Results tagged ‘ JP Martinez ’

Who’s In? Who’s Out? Rangers Tweak the Crawdads Roster

The Texas Rangers have moved a few players around over the past couple of days. Here is a quick overview of who has moved on and who has arrived.

Moving on:

The big name to leave Hickory was the Rangers top hitting prospect, Julio Pablo Martinez. Given that he is 23 and already has significant baseball experience under his belt from his days in Cuba, I did not think there was any serious thought Martinez would be here for an extended period. The two previous Cubans – Andy Ibanez and Yanio Perez – to play here under the Rangers affiliation were both promoted prior to the all-star break and I figured Martinez would go even sooner.

So, when the announcement was made that Martinez was bumped up just 13 games into the season, it was curious. Down East (high-A) was already stocked in the outfield, so either a promotion was happening there, or something else. Unfortunately, that “something else” was a broken hamate bone injury suffered by Bubba Thompson, who will miss at least four weeks.

In ten games with Hickory, Martinez posted a .250/.295/.420 line with a double, triple, homer and four steals. Sadly, we got to see him for just four home games. He hit the ball hard a couple of times but also struggled with breaking pitches, which contributed to his five strikeouts.

The other player to go up to Down East was left-handed starter Jake Latz. Slotted in the second spot behind Hans Crouse, Latz (5th round 2018/ Kent State) showed he was a advanced for this level at age 23.

In two starts, Latz gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits, walked three and struck out 14. In the one start we saw, he had the ability to use the changeup well to compliment his 91-92 mph fastball and an occasional curve. For Hickory, he would’ve been valuable as an innings-eater starter, when his pitch limit increased. He’ll be interesting to follow as time goes on.

 

Moving in:

With the Rangers being less aggressive with pitching assignments over the last couple of years, I was a little surprised to see the promotion of Ronny Henriquez to the Crawdads. Still just 18, the Rangers skipped him two levels in order for him to make his stateside debut with Hickory.

In 11 starts last year in the Dominican Summer League, Henriquez struck out 79 and walked just 8 over 58 innings. Given his age and build (5-10, 155), I suspect he’ll be brought along slowly. He pitched on Thursday at Columbia (S.C.) and made just 44 pitches before getting pulled. Henriquez is billed to possess a fastball in the mid-90s and a biting curve. On the 20-to-80 scouting scale MLB.com has his fastball at 60 and the curve at 55.

Outfielder Chad Smith returns to Hickory after a brief stint at the start of 2018. The fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of South Gwinnett (GA) High has been plagued with shoulders injuries the past two seasons. Began the year with the Crawdads a year ago and went 4-for-42 before leaving the team on May 1 with a shoulder strain.

 

Pitching and Defense the Difference in Tourists Win

Asheville has a lineup with plenty of firepower, but on Tuesday it was the Tourists pitching backed by key defensive plays that was the difference in a 2-0 win over Hickory at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Tourists (6-7) have now earned a split over the first two of the three-game series after the teams have now traded 2-0 wins. Hickory (9-3) will host the finale Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. before embarking on a three-game trip to Columbia, S.C.

The series was to have featured the top two South Atlantic League lineups. However, the teams have combined for four runs and 19 hits combined over the 18 innings played. In fact, the Crawdads have struggled at the plate during the current homestand. They entered Tuesday’s game at a .203/.254/.451 line during the first four games played at Frans this year. Tourists left-hander Ryan Rolison added to that misery with a stellar performance.

Rolison, the Colorado Rockies’ first-round pick in last June’s first-year player draft, held the Crawdads without a baserunner through the first five innings. With only one three-ball count in the game, Rolison (2-1) constantly had the Crawdads guessing at which of the four pitches at his disposal that he would use. Pounding the strike zone, he struck out seven – five in a row at one stretch – with 46 strikes out of 62 pitches.

The Tourists gave Rolison all he needed with a run in the third against starter Yerry Rodriguez (1-1). The Crawdads hurler retired the first two batters, but Cade Harris extended the inning with a single to right. On successive pitches, Will Golsan singled and Rodriguez hit Hunter Stovall with a pitch to load the bases. The wild streak continued when Rodriguez walked Terrin Vavra to force in a run.

The Crawdads bats finally came to life in the sixth, when with one out Jonathan Ornelas grounded a single up the middle just past the dive of Vavra at short. Frainyer Chavez reached when he was able to line a bunt past Rolison on the first base side of the mound and outrace him to the bag. However, the Tourists escaped damage when a sharp line drive hit by J.P. Martinez was caught by first baseman Grant Lavigne, who then easily doubled up Chavez at first to end the inning.

Harris walked and later scored on a double-play ball to add an insurance run in the eighth.

However, the Crawdads appeared to be on the verge of at least cutting the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. With two outs and nobody on, Miguel Aparicio doubled. A fielding blunder then kept the rally alive, as Ornelas hit a high chopper up the third-base line. The ball appeared to be curling foul, but pitcher Frederis Parra picked the ball up just inside the line to give Ornelas a single and put Aparicio at third. Chavez followed with a bouncer up the middle that tipped off the pitcher’s glove. The second baseman Stovall made a lunging stop of the ball.  While remaining stretched out, he fired a strike to first to retire Chavez and end the inning.

Alexander Martin closed out the game by striking out the side in the ninth for his second save of the season.

Brennan Locks Up Tourists for Crawdads Win

Tim Brennan allowed just two baserunners over six shutout innings and shutdown the South Atlantic League’s top offensive to lead the Hickory Crawdads to a 2-0 win Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

In winning the first of the three-game series, the Crawdads (9-2) remained in second place in the Northern Division a half-game behind the Delmarva (Md.) Shorebirds (9-1), who defeated Kannapolis at home on Monday. During the current homestand, Hickory is now 3-1 and will look to improve on that against Asheville on Tuesday as the series continues with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.

The Tourists entered Monday’s game with the league’s top numbers across the board (.282/.363/.493/ .856), but the starter Brennan had little trouble working his way through the lineup.

He retired the first 12 before surrendering a walk to current SAL hitter-of-the-week Willie MacIver to start the fifth. The lead runner was retired on successive fielder’s choices leaving Daniel Montano at first with two outs. He stole second second and moved to third on catcher Matt Whatley’s throwing error. However, Brennan got Coco Montes to fly to center to end the lone threat against him.

Hunter Stovall broke up Brennan’s fledgling no-hit bid in the sixth with a clean single to left to start the inning.

Brennan left the game after clearing the sixth on 73 pitches (46 strikes).

