November 2011

Full From Thanksgiving

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and had the chance to connect with family and friends. My wife Heather and I made it back to see my parents in St. Louis and had a great time.  We all have our favorites at Thanksgiving, mine is my mom’s sweet potato recipe.  It might be the only dish at any holiday celebration that I can’t live without!

Since we chatted last, there have been some developments affecting the RoughRiders:

  • Right-handers Jake Brigham, Neil Ramirez, and Justin Miller, along with lefty Martin Perez, were recently promoted to the Rangers 40-man roster.  Placing them on the roster not only signifies how Texas feels about their potential, but more importantly, protects them from being acquired by another team in the Rule 5 draft.  Interestingly enough, two players that are not being protect are two former ‘Riders: lefty Kasey Kiker and DH-first baseman Chad Tracy.  Both can be taken in the draft by another team and signed for $50,000.  The Rule 5 draft will be held this year on December 8 in Dallas.
  • Some news that I’m especially excited about, the Rangers have hired Greg Maddux as Special Assistant to the General Manager.  In his role with the Rangers, Greg, the brother of Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux, will be in uniform during Spring Training as an extra instructor for both the major and minor league staffs, along with visiting the club’s farm affiliates during the regular season.  I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) meeting him and having him on the pre-game show.
  • The Rangers have announced their 2012 Spring Training schedule, beginning with the Kansas City Royals on March 4 at Surprise Stadium.  At the end of exhibition play, the Rangers will play against Triple-A Round Rock at the Dell Diamond on April 2, and will then play here at Dr Pepper Ballpark against the RoughRiders on April 4 at 2:05 p.m.

We’ll have more with the All-‘Riders team tomorrow.

-AG

 

All-‘Riders Team: First Base

2012 marks the RoughRiders’ 10th season as a franchise, all as the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate. Since 2003, there have been hundreds of talented players come through Dr Pepper Ballpark, but some have stood out more than others.  With the help of Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research, we’ve come up with the All-’Riders Team: the best player at each position in franchise history.  Today we continue with the RoughRiders’ all-time best first baseman.

Michael Damman’s Take: 

The second part of a murderer’s row that sat in the middle of Frisco’s lineup for the first half of the 2008 season, Chris Davis spent just a tad bit more time in Frisco than Max Ramirez did.

Davis came to Frisco late in 2007 after ripping through High-A Bakersfield.   Texas found out then that the Chris Davis show — and enigma — was just beginning.  Over 124 plate appearances in 2007, Davis connected on 19 extra base hits, including 12 home runs and posted a 1.059 OPS.  He followed up with a 2008 encore where he hit 27 extra base hits, including 13 home runs over 204 plate appearances.  Davis batted .319 in his time with Frisco with 21 doubles and 25 home runs over 326 plate appearances.  He drove in 67 runs over 76 games as well, including 42 in 46 games in 2008.

In his 76 career games for the ‘Riders, Davis had 23 multi-hit games.  When he was promoted after a May 24th game, Frisco was 33-15 thanks in large part to the help of Davis and Ramirez.  In the big leagues, the first baseman has not been able to have the same kind of success that he had in Frisco and throughout the minor leagues as his career MLB OPS is .749.  No longer with the Rangers, Davis was traded in 2011 to the Baltimore Orioles as part of the Koji Uehara deal.  However, of the 30 rookies that had at least 250 plate appearances in 2008, a list that included 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Gonzalez, Davis carried the best minor league OPS in Double-A and Triple-A into the major leagues.

My Take:

Davis’ career .319 batting average ranks fifth all-time in RoughRiders’ history, but what impresses me most is that stat that Michael found regarding his RBIs.  Driving in 67 runs in 76 games (and 42 in 46) is pretty amazing.  The thing that we always hear managers and coaches say over and over in the minors is “consistency.”  If Double-A ballplayers were consistent, they’d probably all be in the big leagues.  Point being, to drive home nearly 70 runs in 76 games (over half a season), shows great consistency.  This is a quality that Davis struggled with after graduating from Frisco, but while he was here, he was terrific.

-AG

You can read more from Michael Damman on his Rangers’ minor league blog, Chatter From the Pressbox.  You can also follow him on twitter @pressboxchatter.

