Results tagged ‘ Josh Morgan ’
The 2016 baseball season has arrived in full fury across the land, and I for one could not be more excited. I enjoy covering the other sports and the privilege of seeing some of the best high school competition in the state of North Carolina, not to mention some incredibly talented coaches and players. But I love baseball and count the months until it begins anew.
For me, there’s nothing like fresh green grass upon which the game is played (no turf for me, thank you). The words “Pitchers and Catchers Report” is like Christmas morning to me, in which the umpire’s bellow of “Play Ball”, the pop of a ball to a leather glove, and the crack of the bat are my carols.
In most sports, you have a pretty good idea of what teams will be in the hunt for a title run. Not so, in baseball. The beginning of the season gives hope to all who play the game. From Little Leagues to the big leagues, all who play feel in their hearts and minds “this is our year”.
That chant was certainly felt here in Hickory much of the 2015 season as the Crawdads captured the South Atlantic League championship. For me, it was a personal joy to follow the team up close on a daily basis and to see that work rewarded with a league title. It was a cool experience to see the ups-and-downs of the entire season and to have the story evolve the way it did. To be able to interview many of the players and report their experiences – from unbridled, sometimes arrogant confidence to the worry of it all coming to an end at any moment – it was a dream come true for someone that has been a fan from the age of six.
Now, we turn the page and look to 2016. For fans of the major leagues teams, they have a decent idea of who will don the big league uniforms on opening day and hopes on how they will perform.
For us in low-A, it’s wait and see.We don’t know what we will have here in Hickory until the Crawdads take the field. For the most part, these kids have had very little time to work together as a unit, if at all. It’s an oddly mysterious feeling each year to see how April plays out and to get a sense of what the summer will become.
There are certainly questions as to who will come to L. P. Frans Stadium. Will Luis Ortiz return for a third season on the hill in Hickory, or will the Texas Rangers let him have a go at pinball baseball at High Desert? Will Pedro Payano be able to build on a strong final month of the season on the hill?
Will we see wunderkinds Yeson Yrizarri and TiQuan Forbes on the Hickory infield? Does Josh Morgan come back here as a catcher? In light of his 80-game suspension from last season, does Travis Demeritte warrant a third season at second at L.P. Frans, or do the Rangers push him up the ladder with an edict that it’s time for the former first-rounder to put it together?
How many bases will Eric Jenkins steal in a Hickory uniform? Who are the other players from the 2015 team to come back? Suddenly pushed into a new role with the promotion of Spike Owen- formerly announced as the Crawdads manager – to the third base coaches box in Arlington, how will Steve Mintz fare as a stateside manager for the first time?
As the season begins four weeks from the typing of these words, I can’t wait to see the picture take shape as the events begin to be painted on the canvas that is 2016.
I missed the clinching game, but I did get a few pics of the celebration and a snapshot with the SAL trophy.
As a 19-year-old, Hickory Crawdads infielder Josh Morgan has had a nice season, especially given the slow start to the 2015 campaign.
The third-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2014 out of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High School led the Crawdads in hits, walks and on-base percentage (.385) prior to a broken right index finger suffered on August 5 that ended his season.
After a .246/.293/.319 slash in April, Morgan began to settle into the everyday grind and became an integral part of the lineup and finished at .288/.385/.362. In the field, Morgan made just ten errors total in 98 games at short and third.
“He’s been a big part of everything we’ve done,” said Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale. “A 19-year-old kid that, quite honestly, he’s a guy that’s not going to hit balls farther than anybody. He’s not going to throw it farther than anybody. But the kid’s an all-around baseball player. He can do so many different things and do them well.”
In conversations with scouts, most are pleased with the plate discipline has shown at a young age (53 Ks/ 45 BBs in 416 plate appearances).They’ve been mixed on how much power he will develop, essentially seeing his ceiling as a gap-to-gap hitter. In the field, several scouts see Morgan’s range and feel he will eventually move to second.
However based on work ethic, I wouldn’t doubt the ability of Morgan to achieve much of what he wants to. My first memory of Morgan was taking extra ground balls at third base after the first batting practice session at L.P. Frans Stadium.
In the interviews I’ve done with Morgan this season, I’ve found him to be an articulate young player – more so than most 19-year-old. Most of his answers are not the usual “baseball speak”, but thought out answers.
He is aware of and confident in the baseball talent he possesses and the potential that lies ahead for a successful career in the game. But he is sturdily grounded in his faith and the upbringing he received from his parents. Morgan has the potential to be a leader of people in whatever industry life takes him. For now it is baseball.
I spoke with Morgan during the early-August homestand prior to his injury. When I found out about the injury, I debated on re-recording parts of the interview as some of the questions and answers are now outdated. But I decided to let it stand and so below is my interview with Josh Morgan.
First of all, 14 months ago you walked across a stage with a cap and gown on and you played you last high school game. Now, here you are almost a full season in. What kind of whirlwind has that been over the last 14 months?
Morgan: It’s been crazy. It’s something that I couldn’t have dreamed of, you know walking across the stage and then I see that I’m here in Hickory, N.C. playing the game I love for a living. It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s what I wanted and it’s cool. It’s a blessing to be out here and to be with my friends and to see how far all of us – my family and the guys in the same clubhouse as me – have come. We definitely not done yet. We’re in low-A, so we have a long ways away from our goal. I think we’re all happy with where we’re at right now and we’re going to try to make a push to the playoffs and try to do well in the playoffs.
You talked about being overwhelmed. What have been some of the things for you that have been maybe a little more than you bargained for going in?
Morgan: I think just the long days. Before I signed, I didn’t know that it was going to be this long – just the grind. You always hear all the scouts ask you before you sign, “Are you ready for the grind? Are you ready to do this and to do that?” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah. I’m ready,” because you are. You really don’t understand the grind and you don’t really understand what you go through until you actually live it out. I think that’s different from what all the high school guys are used to.
I think it was a cool process just for me to go to Arizona my first season and then getting moved to Spokane. Now I’m in Hickory in my second season and just about to finish off my first full season, which is real cool. It’s a bittersweet feeling because we still have a month left, but you see everything starting to die down and we’re all starting to focus a little more just as the playoffs come up. I think we’re all excited about how we’re going to do in the playoffs. It’s been a fun season, so hopefully we’ll finish off this last month strong.
Everybody has an introductory moment where they realize that this is a different game. A pitcher might face a batter that sends one by his ear. What was the moment for you that told you that this is now big-boy baseball?
Morgan: I had two. One of them was my third game playing in Arizona last year, I got hit in the ribs by a 98. I was like, “this is happening right now.”
The second time, it was this season. It was the first month, month-and-a-half of the season where I wasn’t hitting as well as I wanted to. I really started to see what the grind was and I really started to see what it took to overcome different struggles. I realized – with Corey Ragsdale’s help and everyone’s help – that it’s a long season and you’re going to go up and you’re going to go down. You want to stay as even as you can and do the best that you can. But you’re not always going to get a hit; you’re not always going to make the play. I think it took a little while for me to understand that it’s such a long season and that there’s a lot of ups and downs.
