August 2011

RoughRiders Roster Moves

The ‘Riders will welcome outfielder David Paisano back to Frisco today, while infielder Matt Leeds is heading back to the Arizona League.

David Paisano is back with the 'Riders for the first time since mid-May (James Garner).

Paisano opened the season with the RoughRiders and hit .213 with 12 runs scored five RBIs  in 27 games. He was sent to High-A Myrtle Beach May 14. Paisano hit .241 with the Pelicans in 65 games.

Paisano is not in the RoughRiders’ starting lineup tonight in game three of this four-game series.

Leeds spent a little more than a week with the RoughRiders and played in three games. The College of Charleston product went 3-for-9 with two RBIs. Leeds will return to Surprise to rejoin the first-place AZL Rangers. This season in Arizona, Leeds is hitting .264 with three homers and 23 RBIs.

Unfortunately for Paisano, he will not get to take part in the “Hurricane Party” at the Pelicans’ home game tonight at BB&T Coastal Field. The team tweeted today that anyone with the name Irene gets free admission.

- Brian

What’s That Sound?

That sound is the RoughRiders making quite a charge late in the regular season. The ‘Riders own a four-game winning streak, with the last two victories coming against the San Antonio Missions. This will most likely be the first round playoff matchup in the Texas League South, and it should be fascinating based on the last two games. Here are some notable stats after last night’s win.

5: The RoughRiders’ current home winning streak, which is the longest of the year. Three of those five victories have come by just one run. Overall this year, the club is 38-27 at home.

Carlos Pimentel has had San Antonio's number this season (James Garner).

7: The ‘Riders have hit seven home runs in their last three games, all of which were wins. During Frisco’s four-game losing skid that preceded this run, the club only hit two homers. In the entire month of August, the ‘Riders have only hit 16 long balls, so the power is coming back for the RoughRiders.

13: How many one-run games the RoughRiders and Missions have played this season. San Antonio owns a narrow 7-6 edge in these games. Overall in the season series, the Missions lead 18-12, but Frisco is an even 7-7 at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

14: Frisco is now 14 games above .500, which is one away from matching a season high. The ‘Riders were 15 games above .500 three times (July 14, July 24, and July 26).

29-2: This stat is courtesy of Mike Saeger, the play-by-play broadcaster for the Missions. San Antonio is 29-2 when hitting two or more home runs. The second loss came last night against the RoughRiders.

30: Mike Bianucci’s home run total this season, which puts him second on the RoughRiders’ all-time list for a single season home run mark. Bianucci is four away from Nate Gold’s record of 34. If Bianucci plays in every game the rest of the regular season, he is on pace for 33 homers.

39.1: The number of innings Carlos Pimentel has worked against San Antonio, and the righty is 2-0 with a 2.97 earned run average. Not bad for a guy who has a 5.21 ERA overall.

And most importantly…

14: The number of days until Game 1 of the Texas League playoffs.

- Brian

A Banner Year for the Rangers’ Farm

If the season ended today, every team within the Rangers’ minor league system–from Arlington to Surprise–would make the postseason. As a result, it isn’t surprising that the Rangers’ farm clubs have the best combined record in all of baseball (394-303; .565 winning percentage).

Let’s take a look at these teams’ successes in the regular season and likely journeys in the playoffs.

Texas Rangers (74-56; 3.5 game lead in the A.L. West)
MAGIC NUMBER: 30
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Los Angeles Angels, who have won five in a row to pull within three and a half games. The Rangers and Angels meet this weekend in Arlington.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: With the American League wild card likely going to the second-place team in the East, the Rangers will get either the Yankees or the Red Sox. The two teams are tied for first in the division. New York has the better offense, while Boston has the better pitching staff, so it is a “pick-em” situation.
FUN FACT: The Rangers have shut out their opponent 15 times this year, which is good for 11% of the Rangers’ games.

The Express celebrated their division crown last night (photo courtesy of Round Rock's Facebook page).

