Results tagged ‘ Brett Nicholas ’

Riding Through the Farm: May 27

“Riding Through the Farm” is your weekly look at what’s going on in the Rangers organization outside of Frisco.

TEXAS RANGERS (27-20, 2nd place, AL West)

The Rangers tallied two consecutive wins to take a three-game home series from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Tuesday night, former Rider Nomar Mazara blasted a monstrous home run to right field that traveled a projected 491 feet, according to Statcast™. It was the longest home run of the 2016 season so far, traveling 16 feet farther than Giancarlo Stanton‘s 475-foot home run on May 6.

Wednesday afternoon, the Rangers offense totaled new season-highs in runs (15) and hits (18) to defeat the Angels 15-9 in the series finale. The team begins another three-game home series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Yu Darvish expected to make his first MLB start of the 2016 season Saturday. Darvish made five Minor League rehab starts, including three with the RoughRiders.

Tonight: vs. Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m. CT (SP: LHP Cole Hamels)

TRIPLE-A ROUND ROCK EXPRESS (25-21, 2nd, PCL American Southern Division)

While Frisco took 3-of-4 from the San Antonio Missions in the last home series at Dr Pepper Ballpark, the Express won three games against the Padres affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. Round Rock scored 46 runs on 66 hits in the four-game series against El Paso.

After Monday’s win against Tacoma, the Express were shut out by the Rainiers in back-to-back games. The team finally snapped its 27-inning scoreless streak Thursday when former Rider Brett Nicholas came through with a two-run single in the sixth inning. Round Rock defeated Tacoma 4-1 to split the series.

Tonight: vs. Reno, 7:05 p.m. CT (SP: LHP Michael Roth)

CLASS-A ADVANCED HIGH DESERT MAVERICKS (30-18, T-1st, California League South Division)

High Desert finishes out the month of May with a four-game road series against Lancaster. Despite losing two starting pitchers, Luis Ortiz and Yohander Mendez, and two relievers, John Fasola and Joe Filomeno, to Frisco, the Mavericks still lead the California League with 17 saves and are second with 421 strikeouts (8.8 Ks per game).

Travis Demeritte still leads the circuit with 13 home runs, 42 runs scored, and a .601 slugging percentage. Outfielder Scott Heineman is the only player hitting above the .300 mark, with a .307 average in 46 games played.

Tonight: at Lancaster, 8:35 p.m. CT (SP: TBD)

CLASS-A HICKORY CRAWDADS (28-19, 2nd, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

The Crawdads are in a bit of a slump, losing seven of their last 10 games. Hickory opened a four game series Thursday with a 3-1 loss to Greensboro. The ‘Dads play three more against the Grasshoppers before heading on the road to face the Delmarva Shorebirds, wrapping up the May slate.

Eric Jenkins leads the league with 24 stolen bases, and Dylan Moore is right behind him with 21. As a team, the Crawdads are first in the SAL with 103 stolen bases, 41 more than the second-place team Lexington. Hickory ranks second in the category in all of Minor League Baseball, trailing Salem by eight.

Tonight: vs. Greensboro, 6:00 p.m. CT (SP: RHP Dillon Tate)

– Steve

Baseball term of the day: punch drunk – Said of a player who has become overconfident or arrogant as the result of a string of hits.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

Riding Through the Farm: Multiple players of the month, and more

The Rangers farm system continues its incredible start to the season, entering the day with a combined record of 72-35 (.673), which is second-best among all 30 farm systems. Here’s a look at what the other affiliates (and the Rangers) outside of Frisco have been up to this week.

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Nomar Mazara was named AL Rookie of the Month on Monday

TEXAS RANGERS (15-14)

It was a tough week in Toronto for the Rangers, who dropped three of four to the Jays. All three losses came in tough fashion, with walk-off losses on Tuesday and Wednesday, before a lopsided 12-2 loss last night. Starter Derek Holland was pulled in the third inning, marking the first time this year that a Ranger starter didn’t make it through five frames. Former Riders Nomar Mazara and Brett Nicholas each homered Monday, providing the lone offense in a 2-1 win at Rogers Centre. Mazara also threw out a runner at the plate that kept the Rangers in front.

There’s been plenty of news off the field this week, too. Mazara was named American League Rookie of the Month (April) after a sensational start to the season. Additionally, the Rangers traded for Bobby Wilson. In corresponding moves, Nicholas was optioned back to Round Rock and Chris Gimenez – who rehabbed with the Riders last week – was designated for assignment and traded to Cleveland for cash considerations.

Tonight: at Detroit, 6:10 CT (SP: LHP Cole Hamels)

TRIPLE-A ROUND ROCK EXPRESS (15-11)

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Pat Cantwell (above) and Michael McKenry went a combined 8-15 with 8 RBI at Colorado Springs

The bad news out of Round Rock this week is that Rangers top-ranked prospect Joey Gallo has been placed on the DL with a left groin strain. He’s expected to miss 3-4 weeks. The good news is that the Express won three of four this week at Colorado Springs, keeping them atop the Pacific Coast League’s American Southern Division.

It’s been a good week for catchers at Round Rock. Former Rider Patrick Cantwell (4-8, 2 RBI) and fellow catcher Michael McKenry (4-7, 2 2B, 6 RBI) each had big series in the four-game series at Colorado Springs.

Yu Darvish makes his second rehab start tonight, and is scheduled to throw three innings/45 pitches.

