Results tagged ‘ Frisco RoughRiders ’

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.

SDCS Game Two Notes: Balk


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.

The ‘Riders crashed from their Game One victory high and fell from grace in a hard way. Midland took a grueling game two 6-3 on Thursday as the series shifts to Midland for the next two nights. Click here to read the Game Two recap.

Let’s hope the RoughRiders just needed to get a game like this out of their system. At times, it was flat out ugly. The ‘Riders committed four errors, including three alone on catcher Jorge Alfaro. Midland also drew eight walks and placed a total of 20 men on base (more than two per inning on average).

At that rate, it seemed like the RockHounds constantly had runners in scoring position with their paws on the RoughRiders’ throats. And yet, the game was tied at 3-3 in the ninth when, alas, the ‘Riders lost their composure. Midland scored a run on a wild pitch and another on a balk and really did not have to do a whole lot to take the win away from the ‘Riders. It was given. Furthermore, Jason Wood was ejected after second base umpire, Clay Park charged Erik Hamren with a balk that allowed Jeremy Barfield to score and put the Hounds up 6-3. Afterwards, as Park walked back to his position, he allegedly caught some verbal flak from Odubel Herrera and ejected the RoughRiders’ second baseman as well.

As disappointing as it was to see the ‘Riders unravel, the came out in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the bases with two outs. The RockHounds had to haul their closer Jose Flores out of the bullpen, so the ‘Riders certainly made Midland sweat a bit at the end.

Ultimately, the game was a clunker for the bullpen and did not end on a high note for the starter, Jerad Eickhoff. The righty slogged his way through his first five innings but had grudgingly allowed just one unearned run and stranded six runners on base. But he walked his final batter faced, Matt Chapman, a call-up from Low-A in just his second Double-A game. Eickhoff could not close out the Hounds in the sixth and the bullpen proceeded to blow a 3-1 lead. Ryan Rodebaugh walked the lone man he faced (the nine hitter) and Joseph Ortiz gave up consecutive run-scoring hits and the two-out rally brought Midland right back into the game.

Star of the Game: SS Hanser Albert0 – 2/4, R

Hanser continues to build off a strong end to the regular season. He has three hits in two postseason games with a double, a run and two RBI.

In case you missed it:

-Midland did not hit a ball out of the infield in the ninth inning.

-A total of three balks were charged in the game (two to Frisco).

-The RoughRiders left the bases loaded in the first and the ninth innings.

-Nick Williams has been red hot at the plate in the playoffs, but continues to be a liability in the field. On Thursday, he drove in two runs on a single to left, but was thrown out trying to sneak into second on the back end of the play to end the inning. Nick also dropped a can of corn in center field in the eighth inning. Jake Skole replaced him in the field in the eighth inning.

-After the ‘Riders scored on a suicide squeeze play in game one, Midland answered with a suicide squeeze of its own on Thursday. The Hounds also socred on a safety squeeze by Conner Crumbliss in the sixth inning.

-There has been at least one unearned run in both games of the series.

 

Game one star Odubel Herrera chats about his strong performance in the playoff opener:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

SDCS Game One Notes: ‘Riders Strike First


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.

An attack plan of aggressive hitting and baserunning, coupled with sturdy situational pitching, propelled the RoughRiders to a 7-3 win in the opening salvo of the Texas League South Division Championship Series. Click here to read the Game One recap.

Those with a tendency to overreact (guilty) may have grown concerned when the RockHounds put the first two men on base with nobody out in the first. Chi Chi Gonzalez exonerated himself well and picked up three straight outs (good situational pitching) to ferry the game to the bottom of the first when all of a sudden…BANG! The ‘Riders put a six-spot on the board and took control of the game.

Odubel Herrera’s leadoff home run opened the scoring, but Trever Adams turned the tide when he pushed a bunt brilliantly up the third base line. It caught the RockHounds completely off guard in an example of the aggressive hitting tactics employed by Jason Wood’s squad. Joey Gallo then reached on an error by first baseman Hiro Nakajima and Midland suddenly looked rattled. After J.T. Wise bounced out, a wild ball four to Nomar Mazara brought home Adams and the levy broke. The bottom of the order rattled off three straight run-scoring hits and before you could blink, the scoreboard read 6-0 ‘Riders.

Star of the Game: 2B Odubel Herrera – 1/3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 2 SO, SAC

He may have been the Texas League batting champion, but few expected Odubel to turn on Nate Long’s 0-2 offering and send it way out of the yard to right field. The native of Zulia, Venezuela only cracked two long balls in the regular season with Frisco, but discovered a pitch in his wheelhouse and delivered the first postseason home run for the RoughRiders.

