(The following story is based on records I have at my disposal since 2005, as well as sporadic records kept by the Crawdads prior to that season. If others have further information, I welcome their inclusion here and will update.)
At Thursday’s home-opener win over Kannapolis, the Hickory Crawdads tied a club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The trio of Jake Latz (8), Tai Tiedemann (5) and Nick Snyder (4) struck out 17 hitters during a 4-1 win.
With that game in mind, I thought Crawdads fans might want a look back at some of the other big strikeout games in the team’s history.
Hickory first registered 17 Ks in a nine-inning game back on May 25, 2009 in a game at Hagerstown, Md, when a pair of future major leaguers turned the trick. Right-hander Jake Brigham twirled the first five innings of shutout baseball, striking out eight and allowing three hits. Martin Perez then came in and upstaged him. The 18-year-old left-hander, then one of the pitching prospects in the minors, struck out nine over four innings and finished off a seven-hit shutout in a 6-0 win.
The individual pitcher with the most strikeouts in a single game was right-hander Jason Lakman, who on July 31, 1997 struck out 16. During that contest, he became one of the few pitchers in baseball history to struck out five in one inning when he turned the trick in the fifth.
The all-time single-game record for the team in a came back in August 2000 as part of a game that set the South Atlantic League record for most combined strikeouts in a game. Asheville and Hickory played 20 innings that day and rang up 53 strikeouts. In what was a loss, the Crawdads pitchers set 23 down on strikes. Unfortunately, the Hickory hitters set the league’s record for most whiffs in a game when they fanned 30 times.
The Crawdads got close to catching that mark a couple of times. During a 17-inning affair on May 9, 2015, Brett Martin (4), Trey Lambert (2), Adam Parks (7), David Perez (6) and Kelvin Vasquez (3) combined to strikeout 22 against Savannah. Their chance to catch and break the club mark ended on Crawdads walk-off homer by Jose Cardona.
The Crawdads has two other extra-inning games during which they struck out 20 or more batters. In a home game on May 4, 2010 against Asheville. Two future major league pitchers were among a quartet of Crawdads hurlers that fanned 20 during a 13-inning game. Starter Joe Wieland (8) and closer Josh Lueke (5), both of whom would go onto the big leagues, collected 13 with Braden Tullis (5) and Hector Nelo (2) filling in for seven others.
The other 20+ strikeout contest came during a loss in 19 innings to Rome (Ga.) on May 15, 2016. Peter Fairbanks had a pedestrian four over six innings with Blake Bass added two more in the seventh and eighth. Reliever and future big leaguer Jeffrey Springs had five over three innings before Omarlin Lopez dominated the Braves with eight in five innings. Sitting at 19 after 16 innings, the club record was in reach. Matt Ball tallied just one more in the 17th and 18th innings. With the Crawdads out of fresh arms, position player Dylan Moore threw in the 19th and was not able to register a K.
The Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers affiliate) host the Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) for a three-game series Monday through Wednesday at L.P. Frans Stadium to close out a seven-game homestand.
If you plan to go:
Games Monday and Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. with Wednesday’s tilt at 10:30 a.m.
Persons can get into the game free on Monday by bringing an item to support the Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry. Items needed are diapers, socks, men’s undershirts, light bulbs, batteries, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, or air fresheners. Item(s) must be $5 or more in value.
Tuesday is Dollar Dog Day. Dogs are admitted for $1 each and hot dogs are $1 each at the concession stand. The Crawdads will have 16 oz. craft pints and 22 oz. Pepsis for $2.
Wednesday is the first Education Day of the year.
Concessions are basic ballpark fare with a wider selection of items at the Crawdads Café, which is located above the 1B stands. New this year is a mac-and-cheese footlong hotdog and an updated version of the CLAWlossal
Where is it?:
L.P. Frans is located on Clement Blvd., approximately 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321. From I-40 east or west, take exit 123 B and follow the signs to U.S. 321 North. The left turn for Clement Blvd. is at the light that houses Pizza Hut, CVS, RaceTrac gas station and Peak Motors.
From the north, take Hwy 321 South to Clement Blvd. and turn right.
From downtown Hickory, take 3rd street NW to the west and follow it until it turns into Clement Blvd. past the U.S. 321 intersection.
Probables (Greenville/ Hickory):
Monday: RHP Anderson Espinoza vs. RHP Peter Fairbanks
Tuesday: LHP Logan Boyd vs. LHP Brett Martin
Wednesday: RHP Roniel Raudes vs. RHP Dillon Tate
Recent Series History:
Hickory and Greenville split a four-game series at LPFS last season in the only meetings between the clubs. The Crawdads have taken 9-of-12 the last two seasons. Since 2009, which is the start of the Rangers-Crawdads affiliation, Hickory is 34-29 overall, 23-21 at home. Overall, since the Drive began play in 2005 after moving from Columbia, Greenville holds the series lead 52-49, including a 28-24 mark at LPFS.
