Results tagged ‘ Midland RockHounds ’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then we came to Player of the Year.

The Candidates

So, should I vote for Anthony Aliotti?

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

George Springer, MiLB.com

George Springer, MiLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

Anthony Aliotti, (Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American)

Anthony Aliotti, (Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American)

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

Full disclosure here, I voted for Springer.

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

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

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

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

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

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Generated 8/27/2013.

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

Nicholas is the only one with enough games/at bats

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

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

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

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

Nicholas is not in a great hitting environment

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

Citibank Ballpark - Midland, Texas

Citibank Ballpark – Midland, Texas

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

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

(table and statistics from BaseballAmerica.com)

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

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Dr Pepper Ballpark – Frisco, Texas

Whataburger Field - Corpus Christi, Texas

Whataburger Field – Corpus Christi, Texas

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


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

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


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

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

Nicholas doesn’t play a premium defensive position

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

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

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

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


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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

- Nathan

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

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Home Sweet Home: More Colby Lewis

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The ‘Riders are back, but don’t blink–they depart for the road in just three days time. The shortest home stand of the season begins today, and Colby Lewis will take the hill for the ‘Riders for the third time. The rehabber is trying to return from surgery to a torn flexor tendon suffered a little over a year ago.

Tickets are still available for all three games; don’t miss your chance to come catch Colby in a ‘Riders uniform–it could be your last chance to do so. Alex Buchholz has turned himself into a headliner the recently as well. He is hitting .375 in July and his four home runs in the last ten days lead the entire Rangers system–big leagues and minor leagues.

Here are the probables for the three-game set, the shortest home stand of the season:

Monday: RHP Colby Lewis (0-0, 10.80 ERA) vs Murphy Smith (7-7, 3.33 ERA)

Tuesday: RHP Tyler Tufts (3-2, 3.42 ERA) vs RHP Zach Neal (6-8, 4.62 ERA)

Wednesday: RHP Carlos Pimentel (8-6, 3.95 ERA) vs LHP Carlos Hernandez (5-7, 2.62 ERA)

Here are the promotions for the upcoming season:

Monday, July 22   |  7:05 p.m.  | RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (OAK)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details)

Tuesday, July 23   |  7:05 p.m.  | RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (OAK)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details)

  • RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger

Wednesday, July 24  |  7:05 p.m.  | RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (OAK)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details)

  • Dollar Dog Night
  • RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day:  gumshoe man - a scout

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Home Sweet Home: Day baseball aplenty and the return of Richard Bleier

The Frisco RoughRiders return home in second place in the Texas League, trailing only their opponent from this past weekend, the Corpus Christi Hooks. The ‘Riders split the four-game series with the Astros affiliate.

Today, they begin a four-game series with the Midland RockHounds, the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. This is the first trip of the season for the RockHounds to Dr Pepper Ballpark; the two teams got acquainted last week when Frisco dropped three of four games at Citibank Ballpark in Midland.

The RoughRiders announced today that Richard Bleier has been added to the roster, received from Triple-A Round Rock, where he began the season. Bleier threw for the RoughRiders in each of the last three seasons. We will have more on him later in the week; he is projected to start on Thursday.

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Richard Bleier returns to Frisco this home stand, having made eight appearances for the Triple-A Round Rock Express thus far.

This is how the pitching matchups line up:

Monday: Tyler Tufts vs. Zach Neal

Tuesday: Neil Ramirez vs. Arnold Leon

Wednesday: Kevin Pucetas vs. Sean Murphy

Thursday: Richard Bleier vs. TBA

Home stand promotions and broadcast info:

Monday, May 13   |   7:00 p.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Tuesday, May 14   |   11:00 a.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Wednesday, May 15   |   11:00 a.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details):

  • Dollar Dog Night
  • RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger

Thursday, May 16   |   7:00 p.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details):

  • $1 Dr Pepper Thursdays
  • RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger

Friday, May 17   |   7:00 p.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details):

  • Friday Night Post-game fireworks
  • RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger
  • Smashburger SMASH inning

Saturday, May 18   |   7:00 p.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
TV: KTXD    Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details):

  • Free ‘Riders sunshade
FREE SUNSHADES!