After the RockHounds chipped away at the lead and made the score 6-2, Odubel came through again on the bunt side of a perfectly executed sacrifice squeeze. It reestablished a five-run advantage for the ‘Riders in the fifth inning and helped discourage any thoughts of a Midland comeback. Odubel helped his team in a multitude of ways at the plate in the form of flashy power and yeoman finesse.

In case you missed it:

-The ‘Riders scored six runs on five hits in the first inning. Five runs scored after Nakajima’s error in the first inning and thus were unearned.

-San Antonio was the last team in the Texas League to score six or more runs in the first inning of a playoff game. The Missions dropped seven run on the RoughRiders in game four of the South Division Championship Series on September 10, 2011.

-The half dozen runs in a single inning is tied for the second-highest run total for the RoughRiders in team history. The ‘Riders also scored six runs in their inaugural season against the Wichita Wranglers on September 4, 2003 in game three of the East Division Championship Series (the divisions were realigned prior to the 2006 season).

-Frisco posted a seven-run fourth inning in game three of the East Division Championship Series against the Tulsa Drillers on September 9, 2004. The ‘Riders would go on to capture their lone Texas League crown later that month.

-Frisco batted around in the first inning and sent ten men to the plate.

-The RoughRiders racked up all eight of their hits in the first three innings…

-…But that didn’t stop the ‘Riders from scoring in the fifth. In an impressive display of small ball, Nick Williams drew a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hanser Alberto. A throwing error on third baseman Max Muncy allowed Alberto to take two bases and move Williams down to third. Jason Wood boldly called for a sacrifice squeeze and Herrera dropped the bunt right into no man’s land between home plate and the mound. Williams bolted home and scored before the RockHounds even fielded the bunt. It was another unearned run for the ‘Riders.

-Midland first baseman Hiro Nakajima was injured on the Alberto sacrifice and left the game in the fifth inning. Nakajima reached to his left to reel in a wide throw from Muncy at third when his extended arm was clipped by Alberto as he raced to beat the throw. Chad Oberacker replaced Nakajima at first for the rest of the game.

-Midland’s last chance came in the eighth inning. Will Lamb, who pitched a flawless seventh, ran into trouble when Kenny Wilson tripled to start the frame. Lamb then walked Muncy, which brought Josh McElwee out of the bullpen. McElwee allowed an RBI single to Kent Matthes and then walked Jeremy Barfield to reload the bases. Uh oh. But in the finest example of situational pitching last night, McElwee retired the next three batters in order to strand the bases full and hold the Hounds to just one run in the frame. McElwee suddenly turned the corner when he struck out Dusty Coleman on three pitches. D’Arby Myers popped out to short on the second pitch of his at-bat and Oberacker went down swinging to retire the side. McElwee ended the inning on eight straight strikes and flashed a very impressive slider that fooled Midland considerably.

-Jake Skole replaced Nick Williams in center field for the ninth inning.

 

Double-barrel action in the bullpen today featuring Jason Wood and Wednesday’s starter Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

Buckle Up


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.

Here we go. Playoff baseball returns to Dr Pepper Ballpark for the first time since 2012 as the Frisco RoughRiders open up a best-of-five series with the Midland RockHounds for the right to represent the South Division in the Texas League Championship Series. But first, a look back at how the regular season ended.

It’s important not to use the results of the regular season finale against Midland to portend the outcome of the playoff series. However, the ‘Riders have just cause to feel confident. After they dropped Saturday’s game to the Hounds, the RoughRiders needed to win the final two games to secure home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The scenario served as a dry run of sorts to see how the ‘Riders would rise or fall to the challenge of winning a game with something extra on the line. They passed the beta test with flying colors, outscoring Midland by ten runs over the final two games of the regular season. Frisco achieved several season milestones in the process:

  • The RoughRiders posted the best record in the South Division for both the first half (40-29) and second half (40-30) of the season. It’s the first time the ‘Riders have clinched both halves since 2008, a season in which they lost to Arkansas in the Texas League Championship Series.
  • The regular season record of 80-59 is the fourth-best in franchise history. It’s the fifth time in 12 seasons the ‘Riders have reached the 80-win plateau. Eighty wins is also a career high for Jason Wood as a manager.
  • Frisco finished 41-29 at Dr Pepper Ballpark on the season, 39-30 on the road, 51-41 against the South Division and 29-18 against the North Division.

