September 2011

11 Former RoughRiders on ALDS Roster

The Rangers officially published their ALDS roster earlier this morning featuring 11 former RoughRider players that will be suiting up for Texas against Tampa Bay:

Mitch Moreland is one of 11 former 'Riders on the Rangers' ALDS roster (photo: Yahoo! Sports)

Scott Feldman (’05, ’08)
Neftali Feliz (’08)
Alexi Ogando (’10)
Matt Harrison (’08)
Derek Holland (’08)
C.J. Wilson (’03, ’05-’06)
Elvis Andrus (’08)
Ian Kinsler (’04)
Mitch Moreland (’09)
Endy Chavez (’10)
Craig Gentry (’08-’09)

-AG

Wilson ALDS Game 1 Starter

Remember when C.J. Wilson was a RoughRider?  The Newport Beach native pitched at Dr Pepper Ballpark over the span of three different seasons: 2003, ’05, and ’06.  Overall with the ‘Riders, Wilson went 7-13 with a 4.39 ERA.

During his minor league career, C.J. made 95 appearances, 70 starts.  As a member of the RoughRiders, he spent the majority of the time working in the rotation (43 G/38 S).

I wonder how many RoughRiders’ fans, if any, who watched Wilson here could have ever predicted that his stuff would progress so much that he would become the ace of the Rangers’ staff. Over his 43 career Double-A appearances, the lefty walked 66, fanned 155, and allowed 212 hits over 201.0 innings pitched (9.5 H/9).

Certainly his BB/K ratio was solid, and even if you look at his hits/9 innings, it was slightly was better than 2010 Texas League Pitcher of the Year, Blake Beavan.  The big right-hander surrendered 231 hits in 217 2/3 innings (9.6 H/9). Anyone who saw Blake pitch knows that he threw strikes better than almost anyone in the Texas League, and the result was that he gave up some hits.

Today Wilson is opposed by a kid who has hardly any big league time on his resume.  Matt Moore has just over nine innings of major league experience under his belt, but is Joe Maddon’s choice for a Game 1 starter.  At 22-years-old, the left-hander entered the 2011 season as the Rays’ No. 2 overall prospect as ranked by Baseball America. The same publication also said he has the best fastball and curveball in the system.

Moore made his major league debut 16 days ago and has one big league start and three appearances to his name. According to ESPN’s Stats and Info, Moore’s one career start is the fewest by a Game 1 starer in MLB post-season history.

For what it’s worth, it should be noted that Moore struck out 131 and walked only 28 in 18 starts (102. 1 IP) with Double-A Montgomery.

Should be a fun one this afternoon from the Ballpark in Arlington.  I’m grateful I was able to snag a ticket to today’s game and will be sure to get some pics to post in the coming days.

Enjoy the game,

-AG

Photos courtesy of Getty Images and CBSSports

“Double-A Game of the Year”

VOTE FOR JOE HERE

Joe Wieland not only gave us all one of the best baseball moments of the year, but also one of the best in franchise history.  His nine inning no-hitter in San Antonio on July 29 when he faced the minimum is now one of six Double-A games in 2011 nominated for “Game of the Year.”  Click on the link above and cast your vote for Joe.

Joe was a great guy to be around and was always a terrific interview.  Although he only made seven starts for the ‘Riders before being traded with Robbie Erlin to San Diego for Padres reliever Mike Adams, he’s forever made his place in Frisco’s record books.

-AG

2011 RoughRiders’ Awards

The first round of off-season awards are beginning to come in for the RoughRiders. Yesterday we talked about Jurickson Profar being named Low-A Player of the Year by Baseball America, and while the ‘Riders don’t have anything of quite that prestigious, there are certainly some awards of note.

Best Texas League Visiting Clubhouse

We all know there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in minor league baseball, but there might not be a pair of guys that work harder than C.J. Allen and Philip Fleitman, the ‘Riders Clubhouse Managers.  Thanks to their efforts, the RoughRiders won Best Texas Visiting Clubhouse for the second-straight season.  These are the two guys that make sure both teams are fed both before and after all home games, do all the laundry, and a LOT more.  Congrats to C.J. and Philip.  Here’s a pic of the two of them taking some batting practice after the season was over.  I’m pretty sure photo credit goes to ‘Riders lefty, Corey Young.