Tonight: vs New Orleans, 7:05 CT (SP: Yu Darvish)

CLASS-A ADVANCED HIGH DESERT MAVERICKS (19-9)

Ryan Cordell wasn’t the only Rangers farmhand to win a Minor League Baseball Player of the Month award. Mavericks SS Travis Demeritte was named California League Player of the Month after leading the circuit in homers (8), runs (23), extra-base hits (18) and slugging (.753).

The Mavericks had their 11-game winning streak snapped last Friday and are just 2-5 in their last seven games. However, they’re still tied with Rancho Cucamonga for the California League South Division lead.

Tonight: vs Rancho Cucamonga, 8:35 CT (SP: RHP Cole Wiper)

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RHP Dillon Tate came off the DL for the Crawdads this week

CLASS-A HICKORY CRAWDADS (18-9)

The Rangers organization very well could have had a third Player of the Month honor with the way Andy Ibanez opened the season for the ‘Dads, hitting .402 with 13 doubles, two homers and 16 RBI. Still, the Crawdads have continued their torrid start to 2016, having won seven of their last nine games.

In other news, RHP Dillon Tate came off the DL this week and allowed just one run in two innings of work against Rome.

Tonight: at Rome, 6:00 CT (SP: LHP Erik Swanson)

 

– Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Half Gainer – A headfirst dive for a catch. From the name of a common dive in aquatic sports.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

Cordell crushes his way into the record books

Ryan Cordell etched his name into the RoughRiders record books in the second inning of last night’s 5-2 victory over Corpus Christi.

Cordell blasted his second grand slam of the season, which is awfully impressive. But in addition, it was also his second one of the week. His first one was on Saturday against Northwest Arkansas.

With two grand slams already, Cordell became the only Minor Leaguer to reach that mark so far in 2016. He joins Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper as the only other player in professional baseball to accomplish the feat this year.

Cordell has already surpassed Frisco’s total number of grand slams as a team last season. The Riders only hit one, coming off the bat of Pat Cantwell on June 24 against Midland. Frisco’s largest number of grand slams as a team in a single regular season is five, occurring in both 2009 and 2013.

Last year, Renato Nunez (Midland) hit grand slams on back-to-back days against Frisco on September 5 and 6. The RockHounds hit more grand slams in 2015 than any other team in Texas League with seven, while the RoughRiders were tagged for a league-high five.

Brett Nicholas was the last player to hit two grand slams for the Riders in 2013.

The last time the Riders hit grand slams in the same week as a team was in 2013. Ryan Rua knocked one out against Corpus Christi on August 28, and Teodoro Martinez followed with another on September 1 at Midland.

Prior to Cordell, Brett Nicholas was the most recent Rider to hit two grand slams. His were also in 2013, on April 28 against Corpus Christi and August 18 facing Tulsa.

Mike Olt and Chris McGuiness hit grand slams two days apart in 2012, on June 9 and 11 against San Antonio and Midland, respectively. McGuiness went on to slug another one later in the season on August 12 at Northwest Arkansas.

Jason Botts and Ian Kinsler were the only RoughRiders to hit grand slams in the same game on July 21, 2004. Botts’ grand slam came off San Antonio’s Felix Hernandez, just over a year before “King Felix” made his Major League debut with Seattle in August 2005.

Cordell joins Nicholas, McGuiness, and Chad Tracy as the only players to hit two grand slams in the same season for the Riders. Tracy’s two came in 2009 on July 10 against Springfield and August 7 against San Antonio. Adam Fox also had two grand slams for Frisco, one in 2005 and another in 2009.

33 different players have combined to hit 38 grand slams for the Riders in team history. However, nobody has ever hit more than two. But if the bases are loaded again for Cordell in his time with Frisco, he will have a chance to become the first.

Riders grand slams by year (regular season only):

2016:

Ryan Cordell (2)

 

 

 

2013:

Brett Nicholas (2)

Jared Hoying

Teodoro Martinez

Ryan Rua

 

2010:

Emerson Frostad

Matthew Lawson

 

 

 

2007:

Brandon Boggs

Salomon Manriquez

 

2004:

Jason Botts

Patrick Boyd

Ian Kinsler

G.J. Raymundo

2015:

Pat Cantwell

 

 

 

2012:

Chris McGuiness (2)

Engel Beltre

Mike Olt

 

 

2009:

Chad Tracy (2)

Adam Fox

Tim Smith

John Whittleman

 

2006:

Casey Benjamin

Kevin Mahar

 

2003:

Ryan Soules

Laynce Nix

 

 

2014:

Trever Adams

Joey Gallo

J.T. Wise

 

2011:

Michael Bianucci

Renny Osuna

 

 

 

2008:

Ben Harrison

Stephen Murphy

Corey Ragsdale

 

 

2005:

Adam Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Steve

Baseball term of the day: apply the whitewash – To shut out; to keep the opponent from scoring.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Riding Through the Farm: Rangers Organization Leading Respective Divisions

The RoughRiders have won six of their first seven games and lead the Texas League South division, but they are not the only team in the farm system playing great baseball right now. Every team affiliated with the Rangers, including the big league club, has a winning record and are in first place in their respective divisions.

Texas Rangers (MLB):

Two former Riders, Nomar Mazara and Brett Nicholas, have already made their Major League debuts with the Rangers in the first two weeks of the season. In Mazara’s first five games, he is hitting .400 (8-for-20) with one home run in his first game on April 10. Nicholas has only played in two games, but he is 2-for-8 with a double and two runs scored. The Rangers are tied with the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim for first place in the American League West.

