Results tagged ‘ Carolina League ’
This marks the first day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. All installments can be found here.
The offseason is a blur. It feels like just a few weeks ago that I had the amazing honor of calling a Carolina League Championship with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and now, here I am, four months into a job of my dreams, getting ready to head back to Spring Training.
It’s easy to get romantic about Spring Training–so I am going to indulge myself. The high skies, the dry mountain air, the popping of mitts, the cracking of bats, the buzzing of the diehard fans, and the crackling of cleats on the concrete walkways all coalesce to make for baseball heaven. Fans have the opportunity to experience the ballpark aromas, the pace of a baseball game, and the sounds of the public address announcer bouncing around the ballpark well before the season truly begins in April. It’s like getting a sneak peek of a blockbuster movie: it’s totally legal–you’re even invited. Yet it feels like somehow, despite being a John Smith or a Jane Doe, that you get to pull the curtain back in a way that can make you feel like you have special insider access.
With-a-doubt, this was and still is true for me (now, I am just fortunate enough to have a little more access). Even before I ever went, Spring Training was stuff of legends. My baseball-loving grandfather got in the habit of taking grandchildren out to Rangers Spring Training (then in Port Charlotte), and I looked forward to the chance for years. My older cousins came back with stories of meeting our heroes, of watching them up close, and of spending time in a baseball lover’s Mecca.
Then, grandpa got older, didn’t feel up for making the trip, and my excursion to the Sunshine State never happened.
Ten years later, I made it (this time to Arizona), and it was magical. A buddy of mine and I drove from LA to Goodyear to watch the Rangers and Padres…and drove back all in the same day. That’s how badly we wanted to go. That day, Josh Hamilton hit his first Rangers homer, a grand slam in a Rangers blowout.
I was hooked. I made it out to Spring Training each out of the next two years while in college.
Then I started working in baseball. Schedules made things tough, but I did make it back my first year in Myrtle Beach back in 2014. Lo and behold, one of the Rangers broadcasters was sick, and I was asked to fill in on the radio side with Matt Hicks. Cue terror and utmost excitement.
The point is not to show off that I had the chance to call a big league Spring Training game (don’t worry I did plenty of that back then). The point, rather, is that Spring Training is Magic Kingdom for me: The Most Magical Place on Earth.
The point, is that today it begins. In a week there will be tons of great stories to tell, and we cannot wait to tell them to you. Over the next six days we will be posting here on the Riders Insider Blog and on Riders social media channels, including our BRAND NEW, “Riders Media” twitter account, which will be more focused on providing in-depth content on Riders players, statistics, and insights from me, Steve Goldberg, and Ryan Rouillard on a daily basis.
So, until tomorrow…when we will be out in baseball’s favorite desert…so long!
Baseball term of the day: bleeder – a batted ball that, as the result of an erratic roll, pop, bad bounce, or overall slowness, becomes a base hit.
(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)
With calendar year wrapping up, we’re taking one last look at the 2012 season, specifically the top performers in the Rangers organization. MiLB.com’s Rangers Organization All-Star Team provided a good jumping off point and yesterday we took a look at the infield with an eye upon the outfield and pitching today.
Joey Butler, Round Rock (137 G, .290-20-78, 28 2B, 3B, 93 R, 6-10 SB, .392 OBP, .473 SLG, .865 OPS)
Julio Borbon, Round Rock (126 G, .304-10-56, 23 2B, 8 3B, 78 R, 20-28 SB, .349 OBP, .433 SLG, .783 OPS)
Engel Beltre, Frisco (133 G, .261-13-55, 17 2B, 17 3B, 80 R, 36-46 SB, .307 OBP, .420 SLG, .727 OPS)
Lewis Brinson, AZL Rangers (54 G, .283-7-42, 22 2B, 7 3B, 54 R, 14-16 SB, .345 OBP, .523 SLG, .868 OPS)
The Rangers have a decent number of outfield prospects in their farm system and some very exciting ones who spent 2012 in the lower levels. Unfortunately, some of those exciting prospects did not have very good years offensively. The super-athletic Jordan Akins (Hickory) couldn’t crack the Mendoza Line in his first year with a full-season club while former first rounder Jake Skole struggled mightily in the Carolina League before serving a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
However, there were some notable seasons among outfielders down on the farm. While perhaps a little too old to wear the “prospect” label, Butler turned in a fine season for the Express, providing a consistent, middle-of-the-order threat. Whether or not he profiles to make a big league team at any point, he should have a long career in professional baseball given his ability to produce at the Triple-A level. I could have really included the entire Round Rock outfield on this list, as Borbon’s numbers were nearly as impressive Butler’s and Leonys Martin (55 G, .359-12-42, 1.033 OPS) was a stud in his limited time in Triple-A. While both certainly have credible cases to be made, ultimately I decided that there were other players who deserved the recognition maybe just a bit more.