I’m real happy with how I’ve done and how the team has done. I really thank Rags and Matos and Oscar and Comie and all of our coaching staff that’s helped me. My parents have definitely been number one up there. It’s been good; it’s been fun.
They will talk about “it’s not how you start, but how you finish.” You’ve got to be pleased that though you did start slow, you had a gradual increase throughout the year. Has that been the way you’ve see your season?
Morgan: Obviously, I started slower than I wanted to, but now I see myself finishing strong. From the start until now, I think I’ve done a lot better. I see myself finishing strong and I see our team finishing strong. We’re excited about what’s to come and I think it’s just the focus has to stay there The mental part has to stay there. It’s the dog days. It’s the last month of the season where you’re thinking about home. You’re thinking about home-cooked meals. You’re thinking about your girlfriend and everything like that. You have really stay focused on what you’re trying to accomplish in the season. I think we’re all doing a very good job of finishing strong.
How cool has it been to have your parents out to Hickory a couple of times this season?
It was great. It kind of made it feel like home again. My teammates and our coaching staff make it feel like home, because they’re loving guys. Even if they don’t want to say it, they know how to handle us and they’re good guys. But I think them coming out here was great. I played well in front of them and I was really happy that I got to spend some time with them together. They came out two times, so I was happy that they came and I was spending every minute with them outside of the field. It was good and I can’t wait to see them again.
What do you know now about the game that maybe surprised you?
Morgan: I think maybe the different cultures. I knew there was a lot of Latin guys and different guys here. It’s fun talking and discussing with all the guys who speak different languages. I think that’s really cool and it’s helped me with my Spanish to help them with their English. So, it’s just cool to see what they bring to the table and to see how they work, too. They’re definitely hard workers, too. Just to see where they come from: the Dominican Republic, Curacao, Venezuela, wherever it is. It’s cool to see how hard they work.
The other thing that I was surprised by, like I said, was just how long the season is and how the grind works. It’s all good and I’m taking everything in and seeing how it goes.
What improvements have you made that maybe didn’t seem possible 14 months ago?
Morgan: I’ve made a couple of improvements. I think that my biblical standpoint has improved, just because 14 months ago I didn’t really didn’t struggle that much on the baseball field because it was high school. It was hard and you had to deal with school and grades and then the baseball side of it and the stress of getting drafted. But, on the baseball field, I feel like I was good. Now, I still feel very confident, but it’s just different. I feel comfortable now and I’m happy with how things are going.
My first memory of you was when you guys were out taking BP before the Lenoir-Rhyne exhibition game. Everybody was done and you asked Chad Comer to hit ground balls for you at third. I remember taking pictures of that. Do you feel like you’ve had to make the extra effort, or is it something that was ingrained in you that you want to take the extra groundball or the extra BP? Where does that come out of for you?
Morgan: I work hard. I know that I work hard and I’m going to work hard on and off the field. I’m going to be as healthy as I can. I’m going to put myself in the best situation for me to have success on the field. That comes from my parents working hard and me seeing them do what they do and providing well for me. I think that’s just going to carry on for the rest of my life and for my kid’s life as well.
We’re a working-hard family. We don’t want anything handed to us and so the way I see it, if you want something, you’ve got to go get it. I think me taking extra ground balls and some extra hacks in the cage is just who I am.
I do want to outwork people, but I don’t see anything as a competition like, “I’m going to work harder than him; I hope he fails and I don’t.” No. I’m not going to look at it like that. Everything I see as a competition, yeah, but I’m not going to wish failure upon someone. I want all my friends and everyone to do well and have success, but I work hard and I feel like that’s a plus for me.
When you watch games on TV, do you get a taste of “I’m getting closer”?
Morgan: Yeah. You still think, “That’s the dream. Someday, I want to call myself a big leaguer.” You realize that you’re in the organization for a reason. People have invested in you and you need to work hard and do what you can on and off the field to see yourself there.
Obviously, you have to have a lot of confidence to get there. You have to work hard and do what you can during certain situations. I feel like it’s still a little “Wow”. I still get a little goose bumps when I think about it.
I remember in spring training, I was helping out the big league team with different games and everything and I was hanging out with Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus and all those guys. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was a wow feeling. I’m next to these guys and it’s cool to see how they work and how they go about the game. They’re all hard workers and they do what they do. You see how they’ve had a lot of success on the field and I just want to be like those guys and work as hard as I can to get to where they are.
Who do you see yourself drawn to that you say to yourself, “this is who I want to be”?
Morgan: It’s easy for me and that’s Derek Jeter. He’s a role model on and off the field. You never see him getting into any trouble or anything. He’s a great leader and he knows what he wants to do. He’s kept his baseball life away from his off-the-field life, which I have a lot of respect for. He’s the captain and you have respect for him. You see him being a role model for, I want to say, everyone in the game. He’s changed the game and he’s a great human being from what I see.
Do you prefer third or short?
Morgan: I don’t prefer either one, as long as I’m in the lineup. I like playing third, short, second. Wherever they put me, I’m going to work hard and do the best I can on that given night. I feel like if you’re in the lineup that night, you don’t have any excuse to not get the job done. So, whatever position you’re playing, wherever you’re batting in the lineup – there’s going to be changes, there’s going to be different positions – but wherever I am, I’m confident that I’m going to get the job done.
What do you feel like is the next step for you in your development? Or, maybe what is the biggest thing you have to develop between now and a big league callup?
Morgan: I think just taking the game in and keeping the game to a certain pace and slowing the game down. Sometimes I tend to speed the game up and get into different situations. I just need to relax and learn from different things and learn from different situations that I’ve already been in. I see myself getting better at that.
When you get a call to the big leagues, what does that moment look like for you?
Morgan: Aw, man. My heart’s going to drop and I’m getting goose bumps. I’m going to call my parents, because it’ll be a dream come true making the big leagues – not only making the big leagues, but staying in the big leagues is what I want to do.
You hear all around our organization that making the big leagues is hard, but staying in the big leagues is harder because there are guys like myself that want to get to the top and grinding to get to the top every single day. But that call is going to be great and I can’t wait for it to happen and I’m confident that it will happen. I’m excited, but I’m going to trust the process. I’m still far away from that, though. I want to make sure I finish every level and finish my duties here. I’m not looking too far ahead, but rather focusing on right here.
Who do you think it will mean the most to?
Morgan: My parents. Myself, obviously, but they’ve seen what I’ve gone through on and off the field and all the struggles. They’ve been with me one-hundred percent of the time. I know my mom and dad will be crying and you might even get a tear from me. It’s going to be a great time and I can’t wait for it to happen. I think they’re all excited and I’m excited as well. I’m confident and I’m going to work hard to get there.