Former Rider Jared Hoying leads the PCL in RBI (12)

Former Rider Jared Hoying leads the PCL in RBI (12)

Round Rock Express (Triple-A):

Round Rock is currently in first place in the Pacific Coast League American Southern division. The Express have a 5-3 record, including a four-game sweep of the Iowa Cubs in the first series of the season. Joey Gallo (Riders ’14-15 – Rangers No. 1 prospect, MLB Pipeline) is leading the PCL with four home runs, and Jared Hoying (Riders ’12-13) paces the league with 12 RBI.

High Desert Mavericks (High-A):

Travis Demeritte (Rangers No. 19 prospect) is leading the Mavericks’ explosive offense. Demeritte is third in the circuit with a .435 batting average, while posting league-high totals in home runs (5) and runs batted in (9). High Desert is in first place in the California League South division, leading Lake Elsinore and Rancho Cucamonga by one game.

Dillon Tate signs autographs for fans at Spring Training

Dillon Tate signs autographs for fans at Spring Training

Hickory Crawdads (Single-A):

Dillon Tate (No. 4 prospect), the Rangers’ top pitching prospect, picked up his first professional win Thursday. Tate struck out a career-high 10 batters over six shutout innings in Hickory’s 6-1 win over Kannapolis. He held the Intimidators to just four hits, did not walk a batter, and threw 53 of his 65 pitches for strikes. The Crawdads are in first place in the South Atlantic League Northern division with wins in seven of their first eight games.

Stay tuned for more updates from the farm system over the course of the season.

– Steve

Baseball term of the day: gopher hunter – A sharply batted ground ball

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

Spring Training Travels Day 5: Checking in with Non-Roster Invitees

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Former RoughRiders Ryan Cordell (center) and Lewis Brinson (right) returned to minor league camp this week after spending most of Spring Training in major league camp.

This marks the fifth day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In this installment, we check in with some former RoughRiders who were invited to major league camp as non-roster invitees. All installments can be found here, including Day 1Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

If you’ve been to a Spring Training game, you know the drill. The major leaguers play for the first five or six innings, before you find you find yourself asking “who?” every time an unfamiliar name is introduced as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. These mystery players are often the non-roster invitees.

Non-roster invitees are players with minor-league contracts (i.e. not on the 40-man roster), but are participating on the major league side of camp instead of the minor league side. Often, they are younger players working their way to their first full-time MLB roster spot, while veteran big leaguers are occasionally brought in, too (a la Jeremy Guthrie this year). This spring, the Rangers had 18 non-roster invitees, including a handful of former RoughRiders. While many of the non-roster invitees won’t make the big league roster right away, the opportunity to train alongside some of the game’s best players provides a valuable experience.

“I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself,” said 2014-15 RoughRiders infielder Drew Robinson. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, absorb anything I can from these guys.

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Ryan Cordell works with RoughRiders hitting coach Jason Hart during Tuesday morning’s practice.

And that absorption of knowledge from established veterans can be just as important as refining on-field skills.

“Seeing how they go about their business day to day, I mean, it’s huge because it’s something you have to be able to learn how to do,” said 2015 RoughRiders outfielder Ryan Cordell. “At this point in my career, learning how to become better off the field, how to prepare myself when I come to the field, that’s the biggest part.

Though they’re not a regular face in the Rangers clubhouse during the summer, they’ve been welcomed in as part of the family.

“It’s a good vibe around here,” said 2013 RoughRiders catcher/first baseman Brett Nicholas. “They treat us like we’re part of the team. I’ve enjoyed talking to some of the veteran guys who have been around for a while and just them giving their two cents on what it’s like to play at this level.”

Monday, the Rangers sent nine players down to minor league camp – including Robinson, Cordell and Lewis Brinson. Though they won’t be in Arlington for opening day, they’re another step closer to becoming full-time major leaguers, whether later this season or later on down the road. And perhaps next year, they’ll crack the 40-man roster and can serve as gracious hosts to the newest wave of non-roster invitees.

– Ryan

Baseball term of the day: add a foot – To gain physical maturity and thus increase the velocity of one’s fastball

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Ace Ventura: From the Texas League to the World Series

Ventura cardWhen Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura takes to the mound at Kaufmann Stadium tonight with the hopes of an entire fan base weighing on his slim frame, he can take comfort in one indisputable fact: at least he won’t have to face Brett Nicholas in tonight’s Giants lineup. While the former RoughRiders first baseman, who played his college baseball in the Show Me State, won’t be confused with Buster Posey or Hunter Pence, he is one of only 13 players who have a perfect 1.000 batting average in multiple at bats against Ventura. Nicholas was a perfect 2 for 2 versus the hard-throwing righty in Ventura’s sole Texas League start against the RoughRiders back on April 7, 2013 while pitching for the Royals-affiliated Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

I remember talking with Frisco hitting coach Jason Hart about Ventura before the game and he (based on what he saw in spring training) compared him to Pedro Martinez, an observation that has been made on Fox’s World Series telecast over the past week. I even wrote in my game notes that day that the 5’11”, 178 lb. native of the Dominican Republic had been nicknamed “Lil Pedro” (despite being about ten pounds heavier than the future Hall of Famer). Looking at their age-23 seasons, the comparison is even more apt. In 1995, when Pedro was 23 and throwing for the Expos, he went 14-10 with a 3.51 ERA, 174 strikeouts, 66 walks (in 194.2 innings), 123 ERA+ and a 3.90 FIP. As for Ventura’s 2014: 14-10, 3.20 ERA, 159 strikeouts, 69 walks (in 183 innings), 125 ERA+ and a 3.60 FIP. Lil Pedro, indeed.