Up Next: Second Base

All-‘Riders Team: Catcher

2012 marks the RoughRiders’ 10th season as a franchise, all as the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate. Since 2003, there have been hundreds of talented players come through Dr Pepper Ballpark, but some have stood out more than others.  With the help of Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research, we’ve come up with the All-‘Riders Team: the best player at each position in franchise history.  Today we start with the RoughRiders’ all-time best catcher.

Michael Damman’s Take:  Part of an extremely talented 2008 Frisco RoughRider’s team that won 84 games, Max Ramirez makes the list despite playing just 69 games in Frisco.  Still, Ramirez displayed one of the most dominant offensive performances in his short time with the ‘Riders.

A .354 hitter while in Frisco, Ramirez connected on 35 extra base hits, including 17 home runs, and drove in 50 runs over the 69 games while scoring 49 runs as well.  Ramirez had a .454 on base percentage in addition to a 1.096 OPS in 289 plate appearances for the ‘Riders. Also of note, his time with the RoughRiders included more multi hit games (23) than hit-less games (19).

Since leaving Frisco, Ramirez has yet to show the same kind of offensive numbers, although two wrist injuries in 2009 and 2010 clearly affected his power and ability in the field.  In 140 plate appearances for the Rangers in 2008 and 2010, Ramirez hit .217 with a .340 OBP and .699 OPS.  In 2011, he spent time with the Triple-A clubs of the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco Giants.  Ramirez began to display some power for the Giants late in the season as he finished with 11 doubles and 10 homeruns in 48 games.

My Take:  As you’ll see as we continue to release our list of the All-‘Riders Team, Damman pretty much covers it all.  However, I’ll try and chime in a couple of thoughts as well.

In the first nine seasons of ‘Riders baseball, there has never been a player with a higher single-season batting average than Ramirez (.354).  I love the stat that Michael found stating that Ramirez had more multi-hit games than hit-less games.  Think about that for a second.  Even over a half-season sample size, that’s remarkable.

For comparison sake, take for example Tulsa’s Wilin Rosario.  The Drillers’ catcher entered 2011 as the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect and was known not just as a defensive catcher.  This past season, Rosario hit .249 overall, .263 in the first half, .235 in the second.  Point is, Ramirez hit approximately 100 points higher than Rosario who, despite having what some would term a “down year,” is know as catcher who can hit.

-AG

You can read more from Michael Damman on his Rangers’ minor league blog, Chatter From the Pressbox.  You can also follow him on twitter @pressboxchatter.

Up Next: First Base

 

Flores Leaves for Houston

I remember being in the clubhouse at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark. hours before first pitch between the RoughRiders and the Naturals late last year.

I remember there was a big league game on TV that a lot of guys were casually watching while getting ready for batting practice.  It just so happened to be a game involving the downtrodden Houston Astros.

I remember the look on everyone’s face when we saw that it was former Corpus Christi Hook (for three games) Henry Sosa pitching for the Astros.

Sosa, 26, spent five and a half seasons in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system before being traded to Houston in the Jeff Keppinger deal on July 19.

Sosa made10 starts with Houston in 2011 (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

In those five and a half years with San Francisco, Sosa suited up for six different teams, making 125 career appearances.  After the trade, Sosa was assigned to Corpus Christi where he made three starts before getting the call to Triple-A Oklahoma City. There, the right-hander tossed seven shut-out innings on August 5th in his first start, and that was enough.

Five days later Sosa made his big league debut, getting the start against Arizona at Chase Field.

It took Sosa four minor league appearances in 22 days to make the big leagues as a member of the Astros’ farm system.

This example is all you need to know about why former RoughRider Adalberto Flores  has left the Rangers’ organization as a free-agent and signed with the Houston Astros.

Flo was the first player in 2010 promoted to Frisco from Bakersfield and developed nicely since then.  In two seasons, Adalberto went 8-8, 3.75 ERA in 79 appearances, two starts.

The righty from Puerto Rico proved to be a real force at times out of the ‘Riders bullpen and had the ability to eat up innings.

