Results tagged ‘ Anthony Aliotti ’

The Case for Brett Nicholas, Texas League Player of the Year

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Odds are against ‘Riders first baseman Brett Nicholas, but he deserves consideration for the league’s Player of the Year Award

The ballots are in. The counters are at work, tabulating the totals. Hopefully it won’t come down to the definition and value of a hanging chad. (UPDATE: Corpus Christi’s George Springer has won the award)

Yesterday, Alex and I, along with others around the league, were asked to turn in our votes for the Texas League Postseason All-Star team, Player of the Year award winner, Pitcher of the Year selection and Manager of the Year candidate. The awards are expected to be announced today.

The only stipulation in the voting was that you could not vote for players on your team, so, neither Alex nor I could vote for RoughRiders players. The voting included a ballot filled with the following positions: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, C, 3 OF and 6 pitchers. There were two columns: one for “1st Team” and another for “2nd team.” So that means we could vote for two 1B, two 2B (etc).

While it was time-consuming and thought-provoking, save for a few players, I thought selecting this season’s Texas League All-Stars was not too difficult. While there are a few deserving candidates, it didn’t take long to pen down David Martinez for Pitcher of the Year in the circuit. As for Manager of the Year, that one was rather easy for me as well.

Then we came to Player of the Year.

The Candidates

So, should I vote for Anthony Aliotti?

The Midland first baseman spent around two thirds of the season crushing Texas League pitching to the tune of a .350 average, .452 on-base percentage and .993 OPS–all league highs, and with enough plate appearances to qualify, Aliotti will finish first in all three of these categories. He has really struggled at Triple-A, but that should not matter. This is Texas League Player of the Year.

George Springer, MiLB.com

George Springer, MiLB.com

What about George Springer? He has to be the favorite for all-around Minor League Player of the Year. He is three home runs away for the elite 40 home run / 40 stolen base club, which has happened only four times in major league history (Jose Canseco 1988, Barry Bonds 1996, Alex Rodriguez 1998, Alfonso Soriano 2006–three former Texas Rangers coincidentally enough). It hasn’t happened in the minor leagues, where the season slate is fewer games (140) since 1956 when Len Tucker accomplished the feat. He is first in minor league baseball in home runs (37), tied for fourth in RBI (105), tied for 20th in steals (43) and fourth in OPS among players with 300+ ABs. He is also accomplishing these feats despite zero time above Advanced-A ball before this year.

Neither player spent even close to the entire season in the league. Springer played 73 games, while Aliotti notched 91. Neither player will finish in the top 5 in home runs or RBI, and depending on how the season finishes, Springer could drop out of the top 5 in stolen bases (23), while Aliotti could lose his spot at #5 in doubles (29).

I searched desperately for a candidate that played 100 or more games in the league (an arbitrary number, I know), that could live up to the play of these two fine ballplayers.

How about Matt Fields of Northwest Arkansas? He will likely capture the home run crown; he has 31 and a six home run edge of second place. But Fields is hitting just .227, plays a non-premium defensive position (first base), and leads the league with 175 strikeouts in 124 games.

Xavier Scruggs? The Springfield first baseman is second in home runs (25), just outside the top 5 in RBI (74), fourth in league in OPS (.853) and leads the league in walks (81). While the resume is an impressive one, a .246 average, more than a strikeout per game, and the opportunity to play lowly Northwest Arkansas 32 times really hurt his cause for me (he hit .313 with six of his 25 homers against the last place Naturals).

Anthony Aliotti, (Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American)

Anthony Aliotti, (Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American)

Then I got to Brett Nicholas. Of course, I couldn’t vote for Nicholas since he is a ‘Rider. The Frisco first baseman is going to finish the season with the most games played and likely have the highest RBI total (he is first today). His .299 average is fourth in the TL, and is first among active Texas League players. He is first in hits, third in slugging (second active), first in total bases, fourth in runs, and, in comparison to other power hitters in the league, does not strike out very often. Of course in many more games than Springer and Aliotti, he has more hits, runs, home runs and RBI than the leading two candidates. If I could have voted for Nicholas, I might have. It would have been a tough call.

Full disclosure here, I voted for Springer.

His dominance while in the Texas League as well his team’s capturing a playoff spot before his departure outweighed, in my opinion, his smaller gross totals in comparison to Scruggs, or Crumbliss, or Fields, and his speed and elite defense pushed him past Aliotti for me.