Round Rock Express (79-52; 14.0 game lead in the PCL’s American Southern)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Getting to playoff baseball healthy and intact. The Express clinched its first division title since 2006 last night after a win over New Orleans and an Albuquerque loss to Memphis.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: The two American Conference division winners will square off in a best-of-five semifinal series. Entering play Wednesday, the Omaha Storm Chasers lead that division, with the Memphis Redbirds four games back. The Express is 9-3 against Omaha in 2011.
FUN FACT: Round Rock joined Columbus (81-51) as the earliest playoff qualifiers at the Triple-A level. Both clubs clinched last night.

Frisco RoughRiders (70-57/30-27; 14.0 game lead in TL’s South wild card)
MAGIC NUMBER: 6
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Rooting for the first-place San Antonio Missions. Frisco’s magic number to clinch the wild card spot is also San Antonio’s magic number to clinch the second-half title. Only Midland (eight games back) can prevent the ‘Riders from going to the postseason for the fifth time in franchise history, and it would take a miracle for that to happen.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: As discussed yesterday, it will be the Missions, who own the best record in full-season minor league baseball (86-41). The ‘Riders are 11-18 against San Antonio this year.
FUN FACT: The ‘Riders have now won 70 or more games in eight of the nine seasons as a franchise. Frisco is the only Texas League team with at least 70 wins every year since 2006.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (67-59/27-30; first-half champion in CL’s Southern)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Turning things around after a stellar first half. The Pelicans are three games below .500 in the second half, which puts them four games back of first place. Fortunately, a key piece is back in action–Mike Olt is back from his broken collarbone, and he is 4-for-10 with four RBIs in three games.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: Kinston currently leads the second half at 31-26, a game and a half better than Winston-Salem. It will go down to the wire, but Kinston is the sentimental favorite because the franchise is moving after the 2011 season.
FUN FACT: According to the Pelicans’ web site, Myrtle Beach owns a walk-off win against every Carolina League team this season.

Hickory Crawdads (71-52/31-24; first-half champion in SAL’s Northern)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Kannapolis Intimidators, who currently lead the second-half standings. It is looking like a Kannapolis-Hickory semifinal series in the South Atlantic League.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: Well, the Intimidators. So far this season, the ‘Dads are 10-5 against Kannapolis.
FUN FACT: The Crawdads beat Stephen Strasburg and the Hagerstown Suns Monday. It was just the third minor league loss in Strasburg’s career.

Spokane Indians (32-34/12-16; 3.0 game lead in NWL’s East wild card)
MAGIC NUMBER: 7
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Boise Hawks, who trail the Indians by three games in the wild card standings. The Indians finish with five at Eugene and three at home against Everett.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: The Tri-City Dust Devils, who have led this division most of the season. Tri-City is tied with Eugene for the best overall mark in the Northwest League at 39-27.
FUN FACT: Spokane leads the NWL in attendance with an average of 4,828 fans per game.

Surprise Rangers (33-18; champion in AZL West)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: At this point, nothing other than waking up early for baseball in warm temperatures out there in Arizona.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: The AZL Rangers have the second best record in the league, which means they will likely face the worst division winner. At this point, that is the AZL Dodgers.
FUN FACT: Five players who have played in at least 27 games have a batting average above .300.

- Brian

Storylines for Frisco-San Antonio

Unless Midland can erase an eight-game deficit and win the second-half title in the South Division, the Frisco RoughRiders and the San Antonio Missions will square off in the first round of the Texas League playoffs.

The RoughRiders have had some great moments against the Missions this year (James Garner).

These two clubs kick off a four-game series tonight at Dr Pepper Ballpark, and it will act as a preview of that best-of-five series that is set to begin September 7. Let’s take you through some of the storylines.

1. Momentum Against the Missions?
The RoughRiders have played San Antonio tough this season, but they have only been able to muster a 10-18 mark. The Missions are the best team in all of full-season minor league baseball (86-40), so there’s no shame in that. However, to win a championship, the ‘Riders must get past them. It would be a big boost to win this series, especially because Frisco has only one series victory against the Missions in seven tries this season.

