Results tagged ‘ Frisco RoughRiders ’

Spring Training Travels: Guilder Rodriguez

We spoke with Guilder Rodriguez about transitioning from player to coach. We will have more on RidersTV soon; here is a teaser of our interview with him from our Spring Training Travels Series. All installments from the series can be found here, including Day 1Day 2, Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6, and our mid-trip update.

Although his time in the Major Leagues was short-lived, Guilder Rodriguez is one of the most well-known RoughRiders in team history. The middle infielder is the all-time leader in Riders in games played, hits, and stolen bases.

Coming soon to #RidersTV is an exclusive interview with Guilder about Spring Training as a coach and his upcoming role as a coach in the Dominican Summer League.

Here is a preview:

Nathan

Baseball term of the day: zob – a weak person; a fool.

(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)

Spring Training Travels Day 4: Rangers Return From San Antonio

This marks the fourth day, third full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In our fourth installment, Steve Goldberg recaps the Rangers’ weekend trip to San Antonio and the adjustment to getting back in a rhythm at camp. All installments can be found here, including Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.

With two full days of Spring Training under our belt, we move on to our third day here at the Rangers’ training complex. When we arrived in Surprise on Saturday, a group of players were noticeably missing. They were playing two games against the Kansas City Royals in San Antonio.

It was a very enjoyable weekend for the group who made the 850-mile trek back to Texas. The Rangers won both games against the Royals, scored a total of 20 runs, and played in front of 27,536 fans on Friday and 33,592 on Saturday. This was indeed a major change of pace from playing in smaller Cactus League ballparks.

The team experienced many thrills over the weekend, highlighted by former RoughRider Lewis Brinson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Friday’s 7-5 victory.

Hanser Alberto, another former Rider, enjoyed the change of pace going from Surprise to San Antonio for the weekend. Alberto was a perfect 2-for-2 in the first game Friday.

“The San Antonio weekend was great,” Alberto said. “It’s a good city and it was great to be around the guys. We had a lot of fun there and played very well.”

Alberto

Infielder Hanser Alberto played 150 total games with the RoughRiders during the 2013 and 2014 seasons

Alberto and the squad who made the trip to San Antonio were back at the Rangers’ training complex Sunday. They had a quick turnaround, with a 1:05 p.m. big league game against the Angels looming. Despite the major contrast between playing at the Alamodome and Surprise Stadium, the team had a smooth transition back to the everyday routine of camp.

“It’s the same game, nothing new,” Alberto said. “You see the ball and hit the ball. You make the routine plays and play your hardest. We came back here and are continuing to work hard. We want to keep showing everyone that we’re ready.”

For Alberto, his first taste of Major League action last year has impacted his mindset at this year’s Spring Training. He continues to receive valuable advice from the experienced players in the clubhouse that have helped him with adjust to playing in the big leagues.

“I have learned a lot from the veteran guys,” Alberto said. “It’s been a great experience. Now I have a better idea how to work and concentrate. The results are going to be different every day, but now I feel comfortable at every point in the game. I am more ready than ever.”

Strausborger

2012-14 RoughRiders OF Ryan Strausborger records exclusive content for RiderVision

There are many other former Riders in a similar position. Chi Chi Gonzalez, Keone Kela, and Ryan Strausborger all made their Major League debuts with the Rangers last season and bring that experience with them to this year’s Spring Training.

As mentioned in our Day 2 post, this is my first time at Spring Training. One of the most noticeable and pleasantly surprising things has been observing the interaction between Major League veterans and the up-and-coming prospects throughout all levels of the organization.

Everyone here is striving to improve and advance to the highest level of the sport. The veterans have a visible presence at the camp giving their tips and offering advice to the younger players, who are learning as much as possible in their quest for success.

– Steve

Baseball term of the day: freight delivery – slow pitching

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Spring Training Travels Day 3: A Sitdown with the Great Tepid Participation

This marks the third day, second full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In our third installment, Nathan Barnett sits down with Tepid Participation, @TepidP on Twitter, to talk who he is looking for on the back fields, why he comes out to Spring Training, and the Choctaw Lazy River. This interview took place on Saturday, March 19. All installments can be found here, including Day 1 and Day 2.