FREE SUNSHADES!

Sunday, May 19   |   4:00 p.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
TV: KTXD    Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

Promotions (click here and also here for more details)

  • Kids Run the Bases
  • Raising Cane’s Grand Slam Sunday
  • RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger

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Monday, May 20   |   11:00 a.m.   |   RoughRiders vs. San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

For information on tickets to see the RoughRiders in 2013, please call (972) 731-9200, email info@ridersbaseball.com or visit www.ridersbaseball.com.

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: radio balla fastball thrown so hard, the batter claims he can hear it but not see it 

Texas League Prospects (South Division)

Today, we look at some of the prospects in the Texas League South Division and their performance this first month and a half of play.   The South Division has held the lead in the league, currently occupying the top four places in the rankings.

Corpus Christi Hooks:

George Springer, CF – Springer is ranked as the 3rd prospect by Baseball America in the Houston Astros system.  The 23-year-old is also the Astros’ top outfielder.  In his first year at the Double-A level, George leads the Hooks this season in runs (27), hits (35), doubles (9) home runs (11) and RBIs (27).  Springer also leads the Texas League in home runs, RBIs  and total bases (77).

Springer

Frisco RoughRiders:

Hanser Alberto, SS – Alberto is ranked as the 15th prospect in the Rangers’ system, and is the top ranked position player on the RoughRiders’ roster by Baseball America.  Hanser has hit .289 in his 30 games this season with 114 at-bats and has had 13 runs on 33 hits with an RBI of 14.  As of opening day, he was the youngest player in the Texas League and the second youngest at the Double-A level at the age of 20.

Alberto_2

San Antonio Missions:

Matt Andriese, RHP – Andriese is ranked by Baseball America as the Padres’ 20th prospect and the ninth top pitcher in the San Diego system.  The 23-year-old has gone 5-0 with an ERA of 2.19 this season with seven starts, opponents hitting .196.  Andriese leads the Missions and the Texas League in wins (5).

Andriese

Midland RockHounds:

Miles Head, 3B – At the age of 22, Head is ranked 7th and the top third baseman in the Oakland Athletics’ system by Baseball America.   Head’s swing is quick and compact, and he has cited as having excellent bat control.  Miles is hitting .206 in 28 games with 107 at-bats and has 11 runs off 22 hits.  He has hit two home runs this season.  In his three games against the RoughRiders, Miles had three runs with eight at-bats striking out twice and walking four times.

Head

___

In ‘Riders News:

Coming off a 6-4 win over the Hooks last night, Frisco continues their series in Corpus Christi tonight at 7.  Kevin Pucetas will start for the RoughRiders and faces Nick Tropeano.

The ‘Riders return to Dr Pepper Ballpark Monday night at 7 against the Midland RockHounds.

Baseball term of the day: Pull the trigger - to decide to swing at the pitch.

-Ryan

‘Riders in Review: April 2013

A month into the books, and the ‘Riders are off to a solid start. As we began May yesterday, the RoughRiders sat at 14-11, tied for the best record in the Texas League with the Midland Rockhounds. As we settle in to the month of May (despite the temperatures in the 40s today!), it’s time to a quick look back at how we got to where we are are:

April Overview

Texas League Rankings

Record: 14-11 (T-1st), home: 8-3, road: 6-8, vs. division: 6-7

Runs: 107 (3rd)

Average: .250 (3rd)

Home runs: 17 (5th)

ERA: 2.87 (3rd)

Attendance: 7060 (1st)

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OF Jared Hoying‘s second season in Frisco is off to a great start

Awards

The ‘Riders were kept of out of the Player of the Week honors in the Texas League in April, but it doesn’t mean we can’t give out our own honors.