Entering the series – Hickory:
The Crawdads are 9-2, which is their best 11-game record to open a season since at least the 2000 season. (There are no game-by-game records available prior to 2000.) They are tied with the West Virginia Power for first in the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Northern Division… Hickory took the final two games of the four-game series with Kannapolis and have won 6-of-7 overall.
At the plate: the Crawdads are tied with Greenville with a .423 slugging pct., trails only Greenville in OPS (.760) at .758 and are second in batting avg. at .265. The Crawdads lead the SAL in total bases and are second in hits.
On the mound, the team ERA of 2.00 is second in the SAL and as a group have allowed the fewest HRs (2) in the league. Despite the number of errors, especially early on, Hickory has given up just six unearned runs
In the field: After eight errors over the first four games of the season, the Crawdads have just five over the last seven.
On the bases: Hickory has a SAL-high of 35 steal attempts with 15 caught stealing. Eight different players have at least one steal with six putting up two or more. Dylan Moore leads with five and has yet to be caught.
Entering the series –Greenville:
The Drive are 7-4 after taking the final three games in their series at Columbia (S.C.) this weekend and sit two games behind first place Charleston (S.C.) in the SAL’s Southern Division. Greenville is in the midst of a stretch of games in which it had a three-game winning streak, a three-game losing streak, and now its current three-game winning streak.
At the plate: After scoring 25 runs over the first eight games of the season, Greenville exploded for 24 over the final three games, which included nine home runs against Fireflies pitching. That explosion has put them into the SAL lead with 13. They have more homers than doubles (12) and trail only in Hickory in total bases.
On the mound: As a group, the Drive is around the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, though their 2.66 ERA is fourth in the league. That ERA may need to be given more weight as to its excellence, considering that their home ballpark in Greenville is a hitter’s park. The relief pitching in many cases have been nearly lights out. Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Fernandez and Kuehl McEachern have combined to strike out 18 and walk one over 16.1 scoreless innings.
In the field: Next to last fielding pct. (.957), Greenville has 17 errors on the season, eight of those in the last five games. Infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe has four.
Players to watch- Hickory:
RHP Peter Fairbanks: The 22-year-old was the Rangers 9th round pick in 2015 out of Missouri. Allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks over five innings with four Ks in his first start at Greensboro last week.
LHP Brett Martin: The 2015 SAL All-Star returned for a tune-up of his repertoire and it has worked well out of the gate for Hickory in 2016. Unrattled after a rough first inning during opening night at Kannapolis, the native of Morristown, Tenn. has allowed one earned run over nine innings with 12 K and four walks. He is prone to hits, as Martin sports a .264 OBA in his career, including ten hits allowed this year. Martin is the Rangers No. 11 prospect according to MLB.com, No. 18 by Baseball America.
RHP Dillon Tate: The Rangers No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, No. 5 by Baseball America. He is also MLB.com’s No. 35 overall prospect and the 8th best RHP. In his opening start of the season, Tate allowed an unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts over 4.2 innings at Kannapolis. He returned for the home opener last Thursday to strike out ten Intimidators over six innings and allowed four hits. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.
LHP Joe Palumbo: Has been tough to face in his two outings, as he has struck out 12 over 6.1 innings. That ratio of 17.05 K’s-per-9 innings is tops among relievers. Palumbo was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist in N.Y.
2B Andy Ibanez: Has arguably been the best hitter in the SAL over the first week-and-a-half of the season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (18), doubles (7), batting (.439), slugging (.732), extra base hits (9), total bases (30) and is third in OBP (.489). Baserunning has been a problem area early on as he has been caught stealing five times with three pickoffs. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16.
CF Eric Jenkins: At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7. Had 13 strikeouts during the opening week-long road trip, but has adjusted for now with just three over the weekend. Has blazing speed with which he uses well to track down balls in the gaps. On offense, Jenkins will lay down effective bunts, but has the ability to pull the bat back and slap the ball around the field. Has shown emerging power as of later, with his first pro homer at Greensboro and a double to the track in CF vs. Kannapolis.
SS Yeyson Yrizarri: He is the No. 12 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com, No. 27 by Baseball America. Thus far, he has not appeared overmatched as a 19-year-old in his first full-season league. Yrizarri is errorless at the position and has shown good range. The cannon of an arm that was advertised ahead of his arrival has proved to be true. At the plate, he has a six-game hitting streak during which he is 9-for-25, including three two-hit games. Also has a streak of four games with at least one RBI. Showed promising power when he homered to LCF on Friday.
IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro last week, but had a six-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday vs. Kannapolis. Went 8-for-20 during the stretch. Has settled down at first after he made two errors opening night; gone errorless since and seems to look more comfortable there.
