Results tagged ‘ Wes Benjamin ’

Game story July 13: Lakewood survives heat, Crawdads rally

After the Hickory Crawdads tied the game in the ninth, the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws struck for three runs in the 11th to take a 6-3 win on a hot, muggy Wednesday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win was the second straight by Lakewood (39-50 overall, 11-9 second half) at Hickory and overall their sixth out of the last seven games.

Hickory (47-43, 9-11) dropped to 19-23 at home this season and lost its fourth straight at home. The Crawdads are assured of continuing a drought in which they have not won a home series since taking three of four vs. Lexington (Ky.) from April 29 to May 2. Since that time, the Crawdads have lost six series and tied two others (9-19 overall).

As they did in game one of the series on Monday, the Crawdads took the early lead in the second. Ti’Quan Forbes tripled just past the dive of Jose Pujols in right to score Josh Altmann, who had singled and stole second earlier.

Lakewood rebounded with a two-out rally in the fourth as Damek Tomscha singled and Pujols followed with a two-run blast to right, his South Atlantic League leading 17th of the season.

Both starting pitchers held the opposing lineups from wreaking further damage through five innings. Lakewood’s Franklyn Kilome allowed three hits and two walks, and struck out seven. His counterpart Wes Benjamin gave up five hits to go with his two runs allowed and struck out five.

BlueClaws reliever Skylar Hunter contributed to his downfall in the sixth as an errant pickoff attempt of Frandy De La Rosa at first skipped into foul territory in right field. De La Rosa moved to third and scored when Tyler Sanchez singled to left.

A controversial play led directly to a run for Lakewood in the seventh inning. With runners at first and second and two outs, Zack Coppola singled on what looked to be a routine grounder to second. Frandy De La Rosa charged the ball and as he entered the baseline between first and second, the runner, Edgar Cabral, ran into De La Rosa, knocking De La Rosa flat and sending the glove high into the air. Cabral was ruled safe at second with Wilson Garcia scoring on the play from second. De La Rosa remained in the game, but Cabral was taken out after struggling to run to third.

Crawdads manager Steve Mintz argued the call and was eventually ejected from the game.

The score remained 3-2 until two outs in the ninth. Forbes singled and scored all the way from first when Pujols mishandled a bloop single into right by Yeyson Yrizarri.

Emerson Martinez (0-2) entered the game for Hickory in the 11th and immediately walked Pujols. A sacrifice moved him to second before Martinez got Duran to bounce to short. After a wild pitch, Grenny Cumana singled in Pujols and then scored on Deivi Grullon’s second homer in as many games.

Jeff Springer struck out two of the three batters he faced to close out his three-inning relief outing and pick up the win (1-0).

Crawdads leave ducks on the pond:

As has been the case much of the year, the Crawdads missed several opportunities to add runs to their ledger and finished the game 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

A couple of stout defensive plays contributed to Hickory’s woes. Though Altmann eventually scored from third in the second, Ricky Valencia missed an RBI when second baseman Josh Tobias, who was playing in to cut off the runner at third from scoring, made a diving stab of a sharp grounder to hold Altmann and retire Valencia.

With Forbes at third, the Crawdads had a chance to take the lead in the seventh, Eric Jenkins chopped a ball to the left of the mound. Third baseman Damek Tomscha made a hard-charging play to the ball and short armed a quick throw to first to barely catch the speedy Jenkins and end the inning.

Otherwise, the Crawdads flailed away at the plate and that cost them a scoring chance in the fourth. Dylan Moore and Altmann walked to start the inning and moved up to second and third on Kilome’s wild pitch. With his fastball command perilous at times, Kilome turned to the slider to get Tyler Sanchez, Valencia and Forbes on strikeouts.

Altmann again whiffed in the sixth with a runner at third in the sixth, though De La Rosa did eventually score in the inning.

For the season with runners in scoring position, the Crawdads collectively have a slash of .239/.316/.343. With the bases loaded, it is .183/.243/.267.

Forbes fortunes continue at third:

What is becoming routine this season, Forbes showed off the leather with a couple more quick grabs of short hops in the game, including perhaps his best of the season in the tenth. On a sharp grounder by Tomscha, Forbes made a sprawling backhand pick of a short hop. Then seated with his right leg bent behind him, Forbes got enough on a throw across the diamond to get Tomscha by a step.