‘Riders Slugger of the Month: Jared Hoying (.293/.363/.543, 12 R, 7 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 10 BB, 3-4 SB)

Hoying started a little slow, especially in the run production department, as he didn’t pick up his first RBI until the fifth game of the year, but Hoying was far and away the ‘Riders best overall hitter. Jared finished the month third on the team in hitting (behind Rodriguez, Alberto), second in OBP (Rodriguez) and first in SLG. His three steals also tied him for second most of the team.  His game of the month came on April 16, a 14-7 RoughRiders come-from-behind win at home. Hoying went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk and 5 RBI, tying a career high for him (he knocked in five in a game in 2010 as a member of the Spokane Indians).

‘Riders Hurler of the Month: Randy Henry (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 18.1 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 HRA, 20 K, 1 BB, 1 HB, 0.76 WHIP, .200 BAA)

Henry didn’t start a game for the ‘Riders in the month, but the way he pitched during April, he seems primed for a spot in rotation if the Rangers want to move him into that role. He was moved to the rotation in Myrtle last season and didn’t fair as well as he did in the ‘pen, so we will see. He dominated the Texas League in April coming in as a reliever. His low 90s fastball with cutting action ate up left-handed hitters who went just 3-for-25 against the right-handed pitcher with one double and nine strikeouts.

Randy Henry was a force in April, his month of his RoughRiders career

RHP Randy Henry was a force in April, his month of his RoughRiders career

In total, of the 13 hits allowed, only four went for extra bases, three doubles and the one home run, which, luckily for Henry came after a misplayed foul pop-up off the bat of Tommy Medica, thus the sterling ERA.

Like Hoying, Henry’s best outing came on April 16 against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Coming into a 10-7 ‘Riders lead in the fifth, Henry retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced. Only Naturals leadoff man Brett Eibner beat Henry, rapping a single to start his third inning of work.

Official Texas League Players of the week:

April 4-14: P – Burch Smith (San Antonio Missions); B – Matt Long (Arkansas Travelers)

April 15-21: P – Asher Wojciechowski (Corpus Christi Hooks); B – Brett Eibner (Northwest Arkansas)

April 22-28: P – Jarrett Grube (Arkansas Travelers); B – Mike O’Neill (Springfield Cardinals)

Punching Bag of the Month:

Northwest Arkansas’ J.C. Sulbaran - In two starts against Frisco, the Naturals’ starting pitcher went 0-2 with an 11.08 ERA. He didn’t make it past five innings in either start, and in 7.2 IP, he surrendered 10 hits, three of them long balls, on the way to 10 earned runs against his ledger. The rough start meant a role change, as Sulbaran was relegated to the bullpen after just two starts. Things have continued south for him since then as well.

Best Moment of the Month:

With honorable mentions to Guilder Rodriguez‘s win in the 17-inning contest, the six-game winning streak and the dramatic 9th inning finish Tuesday night, this month’s Moment of the Month comes from the bat of Brett Nicholas. The RoughRiders, in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the longest of April, had not led in the stretch of four games. They hadn’t scored in 15 innings. Down 3-0, with the bases loaded in the 7th inning of the April 28 tilt against the Corpus Christi Hooks, Nicholas launched his second career grand slam and fifth home run of the season, past the Kroger Pool Zone in right field. The blast gave Frisco a 4-3 lead, and they held on for the win. The ‘Riders won their next two games as well, to finish the month on a three-game winning streak.

How did the prospects do?

Frisco’s Opening Day Roster contained six prospects in the Baseball America Rangers Organization top 30:  RHP Cody Buckel (8), RHP Roman Mendez (13), IF Hanser Alberto (15), RHP Wilmer Font (22), RHP Neil Ramirez (23) and RHP Randy Henry (29).

Cody Buckel - Cody had a month to forget in April. Entering the season as the top prospect in the system on the ‘Riders roster, Buckel went 0-4 with an ERA of 18.00 in five starts. His only no-decision came in the RoughRiders 14-7 come from behind win. The good: In nine innings, Buckel struck out nine batters. The bad: He walked 25, hit three batters and threw just 118 of his 270 pitches for strikes (44%). He had issues commanding any of six pitches, and the lack of fastball command put him behind most hitters in the count. At the end of the month, the Rangers made the decision to move Buckel to the Frisco bullpen.