The right-hander was supported for his first professional win (1-0) in two starts by the offense, which gave him all he needed four batters into the game. Facing Ryan Feltner (0-2), J.P. Martinez drilled the righty’s second pitch to the leftfield wall for a double. He moved to third on Matt Whatley’s fly to the track in right for Curtis Terry ripped a double to right for the run.

Sam Huff hit a slider over the billboards in right for a solo blast in the sixth to account for the second run. His home run was the fourth of the season with ties him for the SAL and pushed his team’s league high to 14 on the year.

Asheville threatened to erase its deficit in the seventh against Abdiel Mendoza. Grant Lavigne singled and MacIver got his second walk of the game. Two outs later, Mendoza loaded the bases by walking Montes. However, Stovall flied out to shallow left to end the rally.

Scott Engler pitched two perfect innings for Hickory, striking out five of the six he faced to pick up his first pro save.

Game Notes: Cole Uvila was promoted to High-A Down East on Monday. The 40th-round pick of the Rangers last June (GA. Gwinnett) went 2-0 in three relief outings with ten strikeouts over seven innings. He allowed just three hits and one walk… The Crawdads now have three shutouts on the season and have seven games out of 11 with 0 or 1 run allowed.

 

Series Preview: Asheville Tourists at Hickory Crawdads

Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies) (5-6, tied for second, Southern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (8-2, 2nd Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads continue their season-opening homestand with a three-game series against Asheville.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

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

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Monday: Asheville at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Make-A Difference Monday (Bring canned goods $5 or more in value and receive a free ticket), Remember the Titanic)

Tuesday: Asheville at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Dollar Dog Tuesday ($1 hot dogs, dogs admitted for $1))

Wednesday: Asheville at Hickory, 10:30 p.m.

 

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Despite being only an hour apart, the Crawdads and Tourists played just one series in 2018. The Crawdads took 2 of 3 in that series played at McCormick Park in Asheville.

The last series between the two clubs at L.P. Frans came in July 2017 when Asheville swept all three games. That year, the Tourists won 8 of 10 from the Crawdads, which included a 6-1 record at Hickory. It was the first season-series win by Asheville since 2010. Since 2009 and the start of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation, Hickory is 49-47 vs. Asheville, but the Tourists hold a 26-22 margin at L.P. Frans.

 

PROBABLES (Asheville/ Hickory)

Monday: RHP Ryan Feltner vs. RHP Tim Brennan

Tuesday: LHP Ryan Rolison vs. RHP Yerry Rodriguez

Wednesday: RHP Shelby Lackey vs. RHP Hans Crouse

 

ABOUT HICKORY

Coming off a 6-1 road trip to open the season, the Crawdads continued the early-season success at home with a 2-1 series win over Kannapolis.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 83 in top-100)

OF JP Martinez No. 2 (No. 86 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; OF LF: Pedro Gonzalez or Miguel Aparicio; CF: JP Martinez, RF: Jose Almonte.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Jose Almonte – Tied for 8th doubles (4)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 2nd homers (3)

Sam Huff – Tied for 2nd homers (3), 4th total bases, tied for 4th strikeouts, tied for 8th runs scored, 10th slugging pct. (.605)

JP Martinez – Tied for 5th steals (4)

Jonathan Ornelas – Tied for 4th runs scored

Chris Seise – Tied for 3rd hits, tied for 4th runs scored, tied for 5th steals (4), tied for 8th doubles (4)

Curtis Terry – 1st RBI (14), 2nd slugging pct. (.703), 2nd total bases, tied for 2nd homers (3), 4th OPS (1.078), tied for 4th doubles (5), tied for 7th hits

Individual pitching:

John King – Tied for 4th hits allowed

Jake Latz – Tied for 8th strikeouts, tied for 10th ERA (0.90)

Abdiel Mendoza – Tied for 1st saves (2)

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.249 (3rd)/ .318 (6th)/ .441 (2nd)/ .760 (2nd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 2nd runs, 2nd home runs, 3rd hits, 3rd stolen bases, tied for 3rd doubles, 10th walks

Team Pitching: 1st ERA (1.90), 1st WHIP (0.91), fewest hits allowed, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, tied for fewest home runs allowed (1), fewest walks allowed, 4th strikeouts.

 

ABOUT ASHEVILLE:

The Tourists come to Hickory with losses in four of the last five games. This is the second half of their road trip after losing 3 of 4 at Hagerstown, Md. Five of the Rockies top six draft picks from last June’s draft are currently with the Tourists. They include Ryan Rolison (1st), Grant Lavigne (Competitive Balance), Terrin Vavra (3rd), Ryan Feltner (4th)

Manager: Robinson Cancel (1st year)

Prospects – Asheville (rankings by MLB.com):

1B Grant Lavigne No. 5

LHP Ryan Rolison No. 6

RHP Riley Pint No. 8

SS Terrin Vavra No. 14

OF Daniel Montano No. 19

RHP Ryan Feltner No. 24

C Willie MacIver No. 28

RHP Mike Nikorak No. 29

Possible Lineups: C: Javier Guevara or Willie MacIver; 1B Grant Lavigne; 2B Coco Montes or Terrin Vavra; 3B: John Cresto or Hunter Stovall; SS: Coco Montes or Terrin Vavra; LF: Will Golsan; CF: Daniel Montano; RF: Cade Harris.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

John Cresto – Tied for 4th doubles (5), 7th slugging pct. (.621), 10th OPS (.987)

Will Golsan – Tied for 2nd runs scored, 4th RBI (10), tied for 7th total bases

Cade Harris – Tied for 8th walks

Daniel Lavigne – Tied for 4th strikeouts

Willie MacIver – 1st slugging pct. (.824), 1st OPS (1.229), 1st total bases, tied for 2nd homers (3), 3rd batting avg. (.382), 3rd RBI (11), tied for 3rd hits, tied for 8th doubles (4)

Daniel Montano – Tied for 8th home runs (2), tied for 10th total bases

Hunter Stovall – Tied for 2nd doubles (6), 3rd on-base pct. (.471), 8th batting avg. (.357), 8th OPS (1.042)

Terrin Vavra – Tied for 3rd hits, tied for 4th runs scored, 5th on-base pct. (.455), tied for 5th RBI, (9), 6th total bases, 7th batting avg. (.361), 7th OPS (1.066), tied for 8th doubles (4), tied for 8th walks, 9th slugging pct. (.611), tied for 9th steals (3)

Individual pitching:

Jake Bird – Tied for 5th games pitched (4), 8th ERA (0.82), tied for 9th innings pitched (11)

Nick Bush – Tied for 2nd home runs allowed, tied for 4th runs allowed, 5th earned runs, tied for 6th hits allowed

Alfredo Garcia – Tied for 10th earned runs allowed

Eric Hepple – Tied for 1st games pitched (6)

Boby Johnson – Tied for 2nd home runs allowed, tied for 5th games pitched (4)

Shelby Lackey – 6th earned runs allowed, tied for 9th runs allowed

Nick Kennedy – 4th ERA (0.00), Tied for 5th games pitched (4), 10th WHIP (0.78)

Alex Martinez – Tied for 5th games pitched (4)

Mike Nikorak – Tied for 3rd games pitched (5), tied for 5th walks allowed, tied for 9th runs allowed

Ryan Feltner – Tied for 5th walks allowed

Riley Pint – Tied for 5th walks allowed

PJ Poulin – Tied for 3rd games pitched (5)

 

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.282 (1st)/ .363 (1st)/ .493 (1st)/ .856 (1st).