Benjamin money:

Wes Benjamin continued a steady progression through the 2016 season on Wednesday night. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the goal was to steer the lefty through good health and thus far it is working. Of his 12 starts, Benjamin has completed five or more innings in ten of them. In those ten starts, he has given up more than three runs just once and has walked more than one batter in just two of his 15 overall appearances (13 walks overall in 71 innings)

Benjamin is a guy that spots his fastball (90-91) well around the strike zone. He’ll mix in a change and a curve for show and used both to good effect today. Benjamin was especially tough in a couple of long battles with Phillies No. 5 (mlb.com) prospect Cornelius Randolph, who fouled off several pitches in both appearances against Benjamin. After Benjamin spun a high-and-tight fastball to the lefty in the first, he spotted a 92 mph pitch on the corner at the knees to get the out. In the third, it was a change on the inside corner that got the job done for a caught looking K.

Benjamin has 26 Ks over his last 20.1 innings of work.

Martinez a one-trick pony:

Emerson Martinez had his second tough outing in a row in a win/lose situation and has been tagged for the loss in both.

On Saturday at Rome (Ga.), it was two walks and two wild pitches that led to two runs scored in the ninth for a Braves walkoff win. On Wednesday afternoon, it was the inability to throw the curve for strikes that did him in. By my count, all five of them were well out of the strike zone, staying up and well to the 3B corner side of the plate. With that info in hand, the BlueClaws hitters were able to pick out a fastball to their liking and went to the attack. Cumana’s RBI single and Grullon’s homer were both on fastballs down the middle.

Moore joins the club:

Dylan Moore stole his 30th base of the season when he swiped second in the fourth inning. He joins teammate Eric Jenkins in the 30-steal club, as the outfielder already has 39. The two become the sixth duo in club history to steal 30 or more in a season, the first since Odubel Herrera (34) and Christian Villanueva (32) turned the trick in 2011.

Yrizarri stays hot:

Yeyson Yrizarri had two more hits on Wednesday and he now has multi-hit games in six straight (11-for-22). Currently in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, the 19-year-old has 11 RBI and 0 strikeouts in that span.

Greensboro Stays Hot, Keeps Crawdads Slumping

The Greensboro Grasshoppers pushed across two runs in the top of the ninth and defeated the Hickory Crawdads 3-1 Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win was the ninth out of the last ten for Greensboro (22-25) and it also sent the Crawdads (28-19) to their seventh loss in nine games. The Grasshoppers beat Hickory for the first time in seven games this season.

What Happened?:

It was another low scoring affair during the Crawdads homestand, as Hickory and its opponents have combined for 18 runs in four games.

Both teams brought across runs in the third inning. Greensboro got its run when Zach Sullivan doubled with one out and scored on Anfernee Seymour’s single. Hickory answered in the of bottom half when LeDarious Clark ambushed a first-pitch fastball by Steven Farnworth for a homer to left.

Farnworth pitched the first six innings for Greensboro and allowed one run on five hits with two strikeouts. His counterpart Wes Benjamin countered with his lone run allowed on three hits and struck out six over five innings.

Blake Bass threw three scoreless innings for Hickory and Jeff Kinley (3-2) negotiated around three walks to log two scoreless innings.

Greensboro scored the go ahead runs in the ninth against reliever Joe Palumbo (3-2). With one out, Josh Naylor walked and stole second. One out later, Angel Reyes joined Naylor with a walk of his own. Roy Morales and Justin Twine each picked up RBI singles to right to account for the final margin.

Hickory put runners on second and third with one out against closer C.J. Robinson. But Robinson struck out Eduard Pinto and Clark to end the game and get his ninth save of the season.

The two teams will continue their series on Friday at 7 p.m.

 

Benjamin money on the mound:

Benjamin handled the Grasshoppers easily in his only other start against them on April 11 (4 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K) and added to that ledger on Thursday. He hurled a fastball that ranged in the 91-93 range and spotted it effectively around the plate. Of the six Ks he registered, three of those came on fastballs, two looking. The one mistake was a 93 mph up to Seymour that he smoked to center.

Changeup held in the 84-86 range with two missed bats, both for strikeouts. He sprinkled in an occasional curve, including one that fanned Isael Soto. Seymour’s double came on a curve that he went down to get.

Overall, Benjamin threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of 18 hitters and had 41 strikes out of 65 pitches.

 

Bass rebounds:

Blake had little trouble with the Grasshoppers and rebounded after allowing runs in his previous two outings. The 6-7 righty allowed two hits and struck out one over three scoreless innings.  His fastball ranged in the 91-92 with a change and it looked like just one slider, which he used the strike out Angel Reyes.