Roman MendezMendez was extremely sharp to begin the season, and like Henry, finished his April with a perfect ERA. Mendez completed the first month with a 1-0 record, an ERA of 0.00, and ten strikeouts in his 11.1 innings of work. The good: In three of his seven outings Mendez kept the opposition hitless, including a two-frame appearance in San Antonio April 23. In his first four outings, he didn’t walk a batter. The bad: The last two trips to the mound for Mendez were less encouraging. He gave his first run (unearned) his last time out in the month. In his last two outings combined, he issued four walks in four innings of work, hit a batter, and threw just 29 of his 63 pitches in the zone (46%).

At just 20 years of age, Alberto is dazzling with the glove.

At just 20 years of age, Hanser Alberto is dazzling with the glove.

Hanser Alberto – Alberto showed flashes of the offensive ability in the first two weeks, but it was few and far between. Through his first nine games, Hanser was hitting just .156 and after his first 15 games played, the batting average still left something to be desired at .228. Alberto finished the month well, (.298/.307/.357) scoring ten runs, driving in ten, with a double and two triples. He struck out just eight times and walked twice.  The good: Alberto found something to finish the month. He showed decent patience in the first part of 2012 playing for the Hickory Crawdads in Class-A (18 BB, 62 games), but that walk rate can be attributed as much or more to raw pitchers in the South Atlantic League, struggling with command than it does to a patient eye from Alberto. Stretching back to 2012, Alberto has gone 55 games and 239 plate appearances (props to Alex for the mad research skills) without a walk. On April 23, Alberto drew the walk to end that streak, and went 2-for-4 in the process, with a run and an RBI (his eighth). Alberto hit .455 in the seven games to end the month with two walks, three RBI and just one strikeout, raising his batting average from .228 to .298. He also got a hit in each game of that stretch. Alberto’s glove has also been excellent–he’s the best shortstop I’ve had the chance to see in the league so far. The bad: he still chases breaking balls, especially sliders away, and that accounts for most of eight April strikeouts. Although the eye is improving, it still has a ways to go (2.3% BB rate in April). It’s getting better though, and he’s the youngest player in the Texas League, second youngest in all of Double-AA baseball, older than only the Orioles top prospect Dylan Bundy.

Wilmer Font – The hard-throwing, hulking Venezuelan is up to his old tricks again in 2013. His first outing of May was probably his roughest of the year, but April was excellent. He posses a heavy mid to upper 90s fastball with sink, a slider and a developing changeup. He finished April with a record of 0-1, with a 0.82 ERA in eight appearances, and he notched three saves. He allowed just two hits in 11 innings, walking 6 and struck out 17. The good: Font has swing-and-miss stuff and we saw it in April. He strikeout rate (42.5%) was the best on the team and behind only Springfield’s Kevin Siegrist (51.2%) among pitchers with at least five innings of work. The bad: The second hit Font allowed this season was a home run. And it cost Frisco the game in a 2-1 loss in San Antonio on April 25.

Neil Ramirez – Arguably the most pleasant surprise of April was Ramirez. The former supplemental first round pick of the Rangers, Ramirez seemed on the fast track to the majors before a disappointing 2012. He pitched well in April, going 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA in five starts. He’s struck out 29 batters and walked 15 in 24.1 innings. The good: Ramirez didn’t allow much contact and he did he wasn’t hit hard. He led April in opponents’ batting average, as the opposition hit just .130 off him. Ramirez fired four straight starts of 5 innings or more, and he didn’t allow more than three hits in any of his five outings. The bad: you’d like to see Ramirez walk a few less hitters. He’s actually walking more batters per nine innings (5.5) than he has has in any year of his career; that tells you how unhittable the righty was in April.