2. Ross, Hankins Face San Antonio
Ben Snyder (0-2, 3.75 ERA in 24 innings) and Carlos Pimentel (1-0, 2.70 ERA in 33 1/3 innings) have had success against the Missions this season, and they will pitch during the series. However, Derek Hankins has only seen them once (five scoreless innings) and Robbie Ross has yet to face the Missions. The Snyder-Pimentel-Hankins-Ross quartet figures to be the ‘Riders’ rotation right now, with Neil Ramirez building up strength as the club’s other starter. These four pitchers must have success to beat San Antonio.

The 'Riders saw Robbie Erlin earlier this month. They will face Joe Wieland Thursday (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

3. Wieland Back in Frisco
The RoughRiders saw Robbie Erlin in the Missions’ previous visit to Dr Pepper Ballpark, but they missed Joe Wieland. This time, it’s the other way around. Wieland, who is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA since joining the Missions, will start Thursday. Erlin held the ‘Riders to just one run on two hits in his first game against them, and Wieland gets his chance in two days.

4. Missions’ Offense Sputtering?
San Antonio is 16-4 this month, yet they are hitting a season-low .244 as a team. Obviously, it helps that the club has a 2.17 team ERA in August, but the offense has been declining ever since its remarkable April. Take a look at the team’s batting averages by month: .315/.268/.264/.252/.244. San Antonio averages just 4.8 runs per game against Frisco, so we’ll see if the ‘Riders can continue to slow them down.

5. Ready for a Late-Season Surge?
Yes, San Antonio has been the better team over the course of 126 games. However, the ‘Riders and Missions will (likely) meet in a best-of-five series in early September. Are the RoughRiders ready to start that last-minute run and carry the momentum into the playoffs? Following an 0-4 start to the road trip, the ‘Riders bounced back with back-to-back wins. This can be a chance to carry that work into and through a series with the heavy favorite in the Texas League.

This series should be fun. We hope you enjoy! More coverage to come soon.

- Brian

Catching up with Scott Servais

Scott Servais, the Rangers’ Senior Director of Player Development, was in Tulsa for the last two days to check in the RoughRiders players and staff – something that happens a handful of times per season.  Scott oversees the on-field development of all players in the Rangers’ Minor League system.  It’s a big job, and Scott was gracious enough to sit down with me in the ‘Riders dugout at ONEOK Field to chat about his job, the RoughRiders, and the minor leagues.

Me (AG): What all does your job entail?

Photo: Jason Cole

Photo Credit: LoneStarDugout.com

Scott Servais (SS): I’m in charge of everything going on in the Rangers’ minor leagues.  It all starts with our scouts.  They bring the talent to us, and then it’s up to us to groom the talent and put them in the right spots.

AG:  With so many players between rookie ball and Triple-A, is it ever hard remembering who is where?

SS: No, it’s pretty much ingrained.  It’s a part of my life every morning waking up and knowing who is where.  It’s  a full-time gig.  Fortunately, I have a great staff.  They do a tremendous job not only teaching the game the “Ranger way,” but also communicating with our players and myself.

AG: What exactly is the “Ranger way?”

SS: I think there are a lot of ways to put that.  I think we have a certain style of player, and a certain style of play.  It’s played out in the big leagues by some of the younger players who have come up through our system.  Obviously Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Craig Gentry.  Even Nelson Cruz spent some time with us in the minors before figuring it out.

And then there’s the pitching.  Guys like Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland are products of our system and guys that we’re very proud of.  They understand what it is we feel is important and they have the discipline to carry it out and get better at the big league level.

AG: Former ‘Rider Matt Lawson told me earlier this year following his retirement from baseball that he felt like you really took the time to get to know him when he was playing in the Rangers’ system.  How important are those relationships?