On top of being a heralded prospect (ranked #3 going into the 2013 season by Baseball America), he had a killer nickname: Ace Ventura. Of course, it works on a baseball level in addition to a pop culture one, though I would doubt if Yordano knows if Finkle is Einhorn or not (he wasn’t even three years old when the pet detective hit theaters).

As for Ventura’s outing against the ’Riders, it was a solid start to begin a season that would later see him make his major league debut. After a perfect first inning, he allowed a single to Nicholas in the second before inducing a double-play ball off Alex Buchholz’s bat. He finished the inning with a strikeout of Chih-Hsien Chiang and tossed another scoreless frame in the third, yielding a harmless two-out single to Teodoro Martinez.

With pre-knuckleballin’ Kevin Pucetas putting up zeros in his first three innings, the ’Riders finally got to Ventura in the fourth. Hanser Alberto nicked his countryman for a single to right field and moved up to second on a deep flyout by Jared Hoying. Then Nicholas lined a 1-0 pitch down the left field line for a run-scoring double to get Frisco on the scoreboard. Two pitches later, he scored on a single by Buchholz to make it 2-0 .

Ventura came back with a 1-2-3 fifth inning to mark the end of his day. The 72-pitch outing featured five strikeouts and no walks over five frames. Ventura was let off the hook for a loss thanks to Naturals runs in the fourth and fifth innings, but Alberto’s sac fly in the sixth pushed the RoughRiders ahead for good in a tightly played 3-2 victory.

That sunny day in Springdale, Arkansas sticks out because it was the only time I saw Ventura pitch until catching him in a Royals uniform on television later in the season (because Frisco and Northwest Arkansas play in different divisions, the teams don’t match up frequently). He looked as sharp as advertised, with a fastball that hit triple digits on the RoughRiders’ radar gun several times in addition to a hard curveball and a solid changeup. While there were questions as to whether or not his body could hold up to be a starting pitcher, he certainly looked the part of a starter that afternoon and since hasn’t made anyone think twice about Kansas City’s move to keep him away from the bullpen.

(Fun fact about that game: the only other future major leaguer to play in the contest to date was 2014 Ranger Ben Rowen, who earned a hold by tossing a scoreless eighth inning for the ’Riders.)

The hope here is to see Ventura pitch well enough for the Royals to win and get us all to a Game Seven tomorrow night. Then maybe we can ask someone who was in the Texas League in 1999 to write a retrospective piece on Tim Hudson’s three starts that season for the Midland RockHounds.

A look at the scorebook from Yordano Ventura's start against the Frisco RoughRiders on April 7, 2013.

A look at the scorebook from Yordano Ventura’s start against the Frisco RoughRiders on April 7, 2013.

  • Alex

Champions! Recapping the Rangers in the Arizona Fall League

The 2013 Arizona Fall League champion Surprise Saguaros (Photo courtesy of Baseball America)

The 2013 Arizona Fall League champion Surprise Saguaros (Photo courtesy of Baseball America)

You could be excused for having missed out on this year’s championship game for the Arizona Fall League.  It fell right in the middle of a busy slate of college football games this past Saturday (which was a beautiful, 76-degree day here in the Metroplex) and, for the most part, only the most diehard followers of the minors would be punching their remotes to tune into MLB Network for the broadcast in the middle of November (other potential viewers might have included those who didn’t want to see his alma mater serve as a collective mop for the Florida State Seminoles to clean Bobby Bowden Field with).

Those who did flip over to the game were treated to the Rangers-affiliated Surprise Saguaros winning their second-ever league championship (and first since 1995).  After winning the West Division with an 18-12-1 record, the Saguaros blanked the East Division-winning Mesa Solar Sox 2-0 for the title.

Of the nine Rangers players who suited up for Surprise this season, just two played in the final game.  Top Texas prospect Jorge Alfaro caught all nine innings and drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single up the middle in the second inning; it was his lone hit in three at bats while holding down in the seventh spot in the order.  Righty reliever Keone Kela pitched a perfect eighth inning and didn’t let a ball out of the infield to complete the Rangers’ contributions to the victory.

***

So how did the Texas talent do during the AFL out in the Copper State?  Here’s a rundown of the Rangers minor leaguers:

(Note that for a variety of reasons, the AFL generally is quite hitter-friendly, so you will want to take some of these numbers with a grain of salt.)

C Jorge Alfaro: 19 G, 80 PA, .386/.438/.500, .938 OPS, 6 2B, 3B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 18 R, 5 BB, 17 K, 2-5 SB, 3 E, 5 PB, 7-14 catching basestealers

There’s a lot to like about Alfaro’s performance in the circuit, as well as some indications that Rangers fans should exercise some patience while waiting for the Colombian backstop’s Arlington arrival (it’s unrealistic to think he’ll be the 2015 Opening Day catcher – he spent nearly the entire 2013 season with low-A Hickory).  In addition to a cannon throwing arm, Alfaro’s other calling card has been his power (rare for a catcher).  Although he did not go deep in his 19-game stint in the desert, that’s a pretty triple-slash line.  The sixth-youngest player in the league, the 20-year-old was the Saguaros’ primary catcher (his 15 games behind the dish were tied for the most among all AFL players), and he gunned down 50 percent of attempting basestealers.  That mark was bested only by Peoria’s Austin Hedges (Padres), who caught 12 of 22 (55%) runners.  Alfaro is still a work in progress defensively, however, as his league-leading five passed balls indicate (only one other player had more than two).  Still, the performance was very encouraging for arguably the Rangers’ most exciting minor league prospect.