Other key rankings: 1st runs, 1st hits, 1st doubles, 1st total bases, 1st walks, 2nd home runs, tied for 2nd strikeouts

Team pitching:

2nd runs allowed, 2nd home runs allowed, 2nd most walks allowed, 3rd runs allowed, 12th WHIP (1.45), Last ERA (5.32), tied for last strikeouts

NOTES OF INTEREST: Pedro Gonzalez was a member of the Rockies organization prior to a trade to the Rangers in 2017… Rockies IF Kyle Datres played college ball at North Carolina.

Series Preview: Kannapolis Intimidators at Hickory Crawdads April 11-14

Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (3-3, 3rd Northern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (6-1, 1st Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads open a seven-game homestand Thursday, starting with a four-game series with Kannapolis.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

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

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Thursday: Kannapolis at Hickory, 7 p.m. (Thirsty Thursday, Duke Lineman Appreciation Night (Free tickets available at Duke Power Linemen), Magnet Schedules giveaway, Black out (Wear black and receive a $6 ticket))

Friday: Kannapolis at Hickory, 7 p.m. (Fireworks, Roaring 20s Night)

Saturday: Kannapolis at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Texas Rangers Night, Post Schedule giveaway)

Sunday: Kannapolis at Hickory, 3 p.m. (Church Bulletin Sunday (bring a bulletin for a $6 ticket))

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

The Crawdads won the 2018 season series 14-9 with an 11-3 margin in games played at L.P. Frans Stadium. Hickory has dominated the series with just one season-series loss (2010) against the Intimidators since becoming a Rangers affiliate in 2009. Overall, the Crawdads are 110-72 against the Intimidators, 56-34 at L.P. Frans.

PROBABLES (Kannapolis/ Hickory)

Thursday: LHP Taylor Varnell vs. LHP Jake Latz

Friday: RHP Davis Martin vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Saturday: LHP Konnor Pilkington vs. LHP John King

Sunday: RHP Kade McClure vs. RHP Tim Brennan

 

ABOUT HICKORY

The Crawdads had a 6-1 road trip to open the season, which ended with a three-game sweep at Greensboro. They are trying to match a 7-1 start by the 2016 team.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 83 in top-100)

OF JP Martinez No. 2 (No. 86 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; OF LF: Pedro Gonzalez or Miguel Aparicio; CF: JP Martinez, RF: Jose Almonte.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting: Batting average: Chris Seise 7th (.400), Sam Huff (10th) .385; On-base pct: Seise 8th (.464); Slugging pct: Huff 2nd (.731), Jose Almonte 6th (.667), Seise 9th (.640); OPS Huff 5th (1.115), Seise 8th (1.104); Runs: Seise T-1st (8), Jonathan Ornelas 3rd (7); JP Martinez T-4th (6); Huff T-8th (5); Hits: Huff T-3rd (10); Seise T-3rd (10); Martinez T-9th (8); Doubles: Almonte T-3rd (4); Seise T-3rd (4); Huff T-6th (3); Curtis T-6th (3); RBI: Terry 1st (9); Almonte T-8th (6); Total Bases: Huff 2nd (19); Seise 5th (16); Almonte T-7th (14); Walks: Sherten Apostel T-7th (5); Steals: T-1st (4); Martinez T-4th (3).

Individual pitching: ERA: Hans Crouse T-1st (0.00); WHIP: Crouse 1st (0.26); Saves: Abdiel Mendoza T-1st (2)

Team Batting: Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.272 (2nd)/ .347 (2nd)/ .433 (2nd)/ .780 (2nd). Other key rankings: Runs 2nd, Hits 2nd, Doubles 2nd, Home Runs T-3rd, Total Bases 2nd (100), Stolen bases 1st (12).

Team Pitching: ERA 1st (1.48), 3rd fewest hits allowed, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, fewest home runs allowed (0), fewest walks allowed, strikeouts 2nd, WHIP (0.87).

 

ABOUT KANNAPOLIS:

The Intimadators split a six-game homestand, which ended with two losses to Delmarva (Md.) during a rain-shortened series.

Manager: Ryan Newman (1st season)

Prospects – Kannapolis (rankings by MLB.com):

CF Steele Walker No. 11

LHP Konnor Pilkington No. 20

3B Bryce Bush No. 21

RHP Jonathan Stiever No. 27

Possible lineups: C: Evan Skoug or Gunnar Troutwine; 1B: Amado Nunez; 2B: Luis Curbelo or Lenyn Sosa; SS: Sosa or Curbelo; LF: Ian Dawkins; CF: Steele Walker; RF: Logan Sowers

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting: Batting average: Evan Skoug 1st (.429); On-base pct: Skoug 1st .579; Slugging pct: Skoug 8th (.643); OPS: Skoug 2nd (1.222); Hits: Lenyn Sosa T-6th (9); Doubles: Luis Curbelo T-6th (3). Sosa T-6th (3); Walks: Skoug T-7th (5); Steals: T-1st Ian Dawkins 1st (4).

Individual pitching: WHIP: Tyler Varnell 2nd (0.33); Konnor Pilkington T-10th (0.71)

Team batting: Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .244 (5th)/ .310 (7th)/ .337 (6th)/ .647 (7th). Other key rankings: Runs 13th, Doubles 4th, HR T-12th (0), Walks T-12th, Strikeouts 12th.

Team pitching: HRs allowed 2nd (7), hit batters 3rd (5), fewest walks allowed T-3rd, WHIP 5th (1.16).

 

NOTES OF INTEREST: Kannapolis manager Ryan Newman played for Hickory in 2003 and was the team’s hitting coach in 2007… Crawdads catcher Matt Whatley and Kannapolis pitcher Taylor Varnell were teammates at Oral Roberts Univ. Both played under former Crawdads pitching coach Sean Snedeker.

