Eight Riders Chosen For Texas League All-Star Game

all-starsThe Texas League announced its Mid-Season All-Star rosters yesterday, and it’s highly unlikely any major cable sports network will report them.

However, everyone knows the feeling of being recognized for one’s accomplishments. Be it sports, academics, or other work- the genuine human element of being appreciated feels good.

For baseball players, the reward for hard work typically comes in the form of promotion to another level. But, earning a spot on an All-Star squad is reassuring that other teams are noticing one’s productivity.

Congratulations to the eight RoughRiders chosen to participate in the festivities at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m.

FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS MID-SEASON ALL-STARS

Joey Gallo – 3B: Currently the Texas Rangers’ third baseman, Gallo appeared in 34 games with RoughRiders after starting the season on the disabled list following left ankle surgery. Gallo hit .314 with nine homers and 31 RBI. With runners in scoring position, the Las Vegas native hit .342 with 24 RBI. He knocked a three-run blast in his final game with Frisco on May 30 before earning a promotion to the big leagues. Gallo will not participate in the contest.

Nick Williams – OF: The Galveston, Texas native has appeared in every game (through June 14) this season, hitting .298 with eight homers and 26 RBI. Williams ranks third in the Texas League with 72 hits and second with 113 total bases. Primarily the leadoff hitter, Williams’ renewed patience at the plate helped him set a new career record for most walks in a season. The left-handed hitter has 17 multi-hit games this season, including four, four-hit performances.

Jake Thompson – RHP: Playing his first full season with the Texas Rangers organization, Thompson leads Frisco pitching with six wins, second most among Texas League hurlers. The 21-year-old native of Rockwall, Texas struck out a career-high 12 batters on May 4 against the Hooks and leads the league with 66 strikeouts. In his last five games, the right-hander has allowed just six earned runs in 34 innings (1.59 ERA), winning four. This will be Thompson’s first Texas League All-Star Game; he was the starting pitcher in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game.

Jesus Pirela – RHP: The right-handed reliever owns a 2.45 ERA and has chewed up opponents in his first season in the Texas League. He owns the best strikeout-to-innings-pitched ratio among relievers with 33 punch outs in 25 2/3 innings. Pirela is tied for second on the squad with 18 appearances and has held right-handed batters to a .206 batting average.

David Martinez – RHP: Martinez returns to the Texas League All Star Game for the first time since 2013, when he was both a midseason and postseason selectee for the Hooks. The right-hander was named the 2013 Texas League Pitcher of the Year. In 13 games this season, Martinez has recorded five saves, going 1-2 with a 2.75 ERA. Martinez was added to the roster as a replacement for Vince Velasquez, who was promoted to the Houston Astros.

Drew Robinson – IF: The left-hander has added “slugger” to a vast array of skills this season, leading the Texas League with 12 home runs. Robinson entered June 15 hitting .227 with 33 RBI and tied for the team lead with 33 runs scored. His 23 extra base-hits are second most among Texas League players. Robinson’s 43 walks in the first half match his total in 104 games last season (96 Frisco/8 Round Rock). Additionally, he leads the team with 11 stolen bases.

Nomar Mazara – OF: Since May 5, Mazara’s 19 extra base-hits are best in the Texas League and his seven homers rank third. The 20-year old entered season ranked among Top 30 prospects in Rangers farm system by Baseball America (4) and MLB.com (3). Mazara reached base in 12 straight games from 4/9-25 and com­piled a nine-game hit streak (.387) from 4/12-25. The Dominican Republic native has 17 multi-hit games, and named the Texas League Player of the Week for June 8-14.

Jorge Alfaro – C: The 21-year old Columbian native was placed on the disabled list on June 11 with a left ankle injury and will not play in the All-Star game. In his first full season with Frisco, Alfaro has 22 extra base-hits with 22 runs and 21 RBI in 49 games. The right-handed catcher garnered Carolina League midseason and postseason All-Star honors in 2014.

Growing Up Around the Game

Sometimes it’s hard to forget just how young professional baseball players are while moving through the ranks of an organization.

For Riders outfielder Nick Williams, he enters 2015 as a fifth year professional despite an Opening Day age of just 21 years old. He won’t even turn 22 until September 8.

Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Williams bypassed an offer to play baseball at Texas A&M to begin a professional career with the Texas Rangers. Some adjectives one might come across while reading clippings regarding Williams include: drool inducing, lightning quick hands, legit power, plus speed, and tantalizing ceiling.

Here’s a kid who hit .537 with 13 home runs and 30 runs batted in as a junior at Galveston Ball High School in Texas. He “slipped” to a .422 clip as a senior.

Scouts are never perfect, but they rarely miss on a 6’3’’, left handed hitting corner outfielder with tremendous raw power. And while no one likes to admit the stress of pressure, when people write comparisons of oneself to the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Carlos Gonzalez and Darryl Strawberry, it’s hard to think a teenager wouldn’t deal with any such issue.