Nathan: Welcome out to Surprize, Arizona and today we are joined by TepidP of Lone Star Ball. If you’re a fan of the Rangers minor leagues, you know who he is. Michael: first, thanks for joining us

TepidP: No problem.

N: Like us, you’re here on the first day of your Spring Training Trip. How long will you be out here this year?

T: I’ll be out here about five days this year (Editor’s note: same as us! Not planned)

N: Is this an every year trip for you?

T: Every year, man. It’s a blast.

N: I know you have fun out here, but what specifically brings you out here?

T: Just looking at the new kids mostly. It’s one of those opportunities–you see all of these kids who get drafted in June–this is one of my opportunities to see a lot of those kids. A lot of Dillon Tate, Mike Matuella–even if they are not pitching, like in Mike’s case. You still get your first set of looks at some of the new guys and then see some of the progress that some of the guys may have made away from Frisco.

N: So, first thing you did, you got off the plane and came straight here. Who was the first guy you were looking for, the first person you wanted to see out here?

T: After you guys!?! I would have to say it was G-Rod (Guilder Rodriguez). I love seeing Guilder, and I am so happy for him to make that transition into the second part of his baseball career, which may or may not end up being even more fruitful than the first part of his career. He’s going to start coaching; I had the chance to catch up with him the first few minutes that I was here, and he’s really excited about the opportunity. I am happy for him. He had an amazing career, and all RoughRiders fans will remember him, and he’s a legend.

N: Now we have to give you some credit here. As many who knew G-Rod as a player, you knew he would be a coach six or so years ago.

T: Everyone did! He’s always been a coach. You know, he was a coach who every once in a while would fill in at shortstop. He’s done that for the last, I don’t know, half-decade of his career, and even he’s known that. It’s nice that he finally made the transition, and he just told me “no more pressure. No more pressure of going 0-for-4.” I just laughed at him. He’s really excited about the opportunity, so I am happy for him.

N: First games are about to start today. Who are you excited to watch today specifically?

T: Well today we are going to get to peek at the starters. Actually, a couple of guys probably bound for Frisco. We’ve got Jose Leclerc on one field, and we have Connor Sadzeck on the other. Those guys will probably go a couple of innings, and obviously those are guys who can dial it up, but also need to work on refining their command, and refining their mechanics, and perfecting their delivery, and they will have a chance to do that today. Hopefully, we will see them for a little while in Frisco.

N: Okay, I am going to put you on the spot: if you had to guess the starting nine position players in Frisco for Opening Day, who would you guess they will be.

T: Oh geez, that really is on the spot. I would say: “Condor” Guzman (Ronald Guzman) over at first. Isiah Kiner-Falefa at second. I’m going to say Luis Marte at short. Third base…uh…I’m not really sure honestly. Then I think Royce Bolinger will be in the outifeld, probably Preston Beck in right, and I’d probably go with Chris Garia (Christopher Garia) in center?

N: And the designated hitter on Opening Day? 

T: Me?

N: We will see what we can do! You tweeted last week about Matt Bush, who is a new guy with the organization who has, let’s called it a “checkered past.” You heard he was throwing upper 90s, with a good hard slider. How excited are you to delve into his story?

T: It’s fascinating, you know. It’s never not going to be fascinating to have a guy who was literally in prison the last three years who has been given an great opportunity by the Rangers. We will have to see if he can take full advantage of it. The skills seem to be there, so it will be up to him.

N: Now let’s talk a little off the field stuff. You are a guy who covers baseball but you’re also into the business of baseball. What was your first reaction when you heard about the Choctaw Lazy River going into Dr Pepper Ballpark this summer?

T: (laughs) My first reaction was “cannonballllll.” I think it’s great. I think its a great opportunity for you guys to get more people out to the park for some great family fun. It’s not a big surprise that at the minor league level, you are marketing the experience even more so than the players. This is another opportunity to put another thing in front of people that will be a draw and get people to be excited about coming out to the park. I think it’s absolutely the coolest thing going.

