RoughRiders Staying Steady
The month of July is upon us, and the Texas League has been full of surprises. The Missions continue to roll, the Travelers have turned into the power of the North, and the RoughRiders are right there in the conversation for the league’s best teams.
Last month, the RoughRiders were ranked second in our Texas League Power Rankings. Can they hold onto that ranking? Find out in this month’s Power Rankings (past rankings in order from earliest to most recent).
1. San Antonio (55-23, 6-2; Past Rankings: 1, 1): The Missions have held this title since our first rankings back in April, and there is no reason to lower them now. Since our last ranking when the Missions were 38-18, they have gone 17-5, raising their winning percentage to a ridiculous .705. San Antonio is trying to replicate Northwest Arkansas’ dominance in the North last year, when the Naturals won both halves and the league title in September.
HIGH POINT (June 12): San Antonio clinched the first half title on this day with a 6-4 win over Corpus Christi, a last at-bat win that wrapped up a first half title that seemed inevitable after the team’s incredible start.
LOW POINT (June 22): This was the day that everyone’s records were reset to 0-0, which was a drop from 28 games above .500 to, well, 0. The Missions overcame this adversity with a 5-3 win over the Hooks.
KEY STAT (1st): San Antonio has the best record in all of full-season minor league baseball. No other team has a winning percentage above .700 like the Missions do.
2. Arkansas (42-33, 6-2; Past Rankings: 7, 6): Boy did I mess this one up last time. I had the entire North Division slotted 3-6, and I had the Travelers sixth. I learned my lesson. The Travs may be playing the best baseball in the Texas League over the last two weeks, and they would be first if it weren’t for, you know, the best team in all of minor league baseball.
HIGH POINT (June 21): Arkansas clinched its first playoff berth since 2008 with a 17-6 thumping of Springfield at Hammons Field. That victory capped a 13-6 run to end the first half and get that postseason bid.
LOW POINT (June 11): The Travelers lost their second straight game to Northwest Arkansas on that day, 6-4. The Travs finished 7-3 to get that playoff berth.
KEY STAT (+45): That was Arkansas’ run differential in June after posting a -1 in April and a -3 in May.
3. Frisco (43-35, 3-5; Past Rankings: 6, 2): The RoughRiders finished second in the Texas League during the first half of the season. It’s too bad the ‘Riders didn’t play in the North. Frisco would have won the division fairly easily. Instead, the ‘Riders sit in pretty good position in the playoff chase provided that San Antonio continues to roll. Only a Midland or Corpus Christi second-half crown should keep the club out of the playoffs.
HIGH POINT (June 19): The ‘Riders wrapped up a 6-2 road trip with a 9-8, 12-inning victory over Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field. In the month, Frisco went 13-5 away from Dr Pepper Ballpark.
LOW POINT (June 26): T.J. Steele’s walk-off, two-run homer gave Corpus Christi a 4-3 victory over the ‘Riders, which was the Hooks’ third straight against Frisco. That loss dipped the ‘Riders’ mark in the second half to 1-4.
KEY STAT (11): Frisco is 11 games up on Midland for second place in the overall standings, which means that if San Antonio wins both halves, the RoughRiders are in the driver’s seat for the second playoff spot from the South. The team with the second best overall record goes to the playoffs when the same team wins the division in both halves.
4. Tulsa (38-40, 5-3; Past Rankings: 2, 5): The Drillers got off to a great start in the first half before fading and finishing the half in third. So far, so good for Tulsa in the second half. It’s hard to believe that a team two games below the break-even mark would be fourth, but that’s the set-up in this top-heavy Texas League.
HIGH POINT (June 27): With two down and his club down by two in the top of the 9th, Tim Wheeler hit a three-run home run to give the Drillers a 6-5 lead over the Cardinals that they would not lose. It was Tulsa’s third straight win, and it ushered in the All-Star Break in a big way.