For all his talents, Williams’ skillset is widely regarded as a high-risk offensive approach. Through June 3, Williams has a combined 342 career strikeouts in 1,231 at bats. That computes to a strikeout in every 3.84 at bats.

Comparatively, Williams owns just 57 career walks over that same time span. The moral of the story is Williams needs to become a more disciplined hitter. He must learn to wait for opposing pitchers to simply throw him strikes instead of getting himself out.

As Williams puts it, “coaches have been helping me realize seeing how the game is played. They were showing me all the bad pitches I swung at last year. I would have hit .400 if I had simply swung at strikes.”

Through the first month of the season, it appears the light bulb has switched on for Williams. Through June 3, he leads the team in hits (57), total bases (93), and slugging percentage (.460). He is second in batting average (.282) and doubles (11).

For Williams, success in baseball has typically found him. His natural athleticism and strong build helped him pulverize pitchers at every level. Williams hit a combined .297 between rookie ball, Hickory (Low-A), and Myrtle Beach (Advanced-A). But in 15 games with the RoughRiders last season he hit .226 (14/62) and struck out 21 times.

For the first time perhaps ever, Williams faced some adversity doing something he had always dominated.

But Williams shined in the Texas League Playoffs going 6-for-14 with a double and three RBI during the postseason. He says the brief experience in Frisco helped mentally prepare him for better success going forward.

As Williams progresses, the talent in opposing dugouts does too. Williams is confident in his skillset, at one point during an interview laughing at his own remark regarding his effort put forth.

It’s safe to say Williams has legitimate potential to make it to the big leagues. The question is whether he will be remembered if and when he gets there.

He’s off to a pretty good start this season, and he’s still only 21 years old.

Thanks for reading.

Home-cooked Sliders

RHP Jake Thompson

RHP Jake Thompson

RoughRiders pitcher Jake Thompson finds himself in a familiar place after a trade sent him to the Texas Rangers organization last season.

“I’m in Double-A, in my hometown. It has a little more of a big league feeling,” said Thompson about the trade to Texas. “It’s a little bit different than playing in Lakeland, Florida.”

The Rangers assigned Thompson to Frisco following the trade last July that sent Joakim Soria to Detroit for Thompson and Corey Knebel.

Thompson grew up just down the road in Rockwall, Texas. He attended Rockwall-Heath High School where he helped bring a 4A state baseball title to the Hawks his senior year in 2012. He finished his senior season with a 12-3 record and a 1.90 ERA, earning him a first-team All-American selection from Baseball America.

Prior to winning the state crown, Thompson was selected in the second round of the MLB June Draft by the Detroit Tigers. He pitched effectively during his time with the Tigers organization, compiling a 6-4 record with a 3.14 ERA with Detroit’s Advanced-A affiliate in Lakeland. He started two games in Double-A with the Erie SeaWolves allowing three runs over 11 innings. Baseball America rated him at the Tiger’s fourth-best prospect.

Now in Texas, Thompson gets a chance to pitch in front of his hometown friends and family.

“I’m always getting beat up for tickets from my buddies,” laughed Thompson.

Thompson finished his 2014 season in Frisco going 3-1 over seven starts. He posted a 3.28 ERA over 35 2/3 innings pitched while striking out 44 batters.

Thompson participated in spring training with the club in Surprise, Arizona and wanted his presence to be felt on and off the field.

“I made it a point to get to know everyone, staff and players,” said Thompson. “I didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t know the Low-A (Hickory) pitching coach was.”

2015 has been a series of peaks and valleys for Thompson. He threw six shutout innings against Arkansas on April 17, and struck out a career-high 12 over seven innings on May 4 at Corpus Christi.

Pitching coach Jeff Andrew’s praised the May 4 start saying, “We’ve been waiting for Jake to hit a groove, and he did a really nice job with his pitch selection, forcing swings and his efficiency was the best it’s been.”

For every groove, there’s been a nick as Thompson was tagged for six earned runs in four inning start on April 23, and lasted just 2/3 of an inning on May 9 against Midland allowing seven runs.

Part of the maturation process is finding consistency and Andrews remains confident in the young right hander.

“He has the ability to really spin the breaking ball, and that’s naturalness for him that a lot of pitchers don’t have,” Andrews continued. “I can certainly understand why our scouts had interest.”

The Rangers hope the Rockwall-native can eventually move from Frisco to Arlington. MLB.com tabbed Thompson as the eighth-ranked prospect in the Rangers organization saying, “At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Thompson has the build to be a durable starter, and he also possesses the stuff to pitch near the front of a rotation.”

Thompson remains focused on the task at hand while ensuring his progress arrow continuously points up instead of anxiously awaiting his ultimate career goals.

