RoughRiders Top 10 Highlights: First Quarter

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We’re one quarter of the way through the 2014 campaign and that means it’s time to take a look at the moments and highlights that propelled Frisco to first place in the division standings, and at some other feel-good moments that are worth noting.

10) Jason Wood

Jason Wood showed his ability to make the most of the team he was given following the promotions of Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas. More importantly, however, he proved to his players that he has their back no matter what and that he’ll do what it takes to stand up for them. In a game that saw Jake Smolinski appear to beat out at play at first base, Smolinski was tossed for arguing. His skipper, Wood, was walking to the showers shortly after. The umpires have a tough job and they won’t always get it right, and arguing isn’t always the best tactic for success. In this case, Wood sent a message to his club and proved to them that he will do his best to back them up.

9) Professional debut of INF Michael De Leon

17-year-old Michael De Leon hits in his first professional game.

17-year-old Michael De Leon hits in his first professional game.

When I was 17 years old I was merely playing high school ball and taking it easy on Friday nights. I think it’s safe to say Michael De Leon has me beat. The young infielder was promoted straight to Double-A Frisco without playing any extended spring training or Rookie ball, and made his professional debut on Mother’s Day in a 7-5 win over the Corpus Christi Hooks. He executed every play when his number was called and made a spinning 360 play to complete a game-ending double play. This kid had the biggest smile on his face while boarding the charter bus to embark on his first team road trip and I can certainly understand why. He is the youngest player in history to take the field for Frisco.

8) Record in one-run games

The RoughRiders’ success in the first quarter of the season can be attributed to many factors, but one that stood out to me was their record in one-run games. Frisco recorded a 10-1 record in those games and that can mean the difference between sitting atop the standings and looking up at the competition.

7) Four ‘Riders promoted to Triple-A

Four RoughRiders earned promotions to Triple-A Round Rock. On May 3, RHP Matt West made the drive south to join OF Ryan Strausborger, INF Guilder Rodriguez and INF Jordan Brown at the next level towards the big leagues. Athletes know that, unfortunately, no day is guaranteed in the world of minor league baseball. Congratulations to these individuals as they continue their trek through the farm system.

6) Jake Smolinski

Every team features one player that is simply known as ‘the guy’. For Frisco Jake Smolinski proved to be that guy over the first quarter of the season. Smolinski is batting .295, has pounded out 38 hits, belted five homers and has 21 RBI. ‘Smo’ has been an important piece in the middle of this Frisco batting order and looks to keep it up as we make our way closer to the second half of the season.

5) Road woes? More like road ‘WOWS’

Home cooking is always preferred, but sometimes it’s nice to eat out. Frisco is 11-5 away from the friendly confines of Dr Pepper Ballpark and again, it’s a statistic that can make a huge difference in the standings. Just ask the other teams in the Texas League South. Midland (9-9 on the road), Corpus Christi (8-12 on the road), and San Antonio (10-12 on the road).

4) Tomas Telis

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There are days where the top or middle portions of the lineup just can’t manage to get something going, and that’s when clubs rely on other guys to step up. Tomas Telis was one of those individuals who stepped up and he did so in a huge way. The switch-hitting catcher started the year slow, but quickly stepped it up. Telis is batting .337 with 28 hits on only 23 games, 15RBI, and has hit a couple of 3-run home runs to pad to his total.

3) Luke Jackson

They don’t give out the Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year award to just anyone and RHP Luke Jackson earned it in 2013. He’s continued the trend in 2014 as one of the top pitchers in the Texas League. Jackson is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA and in 42 innings pitched his struck out 42 while only walking 13. He’s exciting to watch on the mound and on April 21 he took a perfect game deep into the sixth inning against the San Antonio Missions.

2) Big league debuts of Nick Martinez, Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas 

Rougned Odor watches one fly at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

Rougned Odor watches one fly at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

The first quarter of the season also witnessed the birth of three more major league careers. RHP Nick Martinez was called up to make a spot-start due to the neck-stiffness of Texas’ ace Yu Darvish and made his major league debut on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays. After being sent back to the ‘Riders he was again recalled and has been with the big league club since. Luis Sardinas was promoted on April 19 and appeared in three games over a brief eight-day stint. Sardinas was sent back to Double-A Frisco for a short period of time, but was recalled for a second time on May 8. This time, however, he would be joined by his pal and double play partner Rougned Odor. Odor, the Rangers’ top prospect according to Baseball America, was Frisco’s everyday second baseman. It’s likely that the two are sent back down once the Rangers’ regain injured players such as Jurickson Profar and Donnie Murphy, but these two guys have earned their spot in the bigs.

1) Club-record ten game winning streak

We can’t recap the top highlights from the first quarter of play without paying tribute to the franchise-record ten game winning streak that propelled the RoughRiders into the top spot in the Texas League South division standings. Frisco outscored their opponents 55-22, outhit them 79-56, hit 13 home runs and had 3 multi-home run games, recorded a 1.99 staff ERA, and the club pushed out four comeback wins.

In conclusion:

The RoughRiders impressed over the first stretch of the long season and it’s been fun to watch and experience. It can be difficult for a team to find its identity with new players seemingly passing through the doors every other day but this is a fun squad that knows how to win, and they have fun doing it.

Writing to you from the corner of Hicks & Diamond Drive,

Cameron Varnau

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