Randy Henry – Discussed above. If you want to stretch for the bad: it’s that he allowed that one home run. No one is complaining with what the Arnett, Oklahoma native did in his first month of Double-A baseball, except maybe left-handed hitters that have had to face him.

Happy May and go RoughRiders!

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: dewdropa slow curveball

The 2013 (Nearly) Complete Twitter Guide to the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas League and the Texas Rangers Farm System: Part One

A couple days ago I wrote a post here with the best resources for keeping up on the Texas Rangers and its minor league teams and prospects, and the entire time while writing it, I kept thinking about how I get as much or more information on Twitter these days.

I still hit the ‘ole feedly reader every day. Sometimes 140 characters just doesn’t really cut it for a topic. Yu know, like Darvish’s outing last night. (For more on that, read this, and this, and this and this. Oh and you have to watch that).

And while that is true, Twitter is still great, especially for breaking news. Want to be the first one to find out that Nelson Cruz’s home run last night actually came with a broken-bat swing? FSSW’s Emily Jones has you covered:

Did you see former RoughRiders pitcher Robbie Erlin got called yetserday? With Twitter, you could find great stuff on who is behind the numbers from excellent Rangers prospect guru Jason Cole:

And, yeah, you might have heard that 17-year-old Rangers prospect Nomar Mazara hit his second home run last night for Class-A Hickory, but how impressive was it? Crawdads’ broadcaster Aaron Cox does a very nice job tweeting in-game. See:

SO, without further ado, here it is: The 2013 (Nearly) Complete Guide to the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas League, and the Texas Rangers Farm System.

Why “nearly” complete? Well. 1) this is not necessarily exhaustive. Plenty of people tweet about these topics, but this is a great starting point. And 2) of course we need your input! Let us know who we are missing by commenting below or tweeting at me (@NathanSBarnett) and 3) I am not done with the rest of the parts yet…

And, yes, this is just Part One of The 2013 (Nearly) Complete Twitter Guide (TNCTG). I will have a few entries over the next week or so and also update them, as I find new handles worthy of the all-important “follow” click.

Part One looks at the teams and key employee follows in the Texas League and Rangers system. Future entries will include key journalists, commentators, and bloggers to follow. And players! Yes, the exhaustive list of players as well. Stay tuned!

_________________________

TNCTG PART ONE:

Texas League Teams:

South Division:

Frisco RoughRiders: @RidersBaseball

Corpus Christi Hooks: @CCHooks

Midland Rockhounds: @RockHounds

San Antonio Missions: @MissionsMiLB

North Division:

Arkansas Travelers: @ARTravs

Northwest Arkansas Naturals: @NWANaturals

Springfield Cardinals: @Sgf_Cardinals

Tulsa Drillers: @TulsaDrillers

Teams in the Rangers System:

MLB – Texas Rangers: @Rangers

Triple-A – Round Rock Express: @RRExpress

Double-A – Frisco RoughRiders: @RidersBaseball

Advanced-A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans: @PelicanBaseball

Single-A – Hickory Crawdads: @HickoryCrawdads

Short-Season A – Spokane Indians: @SpokaneIndians

Rookie – AZL Rangers: No official Twitter handle, that I am aware of. There is @AZL_Rangers which was created by a fan. Decent follow.

Rookie – DSL Rangers: Ditto. Some do cover this team, however. More to come in future TNCTG entries.

The Voices:

Alex Vispoli, Frisco RoughRiders: @Vispoli 

Bob Hards, Midland Rockhounds: Unknown. 

Michael Coffin, Corpus Christi Hooks: No twitter account (see team Twitter handle) 

Mike Saeger, San Antonio Missions: @SAMissionsRadio

Phil Elson, Arkansas Travelers: @ElsonPhil

Steven Davis, Northwest Arkansas Naturals: Unknown. 

Andrew Buchbinder, Springfield Cardinals: Unknown. 

Dennis Higgins, Tulsa Drillers: Unknown. 

