Results tagged ‘ Yerry Rodriguez ’

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.

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: 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

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.

 

Starting Fresh: A look at the Crawdads pitching staff with pitching coach Jose Jaimes

When Hans Crouse toes the rubber at First Energy Park in Lakewood, N.J. he will be one of just three pitchers that threw for Hickory in 2018. In contrast, a year ago at this time, Hickory had seven returnees, including two three rotation members from the previous season. The three that will return to Hickory, only Jean Casanova had more than five appearances. One of the five, Abdiel Mendoza, showed up the final weekend of the season and made one relief outing.

So, this is an inexperienced group to full-season baseball. In fact, for a couple of guys, pithing is relatively new to them after their conversion to the mound in college (Nick Snyder was a shortstop, Wes Robertson a catcher). Yet, It is the task of Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes to see what he has and take the same developmental magic he used to turn relative unknowns such as Kyle Cody, Joe Palumbo, Tyler Phillips, Demarcus Evans and CD Pelham, to name a few, into ready-made MLB prospects.

When I sat down with Jaimes, the fourth-year Crawdads coach started with a laugh as he said, “So many new names”. So, Jaimes is still learning who has what and where to begin with the young pros that are here. The feeling from him is this group, overall, will not have light-up-the-radar stuff, but will throw strikes. 

This interview was conducted an afternoon following Hickory’s exhibition win over Lenior-Rhyne. We tried to get through everybody, but without a roster at hand, we didn’t make it.

Here is an overview of several key members of the 2019 pitching staff to start the season.

You’ve got all new guys except for Hans (Crouse) and Jean Casanova. How do you work with that?

Jaimes: I’m excited about having a complete new group. I feel like our rotation is going to be pretty good for the most part. Then, when you look at our bullpen we have a bunch of guys that can run it up to 95, 96. That’s pretty exciting.

 

Hans is obviously the focus of a lot the attention here. He came here and got a little last year. How has grown from last year at this point?

Jaimes: A lot. He had a great spring training and did really good. The expectations for him is really high. He knows he’s coming here to prove something because of what happened last year. So, I think he’s going to handle the league a lot better than last year. We’ll see what happens but I’m pretty excited about him.

Hans Crouse Salinas

Hans Crouse returns to Hickory as the Texas Rangers No. 1 prospect (Ashley Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

You’ve got all new guys except for Hans (Crouse) and Jean Casanova. How do you work with that?

Jaimes: I’m excited about having a complete new group. I feel like our rotation is going to be pretty good for the most part. Then, when you look at our bullpen we have a bunch of guys that can run it up to 95, 96. That’s pretty exciting.

 

Hans is obviously the focus of a lot the attention here. He came here and got a little last year. How has grown from last year at this point?

Jaimes: A lot. He had a great spring training and did really good. The expectations for him is really high. He knows he’s coming here to prove something because of what happened last year. So, I think he’s going to handle the league a lot better than last year. We’ll see what happens but I’m pretty excited about him.

 

He dominated so much at Spokane, then he got hit a little bit. Was that a wakeup call for him? Was it surprising to him?

Jaimes: Maybe surprising to him. I think, maybe, he wasn’t expecting that, especially happening multiple times. He’s taking that as a challenge, and I think he’s ready for it.

 

The other guy coming back is Casanova. Is he going to be in the rotation this year?

Jaimes: He’s going to be in the rotation.

 

He’s a guy that doesn’t run it up on the radar gun real high, but has some moxie and pitch backwards if he needs to.

Jaimes: He has four pitches he can throw for strikes. Last year, with it being his first time with a full-season club, we tried to control innings and that was the main reason why he pitched out of the pen for the most part of the year. We feel now that he’s growing. he’s bigger and stronger. I think he’s going to be able to handle the innings as a starter.

Jean Casanova

Jean Casanova is the only pitcher returning to the Crawdads that made more than five appearance for the team. (Tracy Proffitt)

 

So what is your rotation starting Thursday night and going through the six-man?