Is there a weight lift, a road trip to Lakewood, or a particular moment that you might look back and say, “okay, this was worth it?”
Morgan: I would say this whole season. It’s not just one moment; it’s kind of the whole season that’s worth it. All the ups and downs, all the friendships that I’ve made just form this team. It’s a great group of guys – one of the best groups of guys that I’ve ever been with.
There are no selfish players. A lot of times you hear of teams that have selfish players and only care about themselves. This team in Hickory, we all care about each other and seeing the team win. So, whatever we have to do, where going to get the job done to help the team win. It’s been a great year overall and hopefully we’ll finish this last month off strong and make some plays in the playoffs.
The Crawdads posted an 8-2 lead before hanging on late to a 9-6 win over the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Hickory (63-39 overall, 19-15 second half) has now won 7-of-8, while the Suns (50-51, 15-19) have lost 12-of-18.
Here is my game story from the pages of the Hickory Daily Record.
The lineup: All nine hitters had at least one hit with Jose Trevino and Juremi Profar getting at least two. Hickory, especially the right-handers, continues to be pitched to on or just off the outside corner of the plate. For the most part, the hitters have been able to discern balls/ strikes –and attack or lay off appropriately – or it pitches up the middle or away.
The few pitches that made their way over the inner half of the plate were hammered hard. None of the Suns trio of pitchers (Dave Van Orden, Luis Torres or Andrew Cooper) were able to present breaking pitches often enough to keep Crawdads hitters off stride, so it was easy pickings at times.
Jairo Beras: Read this.
Xavier Turner: His first two games with Hickory have certainly had its moments. In his first game last week at Asheville, he reportedly dislocated his shoulder on the first play of the first inning.
Returning from the disabled list, Turner crushed a fastball to medium left-center. Thinking triple out of the box, he caught sight of Corey Ragsdale’s stop sign after rounding the bag at second. As he put the brakes on, he slipped and stumbled. With the throw coming into the second behind him, Turner made it to third and slid around the tag of 3B David Masters.
At 6-1, 205 the Rangers 19th round pick showed good speed on the basepaths. He handled both plays in the field without concerns.
Juremi Profar: Had a pair of doubles, both on off-speed pitches away, and would’ve had a third if not for a brilliant catch in right by Dale Carey on a leaping dive on the track.
7th inning ABs: Facing reliever Luis Torres, Josh Morgan spoiled fastball after fastball away before succumbing on a fastball low and in on the tenth pitch. Eduard Pinto then worked a nine-pitch AB into a walk, again spoiling a bushel (correct term?) of fastballs. Able to watch this sequence, Jose Trevino spit on a fastball off the plate and then crushed the next one out of the park in left.
Yohander Mendez: Fastball command was a bit spotty, but he showed good arm action with the changeup that baffled the Suns hitters all night. Had 12 missed bats in 4.2 innings, all but two by my count coming on offspeeds. Didn’t use the curve as much on Friday, and what he did use was a bit loopy. But the change was definitely on. Finished at 77 pitches (49 strikes).
Scott Williams: For me the pitcher that has taken the largest step forward in the second half is Williams. Friday night was mostly fastballs with an occasionally slider mixed it. Fastball 94-96 has life but the biggest thing is simply confidence to attack hitters with it.
Chris Dula: A hit batter on the first pitch of the eighth, a single and two walks made Dula’s night a short one. Fastball is 94-96, but there is no control as to where it is going. Have to wonder if it at some point he makes a trip to Arizona.
Ariel Jurado: Just never looked comfortable all night. He usually is a get the ball and let’s go kind of pitcher, but on Friday there was much more walking around the mound than I recall. Fastball seemed a tick down and did not have the usual precision, as he walked two in an appearance for only the second time this season.
Hickory at Asheville
After the Hickory Crawdads came from behind twice, they scored three runs in the top of the ninth to claim a 7-4 win over the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Field.
The Crawdads (58-38 overall, 14-14 second half) took two of three games in the series and finished the season series with the Tourists at 7-2. Hickory went 6-1 at McCormick this season and is 13-2 there over the past three seasons. The Crawdads take an overnight bus to Lexington, Ky. and open a four-game series with the Legends on Saturday.
Asheville (49-48) dropped to 17-10 in the second half and remain a game-and-a-half in front of Augusta for the second-half, Southern Division title chase.
The two teams combined for 25 hits, but stranded 15 altogether in what turned into a see-saw affair.
Hickory put the first four runners of the game on base against Asheville starter Ryan Castellani with Jose Cardona scoring on Eduard Pinto’s single. The Crawdads missed a chance for more when Josh Morgan was thrown out at second trying to stretch a hit into a double. With runners on first and second and one out, Luke Tendler’s grounder forced Pinto at third, but 3B Josh Fuentes’ throw to first was wild placing Crawdads and second and third. Despite four hits and error, the Crawdads were held to the one run after Jairo Beras bounced out to the pitcher.
The Tourists scored an unearned run on Crawdads starter Ariel Jurado to even the game in the first. Shane Hoelscher doubled with two outs and scored when Roberto Ramos’ grounder went through the legs of Jonathan Meyer at first.
The Crawdads retook the lead in the third when Eduard Pinto was hit by a pitch and later scored on Luke Tendler’s sacrifice fly. However Asheville tied the game in the bottom of the inning as Omar Carrizales doubled to right and scored on Dom Nunez’s single to make it 2-2.
The Tourists took their first lead of the game in the fourth against new pitcher Yohander Mendez. Ramos doubled and stole third before coming home on Fuentes’s single.
Meyer’s RBI single in the sixth retied the game at three, but Juremi Profar’s double play ball stranded a runner at third.
Again, the Tourists fought back in the bottom of the inning. Jairo Rosario led off the inning with a double and scored on Fuentes’s second RBI single of the game.
Hickory answered in the seventh. Cardona doubled off the wall in left and moved to third on a Pinto’s sacrifice bunt. Trevino’s sacrifice fly to center made it 4-4.
Asheville put runners at second in both the seventh and eighth inning, but stranded both.
The decisive rally for Hickory came against reliever Jerad McCrummen (4-3) started when Profar doubled off the wall in right-center. Cardona beat out a bunt to put runners at the corner for Morgan. His liner to centerfielder Carrizales was just deep enough to score Profar, who slid around the tag of the catcher Nunez. Pinto singled in Cardona, then moved to third on a pair of McCrummen wild pitches before trotting home on Tendler’s double.
Adam Dian had a successful debut with the Crawdads by retiring all five batters he faced to close out the game and pick up the win (1-0).