Baby Steps at the plate:

The ledger says Hickory had six hits, but the lineup squared up several pitches that went straight to fielders.

After Ibanez walked in the ninth, Tyler Sanchez roped a fastball that went straight to Sullivan in center.

Jenkins, who had struggled with fastballs during the Rome series, seemed back on track Thursday. He took a pitch deep to right in the first and lined one to right for a single in the third. His 4-3 grounder in the sixth was smoked, but right to Justin Twine at second. The walk in the eighth was arguably his best AB of the homestand as he laid off a couple of fastballs off the plate and then ignored a curve to work a walk.

There are still examples of the lineup missing fastballs on fastball counts, but on Thursday, they were too few to mention.

Moore fancy footwork at 1B:

Moore made a couple of tough plays on throws. In the fourth, a liner from Reyes was snared by Frandy De La Rosa at third. His quick throw to first caused Moore to shift feet and take the throw to the outfield side of the bag, which he held for the out.

In the sixth, a bunt by Seymour was pounced on by catcher Tyler Sanchez, who fired a bullet to first. Moore had to tap dance across the bag to catch the throw and hold the base for the out.

 

Greensboro adjusted to Clark:

After Clark jumped the first-pitch fastball in the third, he saw only two more fastballs – one lined to left in the fifth. In the final AB of the game, Robinson threw two sliders that Clark fouled off, then came back with a curveball over the inside corner for the final out of the game.

Game Story April 17: Hickory 2 Kannapolis 1

The Hickory Crawdads scored twice in the first inning and the tandem-pitching duo of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson made it stand up for a 2-1 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win improves the club’s record to 9-2, which is the best mark through at least the 2000 season (no game-by-game records are available prior to 2000). Hickory completed a 3-1 series win over the Intimidators (4-7) and is now 6-2 against its in-state rival this season.

What happened?:

With two outs in the first, Tyler Sanchez shot a groundball between the first-base bag and 1B Corey Zangari to score Andy Ibanez and Eduard Pinto, who had walked and double respectively.

That turned out to be enough for Benjamin and Swanson. Benjamin completed the first five innings, as he allowed one run on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

His only speedbump came in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Benjamin walked Tyler Sullivan. Grant Massey (3-for-4) doubled and Landon Lassiter walked to load the bases. The run scored as Zangari reached on an infield hit to third, which allowed Sullivan to score. Benjamin then got Cody Daily to ground out to second.

“They started to get rolling as soon as I hit a little hiccup there and I had to adjust with my arm side,” said Benjamin. “I was turning up a little bit too much and throwing a lot more balls than I expected. My defense made some good plays and we worked out of it.”

Kannapolis had an opportunity to score in the fifth as it put together two singles and a double. But Benjamin picked off Daniel Mendick at first. Massey got a sun-aided double and Lassiter singled. However, Benjamin struck out Zangari to set down the threat.

Eric Swanson pitched the final four innings and allowed just one walk and struck out one.

Luis Martinez took the loss for Kannapolis, allowing both runs on just four hits, two walks and striking out five over five innings.

 

The sticks:

Tyler Sanchez had the lone run-scoring hit of the game for Hickory has he put an inside-out swing on a 1-2 fastball and had enough to shoot it into right.

As indicated by the score, Hickory didn’t put up much at the plate after the first innings, as the Crawdads had only four baserunners after the first.

Martinez was a one-pitch pitcher in the early going, as he was unable to get either the changeup or slider over the plate. However the Crawdads were unable to take advantage. Just 4 for the first 16 secondary pitches found the strike zone through the first 1.1 innings. One that did in the first – a hanger up and middle – was fouled off by Dylan Moore, who went on to strike out.

After Chuck Moorman doubled with one out in the second, Darius Day battled through a 6-pitch AB before striking out on a slider in. LeDarious Clark down 1-2 spoiled a breaking ball that appeared to be off the plate and then swung through the next.

Andy Ibanez had his six-game hitting streak snapped, but his first-inning at bat was a key part of the rally. With the count 2-2, Ibanez laid off a slider that just missed off the plate. He eventually worked a walk and scored the first run.

Eduard Pinto had two hits and a walk, and hit .571 in the series.

 

The mound:

The tandem of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson has been a good one over the first two turns through the rotation. They have combined to pitch all 18 innings of their turn and allowed one run on nine hits, five walks (four by Benjamin) and strike out 12.