 

Best Cheap Seats in Dallas

The Dallas Observer recently announced it’s 2011 “Best of” awards, and the RoughRiders won the award for “Best Cheap Seats” in Dallas.  They loved how inexpensive our tickets were compared to the local competition (Rangers, Cowboys, Mavs, etc.), and they really loved the swimming pool!

2011 Double-A MiLB Team of the Year

The ‘Riders need your help to win this one.  Click here to vote for the ‘Riders as the 2011 Double-A MiLB Team of the Year.  The other teams nominated are San Antonio, Harrisburg, Mobile, New Hampshire, and Tennessee.  Interestingly enough there are two other Rangers’ affiliates that have been nominated for “Team of the Year” in their respective class. You can vote for Triple-A Round Rock who finished with the all-time best record for a Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate (87-57).  You can also vote for the Hickory Crawdads for the best Low-A team in 2011.  The ‘Dads finished the year tied for the most wins in the South Atlantic League (79-58).

-AG

Profar Named Low-A Player of the Year

You know a player is good when he plays two levels below the team you cover and there’s a steady buzz about him all season long.  That’s the case with Hickory shortstop Jurickson Profar.

It was announced today that the 18-year-old was named the Low-A Player of the Year by Baseball America after hitting .286 with 12 home runs and 65 runs batted in.  At such a young age, it’s impressive to note that Profar walked 65 times compared to striking out 63 times.  If you take a look at the ‘Riders during the 2011 season, there wasn’t a single Frisco hitter with even 150 at-bats that had more walks than strikeouts.  The only guy who came close was Leonys Martin who walked 15 times compared to eight K’s in 135 at bats.

Defensively, Profar impressed as well.  In 114 games, all at shortstop, he committed just 22 errors giving him a .955 fielding percentage.  If you take a look at Elvis Andrus when he was 18-year-old and playing in the minors, the now Rangers’ shortstop had a combined .949 fielding percentage at the High-A level (Myrtle Beach and Bakersfield).

Think about that for a second.  We’re all impressed that Profar played as well as he did in Low-A at 18, but Andrus played at a level higher at the same age.  To be completely fair about the comparison (not that this is a fool-proof form of judgement),   Elvis managed a .938 fielding percentage in Low-A Rome in the Braves’ system at the young age of 17.

I’ve been surprised countless times, but I’d have to imagine that Profar opens up 2012 with High-A Myrtle Beach, which of course means that there’s a chance he makes his way to Frisco late in the season.  I don’t think it would shock anyone if he stayed in the Carolina League for all of next year, but you never know what can happen.

No matter where he plays, it will be a long way from home. The switch-hitter is from Willemstad, Curacao - a tiny little island off the northern coast of Brazil.  A population of slightly over 140,000, Curacao was put on the map during the 2004 Little League Baseball World Series by who else but Profar.

11-years-old at the time, Profar was the top statistical pitcher in the ’04 World Series when he went 2-0 with one save over 12.1 innings while striking out 19 studly kids.  He batted .313 (5-for-16) with one double, five runs batted in, a run scored, and two strikeouts.

He also played in the 2005 Little League Baseball World Series and posted the third-highest tournament batting average of .389 (7-for-18) to go along with five runs scored and two runs batted in. On the mound he went 1-0, 1.85 ERA over 13 innings with 26 strikeouts.

And have I mentioned that he speaks four languages?  Should be fun to watch Profar in Frisco … someday.

- AG

Photos provided by MiLB.com, ESPN.com, and Life.com

Playoff Perspective – Game 4

The 2011 season is over for the RoughRiders after San Antonio’s 11-3 victory in Game 4 Saturday night at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Here are a few thoughts a few minutes after Frisco’s tremendous season came to an end.

PLAYOFF PERSPECTIVE:

- With the pitching talent that both teams possessed, it felt like one big inning would ultimately decide this series. San Antonio’s seven-run first would certainly qualify as that big inning. The Missions sucked the life out of the RoughRiders in that frame and cruised from there to the franchise’s first Texas League Championship Series appearance since 2007.

- The ‘Riders did not reach their end goal, but they posted another fantastic season. Overall, Frisco went 80-64 and played the Missions, minor league baseball’s best team, extremely well. This organization once again churned out the top attendance number in the Texas League, and fan support has never been higher. 2011 was a good year for the RoughRiders.

- After their defeat of Northwest Arkansas in the North Division Series, the Arkansas Travelers will square off with the Missions in the TLCS. The Travs have had a solid season this year, but the Missions will, and should, go into that set as the heavy favorites.