There are no criteria listed with this award; it is left up to the voter to decide what factors should go into Player of the Year. This is, in my opinion, a rather fruitless effort to argue over the number of games required for consideration, the value of defense and speed, ballpark factors (hitters’ park vs pitchers’ park), competition of the weighted divisional schedule, etc. Ultimately, when there are no rules, the voter must make these decisions themselves, and arguing over the value of each of these factors is often one without much movement. People’s minds are hard to change on topics like this.

What is important is that any voter at least consider these criteria when making their selection; how to balance them is up to the individual.

Assuming you are with me at this point, here are the raw numbers of the three players:

Tm Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Nicholas – Frisco TEX 129 543 479 70 143 24 3 21 89 2 1 42 115 .299 .363 .493 .855 236
Aliotti – Midland OAK 91 409 340 49 119 29 0 12 51 3 2 66 83 .350 .452 .541 .993 184
Springer – Corpus Christi HOU 73 323 273 56 81 20 0 19 55 23 5 42 96 .297 .399 .579 .978 158

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Generated 8/27/2013.

I will run through a few of the perhaps more overlooked factors that might shed some light on the worthiness of Nicholas for the league’s highest honor.

Nicholas is the only one with enough games/at bats

For the record, I also think Springer will win the award. Which is astounding.

Since the inception of the award in 1931, only two position players have ever won the award with less than 100 games played. Kila Kaʻaihue of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals won the award in 2008 when and he launched 26 homers and hit .314 over 91 games, and another Royals prospect, Mike Moustakas, took home the hardware in his 66 game season in 2010 when he left the circuit with an 1.100 OPS with 21 homers and a .347 average. He also plays a decent third base in the majors, so I imagine he was above average man at the hot corner in his time in the Texas League.

Five pitchers have won the award: Tim Leary (1980), Bob Muncrief (1940), Dizzy Trout (1938), Harold (Ash) Hillin (1937), Dizzy Dean (1931). Only Trout didn’t spend his entire award-winning season in the TL. He pitched 37 times in the Texas League and in five games for Double-A Toledo in the American Association. Proportionally speaking, he made 88% of his outings in the Texas League, which would be quite a bit more than 100 games by a position player standard.

Even if Aliotti wins the award it would be pretty remarkable. Granted the two players to break the mold have done so in the last 10 years, when seemingly voters might be a bit more prospect-conscious and mid-season promotions are more common, but history is still very much against it.

Nicholas is not in a great hitting environment

Comparing the three players, Alliotti, Nicholas and Springer, it seems that Nicholas is likely in the toughest spot to produce. Mark Eddy of BaseballAmerica.com looked at park factors at the start of this season, and Dr Pepper Ballpark ranked as the fifth best hitter’s park in the eight team league. Midland was third. Corpus Christi ranked fourth:

Citibank Ballpark - Midland, Texas

Citibank Ballpark – Midland, Texas

Rates Per Park, 2010-12
Team R/G H/G HR/G PF-R
Northwest Arkansas 10.86 19.00 1.90 1.132
Springfield 10.09 18.14 2.35 1.019
Midland 9.95 19.19 1.12 1.023
Corpus Christi 9.39 17.97 1.76 1.023
Frisco 8.98 17.20 1.77 0.994
Tulsa 8.75 16.98 2.01 0.995
San Antonio 8.29 16.70 1.21 0.928
Arkansas 7.67 15.64 1.00 0.902

Launching Pad: Springfield, 2.35 HR/G (No. 6)
Graveyard: Arkansas, 1.00 HR/G (No. 106)
Hit Parade: Midland, 19.19 H/G (No. 11)
Pitcher’s Park: Arkansas, 7.67 R/G (No. 4)

(table and statistics from BaseballAmerica.com)

The ‘Riders’ home park is also much harder on left-handed batters, where the power-alley to right-center field is much futher than left-center (383 ft vs. 364 ft) and the WinStar Diamond Deck in left creates a Home Run Porch of sorts in straightaway left field.

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Dr Pepper Ballpark – Frisco, Texas

Whataburger Field - Corpus Christi, Texas

Whataburger Field – Corpus Christi, Texas

Additionally, there is the concept of lineup protection. By all accounts, the Midland RockHounds and Corpus Christi Hooks have created more protection for Springer and Aliotti than the ‘Riders have for Nicholas this season. Here is how the offenses stack up:


Team R/gm HR AVG OBP OPS
Corpus 4.63 150 .254 .331 .745
Midland 4.88 94 .254 .336 .726
Frisco 4.16 108 .246 .297 .672

Here is a similar table, only taking account team performance while the player in question was on the team’s roster (Aliotti was promoted on July 18, Springer on June 26):


Team Games R/gm HR/gm AVG OBP OPS
Corpus 76 4.84 1.08 .255 .331 .745
Midland 95 4.83 0.76 .258 .340 .737
Frisco 133 4.16 0.81 .246 .297 .672

Now of course these players account for part of the production, but that is true across the board. Springer and Aliotti were more production on a daily basis than Nicholas, but not enough to account for the disparities between the offenses on a whole.