No doubt, Flo will have an easier path to the bigs with the Astros than with the Rangers.  And, if we can be honest, that’s all that really counts. I don’t claim to know the details of Flroes making this decision, but when you look at it from the outside, it was a pretty easy decision.

If all goes well, next year it’ll be Adalberto pitching on TV.

-AG

The ‘Riders in Their Camo

The RoughRiders’ players and employees thank all the men and women in our armed forces for all the great work they do everyday. Here are some pics of the ‘Riders in their camo jerseys.

Jonathan Greene during the 2011 season (James Garner)

Davis Stoneburner eyes first base (James Garner)

Martin Perez pitching for the ‘Riders in 2010 (James Garner)

Former ‘Rider Blogs about Ramos Abduction

As reported by ESPN, and countless other news outlets, Washington Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos  was abducted by gunmen Wednesday from his home in his native Venezuela.

As I wrote about on the Insider Blog on Tuesday, the following Rangers’ farm-hands are currently playing in the Venezuelan Winter League: Wilfredo Boscan, RHP (Zulia); Joey  Butler, OF (Magallanes); Joseph Ortiz, LHP (La Guaira); Renny Osuna, INF (La Guaira); Guilder Rodriguez, INF (Lara); and Tanner Scheppers, RHP (Magallanes).

One other player currently participating in the Venezuelan Winter League is none other than former RoughRider, Ryan Tatusko.  Tusk is one of my all-time favorite ‘Riders because he really is the best of both worlds: a great player and a great person.  It was a sad day when we and fellow RoughRider Tanner Roark were traded in 2010 to (ironically) the Washington Nationals in exchange for Cristian Guzman.

Tatusko went 9-2, 2.97 ERA in 24 games/13 starts with Frisco in 2010 (James Garner)

Ryan keeps a great blog about life in the minors and appropriately wrote about the recent events in Venezuela:

“I hope that I can clear some things up for people and shed some light about what [Venezuela] is like off the field. I am only speaking from a vantage point being with the Margarita Bravos and what it is like for us on Margarita Island and traveling to the mainland when we have to go on the “road.”

“As far as what has transpired in Valencia, we play Aragua all the time during the year, and I have nothing but positive things to say about the city, stadium, and its fans. I have flown into Valencia to play in the minor league game when I was strengthening my arm for starts and I loved the airport as well. Whatever that is transpiring in Valencia is an extreme, isolated incident. I pray for [Wilson Ramos] and for his family, although I have never met him we are all family in this game, especially in the Nationals organization.”

To read the rest of Ryan’s great blog post, click here.

- AG

 

Magic Number 10

It may be hard for some to believe, but the 2012 season will be year number 10 for the RoughRiders franchise. Current Rangers like Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Derek Holland all came through Dr Pepper Ballpark.  Heck, even Josh Hamilton has rehabbed here twice and, most recently, hit a home run.

It’s fun to reflect over the last nine years and think about all the great ballplayers ‘Riders fans have had the pleasure to watch. With that in mind, I’ve teamed up with the Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research,  to come up with the All-‘Riders Team.  In the coming weeks here on the blog, we’ll be profiling the best players at their positions in franchise history.  Should be a lot of fun.

Here are some news, notes, and headlines from today:

  • Arkansas Travelers’ third baseman Luis Jiminez has been added to the Angels’ 40-man roster.  He batted .290/.335/.486 with 18 homers in 490 at-bats for Arkansas in 2011, and he led the Texas League with 40 doubles, was second with 94 RBIs, and third with 59 extra-base hits.
  • Here’s a first:  according to ballparkdigest.com, the Seattle Mariners are installing four electric vehicle charging stations available for public use at Safeco Field.  Each is capable of fully re-charging a vehicle battery in two-to-six hours. Anyone can plug into the charging stations 24 hours a day, even on days when the Mariners are not playing.
  • As reported late last month, our neighboring Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association have had their league membership revoked after failing to put up a required letter of credit for 2012.  Team owner Carl Bell says he’s selling the team to potential new owners who would field a team next season.
  • According to a tweet I saw a couple of days ago by my good friend Jason Cole, the publisher of LoneStarDugout.com, former RoughRiders’ reliever Evan Reed has been throwing in the upper 90s in the Arizona Fall League.  The ‘Riders were taking batting practice in Midland in 2010 when we got the news that Evan had been traded to the Florida Marlins for Jorge Cantu.  Evan is a great guy who I really enjoyed getting to know.  I once ate lunch with him at a Subway in Corpus Christi and was amazed by the amount of food he could pound.  Evan ate a 12″ sandwich on thick honey oat bread with four chicken breasts and almost all the veggies available.  Happy to hear that he’s doing well.