RHP Lisalverto Bonilla: 3 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.00 WHIP, .167 BAA

One of the newest members of Texas’ 40-man roster, Bonilla is a changeup specialist with an electric fastball and a solid slider.  After flaming out in Triple-A, he spent the last half of the 2013 regular season with the RoughRiders.  The word “dominant” doesn’t come close to describing what Bonilla, Picked up in the Michael Young trade, did this summer in Frisco; because “Santeria” is currently playing as I type this report, I’ll go with the word “sublime” to label his efforts.  In his short time in the AFL, Bonilla simply continued what we saw him do on the mound at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  Of Bonilla, Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews told me that if he can consistently throw his fastball at the knees of hitters, he will have a long and extremely profitable big league career, because the heater and change are that good.

RHP Ryan Harvey: 3 G, 0-1, 1 SV, 5.40 ERA, 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, WP, 1.50 WHIP, .273 BAA

Harvey started the AFL with Surprise, but the Rangers elected to remove him from the Surprise roster for non-injury reasons after only three appearances.  The thought here is that the organization wanted to limit his innings after tossing a career-high 58 innings in a variety of roles for Myrtle Beach this past season.  I would expect to see the former Seton Hall Pirate with the RoughRiders in 2014.

RHP Keone Kela: 7 G, 0-0, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 8.2 IP, 5 H, R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 1.15 WHIP, .172 BAA

The youngest pitcher on the Saguaros (20), Kela may be a candidate to skip the Advanced-A level and begin 2014 in Frisco after an impressive AFL campaign (I would doubt it, however, given his age).  A hard-thrower, Kela overwhelmed opposing batters by proving very difficult to make contact against.  His walk rate was  a bit higher in the AFL (5.19) than it was during the regular season (3.46), which he split between Hickory, Spokane and the AZL Rangers.

LHP Will Lamb: 6 GS, 1-1, 8.69 ERA, 19.2 IP, 29 H, 22 R, 19 ER, HR, HB, 19 BB, 10 K, 2 WP, 2.44 WHIP, .349 BAA

After starting 32 of his first 43 professional appearances in 2011 and 2012, the Rangers moved their former second round draft pick into the bullpen this past season, making all but one of his 39 appearances for Myrtle Beach as a reliever.  Lamb responded with his worst statistical season as a professional despite pitching in the hurler haven the Pelicans call home.  He got another shot at starting in the AFL, but as the numbers above indicate, it did not go well.  The former two-way player at Clemson will still be just 23 for the entire 2014 season, so time is still on his side and left-handed pitchers with good stuff are always valued.  Next year will be a very important one for Lamb and for the Rangers to see what they have in him.

Nick McBride’s Texas League troubles followed him to the desert. (photo credit to Grant Nelson)

RHP Nick McBride: 10 G, 1-0, 6.43 ERA, 14 IP, 21 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 9 K, BK, 3 WP, 2.07 WHIP, .339 BAA

McBride split 2013 between Myrtle Beach and Frisco while also making a cameo appearance in May with Round Rock.  He was very effective out of the bullpen for the Pelicans but did not have much success as a starter in the tougher Texas League.  The former fifth rounder worked out of the pen for Surprise and appeared to have the same difficulties he had with the RoughRiders: too many baserunners.  His fastball command was not sharp and his breaking ball needed a lot of refinement in his time with the ‘Riders and, despite showing flashes within starts, would often get burned by putting himself in too many difficult situations.

1B Brett Nicholas: 17 G, 66 PA, .230/.273/.393, .666 OPS, 7 R, 7 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K

Nicholas earned the opportunity to showcase his abilities in the prestigious AFL by way of his breakout regular season with the RoughRiders.  One of the most complete offensive players in the Texas League this past season, Nicholas struggled a bit with the bat out in Arizona, as the numbers indicate.  That may be the result fatigue from playing essentially every day over a full season for the first time, so I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into those numbers.  His AFL campaign did have a few highlights, however.  He was tied for fifth in the league in doubles, named the MVP of the Rising Stars Game with a two home run performance and he got married just as the fall season was beginning.  I’m not sure how much he will be looked at for the Rule 5 draft next month, but he gets a lot of Chris McGuiness comparisons and McGuiness was selected by the Indians last year before being returned to Texas in the spring.  While Nicholas does not have the same power that McGuiness has, he does have more versatility with his ability to play catcher.  He played the position in college and has a decent amount of professional experience behind the plate (he’s often told me he’s still a catcher at heart playing first base).  He is expected to catch full-time in the Dominican Winter League following his stint with Surprise.  Nicholas would seem to be a good fit with a National League team with his ability to play multiple positions and swing a solid bat.

Ryan Rua had four trots like this with the Saguaros in the AFL. (photo credit to Grant Nelson)

3B Ryan Rua: 17 G, 71 PA, .175/.268/.385, .633 OPS, 13 R, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 7 BB, 24 K, 6 E

Perhaps the most unexpected breakout season across the minors, Rua exploded onto the prospect scene with a 32 home run campaign for low-A Hickory (104 games) and Frisco (23 games).  That tremendous power was on display in the AFL with four home runs, which tied for fifth among all players.  Those homers, however, were his only extra-base hits in 71 plate appearances and it is apparent that he had some of the same contact issues he had with the RoughRiders.  Like Nicholas, it could be the result of a long season that led to the diminished numbers.  Rua is a very polarizing prospect for those in the business.  His power is genuine and obviously comes out in games, not just at five in the afternoon.  In addition to improving his contact, he needs to improve dramatically defensively.  After primarily playing second base for the Crawdads, he shifted to third base with Frisco and played there for Surprise as well.  Rua committed six errors in the AFL and while his arm is good enough for the position, his positioning and hands need work.  At times he looks a little stiff with hands that are too hard at the hot corner.  Hopefully the increased reps he gets at third will allow the defensive aspects of his game to catch up to his power.