SERIES PREVIEW: Hickory at Greensboro April 8-10

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (3-1, T 1st Northern Division)

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh Pirates) (3-1, T 1st Northern Division)

 

The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong road trip at First National Bank Field

BROADCASTS: Games are streamed live on the Greensboro Grasshoppers website

 

 

If you plan to go:

 

GAME TIMES: Monday-Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., Wednesday 10:45 a.m. (NOTE: NO TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR WEDNESDAY’S GAME)

WHERE IS IT?

From Hickory, take I-40 East to exit 218 B / Freeman Mill Road. That will turn into Edgeworth St. and the ballpark will be on the right. (Edgeworth and Bellemeade St.)

TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $7-11.

PROMOTIONS:

Monday: Money Off Monday: $1 dogs, soda and water. $6 lawn tickets

Tuesday: Baseball Bingo

PARKING: Parking at the ballpark is $5. There are independently operated parking lots nearby that charge a varied amount. Metered parking about a block away from the outfield is free after 6 p.m., on weekdays and is free on weekends.

CONCESSIONS: First National Bank Field is more of a AA park and so the concession offerings are a vast upgrade from what a smaller Low-A ball park provides. Other than basic ballpark fare, there is a BBQ stand, Sausage Shack, Pimento Cheese along with veggie options.

 

 

PROBABLES (Hickory, Greensboro has not released its probables)

Monday: RHP Tim Brennan

Tuesday: RHP Yerry Rodriguez

Wednesday: RHP Hans Crouse

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory was 9-15 against Greensboro a year ago, and since 2009, the beginning of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers, the Grasshoppers were 91-81 over. However, Greensboro is now hooked up with the Pittsburgh Pirates after 16 years with the Miami Marlins. The Pirates begin this affiliation after 10 seasons at West Virginia. Against West Virginia, the Crawdads were 7-12 a season ago, 2-4 at Charleston, WV. Since 2009, the Power went 52-51 against Hickory.

 

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

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 83 in top-100)

OF JP Martinez No. 2 (No. 86 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

 

Prospects to watch – Greensboro (rankings by MLB.com):

RHP Stephen Jennings No. 12

OF LoLo Sanchez No. 17

Series Preview: Hickory Crawdads at Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (70-68 in 2018) at Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia Phillies) (87-51 in 2018)

 

The Hickory Crawdads open the 2019 at First Energy Park for a four-game series.

GAME TIMES: Thursday 6:35 p.m., Friday 7:05 p.m., Saturday 4:05 p.m., Sunday 1:05 p.m.

BROADCASTS: Games are streamed live at milb.tv and on the Lakewood BlueClaws website

 

PROBABLES (Hickory/ Lakewood)

Thursday: RHP Hans Crouse vs. RHP Colton Eastman

Friday: LHP Jake Latz vs. RHP Jack Perkins

Saturday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. LHP Jhordany Mezquita

Sunday: LHP John King vs. RHP Victor Santos

 

Recent Series History:

Lakewood won 7 of 10 from the Crawdads in 2018 with a 4-2 mark at First Energy Field. The South Atlantic League schedule tends to send Hickory to Lakewood rather than the reverse. Hickory will play 7 of 11 in New Jersey this season.

Since 2009, the teams have played 97 games. Sixty-eight of those have been played in Lakewood, where the BlueClaws are 37-31 against the Crawdads. Overall, the BlueClaws are 54-47 against Hickory since 2009, the start of the Rangers-Crawdads affiliation.

 

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

RHP Hans Crouse No.1

OF JP Martinez No. 2

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

 

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

3B Alex Bohn No. 1

SS Luis Garcia No. 4

RHP Francisco Morales No. 8

C Rafael Marchan No. 14

RHP Dominic Pipkin No. 23

RHP Kevin Gowdy No. 24

LHP Jhordany Mezquita No. 26

 

NOTES; Hickory opens on the road for the fourth straight season. The last home opener was in 2015, a 5-2 win over Hagerstown (Md.) … The Crawdads opened the previous two seasons at Greensboro, losing 6-1 in 2018 and 14-4 in 2017. The Crawdads last opening day win was in 2016 when they beat Kannapolis 5-1… This is the first time since 2010 Hickory opened a season outside of the state of North Carolina. The Crawdads opened that year at Hagerstown and lost a 1-0 game to the Suns.

 

2019 Hickory Crawdads bios

PITCHERS                                                                                                           

Grant Anderson (6-0, 180 lbs., 21 y/o) RHP

Was the 21st round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2018 out of McNeese St. (La.). Native of Port Arthur, Tex. Obtained by the Rangers in a trade on April 1. Struck out 13 in 13 innings with three Mariners farm teams last summer.

Dylan Bice (6-4, 220, 21) RHP

Was the 23rd round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2016 out of Heritage High in Ringgold, Ga., where he is a native. Signed away from a commitment to East Tennessee St. Made four appearances with the Arizona Summer League (AZL) Rangers (rookie) in 2018 and registered two saves.

Tim Brennan (6-4, 200, 22) RHP

Was the 7th round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of St. Joseph’s Univ. Native of Philadelphia. Named first-team All-ECAC last year after leading Division I with a 16.80 K/BB ratio and 0.51 BB/ 9 IP ratio. Will make his pro debut with Hickory.

Hever (eh-vehr) Bueno (6-2, 179, 24) RHP

Was the 9th round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Arizona St. Missed 2018 with a right elbow injury. Has made just 11 appearances (8 starts) in pro seasons following “Tommy John” surgery in 2016. Signed with Texas eight days after the 2016 surgery. A native of Meza, Ariz.

Jean Casanova (6-3, 155, 21) RHP

Was the 35th-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) High. Moved to the U.S. in fifth grade from the Dominican Republic. Made 27 appearances (8 starts) for the Crawdads in 2018 with 55 Ks in 71.1 innings. His cousin Raul played in the majors from 1996 to 2008.

Sean Chandler (6-5, 200, 22) RHP

Was the sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of Iowa Western CC. Native of Bellevue, Neb. Named Iowa Community College Athletic Conf. player of the year in 2018 after striking out 123 in 74 innings. Played two years at Nebraska before transferring. Posted 1.27 ERA with Spokane (short-season) last summer.

Hans Crouse (6-4, 180, 19) RHP

Was the second-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Dana Hills High, Dana Point, Calif., where he is a native. Led Dana Hills to championship game of the National High School Invitational in Cary in 2017. Pitched for Team USA in the under-18 gold-medal winning game against Cuba. Had committed to USC. Tabbed a Short-Season All-Star by Baseball America after fanning 47 in 38 innings and posting a 0.95 WHIP. Made five starts for Hickory (0-2, 2.70 ERA, 15 Ks in 16.2 IP). Currently the Rangers No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com.