Nicholas doesn’t play a premium defensive position

Or does he? That ‘Riders everyday first baseman is not really that–an everyday first baseman. He has logged 12 games at catcher, and likely would have more if the ‘Riders had a bit more flexibility at first base.

Other than rehabbers, only Guilder Rodriguez has logged more than one game at first base outside of Nicholas (18 games), and Rodriguez has been needed to spell off days for other infielders as well. Because of this, Nicholas has not been able to log as much time at catcher as he might have otherwise. More starts at catcher would certainly make his candidacy a little stronger.

Springer plays elite defense in center field. Your eyes will tell you that. The scouts will tell you that, and I am sure, when he makes the majors, the sabermetricians will crunch numbers that tell us the same. It is part of the reason I voted for Springer over Aliotti.

Nicholas’ ability at catcher should not be overlooked. He still considers himself a catcher and, defensively, has been pretty darn good at the position. Here is how he stacks up in a few key categories with the two primary Frisco catchers, Tomas Telis and Zach Zaneski:


Name Games Catcher ERA Games/PB SB ATT/gm CS%
Nicholas 12 3.61 12 1.33 0.375
Telis 78 3.51 6.5 0.94 0.324
Zaneski 43 3.77 10.75 1.37 0.305

While this unlikely puts him ahead of Springer, I think it has to put him in front of Aliotti, and at least boost his candidacy. When considering MVP/POTY type awards, many will only focus on the offense of a first baseman, assuming that even an elite defensive first baseman is not adding a ton of value. I think that is an unfair determination in the case of Nicholas.

Conclusion

I would be shocked if Springer or Aliotti doesn’t win the award. In fact, I would be pretty astounded if Springer doesn’t win it, but if he is faulted for his 73 games played, it’s hard to imagine it won’t go to Aliotti.

I don’t even know if Brett Nicholas truly deserves the award, but I have a feeling many voters simply weighed the value of Aliotti’s 18 extra games against the incredible production of George Springer, decided how much that would count against Springer, and then called it a day.

Nicholas likely didn’t get the credit his season deserved. He has without question been the Player of the Year for the Frisco RoughRiders, and maybe even the Player of the Year in the Rangers minor league system, and he deserves at least a thoughtful discussion for Player of the Year in his circuit.

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: cloud-hunter – a ball batted high in the air

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

‘Riders in Review: May 2013

The RoughRiders spent ten days in April in first place in the Texas League South Division. After a 14-11 first month, the ‘Riders entered May in second place and only one game back of Corpus Christi. The team improved in May, going 18-11, yet spent just one day in first (May 4, tied for first at 17-12) and finished the month two games behind the Hooks who went 19-10 during May. Two games into June, with 14 games to play in the first half, Frisco sits three games back now, tied for the furthest out of first the team has been all season long and the first time they have been this far behind since May 15.

Texas League Rankings for the Month of May

Record: 32-22 overall, 18-11 in May (2nd in Texas League), home: 10-5, road: 8-6, vs. division: 10-9

Runs: 125 (4th)

Average: .247 (6th)

On-base percentage: .306 (7th)

Stolen bases: 38 (2nd)

Home runs: 32 (T-2nd)

ERA: 4.12 (5th)*

Strikeouts for: 255 (1st)

Walks allowed: 114 (T-7th)

Avg attendance for the year: 7315 (1st)**

RIDERS REVIEW Record Runs AVG OBP SB HR ERA K BB Avg. Att. TD
April 14-11 107 .250 .297 19 17 2.87 208 84 7060
May 18-11 125 .247 .306 38 32 4.12 255 114 7315
Season 32-22 232 .248 .302 57 49 3.54 463 198 7315

TL IN MAY Record Runs AVG OBP SB HR ERA K BB Avg. Att. TD
Corpus 19-10 180 .278 .353 23 36 4.12 185 85 5,449
FRISCO 18-11 125 .247 .306 38 32 4.12 255 114 7,315
San Anto. 16-12 124 .265 .344 39 25 3.70 212 72 4,002
Arkansas 15-12 109 .257 .318 21 24 3.79 185 81 4,478
Springfield 14-13 143 .263 .352 26 29 3.60 235 69 4,440
Midland 14-15 148 .273 .345 28 30 4.85 200 96 4,405
Tulsa 10-18 124 .236 .310 29 32 4.18 164 90 5,741
NW Ark. 6-21 85 .226 .286 14 22 4.55 207 114 4,787

*Frisco 4.121, Corpus 4.116

**Attendance numbers as of June 3, 2013 so are slightly in addition to May totals

Awards

Carlos Pimentel earned Texas League Pitcher of the Week this month, but two players stood out in front of him in May.