Eric Nadel, #1 MLB – Texas Rangers: @NadelEr

Matt Hicks, #2 MLB – Texas Rangers: @RadioHicksie

Mike Capps, Triple-A – Round Rock Express: @RRExpressRadio

Travis Lucian, Advanced-A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans: @TravisLucian

Aaron Cox, Class-A – Hickory Crawdads: @TheAaronCox

Mike Boyle, Short-A – Spokane Indians: @MrMBoyle

Other good employees and team-related follows:

Frisco RoughRiders:

Nathan Barnett, Media Relations & Broadcasting Assistant: @NathanSBarnett

Ryan Garrett, Media Relations Intern: @Garrett_RM

Corpus Christi Hooks:

Chris Blake, Media Relations Coordinator: @ChrisCBlake

Midland Rockhounds:

Greg Bergman, Assistant GM / Media Relations & Advertising: @GregBergman

Tulsa Drillers:

Brian Carroll, Director of Media / Public Relations: @BKC001 

Texas Rangers:

John Blake, Executive Vice President of Communications: @RangerBlake

Updates on Rangers Ballpark: Parking, Traffic, Valet, Gate Openings, Weather & Events: @RangersInfo

In-game Rangers Twitter handle: @theRangersGame

_________________________

For those of you out there wanting to keep up with every with a Twitter “list” — I have made one with most of these handles on there. Feel free to subscribe, I plan to keep it up to date this season.

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: wand - baseball bat

Beau Jones Interview, August 2, 2012

Former RoughRiders pitcher Beau Jones tells us about his time in Frisco and how this season with the Midland RockHounds has gone so far for him. He came to the Texas Rangers organization as part of the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007. He spent time in the Miami Marlins organization before being signed by the Oakland A’s.

Video shot by Michael Damman and Jarah Wright

Talking About Playoffs?!?!

Yes, we’re talking about playoffs today on the ‘Riders Insider Blog. If the playoffs were to end today, the RoughRiders would be in the postseason for the fifth time in the franchise’s nine-year history.

However, it may be strange to read this, but fans in Frisco should be rooting for San Antonio when they aren’t cheering for the ‘Riders. The Texas League operates with two halves, and San Antonio dominated the field to win the first half title and one of the two playoff berths in the South Division.

The second half division champion also earns a postseason spot out of the South. But what happens if the first half champion wins the second half, too?

The team with the second-best record overall in the division would get that second spot. Right now, the RoughRiders (64-53) lead Midland (54-63) by ten games in that category. This fact, along with San Antonio’s spot at the top of the South, means the ‘Riders would get a chance against the Missions in the playoffs if things remain the same.

However, San Antonio doesn’t have a stranglehold on the top spot here in the second half. Those pesky RockHounds from Midland are peaking right now. The RockHounds own the best record in the Texas League here in August (10-1), and their doubleheader sweep of Tulsa yesterday pushed them within three games of San Antonio for first place.

There is a very good chance that the ‘Riders will not only finish with the second best record in the South, but also with the second best mark in the TL. However, they will need to hope the RockHounds do not steal the second half title and, thus, the ‘Riders’ postseason berth.

The RoughRiders and RockHounds play six more times this season, and all of those games come during the final ten games of the regular season. In other words, the push for the playoffs could come down to early September. We hope you are ready for a fun run.

- Brian

Texas League Power Rankings

Only 28 games remain for the RoughRiders and the other seven teams in the Texas League. San Antonio and Arkansas already have their ticket punched to the postseason, and almost every other club in the league has a chance to get into the TL’s final four.

The ‘Riders dropped a place in the standings last night, but could they hold strong in this month’s Power Rankings? Those are below, and here are the Power Rankings from May, June and July.

POWER RANKINGS:

1. San Antonio (76-36, 27-15; Past Rankings: 1, 1, 1)
The Missions have the best record in all of full-season minor league baseball, with the San Jose Giants of the California League (74-38) the only team less than five games away from San Antonio. Not only has San Antonio been great this season, but they added Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, who had been with Frisco until the Mike Adams deal at the deadline.
KEY STAT (+200): That’s the Missions’ run differential this season, which leads the minors and is 160 runs better than the second-best mark in the TL (Frisco at +40). Thanks to Mike Saeger, the Missions play-by-play broadcaster for this stat.

