down effective bunts, but has the ability to pull the bat back and slap the ball around the field. Has shown emerging power as of later, with his first pro homer at Greensboro and a double to the track in CF vs. Kannapolis.

SS Yeyson Yrizarri: He is the No. 12 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com, No. 27 by Baseball America. Thus far, he has not appeared overmatched as a 19-year-old in his first full-season league. Yrizarri is errorless at the position and has shown good range. The cannon of an arm that was advertised ahead of his arrival has proved to be true. At the plate, he has a six-game hitting streak during which he is 9-for-25, including three two-hit games. Also has a streak of four games with at least one RBI. Showed promising power when he homered to LCF on Friday.

IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro last week, but had a six-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday vs. Kannapolis. Went 8-for-20 during the stretch. Has settled down at first after he made two errors opening night; gone errorless since and seems to look more comfortable there.

C Tyler Sanchez: At this point, Sanchez has worked himself into a few more at bats. Was the first catcher to work back-to-back games this season when he did so on Friday and Saturday, then played first on Sunday. Sanchez has shown patience at the plate with seven walks over his last four games.

Players to watch-Greenville:

RHP Anderson Espinoza: At 18, the native of Caracas, Venezuela is already the Red Sox No. 4 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com, which has him at the No. 37 overall prospect and the 10th-best right handed pitching prospect. Comes armed with a fastball that has touched 100 and an advanced curve and change. He shut down Asheville on two hits over five innings in his first start before West Virginia touched him for four runs (three earned) on six hits in his last start. Has nine Ks and no walks in 10 innings. Likely slated for around 75 pitches.

LHP Logan Boyd: The 22-year-old out of Sam Houston St. was the Red Sox 19th round pic in 2015. Gave up a hit per inning in his short-season tenure at Lowell (Mass.), has a 1.50 WHIP in two starts this season. Gave up two runs on four hits over three innings in his last start at Columbia.

RHP Roniel Raudes: From Nicaragua, the 18-year-old is MLB.com’s No. 14 prospect, No. 24 by Baseball America. Skipped short-season level after making his stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League last summer. Entered the season with 79 Ks and nine walks over 74 innings, is already at a 9/1 ratio in 10 innings this year. He four-hit Asheville to start his season and then allowed a run on three hits at Columbia in his last outing. Has a low-90s fastball with curve and change. Like Espinoza, will also likely top out at 75 pitches.

RHP Anyelo Leclerc: A member of the 2014 Crawdads squad, the Red Sox acquired him in the offseason during the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Has 10 Ks in 8.2 IP over 4 relief outings thus far in 2016. Gave up two runs in back-to-back outings before bouncing back on Sunday with a scoreless 1.2 innings at Columbia, though he gave up two walks and a hit.

CF Luis Alexander Basabe: The 19-year-old from El Vigia, Venezuela is listed as MLB.com’s No. 8 prospect, 9th by Baseball America. Is already in his fourth pro season after having signed with Boston in 2013 at 16. Evaluators have noted his speed and bat speed. A patient hitter at the plate for his age, has 126 walks in 867 plate appearances (15%). Has struggled at the start of the season (.176/.222/.353) with hits in only 3 of his 9 games. He is the twin brother of Drive infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe.

3B Michael Chavis: The Red Sox first-round pick (26th overall) in 2014 is in his second season with the Drive after a .223/.277/.405 season in 109 games last year. Still just 20, the native of Marietta, Ga. is the No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com. Won the home run derby at the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic and cranked out 16 homers with the Drive last year. But his 144 Ks derailed his season (31% K-rate). Has improved in that area early on in 2016 with just eight in 43 appearances. Is at .350/.395/.500 to start this season.

1B Josh Ockimey: The Red Sox 5th round pick in 2014, out of Sts. Neumann and Goretti High in Philly. Signed away from a commitment to Indiana. Already 6-1, 215, some evaluators have given comparisons a young Ryan Howard with his potential power.  Had four homers and 20 extra-base hits in 56 games at short-season Lowell last year. Coming off back-to-back homers at Columbia and is third in the SAL in slugging at .676). MLB.com ranks him as the Red Sox No. 16, while Baseball America pegs him at No. 23.