“Obviously, the starter that goes in, you try to go as deep as you can,” said Swanson of the first two outings. “And it’s obviously it’s nice if you can go in, like we have the first two times, and keep them to either one or no runs and have that guy come back in in back end and finish up the game and save our bullpen, too.”

 

Benjamin:

Benjamin showed a fastball that stayed in the 89-91 mph range, and on Sunday that was his best pitch as, for the most part, he was able to spot it effectively for strikes. Of his six strikeouts on Sunday, three were on fastballs that were called-third strikes on the catcher’s glove side. Another was swung through by Corey Zangari.

“I had a set game plan and I knew what I was going to do from the get go. We established the fastball down and then it worked really well for us today.”

His most-used secondary was his change (81-83), that hit the zone for strikes, but other than Zangari’s whiff in the first, it enticed very few hitters to swing. Benjamin admitted that the pitch, normally his best he said, wasn’t on.

“I had to make a couple of adjustments, especially from the stretch. I was rushing a little bit too much and the ball was kind of flying up in the zone. So, I made some adjustments later on and got the ball down.”

Benjamin did break out the curve later on in the outing and Corey Schroeder to swing through one for a strikeout in the fourth.

 

Swanson:

Erik Swanson was impressive from the very start as his 95 mph sinker to his first batter splintered the bat of Cody Daily for a 6-3 grounder.

“The ball ran in a little bit more than I wanted it to. It was supposed to be on the outer half, but I mixed in a slide step there and it kind of bull-rushed him and caught him off-guard and got in on his hands a little bit.”

It didn’t get much better from there for the Intimidators as Swanson allowed just a walk with two outs in the eighth.

Seven of the 12 outs recorded came on groundouts as he established the sinker and mixed in a 90 mph slider (I think, slider?) that was enough to keep the hitters off stride.

“The plan going in there was to pound fastballs and get in on them a little bit and get some quick outs and hold it where we’re at.”

 

The gloves:

Battling the sun on a clear afternoon was job-one for both sides. Crawdads outfielder Jose Almonte was the lone casualty as he lost a fly ball by Grant Massey that fell 10 feet in front of him.

3B Ti’Quan Forbes nearly cut off the Intimidators only run of the game as he cut off a grounder in the hole by Zangari. He stumbled a bit as he fielded the ball, which cost him as he throw to second for the potential final out was late.

 

The bases:

Almost a clean game but in the eighth, Pinto was caught leaning towards second by left-hander Matt Ball and it turned into an easy pickoff. Pinto did get a good jump on the slow delivery of Taylore Cherry for a steal in the sixth.

Series Preview: Kannapolis at Hickory April 14-17

Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) 

The Hickory Crawdads open the home portion of the 2016 South Atlantic Season with a four-game series against their neighbor to the southeast, the Kannapolis Intimidators at L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

If you plan to go:

Games Thursday and Saturday are at 6 p.m., Friday is at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

All ticket prices are $9 with VIP tickets going for $14. Parking is $3. On Sundays, the Crawdads offer $6 tickets when presenting a church bulletin.

The Crawdads are giving away 2016 magnet schedules on Thursday, a commemorative 2015 SAL championship banner on Saturday, and a poster schedules on Sunday. All giveaways are to the first 1,000 fans to the gates. There will be post-game fireworks on Friday.

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.

 

Where is it?:

L.P. Frans Stadium 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 (Kannapolis/ Hickory):

Thursday: RHP Zach Thompson vs. RHP Dillon Tate

Friday: LHP Tanner Banks vs. RHP Pedro Payano

Saturday: RHP Johnathan Frebis vs. RHP Jonathan Hernandez

Sunday: RHP Luis Martinez vs. RHP Erik Swanson/ LHP Wes Benjamin (piggy back)

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory won three out of four games last week at Intimidators Stadium to open the season. Last year, the Crawdads took a 9-6 season-series win, which included a 5-2 record at L.P. Frans Stadium. Against Kannapolis, the Crawdads are 75-50 since 2009 – the start of the affiliation with the Texas Rangers – 35-23 at LPFS. Kannapolis has one series win at Hickory since 2011, which came when the Intimidators took 2-of-3 in the first week of the 2014 season.