Scott Engler (6-4, 220, 22) RHP

Was the 16th-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Cowley County (Kan.) CC. Native of Wichita. Returned to action with Spokane last year after missing 2017 following “Tommy John” surgery. Fanned 49 in 53.2 innings over 13 games (9 starts).

John King (6-2, 215, 24) LHP

Was the 10th-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Univ. of Houston. Native of Missouri City, Tex. Missed 2017 after left elbow surgery. Made one start each for AZL Rangers and Spokane (4.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 K). Pitched two seasons at Angelina College before going to Houston. Went 8-1 with a 3.11 ERA as a senior with the Cougars.

Jake Latz (6-2, 185, 22) LHP

Was the fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Kent State. Born in Boerne, Tex., but attended school at Lemont High near Chicago. Pitched for LSU in the NCAA regional championship before transferring. At Spokane in 2018, was among top-10 Northwest League leaders in wins (2nd), strikeouts (4th), WHIP (7th)and ERA (8th). Fanned 67 in 71 innings.

Abdiel Mendoza (5-10, 160, 20) RHP

Originally signed with Oakland in 2015, traded to the Rangers in 2018. Native of Chitre, Panama. Made one appearance with Hickory in 2018 after the trade (3 IP, 2 H, 1 K.) Had a 3.32 ERA in 57 IP at short-season Vermont.

Wes Robertson (6-2, 190, 23) RHP

Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Rangers in 2017 out of Washington College (Md.). Native of Cheshire, Conn. Transitioned from catcher to pitcher in college. Posted a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 IP last year between AZL Rangers and Spokane.

Yerry Rodriguez (6-2, 198, 21) RHP

Signed as an international free agent by the Rangers in 2015. Native of Santiago, D.R. Split last season with AZL Rangers and Spokane. Led AZL in fewest walks/ 9 innings (0.70) and Ks/ 9 IP (12.91). Posted a 1.82 ERA with 27 Ks in 24.2 innings over four starts for Spokane.

Nick Snyder (6-4, 190, 23) RHP

Was the 19th-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Indian River St. (Fla.) College. Native of Palm City, Fla. Was a shortstop in college and named Florida NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. Threw just 2.2 innings in college. Struck out 12 in 12 innings last year with AZL Rangers.

Tai Tiedemann (Tie Tee-de-man) (6-6, 195, 22) RHP

Was the eighth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Long Beach (Calif.) CC, where he is a native. Named South Coast Conference player of the year as a sophomore. Posted a 4.84 ERA in 57.2 innings over 13 games (12 starts) for Spokane last year.

Cole Uvila (6-4, 206, 25) RHP

Was the 40th-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of Georgia Gwinnett Univ. Native of Port Angeles, Wash., where he attended high school. Also pitched for Pierce College (Wash.) and Georgia St. Had 80 Ks in 55 innings his college senior season. Posted a 1.42 ERA and fanned 48 over 31.2 innings for Spokane last summer.

Grant Wolfram (6-6, 210, 22) LHP

Was the 18th-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of Davenport (Mich.) Univ. Native of Hamilton, Mich., originally pitched for Central Michigan Univ. before transferring. Struck out 13 in a no-hitter last year at Davenport. Made eight appearances (1 start) for AZL Rangers with 10 Ks and 6 BBs in 10.2 IP.

 

CATCHERS

Sam Huff (6-4, 215, 20) B-T: R-R

Was the seventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia High in Phoenix. Named to Arizona Republic’s All-Arizona baseball team in 2016. Tied for the AZL lead in 2017 with nine homers. Played for Hickory last year and posted a .241/.292/.439 slash line. Named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Tied for the Crawdads lead in homers with 18. Currently the Rangers No. 21 prospect, according to MLB.com.

Isaias Quiroz (Key-Rose) (5-10, 234) B-T: R-R

Was the 20th-round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of St. Joseph Regional in Montvale, N.J. Born in New York City. Played at Spokane last year and threw out 37% of attempted base stealers while posting a .224/.333/.402 line. Played 11 games for Hickory in 2017 going 3-for-35.

Matt Whatley (5-10, 200, 23) B-T: R-R

Was the third-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Oral Roberts Unix. Native of Claremore, Okla. Received the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s best college catcher in 2017. Three-time first-team all -Summit League pick. Played in 52 games for Down East (high-A) and Hickory last year, missing time due to an illness. Went 3-for-19 in seven games last year with the Crawdads.

 

INFIELDERS

Sherten Apostel (6-4, 200, 20) B-T: R-R

Originally signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a non-drafted free agent in 2015. Traded to the Rangers in 2018. Native of Willemstad, Curacao. Spent last year at Bristol (Pittsburgh-rookie) and Spokane. Posted a .351/.469/.459 line in 12 games after the trade. Currently the Rangers No. 22 prospect, according to MLB.com.

Frainyer Chavez (5-10, 170, 19) B-T: S-R

Was the 22nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of Midland (Tex.) JC. Born in Valencia, Venezuela, but attended Little Elm (Tex.) High School. Named to first-team All-Western JC Athletic Conference after batting .387 with 13 HRs and 66 RBI. Posted a .306/.378/.405 line in 45 games at AZL Rangers.

Jonathan Ornelas (6-1, 178, 18) B-T: R-R

Was the third-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of Kellis High school in Glendale, Ariz., where he is a native. Named 5A co-player of the year by the Arizona Baseball Coaches Assoc. Won 5A state title with his school in 2017. Posted a .302/.389/.459 line in 48 games with the AZL Rangers and named as the 10th best prospect in the Arizona Summer League. Signed out of a commitment to Tennessee. Currently the Rangers No. 18 prospect, according to MLB.com.

Chris Seise (cease) (6-2, 175, 20) B-T: R-R

Was the first-round pick (29th overall) of the Rangers in 2017 out of West Orange (Fla.) High in Winter Garden. Born in Schenectady, N.Y. Named to Arizona Summer League All-Star team in 2017 after posting a .336/.395/.509 line in 27 games with the AZL Rangers. Missed all of 2018 due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. Currently the Rangers No. 12 prospect, according to MLB.com.

Curtis Terry (6-3, 264, 22) B-T: R-R

Was the 13th-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Archer High in Lawrenceville, Ga. Native of nearby Snellville. Named Northwest League MVP after leading the league in home runs (15), RBI (60), total bases (149), runs (51) and OPS (1.040). Batted .337, the second-best in the Rangers minor league system. Named to Baseball America’s short-season all-star team.