RHP Matt West: 10 G, 1-0, 3.72 ERA, 9.2 IP, 12 H, 4 R, HR, 7 BB, 10 K, WP, 1.97 WHIP, .293 BAA

A member of the 40-man roster, West (who turns 25 today) has spent the bulk of the year rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2012.  A former second round pick out of high school (originally as a position player), West made one appearance for the AZL Rangers in August and saw his workload significantly increased with Surprise.  The biggest signs of encouragement from West’s numbers are his ten strikeouts – indicating he can still gas it to get elite hitters out – and his ten appearances without any injury complications.  His performances seemed to get better as the AFL season went on, hopefully setting the stage for a successful comeback season in 2014.  If all goes well, he could put himself in position for a big league role at some point next year.

***

Finally, a reminder that, despite the AFL getting the MLB Network treatment with some of the best minor league prospects on the field, it’s still not close to the big leagues at least when it comes to the strike zone.  Two screenshots from the strike three call on a 3-2 pitch in a 2-0 (championship) game.  This was the final out.

AFL Ump 1

AFL Ump 2

Yikes.

– Alex

Best in the League, Part II

Carlos Olivas (second from the left) pays a medical visit to RoughRiders pitcher Carlos Pimentel. (Alex Yocum-Beeman)

Carlos Olivas (second from the left) pays a medical visit to RoughRiders pitcher Carlos Pimentel.

Brett Nicholas and Neil Ramirez weren’t the only RoughRiders honored last month for a stellar 2013 season.  The two Frisco stalwarts were named post-season All-Stars at the DH and pitcher positions, respectively, and they’ve now got some company.

Company that’s going to have to clear a bit more space on his mantle.

Last month Frisco’s Carlos Olivas was named “Athletic Trainer of the Year” for the Texas League for the second straight season by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS).  This is a tremendous honor and Carlos is incredibly deserving of the award.  He does a terrific job caring for the players and keeping them healthy and on the field.

A trainer from each minor league is chosen for an award in addition to a minor league coordinator and at the Winter Meetings, the “Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year” will be elected by PBATS members.   Carlos was one of two trainers in the Rangers organization to win an award; the other was Alex Rodriguez of the Dominican Summer League Rangers.

Here’s the full list of award-winning trainers:

League:                                       Winner:                                                      Organization:

Coordinator Jay Williams San Francisco Giants
International League Jeff Allred Washington Nationals
Pacific Coast League Eric Ortega San Francisco Giants
Eastern League Scott DiFrancesco New York Yankees
Southern League Charles Leddon Cincinnati Reds
Texas League Carlos Olivas Texas Rangers
Florida State League Alan Rail Minnesota Twins
California League Grand Hufford Houston Astros
Carolina League Patrick Wesley Baltimore Orioles
Midwest League Chris Tomashoff Tampa Bay Rays
South Atlantic League Mark Keiser Kansas City Royals
New York – Penn League Jason Schwartzman Detroit Tigers
Northwest League Reggie Mugrue Toronto Blue Jays
Appalachian League Kiyoshi Tada New York Mets
Pioneer League John Duff Colorado Rockies
Arizona League Clete Sigwart Cincinnati Reds
Gulf Coast League Philip Mastro Pittsburgh Pirates
Dominican Summer Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers

PBATS President Richie Bancells had this to say upon the announcement of the winners:

“These 18 athletic trainers stood out in 2013 as the best in their respective leagues, and I am so honored that they all showed the dedication and professionalism it takes to keep their players on the field. These fine gentlemen represent the bright future that lies ahead for PBATS.”

Carlos is back home in New Mexico, but I asked him a few questions over e-mail about winning the award.

In addition to valuing the health of his players, Carlos also values being a sharp-dressed man.

In addition to valuing the health of his players, Carlos also values being a sharp-dressed man.

Alex Vispoli: What does it mean to you to have won this award for the second straight year?

Carlos Olivas: It was definitely a surprise when I heard. It is a testament to the program we run and I give credit to Eric McMahon for his part in the sports medicine team. I am honored to be voted the winner for 2 straight years.

AV: Why do you think your work has been recognized once again as exemplary?

CO: We try to keep current with what we do as far as injury prevention and rehabilitation. Our players play a big role believing in what we are doing and following through with our programs. Having a medical team of doctors available for visiting teams and giving them the same access we have is huge. I always try to communicate with the visiting athletic trainers on a daily basis to make sure they have everything they need.

AV: Has anyone within the Rangers organization congratulated you on winning?

CO: I have heard from numerous people congratulating me.

AV: How was this past season from your perspective as an athletic trainer? Any unique or important challenges?

CO: It was overall a very good year. We only had a few major injuries and kept DL time to a minimum. We try to spend a lot of time on prevention and catching small injuries early before they turn into something big. Lower body muscular injuries (hamstring, groin) are always tricky because they tend to nag.  Every year is a challenge with the amount of turnover with players in the minor leagues. We are constantly gaining new players with new sets of challenges.

AV: Does this qualify as a dynasty/do you have enough pictures of someone to ensure a third straight win?