N: Now you are usually working when you are out at at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Do you have plans to bring the family out and enjoy the lazy river as a fan?

T: I am just going to do a cannonball in my clothes. I am just going to run out there on the first day and put my notepad to the side and just do a cannonball, and we will inaugurate it like that.

N: Well, we will warn the ushers about that. Last thing, what story lines are you watching coming out of spring.

T: Obviously Triple-A should be amazing. With all of the guys that have come through Frisco the last year or so, Triple-A should be great. You’re going to have Jurickson Profar, and probably Joey Gallo, and Nomar Mazara, and Lewis Brinson, if he’s not down with us in Frisco. You’re going to have an amazing opportunity there to watch some really great potential future superstars. Then down at the A-ball level, you have guys in the next wave coming along. Guys like Dillon Tate, guys like Luis Ortiz. Eventually later this summer you will see Mike Matuella and guys like Eric Jenkins and Josh Morgan, kind of the next generation of guys who will become household names and future Rangers.

N: Well thanks for your time! Enjoy your time out here on the back fields!

T: Anytime!

You can follow TepidP on Twitter and in longer, equally eloquent form, over at Lone Star Ball.

– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: bite – the sharp downward break, late or fast, of a curveball or slider.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Spring Training Travels Day 2: The World Beyond Surprise Stadium

Pitchers Instruction

Minor league pitchers go through an instruction session during Saturday’s workout

This marks the second day, first full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. All installments can be found here, including Day 1

We made it to Arizona! Each of us comes to Surprise with slightly different levels of Spring Training experience. Nathan is the most experienced of the three of us, already having been five times previously. For Steve, this is his first ever visit to Spring Training (and we hope it’s not his last).

I’m somewhere in the middle. This week marks my fourth visit to Arizona for Spring Training. But those first three visits were spent exclusively in the major league parks, casually taking in America’s pastime under the sun. Don’t get me wrong; each of those visits was quite enjoyable. However, this year, I’m exploring the minor league side of the complex too, and it’s taking my Spring Training experience to the next level. CIMG0696

On the back fields, you get a little bit of everything. Whether it’s Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre sharing a morning laugh in major league camp, all the minor league pitchers gathering for some morning insight and advice, or just the constant crack of the bat coming from some of the organization’s up-and-comers in one of the various batting practice setups, there’s an interminable feel of baseball in the warm, Arizona air.

After taking in the morning workouts, we stayed in Surprise for the afternoon to take in some of the minor league games against Kansas City. It’s a much different feel than a major league game out here. Not only are the crowds significantly smaller, but they’re mainly composed of other players, coaches and scouts in the organization, as opposed to fans. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to watch a hitter battle through a long at-bat or a pitcher find a way out of trouble. After all, baseball is baseball is baseball, whether it’s played in Surprise Stadium or on Field 6 of the complex.

Beck

2015 RoughRiders 1B/OF Preston Beck takes a hack in one of Saturday’s minor league games

One of the big takeaways from my first day on the back fields was the intrigue of seeing the Rangers organization together as one, with seven practice fields separated by just a few hundred yards. In one moment, you may be looking at the current major leaguers, while the next moment may lead you to the rising stars that will don a minor league uniform this summer in Frisco or elsewhere in the farm system. And sometimes, the major and minor league worlds collide, in the case of non-roster invitees. I’ll have more on them later in the week here on the blog.

Until then, I’m looking forward to spending more time on the back fields. If you’re like me and have only ever seen Spring Training from the major league parks, I’d recommend venturing around the complex a bit more next time you come to really soak up what Spring Training is all about.

The fun is only beginning here in Surprise. Steve will have another update for you tomorrow.

-Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Agate – The baseball. The term may have derived from “marble,” another name for the ball. Agates and aggies were popular forms of marbles.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Meet the Press: 2016 Edition

To our loyal blog readers,

It’s been awhile since our last post. Apologies on that.