SS: It’s everything.  I played for 15 years and I remember how important it was when the brass came into town.  Letting [the players] know that they’re not just a number or a piece of meat, so to speak.  I’m a person, I have a family, I have a background.  I hope to build equity with the players so when I have to go to a player and hold them accountable or ask them to make an adjustment, we’ve built that equity, and they’ll buy in and take our suggestions.

The game is a little different now than it was 20 years ago.  Then, when a coach said something, you just did it.  Now days, you have to be expected to explain “why.” Hopefully when you have a background with the players, they’ll trust you, and that’s what it’s about.  They have to trust.  There’s never been one player that has made it to the big leagues on his own.

My thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer some questions.  It was clear that he wasn’t just rattling of a company line.  I can tell he really does believe in the things that he was talking about.  

This is now my second season in the Rangers’ system and I continue to be impressed with the overall quality of people that are in the mix – both on and off the field.  I’m sure there are things that could be better, like everywhere, but from everyone I’ve talked with, Texas is going about things the right way.

-AG

My Texas League Postseason Ballot

The 2011 Texas League Postseason All-Star ballots are out to managers and media members, and both Aaron and I have a vote. Below, I have my picks along with a brief explanation why.

First off, here are a few notes. As a member of the RoughRiders organization, I cannot vote for a RoughRider. Still, I have included six ‘Riders who could be on this list. Also, anyone who has played in the TL this year is eligible. Finally, all of the ballots are due by tomorrow, so the last two weeks of the season do not factor into the decision.

Share your thoughts at the bottom in the comments section. Here we go.

Catcher: Wilin Rosario (Tulsa)

The Rockies’ number two prospect, Rosario has not had the best season offensively. But, he could get a September promotion to Colorado and he has put up the best numbers of any Texas League catcher (.254, 18 HR, 41 RBI).

First Baseman: Matt Adams (Springfield)

Triple Crown? Matt Adams has a chance in '11 (Photo courtesy of Mark Harrell/Springfield Cardinals).

With Tim Wheeler’s recent struggles and Jermaine Mitchell’s promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, Adams has an outside shot at a Triple Crown. Adams has a league-leading 30 homers (one better than Wheeler) and 94 RBIs, and he is sixth in the league in average at .313. However, the top three (Mitchell, J.D. Martinez and James Darnell) will not have enough plate appearances to qualify barring a return to the TL. His real target is Mike Trout (.326).

Second Baseman: Jose Altuve (Corpus Christi)

I like to steer away from players who did not spend much time in a league for postseason awards, but the second base spot is weak here in the Texas League and Altuve was incredible to watch. He hit .361 in his 35 games with Corpus Christi. During that short stint, Altuve drove in 25 runs and scored 21.

Shortstop: Darwin Perez (Arkansas)

Shortstop is a fairly weak position in the Texas League this season, as well, so Perez is my choice because of his on-base percentage (.378, 11th), stolen bases (22, 6th) and fielding percentage (.982, 1st among qualifiers). If I could vote for a RoughRider, Renny Osuna would be my choice here.

Third Baseman: James Darnell (San Antonio)

With apologies to Arkansas’ Luis Jimenez, Darnell was a machine in his 76 games with the Missions. Darnell hit .333, which still qualifies for third in the Texas League, and he had an OPS of 1.038. Darnell hit 17 homers and drove in 62 runs, and now his home is San Diego.

Outfielder: Mike Trout (Arkansas)

Trout was advertised as the number one or number two prospect in the minors at the start of the season, and he has not disappointed. Trout is hitting .326 with 33 stolen bases, and he earned a brief stint in the big leagues. He is incredibly fun to watch.

Outfielder: Jermaine Mitchell (Midland)

Mitchell still qualifies as the league’s leader in batting average (.355), on-base percentage (.453) and OPS (1.042). He didn’t have the gaudy home run (10) or RBI (50) totals, but he was a menace atop Midland’s order.

Outfielder: Tim Wheeler (Tulsa)

Wheeler has struggled in August, but he still boasts great numbers (Photo courtesy of Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com).