Star of the Game: LHP Andrew Faulkner – 5.0 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 6 K

Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Hanser Alberto each hit home runs, but Andrew takes the cake for submitting his finest outing since his August 2 when he won his first Double-A decision. The southpaw looked tired at times (quite understandably) over the final month of the season, but looked rejuvenated on the hill in his first outing in seven days. His five shutout frames serve as an unmistakable confidence boost going into the playoffs. Andrew ended the regular season with his second win as a RoughRider.

In case you missed it:

-In an ironic twist, J.T. Wise was the only RoughRider without a base hit on Monday. That didn’t stop the 28-year-old from receiving Texas League Player of the Week honors for August 25-September 1. J.T. turned in one of the finest offensive weeks on the team this season in the final week. He batted .333 and clocked five home runs in a consecutive four-game stretch and drove in 12 runs. The resident of Las Vegas joined Jake Skole as the only ‘Riders to hit multiple home runs in a game and became the third ‘Rider with a grand slam this year. He posted an incredulous 1.268 in the month of August.

-Frisco went out with a bang offensively, but it’s important to note the damage came off Kyle Finnegan, a call-up from Low-A who made his Double-A debut on Monday. Finnegan likely won’t play in the playoff series, but still, the ‘Riders did what they should have done against a pitcher as green to the level as Finnegan.

-The shutout marked the 12th of the season for the ‘Riders. They finished 12-6 in shutout games for a .667 winning percentage. By comparison, the RockHounds finished 10-5 for a .667 winning percentage as well.

-Gallo: 1-for-2, R, HR, 3 RBI, SF, BB, SO

Joey finished the regular season with a bang, quite literally. After his towering blast to right field in the first inning to open the scoring, Joey finished with 21 homers as a RoughRider and 42 on the season. He ends a thrilling regular season second in the Texas League in home runs behind Telvin Nash’s 22 and second in the minors behind Kris Bryant’s 43. Joey also lead the Carolina League with 21 home runs in a span of just over two months in Advanced-A.

-A final look at the RoughRiders home run leader board (current players only):

1. Joey Gallo (21)

2. Trever Adams (14)

3. J.T. Wise (11)

4. Jake Skole (6)

5. Jorge Alfaro (4)

6. Teodoro Martinez (3)

6. Nomar Mazara (3)

8. Odubel Herrera (2)

8. Hanser Alberto (2)

10. Patrick Cantwell (1)

 

Hear from the hottest hitter in the Texas League at the end of the regular season, J.T. Wise:

 

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

Meeting Mazara

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Nomar Shamir Mazara Jiminian joined the Texas Rangers organization with plenty of high expectations. Three years ago on July 2, the Rangers signed the then 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic for a record-setting $4.95 million—the largest bonus for an international prospect in Major League Baseball. The front office views Mazara as a cornerstone talent for the future and a valuable left-handed power hitter who just needs time to mature.

How has Mazara handled this pressure during his first three seasons of professional baseball?

“I am just the same guy every day no matter what. I don’t worry about anything else. Whatever I have to give, I bring it all to the clubhouse and the field for my team.”

Mazara, who was called up to Double-A on August 4, admitted there were early bumps along the road. In his first full minor league season, Mazara played 126 games with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads and batted .236 with 62 RBI and 13 home runs.

The Dominican didn’t allow the mental aspect of his game to become a detriment; instead, he learned from the 2013 season and adjusted his approach at the plate.

“Last season was my first full year, and I did struggle to start,” Mazara said. “I knew I was better than that. So I used that to prepare my mind, telling myself I had to get out of it. I put a lot of work in, tried to be more patient and started looking more for the pitch that I wanted.”

That attitude did not go unnoticed by the Rangers. When Mazara took the leap over Advanced-A and went directly from the ‘Dads to the RoughRiders, general manager Jon Daniels said the surprising promotion was in large part due to Mazara doing what his club asked him to do all year.

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“I guess it’s because I always give it my all,” Mazara said. “I don’t care if I go 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I’m always going to be the same guy for my team.”

Since his arrival to the United States from Santo Domingo, Mazara’s quick hands at the plate have caught the eyes of scouts. Once he starts his swinging motion, it doesn’t take long for him to get from point A to point B.

“When I was working out before I signed, I worked a lot with my agent with heavy bats,” Mazara said. “It built up my strength and made me work for every swing. I think that’s why I have such quick hands and have that speed.”