‘Riders Slugger of the Month

Brett Nicholas (.340/.410/.650, 22 R, 8 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 9 BB, 0 SB)

052713 Nicholas web article

The self-proclaimed non-home run hitter blasted a team-leading seven long balls in the month of May. In fact, no one else has seven all season (Teodoro Martinez, honorable mention for Slugger of the Month has six this season including five in May). Nicholas led the RoughRiders in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, home runs and tied for the most RBI (18 – w/ Chih-Hsien Chiang). His eight doubles trailed only Chiang who clubbed ten in May. Entering June, he trails just three Texas Leaguers in home runs and RBI and is third in runs scored. Nicholas scored at least one run in 13 of the 18 ‘Riders wins in May and drove in runs in ten of those 18.

‘Riders Hurler of the Month

Ben Rowen (1-0, 0.55 ERA, 4/4 SV/SVO, 16.1 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 HRA, 19 K, 4 BB, 0 HB, 1.04 WHIP, .220 BAA)

060413 blog rowen

Had Carlos Pimentel not finished the month with his worst outing of the season, he might have been the selection, but it is hard to argue with honoring Rowen. Not only was Rowen dominant, but he was asked to throw more often than anyone else on the club and still did not falter. Rowen’s 15 appearances were most in the month of May not only by a RoughRiders pitcher, but all of the Texas League (Matt Stites and Kevin Quackenbush of San Antonio were second with 14). In fact, only Mitch Stetter of the Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A LAA) made more appearances in May (16) than Rowen among all affiliated minor leaguers (excludes the Triple-A Mexican League). Only a half-dozen Major Leaguers made more.  Twice on the most recent homestand Rowen came into a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning and got the job done. The only times he was scored upon came on May 1, when he allowed an unearned run on a single after San Antonio got a single, a stolen base, and a throwing error to put Anthony Contreras at third base. The other time came in a 7-1 ballgame on May 6 in the ninth. He finished May unscored upon in 12 straight outings and has run the streak to 13 in June with his scoreless outing this past Sunday.

Official Texas League Players of the Week:

April 29 – May 5: P – Jake Buchanan (Corpus Christi); B – Xavier Scruggs (Springfield)

May 6-12: P – Yordano Ventura (Northwest Arkansas) ; B – Anthony Aliotti (Midland) 

May 13-19: P – Matt Oye (Arkansas); B – Kalian Sams (San Antonio)

May 20-26: P – Carlos Pimentel (Frisco); B – Angelys Nina (Tulsa)

May 27 – June 2: P – Murphy Smith (Midland); B – George Springer (Corpus Christi)

Punching Bag of the Month

San Antonio SS Jeudy Valdez

Valdez put together a spectacular month of May, hitting .320 (9th in the TL), with 11 XBH, 13 RBI, and four stolen bases. His .320 batting clip is his best average for a month in his two seasons with the Missions (excluding a .364 effort in the three-game 2012 September). If it weren’t for the RoughRiders, the Dominican shortstop might have been the best player in the league in May. He went just 4-for-25 (.160) against Frisco in May. Two of those hits were doubles, but it hardly makes up for his lack of production against ‘Riders pitching. Valdez hit .375 against the rest of the Texas League. To add insult to injury, Valdez committed three of his six May errors against Frisco, two of which came in a 3-1 RoughRiders win on May 2. Those two blunders led to two unearned runs in the two-run contest.

Best Moment of the Month

Frisco hits six home runs vs Tulsa – May 31, 2013 - Just barely squeezing into the month of May, this game was, without a doubt, the most of headline-filled contest of the season to date. Alexi Ogando made his only rehab start for the Rangers, and it took him just 54 pitches to get 18 outs. He threw 12 pitches in the first two innings combined, but the offense stole the spotlight. First, Joe Benson hit a home run in his first at-bat of the ballgame, his fourth in six games with the RoughRiders. In the fourth, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Ryan Strausborger, and Odubel Herrera hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off Drillers starter Christian Bergman. In ten starts, Bergman had allowed six home runs this season and never more than one in any outing. He served up five in six innings against the ‘Riders on this day. Teodoro Martinez finished him off with his sixth home run, a fifth long ball of May, with a one-out solo blast in the fifth inning. Martinez’ career high in home runs is six, and he nearly eclipsed that mark in the month alone. For Herrera, it was his first home run on the season and first in 53 games. Then, off the bullpen, in his first game back from the disabled list, Mike Olt blasted a home run that landed in the seats so quickly he was probably still in the batter’s box when it left the yard.