You can expect to see consistent content here moving forward. Since last we wrote, much has changed. I, Nathan Barnett, have returned to the organization, filling the role as the leader of the Media Relations department here in Frisco, taking over after a well-lead four-year effort by my former mentor Alex Vispoli. Some fans may remember me from the 2013 season, when I served as a Media Relations Assistant under Alex.

But enough about me. I am thrilled that I will be joined by two excellent up-and-coming stars in the business that are sure to entertain our fans here on this space and on the air as well.

So, without further ado, Steve Goldberg and Ryan Rouillard, in their own words.


Steve Goldberg

Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, once said, “Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

This holds true not just about writing, but also about everything in life. No matter how grueling your schedule may be on a given day, it is a thrill to have a job that you love. For many people, that may love may stem from things like art, history, and literature. Or architecture! (Seinfeld fans, anyone?)

But the love and inspiration for my career comes from baseball. It always has been, and it always will be. Every time I broadcast a game or write a feature story, I recall the experience of the first baseball game I attended and the emotions I felt that day.

I was born a few blocks from Fenway Park in Boston, so baseball naturally slipped into my blood. But my first game was not in Boston. My family moved to Houston in the summer of 1998, and my father took me to the Astrodome the following year.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in May, but the rain outside was not an issue since the Astros played indoors. The Astroturf field was very bizarre, certainly not like the grass fields I played tee-ball on. I could not stop looking at the roof high over the diamond and the giant American and Texas flags hanging above the wall in deep center field.

SteveGoldbergPhoto

The game began, and I was amazed with how much better it was to be there in person instead of just watching it on television. The roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the smell of fresh hot dogs created the perfect atmosphere to enjoy America’s pastime.

I stared up at the press box and envied the broadcasters, who I heard (and imitated) nearly every day from home. They truly lived the dream, sitting in the catbird seat at a baseball stadium every single day.

Later in the game, I asked my father if we could leave our seats for a few minutes to get an ice cream.

“Let’s watch this next batter,” he replied. “Then we can go.”

The mighty, right-handed hitter for St. Louis stepped into the box moments later. Two red birds sat perched on a yellow baseball bat atop the word ‘Cardinals’ in script on the front of his grey jersey. On the back of the uniform, he donned the number 25 with the last name ‘McGwire’ printed in red letters above.

This Mark McGwire fella had just set a new single-season record by hitting 70 home runs the previous year. But I had no idea, at the time. I was just a five-year old, starry-eyed boy awaiting the upcoming events in the game but battling with an ever-present craving for ice cream.

My father was keen about watching this one particular player bat, so I made sure I paid close attention too. Sure enough, McGwire connected with the baseball, and it soared far beyond the outfield wall. As he rounded the bases triumphantly, Dad turned to me with a grin below the moustache on his face.

“Let’s go get some ice cream.”

I returned to my seat with a Chipwich, an ice cream sandwich nestled between two chocolate chip cookies. I still vividly recall how delicious it tasted. Every time I have seen a home run since, I think back to that Chipwich and remember my feelings after McGwire hit that monstrous home run. I knew from that day forward, I wanted to be a part of the ‘larger than life’ game of baseball forever.

Nobody can recall every single pitch, but there should always be key points that stand out to viewers. As a broadcaster and a writer, I keep this in mind when considering the defining moments of a game. You never know what five-year-old, starry-eyed kid in the crowd may be gazing up at the press box envying your job. While eating a Chipwich, of course.

It has been almost 17 years since I first realized my passion for this sport. My first year working in professional baseball took me from my alma mater, the University of Missouri, to Charleston, S.C., and then all the way to Melbourne, Australia.

Now, I am ready to begin the 2016 season as a Media Relations and Broadcasting Assistant for the RoughRiders. Just a four-hour drive from my childhood home in Houston. Back in the Lone Star State.


Ryan Rouillard

I hit my growth spurt in 6th grade, well before most of my friends. As a result, I grew up hearing people tell me I had the bulk to play football, or the height to play basketball. Despite all the outside noise, baseball has always been the clear number one in my life.