C Austin Rei: The Red Sox No. 25 prospect, according to MLB.com was their third round pick in 2015 out of the University of Washington. Struggled at the plate at short-season Lowell (.179/.285/.295 in 130 plate appearances), has started just 4-of-28 at Greenville. Caught 4 of the 6 runners attempting to steal this season.

Notes of Interest:

Both teams have yet to lose a game when having the lead after five innings. Hickory is 7-0, while Greenville is 5-0. Both are undefeated (4-0) when scoring first. The Crawdads have won six of seven games decided by more than three runs…Drive catcher Roldani Baldwin went to the 7-day DL and was replaced on the roster by C Jhon Nunez. It is Nunez’s first stint at low-A… Drive RHP Michael Kopech (No. 5 prospect) is on the DL…The lone Crawdads DL casualty is pitcher Jacob Shortslef (cut finger).

Game Story: Kannapolis at Hickory April 14

Dillon Tate was masterful and the lineup backed him with five runs early, which sent the Hickory Crawdads onto a 6-1 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators Thursday night in the home-opener at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Crawdads moved to 7-1 on the season with four of the wins coming against their in-state rivals. Kannapolis dropped to 3-5.

Hickory got on the board in the first as Eric Jenkins and Yeyson Yrizarri both doubled in the inning. In the second, Darius Day slapped a single into center to score Ti’Quan Forbes and Chuck Moorman. Later, Jenkins singled, moved to second on a balk and scored on Andy Ibanez’s single.

Frandy De La Rosa hit his second pro homer as he lifted a Zach Thompson fastball into the wind and out to left field to make it 5-0.

That was more than enough for Tate (1-0), who shutout the Intimidators over six innings. He allowed four hits and struck out ten batters.

Joe Palumbo relieved Tate in the seventh and added five strikeouts over the final three innings for his first career save.

Kannapolis scored its only run against Palumbo in the eighth as Corey Zangari singled in Landon Lassiter, who with three hits passed Andy Ibanez in the South Atlantic League’s early batting title chase.

Hickory accounted for its final margin with a run in the eighth as Forbes fly ball to center scored LaDarious Clark.

Thompson took the loss for the Intimidators, as he allowed five runs on eight hits and walked two over 3.1 innings.

 

The sticks:

Piling up 13 hits as a team, all nine Crawdads hitters had at least one hit with Jenkins, Ibanez, De La Rosa and Moorman all had two hits.

“When they can all stick their finger in the Kool Aid, that’s good every night,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz. “ I’m just happy with the way that we played tonight.“

Tate said that while the early runs didn’t necessarily help him relax on the mound, as much as it gave him a mentality to battle along with his teammates.

“It’s just the way the hitters are going about their business at the plate,” said Tate. “I see them grinding away. Our hitters are attacking their pitchers. When I see that, it makes me want to attack the hitters a little bit more, because I see my guys really going after them. They’re fighting for me and I fight for them. It’s just a cycle and a lot of pushing each other in a good way.”

Got a chance to really watch Yeyson Yrizarri hit for the first time without distraction. The first thing I notice is just how quick his hands are in turning on inside fastballs. He got out quickly on an inside fastball in the first and ripped it down in the line and into the LF corner. He almost repeated the same in the third.

Eric Jenkins looks more comfortable at the plate. He sent a first-pitch fastball over the head of CF Louis Silverio in the first. One inning later, he pulled a fastball into right.

De La Rosa put together an inside-out swing on a fastball that was enough to get it into the jet-stream wind and over the fence in left-center.

Good situational hitting by Day to get two runs in the second. He put enough on a Thompson fastball away to squirt it past the drawn-in infield and into center.

 

The mound:

It was thought that Tate would use and develop his changeup more this season, but honestly, once Tate established firm command of his fastball, the secondary pitches weren’t needed. Tate was in the mid-90s much of the night, topping out at 97. After Landon Lassiter singled to end an eight-pitch at bat to start the game, Tate retired the next 12 hitters.

“After he got through that first inning, he kind of settled in and he really understood that his fastball was the pitch that he needed right there,” said Mintz. “He was going to it glove side pretty much all night and was able to get some changeups and some breaking balls going there in the middle innings that helped him. You could tell there at the end that they were starting to get it timed up a little better. That’s why we get the guys to use all their pitches. We want them to be aggressive and establish the fastball early. That’s what he did and then he used his secondaries as he moved through the game.”