Bonus award: The You-Say-This-is-a-Summer-Sport Award

On Thursday, May 2, the RoughRiders hosted the San Antonio Missions in 45 degrees. Well, that was the game-time temperature…officially. Some websites reported 41 or 42 degrees. Wind chill was in the 30s. Steve Buechele wore a jacket to coach third base for the first time in his career: “that was the coldest game, by far” since he joined the Texas League as a manager in 2009. Just as incredibly, Frisco won the game despite the fact that Ryan Rodebaugh was making his first career start. He pitched well enough but not long enough for the win, firing three scoreless, one-hit innings. Frisco surrendered just one hit in the 3-1 win.

How did the prospects do?

Frisco’s Opening Day Roster contained six prospects in the Baseball America Rangers Organization top 30:  RHP Cody Buckel (8), RHP Roman Mendez (13), IF Hanser Alberto (15), RHP Wilmer Font (22), RHP Neil Ramirez (23) and RHP Randy Henry (29). Joe Benson, ranked 19th in the Minnesota Twins organization by Baseball America to open the season, joined the RoughRiders in late May.

Cody Buckel - Buckel made one appearance in May before leaving the club for extended spring training. The right-hander was moved to the bullpen after an 0-4 record with an 18.00 ERA in five starts. He made one outing out of the ‘pen that proved a relief role would not solve his 2013 issues (0.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 WP). He has been in Arizona since.

Roman Mendez – Mendez didn’t allow an earned run in April. He began May with four innings of perfect relief work before finally being touched up for his first blemish to his ERA on May 10 against Corpus Christi. After three more scoreless outings, he ran into his toughest appearance of the year. In the eighth inning of an already-out-of-hand contest in Springfield on May 22, the first three batters reached off the Dominican right-hander. He allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in the frame. On May 28, Mendez threw nine straight balls. After the ninth consecutive toss out of the zone, he bent over in pain and subsequently left the ball game. Days later, he had season-ending surgery to a stress-fracture in his right elbow, the same surgery that ended his 2012 season.

MiLB.tv, courtesy of Scott Lucas

MiLB.tv, courtesy of Scott Lucas

Hanser Alberto – Hanser came streaking into the month of May in the midst of an eight-game stretch that took his average from .228 to .298 to finish April. On May 1, the ‘Riders shortstop was hitting .298. On June 1 he was hitting .224. It wasn’t a good month for Alberto (.162/.229/.232). Although he did hit his first two Double-A homers, he also committed six errors in the month. 


Wilmer Font – Like most of the Frisco staff, May was not as kind as April for Font. Hard to improve upon his April though (0.83 ERA, 0.73 WHIP). Over nine appearances, Font collected four saves with a 2.45 ERA. Over his eleven innings, he allowed eight hits and walked 12 for a 1.81 WHIP, indicating that Wilmer was a bit lucky during May. The good news is that all three of his earned runs came in one outing (5/18 vs SA: 0.2 IP, 3 H,  3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K). For the first time this season, however, Font his 100 mph on the radar gun, doing so to close the combined one-hit shutout against Springfield on May 23.

Neil Ramirez – Ramirez looked like the Arlington-bound, hard-throwing, hammer-curve hurling right-hander of 2011 this April. He looked mortal this past month, but there are still encouraging signs. Despite being hit much harder in May (.209 BAA May; .130 BAA April), Ramirez allowed just 6.4 H/9 innings in May, which is in-line with his fantastic 2011 stint with the ‘Riders. He walked fewer batters as well (14 BB in 33.2 IP May; 15 BB 24.1 IP April). The biggest difference was the home run ball. Nothing left the yard against Ramirez in April, while five of the 24 hits he allowed in May were homers. He is still allowing home runs at a respectable level this season, you just hope that May is not the beginning of a downward trend in that category. Looking his FanGraphs page, it seems Neil had trouble getting men out when had to pitch out of the stretch last season (50.9 % LOB). He is doing a better job of that this season, although the .240 BABIP seems unsustainable.