Growing up just a few miles east of Seattle, Safeco Field was my home away from home in the summers. I couldn’t get enough of venturing into the Emerald City with my dad and taking in the unique buzz running throughout a baseball stadium.

I grew up idolizing local stars, such as Edgar Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki (I missed Griffey’s first stint in Seattle by a few years). My desire to be like them someday led me to start playing baseball at a young age. But over time, I found a new member of the team to idolize: legendary Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus.

2015

Niehaus, a Hall-of-Famer, was my companion through the airwaves whenever I wasn’t at the ballpark. His unbridled passion and love for baseball only furthered my love for America’s pastime. He would commonly say he never worked a day in his life because he was having so much fun behind the mic, and it was obvious to me listening at home. He became so special to me that I felt like I had lost a family member when he died in 2010.

With Dave as an inspiration, I was the kid who muted the “Backyard Baseball” broadcasters and did it myself. Even sometimes at Safeco Field, I would sit in section 330, just above Dave, and try and call my own game. My dream of broadcasting withered for a few years in high school, but in my senior year, I had a chance to resurrect it when I called Mercer Island High School basketball games on the school’s station. Even though it wasn’t baseball, I had so much fun behind the mic, further understanding why Dave sounded as giddy as he did every night.

When I got to the University of Oregon in 2012, there was no question in my mind that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I got actively involved with the campus radio station, KWVA, during the school year. That place has been – and still is – a great influence on my career. In the summers, I broadcast collegiate summer wood-bat baseball in the West Coast League. I was in Victoria, BC in 2013, before returning stateside to work in Yakima, WA the last two summers. My time in the WCL, where I was calling baseball almost every day for two months, only strengthened my love for baseball and being around such a special sport.

Now, here I am, just a few weeks from graduating and beginning what I know will be a fantastic journey with the RoughRiders. Maybe I could have made it work had I tried football or basketball, like everyone suggested, but I’m not sure either of those would have made me as happy as I am now. Baseball is, and will always be, where my heart lies. I can’t wait to spend another season behind the mic, where I hope my love of the game radiates through the airwaves, just like it did for me with Dave.


Nathan Barnett

As for me, I introduced myself to our readers back in 2013, and, to borrow an old cliche, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Since my time in Frisco, I had the privledge of working with the mighty Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the first as a member of the Rangers farm system and last year as a Cubs affiliate.

We made the finals in 2014 with a handful of past and future RoughRiders: Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Chris Garia, Preston Beck, Royce Bolinger, Kellin Deglan, Jose Leclerc, Cody Ege, Cody Buckel, Chad Bell, Chad James, Luis Parra–the list goes on. That was a special team, a special group of guys that had put together an absurd 2013 season with the Hickory Crawdads (we had Joey Gallo, and Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams, and Chi Chi Gonzalez all earlier that year). The club came up just short of a title, skippered by Joe Mikulik by the way, falling three games to one in the Mills Cup Finals.

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The team captured the crown in year one of the Cubs era in 2015. It was a joyous ride, and I was incredibly proud of those players too.

I cannot wait to get going in the 2016 season (okay–there is still a lot to do before then, so I CAN wait, but still excited!).

Fortunately for all three of us, we don’t have to wait until April 7 when the team plays the season opener in Springdale against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. We will be headed to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona next weekend and will be sure to share our thoughts from the desert!

Until then…

Nathan

Baseball term of the day: hamfatter – a vociferous baseball fan

(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)

Riders Rewind: Audio Highlights From 4.16

The Riders won the first of three against the Arkansas Travelers on Thursday night. Below are the audio highlights from the 2-0 victory.