Wheeler has struggled lately (.200, 0 HR, 2 RBIs in August), but you have to wonder if he is getting bored at the Double-A level. He is still second in homers (29) and tied for fourth in RBIs (79).  It was between Corpus Christi’s J.D. Martinez and Wheeler, and I went with Tulsa’s leadoff hitter, who is putting up middle-of-the-order stats. Don’t worry, Martinez fans…

Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez (Corpus Christi)

The Hooks have the worst record in the Texas League, but they are one of three teams to have two offensive representatives on my list. Martinez, like Jose Altuve, is in the big leagues now, but he is fourth in the TL in OPS (.959) and seventh in RBIs (72) despite only playing in 88 games.

Three toughest offensive omissions:
1. Arkansas 3B Luis Jimenez (barely edged by Darnell and Martinez)
2. Springfield OF Alex Castellanos (gave Wheeler edge despite being in recent funk)
3. San Antonio OF Blake Tekotte (outfield was the most loaded position)

Three most likely RoughRiders on the list:
1. Renny Osuna (2B/SS)
2. Tommy Mendonca (3B)
3. Leonys Martin (OF)
_________
Pitchers:

1. Matt Shoemaker (Arkansas)

Matt Shoemaker has the best ERA in the TL, and it's not even that close (Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Travelers).

Shoemaker started the season in Triple-A, but he came down to the Texas League in early May and began his dominance. He leads the league, by a wide margin, in ERA (2.18) and WHIP (1.00) among qualifiers. He also paces all Texas Leaguers in strikeouts with 121 and is tied at the top with 12 wins.

2. Garrett Richards (Arkansas)

Richards is the man who is deadlocked with Shoemaker in wins. Both hurlers are 12-2, and Richards is the league leader in innings with 141. Richards, who is currently with the Angels, is 12-2 with an ERA of 3.06, which is second to Shoemaker among qualifiers.

3. Dallas Keuchel (Corpus Christi)

Don’t let his 9-7 record fool you—Keuchel has been a legitimate ace all season long. The lefty has worked through five innings in all but one of his 19 starts, and he has only surrendered more than three runs four times. He is not overpowering (76 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings), but he is second among qualifiers in WHIP at 1.12.

Joe Wieland tossed a no-hitter with Frisco, and he is now dominating with San Antonio (Photo courtesy of James Garner).

4. Joe Wieland (San Antonio)

Casey Kelly is San Diego’s top prospect, and Jorge Reyes has the best numbers of any San Antonio starter who has been on the club all year. However, who has made a bigger impact in the Texas League this season than Wieland? Wieland tossed a no-hitter with the RoughRiders against San Antonio, and then he went to the Missions. Wieland’s ERA is 1.50 in Double-A, and he has a 1.85 overall this season.

5. Nick Vincent (San Antonio)

Vincent has made more appearances (58) than anyone else in the Texas League. The reliever is 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 70 innings, and he has 82 strikeouts to 14 walks. In the eighth inning, the righty owns a 1.91 ERA. In the ninth, that mark falls to 1.50. The Missions have been dominant all year long, and the bullpen is a big reason why.

6. Brad Brach (San Antonio)

Closers are not that common in the minors, but Brach was the man who dominated the ninth inning while in San Antonio. Brach had a 2.25 ERA and went 23 for 25 in save opportunities with the Missions before earning a promotion to Triple-A Tucson. When ahead in the count, the TL’s save leader held his opposition to an .097 average (7-for-72).

Three toughest pitching omissions:
1. Springfield’s Shelby Miller (good numbers, but not good enough to overcome small sample size)
2. Tulsa’s Juan Nicasio (better numbers than Miller, but fewer innings)
3. San Antonio’s Jorge Reyes (4th in ERA, but only worked more than five innings once)

Three most likely RoughRiders on the list:
1. LHP Martin Perez
2. RHP Justin Miller
3. RHP Tyler Tufts

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Springfield’s Matt Adams

He is the most dangerous hitter in the Texas League right now, and he has a chance at the Triple Crown. He may not have the upside that some other players in this league possess, but he has been the best hitter on the best offense, by far, in the TL.