OUTFIELDERS

Jose Almonte (6-3, 205, 22) B-T: R-R

Signed by the Rangers as international free agent in 2013. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R. Played 57 games for Hickory in 2016 and posted a .278/.343/.444 line with 8 homers and 26 RBI. Missed parts of the season with shoulder injuries. Returned to the Crawdads in 2017 and again struggled with injuries, playing only 66 games with a .185/.251/.300 line. Played in 11 games last year in the AZL.

Miguel Aparicio (6-0, 188, 20) B-T: L-L

Signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela. Spending his third season with Hickory. Named South Atlantic League hitter of the week for July 9-15, 2018 after batting .385/.407/.769 with two homers and eight RBI.

Pedro Gonzalez (6-5, 190, 21) B-T: R-R

Originally signed by the Colorado Rockies as an international free agent in 2014. Traded to the Rangers in 2017. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R. Played in 92 games for Hickory and posted a .234/.296/.421 line. Battled leg injuries through the year with two DL stints due to quad strains.

Julio Pablo (J.P.) Martinez (5-9, 174, 23) B-T: L-L

Signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2018. Native of Baracoa, Cuba, currently resides in Miami. Tabbed the 6th-best prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America. Posted a .252/.351/.436 line in 60 games with Spokane. Debuted in the Cuban National Series at 16-years-old and played five seasons in the country’s top league. Currently the Rangers No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com.

 

Young Talented Lineup Ready to Hit: An interview with Crawdads Hitting Coach Jared Goedert

When the Hickory Crawdads take the field on Thursday at Lakewood, N.J. to start the 2019 South Atlantic League season, the roster will contain nine players that are currently or have been on MLB.com’s Rangers top-30 prospect list. This doesn’t include Curtis Terry, the slugging first baseman who was the Northwest League MVP a year ago.

Given the task of working with this group is hitting coach Jared Goedert, who moved up to Hickory after spending last year at short-season Spokane.

I had the chance to speak with Goedert on Tuesday about the individuals that will suit up for Hickory this year. The interview took place at day after the Crawdads played their exhibition game against Lenoir-Rhyne. Here is that conversation.

 

 

I just want to get a snapshot of the different guys that are here this year that you will have the pleasure to work with. There’s a lot of talent here. I guess the top one is Julio Pablo Martinez, who will have his first full season here. From everything you read, he is the top or second prospect. What have you seen from him so far?

Goedert: He is a dynamic player in that – I got to be with him a little bit in Spokane – he can attack you in so many different ways at the plate. In one at-bat, if he’s facing a left-handed pitcher, he may pull a bunt past the pitcher to the first-base side for a base hit. The next at-bat, he may fake bunt, do a running slash and pop it past the third baseman for a hit. He may follow those two at-bats with a homer to deep right-center field. So, his skill set is so dynamic. He knows his abilities and he uses them at the right time. That’s what really impressed me last year is he knows when to take it, when they give him a bunt for a base hit. If they lay a cookie over the middle, he can drive the baseball, too. So, he’s very impressive that way.

 

What will he have to work on at this level that he hasn’t had to face at Spokane, or the Dominican, or wherever?

Goedert: As we get going, I think that will show itself a little better. But, I think he, along with the majority of the guys, will be playing a full season in the United States. He got a taste of a lot of baseball last year in Spokane, but that’s only 70 games. I think that one of the things that will dictate where he will need to work on some things, just as we go over the course of 140 games.

 

I’m just going to popcorn as names come to mind. You have Chris Seise, who didn’t get to play last year. Now, he’s going to get to play a full season, assuming he stays healthy. What do you see from him at this point?

Goedert: Chris is electric. His swing is controlled, but violent. He has electric athleticism. He’s a gamechanger in the box with his swing, but then also his speed on the bases. He’s just an electric player all around. I think that the thing I’m most excited for him is getting him back to be able to play every day. And you can tell from just being around him a little bit, he’s so fired up right now to be back on the baseball field and to be playing meaningful again. I’m fired up about him and for him.

 

One of the guys coming back from last year led the team in home runs, and that is Sam Huff. That’s pretty impressive to hit 18 at this level, given the grind of catching. What do you see from him so far?

Goedert: With Sam, the power, you can’t doubt that at all. It’s there, so now it’s going to be a matter of him taking that next step on the offensive side of things, which he is more than capable of. He’s a year older. He’s matured a year. He understands baseball a year better than he did. So, it’s going to be controlling his at-bats, in my opinion. Being able to get better and better as the year goes on, and moving on from one at-bat to the next, no matter if it was good or bad. So, I think just taking that next step and understanding his strike zone and what he can do damage on, and what he can’t. When he does, it’s pretty special. The power is undoubtable.

 

Matt Whatley, like Chris Seise, missed a lot of time last year from injuries. It looks like he will split time with Sam behind the plate. What are the expectations for him this year?

Goedert: He is another guy, like Chris, that I’m very excited for to just play baseball again and just be a baseball player. He’s an absolute gamer. He’s a leader behind the plate. In my opinion, he has an infectious personality. So, he’s a guy you love to have in the clubhouse and in the dugout every day, over the course of a long season, that’s fun to have around. I’m excited for him just for the maturity that he’s going to bring to this group. The leadership that he’ll going to bring to this group is going to be valuable with a lot of young talented. Matt’s extremely talented, too.

 

Curtis Terry, who you had last year at Spokane. We haven’t seen many slugging first basemen anymore. We had Tyreque Reed here last year and it looks like maybe we’ll start to see a few more of that type of player. Let me ask you about his growth and what he will need to do to step forward at this level.

Goedert: I think that if he continues the professional work, day in and day out that he had last year, he’s going to be fine here. I think it’s more of just looking to build off of last year and understanding that last year was a good year, but now it’s a new year and nobody cares. Nobody in this league is going to care about what he did last year. I think if he just continues to do professional work and professional preparation, day in and day out, he’ll be alright. I’m excited for him to finally get that opportunity to take that next step at this level.

 

Sherten Apostel. He’s a tall kid for a third baseman and I’m guessing that’s going to bring some power with it.

Goedert: Yeah, it does. He’s got power that is impressive, but to me, the most impressive thing with him is strike-zone discipline. With that, he manages to get himself into good hitter’s counts. When he does, the maturity for his age, as far as knowing he has a lot of power, he doesn’t try to do too much. I think that combination is pretty special for someone his age. His strike-zone discipline, his power, he has a beautiful swing, but then he doesn’t try to do too much. He stays within himself and he controls his at bats.

 

Ornelas is going to be the young guy. He was playing high school ball at this time last year. Obviously, he showed enough to get the full-season assignment. What has impressed you about him?