LOW POINT (June 19): The Drillers were already out of the chase by this point, but Arkansas delivered a knockout with a 3-1 win over Tulsa, the Travs’ third straight win over the Drillers.
KEY STAT (19): Wheeler’s home run total, which leads the Texas League by two over Frisco’s Mike Bianucci and Springfield’s Matt Adams.
5. Midland (32-46, 5-3; Past Rankings: 3, 7): Maybe it is a bit early to call the RockHounds “contenders” in the second half, but they are 5-3 and they rallied for a series split of San Antonio last week. Midland is off to a great start against the three best teams in this league (and the three top teams in this poll).
HIGH POINT (June 27): Midland went into the break with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over San Antonio. The ‘Hounds scored one in the seventh to tie and one in the eighth to win.
LOW POINT (June 25): Two days prior, the RockHounds were shutout by the Missions for the second straight day, 2-0. It looked like more of the same for Midland in the second half. The last four games have changed that outlook.
KEY STAT (3.9): That’s the average number of runs Midland’s opponents have scored in the first eight games of the second half. The RockHounds had the worst ERA in the first half (5.22).
6. Northwest Arkansas (36-39, 1-7; Past Rankings: 4, 3): The next two teams share the biggest drops of the month. I had the Naturals as the favorite in the North in early June, and they finished one game back of Arkansas. The second half, however, has been a struggle. The Naturals have lost seven in a row and sit with the worst record in the Texas League’s second half.
HIGH POINT (June 22): It was a modest high point, as the Naturals began the second half with a 6-2 win at Tulsa. At that point, the Naturals were four games above .500.
LOW POINT (July 1): Yesterday, the Naturals dropped their seventh straight, 4-1 at San Antonio. This skid ties a franchise high for most consecutive losses in team history. The only other time a seven-game losing streak has occurred for the Naturals–August of ’09.
KEY STAT (41-21): That’s the margin of runs for the Naturals’ opponents and the Naturals in the second half. Northwest has posted two runs or less in five of the eight games.
7. Springfield (34-44, 2-6; Past Rankings: 5, 4): I was higher on the Cardinals than most in the first half, but Springfield still finished last in the North with a 32-38 mark. So far in the second half, things haven’t gotten much better for a team that does have significantly more talent than it had at the beginning of the year.
HIGH POINT (June 15): Shelby Miller, St. Louis’ top prospect, tossed eight shutout innings against Arkansas in Springfield’s 8-1 win over the first-place Travs to keep the Cardinals alive (barely). Miller scattered four hits and whiffed eight.
LOW POINT (June 30): The Cardinals lost the lead in the eighth inning and fell victim to a RoughRiders walk-off win 7-6. It was the final loss during a four-game skid.
KEY STAT (1.89): Miller’s ERA through six Double-A starts. He has been great since his call-up from high-A Palm Beach.
8. Corpus Christi (29-49, 4-4; Past Rankings: 8, 8): The rankings have been consistent at the beginning and the end. The Hooks have been in the basement all year long. However, the Hooks have shown some life in the second half, and players like Jose Altuve, Xavier Cedeno, Jake Goebbert, Dallas Keuchel and J.D. Martinez make it fun to watch Corpus Christi. The Hooks may not be in the hunt, but they will post their fair share of wins in the second half.
HIGH POINT (June 26): T.J. Steele’s walk-off, two-run homer gave the Hooks a 4-3 victory over Frisco and a 3-2 record in the second half.
LOW POINT (June 27): The Hooks were three outs away from their first series sweep of the season, but the RoughRiders responded with four runs in the top of the ninth to stun Corpus 6-3.
KEY STAT (.500): The Hooks’ winning percentage through eight games in half number two, which is significantly better than the .357 mark they posted in the first half.
How would you rank the Texas League? Let us know. Enjoy our coverage tonight on TXA 21 beginning at 7:00 and on the RoughRiders Baseball Network beginning at 6:35. Hope you are along for the ride!