 

Entering the series – Hickory:

The Crawdads return home after a three-game sweep at Greensboro, which wrapped up a 6-1 season-opening road trip, and are a game ahead of West Virginia in the SAL’s Northern Division… At the plate, the Crawdads are tops in the 14-team league with a .429 slugging pct. They also lead the league in homers, total bases and are tied with Lakewood for the most hits. Hickory is second in runs scored, RBI, and team OPS (.734)… Expected to be aggressive on the base paths, the Crawdads have attempted a league high of 24 steals and lead the SAL with 9 caught stealing attempts. They are second in steals with 15…On the mound, the Crawdads pitching staff has allowed two or fewer runs in five of their seven games. Overall, their 2.14 ERA is third in the SAL and they have allowed just one home run… After committing 8 errors during last weekend’s Kannapolis series, the Crawdads had just one during the three-game series at Greensboro.

 

Entering the series – Kannapolis:

Kannapolis swiped two out of three at home against Delmarva (Md.) and went 3-4 on its homestand… At the plate, the Intimidators have scored two or fewer runs in five of their seven games. They are third in hits, fourth with a .254 batting average. Kannapolis leads the league with the most strikeouts… On the mound, the Intimidators are second in the league in strikeouts… In the field, they are tied with Lexington with 10 errors committed and are next to last in fielding pct.

 

Players to watch- Hickory:

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. It is apparent that Tate will have a higher pitch count than has been the case for a younger pitcher at the start of the season. He threw 85 pitches (52 strikes) in last Friday’s start. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.

RHP Pedro Payano: The MLB.com No. 29 Rangers prospect had a steady start last Saturday, but it was tainted by control issues. Payano held the Intimidators to one run on two hits and struck out seven over five innings. However, he also tied his career high for a game with four walks. Like Tate, it appears that Payano also will be pushed early on with pitch counts, as he threw 91 pitches (45 strikes) in the start at Kannapolis. Armed with fastball/ curve/ change, he will throw any pitch at any count.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez: The righthander is the Rangers No. 20 prospect, as determined by Baseball America, No. 28 by MLB.com. Hernandez was the lone starting pitcher to struggle his first time through the rotation. Needing 73 pitches to record 10 outs, Hernandez gave up 8 runs (6 earned) on seven hits and walked two over 3.1 innings at Kannapolis in his last start on Sunday. His defense committed four errors behind him during the game, but Hernandez had control issues with his fastball, as well. He has allowed the lone Crawdads homer surrendered thus far in 2016

RHP Erik Swanson: The Rangers 8th round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC had a stellar first pro start at Greensboro on Monday, during which he gave up two hits and a walk over five innings and struck out four. Swanson had the sinker working as he recorded 11 groundball outs.

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. In his first outing last Monday, Benjamin earned a four-inning save at Greensboro during which he allowed three baserunners (one hit) and struck out two.

2B Andy Ibanez: Continues to be among the conversation when considering the hottest hitter in the minors at the start of the 2016 season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (14), doubles (5), total bases (24), batting avg. (.560), OBP (.607), slugging (.960) and OPS (1.567). Last week at Kannapolis, Ibanez went 9-for-17 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, 6 RBI and three runs scored. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16. He is splitting time at second with Frandy De La Rosa and DHing.

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 a tough weekend at Kannapolis with seven strikeouts in 14 plate appearances, including a “Golden Sombrero” in Saturday night’s game. Jenkins struck out six more times at Greensboro, but started to make better contact in the series with three hits, including his first pro homer, over the final two games.

IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro this week. During the three-game series, the Orange Co. California native went 4-for-10 with a homer, a double and four RBI.

RF Jose Almonte: Had a nice weekend series at Kannapolis, going 5-for-11 (all singles) and walked twice. Overall, the Dominican Republic native has a .318/.400/.455 slash with four RBI and five runs scored. He hit his first homer of the season at Greensboro and only his third overall as a pro.

 

Players to watch-Kannapolis:

LF Landon Lassiter: The 22-year-old attended North Davidson High in Lexington and UNC  Chapel Hill. Was drafted two different times prior to finally signing with the White Sox after being picked in the 21st round in 2015.  His 4-for-4 game vs. Delmarva on Wednesday placed him behind only Ibanez in the SAL with a .526 batting avg. Lassiter is third in the league in OBP (.571) and OPS (1.256). He also had three hits in the game that Hernandez started on Sunday.

CF Tyler Sullivan: Tied for third in the SAL in walks (5), he has a slash of .333/.455/.444. Went 6-for-16 against Hickory last weekend. Sullivan was the White Sox 14th round pick in 2015 out of Pacific.