“For me, in the next few months I want to see steady progress,” said Thompson. “I want to take the mound each and every time, and be better at something than I was the time before.”

With a local on the roster, you’ll be sure to hear loud applause and cheers every time Thompson sits down an opposing batter, though eventually, they hope it’s while wearing a Texas Rangers uniform.

The Maz-Effect

On a given night at Dr Pepper Ballpark when Nomar Mazara walks to the plate, the opposing team deploys a drastic infield shift, placing its second baseman way out in right field, the second baseman deep behind the second base bag, and the third baseman moves to where the shortstop would typically play. A new trend in today’s game, the analytics say the left-handed hitting Mazara has a tendency to pull the ball to the right side, thus shifting the infield to where he is most prone to hit it.

Nomar Mazara

Nomar Mazara turned 20 years old on April 26.

Strike one. Mazara likes to see a pitch, as he holds the bat high with his classic open stance in the left handed batter’s box.

Next pitch, whack. A base hit to the left side down the third base line.

The opposing manager scratches his head while Mazara hustles his way to first base for a single, always alertly turning in case he can attain another base.

“I know I can hit the ball anywhere, so I don’t worry about that,” says the confident, just-turned 20-year old regarding the pull-shift. “Those teams know me, they know I’m a big guy with power and when they give me a fastball away—I take it. I try to take a good AB (at bat).”

The Texas Rangers outbid themselves in 2011, signing Mazara to a record $4.95 million contract, a move that raised some eyebrows amongst the international market.

But all Mazara has done since arriving in Frisco as a 19-year old last season is impress scouts, opponents and teammates.

In 24 games last season with the RoughRiders, he hit .306 with three home runs and 16 RBI. In 49 games played this season, Mazara is hitting .294 with 23 runs, 13 extra base hits and 19 RBI.

On May 5 against the San Antonio Missions, he recorded his first career four-hit game.

Mazara has worked on replacing a drastic front leg kick with a slight “toe-tap” to keep his mechanics in sync, which also allows him more time for pitch recognition.

The result has been positive, with less strikeouts and a higher walk rate. Though his power numbers aren’t eye popping, his strike-zone command is allowing him to become a more polished hitter.

“I feel more comfortable at the plate. I am seeing the ball and I have a plan at the plate. I have a good approach right now to hit lines drives up the middle.”

If there were such a thing as spoken gold, Mazara just hit the jackpot. Though no sabermetric stat can evaluate baseball IQ, every scout and manager has a synonymous positive answer to Mazara’s ability and work ethic.

“We go out there to have fun and play the game hard,” he says genuinely. “We give everything we have every day to win the game.”

Mazara plays right field, but prior to each game he can be seen taking infield at first base to further his versatility. From footwork to the smallest details of an intricate position, he’s always looking to learn.

“You don’t know where you’re going to play. Just work on it, why not? It’s not a bad idea to keep working hard and be ready for any situation”

“Give me the right way to play, and I will keep working harder and harder until I retire.”

This guy is awesome. Enjoy.

-Nate

Riders Rewind: Reviewing May

The Frisco RoughRiders just wrapped up a wild month of May. The team played 30 games in a 31 day stretch, including a double-header on May 25 at San Antonio. Former RoughRiders Joey Gallo, Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez and Hanser Alberto all earned a promotion to the Texas Rangers over the final week of the month and Josh Hamilton appeared in four games during a rehab assignment with Frisco.

Gallo set a Rangers franchise record with four RBIs in his major league debut, hitting his first career home run off Jeff Samardzija and fell a triple short of a cycle. Gonzalez carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning en route to winning his big-league debut and Alberto knocked a triple in his first major league at-bat.blog image

Meanwhile, the Double-A Frisco team went 13-17 in May, hitting a collective 25 home runs and batted .242. The Riders closed out the month by winning nine of their last 13 games.

Frisco endured a brutal stretch from May 6-18 in which they lost 12 straight games (a season-high) by a combined score of 101-49 (average score of 8.4 to 4.1). It marked the worst stretch since the team lost 13 in a row from July 3 through 16, 2005.

All things considered, the team pulled out three consecutive winning series to close the month, getting great starting pitching and a boost offensively from Gallo and Jorge Alfaro.

Jake Thompson went 3-1 in six May starts. In those three wins, Thompson allowed just two runs over 20 2/3 innings while striking out 22. He was the tough-luck loser in a May 4 contest at Corpus Christi, in which he fired seven shutout innings and set a career-high with 12 strikeouts.

Jorge Alfaro matched a season high nine-game hitting streak from May 22-30. Alfaro finished the month with 14 runs scored, 14 extra base hits and 15 RBIs. He carried a stretch within the hitting streak of five straight games with an RBI.