ON THE MEDAL STAND: 2. Arkansas’ Mike Trout; 3. San Antonio’s James Darnell.

PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Arkansas’ Matt Shoemaker

The Travelers earned a first-half title because of their pitching staff, and Shoemaker has been the go-to guy. Shoemaker stumbled a bit in Triple-A earlier this season, but he figures to do much better in his second go-around at that level after an incredible season at the Double-A level.

ON THE MEDAL STAND: 2. Arkansas’ Garrett Richards; 3. Corpus Christi’s Dallas Keuchel.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: San Antonio’s Doug Dascenzo

The Missions have the best record in minor league baseball, and they have had many good players. However, Dascenzo has navigated his club through many promotions, and they haven’t slowed down at all. This San Antonio club is a dominant force that will go into the playoffs as the heavy favorites, and Dascenzo is a big reason why.

ON THE MEDAL STAND: 2. Frisco’s Steve Buechele; 3. Northwest Arkansas’ Brian Poldberg.

- Brian

‘Riders Fantasy Football Advice

I made my way around the ‘Riders clubhouse in Northwest Arkansas before batting practice yesterday and found a few guys who are pretty passionate about fantasy football (like I am). It was fun learning who they believe are this year’s sleepers, busts, and breakout players.

LF, Mitch Hilligoss

10 TDs for Ochocinco and Brady? Hilligoss thinks so.

Favorite team: Chicago Bears
Sleepers: Chad Ochocinco
Busts: Arian Foster, Kevin Kolb
Players targeting the most: Tom Brady, Chad Ochocinco
Draft philosophy: RB, QB, WR in the first three rounds
Leagues: Mitch plays two leagues: one with current teammates, and one with former teammates from when he played in the Yankees’ system.

Mitch told me a great story about when he played in the minors for New York, he and his teammates would meet back at the hotel late after a game near the end of the season, order and bunch of pizzas, and do a live fantasy draft.

 

 

 

LHP, Derek Hankins

After a monster 2010 season, Hilligoss and Hankins don't believe Arian Foster can repeat in 2011.

After a monster 2010 season, Hilligoss and Hankins don't believe Arian Foster can repeat in 2011.

Favorite team: Chicago Bears
Sleepers: Felix Jones (especially in a PPR league), Jordy Nelson
Busts: Arian Foster, Brandon Lloyd
Player targeting the most: Ray Rice
Draft philosophy: In a PPR league, two WRs with his first three picks
Leagues: Derek, like Mitch, plays in two leagues: one with some former teammates from Round Rock, and another with some friends he played with while in the Pirates’ farm system.

After talking with Derek, it obvious he’s a huge football fan.  He loves his Bears and has already purchased a Roy Williams and Marion Barber jersey – two free agent signings this off-season. Although he doesn’t live in Chicago, he gets to a few Bears’ games each season.

Congrats to Derek who is getting married during the off-season. Hopefully his fiancee knows he has a standing appointment with his couch every Sunday afternoon.

 

 

RHP, Tyler Tufts

If Tyler wants Andre Johnson he'll have to be willing to spend a first-round pick.

If Tyler wants Andre Johnson he'll have to be willing to spend a first-round pick.

Favorite team: Cleveland Browns (poor guy)
Sleeper: Ryan Williams (who suffered a potentially season-ending injury in a preseason game against Green Bay.
hours after Tyler and I talked  Chalk it up the the ‘Riders Insider Curse.) Also, Plaxico Burress.
Busts: Michael Vick, Reggie Wayne
Players targeting most: Andre Johnson, LeSean McCoy
Draft philosophy: RB, RB, RB with first three picks (non PPR)
Leagues: Tyler plays in the ‘Riders team league with Mitch and also plays in a league with his family.

Tyler, like our own Brian Boesch, has lead a tortured life as a Cleveland sports fan.  Fortunately, both have fantasy football to keep them going no matter how the Browns play.