Jose Cardona went 3-for-5 and scored three times, but it was his speed that factored into the equation in both the first and ninth innings. In the first, Cardona fought off Castellani’s change off, sending a soft liner that fell to second baseman Shane Hoelscher at the cut of the grass. Hoelscher made the play, but Cardona beat the throw to first and later scored the game’s first run. In the ninth, Cardona’s sacrifice bunt went between the mound and the third base line, with Cardona reaching just ahead of Fuentes’s throw.
Cardona also cut down a runner trying for a double in the sixth.
Josh Morgan had the key AB of the ninth. After falling behind 0-2 on two of McCrummen’s fastball, Morgan fouled off a slow curveball and let another go by for a ball. The next pitch was a fastball up that he lined into center for the sacrifice fly.
Eduard Pinto ripped first-pitch fastballs for RBIs in the first and ninth inning. His sacrifice in the seventh moved Cardona to third from where he scored on Trevino’s sac fly.
Jose Trevino had a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly.
Luke Tendler doubled in a run in the ninth and made a leaping catch into the wall in right to rob Carrizales of a hit in the first.
Juremi Profar’s double starting things in the decisive ninth inning. In scoring the go-ahead run in the ninth, Profar had to steer around Nunez, who had to leap to make the catch from center and then tried for the backhand tag. In the third, Profar made a backhanded stop off a short hop to start a 5-4-3 double play.
Carlos Arroyo ran down a one-hop, soft liner off the bat of Yonathan Daza by ranging back and to his right. Because the ball held up, Ramos had to hold up at second and then failed to advance when Arroyo looked him back to the base. Arroyo then recorded the out at first.
Jonathan Meyer stayed with a breaking pitch away from James Lomangio and sliced it along the line in right for a run-scoring single.
Adam Dian: Showed a fastball 90-93, but took advantage of an aggressive lineup as he started the outing with several curve and changeups, getting Ryan Stevens to chase a breaking ball for a strikeout to strand a runner at second.
Yohander Mendez gave up nine hits over 4.1 innings, four of those by left-handed hitters. From my vantage point along the third-base line, it appeared righties were able to lean out over the plate and serve pitches up the middle or to right. A single on an 0-2 pitch by Rosario started the run-scoring inning in the sixth. Carrizales also singled on an 0-2 pitch in the seventh.
McCormick Field turf: Carrizales’ double in the third happened when Luke Tendler slipped and took out a hefty divot as he attempted to make a likely catch on the liner. Carrizales eventually scored in the inning.
The Hickory Crawdads begin a seven-game road trip with a three-game series against the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Park.
Probables (Hickory/ Asheville):
Wednesday: Cody Buckel (RH, 0-4, 3.32) vs. Sam Howard (RH, 4-8, 4.24)
Thursday: Brett Martin (LH, 4-4, 3.31) vs. Helmis Rodriguez (LH, 7-4, 3.49)
Friday: Ariel Jurado (RH, 10-0, 2.10) vs. Ryan Castellani (RH, 0-6, 4.04)
Recent Series History:
The Crawdads are 5-1 against the Tourists in 2015, including a four-game sweep at McCormick back in April. Over the last three seasons, Hickory is 11-1 at Asheville and 20-16 since 2009.
Entering the Series – Hickory:
The Crawdads (56-37 overall, 12-13 second half) dropped the final two games of a series against Augusta to finish a weeklong homestand at 4-3. After scoring 38 runs in the first four games of the homestand, Hickory scratched out just five over the final three. The lineup is batting .254/.319.382 for the season in what has been a down year for offense in the South Atlantic League. Hickory is second in the SAL with 66 homers.
After scuffling on the last road trip, the pitching staff returned to its old self by allowing seven earned runs over the last five games. Overall, the club leads the SAL in ERA (2.90), WHIP (1.17), and has given up the fewest hits, runs and earned runs.
Defensively, the Crawdads have committed a SAL-low of 80 errors.
Entering the series- Asheville:
The Tourists (48-46, 16-8) took the last three games at Greenville to close out a 5-2 road trip. Oddly Asheville is just 22-22 at home this season (5-4 second half), while carrying a winning record on the road.
As usual, the Tourists bashed mound opponents at home (.278/.353/.442), but have only scored 20 more runs at home than on the road. Opponents are hitting .288 at McCormick and 41 of the 55 home runs allowed by Tourists pitching have occurred there. Asheville has 205 stolen bases this season to lead the SAL.
Defensively, Asheville have the worst collective group in the league with 145 errors committed in 94 games (.961 fielding).
Players to watch- Hickory:
OF Luke Tendler: He continues to be among the hottest hitters in the SAL, and certainly on the Crawdads. He is leads the Crawdads in total bases and tied with Carlos Arroyo for the most hits (28) in the second half. His 21 RBI are second in the SAL. For the year, Tendler is fourth in doubles (23) and fifth in total bases.
CF Jose Cardona: Has become a catalyst for the offense since moving to the leadoff spot. Before ending the homestand 0-for-8, Cardona had a nine-game hitting streak during which he went 17-for-34, scored 12 runs, knocked in 10 runs and stole seven bases. A dead-red, fastball hitter, Cardona has a .304/.375/.532 slash leading off an inning.
SS Josh Morgan: Has handled shortstop well since the injury to Michael De Leon, going 25 games without an error at the position. At the plate, he continues to hold up in his first full season. Morgan has shown a good eye with at least one walk in ten of his last 15 games (13 total) and has reached base in 15 of 18 games.
2B Carlos Arroyo: Went three straight games without a hit for the first time in his Crawdads career to close out the homestand.
OF Jairo Beras: Hitting .288 in July and July and has 23 of his 26 RBI the last two months.
SP Cody Buckel: Looking to corral control issues, has walked 15 batters and hit five in his last 23 innings (5 starts). He also has 16 Ks over last 15 innings.
SP Brett Martin: After posting his shortest start of the year (1.2 innings at Lakewood), Martin put up one of his better ones in his last outing against Greensboro when he allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. Martin threw three-hit ball over six innings at Asheville back in April.
Ps Ariel Jurado/ Yohander Mendez: The tandem continues to wreck havoc on opposing lineups. In their five outings together, the duo has allowed 36 baserunners and struck out 39 over 34.2 innings. Separately, Mendez has a 1.15 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in 39 innings, while Jurado has a 2.10 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.
Players to watch – Asheville:
C Dom Nunez: The number nine prospect (mlb.com) of the Colorado Rockies has had a dominant second half with a SAL-high seven homers to go with a .373/.506/.780 slash. He was drafted in the sixth round (2013) as an infielder, but the Rockies moved him behind the plate. His 16 errors lead all catchers
CF Omar Carrizales: The Rockies No. 30 prospect currently leads the SAL in batting .328 and is fifth in OPS at .843. He has six multi-hit outings in his last ten games. The speedster has stolen 21 bases in 64 games.