CO: I have pictures of everyone…including you, Vispoli.

Duly noted.

To learn more about Carlos and what he does as a minor league athletic trainer, take a listen to this interview I did with him back in July for the radio broadcast.

Congratulations Carlos!

– Alex

Putting a bow on the 2013 Season

The 2013 season ended eight days ago and before we start thinking about Opening Day 2014 (currently 205 days away, but who’s counting?), let’s wrap up this year with some of the notable notes & factoids. The following tidbits are stolen taken from the RoughRiders’ end-of-season notes, which you can see in their entirety here.

SEASON NOTES

Report Card: The RoughRiders finished their 11th season with an overall record of 70-70, good enough for third place in the Texas League South Division and fourth-best in the eight-team circuit.  Frisco was 39-31 in the first half, claiming second place in the division, and 31-39 in the second half (third place).  The RoughRiders missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time in team history.  For the first time since becoming a minor league manager in 2009 (Bakersfield), Steve Buechele oversaw a team that did not make the postseason.  Two RoughRiders were named to the postseason All-Star Team: DH Brett Nicholas and RHP Neil Ramirez.

Playing not to lose: For the eighth straight season, the RoughRiders finished with a non-losing record.  The last time Frisco finished below .500 was the only time in team history, back in 2005 when the team finished 58-82.  The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years.  The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten).  Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.

Home Field Advantage: A crowd of 10,712 watched the RoughRiders beat Corpus Christi in the home finale on August 30, marking the second-biggest attendance at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season.  It was exceeded only by the July 4 game against Arkansas, when 10,801 saw the Travelers edge the ’Riders 3-2.  Frisco welcomed 479,873 fans to the ballpark this year (an average of 7,057), the highest total in Double-A for the ninth straight year.  The total and average attendance figures are higher than 17 Triple-A ballclubs this season.

Pitching in: Pitching coach Jeff Andrews can be proud to point out that this year’s Frisco staff statistically rates as the best in franchise history.  Of the 11 seasons in RoughRiders history, the 2013 team finished with the best ERA (3.58, placing in the top two of the league for just the second time ever), strikeouts (1,111), WHIP (1.265), and hits/9 IP (8.0, the lowest figure in the TL since 2003).  The team’s strikeouts/9 IP (8.0) was tied for the second-best in team history.  Making these feats even more impressive is that the RoughRiders utilized 37 different pitchers (by far the most in the league, five more than Springfield, which had used the second-most), including 19 starters.

Saint Nicholas: Frisco first baseman Brett Nicholas has had a great year in his first Double-A season.  Before to this year, Nicholas had 17 career home runs in three combined pro seasons but hit 21 in 2013.  In addition to the long balls, the Arizona native established career-bests in games (136), plate appearances (575), at bats (506), hits (146), batting average (.289), slugging percentage (.474), OPS (.831), RBI (91), runs (71), triples (3) and total bases (240).  Nicholas finished among the Texas League leaders in average (fourth), games (first), at bats (third), home runs (seventh), RBI (first), hits (first), extra-base hits (tied for fifth, 49) and total bases (first, 240).  He was the only player in the TL in the top seven in all three of the Triple Crown categories.  Nicholas was named a mid-season and postseason All-Star (at DH) and will be one of the Rangers’ representatives in the Arizona Fall League.

Teo Time: Teodoro Martinez had a breakout season in many respects in 2013.  The diminutive outfielder was second on the team with 15 home runs and was also among the team leaders in hits (second, 110), runs scored (third, 51), RBI (fourth, 47), total bases (third, 168), and steals (second, 21).  Martinez entered the season with ten career home runs and single-season high of six, but more than doubled his career output in longballs with a year that landed him on the mid-season All-Star Team.  He had a career game on the penultimate day of the regular season in Midland, going 4 for 5 with a double, two home runs, eight runs batted in and three runs scored.  The eight RBI matched his total from July (three) and August (five) combined and represented what is believed to be a RoughRiders single-game record.  It was only fitting that Martinez had his huge game against Midland; in 27 games against the RockHounds, he hit .336/.351/.600 (.951 OPS) with two doubles, nine home runs, 28 RBI, 16 runs scored and seven steals.

New Kids on the Block: The makeup of Frisco’s roster changed dramatically in early August, when nine new players joined the team and seven players were sent elsewhere.  Of the new RoughRiders, second baseman Rougned Odor and pitchers Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez—all promoted from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach—shined the brightest.  From August 1 through the end of the season, Odor led the Texas League in hits (41) and was tied for second in extra-base hits (16).  At 19, he was the youngest player in Double-A and over 30 games hit .306/.354/.530 with six homers, eight doubles, two triples, 19 RBI, 20 runs scored and five steals.  Jackson did not allow a run until his fifth ’Riders outing and went 2-0 over six games (four starts) with a 0.67 ERA (2 ER/27 IP), 30 strikeouts and a .144 opposing batting average.  Dating back to his time with the Pelicans, he ended the season having gone 15 games (13 starts) since last suffering a defeat (May 27 at Lynchburg).  Martinez did not work the strikeouts like Jackson, but he was stellar in five games (four starts), going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA (4 ER/32 IP), 11 hits allowed, a 0.56 WHIP and a .107 opposing batting average.  While pitching in relief of rehabber Nick Tepesch on August 27 against Corpus Christi, he threw seven no-hit innings and retired the last 19 batters of the ballgame.