Major league teams covet left-handed power hitters, and the Rangers believe Mazara has the tools to become a strong southpaw with increased muscle on his 200-pound frame. However, he doesn’t want his batting prowess to be his only valued strength and expects to hone more of his tools.

“My defense, my power, my speed,” Mazara said. “I want to be known for all of those. It’s always good to develop these things and be able to do many things on the field. It’s going to make me a better player. I’m going to keep developing that, continue getting in the weight room, doing my agility drills and putting work in.”

Standing 6-foot-4, Mazara is taller than all his fielding teammates not named Joey Gallo. He uses this height and reach to his advantage when chasing down fly balls in right field. Back in his hometown, though, Mazara’s stature helped in more ways than one.

“When I was little, I actually started playing basketball first,” Mazara said. “I started playing when I was four and picked up baseball when I was five. I ended up playing both at the same time during my childhood. Then when I was about 13 or 14, my father told me to quit playing basketball and start focusing on baseball. It was the right move for me because I like to play baseball much more.”

It’s becoming more and more apparent that Mazara’s father (whose first name is Ramon—Nomar’s name backwards) made a smart decision for his son. Mazara is currently the youngest player in Double-A and will inevitably play a vital role in the Rangers’ future. Yet, Mazara isn’t concerned about the future. He is focusing on the present and ready to help the ‘Riders in September.

“I want to finish hard,” Mazara said. “There’s not too much left of the season, but I want to give my best and help my team. We have a chance to win the championship, and I want to be a part of that.”

-Jay Wallis

The Ongoing Story of Joey Gallo

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Joey Gallo.

The name alone sends chills down pitchers’ backs and gives Rangers’ fans hope for the future. Still shy of his 21st birthday this November, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound phenomenon has burst onto the Frisco stage with an assortment of dynamic home runs in every direction. He seems to have all the tools necessary to eventually make his way to the big stage and big lights in Arlington.

Some MLB teams, though, did not initially buy into the hard-hitting high schooler when he entered the 2012 MLB draft. Gallo showcased plenty of raw power at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, but there was concern his game was one-dimensional and that his height would prohibit him from playing an infield position. The Rangers weighed the risks and decided to take a chance on him with the 39th pick in the supplemental first round.

Now in his third season, Gallo has quickly gone from a well-known prospect in the Rangers organization to a name recognizable across professional baseball.

As a teenager in 2013, Gallo blasted 40 homers that season and earned the Joe Bauman Award as the top home run hitter in the minor leagues. In the process, he became the first teenager in more than 50 years to hit 40 home runs in a minor league season. The buzz around Gallo only grew at the start of this season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach.

In just over two months with the Pelicans, Gallo was a three-time Player of the Week in the Carolina League and belted three home runs in a game twice. The Carolina League named Gallo to its Mid-Season All-Star team, giving him yet another accolade to add to his collection. With the hype around Gallo continuing to increase, the Rangers offered Gallo a bigger challenge.

A Double-A call-up provides challenges for young players as the pitching and level of play makes a substantial leap. Gallo, though, proved up to the task in his RoughRiders debut on June 9.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the newcomer left an unparalleled first impression when he smashed a 2-0 pitch to left field for a walk-off, three-run home run to give his new team the dramatic victory.

Gallo has dealt with some growing pains during his first few months with the team, but the lefty has shown an ability to learn on the fly while continuing to rapidly pound the ball. Since the time of his promotion, Gallo has led the Texas League in homers, runs batted in, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. He once again has the chance to reach the 40 home run plateau and would become the first minor leaguer to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons since 1981-1982.

Gallo’s power was also on display during MLB All-Star week in the Futures Game. In an exhibition contest between the top minor league baseball prospects, Gallo led Team USA to a 3-2 victory over Team World by hammering another 2-0 pitch well out of the park. This go-ahead, two-run shot in the sixth inning was enough for Gallo to earn the game’s MVP award.

In the midst of an injury-ridden season in Arlington, there has been a bright spot on the north side of the metroplex. Gallo has been a subject worth writing about and a player worth watching every time he steps up to the plate.

But the story doesn’t end there. With plenty of room for improvement and an attitude set on getting better every day, Gallo has the opportunity to control his own narrative and leave an imprint on the Rangers organization. One home run at a time.

-Jay Wallis

Hot Herrera

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By: Jay Wallis

Odubel Herrera has been working his way up the Rangers farm system year by year since 2009 when he competed in the Dominican Summer League. He has played overseas and in Spokane, Hickory, Myrtle Beach and now Frisco. Always known as a freak athlete with plenty of energy, Herrera seems to be finding his footing this season.