OF Drew Weeks: Among the hottest hitters in the SAL with a .357/.446/.607 slash in the second half. Overall, he is second in the SAL with 24 doubles and 55 RBI. Weeks
1B Roberto Ramos: The native of Mexico has crushed the ball since joining the Tourists on July. In 16 games, Ramos has four homers and posted a .361/.420/.607 slash. The lefty is batting .421 against right-handed pitching.
SP Ryan Castellani: The Rockies second-round choice in 2014 out of Phoenix is the No. 10 prospect. He has managed to put up good numbers and McCormick (4.33 ERA) and kept the ball in the park, giving up one homer in 27 innings. Castellani has thrown five innings just twice in 18 starts.
SP Helmis Rodriguez: Currently the No. 27 prospect in the Rockies system, the lefty has walked seven and hit four in his last two starts, leading to 13 runs (9 earned) covering 5.2 innings.
RP: Josh Michalec: The Rockies’ 21st-round selection out of Baylor has six saves in eight chances this month. He can be wild at times (8 walks in last 22.1 innings), but rings up strikeouts as well (42 in 43 innings.
The Hickory Crawdads (56-45 overall, 12-11 second half) matched zeros with the Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets (44-49, 11-12). for seven innings before scratching out three in the eighth for a 3-0 Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The Crawdads have won three straight and four of five on the current homestand. They are now a South Atlantic League-best 32-16 at home this season. Augusta has lost three in a row and four of five on its two-city, seven-day road swing.
Hickory’s Collin Wiles and Augusta’s D.J. Snelten dueled through seven shutout innings, each dominating the opposing lineups.
Wiles needed just 79 pitches (55 strikes) to get through 23 hitters. He allowed just two hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
Greenjacktets Southpaw Snelten threw 97 pitches (70 strikes) to 26 hitters, allowing three hits, two walks and struck out seven.
The Crawdads scored the only runs of the game in the eighth against Augusta reliever Reyes Moronta (1-7). Jose Cardona extended his hitting streak to nine straight with a double to right with one. A fly ball by Eduard Pinto moved Cardona to third before Moronta walked Josh Morgan, Jose Trevino and Luke Tendler, the final two on four straight to score Cardona.
Jairo Beras’ added insurance with a two-run single to right.
Hickory’s Ricardo Rodriguez (1-0) surrendered a double to Chuckie Jones in the eighth – the only extra-base hit for Augusta, but retired the final two hitters in the inning before hurling a perfect ninth.
Collin Wiles: Facing a team that likes the fastball early, Wiles and catcher Jose Trevino came up with a game plan to take advantage of the GreenJackets aggressiveness. Only three hitters the first time through the order saw a first-pitch fastball.
“That was kind of Jose’s plan from the start,” said Wiles. “He told me in our pre-game meeting that this is a team that likes the fastball, so stay with me. I trust him 100% and we put up seven zeros.”
Wiles said his fastball command wasn’t sharp, forcing him to stay with the cutter and work in his other speed offerings.
“That was cool to see,” Wiles said. “This was the first game my fastball command hasn’t been there and the cutter has been. Other games, it’s the fastball command has been there and it’s trying to decide when do I put in this little cutter. It was a big pitch tonight and it was the pitch that made the difference.”
Jairo Beras: Had a questionable swing after Moronta threw 11 straight balls, fouling off a first-pitch change. He laid off the next two fastballs off the plate before serving a 99 mph offering to right.
“He threw a changeup sometimes and a fastball away,” said Beras. “The other people, he threw a fastball down. I got one away and I was able to hit it away.”
Beras had one of the Crawdads three hits against Snelten, that coming in the second on a fastball up and away. That, too, went solidly to right.
Jose Cardona: Started the winning rally with the double to right in the eighth. Saw the previous hitter, Juremi Profar, had all fastballs away at 98-99. Cardona saw similar pitches in his AB and got a pitch he could hit hard. Had two other hard outs, including a drive to the wall in left in the third.
Josh Morgan: Picked up a single in the third, but it was his walk in the eighth after falling behind 1-2 with two outs that kept the inning alive.
Ricardo Rodriguez: Gave up the double to Jones, but got Andrew Cain to pop up a first-pitch fastball and then got Richardo Rodriguez to ground out on a curve.
Defense: In the middle of charging a bouncer, Josh Morgan had to shift quickly on a bad-hop off the cut of the grass. Morgan made the bear-hand grab and threw out Jonah Arenado… Jonathan Meyer rambled after a short pop foul and made the catch over the photographer’s well along the first base dugout.
DJ Snelten: Used a sharp curve and change (8 missed bats by my count) as consistent out pitches. Threw a fastball that stayed in the 91-93 range much of the evening. He struck out seven for the seventh-straight start (51 in 37 innings). Moved the ball around the plate all night.
“Hats off to him,” said Wiles of Snelten. “He kept our hitters off-balance. He had the same kind of approach the first time through as I did, not letting hitters get on that first-pitch fastball. That was a fun game.”
Reyes Moronta: Threw his only curveball to Cardona, that was swung through and two changes. Otherwise, it was all 98-99 mph fastballs- all at or off the plate to RH hitters. He never missed a bat with it in pitching to eight hitters and the Crawdads hitters either ignored the pitches off the plate or put it into plate.
The Augusta (Ga.) Greenjackets pay their lone visit to L.P. Frans Stadium this weekend for a four-game series.
Probables (Augusta / Hickory):
Friday: Mark Reyes (LH, 4-3, 1.66) and Ariel Jurado (RH, 10-0, 2.06) or Yohander Mendez (LH, 1-1, 1.32); Saturday: DJ Snelten (LH, 2-2 3.05) and Collin Wiles (RH, 9-3, 2.41); Sunday: TBA and Austin Pettibone (RH, 1-2, 4.84); Monday: Sam Coonrod (5-3, 2.69) and Nick Gardewine (RH, 5-6, 4.38).
Recent Series History:
Hickory smoked the GreenJackets in a four-game, road sweep in May. Last year, the Crawdads were 4-3, including a 2-2 split at L.P. Frans. Since 2009, the beginning of the Crawdads- Rangers affiliation, the GreenJackets are 23-20 overall 12-8 at Hickory.
Entering the Series – Hickory:
The Crawdads (54-35 overall, 10-11 second half) took two of three at home from Greensboro and improved their SAL-best home record to 30-16.
The lineup scored 26 runs in the three games and has double-digit hit totals in four straight and five of the last six games.
The team ERA of 2.97, as well as the 1.18 team WHIP are both tops in the SAL.
Hickory leads the SAL with 65 homers and are still tops in the league in fielding.
Entering the series- Augusta:
The Greenjackets (44-46, 11-10) lost two of three at Greenville (S.C.), but still owns the SAL’s best road mark at 27-21.
The pitching staff is one that pounds the strike zone. They lead the SAL in strikeouts and have surrendered the third fewest walks in the league. Because they are around the zone, the Greenjackets give up a fair share of hits. They are third in the SAL in that area, but minimize the damage as they have the fifth fewest runs allowed. Augusta has surrendered a SAL-low of 29 homers.