Gallo put on a show at Dr Pepper Ballpark. He hit all nine of his home runs during May and seven came at home. In 34 games with Frisco, the left-handed slugger hit .314 with 20 extra base hits and 31 RBIs. He was originally scheduled for a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock, but the injury to Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre (sprained thumb) fast-tracked Gallo’s trek to Arlington.

The Rangers sent Hamilton on a rehab assignment to Frisco after a short stint with the Triple-A Express. Hamilton, recovering from shoulder surgery, went 9-for-16 in four games with the RoughRiders. In his final at-bat in front of 10,989 faithful, the former American League MVP belted a two-run bomb into the Kroeger Pool Zone. The ballpark erupted in what was a perfect send off.

The RoughRiders raised more than $4,000 dollars during its annual Military Appreciation Night at Dr Pepper Ballpark on May 30. The team wore special commemorative digital camouflage jerseys, which were auctioned off with all proceeds benefiting local military charities.

After playing 18 home games in May, the team has just eight home dates in a road-heavy June. The team hosts San Antonio June 9-12 and Midland June 21-24.

Riders Rewind: Audio Highlights from the weekend

The Frisco RoughRiders are on a roll having won six out of seven games on its current eight game road trip through San Antonio and Corpus Christi. The Riders (11-12) have won three straight against the Hooks and can reach .500 with a win on Monday night.

Lets review the series so far…

Friday 5/1: Riders gave up the lead in the bottom of the eighth only to retake it in the ninth!

Saturday 5/2: Riders hang on to Bolinger’s two-run blast

Sunday 5/3: Drew Robinson’s Texas League-leading 7th home run lifts Riders

Riders Rewind: Audio Highlights from 4.29

The Riders won their third straight game against San Antonio on Wednesday night. Listen to the audio highlights below!

INNING: TOP 1
SCORE: Riders 1-0
PLAY: Joey Gallo doubles to score Tyler Pastornicky

INNING: TOP 2
SCORE: Riders 2-0
PLAY: Drew Robinson hits his sixth home run of the season

INNING: TOP 4
SCORE: Riders 3-0
PLAY: Luis Mendez singles home Robinson

INNING: TOP 4
SCORE: Riders 5-0
PLAY: Jake Skole triple plates another run

INNING: BOTTOM 8
SCORE: Riders 5-4
PLAY: Alberth Hernandez knocks a two-run shot to make it 5-4

INNING: TOP 9
SCORE: Riders 6-4
PLAY: Nomar Mazara adds an insurance run in the ninth

Riders Rewind: Audio Highlights from 4.28

INNING: TOP 5  
SCORE: TIED 2-2
PLAY: Tyler Pastornicky’s single scores Jake Skole  

INNING: TOP 5 
SCORE: Riders 3-2
PLAY: Nomar Mazara RBI single

INNING: TOP 5
SCORE: Riders 4-2
PLAY: Joey Gallo RBI single 

INNING: TOP 6 
SCORE: Riders 6-3
PLAY: Jake Skole 2-run single 

INNING: TOP 8 
SCORE: Riders 7-4
PLAY: Jake Skole’s third hit drives in his third RBI

Riders Rewind: Audio Highlight from 4.27

The Riders snapped a six game losing streak with a win at San Antonio on Monday night. Jorge Alfaro had a huge night with late heroics to pull off the comeback win.

INNING: TOP 3 
SCORE: Riders 4-3
PLAY: Jorge Alfaro delivers a two out base hit to take the lead 

INNING: TOP 8 
SCORE: Riders 6-5
PLAY: Jorge Alfaro hits a go-ahead two run home run late! 

INNING: BOTTOM 8 
SCORE: Riders 6-5
PLAY: Jorge Alfaro throws out Casey McElroy to complete the strike’em out throw’em out double play. 

INNING: TOP 9 
SCORE: Riders 8-5
PLAY: Joey Gallo plates two with his first triple of 2015 

Riders Rewind: Audio Highlights from 4.26

The Hooks bested the Riders to complete the four game sweep. The Riders begin a eight game road trip tonight in San Antonio. For the full recap of Sunday’s game, click here.

INNING: BOTTOM 3 
SCORE: TIED 1-1
PLAY: Nomar Mazara ties the game with a two-out single

INNING: TOP 2 
SCORE: HOOKS 2-1
PLAY: Hooks score on a fielders choice by Brandon Meredith

INNING: TOP 5 
SCORE: HOOKS 5-1
PLAY: Carlos Correa knocks a three-run home run 

INNING: BOTTOM 6 
SCORE: HOOKS 5-1
PLAY: Joey Gallo hits his first double of 2015

INNING: BOTTOM 8
SCORE: HOOKS 5-2
PLAY: Jorge Alfaro RBI single 

INNING: BOTTOM 9
SCORE: HOOKS 5-2
PLAY: Final Out

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