Although we didn’t talk about it, Greg Little is a nice mid-tier sleeper for the Browns this season.  He had two catches, one for a touchdown, Friday night in a preseason loss to Detroit.  Other than TE Ben Watson, who else does Colt McCoy have to throw to?  Little is a big target (6-2, 220 lbs.) who has a chance for a nice year.  I was able to get him with my final pick in my first fantasy draft of the season.

-AG

 

RoughRiders In The (Football) Draft

The NFL is right around the corner, which means that fantasy football drafts are taking place all over the world. The RoughRiders’ front office had its draft Tuesday night. We all realized quickly that Aaron–the league’s commissioner–had the best draft by far. He may go undefeated.  I’m in trouble.

So, let’s make some fantasy football comparisons with some of your RoughRiders. By the way, Aaron will have another fantasy football-related post tomorrow from Tulsa.

Tommy Mendonca = Arian Foster (RB, Houston): Mendonca (.285, 23 HR, 83 RBI) is finishing up a breakout season here in the Texas League, and Foster (1374 yards, 13 TDs) was the breakout star of the NFL last season. Foster is going in the first round in many drafts, and Mendonca would be near the top of most Texas League boards.

Mike Bianucci = Peyton Hillis (RB, Cleveland): Two tough, strong men who produce very well. Bianucci is third in the Texas League in home runs (27) while Hillis became the first Brown to don the cover of Madden. These two guys are beasts in their sports.

Engel Beltre = Santonio Holmes (WR, NY Jets): Both men have great speed and catch seemingly everything that comes their way, and they both do it with a little flair. Beltre is one of the best defenders in the Texas League, and Holmes is the top receiver on a contender.

Renny Osuna = Ray Rice (RB, Baltimore): Both Osuna and Rice are a bit undersized, but they both produce at a very high level. Rice is a first-round pick in fantasy football drafts, while Osuna is the RoughRiders’ all-time hits leader. If you have either on your team, you have a great chance to win.

Ben Snyder = Ben Roethlisberger (QB, Pittsburgh): These two guys are better real-life players than they are fantasy sports acquisitions. Snyder has been in the bullpen, starting rotation, and outfield this season, and Roethlisberger gets better as the game progresses.

Justin Miller = Tom Brady (QB, New England): Miller doesn’t have three rings or an undefeated regular season (although he is close at 9-1 this season), but he does shut the door on his opponents late in the game. Brady is the king of fourth-quarter wins, and Miller boasts a 2.03 ERA as a late-inning bullpen option.

Johan Yan = Mike Williams (WR, Tampa Bay): Both players made instant impacts out of nowhere. A converted infielder, Yan has an incredible 0.47 in his first 19 Double-A innings. Williams was a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, and his 1,056 receiving yards and eight touchdowns helped the Buccaneers become one of the biggest 2010 surprises.

Matt Leeds = Andre Roberts (WR, Arizona): Two deep sleepers. Leeds is with the RoughRiders after spending the first two months of his professional career in the Arizona League, and Roberts is going to get some playing time alongside Larry Fitzgerald.

- Brian

Rangers Prospect Makes Final Four

Unlike last year when a 15-seed made it to the championship match, the “Minors Moniker Madness” held true to form for the most part, which was good news for Rangers prospect Rougned Odor. The top seed in the Farmer Works bracket, Odor clinched a spot in the semifinals with a narrow victory over Kevin Quackenbush.

So let’s delve into the four men who will vie for the Minors Moniker Madness title, starting with the Rangers’ representative.

#1 Rougned Odor:
HOW HE GOT HERE: Defeated Nick Bierbrodt, Didi Gregorius, Shooter Hunt and Kevin Quackenbush
HIS TEAM: Spokane Indians, the short-season affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
HOW HE IS DOING: Odor is hitting .296 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 44 games with the Indians in the Northwest League.
FUN FACT: He doesn’t really smell as bad as his last name would suggest.