Tate struck out ten, but it was the manner in which he did it that was impressive. Five of the ten strikeouts were on four pitches or less. He nearly had a nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning in the second as the ninth pitch of the inning went for a grounder to short. By my count, Tate finished with 77 pitches, 58 of those strikes. Of the 21 batters he faced, only five batters saw more than 5 pitches in an at bat.

“That’s Jose’s (Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jamies) thing,” said Tate. “He’s a big advocate of four pitches or less with your batters. So, we go up there and all the pitchers have that mentality of just execute in four pitches or less and get an out.”

Palumbo

Honestly, because GameDay (what we use for entering the official play-by-play on line) was having issues, I missed much of Palumbo’s outing. What I did see, Palumbo showed good life on a 93-94 mph heater, but it was the curveball that gave the Intimidators fits, especially after following the fastball wizardry of Tate.

The gloves:

A pretty routine night defensively. Moorman came up with a strong throw to cut down Lassiter stealing second in the sixth. It was the first caught stealing attempt for Kannapolis this season. He did commit an error in the eighth trying to cut down Corey Zangari moving to second after he had singled in a run.

Dylan Moore made a pick of a hot grounder behind the bag at first to retire Antonio Rodriguez in the fourth.

 

The bases:

Moorman arguably had the key play of the game in the second by taking an extra base. After Forbes had doubled, Moorman lined a single to left, which was too shallow to score Forbes. Mintz had held up Forbes at third, but Lassiter airmailed a throw to home from left. Moorman saw the play develop and easily moved up to second. That sent the Kannapolis into a situation in which it brought the infield in to try to keep the runner at third on a grounder. Day capitalized on the defensive strategy and shot what would’ve likely been a double-play ball into centerfield, past Danny Mendick at second.

Ibanez was picked at first and later caught at home on a double-steal attempt in the fifth. On the steal attempt of home, Ibanez got a late jump, as Dylan Moore was caught in a rundown between first and second. As the throw came home, Ibanez pulled up near the plate and was thrown out. Ibanez has been thrown out stealing five times with three pickoffs.

“We had a couple of baserunning blunders there, but we’re going to do it and forcing them to go. I’m telling them to go and we’re going to see stuff like that. We’ll take it tomorrow and we’ll correct it and learn from and we’re going to keep moving forward.”

From the box score: Hickory at Kannapolis 4/8

 

I hope to do this on occasion for games I can’t attend. It won’t happen every game – or possibly not many at all – but there are things curious to me I notice that I will try and put into the blog.

Andy Ibanez is a professional hitter. After four hits on opening night, he dropped in two more on Friday, including his first home run of the season, a fly out to centerfield. That has to be some kind of power as Intimidators Stadium is not the easiest place to hit a ball out of in the first place. Secondly, although the game time wind was 6 mph (R to L), I spent Friday night in nearby Charlotte and it was much windier than that most of the night. Ibanez had to have killed that baseball to get it out to CF.

As I looked at Andy Ibanez hit this week, I tried to get in my mind who he looks like at the plate. Now, it’s never fair to make comparisons between an A-ball minor leaguer and a big leaguer, but that doesn’t stop most of us, and it’s fun anyway. With all that said, perhaps it’s the stock build of the 23-year-old, I have it in my head that Ibanez looks like Bill Madlock at the plate. (I can’t find a video of him hitting, but just for fun, I did come across this video of a brawl between Madlock and catcher Ted Simmons.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQbN1qlFSo8

Eric Jenkins didn’t register a hit (one walk in five plate appearances), but he created havoc on the bases with three steals and scored two runs. He stole two of those bases after reaching on a dropped-third strikeout in the seventh and scored on Yeyson Yrizarri’s sacrifice fly. He has a .200 OBP in two games and has scored three runs. This could be a fun player, ya think?

Dillon Tate allowed one unearned run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 4.2 innings. He also hit two batters. What I found interesting? A) He went 85 pitches, which is the most I can recall a Crawdads starter going in a first start as a Rangers affiliate. B) It took 85 pitches (52 strikes, 33 balls) to get through 4.2 innings. Twenty of those went to three batters, including an 8-pitch AB to Seby Zavala in the first and he needed 22 pitches to get two outs in the fifth. Tate did start 14 of the 21 batters with a first-pitch strike.