1B Corey Zangari: The White Sox sixth-round pick out of Carl Albert High in Midwest City, OK. He is currently the White Sox’s No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com and No. 13 prospect according to Baseball America. Went only 3-for-16 against Hickory, but had three hits including a homer over the last two games vs. Delmarva to push slash to .231/.310/.346.

SS/3B Johan Cruz: Currently the White Sox’s No. 16 prospect from MLB.com and No. 27 by Baseball America. Struggled versus Hickory last weekend at the plate (4-for-17, 6 Ks) and on the field (3 errors). Had two hits and three RBI in a game that Hernandez started for Hickory last Sunday.

C Seby Zavala: No. 26 prospect by Baseball America. Was the 12th round pick of the White Sox in 2015 out of San Diego St. Started the season 0-for-16 before putting up a 2-for-4 game vs. Delmarva on Wednesday. Had Tommy John surgery in 2013.

1B/ OF Zach Fish: Has the Intimidators only homer through seven games this season – a three-run blast vs. Hernandez on Sunday. Named the Big XII Conference Player of the Year at Oklahoma St. He was the Rangers 4th round pick in 2011 out of Gulf Lake High (Mich.).

RHP Zach Thompson: A native of Burleson, Tex., Thompson was the White Sox fifth round pick in 2014 out of Texas-Arlington. Allowed one run on five hits and struck out eight over five innings in his lone start of the season, which came against Hickory last Saturday.

LHP Tanner Banks: The White Sox 18th round choice in 2014 out of Salt Lake CC helped pick up the Intimidators first win of the season on Sunday, as he held Hickory to three earned runs on six hits and struck out five over five innings.

RHP Luis Martinez: No. 29 prospect by MLB.com. Made 24 starts for the Intimidators last season as a 20-year-old and allowed 155 baserunners in 108.2 innings. So far in two 2016 starts, Martinez has given up just 13 baserunners in 10 innings. He has 10 Ks and one walk, a promising improvement after a 69/ 53 ratio in 2015. Had Tommy John surgery in 2011.

RHP Taylore Cherry: Was the 32nd round pick of the White Sox in 2015 out of UNC Chapel Hill. Is listed at 6-9, 290 lbs.

 

Notes of Interest: Like last season, it appears the Rangers will play a bit of merry-go-round with the Crawdads roster to accommodate a six-man rotation that will actually contain seven pitchers, as Erik Swanson and Wes Benjamin throw in a piggyback situation. For now, it is Swanson and fellow starter Peter Fairbanks switching places on the active list… Crawdads reliever Jacob Shortslef is on the DL with a cut on his pitching hand…Kannapolis RHP Drew Hasler is the son of former Crawdads pitching coach (1993-1994) Curt Hasler, now the White Sox minor league pitching coordinator… Crawdads catcher Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis pitcher Alex Katz were teammates at St. John’s. Katz surrendered his first pro home run last Sunday – to Sanchez.

Series Preview Hickory at Greensboro April 11-13

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (3-1) at Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (1-3)

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.

Looking at the 2016 Crawdads Roster: Pitchers

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

SURPRISES:

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

Brett Martin 2

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

 

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

Dillon Tate 2

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

 

WHAT ELSE TO LOOK FOR:

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

 

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

Pedro Payano

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

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

 

 

2016 HICKORY CRAWDADS PITCHER CAPSULES

 

BLAKE BASS (RHP, 6-7, 265)

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

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

 

WES BENJAMIN (LHP, 6-1, 197)

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

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

 

ADAM CHOPLICK (LHP, 6-8, 275)

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

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

 

TYLER DAVIS (RHP, 5-10, 190)

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

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

 

PETER FAIRBANKS (RHP, 6-6, 219)

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

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

 

JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (RHP, 6-2, 173)

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

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

 

JOHAN JUAN (RHP, 6-1, 180)

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

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

 

OMARLIN LOPEZ (RHP, 6-3, 162)

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

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

 

BRETT MARTIN (LHP, 6-4, 190)

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

PEDRO PAYANO (RHP, 6-2, 207)

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

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

 

JACOB SHORTSLEF (RHP, 6-5, 235)

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

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

 

JEFFREY SPRINGS (LHP, 6-3, 193)

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

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

Jeffrey Springs

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

 

ERIK SWANSON (RHP, 6-3, 250)

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

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

Erik Swanson 2

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

 

DILLON TATE (RHP, 6-2, 197)

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

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