#1 Seth Schwindenhammer:
HOW HE GOT HERE: Defeated Yohan Flande, Brooks Belter, Bob Stumpo and Brett Butts
HIS TEAM: Lowell Spinners, the short-season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
HOW HE IS DOING: Schwindenhammer is hitting .214 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 49 games with the Spinners in the New-York Penn League.
FUN FACT: Schwindenhammer had the longest last name (15 letters) in the competition.

#1 Beamer Weems:
HOW HE GOT HERE: Defeated Jordan Hotchkiss, Boof Bonser, Maverick Lasker and Tuffy Gosewisch.
HIS TEAM: San Antonio Missions, the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
HOW HE IS DOING: Weems is hitting .246 with nine homers and 46 RBIs in 77 games with the Missions in the Texas League.
FUN FACT: Weems’ Missions boast the best record (82-40) in all of full-season minor league baseball.

#2 Dusty Harvard:
HOW HE GOT HERE: Defeated Jerod Yakubik, Rex Brothers, Xander Bogaerts and Forrest Snow
HIS TEAM: Bristol White Sox, a rookie affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
HOW HE IS DOING: Harvard is hitting .203 with one homer and six RBIs in 18 games with the White Sox in the Appalachian League.
FUN FACT: Bristol plays its home games at Boyce Cox Stadium, which would be a candidate in the Madness if it were a player.

That’s the tale of the tape. Who is your favorite? Let us know below!

- Brian

Very Long Travel Guide

In the Florida State League, no bus trip takes more than four hours. In the Appalachian League, the longest trip is less than five hours. It is much different here in the Texas League.

Thanks to billsportsmaps.com for the image.

To fans, a series finale doesn’t mean too much. To minor league baseball players, a series finale normally means a night on the bus. By the end of the regular season, the RoughRiders will have boarded the bus shortly after 29 of their 40 series finales. You can see how one of those bus trips went here.

Even though the RoughRiders are in the South Division, they actually have longer trips within their division than they do when playing against the North.

The longest trip for the RoughRiders is from Frisco to Corpus Christi, and it takes a little more than seven hours. The trip takes the ‘Riders through Waco, Round Rock, Austin, and San Antonio.

Speaking of San Antonio, that is the shortest trip in the division. Still, it is five hours away, which is a healthy trip in the bus, especially after a game that ends around 10 p.m. The other divisional trip takes the ‘Riders to Midland, and that journey takes around six hours.

The North road trips are a little easier (which is not the case for the other three teams–I’ll get to that in the moment). The bus ride to Springfield–seven hours–is the longest in the North and the second longest in the TL for the ‘Riders. The trips to Northwest Arkansas (five and a half hours), Arkansas (five hours) and Tulsa (four hours) are fairly manageable.

The unfortunate outlier in the TL is Corpus Christi. We mentioned that the RoughRiders’ longest trip is to Corpus. Well, that happens to be the Hooks’ second shortest ride of the season! It takes almost eight hours for them to get to Midland, and they go to Citibank Ballpark four times each season.

How about these trips to the North for the Hooks: Arkansas (11:19), Tulsa (11:21), and Northwest Arkansas (12:31). The big one is the journey to Springfield, which is right around 14 hours. And the Cardinals will make that journey from Corpus back home after their game at Whataburger Field Monday night. That doesn’t sound fun, and things aren’t much easier for San Antonio (longest trip is almost 12 hours) and Midland (longest trip is around 11 and a half hours).

There have been other fun trips in the Texas League throughout the years, such as El Paso, Texas to North Little Rock, Ark. (15:42); Albuquerque, N.M., to Memphis, Tenn. (16:01); El Paso, Texas to Jackson, Miss. (17:17). I don’t know how the schedules or the travel worked during these times. Regardless, the TL has spanned quite an area during its history.

Life in the minor leagues is not as glorious as it sounds. Fortunately for the RoughRiders, they only have five more regular season bus trips left.

- Brian

*Note: All times are according to Google Maps.

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