Herrera, 22, is currently one of the RoughRiders most versatile players, both at the plate and on the field. Since being called up from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach in mid-May, very few have hit the ball better than Herrera. He might not have the type of star-power or literal power as Joey Gallo, for example, but Herrera knows how to make contact and get on base.

The native of Zulia, Venezuela is batting .410 (34-for-83) with five doubles, a triple, 11 RBI, nine runs scored, five walks and six steals in only his last 21 games. Since June 11, the second baseman leads the Texas League in batting average and is third in on-base percentage.

This quick ascension into productivity is a major reason the infielder earned his second straight All-Star appearance with the ‘Riders despite the fact that he played the first part of the season with the Pelicans. But it’s more than that. Even though he plays a position that often times causes mistakes to be made from time to time, the second baseman still has not committed an error in 43 consecutive games—which is every single game he’s played in Frisco. He rarely forces his throws and consistently makes the difficult play look effortless.

Since former ‘Riders second baseman Rougned Odor is blossoming with the Rangers and the Triple-A Round Rock Express have three second baseman already on the roster, Herrera might find himself in Frisco the rest of the year, despite his continued improvement. With many of the ‘Riders most reliable players being moved up recently, causing the team to struggle finding consistency, the 5-11, 200-pound infielder provides a source of dependability any successful sports team needs.

Second Inning Slide (Again)

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.

Well, this story line is officially past its expiration date. Another quirky second inning seemed to knock the RoughRiders off balance and Arkansas inflicted a rare series loss upon Frisco at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Click here to read the full game recap.

For the second straight night, a costly defensive miscue in the second inning nipped the ‘Riders. With a runner on first, a fielding error on Guilder Rodriguez placed two men on with no outs. The next batter, Eric Stamets, popped a towering fly ball that didn’t leave the infield.

The ball initially drifted towards Trever Adams at first base, but with 30-mph gusts blowing across the diamond from right to left, Adams soon embarked on a mad chase across the infield as the wind pushed the ball to the third base foul line.

Not only did the cowhide elude Adams’ glove, it landed fair in the dirt mere feet from the foul territory to load the bases.

Kyle Hudson followed and drove a grounder to second baseman Odubel Herrera on the edge of the outfield grass. The play would have likely scored a run regardless, but the ‘Riders at least had an opportunity to record the first out of the frame.

Instead, Adams broke off the first base bag upon contact in expectation of a bunt from Hudson. When Herrera fielded the ball, Adams was nowhere near the bag and Herrera had to eat the ball and all Travelers were safe once again.

Frisco turned a double play later in the inning, which would have ended the Travs’ chances had an out been made on the Hudson ground ball. Arkansas scored another run on the twin killing and took the lead for good.

Star of the Game: CF Ryan Strausborger – 3/4, R, 3B

Ryan scored the first ‘Riders run for the second straight night. He flashed his speed on the base path with a leadoff triple in the first inning and again in sixth when he moved from first to third in on a base knock by Patrick Cantwell. “Straus” is 7-for-12 through his first three games in a RoughRiders’ uniform this season with three runs, a double, a triple, a home run and four RBI. The centerfielder also notched an outfield assist when he threw out Brian Hernandez at third base in the eighth inning.

In case you missed it:

-The RoughRiders lost a series at home for the first time since April 7. The opponent? Arkansas.

-Patrick Cantwell threw out two would-be basestealers on Friday. The Travelers rank second in the Texas League in stolen bases, but succeeded just once in the series.

-Frisco had a chance to score in the third. With Strausborger on second base and two outs, Cantwell bounced a grounder to short. An errant throw allowed Cantwell to reach, but the Travs escaped the inning because they caught Strausborger in a rundown between third and home. Strausborger may have taken the play for granted and assumed Cantwell would be thrown out, and thus overran third.

-Gallo watch: 0-for-4, 3SO

-Former RoughRider Mike Bianucci posted a modest 3-for-4 line with a run last night. Bianucci turned in perhaps the most impressive offensive series against the ‘Riders this season. In three games, the slugger batted 8-for-13 with six runs, two doubles, a home run and three RBI.

 

 

I had the chance to chat with Assistant Hitting Coordinator Brook Jacoby on Friday. Jacoby, a two-time MLB All-Star, joined the minor league staff this season after a seven-year run as the hitting coach for Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds (think Joey Votto, Ken Griffey, Jr., Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, etc.). He draws some interesting parallels between hitters in both places. Lots of insight in this interview:

Thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

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