Fourteen more strikeouts posted by the Crawdads pitching staff after 13 on opening day and one earned run allowed in 18 innings. Joe Palumbo struck out seven over 3.1 innings and Johan Juan added one, though he did give up an run on two hits in the ninth.

Dylan Moore homered, as did Tyler Sanchez. Sanchez’s blast came against his former St. John’s teammate Alex Katz.

Crawdads commit two errors for the second straight game, three of those on the infield.

Looking at the 2016 Crawdads Roster: Pitchers

The Texas Rangers and Hickory Crawdads released the opening-day roster for the Crawdads earlier this week. I’ll take a look at the roster over two parts beginning with the pitchers in this entry.

 

In looking at the roster, the first thing I noticed was how much older the pitching staff is this season compared to season’s past as a Texas Rangers affiliate. During the Crawdads-Rangers tenure over the past seven seasons, Hickory has had such teen pitching phenoms as Martin Perez, Wilfredo Boscan, Wilmer Font, Joe Ortiz, Robbie Erlin, Andrew Faulkner, Victor Payano, Jose Leclerc, Akeem Bostick, Luis Ortiz, and Ariel Jurado start the season in a Crawdads uniform.

 

In 2015, 19-year-olds Jurado and Ortiz, along with 20-year old Brett Martin were the cornerstones of the starting rotation with LHP pitching prospect Yohander Mendez – himself 20 – waiting in the wings in the bullpen. This season, Jonathan Hernandez is the lone teen wolf (19) on the Crawdads staff.

 

Now, in the past, the Rangers have sent teen-aged pitchers to Hickory in early-to-mid May to save wear and tear on the arms (Joe Wieland, Neil Ramirez, Cody Buckel, Luke Jackson to name a few), with most repeating the Low-A level the following season. That may well happen here and that remains to be seen.

 

I also noticed a heavier – at least it seems to me – tilt towards pitchers with college backgrounds than in years past. Last year, seven of the 14 pitchers on the opening-day roster had four-year or two-year backgrounds. This year, 10 of the 12 have college experience, eight of those from a four-year school.

Last year’s pitching staff was an average of 21.4 years old (Baseballreference.com). At the start of this season, eight of the 14 members of the pitching staff are 22 and older. This is similar to the Pirate-affiliate days.

 

One possible effect of the heavier-than-normal college presence on the roster could be the allotment of innings. In years past, the Rangers would begin skipping starts at the midpoint of the season and heavily monitor the wear-and-tear of the younger arms to limit innings. However, with the older group, I wonder how much of that will be in play with this group. Even the younger pitchers on the roster (Brett Martin and Pedro Payano) have already built up to 90+ innings the past year. One thing to keep in mind, though, is several of the pitchers on the roster (Wes Benjamin, Adam Choplick to name a couple) have had “Tommy John” surgeries in the past and that will, of course, bear watching.

 

SURPRISES:

A couple of surprises, at least to me, related to the pitchers sent to Hickory. The first, for me, is the return of 2015 SAL All-Star Brett Martin. The left-hander had 72 Ks and 26 BBs in 95.1 innings, but at times struggled with consistency (1.07 WHIP first half of 2015, 1.41 second half) and with nagging injuries. Like Collin Wiles from 2015, this season could be about finding that groove of becoming a consistent six-to-seven inning starter each time out.

Brett Martin 2

2015 SAL all-star Brett Martin looks to build consistency during his second season with Hickory (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Another is the return of Dillon Tate, the fourth-overall pick in 2015. A major checklist item from his time at Hickory in August of 2015 was the development of a changeup and that could be better suited during his time in South Atlantic League ballparks rather than in the rarefied air of the high desert of California.

Dillon Tate 2

Dillon Tate rejoins Hickory after a brief stint with the Crawdads last summer (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

 

WHAT ELSE TO LOOK FOR:

Wes Benjamin comes to Hickory after pitching a lone inning in the AZL last summer. The Kansas product had been out since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.

 

Pedro Payano opened a ton of eyes in 2015, pitching at three levels with the final coming at Hickory. His three-pitch combination (fastball, curve, change) was used to great effect here in August and the playoffs, as he showed the ability to use any pitch in any count. Given that ability at age 21, his No. 29 prospect listing by MLB.com seems a bit low, though that could have more to do with the Rangers talent up the chain rather than with Payano’s ability. With his pitchability and poise on the mound, Payano could have a Ariel Jurado-type season that further opens eyes.