INNING: TOP 2 
SCORE: RIDERS 1-0
PLAY: Riders strike first thanks to an Eric Stamets throwing error

INNING: BOTTOM 3
SCORE: RIDERS 1-0
PLAY: Jake Skole slides to rob Drew Maggi of a hit 

INNING: TOP 5
SCORE: RIDERS 1-0
PLAY: Andrew Faulkner throws out Chad Hinkle on a slow tapper

INNING: TOP 6
SCORE: RIDERS 2-0
PLAY: Suarez walks Robinson with the bases loaded

INNING: BOTTOM 8
SCORE: RIDERS 2-0
PLAY: Jesus Pirela works out of a bases loaded jam to retire Travs in 8th

INNING: BOTTOM 9
SCORE: RIDERS 2-0
PLAY: Closer Francisco Mendoza records his second save 

Next Game: Frisco RoughRiders (3-4) @ Arkansas Travelers (6-1) on Friday, April 17th at 7:10 p.m.

Probables: Jake Thompson (0-1, 4.50) vs. Tyler DeLoach (1-0, 0.00)

Riders Pregame show starts at 6:50 p.m. Listen live on your computer or smartphone.

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

An update from the desert – Keeping tabs on the AFL

2014-AFL

We are past the halfway point in the Arizona Fall League and RoughRiders have plenty of representation in both former and future players out in the desert, so let’s look at how they are all doing. Last year the Rangers’ “affiliate,” the Surprise Saguaros, won the AFL Championship and through Sunday’s games, Delino DeShields Sr.’s team was 18-12-1. Before we dive into the individual numbers, a little context on the AFL.

You may have heard a lot about the Rangers’ new Advanced-A affiliate, the High Desert Mavericks, and the favorable offensive climate at Mavericks Stadium. Because of the relative ease in scoring runs out in Adelanto, California, evaluators and fans will need to take stats generated there with a grain of salt. The impressive offensive numbers we are likely to see there this season may end up being a mirage after a promotion to Frisco. Likewise, we are due to see some pretty garish ERA’s and other pitching statistics from hurlers out there, so we can’t be too harsh in judging the rough numbers that will undoubtedly hit the box scores.

Now, conditions in the AFL don’t exactly mimic the more hitter-friendly locales in the California League, but the thin air and wind there will help the batters more often than the pitchers, so you always see some bloated numbers for both sides.

There is another reason for this, one you don’t hear quite so much about: the AFL isn’t really it’s all made out to be. Don’t get me wrong, you have a very nice collection of good players there, but it is not the concentrated gathering of elite prospects that Minor League Baseball would lead you to believe it is. Many teams do not send their best prospects out to Arizona, especially on the pitching side. Typically, organizations decide to send their pitchers who did not get enough innings under their belt during the regular season, be it for injury, lack of opportunity or developmental speed bumps (i.e., Houston’s Mark Appel). Not every one of these pitchers is potential star and many are there simply to get in some work, regardless of the results. In that sense, it is a little like spring training for Major League veterans.

The Rangers are not much different from most teams in not sending their very best prospects to the AFL. If that was not the case, you would see Chi Chi Gonzalez, Luke Jackson, Jake Thompson, Luis Ortiz and Keone Kela (among others) suiting up for the Surprise Saguaros this year.   Texas was satisfied with all of those pitchers’ workloads during the regular season and elected to send others to the AFL instead. I’m not suggesting that all of the pitchers out in Arizona are non-prospects, simply that the AFL does not typically get the cream of the crop when it comes to pitching.

Another reason to consider the AFL being a bit watered down is that there are so many other leagues in action at the moment. From Venezuela to the Dominican Republic to Australia, Mexico, Colombia and Puerto Rico, there is a lot of competition from other winter/fall leagues and those circuits guzzle up a considerable of minor league talent. Sure, a lot of players in those leagues are veterans (many former big leaguers stay active this way), but young minor leaguers like Jorge Alfaro, Teodoro Martinez and Nomar Mazara occupy their off-seasons in these leagues too.