C Tyler Sanchez: At this point, Sanchez has worked himself into a few more at bats. Was the first catcher to work back-to-back games this season when he did so on Friday and Saturday, then played first on Sunday. Sanchez has shown patience at the plate with seven walks over his last four games.
Players to watch-Greenville:
RHP Anderson Espinoza: At 18, the native of Caracas, Venezuela is already the Red Sox No. 4 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com, which has him at the No. 37 overall prospect and the 10th-best right handed pitching prospect. Comes armed with a fastball that has touched 100 and an advanced curve and change. He shut down Asheville on two hits over five innings in his first start before West Virginia touched him for four runs (three earned) on six hits in his last start. Has nine Ks and no walks in 10 innings. Likely slated for around 75 pitches.
LHP Logan Boyd: The 22-year-old out of Sam Houston St. was the Red Sox 19th round pic in 2015. Gave up a hit per inning in his short-season tenure at Lowell (Mass.), has a 1.50 WHIP in two starts this season. Gave up two runs on four hits over three innings in his last start at Columbia.
RHP Roniel Raudes: From Nicaragua, the 18-year-old is MLB.com’s No. 14 prospect, No. 24 by Baseball America. Skipped short-season level after making his stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League last summer. Entered the season with 79 Ks and nine walks over 74 innings, is already at a 9/1 ratio in 10 innings this year. He four-hit Asheville to start his season and then allowed a run on three hits at Columbia in his last outing. Has a low-90s fastball with curve and change. Like Espinoza, will also likely top out at 75 pitches.
RHP Anyelo Leclerc: A member of the 2014 Crawdads squad, the Red Sox acquired him in the offseason during the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Has 10 Ks in 8.2 IP over 4 relief outings thus far in 2016. Gave up two runs in back-to-back outings before bouncing back on Sunday with a scoreless 1.2 innings at Columbia, though he gave up two walks and a hit.
CF Luis Alexander Basabe: The 19-year-old from El Vigia, Venezuela is listed as MLB.com’s No. 8 prospect, 9th by Baseball America. Is already in his fourth pro season after having signed with Boston in 2013 at 16. Evaluators have noted his speed and bat speed. A patient hitter at the plate for his age, has 126 walks in 867 plate appearances (15%). Has struggled at the start of the season (.176/.222/.353) with hits in only 3 of his 9 games. He is the twin brother of Drive infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe.
3B Michael Chavis: The Red Sox first-round pick (26th overall) in 2014 is in his second season with the Drive after a .223/.277/.405 season in 109 games last year. Still just 20, the native of Marietta, Ga. is the No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com. Won the home run derby at the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic and cranked out 16 homers with the Drive last year. But his 144 Ks derailed his season (31% K-rate). Has improved in that area early on in 2016 with just eight in 43 appearances. Is at .350/.395/.500 to start this season.
1B Josh Ockimey: The Red Sox 5th round pick in 2014, out of Sts. Neumann and Goretti High in Philly. Signed away from a commitment to Indiana. Already 6-1, 215, some evaluators have given comparisons a young Ryan Howard with his potential power. Had four homers and 20 extra-base hits in 56 games at short-season Lowell last year. Coming off back-to-back homers at Columbia and is third in the SAL in slugging at .676). MLB.com ranks him as the Red Sox No. 16, while Baseball America pegs him at No. 23.
C Austin Rei: The Red Sox No. 25 prospect, according to MLB.com was their third round pick in 2015 out of the University of Washington. Struggled at the plate at short-season Lowell (.179/.285/.295 in 130 plate appearances), has started just 4-of-28 at Greenville. Caught 4 of the 6 runners attempting to steal this season.
Notes of Interest:
Both teams have yet to lose a game when having the lead after five innings. Hickory is 7-0, while Greenville is 5-0. Both are undefeated (4-0) when scoring first. The Crawdads have won six of seven games decided by more than three runs…Drive catcher Roldani Baldwin went to the 7-day DL and was replaced on the roster by C Jhon Nunez. It is Nunez’s first stint at low-A… Drive RHP Michael Kopech (No. 5 prospect) is on the DL…The lone Crawdads DL casualty is pitcher Jacob Shortslef (cut finger).
The Hickory Crawdads continue the opening week of the season with a three-game series at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro.
If you plan to go:
Games Monday and Tuesday are at 7:00 EDT with an early matinee at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
Ticket prices range from $7-11. No tickets are available for Wednesday’s game, which is a Guilford Co. 6th-grader game.
Parking at various lots near the ballpark are $3-5. There is metered parking about a block away from the outfield that is free after 6 p.m.
The Grasshoppers have a promotion on Monday for $6 lawn seats, $1 dogs and beverages.
There is a wide variety of concessions at NewBridge Bank Park. Other than basic ballpark fare, there is a BBQ stand, Philly Steaks Sandwiches & Nachos, Mexican fare, and a Burger of the Month. There are also veggie options (Black Bean burger). Here is the entire menu
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.)