My pick of Beltre was likely influenced by having the opportunity to see him everyday with the RoughRiders this past season. The former Red Sox signee entered this past season looking to wipe the slate clean from a disastrous 2011 campaign that tarnished his prospect status. The Dominican delivered, setting career-highs in home runs, triples and steals. His 17 three-baggers were the second-most in Minor League Baseball and he played an astonishingly good center field. Speaking from a purely defensive standpoint, I am convinced that he could step into the big leagues today and be a top 15 center fielder.
Based on his 2012 season, the Rangers certainly have to be happy with selecting Brinson with their first round draft pick this past June. The 18-year-old Floridian did not get the same level of attention that AZL Rangers teammate Joey Gallo received for his desert power surge, but that was through no fault of his own. Brinson led the AZL with 36 extra-base hits, 54 runs scored and 124 total bases while finishing one shy of the league lead in both hits and RBI. The potential of Brinson and many of his teammates from this past season should keep Rangers fans excited for the future.
RIGHT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
MiLB.com’s pick: Barret Loux, Frisco (25 GS, 14-1, 3.47 ERA, 127 IP, 120 H, 100 K, 41 BB, 1.27 WHIP, .251 BAA)
My pick: Cody Buckel, Myrtle Beach/Frisco (26 G, 23 GS, 10-8, 2.49 ERA, 144.2 IP, 105 H, 159 K, 48 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .206 BAA)
Loux’s record is gaudy, but a closer look into his and Buckel’s numbers make the Californian the decisive choice from my perspective. Loux wowed everyone (the Diamondbacks included, methinks) by winning each of his first ten starts of the season before going 4-1 in his final 15 outings. His command of four pitches and ability to adjust from start-to-start and during starts were something to behold. Traded to the Cubs in November as Jake Brigham’s replacement in the Geovany Soto deal, Loux fits the profile of a 4 or 5 starter in a big league rotation. While Loux was very good at the start of the season for Frisco, Buckel was transcendent for the Pelicans. The undersized righty had more starts (13) than runs allowed (12) in the Carolina League and, after an adjustment period in Double-A, was at his best in the Texas League as the season wrapped up. Buckel learned to pound the strike zone with his zippy 92-94 mph fastball and then tortured hitters with his multitude of off-speed offerings (including a “shuuto,” or “reverse-slider”). Buckel should be a regular big league contributor (either with the Rangers or another team depending on how the trade winds are blowing) before the end of the 2014 season. Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards also were worthy of consideration for this spot.
LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
MiLB.com’s pick: Chad Bell, Myrtle Beach/Frisco/Round Rock (31 G, 21 GS, 8-7, 3.48 ERA, 2 SV, 142.1 IP, 123 H, 110 K, 54 BB, 1.24 WHIP, .236 BAA)
My pick: Bell
The paucity of lefty starters in the Rangers’ system almost gives this award to Bell by default, but he is still a worthy recipient. He probably should have begun the year: a) in Frisco; and b) as a starter all along. But he started 2012 in a multi-inning relief role for Myrtle Beach before joining the RoughRiders at the end of April. He got off to a rocky start in the Texas League, allowing a home run in his first outing before settling down and going 23 straight innings over seven outings without allowing another earned run. By mid-May, he was starting and on June 11 he received the biggest boost of his season and perhaps his professional career. With Rangers Special Assistant and pitching legend Greg Maddux in attendance, Bell allowed just one hit and one walk with six strikeouts over 6.2 scoreless innings in a win over Midland. Maddux said after the game that it was one of the most impressive starts by a Minor Leaguer he had ever witnessed. Bell was in Round Rock by the end of the month and, though the PCL proved to be more treacherous, continued to string together solid performances.