- It has been a pleasure to cover the RoughRiders throughout the season. Thanks so much for making the ‘Riders Insider Blog a success during its first year. We look forward to keeping tabs on everything during the offseason, so be sure to stay tuned. Go RoughRiders!

- Brian

Game 4 Preview – San Antonio at Frisco

Texas League South Division Series
San Antonio Missions at Frisco RoughRiders
Saturday, September 10 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 4 – San Antonio leads 2-1

GAME 4 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders face elimination tonight in Game 4 of this South Division Series after San Antonio’s 5-3 win Friday at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The ‘Riders battled back from three separate deficits in Game 3, but Cody Decker’s eighth-inning solo shot, his second homer of the game, proved to be the difference. Frisco used five pitchers in the loss, four of whom allowed at least one run. With a win tonight, the Missions would return to the Texas League Championship Series for the first time since winning the title in 2007. The RoughRiders are 1-4 all-time when facing elimination in the postseason.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – RHP Adalberto Flores (5-4, 3.32 ERA): Flores joined the rotation late in the regular season after Derek Hankins’ promotion to Triple-A Round Rock. Tonight will be Flores’ fourth career minor league start. In his two starts thus far this season, Flores has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in seven and two-thirds innings. Against the Missions, Flores is 1-1 with a 4.96 earned run average in eight appearances spanning 16 and a third frames. Flores was a midseason All-Star in the Texas League after going 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in the first half.

San Antonio – LHP Robbie Erlin (1-0, 1.38 ERA): For the second time this series, the RoughRiders must square off with a former Frisco hurler. Erlin has shined in six starts with the Missions since the Rangers traded Erlin and Joe Wieland, who earned the Game 1 win for San Antonio, for San Diego reliever Mike Adams. The Padres’ front office has been cautious with Erlin’s pitch and inning count, which explains why he is averaging barely more than four innings per start with the Missions. This figures to change tonight, as it did with Wieland Wednesday. Overall this year, Erlin is 9-4 with a 2.99 ERA.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • San Antonio’s offense has forced Frisco’s pitching staff to work in this series. Through the first three games, the ‘Riders have had to throw 445 pitches, or 17.1 per inning. Compare that to San Antonio, a unit that has needed only 353 pitches. This calculates to 13.1 per frame.
  • In particular, Frisco’s starters have labored through their outings. The trio of Robbie Ross (6IP, 1R, 107 pitches), Ben Snyder (6IP, 0R, 100 pitches) and Carlos Pimentel (4IP, 2R, 80 pitches) have ultimately been successful. They have a combined earned run average of 1.69. However, the bullpen has been taxed because the Missions have elevated the pitch counts quickly.
  • Mitch Hilligoss has been the best hitter not only on the RoughRiders, but in the Texas League this postseason. Hilligoss paces all Texas Leaguers with a .385 batting average (5-for-13). The next highest batting average on the ‘Riders is Renny Osuna’s .250 mark.
  • Offense has been tough to come by in both divisional series here in 2011. Hilligoss is one of only three men to hover above .300. San Antonio’s Cody Decker (.364) and Blake Tekotte (.333) are the others.
  • The Arkansas-Northwest Arkansas series, which is now 2-1 in favor of the Travs after the Naturals stayed alive with a 3-1 win last night, has only featured eight runs. Through three games, Roberto Lopez’s .273 average is the best in that set.
  • Low-A Hickory’s season is done after a 2-0 loss at home to Greensboro last night. The Grasshoppers swept the ‘Dads 2-0. High-A Myrtle Beach will face elimination tonight after losing at Kinston 7-0 Friday. Triple-A Round Rock barely avoided a sweep in a 9-8, 11-inning win over Omaha. The Storm Chasers still lead the set 2-1.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele in addition to former RoughRider Robbie Erlin on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

Playoff Perspective – Game 3

San Antonio squeaked past the RoughRiders 5-3 in Game 3 of the Texas League South Division Series to take a 2-1 advantage. Here are some thoughts after a tremendous game, but an unfortunate loss, from Dr Pepper Ballpark.

PLAYOFF PERSPECTIVE:

- Credit the Missions–they never gave up the lead and scored in five different innings. The ‘Riders battled back three different times, but the Missions kept firing away. It is tough to continue to rally back from deficits, even if a team only trails by one in all of those instances.