Probables (Hickory/ Kannapolis):
Monday: RHP Erik Swanson/ LHP Wes Benjamin (piggy back) vs. RHP Chuck Weaver
Tuesday: RHP Peter Fairbanks vs. LHP Justin Jacome
Wednesday: LHP Brett Martin vs. RHP Cody Poteet
Recent Series History:
Hickory took an 11-6 series win vs. the Grasshoppers in 2015, which included a 6-5 mark at NewBridge Bank Park. Since the stadium opened in 2005, Greensboro is 51-35 at home vs. the Crawdads, 24-31 during the Rangers affiliation (since 2009).
Players to watch- Hickory:
RHP Erik Swanson: Expected to make his first pro start in the opener after 26 relief appearances over the past three seasons. Swanson, 22, was the Rangers 8th round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC. Has 38 Ks in 39.2 pro innings and hitters are batting .207 against him.
LHP Wes Benjamin: Will piggyback with Swanson for now. The 22-year-old was the Rangers fifth round pick in 2014 out of Kansas. Had Tommy John surgery while with the Jayhawks in 2014 and has only one pro inning under his belt.
RHP Peter Fairbanks: The 2015 ninth-round pick of the Rangers out of Missouri is expected to make his Crawdads debut Tuesday night. He underwent Tommy John surgery while in high school at Webster Groves High. A fly-ball pitcher thus far as a pro (0.93 GO/AO) that will need to tread lightly in the cozy dimensions of NewBridge Bank Park. Fairbanks has allowed 22 walks in 57.1 innings.
LHP Brett Martin: An SAL All-Star Team selection, Martin is the Rangers No. 11 prospect named by MLB.com, No. 18 prospect named by Baseball America. The fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Walters St. (Tenn.) CC) allowed one unearned run on five hits and struck out eight over four innings in his first start against Kannapolis on Opening Night.
CF Eric Jenkins: Had a tough weekend at Kannapolis with seven strikeouts in 14 plate appearances, including a “Golden Sombrero” in Saturday night’s game. He did have three steals in Friday night’s game and scored three runs. At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7.
SS Yeyson Yrizarri: Put up an odd .182/.333/.273 slash over the weekend, walked twice and struck out three times in 11 ABs in three games. At 19 on opening day, he is the No. 12 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com, No. 27 by Baseball America.
2B Andy Ibanez: Had a prodigious opening, four-game weekend series vs. Kannapolis with an OPS of 1.541. He went 9-for-17 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, knocked in six and scored three, while splitting time at second with Frandy De La Rosa.The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16.
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: The 19-year-old had a double among his five hits over the four-game series at Kannapolis. The Rangers 2014 second-round pick is MLB.com’s No. 30 Rangers prospect.
OF Jose Almonte: Had a nice weekend series at Kannapolis, going 5-for-11 (all singles) and walked twice. Almonte, 19, has a linebacker build (6-3, 205) and athleticism to the game. Has a .188/.265/.241 slash in 112 games, made his stateside debut this past weekend. For now, holding down things in right field.
Players to watch-Greensboro:
1B Josh Naylor: The Marlins first round pick in 2015 out of St. Joan of Arc Secondary (Mississauga, Ontario) is the club’s No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America and MLB.com, and the No. 8 overall first base prospect (MLB.com). He put up a .327/.352/.418 slash in 25 games with the Marlins Gulf Coast League team last summer. At 18, he’s shown a decent eye at the plate (11% K rate- 13 Ks in 118 PAs through 4/9/16), but has only 4 walks. His high ranking is posted because of his power potential at 6-0, 225 lbs.
RF Isael Soto: The Dominican native is the Marlins No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, No. 9 by Baseball America. He hit 7 home runs in the GCL as a 17-year-old in 2014.. Soto started with the Grasshoppers in 2015, but tore his meniscus after just 17 games. Has 22 extra base hits in 332 career plate appearances, but 93 Ks (28% K-rate) to just 20 walks.
SS Anfernee Seymour: The native of the Bahamas was the Marlins seventh round pick in 2014 out of Delray Beach, Fla. His calling card will be his speed (grades at 80 with a reported 6.14 second, 60-yard dash.) He stole 29 bases in 64 games last year at Batavia and had two in Saturday’s game vs. West Virginia. A slap hitter at the plate, he has yet to master the strike zone, as Seymour has 81 Ks in 392 PAs.
RHP Cody Poteet: The Marlins fourth round pick in 2015 out of UCLA is the team’s No. 19 prospect (BA and MLB.com). He split time with the Bruins as a reliever and a starter and is currently the ‘Hoppers No. 2 starter. Poteet opened the season with a one-run, two-hit outing over five innings against West Virginia. Had a 2.13 ERA/ 0.85 WHIP at short-season Batavia (N.Y.) in 2015. Possesses a fastball-slider combination.