At the plate, the GreenJackets strike out a bunch (third in SAL) and are near the bottom of the league in many statistical categories, but their speed (109 steals) helps generate offense.
Defensively, they are next to last in fielding pct. having committed 118 errors in 81 games.
Players to watch- Hickory:
Ps Yohander Mendez and Ariel Jurado: They will pitch in a tandem for the foreseeable future and thus far the pairing has worked well. In their last four outings together, the duo has allowed 28 baserunners and struck out 29 in 26.2 innings.
SP Collin Wiles: Pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his career in his last start. He leads the SAL in WHIP (0.99) and OBA (.212). In his lone start against Augusta, he allowed one run on five hits, but walked a season high of four in five innings.
OF Luke Tendler: Red hot in the second half, Tendler has a .357/.420/.614 slash in 20 games since the all-star break and has reached base in 17 of the past 18 games.
2B Carlos Arroyo: Has 14 multiple-hit outings in his last 30 games and has a 11-game on-base streak. Is hitting .342 in the second half.
SS Josh Morgan: Has held down shortstop in the aftermath of the injury to Michael De Leon. At the plate, he has reached base twice in five of the last six games.
Players to watch- Augusta:
SP Mark Reyes: The San Francisco Giants 22nd round pick in 2014 out of Crowder JC, MO leads the SAL in ERA and is third in WHIP (1.08).
SP Sam Coonrod: The Giants 5th round selection in 2014 out of Southern Illinois leads the SAL in strikeouts (83 in 80 innings) and is sixth in ERA and eight in WHIP.
C Aramis Garcia: Currently listed as the Giants top prospect to play for Augusta (No. 14 by mlb.com). He was the Conference USA player of the year in 2014 before his selection in the second round by the Giants out of Florida International. He is second in the SAL in catching base stealers. At the plate, Garcia is second in homers (13) and seventh in slugging (.475).
3B Jonah Arenado: Is the brother of Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado. He leads the SAL in games played, at bats, and is third in hits. He was the Giants 16th round choice in 2013 out of El Toro (CA) High.
CF Johneshwy Fargas: The 11th round pick out of Trujillo Alto, PR has 45 steals (second in the SAL) and is fourth in runs.
2B/ LF Will Callaway: Attended Appalachian State and was the 37th round pick of the Giants in 2013. He is batting .400 (14-for-35) in his last ten games.
The Hickory Crawdads pecked away at the Greensboro Grasshoppers for 14 hits in picking up an 11-4 win Tuesday night to start a three-game series.
The 11 runs tied a season high with all nine hitters picking up one hit, five of them with two. All but Luke Tendler scored a run, with Tendler chipping in an RBI.
Hickory improves to 53-34 overall (9-10 second half) and 29-15 at home, both the best marks in the SAL. Greensboro is now 34-54 overall, 5-14 in the second half, and 13-32 on the road- all three the worst in the circuit.
The Crawdads took advantage of a Grasshopper misplay in the field to score three in the first. After starter Ernesto Franco sandwiched walks to Jose Cardona and Josh Morgan around an out, Jose Cardona lofted a high popup to shallow left-center. Two outfielders and the ‘Hoppers shortstop converged, but the ball fell amongst the trio. SS Justin Twine eventually picked up the ball, but missed an opportunity to record a force play and left the bases loaded. Tendler’s sacrifice fly into the RF corner moved up all three runners before Jairo Beras got enough on a low fastball to get it through the infield for a two-run single.
Greensboro cut it to 3-2 in the third as Arturo Rodriguez singled with two outs and came around on K.J. Woods’ homer to right.
The game blew up on the Grasshoppers in the fourth when Hickory scored six times. Beras lead off the inning with a first-pitch homer to left. Hickory then put together a series of bloopers and soft liners for the remaining runs. Juremi Profar floated an opposite-field, soft liner to right followed by a bloop to left by Rock Shoulders. Brallan Perez then loaded the bases as he beat out a bunt up the third base line.
Cardona’s sacrifice fly sent in Profar before Carlos Arroyo’s blooper along the left field line fell in and scored Shoulders. A balk by Franco places runners at second and third from where both scored when Morgan steered a single through the drawn-in infield. A error in left by Austen Smith moved Morgan to second and he scored when Twine’s wild throw on a Trevino grounder skipped away from first to make it 9-2.
A passed ball brought in Mason Davis in the fifth, but the Crawdads responded with two more in bottom of the inning on run-scoring singles by Arroyo and Morgan.
Davis doubled and scored in the seventh to account for the final margin.
Nick Gardewine (5-6) was the recipient of the Crawdads offensive output in the win. He allowed three runs on six hits over a season-high of six innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. Ricardo Rodriguez allowed the remaining run before settling down over the final three scoreless innings.
The lineup: 7-for-12 with runners in scoring position, 4-for-4 plus two sac flies with runners at third. Hitting coach Francisco Matos credited the day off Monday with clearing everyone’s heads. He said the recent nine-day trip that ended Sunday felt like a month-long trip.
Carlos Arroyo: Went 2-for-5 in the game and also made a couple of key plays in the field. With two on in the second, Mason Davis hit a soft, sinking liner that Arroyo charged and caught just before the ball hit the dirt to close the innings.
With a runner on first in the fourth, Taylor Munden lofted a blooper into shallow right-center. Arroyo, who had moved to cover the bag on a steal attempt, reversed course. He was unable to make the catch, but Arroyo turned and fired a strike to Josh Morgan at second for the force play. The next batter Brian Schales also popped a blooper to short right. Arroyo cut back to his left, then after making the catch in front of right fielder Jairo Beras, he threw out Munden retreating to first for a double play.
Finally, the sixth, Twine sent a slow roller to second that Arroyo charged quickly, fielded at the cut of the grass and fired a quick throw to first.
Jairo Beras: Hit a tough 1-2 fastball (95 mph) down in the zone up the middle just past Twine’s glove. In the fourth, Beras smacked a first-pitch, get-it-over fastball out to left.
Josh Morgan: Two hits, a walk, two runs and three RBI. Saw 17 pitches in first three plate appearances, 25 for the game. In the fifth, he fought through a 7-pitch AB before getting enough on a change of the two-run single.
Luke Tendler: 1-4, 2B, RBI- He just missed a grand slam on a change in the first, then roped a slider into the RF corner for a double in the sixth
Jose Cardona: Sitting at the top of the order, he went 2-for-3, with a sac fly, scored twice and knocked in two. The lone out came on a liner to center in the seventh.
Nick Gardewine: Struggled at time to put away hitters on two-strike counts and at two outs in the inning, Gardewine still pushed through 98 pitches (63 strikes). He started with first-pitch strikes to 18 of 26 hitters. Pounded the strike zone low and away to right-handed hitters to good effect, first with fastballs (92-94), then brought in his slider on the second time through the lineup. Control of his change was iffy at times, and it cost him with Woods crushed a high offering to right for the homer.