Pedro Payano

RHP Pedro Payano dominated the SAL in the final month of the 2015. season (Tracy Proffitt)

Starting rotation likely begins with Tate, Payano, Martin and Hernandez. Others with starting experience in the pros include Bass, Tyler Davis, Peter Fairbanks and Joe Palumbo. Jeffrey Springs started at Appalachian St.

 

 

2016 HICKORY CRAWDADS PITCHER CAPSULES

 

BLAKE BASS (RHP, 6-7, 265)

2015 Pro Season: 13 games (4 starts) at Spokane (Wash.), 33 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 15 BB, 29 K, 4.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .242 OBA.

About Bass: A native of Lubbock, Tex,. Bass, 22, was the Texas Rangers eighth-round pick in 2015 out of Angelo (Tex.) St., where he was a first-team All-Lone Star Conference pick. Was an All-State performer as a senior at Coronado High.

 

WES BENJAMIN (LHP, 6-1, 197)

2015 Pro Season: 1 game (1 start) at Arizona Summer League (AZL) Rangers, 1 IP, 1 BB, 2 K.

About Benjamin: A native of St. Charles, Ill., Benjamin, 22, was the fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Kansas. Was an All- Big 12 Freshman Team selection. Underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2014 (Tommy John). Formerly drafted by the New York Yankees (48th round) in 2011.

 

ADAM CHOPLICK (LHP, 6-8, 275)

2015 Pro Season: 16 games at Spokane, 33 IP, 1 HR, 23 BB, 35 K, 2.18 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .242 OBA.

About Choplick: A native of Denton, Tex., Choplick, 23, was the 14th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Oklahoma. Was formerly drafted by the Chicago White Sox (32nd round) in 2014 and the Arizona Diamondbacks (17th round) in 2011. Underwent Tommy John surgery while a junior at Denton Ryan High. Was second team All-State pick in baseball as a high school senior and a first team All-State performer as a senior in basketball.

 

TYLER DAVIS (RHP, 5-10, 190)

2015 Pro Season: 16 games (2 starts) at Spokane, 35 1/3 IP, 4 HR, 12 BB, 30 K, 5.09 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .293 OBA.

About Davis: A native of Seattle, Davis, 23, was the 23rd round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Washington. Was the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week (Sept. 1-7) after throwing six no-hit innings in a start for Spokane. Holds the Huskies record for innings pitched at the school, second in starts and fourth in wins and strikeouts. Was an All-Pac 12 selection his junior and senior seasons and an All-American in 2014. His brother Erik pitched for the Washington Nationals in 2013.

 

PETER FAIRBANKS (RHP, 6-6, 219)

2015 Pro Season: 13 games (11 starts) at Spokane, 57 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 22 BB, 47 K, 3.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .246 OBA.

About Fairbanks: A native of St. Louis, Mo., Fairbanks, 22, was the ninth round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Missouri. Was a first-team All-Conference infielder in high school at Webster Grove in 2012.  Underwent Tommy John surgery as a high school junior. His father played one season in the Houston Astros chain in 1983.

 

JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (RHP, 6-2, 173)

2015 Pro Season: 11 games (9 starts) at AZL Rangers, 45 IP, 0 HR, 12 BB, 3 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .250 OBA.

About Hernandez: A native of Santiago de los Caballos, D. R., Hernandez, 19, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.Baseball America has Hernandez as the 20th best Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 28. His father, Fernando, pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers during a 14-season pro career.

 

JOHAN JUAN (RHP, 6-1, 180)

2015 Pro Season: 18 games at Dominican Summer League (DSL) Rangers, 43 1/3 IP, 2 HR, 7 BB, 46 K, 1.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .218 OBA.

About Juan: A native of La Romana, D. R., Juan, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013. After posting a 1.95 ERA over three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Juan will be making his U.S. debut this year.

 

OMARLIN LOPEZ (RHP, 6-3, 162)

2015 Pro Season: 20 games at Spokane, 36 IP, 3 HR, 16 BB, 36 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .267 OBA.

About Lopez: A native of Payita, D.R., Lopez, 22, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.

 

BRETT MARTIN (LHP, 6-4, 190)

2015 Pro Season: 10 games (18 starts) at Hickory, 95 1/3 IP, 6 HR, 26 BB, 72 K, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.65 OBA.