LHP Justin Jacome: The Marlins fifth round pick in 2015 out of UC Santa Barbara, he is the No. 21 prospect by Baseball America and No. 22 by MLB.com. Was a starter as a freshman in college and went on to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League. Posted a 2.48 ERA/ 1.35 WHIP at short-season Batavia (N.Y.) in 2015. Allowed one run on two hits and struck out one over five innings in his first start this season vs. West Virginia.
Notes of Interest: Crawdads Manager Steve Mintz has said that his club will be aggressive on the bases and that has certainly played out with 11 steals out of 16 attempts over the weekend. At times, the aggressiveness has gotten them into trouble in the form of rundowns and thrown-out baserunners on infield grounders….Although Hickory took three of four at Kannapolis, the team has only four of 11 position players hitting over .200 and just five are over .300 in OBP… The Crawdads committed nine errors during the four-games at Kannapolis…Crawdads RHP Jacob Shortslef went to the 7-day DL with a cut on his finger….As a pitching staff, the Crawdads K’d 39, but walked 16 in four games…Pitcher Tyler Kolek, the Marlins number one prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com, underwent Tommy John surgery on April 6. He is expected to miss the 2016 season…Jacome and ‘Dads starter Dillon Tate were teammates with UC Santa Barbara …2015 Marlins SS Justin Twine is on the team’s DL list… Weaver signed with the Marlins after three seasons with the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League.
Division II school Lenoir-Rhyne continued a ten-year unbeaten streak in Hickory exhibition games at L.P. Frans Stadium by defeating the Hickory Crawdads 7-5 Monday night.
The Bears, which defeated Hickory 4-3 in last year’s game and tied the 2007 contest, were the aggressors from the start and never trailed in the contest. (The series was not played from 2008 through 2014.)
Colby Dishmond cracked a solo blast in the ninth to break a 4-4 tie. The Bears added a run in the inning after a Dylan Moore error at first and Tripp Hamrick’s grounder accounted for the final run.
“(Dishmond) knocked the fire out of that ball,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz of the go-ahead homer.
LRU, which is 26-12 during its South Atlantic Conference season, scored two in the first on a bloop single by Will Thompson. Hickory cut the deficit in half as Andy Ibanez and Yeyson Yrizarri hit back-to-back doubles.
The Bears made it 4-1 in the second. Hamrick scored from second after left fielder LaDarious Clark dropped a slicing liner in left off the bat of Justin Lara. Lara then scored on Chase Hathcock’s single.
Clark earned one of the runs back in the fourth when he tripled in Yrizarri. The Crawdads then tied it in the fifth after Ibanez tripled in Chuck Moorman and Eric Jenkins.
“Our guys played well and gave us a chance to win,” said LRU head coach Tom Fleenor. “I’m proud of our team and hopefully it’s something we can use as a springboard for us for our season.”
Hickory put up ten hits, but six of those came from Ibanez and Yrizarri, both of which sprayed the field with their base-knocks. Ibanez doubled down the line in left in the first, tripled to the wall in right in the fifth, then returned to double down the line in left in the eighth. “That’s what we expect him to do, hit the ball and drive in runs” said Mintz.
Yrizarri’s three hits went to left, center and right.
Arguably the best at-bat of the night came by Eric Jenkins in the fifth. After swinging through a breaking ball for strike two in the fifth, Jenkins laid off the same pitch two other times and worked a walk. My impression of Jenkins from last year’s cameo appearance at Hickory was that the game could be a bit fast for him at first. However, he’s a quick learner and doesn’t get fooled by the same thing more than once or twice. He does make adjustments on the fly, something that should serve him well as he sees breaking balls away from South Atlantic League pitchers.
Frandy De La Rosa went 0-for-4, but had two hits taken away. He lined hard to shortstop Matthew De La Rosa in the first to strand Yrizarri at third, then lined hard to left in the fourth, but Marcus Shoemaker made a sprawling catch of the liner off the grass.
Peter Fairbanks threw what appeared to be a slider with some bite as it whipped away from the right-handed hitters. However, he had trouble commanding the fastball and the Bears hitters took advantage.
Dillon Tate fanned two in the fourth, but hit a batter and walked one. His strikeout of Dishmond came on a changeup that pasted the inside corner for a called-third strike.
Pedro Payano gave up two hits, but got a double play to work out of the inning.
Jonathan Hernandez needed 22 pitches to get through the sixth, throwing just 10 strikes, as he worked out of a bases-loaded jam.
For my eyes, Erik Swanson had the best stuff of the night, as he ran a live fast ball up in the zone that the Bears hitters had problems catching up to. “It looked hard, didn’t it,” said Mintz. “He was out of the zone a lot, but they kept chasing it, so he kept throwing it up there. They kept trying to hit it, but they couldn’t.”