Jose Trevino: Bloop single aside – and arguably could’ve had a second hit credited on the error charged to Twine in the fifth – he’s pulling a good many outside pitches and appeared to miss a couple of fastballs middle-in during a plate appearance in the sixth.
Greensboro: Arguably the poorest effort displayed by a visiting team this season. Team had little life in the field. Mason Davis appeared to give up on Morgan’s line single in the fifth, and then after fielding it sent a throw home that went well up the line at third.
The failure to get an out on a catch or a force in the first cost them three runs. No one appeared to communicate with Twine, who had his back turned to the play.
A sloppy play by Austen Smith in left allowed Morgan to move to second before he scored in the fourth.
Arturo Rodriguez: The SAL all-star punished a couple of mistakes by Crawdads pitching. He kept the third alive by slapping an 0-2 high slider to right, which lead to Woods homer. In the seventh, it was an 0-2 hanging curve by Ricardo Rodriguez that was drilled to right for an RBI.
The Hickory Crawdads currently has the best record in the South Atlantic League at 50-29 (through July 5). While the Crawdads cruised to the first-half Northern Division title – clinching a playoff berth in September – the name of the game is first and foremost player development. In that aspect, the Texas Rangers have much to celebrate with the Crawdads roster, especially where the pitching staff is concerned.
Mike Daly, the Senior Vice President for Scouting and Player Development of the Texas Rangers, was in town during the recent weeklong homestand to get an extended look at the Crawdads in action.
The following is an interview I did with Daly during which he talked about some of the top pitchers on the staff – and assigning them to High Desert – a few of the top hitters, as well as the on-going struggles with Jairo Beras.
In the first half of the season the Crawdads were the best team in the South Atlantic League by record, and a lot of days, the best team on the field. The Rangers brass had to be excited with how the team played in the first half.
Mike Daly: Yeah, we’re certainly proud of the players and the staff. I think it starts with Corey Ragsdale, an outstanding manager who’s closing in on the all-time record for number of wins here – not only for the number of wins in Hickory – but with what he’s done taking on a really young group of players and bringing them together.
Each of the players get better individually but also as a collective group. They’re playing for each other, pulling for each other and ultimately winning a bunch of games. We’re very pleased and very proud of the group here in Hickory.
You mentioned the staff and Rags is here for the third year and seems a lot more comfortable with himself. You see the growth from him over the three years. It’s obvious that he’s in charge and the guys like playing for him, to a man.
Daly: Absolutely. Corey does a number of things very well. First, he has outstanding baseball knowledge. He knows the ins and outs of a baseball game. He has a very keen eye for what players need to do and how they need to develop on the field.
But then off the field, he has presence and he knows how to handle the clubhouse and the players. They respect him and enjoy playing for him, but otherwise they know who is in charge. We’re thrilled to have Corey in the organization and we’re very, very happy with what he’s done with the club so far in 2015.
As far as the first half the pitching staff, almost night in and night out, is getting five, six, seven innings in every night and then turns it over to a what’s been a pretty good bullpen for the most part.
Daly: I think that was reflected there in the all-star game with how many selections we had off our pitching staff. I think what’s really good is these guys push one another. So, when Ariel Jurado goes out and has a good outing, now Brett Martin wants to go out there and top him. Then Luis Ortiz, he wants to go out there and do better and Yohander Mendez wants to show where he’s at. Nick Gardewine wants to do that and Collin Wiles wants to do it better.
So it’s a real good internal competition amongst these guys each and every night. It certainly gives our ballclub an opportunity to win and it always starts with the starting pitching. These guys have really stepped up. It’s really, really fun to watch these guys compete against one another.
Jurado was not somebody that people read a lot about before this season. He took the ball the first night and for the most part at every start he toes the rubber and goes seven innings.
Daly: He’s been outstanding. He was one of the six starters that we wanted to send out here. That’s a big credit to Brian Shouse, who is our pitching coach in the Arizona League and pitched a number of years in the major leagues. He dropped down Jurado’s slot from a high slot to more of a low three-quarters slot, which he throws now and really helps his fastball move. He gets a ton of ground balls with his sinker. He throws a lot of strikes and mixes in his breaking balls and his changeups very well.
He’s throwing a curveball now, which is another nice toy for him?
Daly: Absolutely, and he has a real good feel. When guys have power – nd he has a fastball that he can run up there over 90 miles an hour – and then he’s able to break out his offspeed pitches, it really puts hitters on their heels. His sinker is obviously his money pitch and when he’s able to throw the other offspeed pitches for strikes, it puts hitters on their heels. We’ve seen that with the performance of Jurado.
Luis Ortiz has had a couple of wrinkles, but numbers wise he has a low ERA, good WHIP, a ton of strikeouts. I know you’re kind of pacing him along, especially with the arm fatigue. What is your evaluation of him at this point?
Daly: We’re really happy with Luis. I think our goal was for him to get out here on opening day and to get through the whole season. A player learns a ton, especially a player coming out of high school, going out for the first time and getting through a full season at a full-season club. We’re really happy with what he’s done throughout the year.
Obviously there’s a little bit of a setback here with the arm fatigue. We’re looking to get him back here probably in about a month or so. But we’re really happy with where Luis is. He’s working on all his pitches. His changeup continues to develop as does the power fastball and a good breaking ball.
Collin Wiles is another guy that has been good night in and night out. I’m honestly a little surprised he’s still here. Let me ask you about his development and where he goes from here.
Daly: We give Collin a ton of credit. He had a very good offseason. I think he really took ownership in his offseason program and really invested in where he was at in his career and it’s paying dividends on the field. He’s able to throw all of his pitches for strikes at anytime in the count. He has an extreme amount of confidence on the mound and that come through. I think that’s due in large part to the work that he did in the offseason. He came into spring training very, very focused and that’s carried through here in the season.
We have had some conversations about challenging him at the next level, but we’re really happy with where he’s at, how he’s pitching and how he’s performing. With his age, as a high-school player coming out of Kansas City, we still feel that there’s some challenges for him here at the low-A level. But we’re really happy where he’s at.
This is not necessarily about Collin, but just in general. How much does the High Desert situation play into you advancing guys and not wanting to tax them at that spot versus maybe they need that challenge?
Daly: I don’t think it’s so much about High Desert. I think it’s more about the individual player and where he needs to be challenged or where he’s at in his career.
If you look back when Arizona was at High Desert, they sent John Patterson and Brandon Webb and Brad Penny. So there have been pitchers that have been very successful major league pitchers that have gone through High Desert.
But I think our decisions are based more on the individual player and what they need and where we see they’re at in their careers in terms of promoting them or having them go through High Desert or not.