- Cody Decker entered Game 3 with an average of .200 (10-for-50) against the ‘Riders this season, but he was the difference in the game. Decker barely cleared the boards with a solo homer in the fourth. Four innings later, his opposite-field blast proved to be the game-winning swing.

- The heroes of the game for Frisco were Renny Osuna and Mitch Hilligoss. Osuna went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. He also drew a walk and put down a sacrifice bunt which led to a seventh-inning tally. Hilligoss went 3-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs. Hilligoss is hitting .385 (5-for-13) in this series, which is the best mark on the squad.

Carlos Pimentel gave up two runs in four innings Friday (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

- San Antonio will make pitchers work, and that’s exactly what happened to Carlos Pimentel. Like Robbie Ross and Ben Snyder did, Pimentel kept the ‘Riders in the game and avoided any big innings. However, he needed 80 pitches to get through four innings.

- The Missions’ bullpen is ridiculously good. Nick Vincent was machine-like during the eighth when he whiffed all three men he faced. Then, Miles Mikolas calmly worked around a leadoff single to post his second save in this series. We still have not seen solid arms like Pedro Hernandez, Craig Italiano and Eddie Kunz this week, so the Missions are loaded with talent for the final game or two.

- If the RoughRiders want to win this series, the bullpen will need to be awesome. Adalberto Flores, a reliever for much of the season, will start for Frisco tomorrow. This will be his third start in 2011. Game 5′s starter has yet to be announced. The bullpen has been solid this year, but this is probably the unit’s toughest assignment yet.

- Another key for the ‘Riders tomorrow night–the production of the heart of the order. As discussed yesterday, Tommy Mendonca, Mike Bianucci and Jonathan Greene need to produce for Frisco’s offense to really click. In Game 1 and 3, both losses for the ‘Riders, they went a combined 0-for-9. In Game 2, Frisco’s lone win in this series so far, they had five hits.

- It was another rough night for the Rangers’ farm system. Low-A Hickory’s season is done after a 2-0 loss at home to Greensboro. The Grasshoppers swept the ‘Dads 2-0. High-A Myrtle Beach will face elimination Saturday after losing at Kinston 7-0. Triple-A Round Rock barely avoided a sweep in a 9-8, 11-inning win over Omaha. The Storm Chasers still lead the set 2-1.

- No doubt, this was a tough loss for the ‘Riders. However, you know the saying–anything can happen in baseball. Frisco is still alive, but the RoughRiders must win. Tomorrow should be a nerve-racking but fun evening at Dr Pepper Ballpark. We hope you enjoy.

- Brian

Game 3 Preview – San Antonio at Frisco

Texas League South Division Series
San Antonio Missions at Frisco RoughRiders
Friday, September 9 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 – Series tied 1-1

GAME 3 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders return home to Dr Pepper Ballpark for a crucial Game 3 after nipping the San Antonio Missions 2-1 Thursday night in Game 2 of this best-of-five series. The ‘Riders scored twice in the top of the fourth and upheld that lead behind the pitching of starter Ben Snyder and relievers Richard Bleier, Johan Yan and Justin Miller. This will be the RoughRiders’ 17th meeting at home against the Missions this year, and each team has won eight of the previous 16 contests.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – RHP Carlos Pimentel (7-9, 4.74 ERA): Pimentel was the only RoughRiders pitcher to remain in the starting rotation throughout the regular season. Pimentel led the ‘Riders in innings pitched (142 1/3) and quality starts (12), and he finished second in strikeouts (110). Since August 7, Pimentel is 2-1 with an earned run average at 1.60. The righty is 2-0 with a 2.97 ERA in seven starts against the Missions this year.