About Martin: A native of Morristown, Tenn., Martin, 20, was the fourth round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Walters St. (Tenn.) CC. Named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in 2015. Threw four shutout innings against Asheville in Game 2 of the 2015 SAL Championship Series. Originally attended Tennessee before transferring to Walters St. He is the Rangers No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com and No. 18 tabbed by Baseball America.

 

JOE PALUMBO, (LHP, 6-1, 168)

2015 Pro Season: 13 games (9 starts) at Spokane and Hickory, 58 2/3 IP, 3 HR, 25 BB, 43 K, 3.07 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .253 OBA.

About Palumbo: A native of Holbrook, N.Y., Palumbo, 21, was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist (N.Y.)  High. Made a start for Hickory on the final regular season game in 2015. Named to the Arizona Summer League All-Star Team in 2014.

 

PEDRO PAYANO (RHP, 6-2, 207)

2015 Pro Season: 17 games (12 starts) at DSL Rangers, AZL Rangers, Hickory, 89 IP, 1 HR, 22 BB, 101 K, 1.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .244 OBA.

About Payano: A native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., Payano, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2011. Named Rangers minor league pitcher of the month in July 2015 after going 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA. Allowed one or fewer runs in five of six starts for Hickory after joining the club August 1, 2015. Threw six shutout innings vs. Asheville in Game 1 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series.

 

JACOB SHORTSLEF (RHP, 6-5, 235)

2015 Pro Season: 16 games at AZL Rangers and Spokane, 37 IP, 1 HR, 8 BB, 33 K, 1.95 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .271 OBA.

About Shortslef: A native of Sterling, N.Y., Shortslef, 21, was the Rangers 26th round pick in 2015 out of Herkimer County (N.Y.) CC. As a sophomore, ranked ninth nationally with a .157 opponent batting avg. Struck out 20 of 21 batters in a game while a senior at Hannibal (N.Y.) High. Brother Josh pitched for Hickory in 2003 and 2004, as part of his ten-season, minor-league career with the Pirates.

 

JEFFREY SPRINGS (LHP, 6-3, 193)

2015 Pro Season: 17 games at Spokane and Hickory, 27 2/3 IP, 2 HR, 15 BB, 39 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .200 OBA.

About Springs: A native of Belmont, N.C., Springs, 23, was the Rangers 30th round pick out in 2015 of Appalachian St. Left the Mountaineers third in career starts and fourth in strikeouts. Attended South Point High and led the Red Raiders to the state 3A title in 2011 and named the MVP of the championship series. Named 2011 North Carolina 3A player of the year.

Jeffrey Springs

Appalachian St. product Jeffrey Springs returns to Hickory after a brief stint last August. (Tracy Proffitt)

 

ERIK SWANSON (RHP, 6-3, 250)

2015 Pro Season: 10 games at AZL Rangers, Hickory, Frisco (Tex.) and Round Rock (Tex.) 15 1/3 IP, 1 HR, 7 BB, 14 K. 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .185 OBA.

About Swanson: A native of Terrace Park, Ohio, Swanson, 22, was the Rangers eighth round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC. Made seven appearances for Hickory before landing on the disabled list (elbow strain) on July 23 through the remainder of the season. Named Most Outstanding Pitcher while leading Iowa Western to NJCAA Division I College World Series title in 2014. Was to attend Pittsburgh before deciding to sign with Texas.

Erik Swanson 2

Erik Swanson pitched across four minor league levels with the Rangers in 2015 before an elbow strain ended his season in July (Tracy Proffitt)

 

DILLON TATE (RHP, 6-2, 197)

2015 Pro Season: 6 games (6 starts) at Spokane and Hickory, 9 IP, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K. 1.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, .100 OBA.

About Tate: A native of Claremont, Calif., Tate, 21, was the first round pick (fourth overall) of the Rangers in 2015 out of California-Santa Barbara. Was highest-drafted player to appear in a Crawdads uniform since Brad Lincoln (4th overall) did so in 2006.Named 2015 Louisville Slugger All-American and a Golden Spikes Award semi-finalist in 2015. Allowed 2 runs over four innings in three appearances for Hickory during the 2015 postseason. Currently the No. 4 Rangers prospect by Baseball America and No. 5 by MLB.com, which has Tate as the No. 36 prospect in the minors and the eighth-best right-handed pitching prospect.