If you needed another reason not to take too much stock in the stats you see for individual players, keep in mind that five weeks of baseball in October and November is a relatively small sample size in the context of the full season we see from April through Labor Day. We are all glad we did not make any long-term evaluations of Mazara after his first five weeks (sub-.200 average with one homer in Hickory), right? In addition to the sample size issue, it is the end of a long year for many of these players. It is not uncommon for them to be worn down, masking their true potential. Last year Ryan Rua hit .175 in 17 games for Surprise, two points lower than AFL teammate Jonathan Schoop. Can’t remember if either guy did anything of note in 2014…

The AFL has once again tilted in the direction of the hitters, as through Sunday’s games offenses were averaging more than five runs scored per game and the league ERA was 4.51. The Rangers have seven players on the Saguaros roster this season:

PITCHERS

Lisalverto Bonilla made his big league debut this season with the Rangers. (AP Photo/John F. Rhodes)

Lisalverto Bonilla made his big league debut this season with the Rangers. (AP Photo/John F. Rhodes)

RHP Lisalverto Bonilla: 3 GS, 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 11.2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 HR, 6 BB, 11 SO, 2.43 GO/AO, .222 AVG

Bonilla, a RoughRider in 2013, did not put together eye-popping numbers for Triple-A Round Rock in the regular season, but his performance was enough to earn him a promotion to Arlington, where he won his first three big league starts and posted a 3.05 ERA in 20.2 innings. The Rangers want to see how he can hold up as a starting pitcher, which is not a bad idea given his tools (excellent changeup, solid slider and a low-to-mid-90s fastball. He will compete for a spot on the big league team in the spring and will begin the season either there or in the Pacific Coast League.

RHP Cody Kendall: 6 G, 0-0, 5.68 ERA, 6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 HR, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.33 GO/AO, .296 AVG

The 24-year-old Kendall (he will be 25 in December) had a tremendous year out of the bullpen for both Hickory and Myrtle Beach, going 8-3 with a 1.11 ERA in 56.2 innings. He was not a huge strikeout guy (51 whiffs), but limited runners (1.06 WHIP). Given his age, the Rangers will likely push him to Frisco in 2015, perhaps to start the season, and see if the 2012 eighth rounder is capable of matching his success against more advanced hitters.

RHP Josh McElwee: 6 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 SO, 1.25 GO/AO, .143 AVG

The South Carolinian has picked up Arizona right where he left off following his successful late-season Double-A cameo. He is tied for the best ERA in the AFL and is eighth in WHIP (0.75). McElwee is exactly six months older than Kendall and is in a similar position in needing to prove himself against top hitters. After an up-and-down stint with Hickory to start the season, he did just that in Myrtle Beach (0.42 ERA in 21.2 IP) and Frisco (1.00 ERA in 9 IP). He flashed a good breaking ball and kept his sinker away from the good part of the bat when we saw him in August. The affable McElwee posted a 2.25 ERA and a 92-25 SO-BB ratio across 66.2 minor league innings this season and should be back in the Texas League to begin 2015.

RHP Sam Wolff: 6 G, 0-0, 9.45 ERA, 6.2 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO, 2.00 GO/AO, .323 AVG

Some in the Carolina League attested that Wolff was the most impressive pitcher in the circuit at times, but he suffered a second half swoon in his first full professional season (not uncommon at all), finishing 9-5 with a 3.37 ERA in 120.1 innings. After three scoreless outings to begin his AFL stint, Wolff has struggled in his last three, allowing eight runs in 2.2 innings. A favorite of Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews (they are both from South Dakota), I would expect the right-hander to pitch for the RoughRiders at some point in 2015.

 

HITTERS

C Patrick Cantwell: 6 G, .200 (4 for 20), 1 R, 1 RBI, 0 XBH, 4 BB, 6 SO, .333 OBP, .200 SLG, .533 OPS

Cantwell spent all of 2014 with Frisco and surprised many with a solid offensive campaign after a very slow start. He finished with a .268/.360/.341 line while excelling defensively behind the plate. Cantwell is a contact hitter/get-on-base guy and has great intangibles. I would expect to see him spend a lot of time in big league camp spelling Robinson Chirinos & Co. in spring training games, then either head to Double-A or Triple-A to begin the season.