San Antonio – RHP Casey Kelly (11-6, 3.98 ERA): After a sluggish first half, Kelly boasts a 5-3 mark and a 3.21 earned run average since starting the Texas League All-Star Game June 29. One of the key prospects in the Padres’ deal with the Boston Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez, Kelly went 1-1 with a 3.10 earned run average against Frisco this season. Over his last 13 innings of work, Kelly has allowed just one earned run and six hits.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The RoughRiders are 1-3 all-time in Game 3 with the series tied at one game apiece. The lone victory came in the Texas League Championship Series against Round Rock in 2004, when the ‘Riders won their first and only league title.
  • Frisco’s starting pitchers have worked 12 innings and given up just one run in this series. During those 12 frames, the Missions have stranded 13 base runners.
  • Tommy Mendonca, Mike Bianucci and Jonathan Greene went a combined 0-for-9 in Frisco’s Game 1 loss. Last night, the trio went 5-for-12 and scored both of the ‘Riders’ runs. Each notched a hit in the RoughRiders’ two-run fourth.
  • Want proof that this series has been pitching-heavy? The two teams have hit a combined .157 (19-for-121). Only five hitters have mustered two hits in the series.
  • The RoughRiders’ Game 4 starter has not been officially announced yet, but whoever it is will square off with a former Frisco hurler. Robbie Erlin will take to the mound for the Missions in Game 4, either trying to keep San Antonio alive or hoping to eliminate his former team from the postseason.
  • There have been only ten runs scored through two days of the Texas League playoffs. This series has featured six runs, while Arkansas’ battle with Northwest Arkansas has only brought with it four runs. The Travs lead the series 2-0 thanks to a pair of walk-off wins.
  • Triple-A Round Rock faces elimination tonight at Omaha, trailing 2-0 in that best-of-five set. Low-A Hickory is also one loss away from elimination. The Crawdads host Greensboro in Game 2 of that three-game series. High-A Myrtle Beach spoiled a five-run lead in an 8-6, 11-inning loss to Kinston. That series is even at 1-1.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele in addition to a player or two on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

Playoff Perspective – Game 2

Tonight’s game embodied everything that is exciting, fascinating, frustrating, and gratifying about playoff baseball. The ‘Riders edged San Antonio 2-1 to even this best-of-five South Division Series at one game apiece. Here are some thoughts.

PLAYOFF PERSPECTIVE:

- Knowing what we know now, San Antonio lost this game in the first three innings. The Missions stranded seven runners in those frames against Ben Snyder (I’ll get to him in a moment). After that, they only mustered five more runners. With Simon Castro on the bump and their awesome bullpen, the Missions could have made this series 2-0 with a few key hits in the early innings.

- Snyder did not have his best stuff, but he battled to post six scoreless innings. This outing was just as impressive as Robbie Ross’ effort last night in Game 1. Snyder has now posted six straight quality starts, and he has been one of the biggest reasons the ‘Riders succeeded in the regular season. His moxie in tough situations tonight kept the RoughRiders in the game and the series.

- Snyder’s escapes in the first three innings were impressive, but the biggest pitch of the game came in the seventh. Richard Bleier allowed a double and an RBI single to begin his relief appearance. Then, Bleier induced a double play to erase the possible tying run from the bases. The Missions did not get another hit the rest of the game.

Johan Yan has a 0.31 ERA with the 'Riders this season (James Garner).

- I know two runs may not seem like much, but getting a pair off Castro is tough. Frisco’s offense rolls when the heart of the order–Tommy Mendonca, Mike Bianucci and Jonathan Greene–is swinging well. In Game 1, the trio went 0-for-9. Tonight, they went 5-for-12 with both runs scored. Each notched a hit in the RoughRiders’ two-run fourth.

- Johan Yan has been incredible for the RoughRiders. If you include his work in Games 1 and 2, Yan has a 0.31 earned run average. That’s one earned run in 29 innings. Tonight, Yan zoomed through the heart of San Antonio’s order and retired all four he battled, two of those outs coming on strikes.

- He has been the ‘Riders’ best arm in the bullpen since his promotion in mid-July. However, this was the first time this year that Yan has worked in back-to-back games. The righty threw 20 pitches in Game 1 and another 15 this evening. I would be surprised to see him available for Game 3.

Justin Miller earned the save in Game 2 Thursday (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

- Justin Miller’s efforts in the ninth inning always seem to get a bit interesting, but the right-hander always seems to get the job done. Miller has recorded 14 saves this year, and he has not blown a save since May 23. Tonight, the mid-season All-Star recorded another great showing out of the ‘pen.

- The theme of the Texas League playoffs through two days has been pitching. This series has featured six runs, while Arkansas’ battle with Northwest Arkansas has only brought with it four runs. The Travs lead the series 2-0 thanks to a pair of walk-off wins.

- Friday night’s Game 3 is the biggest contest at Dr Pepper Ballpark since September 15, 2008, which was Game 5 of the TL Championship Series. Hope you can come out to the yard for what should be a tremendous game. Tickets are still available, so join us for a pivotal Game 3.

- Brian

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