Don’t walk this way: A constant theme over the course of the season was the inability of the ’Riders to draw walks while on offense.  Frisco not only finished last among all Texas League teams with 303 walks this season, but also last among all full-season minor league teams (Advanced-A Brevard County was closest with 343).  In fact, the ’Riders had fewer walks than 13 rookie-level teams whose seasons began well after Frisco’s.  The 303 walks set a new Texas League record for fewest walks ever received by a team, “besting” the 1992 San Antonio Missions (310).  The RoughRiders’ on-base percentage of .300 was the seventh-lowest of all 229 MiLB teams and the second-lowest of all full-season squads.

Guilded Age: The 2013 season was a banner one for longtime RoughRiders utility player Guilder Rodriguez.  This past season was Rodriguez’s 13th in professional baseball and his fifth with Frisco.  Thanks to a terrific first half of the season, the Venezuelan was named to his first All-Star Game and came in off the bench to play in the South Division’s 6-0 win over the North.  Rodriguez set several career Frisco records over the course of the year; he has played in more games as a RoughRider (407) than any other player in team history.  On August 4, he passed Renny Osuna as the franchise’s all-time hits leader; he has 352 career hits as a RoughRider.  On August 25, playing in his 1000th professional stateside game, Rodriguez stole his 66th base in a Frisco uniform, snapping a tie with Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry for the most career steals.  G-Rod is now 66 for 92 stealing bases as a ’Rider; Gentry was 65 for 79 in 207 Frisco games.

This ’pen is mightier: Despite a constantly rotating cast, the RoughRiders’ bullpen was the strength of the pitching staff this season.  Frisco’s relievers won almost as many games (34) as the team’s starters (36) while posting an impressive 2.55 ERA (166 ER/586.2 IP).  The bullpen was heavy on strikeouts (9.1/9 IP) and stingy on allowing hits (6.9/9 IP).  Ben Rowen (0.53 ERA) and Wilmer Font (1.41 ERA) led the group with ten saves apiece while nine total players had at least one save.  The strong back end of the bullpen was a major reason why the RoughRiders went 51-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning, not blowing a ninth inning save all season.  Frisco was the only Texas League team that did not lose a game when leading after eight innings (all other teams had at least two such losses).  The ’Riders were one of eight full-season minor league teams that did not blow a ninth inning lead and one of three (New Orleans, 72-72; West Michigan, 69-70) that did it while failing to post a winning overall record.

– Alex

‘Riders on the Record: Final Words

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‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

An extra long edition this week with a double-dose of the skipper and a season finale chat with Jeff Andrews is here! It’s been a pleasure posting these each week. Thank you for your support of the Insider Blog and ‘Riders on the Record this season. We hope you enjoyed getting to hear from everyone this season. Highlights for the final edition include Phil Klein on his position on a football field, Nick Tepesch on being named the Rangers’ fifth starter and Randy Henry on how he can improve upon his stellar season.

Happy Monday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


After a tumultuous weekend in which the bullpen has been severely taxed, the manager Steve Buechele assesses the state of the ‘pen and who could have been on the mound among the position players. He discusses why Luke Jackson was removed in the midst of a no-hitter and explains the quick success of Nick Martinez in Double-A. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Monday, August 26, 2013 – Catcher Zach Zaneksi


The RoughRiders catcher Zach Zaneski comes on to talk about his offseason plans and the end of the RoughRiders season. With Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez in town, Zach tells us what kind of wisdom the future Hall-of-Famer has shared with the ‘Riders backstops. (w/ Nathan Barnett)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 – RHP Phil Klein


For the first time in his pro career, Phil Klein was the starting pitcher. He talks about keeping his routine consistent and how excited he was to get the nod. In preparation for our fantasy football post on the RoughRiders Insider Blog, I also asked Klein where he would play on a football team. (w/ Nathan)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 – 1B/C Brett Nicholas


Brett Nicholas put together a career year in 2013. He was named to the Texas League Post-season All-Star Team and a member of the Arizona Fall League the previous day, and he talks about the significance of both in the larger picture of his career. Hovering around a .300 batting average, Brett weighs in on the importance of that number to him as well. (w/ Nathan)

Thursday, August 29, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua


Fresh off his walk-off grand slam, Ryan Rua reflects on the best moments of his career. He looks back at his breakout season and assess the progress that he has made this year as well as his adjustment to Double-A pitching. (w/ Nathan)

Friday, August 30, 2013 – Rangers Rehabber Nick Tepesch


Rangers rehabber Nick Tepesch talks about his first ever rehab. He shares his story from Spring Training that ended in the nod as the Rangers #5 starter and the development of his slider that has helped him make the leap. He also explains how quick teams and players are to adjust at the big league level. (w/ Nathan)

Saturday, August 31, 2013 – RHP Randy Henry


RoughRiders reliever Randy Henry is putting the finishing touches on a spectacular season in his year at Double-A. Battling an elbow injury, Henry was one of the more dominant pitchers in the Texas League this season. He evaluates his year and pinpoints places for future improvement. (w/ Alex)

Sunday, September 1, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


For the final time, the ‘Riders skipper joins our own Alex Vispoli on the pregame show to discuss the end of the season. He gives his take on the significance of a .500 record and shares his plans for the offseason. (w/ Alex)

Monday, September 2, 2013 – Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews


On the final day of the season, Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews sits down to assess his pitching staff at season’s end. He talks about the development of Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez, including the significance of his Jackson’s unconventional mechanics and Martinez’s baseball smarts. A big league coach in 2008 with the Pirates, he explains the value of coaching in the majors and what he learned in his season in Pittsburgh.

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: sky piece – baseball cap

(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)