-AG

RoughRiders Around the Globe

Every September when the minor league season comes to an end and fall sets in, many think that it’s time for our RoughRiders to take a well earned vacation.  However, what many don’t realize is that minor leaguers around the country travel around the world to play winter and fall ball.  These leagues provide the players a chance for additional income and the opportunity to improve their game.  Here’s where some RoughRiders, and other Rangers’ farm-hands, will be sending post cards from this off-season:

Arizona Fall League

Players: Miguel De Los Santos, LHP; Leury Garcia, INF; Ryan Kelly, RHP; Leonys Martin, OF; Justin Miller, RHP; Mike Olt, INF; Neil Ramirez, RHP; Elio Sarmiento, C; Ryan Strausborger, OF; Johan Yan, RHP.  (All play for the Surprise Saguaros).

Mike Olt could possibly open up 2012 in Frisco (James Garner)

Rangers’ prospect Mike Olt was named the Arizona Fall League’s Player of the Week on Monday, batting .571 (8-14) with a double, 2 home runs, 8 RBI, and 5 walks the previous week.  The 23-year-old matched the Fall League’s single-game high with a 6 RBI effort on Friday and represented the Rangers and Saguaros in the AFL Rising Stars Game on Saturday. The 6 RBI performance gave the University of Connecticut product a share of the AFL RBI lead (30), while he also leads the league in both home runs (8) and slugging percentage (.705).

OF Leonys Martin has seen action with the Saguaros as a member of the club’s taxi squad and hit a home run in his Fall League debut on October 19…OF Ryan Strausborger has hit safely in 8 of his last 9 games, raising his season average to .327 (17-52). The Arizona Fall League regular season continues through November 17.

Mexican Winter League 

Players: Cody Eppley, RHP (Obregon); Jose Felix, C (Guasave)

RHP Cody Eppley has worked out of the bullpen for the Mexican Winter League’s Obregon, going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA (6 ER/15.0 IP) over 14 appearances.

Dominican Winter League 

Players: Engel Beltre, OF (Licey); Julio Borbon, OF (Escogido); Fabio Castillo, RHP (La Romana); Andres James, INF (Licey); Carlos Pimentel, RHP (Escogido).

RHP Carlos Pimentel has posted a 0.82 ERA (1 ER/11.0 IP) with 15 strikeouts against 5 walks in 8 relief outings with Escogido.

Venezuelan Winter League 

Players: Wilfredo Boscan, RHP (Zulia); Joey  Butler, OF (Magallanes); Joseph Ortiz, LHP (La Guaira); Renny Osuna, INF (La Guaira); Guilder Rodriguez, INF (Lara); Tanner Scheppers, RHP (Magallanes).

Pan American Games

3B Tommy Mendonca and INF Chad Tracy each took home silver medals as part of Team USA in the Pan American Games hosted by Guadalajara, Mexico on October 19-25. Mendonca batted .333 (6-18) with one home run and a tournament-high 10 RBI in 5 games for Team USA, while Tracy hit .182 (2-11) with 2 RBI in 4 games. The Americans fell 2-1 to Canada in the Gold Medal Game and finished the tournament with a 3-2 record.

-AG

Rangers Lose Top Minor League Talent

At first glance, he isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type.  To be honest, in my limited time with him, I can’t remember seeing him smile.  He looks, acts, and talks like someone who has been in baseball his entire life.  And it wasn’t until I had the chance to sit down and interview him in the RoughRiders’ dugout at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Ok. that I realized how truly valuable Senior Director of Player Development  Scott Servias was to the Texas Rangers.

Unfortunately, he’s now a valuable addition to the division rival Anaheim Angels.