Lefty Wes Benjamin worked around a single for a scoreless eighth inning.
Johan Juan left a fastball up that Dishmond connected for the go-ahead homer.
“To be honest, I just kind of saw a fastball, not necessarily left over the plate, but it was something I could handle,” said Dishmond. “I didn’t really think it was going out, but I thought it was a double, at least. Then I looked up and saw the umpire throwing his hand around.”
After the Bears put two on with no outs, third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes began to charge in from third as the Crawdads put on the wheel play to defend an expected sacrifice. Ryan Perkins pulled the back and hit a hot smash that Forbes speared and turned into a 5-4-3 double play.
LaDarious Clark dropped a slicing liner along the line in LF by Tripp Hamrick after a long run. It was ruled an error which scored a run and led to the second of the inning. Dylan Moore’s error in the ninth was a routine grounder to first that short-hopped his glove.
LRU had four steals over the first four innings against catcher Chuck Moorman. Three of the throws were off line and to the right of second. He appeared to catch Hamrick on a throw to second in the second, but was called safe.
The Crawdads plan to push the envelope with their speed in 2016, but will need to be mindful of running into outs in close games. Ibanez doubled and was picked off in the eighth. Yrizarri followed the pickoff with a single, but he, too, was picked off. “That eighth inning killed us getting picked off second and getting picked off first,” said manager Steve Mintz. “Those are things we can’t do. We’re forcing these guys to be aggressive on the bases and different things like that, but on situations like that, we gave away two baserunners with a chance to win the game.”
“The pick plays kind of surprised them a little bit,” said LRU manager Tom Fleenor. “I know they don’t do a ton of that, as far as practicing baserunning. They might practice doing it, but they probably don’t practice it a lot doing the bases. They would be to our advantage.”
On a grounder to third in the first inning, Yrizarri made it from second to third after third baseman Hamrick failed to check the runner.
Eduard Pinto held up at first on a bloop single to short right by Forbes and should have been thrown out easily at third, but Hamrick dropped the throw in from right.
Mintz: “All in all, I was happy with it. We’d love to win the game, but with what we’re doing and where we’re at preparing for the season, it was a pretty good deal for us.”
LRU coach Tom Fleenor: “It’s just fun to get out here. I appreciate the Crawdads for letting us do this with them. It’s a great event and hope it’s something we can do. I know we’re not going to win every year and we may not win again for 20 years, but it’s fun coming out here and rubbing elbows with these guys that get paid to play the game. It’s honor to be on the same field with them.”
Dishmond: “Coming out here and playing in a great ballpark like this, it’s not every day you get to play against pro guys. It’s a really good experience for all of us.”
The Texas Rangers and Hickory Crawdads released the opening-day roster for the Crawdads earlier this week. I’ll take a look at the roster over two parts beginning with the pitchers in this entry.
In looking at the roster, the first thing I noticed was how much older the pitching staff is this season compared to season’s past as a Texas Rangers affiliate. During the Crawdads-Rangers tenure over the past seven seasons, Hickory has had such teen pitching phenoms as Martin Perez, Wilfredo Boscan, Wilmer Font, Joe Ortiz, Robbie Erlin, Andrew Faulkner, Victor Payano, Jose Leclerc, Akeem Bostick, Luis Ortiz, and Ariel Jurado start the season in a Crawdads uniform.
In 2015, 19-year-olds Jurado and Ortiz, along with 20-year old Brett Martin were the cornerstones of the starting rotation with LHP pitching prospect Yohander Mendez – himself 20 – waiting in the wings in the bullpen. This season, Jonathan Hernandez is the lone teen wolf (19) on the Crawdads staff.
Now, in the past, the Rangers have sent teen-aged pitchers to Hickory in early-to-mid May to save wear and tear on the arms (Joe Wieland, Neil Ramirez, Cody Buckel, Luke Jackson to name a few), with most repeating the Low-A level the following season. That may well happen here and that remains to be seen.
I also noticed a heavier – at least it seems to me – tilt towards pitchers with college backgrounds than in years past. Last year, seven of the 14 pitchers on the opening-day roster had four-year or two-year backgrounds. This year, 10 of the 12 have college experience, eight of those from a four-year school.
Last year’s pitching staff was an average of 21.4 years old (Baseballreference.com). At the start of this season, eight of the 14 members of the pitching staff are 22 and older. This is similar to the Pirate-affiliate days.
One possible effect of the heavier-than-normal college presence on the roster could be the allotment of innings. In years past, the Rangers would begin skipping starts at the midpoint of the season and heavily monitor the wear-and-tear of the younger arms to limit innings. However, with the older group, I wonder how much of that will be in play with this group. Even the younger pitchers on the roster (Brett Martin and Pedro Payano) have already built up to 90+ innings the past year. One thing to keep in mind, though, is several of the pitchers on the roster (Wes Benjamin, Adam Choplick to name a couple) have had “Tommy John” surgeries in the past and that will, of course, bear watching.