SS Michael De Leon: 7 G, .231 (6 for 26), 3 R, 2 RBI, 0 XBH, 1 BB, 5 SO, .259 OBP, .231 SLG, .490 OPS

17-year-old Michael De Leon played in one game for Frisco this season. (Grant Nelson/Frisco RoughRiders)

17-year-old Michael De Leon played in one game for Frisco this season. (Grant Nelson/Frisco RoughRiders)

The youngest player in the history of the AFL, De Leon does not turn 18 until January (his birthday is January 14, 1997 if you would like to feel old). He has held his own after doing the same (and sometimes more) in his time with Frisco, Myrtle Beach and Hickory. After making his regular season pro debut as an emergency fill-in with the RoughRiders in May, he spent the bulk of his season with the Crawdads before a late-year promotion to the Carolina League, where he was one of the Pelicans’ top offensive performers in the postseason. De Leon hit .248/.307/.314 across all levels, flashed some of the potential that led Texas to award him a mid-six-figure bonus in 2013 and showed everyone what a 160-pound player physically looks like (rough approximation would be Pablo Sandoval ÷ 2). He may be in High Desert for the entirety of 2015.

OF Nick Williams: 15 G, .267 (16 for 60), 4 2B, 3B, HR, 9 HR, 5 R, 0 BB, 16 SO, 0-1 SB, .290 OBP, .417 SLG, .707 OPS

The Galveston native has carried the water for the Rangers hitters on the Saguaros, as he has the highest batting average and is the only one with an extra-base hit (he has six). Williams is tied for fourth in the AFL in hits, tied for ninth in RBI, third in total bases (25) and tied for second in strikeouts (with no walks). The lefty batter oozes potential at the plate and is considered by many to be the best pure hitter in the farm system. As the former second rounder out of high school ball matures, he will need to develop a more controlled approach. When he does, he will really be a special player to watch in the batter’s box. Williams should spend 2015 with the RoughRiders after finishing up the season in Frisco (.226-0-4); he hit .283/.331/.462 for the season (the bulk coming in Myrtle Beach).

 

– Alex

SDCS Game Three Notes: Do or Die


Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

A 3-2 win for the Midland RockHounds in game three sets up a must-win scenario for the RoughRiders in game four of the Texas League South Division Championship Series. Click here to read the Game Two recap.

Much has attention has been paid the RoughRiders for their “prospect-packed” roster, and deservedly so. But a pair of prospects on Midland’s veteran-laden lineup have played a key role in the outcome of this series. Daniel Robertson, the number one prospect in the A’s organization, drove in a run in his Double-A debut to give Midland a 1-0 lead. Fellow infielder Matt Chapman, in his first full year of professional baseball, batted 2-for-3 on Friday with two RBI, a double and a back-breaking home run off Alec Asher in the seventh to snap a 2-2 tie. Chapman’s home run was a particularly sharp dagger because the ‘Riders had managed to tie the score in the top of the inning.

It’s not like the A’s are stacking Midland’s roster for a playoff push, either. Robertson arrived after his Advanced-A Stockton squad fell in the California League playoffs. He replaces Hiro Nakajima, who broke his wrist in game one at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Chapman, meanwhile, takes the place of Jefry Marte, who was shut down on the final day of the regular season with an oblique injury.

Star of the Game: 2B Odubel Herrera – 2/3, R, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 SB, SO

Odubel has had a great series with five hits in three games. He also has three RBI, three walks, a double and a home run. The ‘Riders will need him to stay hot to have a chance in game four.

In case you missed it:

-Frisco outhit Midland 9-8.

-The ‘Riders had a chance to score early with men at the corners in the first inning. They stranded both runners and abandoned men on second and third in the seventh with the score knotted at 2-2.

-The RoughRiders scored another unearned run on a throwing error by Max Muncy in the third inning. There has been at least one unearned run scored by either team in all three games of the series.

-Nick Williams has a hit in all three games of the series.

 

Game two starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff shares his thoughts about what went right and what went wrong against the RockHounds in a 6-3 loss on Thursday:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

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