Goedert: I wasn’t around him at all last year, but what I’ve seen from him so far, and getting to know him, he’s a spark plug. That’s what’s exciting about him. When he steps in the box, he’s a spark plug. He has tremendous barrel-to-ball skills. If it’s over the plate, he gets the barrel to it. I’m still learning him as much as he’s still learning me.

 

Frainyer Chavez. That’s not a name I know at all, so what do you know about him?

Goedert: Similar boat as Ornelas, in that he was in Arizona last year. So, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him. I go to know him a little in spring training, but he’s a gamer. A switch-hitter that has really good at-bats from both sides of the plate. He controls his at-bats very well. For his age, he is composed. He doesn’t get rattled. He can hit with two strikes and he strikes me as a line drive hitter from both sides of the plate. I’m excited for him because he gives us a good at-bat regardless of whether it’s right-hander or left-hander on the mound.

 

Pedro Gonzalez is a guy that was a little snakebit last year with injuries. He had some flashes last year. He seems like he’s ready to take another step forward.

Goedert: That would be it, just taking that next step. I think just the consistency. It’s in there, but we need to help him get that out on a consistent basis. Not results, but just being healthy and having consistent quality at-bats.  If we can get that, those are controllable, I think the numbers are going to be where we would all like them to be.

 

Miguel Aparicio is a guy that’s been here a couple of times now. He’s been given a third shot. Is he starting to mature? What do see from him that will help him to stay at this level all year and to take the stride to where people saw the ability that made him a top-30 prospect previously?

Goedert: The word out of January, Dominican early camp was that he’s a different guy. In spring training, I could confirm that he’s a different guy just by how he goes about his business every single day, in a professional manner and in a mature manner. That’s what we need him to do is to continue that into the season. If he does, if he goes about that every day the right way, he’s going to be a good player, because he has that in him. I think at times, he may have been his own worst enemy. I see a maturity and an understanding at his at-bats. I’m excited for him. They role we have is to get the best out of him and making sure he approaches every day the right way. So far, he’s doing that well.

 

Isaias Quiroz had some playing time last year at Spokane and nosed himself into some more playing time.

Goedert: I hope so, because he’s a tremendous human being and a great leader in the clubhouse and with the pitching staff as well. He’s fallen into the category of it’s tough for some guys on some rosters because of who else is there. He handles it professionally every year. Baseball can change quickly and when it feels like you don’t have an opportunity, all of a sudden you do. When that opportunity comes, I think he’ll be ready and take another step as well.

 

At the end of the year, when you guys go home in September, what’s a good year for your group of guys, as far as the work you put in and the progress you see?

Goedert: I think that, to me, it’s going to be more on how – it’s not quantitative, it’s tough to quantify and be subjective. If I can look out on a nightly basis and every time we step in the box, and we’re ready to hit mentally. I mean, truly ready to hit. Just because we’re standing in the batter’s box with our batting gloves on and with a bat in our hand doesn’t mean we’re ready to hit. So, I think if we can get guys in the box ready to hit, one through nine, for 27 outs or 24 outs on a nightly basis, I’ll feel like all the number and the wins will take care of themselves. Obviously, the goal is to make the playoffs and to make a run here, but on my end specifically, if I can get our guys ready to hit and understanding the importance of that at 7:00 every night, that’s my goal for these guys.

 

Crawdads 2019 Preview: Interview with Manager Matt Hagen

The Hickory Crawdads began the 2018 season with six straight losses and were 1-8 before winning two straight for the first time. The season took a big turn in the second half as the pitching, which struggled mightily early on, carried the team.

Matt Hagen will take the reins of the team for the second time and there are high expectations for a group that will have six of the Texas Rangers top-30 prospects, according to MLB.com. Five of those are position players, which will also have four more teammates that were once on that heralded list.

However, the expectations aren’t simply because of the pedigree of the players that will start the year here. The expectations are there because Hagen and his staff has raised the bar of accountability that he admitted wasn’t present until several weeks into 2018.

The Crawdads will be young in the field, older on the mound and it could be an interesting combination as they go forward.

I talked with Hagen on Tuesday a day after his team’s exhibition win over Lenoir-Rhyne.

You and I talked late last year and this January at the hot stove banquet about setting up accountability right off the bat. You start this year at Lakewood with the long bus trip and the weather that’s up there in April. With that in mind, let me ask you about the start of the season and hitting the ground running.

Hagen: I think we get some adversity right away with the long bus trip and some cold weather. But, at the end of the day, these guys are going to be better off facing some adversity. With that said, we want to push them simply hold them to a higher standard and level of accountability right out of the gate.

You face the league runner-up (Lakewood, N.J.)– and I know there is turnover and such, but traditionally it’s a strong club that always has good pitching. You’ve got a lineup that looks like, on paper, a good group of prospects that you’re going to put up there every night.

Hagen: Our team, opening day, the depth of our lineup is one of our strengths. On any given night, our four-hole (hitter) could be batting eighth and the next night our eighth-hole could be batting fourth. There’s not a differentiation between the two. So, we have some length in the back half of our lineup, which is, on paper, a good look.

You’ve got Chris Seise, J.P. Martinez, (Jonathan) Ornellas. You’ve got, at least from MLB’s point of view, five prospects that are in the top-30. To run five out every night, that’s a nice group to play with.

Hagen: I think it’s more the names you didn’t mention that are going to be a big deal for us. You’re talking about Matt Whatley, who is coming off a year where he was misdiagnosed and was battling illness all year and was a Johnny Bench award winner coming out of college. You’ve got Jose Almonte, who had a heck of a year here before he got hurt. He’s been spending the last two years just getting healthy to get back to Hickory. You’ve got Pedro Gonzalez, who showed some electrifying stuff last season and has a chance to come back here and start off with some familiarity.

So, I think it’s nice to have guys that are on prospect lists, but at the end of the day, a prospect list just means you haven’t done anything yet. You’re a guy who has the potential to someday do something. We try to drive that point home to them that you don’t get to make it to the big leagues because you are on a prospect list in Low-A. You’ve still got a lot of work to do.

You do have some guys that were on that top-30 list: Matt and Pedro and Miguel (Aparicio). It’s almost a group that has something to prove to get back into that conversation.

Hagen: When Miguel came back last year after going to Spokane for a little bit, we saw a different player in terms of his preparation, his effort and his hustle on the field. From that time, which I want to say was July, all the way through Instructional League, through the winter programs in the Dominican, through spring training, that’s the guy we’ve seen. So, I’m excited to see that same guy for a whole five months, now.