Year Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2011 3 Teams 5 3 3.12 25 98.0 77 34 7 44 119 1.235 7.1 0.6 4.0 10.9
2011 Myrtle B. A+ 0 0 0.00 1 4.2 1 0 0 1 9 0.429 1.9 0.0 1.9 17.4
2011 Frisco AA 1 0 1.89 6 19.0 13 4 1 8 24 1.105 6.2 0.5 3.8 11.4
2011 Round R. AAA 4 3 3.63 18 74.1 63 30 6 35 86 1.318 7.6 0.7 4.2 10.4
2012 2 Teams 8 13 6.28 27 123.1 125 86 18 47 108 1.395 9.1 1.3 3.4 7.9
2012 Frisco AA 2 5 4.20 12 49.1 47 23 6 16 45 1.277 8.6 1.1 2.9 8.2
2012 Round R. AAA 6 8 7.66 15 74.0 78 63 12 31 63 1.473 9.5 1.5 3.8 7.7
2013 Frisco AA 5 2 3.57 11 58.0 34 23 5 29 71 1.086 5.3 0.8 4.5 11.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2013.

Randy Henry – Henry didn’t allow an earned run in April. He pitched twice in May and both times gave up an earned run. The more alarming part of that sentence is that he pitched just twice in May. He has been out with injury and was placed on the disabled list in mid-May. He seems far from returning as well. He has yet to begin throwing off a mound.

Joe Benson – Not officially on the top 30 list of Rangers prospects by Baseball America, he probably would be if on the Rangers 40-man roster to begin the season. Benson hit just .162 with four extra-base hits (0 HR) in May for the Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A MIN). Four days after he played his last game as a Twins farmhand, he homered in his first game as a Texas minor leaguer. Claimed off of waivers by Texas on May 25 and assigned to Frisco, Benson homered in his first three games as a RoughRider from May 26-28. In his first six games with Frisco, Benson went 7-for-18 (.389), clubbed four home runs, a triple, drove in six, and walked twice. The outfielder who is out of options is off to a great beginning in his fresh start. You can learn more about Joe’s story from our post on him last week.

Happy June and go RoughRiders!

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: subway slinger submariner; a pitcher who throws underhand or sidearm

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Season in Review: August

With Mike Olt gone because of promotion, Chris McGuiness took up the slack and led Frisco’s offensive charge throughout the month of August. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

AUGUST

Record: 19-10 (1st of 8 TL teams)

Average: .269 (4th)

Home Runs: 19 (T-5th)

ERA: 3.31 (1st)

Top Offensive Players: Leury Garcia (.324-0-3, 2B, 3 3B, 9 R, 8-10 SB, .420/.426/.846), Chris McGuiness (.326-3-18, 8 2B, 14 R, .430/.505/.935), Jared Prince (.317-3-11, 4 2B, 11 R, .378/.476/.853)

Top Pitchers: Wilfredo Boscan (6 GS, 3-1, 2.73 ERA, 33 IP, 29 H, 31 K, 7 BB, 1.09 WHIP, .238 BAA), Cody Buckel (5 G, 4 GS, 3-0, 3.38 ERA, 26.2 IP, 23 H, 25 K, 8 BB), Wilmer Font (9 G, 1-0, 3.21 ERA, 1 SV, 14 IP, 9 H, 26 K, 7 BB, .180 BAA), Carlos Pimentel (7 G, 2 GS, 0-1, 0.50 ERA, 18 IP, 8 H, 20 K, 11 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .136 BAA), Ryan Rodebaugh (10 G, 1-2, 1.76 ERA, 2-2 SV, 15.1 IP, 11 H, 18 K, 2 BB, 0.85 WHIP, .204 BAA), Ross Wolf (12 G, 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 5-5 SV, 12 IP, 11 H, 11 K, BB, 1.00 WHIP)

Consistency is what made the RoughRiders so successful l in the season’s first two months.  Led by a very good pitching staff and an opportunistic offense, Frisco put together the best record in the Texas League over first half.  But that consistency abandoned the team for most of June and July and the ’Riders, though they had already qualified for the playoffs, looked like they would be due for an early exit.  Corpus Christi was leading the division and looked particularly strong against Frisco.  After some early season struggles, the Hooks won 11 of 14 games against the ’Riders in June and July.

But in August, Frisco got back to the formula that made the squad so good in the first place: terrific pitching and just enough offense.  The ’Riders saw their rotation stabilize and bullpen bolstered with the additions of hard throwing right-handers Wilmer Font and Roman Mendez.  That helped offset the tremendous loss of Mike Olt, who was called up to the big leagues early in the month.