2. Frisco (61-51, 21-21; Past Rankings: 6, 2, 3)
The ‘Riders have fallen into a bit of a slump, and Midland has climbed above them in the standings. However, the RockHounds will need to leap over San Antonio in order to make the playoffs and, as a result, deny the RoughRiders of a spot in the playoffs. Midland has been better than the ‘Riders over the last two weeks, but Frisco was clearly better for the season’s first 100 games. Thus, the ‘Riders are here.
KEY STAT (9-2, 3.09): The combined record and earned run average of Erlin and Wieland while they were with the RoughRiders. Now, they are on the team that Frisco would play in the first round of the postseason.

3. Northwest Arkansas (57-52, 22-20; Past Rankings: 4, 3, 6)
The Naturals won the league last year, and they have had plenty of big-time prospects on the roster. Finally, Northwest Arkansas has gone on a bit of a run to assume first place in both the overall and the second half standings. Still, last-place Arkansas is three games back, so this race will go down to the wire.
KEY STAT (2): The Naturals are only two losses away from matching their total from all of last year. Northwest went 86-54 en route to a pair of division crowns and a Texas League championship.

4. Midland (49-63, 22-20; Past Rankings: 3, 7, 5)
Talk about a team that has bounced up and down this season. Right now, Midland is one of the hottest teams in the Texas League and they have jumped into second place in the South. The RockHounds have won eight of ten, including their first series victory over Frisco this season Tuesday through Thursday of last week.
KEY STAT (4): Only four games remain for the RockHounds against the first-place Missions, and those aren’t until August 30-September 2 in San Antonio. Midland must win the second-half championship to go to the playoffs, and they are currently five games back.

5. Arkansas (55-54, 19-23; Past Rankings: 7, 6, 2)
The Travelers stunned many and took the first half North Division title by one game over Northwest Arkansas. Right now, Arkansas is in a bit of a rut after going 6-0 to start half two. Since that point, Arkansas is 13-23, but they still have their postseason berth locked up.
KEY STAT (.348): Mike Trout’s average since returning to the Travs August 1. The Angels’ top prospect, who spent almost a month in the bigs, has hit safely in six of his seven games and has scored seven times since arriving back in North Little Rock.

6. Springfield (52-59, 20-21; Past Rankings: 5, 4, 7)
The Cardinals have been hot lately, which pushes them ahead of Tulsa and Corpus Christi. Springfield has gotten great pitching out of top prospect Shelby Miller, and the squad is right there in second in the second half North standings, just one-and-a-half games back of the Naturals.
KEY STAT (8-2): The Cardinals’ record over the last ten games, which has propelled Springfield from last place in the North to second.

7. Tulsa (52-59, 19-22; Past Rankings: 2, 5, 4)
This is the lowest ranking for the Drillers this season, and it comes with the club still very much alive in the second half. Surprisingly, the Drillers have struggled at home this season. They have the worst home record in the TL at 24-30, including an 8-12 mark in the second half.
KEY STAT (20): The number of games that will remain when Drew Pomeranz, the key cog in Colorado’s trade with Cleveland for Ubaldo Jimenez, is eligible to officially join the Rockies’ system. If he joins the Drillers, Pomeranz would be able to make no more than four starts before the regular season ends.

8. Corpus Christi (42-70, 17-25; Past Rankings: 8, 8, 8)
I’ve tried to move these poor Hooks up in the rankings, but I just can’t do it. Corpus Christi’s roster is depleted now because many key pieces have moved up to Triple-A Oklahoma City or Houston.
KEY STAT (23%): The percentage of the Astros’ current position players that were with the Hooks a month ago. Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Jimmy Paredes are the Hooks-turned-Astros.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

- Brian

Robbie Ross Joins RoughRiders

AUDIO: ROSS PRE-GAME INTERVIEW

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!

-Stephen

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