We’ve had some success. Frank Lopez is a guy who pitched here and had some success early on at High Desert and he earned a promotion up to Frisco. There are pitchers that can go out there and have had some success. I think it’s a very good learning experience if you’re able to pitch in High Desert in those type of conditions.
Is there a mental component that plays into that at times, where you might be hesitant to send somebody there because if they get lit up with the easy home run, you worry about the psyche?
Daly: I think that’s part of like each individual guy. I think our coaches have a very good feel for each individual player. We do talk about it amongst our staff, amongst our coaches about what’s best for each individual player. Some guys have gone out there and taken on that challenge and were able to overcome High Desert. That usually bodes pretty well for success at the next level.
Let me ask you about one other guy and that’s Yohander Mendez. He was here and there last year because of the shoulder and other injuries health wise. He had a good year out of the bullpen, but I know the object has always been to get him back into the rotation. You’ve got to be pleased with where he is at this point.
Daly: We’re very happy with Yohander. We had a couple of setbacks with some injuries in his career. I think the goal was to start him out in the pen this year with some short stints to try to keep him healthy. He’s done that and has been able to post every time that we’ve asked him to pitch.
Now, I think, his goal has changed in terms of, can we build strength. He’s done a nice job with Wade Lamont, our strength and conditioning coach, in terms of putting more weight on his body. I know it doesn’t really show, but he’s up to over 200 pounds. That’s a huge credit to Yohander and the tireless efforts of Lamont. Obviously Oscar Marin (Crawdads pitching coach) has done a real nice job with him last year and this year. We’re really happy with where Yohander is at and obviously it’s showing on the field.
Let me go to the hitting side of the team and start with Josh Morgan, who had a rough start getting his feet wet, but the last two months has done well.
Daly: Definitely, he’s certainly found it. He’s one of the guys going through his first full-season year. I think in April the hits weren’t falling, but he continued to have an outstanding makeup. He’s a very, very hard worker. He believes in the talent and we believe in the talent as well. I think that we’ve seen that over the past couple of months with the consistent approach and the consistent work ethic and those hits are falling. Obviously, he’s been a huge part of the 2015 Crawdads.
A guy that has been the glue or spark plug, or whatever cliché you want to use, has been Jose Trevino. I know it’s been his first full year of catching and I know that’s gone well. But all around he’s a guy that keeps the clubhouse together.
Daly: We’re very, very, very happy with Jose Trevino, not only defensively, but offensively. There’s a lot of stuff as a catcher that you need to work on in terms of your own defensive, knowing the pitching staff , being able to help your pitchers get through each count. But then he’s able to step into the box with his bat and be very productive in the middle of the lineup. So, we’re really happy with the things that Jose has accomplished so far both offensively and defensively. You see the makeup and you see how he’s able to keep his focus together.
I’m going to go to Jairo Beras, who had the rough start not running out a batted ball the first night. He had a good couple of weeks here where it seemed like he was seeing everything, but then he gets into another thing last night where he doesn’t run it out. Let me ask you about him and what is a tough situation.
Daly: Jairo is somebody there have been some ups and been some downs. I know last year he had a very good second half here in Hickory. It looked like he was going on that path again here and have another strong second half in 2015.
Part of the process is not about numbers, but part of the process is about playing the game the right way. I think Corey’s done a really good job of handling the situation with Jairo.
We’re still very excited about Jairo and I think he’s still going to be a big part of this Crawdads team over the last couple of months. I think his at bats are getting more consistent. He’s seeing balls batter and he’s using the whole field. He had a nice double down the right field line. He’s walking a little more. I think that there’s some stuff, just with player in development, there’s some ups and some downs, but we’re still very bullish on where Jairo is and his status in the organization.
You mentioned that you’re excited about Jairo and the Rangers are excited about Jairo. Is there a point where Jairo is excited about Jairo and there are not the mental lapses?
Daly: You hope so, yes. I would fully expect that to happen. When that happens, I’m not sure that anybody knows. It’s really up to the player to decide that they’re going to do the things each and every day that’s part of being a professional player. I think it’s really up to Jairo. Our job as an organization is to support him and when he doesn’t do the things that he’s supposed to do to correct them and teach him and to make sure he learns from him. Ultimately, it’s up to Jairo to make those changes.
Michael De Leon. The hitting is still not quite there. He’s still only 18 and the strength is getting there, but defensively, what a wizard.
Daly: With Michael last year, it was really the year of opportunity. When we signed him in 2013, nobody thought that in 2014 that he would play the majority of his games in Hickory. None of our guys that we had signed in their first year – Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor – none of those guys spent any time in Hickory. There was an opportunity last year with the number of injuries. To his credit, he took advantage.
I think there are still challenges for Michael here at this level, but he’s done an outstanding job. When he can play defense like he can play defense at shortstop, he’s always going to have the opportunity to play. The manager is going to want to get you in the lineup based on the defense that he provides.
He hits at the top of the lineup and makes a ton of contact. He’s going to get bigger and stronger. I know that Wade Lamont is working with him relentless to try to get him faster and try to get him bigger and stronger. But, when you have a shortstop that can play that type of defense, the pitchers really appreciate you, and the manager’s always going to find a way to get you into the lineup. That’s his calling card is his defense right now.
Let me ask you about one more guy and that’s Tendler. He had a hot start and then went into the slump, but you get the feeling that he’s coming out of some things.
Daly: I give Luke a ton of credit. Luke came into the organization last year and right away has been all about baseball. After Spokane – he had a real nice year there – he spent the winter in Columbia. He went down there on his own and went to the Columbian Winter League. The first time we’ve ever had a player right out of the draft make the decision on his own to go down to Colombia. So, he really invested in his career. He really wants to be as good as he can.
I know that he came into Hickory this year and was on fire in April and in May. He was producing maybe better than he thought that he was. Right now in the slump, he’s better than he’s showing now.
We’re really happy with Luke. Once again, a guy going through his first full season and it’s hard. A hundred-and-forty games is a long season; it’s a grind. He’s done a real nice job. He’s a big part of the Crawdads team. I know that Corey has a lot of confidence in him and we’re going to continue to run him out there and he’s going to figure it out and be a big part of the team here.
Who has surprised you that maybe you didn’t expect to put together the season they have?
I think like the back end of the bullpen was really good. Parks and Fasola, both of those guys, especially Fasola, coming in and closing the door and saving a lot of games. I know that Corey had a ton of confidence looking down there in the eighth or ninth inning and bring in big John to close out the game.
Obviously, John pitched very well and earned himself a promotion up to High Desert. So, I think John Fasola coming in and taking the reins of the closer role and earning a promotion was the biggest surprise here so far.
Daly: Been good. He can always hit. He hit close to .400 in the Dominican Summer League his first summer out. I think his big key is staying healthy. That’s something he continues to manage each and every day. He can hit, but his ability to on the field is the key.