Olt, who was among the league leaders in most offensive categories at the time of his promotion, was replaced by Tommy Mendonca, who was not producing at Triple-A Round Rock but rediscovered his offensive game back in the Texas League.  Mendonca, Chris McGuiness, Leury Garcia, Jared Prince, Jared Hoying and Engel Beltre all took turns leading the offense in August.

As the team was primed for their playoff run, Frisco would be presented one more challenge by the end of the month with one last prominent player departing for the Majors.

TIMELINE:

August 1:Four roster moves are made before tonight’s game against Midland, most notably the addition of hard-throwing reliever Wilmer Font from Myrtle Beach.  With a temperature of 106 degrees in Frisco at first pitch, this is the hottest start time for a ’Riders game this season.  Frisco loses 6-5 in 12 innings despite Mike Olt’s Double-A leading 28th home run.  After the game, news breaks that Olt has been promoted to the Rangers, where he will remain for the rest of the year.  In 95 Texas League games, he hit .288 with 28 homers, 17 doubles, a triple and 82 RBI.

Tommy Mendonca salvaged his difficult 2012 season upon returning to Frisco early in the month. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

August 2: With Olt officially a Texas Ranger and the 106th RoughRiders player to make the Major Leagues, Frisco only manages two runs against RockHounds prospect Sonny Gray.  Midland, however, gets blanked by four Frisco pitchers in a combined three-hitter as the ’Riders win 2-0.  Mark Lowe finishes his rehab stint with Frisco by pitching two scoreless innings.  Tommy Mendonca, a ’Rider and TL All-Star in 2011, arrives from Triple-A Round Rock to play third base in Olt’s absence.

August 4: After four straight no-decisions, Barret Loux (6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 K) wins for the 13th time in 2012 in a 6-1 victory at the Missions.  Eight of nine Frisco batters reach base at least twice and the win ensures that the RoughRiders will finish with a winning record against division bully San Antonio for the first time since 2008.

August 6: Jared Hoying blasts a first inning home run, but so too does San Antonio’s Nate Freiman, igniting a fierce Missions attack in a 12-4 ’Riders loss.  It clinches what will be the only series defeat of the month for the Frisco nine.

August 8: Chris McGuiness and Mendonca both crack two run home runs in the third inning at Tulsa, providing just enough offense in a 4-3 victory.

August 9: Former All-Star pitcher Lee Smith throws the ceremonial first pitch before Frisco’s game at Tulsa and seems to steal the “closer mojo” from ’Riders stopper Ross Wolf.  Frisco takes a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning before the Driller strike for three runs against Wolf and put the tying runner in scoring position.  The normally automatic Wolf settles down to strike out prospect third baseman Nolan Arenado and deliver the RoughRiders a stressful 6-5 win.

August 11: Nick Tepesch (6 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K, balk) is a bit shaky, but the ’Riders string together 16 hits and homers from Jared Prince and Mendonca to beat Northwest Arkansas 10-3.

August 12: The ’Riders take a 2-0 lead into the seventh at the Naturals, but Northwest Arkansas ties it and then takes a two-run lead in the eighth inning.  Frisco, 0-43 when trailing after eight frames this season, shocks the Nats when McGuiness hits a grand slam off Brendan Lafferty and the ’Riders go on to win 6-4.  It is McGuiness’ second slam of the year and it starts a hot stretch that continues for the rest of the South Carolinian’s season.  In a strange statistical quirk, McGuiness has now homered in seven of the 14 games he has played on Sundays.

August 13:Again, the ’Riders blow a late lead at Northwest Arkansas but this time are unable to rally back in a 4-3 loss.  The game ends when former RoughRiders catcher Manny Pina throws out Ryan Strausborger trying to steal third base with Jurickson Profar, who had homered earlier in the contest, standing in the batter’s box.

Wilfredo Boscan quietly emerged as a reliable starting pitcher, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 31-7 K/BB ratio in August. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

August 15: The Rangers send electric reliever Roman Mendez (up from Myrtle) and utility man Guilder Rodriguez (down from Round Rock) to Frisco.  That night, Wilfredo Boscan (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K) pitches marvelously against Tulsa in a no-decision.  McGuiness’ two-run double triggers a three-run bottom of the eighth and Frisco pulls out a 4-2 victory.  It is his fifth game-winning base hit of 2012 (he will finish with six in total), the most on the team.