MiLB.com’s pick: Ben Rowen, Myrtle Beach (38 G, 5-0, 1.57 ERA, 19-20 SV, 57.1 IP, 52 K, 3 BB, 0.77 WHIP, .201 BAA)
My pick: Rowen
Winner of a “MiLBY Award” for the best reliever in all of Minor League Baseball, the submariner Rowen is obviously the best choice here. The former 22nd round draft pick kept his pitches consistently down, inducing a 2.9 GO/AO ratio and allowing just two home runs all season. His ludicrously low number of walks (three) is perhaps his most impressive statistic, given the unpredictablility of submarine-style pitchers in general. Other excellent relievers from this past season included Phil Klein (Spokane/Myrtle Beach), Jimmy Reyes (Myrtle), Nicholas McBride (Spokane/Myrtle Beach), Zach Osborne (for his Myrtle work), Ross Wolf (Frisco/Round Rock), Joseph Ortiz (Frisco/Round Rock) and Yoshinori Tateyama (Round Rock).
– Alex V.
At 22-years-old, Miguel De Los Santos entered 2011 as the Ragners’ No. 10 overall prospect. The lefty began last season right here in Frisco despite never pitching above the Low-A level. It seemed like it might have been a bit of a jump for Miguel, and in the end, that proved to be true.
In six Double-A starts last year, “Miggy” went 1-3 with an 8.04 ERA allowing 25 earned runs in 28 innings. At times, command really plagued him. In back-to-back April starts, De Los Santos walked five batters in four, and then five innings, respectively. However, on April 27 against a stacked San Antonio lineup, he pitched seven strong frames and walked only one batter while fanning 10.
His last Double-A start of 2011 came on May 7 against Midland. Following that performance, Miguel was put on the shelf with a shoulder injury and didn’t pitch again until June 29 when he tossed two innings of relief for High-A Myrtle Beach.
His numbers with the Pelicans were much better: 6-3, 3.82 ERA with 97 strikeouts to 28 walks. Carolina League batters hit a mere .195 against De Los Santos, with lefties batting a woeful .093.
Miguel took that momentum into the off-season where he’s currently pitching for the Surprise Saguaros in the prospect driven Arizona Fall Leauge. As of November 1, the southpaw is 3-0 over six appearances and three starts, and paces all AFL pitchers with 23 strikeouts.
A native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, Miguel went 2-0 in as many starts last week with a 3.00 ERA. That, plus his 13 strikeouts and two walks over nine innings, were good enough to earn him AFL Pitcher of the Week.
Last Saturday he started and pitched the first five innings of the Arizona Fall League’s first one-hit shutout since 2007. Miguel struck out eight batters in the game, which shares the Fall League single-game high this season.
There’s no doubt Miguel has “swing and miss” stuff, but the obvious challenge for him in Frisco last season was throwing strikes consistently. It’s great to see that his location has improved since coming off the disabled list in June and that he’s, in some respects, dominating AFL hitters.
I hate trying to guess who the ‘Riders will have on their Opening Day roster (mainly because I’m fairly terrible at it), but I’d have to imagine that Miguel opens 2012 in Frisco.
By now, we’ve all seen how roster moves change the makeup of a minor league ball club. As strange, and quite frankly disappointing, as it is to see Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland wearing the Black and Gold of San Antonio, the one silver lining is that the vacated roster spots have allowed the Rangers to promote 22-year-old left-hander Robbie Ross to Frisco from Myrtle Beach.
Ranked by Baseball America as the Rangers’ No. 19 prospect, Ross was the club’s 2008 second round pick and will start tonight in the deciding game of the current three game series with the Midland RockHounds. For the Kentucky native, it’s not his first trip to Midland. Late last season Ross took the roster spot of injured Travis Chick and pitched the final game of the playoffs for Frisco in a losing effort to the ‘Hounds.
Ross arrives in Frisco with an impressive résumé. In 21 games (20 starts) with Myrtle Beach, he compiled a 9-4 record and a 2.26 ERA while holding batters to a .227 average. However, maybe the most impressive figure is that Ross allowed just one home run against 491 batters faced in the Carolina League.
A graduate of Lexington Christian Academy in Kentucky, Ross originally signed a letter of content to play at the University of Kentucky. However, the opportunity to play professionally, and a $1.575 million signing bonus offered by the Rangers, changed his mind. After being named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior season of high school, he was tabbed as the 10th-best high school pitching prospect in the 2008 draft (Baseball America). Following his high school graduation, Ross was taken 57th overall by Texas.
Ross is coming off a monster month of July where he went 1-2, 1.38 ERA over six starts with the Pelicans. In that time we walked seven and struck out 30, holding opponents to a stingy .209 average.
If you’re into Twitter, you can follow Ross here. First pitch tonight from Midland is at 7:00, Brian and Aaron will be on with the pre-game show at 6:30. I’ll be on the Extra Bases Chat starting at 6:45. Enjoy the game!