Miguel Aparicio will start his third season with the Crawdads (Crystal Lin)

Is this a similar situation to Pedro? Like you said, there were spurts when he would electrify in the lineup, but there were times he was out for injuries. Was there disappointment for that last year, or was it more of a luck of the draw that he couldn’t stay healthy?

Hagen: I think it’s par for the course for athletic players, who happen to be 6-foot-5 and possess a lot of power. They’re going to get pitched like a AA hitter would get pitched in Low-A baseball. They’re not, “here’s three fastballs within the at-bat” with something to hit. It’s right away, “we don’t want to give in, let’s see if we can get you to chase” and take something off. It doesn’t matter if Pedro bats third or hits eighth or ninth, him and guys like Sam Huff and Curtis Terry are going to get pitched the same, no matter what, because everybody knows what they can do with one swing of the bat.

Pedro Gonzalez returns to the Crawdads after posting a .234/.296/.421 slash a season ago (Ashley Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

So, it’s just part of the education process for Pedro. If he can add one base hit for week over the course of a season for him, you add 20 hits in there and all of a sudden, he’s a uber-prospect, when he has 20 more hits over the course of 500 at-bats. So, just making those little adjustments where he becomes a little more patient on getting a pitch that he can hit. I think that’s just part of the natural process of all hitters.

Chris Seise is healthy?

Hagen: He’s healthy and ready to go. He’s really excited. He spent a whole year in the training room himself, which for a young kid is frustrating. He wants to be out there every day. He’s healthy and I think that some of the game clock things are going to have to come back to him, because he’s had time off. And Almonte taking a couple of years off is going to have to have the game clock come back to him. But, two three weeks into the season, I think they’ll be right back to where they were before.

What have you seen from J.P. so far?

Hagen: A superior athlete. When he gets on base, it’s really fun to watch. I put him in that Eric Jenkins, LeDarious Clark mold – guys in our organization that can change the game on the basepaths. He can go get it in the outfield. Then at the plate, if you’re not careful, you might look and realize this guy not only can defend and run, but it turns out he can hit the ball pretty hard for a guy that’s his size. The sky’s the limit for him and it’ll be exciting to see him get four or five bats every game, probably at the top of the order.

Apostel – he’s a big kid, for some reason he’s not what I was expecting. I was thinking he would be a smaller guy for a third baseman.

Hagen: A tall kid for a third baseman, but he can play the position. Just seeing the amount of adjustments he made over the course of spring training, working on his feet to get them better. He’s got a strong enough arm and he’s starting to get better angles on his ground balls. At the plate – he’s only 19 or 20 years old – the maturity of his at-bats and the inner confidence that he brings is beyond his years. We’re going to plug him in the middle of the order.

Ornellas looks like he was pretty smooth last evening.

Hagen: Johnny is going to be all over the field for us because he’s just that athletic. That allows a manager, like myself, to plug him wherever I want. He can play third base one night. He can play centerfield, left, second, short, right field. His role on this team will be mostly to bounce around and be that super-utility guy for us, just because that’s what we need with this particular group of guys. He’s smart enough and athletic enough to handle that.

I think we’ve mentioned all the prospects, but there’s one guy who is not on any of the prospect lists and it’s the guy Curtis Terry who was the MVP of the Northwest League last year, Curtis Terry. You lose Tyreque Reed from last year and now you plug another one in.

Hagen: I’m surprised they didn’t find him a house and sign him to a long-term contract in Spokane. Two years ago, he led the league in home runs. He went back to repeat last year simply because we have a log jam at first base with Tyreque. He goes back and winds up winning the MVP. So, you look at guys, that prospect status is what it is, but track record is more important to me. And his track record says, based on his last two years, the dude hits. He puts up his number. Just read the baseball card – the baseball cards don’t lie. You are what you are. So, you look at the back of his baseball card, you get excited for what he can potentially do over 140 games.

Looking at the roster, usually when you look at this level it’s been the tendency for the Rangers to bring in a bunch of young guys, but have a couple of college guys. You don’t have that his year, other than Matt behind the plate. Does that concern you to have so many young guys around the infield? Is the expectation for the guys to grow up on their own a little bit?

Hagen: Yeah, they’re going to have to learn on the fly. Luckily, Matt has the leadership skills to count as two or three people. He really does. Then, if you watched (Frainyer) Chavez last night, his inner clock that he plays with is so under control. There’s no panic. He plays like a kid that’s been playing infield professionally for six years, and it’s only his second season. That’s a bright spot for me.

We’ll lean leadership wise on the guys who have been here in the past, and also on our two catchers. We’ve Sam’s maturity and Matt’s been at a higher level. They both possession good leadership skills.\

One of the worries from last year was getting the guys that were here enough playing time as catchers, getting repetition. Right now, how do you see that playing time shaping up?

Hagen: I think 50-50 coming out of it. They’re both guys that need to play. They’re both guys that are going to be instrumental to the success of our club. Sam was an all-star here last year and he’s earned the right to play every day. Matt was arguably our best hitter two years ago at Spokane and had some adversity last year. He’s also earned the right to play a lot, too. They are two guys in the organization the organization is high on for good reason. So, one of those guys will be catching and the other guy will probably be DH-ing most nights.

Sam Huff hit 18 home runs for the Crawdads which finished in a tie for the team lead (Tracy Proffitt)

What is your general impression of what you have among the pitching staff? You, obviously, have Hans Crouse at the top and Jean Casanova who was here last year. Everybody else is pretty spanking new to this level.

Hagen: (Pitching coach) Jose (Jaimes) and I were talking about this just the other day. It’s a stark contrast to what we had last year. We had a lot that were lighting up the radar gun early in the season, but not the strike zone. This year, we have more guys that, I think, have the ability to throw more strikes – more pitchers than throwers. Last year, we started the season with more throwers and we had to make them pitchers. To have guys that can throw a couple of pitches in the zone to start the season. I think it’s encouraging, as we learn the value of free bases and not walking guys every night. It gives our defense a chance to make plays.

It’s the first group I can recall that doesn’t have a teenager on the pitching staff. I know the Rangers have put together a program in which the high school guys they drafted last summer were shut down until instructionals. Is this older group of pitchers a part of that intentional process by the Rangers?

Hagen: Yeah, I think it’s a hundred percent intentional. When we signed the American kids out of high school, we want them on our program, doing things our way. Sometimes that means you have to take a step back and get them back to neutral as an athlete. Then, we can take two or three steps forward. You have to be willing to have the patience to give that a year to take place, so therefore you don’t have kids that are 19, but now they are 20. I think it’s a plan that has the player’s best interest at heart long term.