August 17: Behind a bloodlessly efficient Nick Tepesch (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 5 K on just 78 pitches), Frisco silences the Drillers once again in a 5-1 win.  Nolan Arenado’s two-out, ninth inning solo home run off Mendez is the only thing that prevents a shutout as the ’Riders sweep Tulsa for the second time this season.

August 18: After playing 123 games, the RoughRiders are rained out for the first time all season with the Naturals in town.

August 19: Playing their first doubleheader of the year, the ’Riders dispose of Northwest Arkansas twice.  Mendonca hits two solo home runs in a 3-0 game one win while Alex Buchholz goes deep in game two, also won by Frisco 3-1.

August 20: Mendonca and Tepesch are named TL “Player” and “Pitcher of the Week,” respectively.  Frisco gets another dominant pitching performance from a starter, as Cody Buckel (6 IP, 5 H, R, 0 BB, 7 K) handcuffs the Naturals in a 6-1 win.  Prince, who has been heating up as the month goes on, swats a three-run home run – his 11th of the season – in the fifth inning as the RoughRiders finish their home stand with a perfect 6-0 record.

August 22: It is looking like a lost night for the ’Riders midway through their second game in San Antonio.  Frisco leaves eight men on base over the first four innings – including the bases loaded twice – and Loux yields five runs in the fourth after looking very good early.  Down 7-1 through five frames, the RoughRiders mount their biggest comeback of the season.  They score two runs in the sixth inning, three in the seventh and three more in the ninth to emerge with a 9-7 victory, the team’s eighth straight.  Hoying puts Frisco on top for the first time with a two-run double in the final frame.  The team bangs out a season-high 20 hits with Hoying (4-for-5, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R), Profar (5-for-6, 2B, 2 R), Engel Beltre (3-for-5, RBI, 2R, SB, HBP), McGuiness (3-for-4, RBI, BB, HBP) and Strausborger (3-for-6) leading the way offensively.

August 23: Frisco’s season-best eight-game win streak ends with a 9-3 loss to the Missions.  Former RoughRiders pitcher Robbie Erlin (5 IP, 3 H, 2 R) gets the win.

August 25: The RoughRiders and RockHounds are rained out in Midland.  Meanwhile at Whataburger Field, Corpus Christi defeats San Antonio 5-2 to clinch a spot in the postseason, where they will face Frisco in the South Division Championship Series next month.

August 26: Frisco and Midland play a long doubleheader, which is swept by the RoughRiders.  Steve Buechele’s club takes game one by a 4-2 score.  The seven-inning contest takes two hours and 36 minutes while game two takes an even longer two hours and 50 minutes.  Frisco takes that game 11-4.  Hoying has six hits on the day while Strausborger provides a pair of triples.

August 27:A strange series comes to a strange end in another long game at Citibank Ballpark.  Midland ties it at 1-1 in the fourth inning and the score does not change for some time.  The game goes to extra innings and the ’Riders, out of pitchers after the doubleheader the day before, insert infielder Rodriguez into the game to pitch in the 11th.  To the amazement of his teammates, G-Rod throws a scoreless 11th and 12th innings with two strikeouts.  His magic runs out in the 13th inning when a walk and an Anthony Aliotti double send  the RockHounds to a 2-1 win in three hours and 44 minutes.

Before the season, most knew that Jurickson Profar would one day reach the big leagues. Few expected it to happen for him in 2012 as a 19-year-old. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

August 28: In a playoff preview, the ’Riders return home to face Corpus Christi and win a taut 2-1 affair.  Up by a run in the ninth inning, Frisco allows the Hooks to load the bases with one out before Ryan Rodebaugh slams the door shut with back-to-back strikeouts, ending the game.  In a foreshadowing of a future role, Profar enters the game late after starting on the bench.  He repeats this in each of the next two contests.

August 29: Strausborger triples twice and Buckel (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K) handles the Hooks bats in a 3-0 Frisco win.  With Beltre’s triple the next day Frisco will finish the season with 59 three-baggers for the season, the most by any team in Minor League Baseball.

August 31: The RoughRiders play another tight game with the Hooks and lead 2-0 before Corpus Christi ties it up in the seventh against Justin Grimm, who is back from Round Rock to adjust to pitching out of the bullpen.  Zach Zaneski snaps the 2-2 tie with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning and then later scores to give Frisco the lead.  In the ninth, Wolf gives up a home run and puts the tying runner at first base, but escapes thanks to a game-ending double-play as the ’Riders win 4-3 and capture the series.  After the game, the Rangers announce that Profar will be called up to the Major Leagues the next day when big league rosters expand.

Coming next week: Our season in review series concludes with a look back at September and the playoffs.

-          Alex V.

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