A couple of surprises, at least to me, related to the pitchers sent to Hickory. The first, for me, is the return of 2015 SAL All-Star Brett Martin. The left-hander had 72 Ks and 26 BBs in 95.1 innings, but at times struggled with consistency (1.07 WHIP first half of 2015, 1.41 second half) and with nagging injuries. Like Collin Wiles from 2015, this season could be about finding that groove of becoming a consistent six-to-seven inning starter each time out.
Another is the return of Dillon Tate, the fourth-overall pick in 2015. A major checklist item from his time at Hickory in August of 2015 was the development of a changeup and that could be better suited during his time in South Atlantic League ballparks rather than in the rarefied air of the high desert of California.
WHAT ELSE TO LOOK FOR:
Wes Benjamin comes to Hickory after pitching a lone inning in the AZL last summer. The Kansas product had been out since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.
Pedro Payano opened a ton of eyes in 2015, pitching at three levels with the final coming at Hickory. His three-pitch combination (fastball, curve, change) was used to great effect here in August and the playoffs, as he showed the ability to use any pitch in any count. Given that ability at age 21, his No. 29 prospect listing by MLB.com seems a bit low, though that could have more to do with the Rangers talent up the chain rather than with Payano’s ability. With his pitchability and poise on the mound, Payano could have a Ariel Jurado-type season that further opens eyes.
Starting rotation likely begins with Tate, Payano, Martin and Hernandez. Others with starting experience in the pros include Bass, Tyler Davis, Peter Fairbanks and Joe Palumbo. Jeffrey Springs started at Appalachian St.
2016 HICKORY CRAWDADS PITCHER CAPSULES
BLAKE BASS (RHP, 6-7, 265)
2015 Pro Season: 13 games (4 starts) at Spokane (Wash.), 33 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 15 BB, 29 K, 4.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .242 OBA.
About Bass: A native of Lubbock, Tex,. Bass, 22, was the Texas Rangers eighth-round pick in 2015 out of Angelo (Tex.) St., where he was a first-team All-Lone Star Conference pick. Was an All-State performer as a senior at Coronado High.
WES BENJAMIN (LHP, 6-1, 197)
2015 Pro Season: 1 game (1 start) at Arizona Summer League (AZL) Rangers, 1 IP, 1 BB, 2 K.
About Benjamin: A native of St. Charles, Ill., Benjamin, 22, was the fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Kansas. Was an All- Big 12 Freshman Team selection. Underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2014 (Tommy John). Formerly drafted by the New York Yankees (48th round) in 2011.
ADAM CHOPLICK (LHP, 6-8, 275)
2015 Pro Season: 16 games at Spokane, 33 IP, 1 HR, 23 BB, 35 K, 2.18 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .242 OBA.
About Choplick: A native of Denton, Tex., Choplick, 23, was the 14th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Oklahoma. Was formerly drafted by the Chicago White Sox (32nd round) in 2014 and the Arizona Diamondbacks (17th round) in 2011. Underwent Tommy John surgery while a junior at Denton Ryan High. Was second team All-State pick in baseball as a high school senior and a first team All-State performer as a senior in basketball.
TYLER DAVIS (RHP, 5-10, 190)
2015 Pro Season: 16 games (2 starts) at Spokane, 35 1/3 IP, 4 HR, 12 BB, 30 K, 5.09 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .293 OBA.
About Davis: A native of Seattle, Davis, 23, was the 23rd round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Washington. Was the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week (Sept. 1-7) after throwing six no-hit innings in a start for Spokane. Holds the Huskies record for innings pitched at the school, second in starts and fourth in wins and strikeouts. Was an All-Pac 12 selection his junior and senior seasons and an All-American in 2014. His brother Erik pitched for the Washington Nationals in 2013.
PETER FAIRBANKS (RHP, 6-6, 219)
2015 Pro Season: 13 games (11 starts) at Spokane, 57 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 22 BB, 47 K, 3.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .246 OBA.
About Fairbanks: A native of St. Louis, Mo., Fairbanks, 22, was the ninth round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Missouri. Was a first-team All-Conference infielder in high school at Webster Grove in 2012. Underwent Tommy John surgery as a high school junior. His father played one season in the Houston Astros chain in 1983.
JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (RHP, 6-2, 173)
2015 Pro Season: 11 games (9 starts) at AZL Rangers, 45 IP, 0 HR, 12 BB, 3 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .250 OBA.
About Hernandez: A native of Santiago de los Caballos, D. R., Hernandez, 19, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.Baseball America has Hernandez as the 20th best Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 28. His father, Fernando, pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers during a 14-season pro career.