Jaimes: We’re going Crouse, (Jake) Latz, Casanova, (John) King, (Tim) Brennan and (Yerry) Rodriguez

Seeing Latz last night, the fastball looked like it had some life. He was able to drop a curveball in there and used a change a couple of times. What can you tell me about him?

 

Jaimes: King is another lefty and is very similar to Latz. Maybe the biggest difference is he throws a two-seam fastball, which is probably his best pitch. He throws a really good changeup. Again, another guy that competes and throws strikes. I think he’s going to help the team a lot.

Brennan has a two-seam fastball. He’s a low, three-quarter kid. He doesn’t have much experience in pro ball, but I think he’s ready. It’s going to be a challenge for him, no doubt, to pitch every five or six days.

Yerry Rodriguez is a kid from the Domincan. A good fastball and he can get it up to 95-96. He can throw strikes. He pitched in Spokane last year a little bit. He’s working on his offspeed pitches.

 

Seeing him pitch last night, it looks like he slings it more to the plate.

Jaimes: He has a really different mechanics and arm action, but he makes it plays for him. That’s what makes him good. The hitter really can’t see the ball that well.

 

Over the last couple of years, you’ve had Kyle Cody, Tyler Phillps, Reid Anderson, and so on. From this group, who do you see in that sort of mold that has the potential to take that step forward?

Jaimes: That’s a tough question, right now. I hope everybody does.

 

But at this time last year, you told me about Reid and his improvement maturity-wise.

Jaimes: Crouse will be one of them, simply because of the name and he pitched here last year. Latz and King both have the potential to be our best starters.

 

Out of the bullpen, who are some arms to keep an eye on at the beginning.

Jaimes: I’ve got a lot of names. (Nick) Snyder, he’s been a surprise for me. You saw him yesterday in the eighth. A good fastball and he throws strikes and a decent slider. Wolfram is one to keep your eyes on. I think he has the potential to be a starter.

(Cole) Uvila could be another guy. We like his fastball and it has a lot of life. If he’s able to throw it over the plate consistently, I think he’s going to be good. A lot of vertical movement with his fastball and I think it will play good.

 

Hever Bueno had the top speed last night

Jaimes: He’s another one that I think could be good. He’s at 95-96 and he’s been up to 98. I think his biggest challenge is going to be consistency. He’s done it for the past two weeks finishing up spring training and he threw the ball well last night. He gave up the one run, but I think it was more lucky for the other guys than him making bad pitches. I thought he throw the ball well.

 

Engler is another one that threw well.

Jaimes: He struck out the side. He’s a strike thrower. When you’re able to throw strikes, you’re going to have the advantage. He a decent fastball and a decent breaking ball.

 

Matt was telling me that the two of you talked about the difference this year where you have guys that don’t light up the radar gun like Demarcus Evans or CD Pelham in the past. They are more strike throwers than guys who light up the radar gun. Is that a fair read?

Jaimes: That is correct. The guys this year are going to be able to handle the strike zone better the guys from the past two years did the first two months, when they struggled. I think these guys are going to be able to throw strikes more consistent than in the past.

 

The last couple of years, I know you guys are always emphasizing the fastball, guys worked on command, they struggled. Do you see more success for that this year because they are able to strikes as opposed to the last couple of years where you guys had tough starts and it took a while to get it together?

Jaimes: It definitely will be a lot easier (laughing). I hope so. We’re still emphasizing a lot on the fastball, but this year we are taking a different approach. We are actually preaching a lot of swing-and-miss stuff, so we are going to be using the breaking ball early on and the changeup. It’s not going to be fastball, like we did in the past the first time through the order.

 

Jaimes: At the end of the year, what do you see as success for these guys?

Like I said, we are talking about swing-and-miss. So at the end of the year, we are at the top of the league in strikeouts. Obviously, a minimal amount of walks.

I know the Rangers are going through a deal with the American guys, they are drafted and then they will sit out for the summer and retooled to the Rangers way of doing things. There are no teenagers this year. As you get these younger guys, do you expect to see more maturity at this level than perhaps before?

Jaimes: Definitely, yes. I think it’s going to make it easier to handle the failure and all that stuff, because you’ve got  more mature group.