New Angels GM Jerry Dipoto (Artesia News)

Right before the weekend, it was announced that new Angels’ general manager Jerry Dipoto had luered Servais away from Texas by offering him a multi-year contract as the Halos’ assistant general manager overseeing scouting and player development.  With Texas, Servais was responsible for the on-field minor league development in addition to instructing the Rangers’ Major League catchers. He also made recommendations for potential trades and free-agent signings.

There are a lot of moving parts involved with the operations and player development in both major and minor league baseball and I’m far from fully understanding it all.  Over the course of a season I see and meet coaches, scouts, rovers, coordinators, special assistants, and plenty more.  All of them work for the Rangers, and all are trying to help the players here in Frisco become players in Arlington.

What I do know is that Servais had the respect of every RoughRider I talked to.  A one-time player himself, the former catcher was taken in the third round of the 1988 First-Year Player Draft by Houston and began his career with the Astros, making his Major League debut on July 12, 1991.  His playing days ended in 2002 after  batting .245 with 63 home runs and 319 RBIs in 820 Major League games.

I remember talking with former RoughRiders’ second baseman Matt Lawson about Servais at one point last year.  He was incredibly complimentary of Servias and said that he felt like he really took the time to get to know him.  In my interview with Servais in Tulsa, I asked Scott about how important it was for him get to know the players he was developing:

“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.”

This told me a lot about Scott, and I think he really does care about the players.  That might sound a little too “Hallmark” for professional baseball, but in my ten minutes with him, I truly felt as though he meant it.

For the Angels, this was a big time acquisition.  For the Rangers, it leaves a big time void.  Texas general manager Jon Daniels told the Forth Worth Star-Telegram that “[Scott] helped put together an outstanding staff, so we’re confident others will step up and we won’t miss a beat . . . I’m looking forward to competing against him.”  Daniels also said that Scott will be missed and that his new opportunity is an exciting one.

No matter what happens, we’ll see the fruit of Servais’ labor 12 times a year when the RoughRiders take on the Arkansas Travelers.

- AG

Servais alongside Rangers' GM Jon Daniels (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Friday at the Ballpark

As you might imagine, the ballpark is pretty quiet on a Friday in early November.   The cooler weather has finally found Frisco and it’s starting to “feel” like college football outside.

The ballpark this morning at 9:30 (Aaron's iPhone)

Even though things are a little slower since the end of the World Series, here are some of the things happening here, with the Rangers, and around minor league baseball:

  • Last night at 8:00, the Rangers and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced that Texas Rangers’ infielder Michael Young is the winner of the 2011 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.  The award is presented to the player “whose on-field and off-field performance most inspires others to higher levels of achievement by displaying as much passion to give back to others as he shows between the lines on the baseball diamond.”  Young becomes the third player to ever win the award twice (John Smoltz, 2002, 2003; Jim Thome, 2001, 2004).
  • The Rangers also announced yesterday a series of improvements to the Ballpark in Arlington totaling $11.5 million.  Upgrades for 2012 include a complete renovation of Vandergriff Plaza and much of the office building first floor in centerfield with the construction of a new Batter’s Eye Club, Restaurant/Sports Bar, Kid’s Zone, and concession stands. In addition, the areas that previously contained the bleacher seating will be remodeled and the visitors bullpen will be reconfigured.

The visitors bullpen will move to the bottom of the former bleacher section (left) along the outfield fence. New features will include an indoor restaurant and sports bar on the bottom floor of the suites alongside an indoor Kid's Zone (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

  • The Akron Aeros (Double-A, Indians) of the Eastern League will not be changing their name after all.  A contest held by the team and the local newspaper asked fans to choose their favorite possible team name from a list including Aeros, RubberDucks,Vulcans, Tire Jacks and Gum Dippers (are you kidding me!!).  The Aeros nickname won in a landslide, garnering 67% of the vote. (ballparkdigest.com)
  • If you’re not aware, it’s officially “Movember.”  Movember is the month formerly known as November, where men and women across the globe join together to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues. To help achieve this, men grow a Mo (moustache) for 30 days.  Since a number of us can’t grow a mustache (mainly me), our graphics designer Alex Yocum-Beeman helped us out (if you can’t recognize me, I’m the top left corner):
Enjoy your weekend … and some football.
-AG
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