JOHAN JUAN (RHP, 6-1, 180)
2015 Pro Season: 18 games at Dominican Summer League (DSL) Rangers, 43 1/3 IP, 2 HR, 7 BB, 46 K, 1.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .218 OBA.
About Juan: A native of La Romana, D. R., Juan, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013. After posting a 1.95 ERA over three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Juan will be making his U.S. debut this year.
OMARLIN LOPEZ (RHP, 6-3, 162)
2015 Pro Season: 20 games at Spokane, 36 IP, 3 HR, 16 BB, 36 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .267 OBA.
About Lopez: A native of Payita, D.R., Lopez, 22, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.
BRETT MARTIN (LHP, 6-4, 190)
2015 Pro Season: 10 games (18 starts) at Hickory, 95 1/3 IP, 6 HR, 26 BB, 72 K, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.65 OBA.
About Martin: A native of Morristown, Tenn., Martin, 20, was the fourth round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Walters St. (Tenn.) CC. Named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in 2015. Threw four shutout innings against Asheville in Game 2 of the 2015 SAL Championship Series. Originally attended Tennessee before transferring to Walters St. He is the Rangers No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com and No. 18 tabbed by Baseball America.
JOE PALUMBO, (LHP, 6-1, 168)
2015 Pro Season: 13 games (9 starts) at Spokane and Hickory, 58 2/3 IP, 3 HR, 25 BB, 43 K, 3.07 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .253 OBA.
About Palumbo: A native of Holbrook, N.Y., Palumbo, 21, was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist (N.Y.) High. Made a start for Hickory on the final regular season game in 2015. Named to the Arizona Summer League All-Star Team in 2014.
PEDRO PAYANO (RHP, 6-2, 207)
2015 Pro Season: 17 games (12 starts) at DSL Rangers, AZL Rangers, Hickory, 89 IP, 1 HR, 22 BB, 101 K, 1.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .244 OBA.
About Payano: A native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., Payano, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2011. Named Rangers minor league pitcher of the month in July 2015 after going 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA. Allowed one or fewer runs in five of six starts for Hickory after joining the club August 1, 2015. Threw six shutout innings vs. Asheville in Game 1 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series.
JACOB SHORTSLEF (RHP, 6-5, 235)
2015 Pro Season: 16 games at AZL Rangers and Spokane, 37 IP, 1 HR, 8 BB, 33 K, 1.95 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .271 OBA.
About Shortslef: A native of Sterling, N.Y., Shortslef, 21, was the Rangers 26th round pick in 2015 out of Herkimer County (N.Y.) CC. As a sophomore, ranked ninth nationally with a .157 opponent batting avg. Struck out 20 of 21 batters in a game while a senior at Hannibal (N.Y.) High. Brother Josh pitched for Hickory in 2003 and 2004, as part of his ten-season, minor-league career with the Pirates.
JEFFREY SPRINGS (LHP, 6-3, 193)
2015 Pro Season: 17 games at Spokane and Hickory, 27 2/3 IP, 2 HR, 15 BB, 39 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .200 OBA.
About Springs: A native of Belmont, N.C., Springs, 23, was the Rangers 30th round pick out in 2015 of Appalachian St. Left the Mountaineers third in career starts and fourth in strikeouts. Attended South Point High and led the Red Raiders to the state 3A title in 2011 and named the MVP of the championship series. Named 2011 North Carolina 3A player of the year.
ERIK SWANSON (RHP, 6-3, 250)
2015 Pro Season: 10 games at AZL Rangers, Hickory, Frisco (Tex.) and Round Rock (Tex.) 15 1/3 IP, 1 HR, 7 BB, 14 K. 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .185 OBA.
About Swanson: A native of Terrace Park, Ohio, Swanson, 22, was the Rangers eighth round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC. Made seven appearances for Hickory before landing on the disabled list (elbow strain) on July 23 through the remainder of the season. Named Most Outstanding Pitcher while leading Iowa Western to NJCAA Division I College World Series title in 2014. Was to attend Pittsburgh before deciding to sign with Texas.
DILLON TATE (RHP, 6-2, 197)
2015 Pro Season: 6 games (6 starts) at Spokane and Hickory, 9 IP, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K. 1.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, .100 OBA.
About Tate: A native of Claremont, Calif., Tate, 21, was the first round pick (fourth overall) of the Rangers in 2015 out of California-Santa Barbara. Was highest-drafted player to appear in a Crawdads uniform since Brad Lincoln (4th overall) did so in 2006.Named 2015 Louisville Slugger All-American and a Golden Spikes Award semi-finalist in 2015. Allowed 2 runs over four innings in three appearances for Hickory during the 2015 postseason. Currently the No. 4 Rangers prospect by Baseball America and No. 5 by MLB.com, which has Tate as the No. 36 prospect in the minors and the eighth-best right-handed pitching prospect.