Results tagged ‘ Robbie Erlin ’
NOTE: Like this piece? Check out our look at ten RoughRiders’ drastic improvement from last year to this year, which has put all of them on the prospect radar.
The Rangers’ farm system is among the best in baseball, and top-flight prospects play with all of the club’s affiliates. Today, Stephen Harmon takes you around the system and discusses some of the best farmhands within the Rangers’ organization.
Round Rock Express (Triple-A):
Leonys Martin: The 23-year-old Cuban center fielder batted .348 with four homers and ten stolen bases over 29 games with Frisco before being promoted to Round Rock July 9. According to some scouts, Martin has a matured approach at the plate. However, he needs to become more comfortable in the outfield. Martin, who signed a five-year, $15.5 million contract May 4, is 8-for-20 in his first five games as a member of the Express.
Martin Perez: After ranking Perez as the top pre season prospect in the Rangers organization, Baseball America rated Perez the sixth best prospect in all of minor league baseball in their midseason rankings. The twenty-year-old Venezuelan native received a promotion to Round Rock July 14 after posting a 4-2 record with a 3.16 ERA. He led the RoughRiders in strikeouts with 83 over 88.1 innings.
Neil Ramirez: The 2007 first-round draft pick opened the year in Myrtle Beach before being called up to Round Rock for a temporary spot start. However, he was impressive enough to earn a regular turn in the rotation where he has posted a 3.77 ERA with 82 strikeouts over 71.2 innings.
Frisco RoughRiders (Double-A):
Robbie Erlin: The left-handed starter is undefeated since joining Frisco, going 5-1 with a 3.95 ERA as of July 15th. Erlin has impressed scouts with his command and mature approach to pitching. It is easy to forget that he is twenty years old and already in Double-A. The former third-rounder boasted a 53 to 6 strikeout to walk ratio.
Tanner Scheppers The third best prospect in the Rangers’ farm system has returned from a lower back injury that sidelined him after one start in Round Rock. The 2009 first round draft pick made his 2011 Frisco debut June 19and has compiled a 3.68 ERA with 11 strikeouts in five appearances. Scheppers owns the best fastball and curveball in the system (Baseball America).
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High-A):
Mike Olt: The third baseman is rated as the seventh best prospect in the organization according to Baseball America. The 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft entered the season headlining a talented Myrtle Beach team. However, the Connecticut native broke his collarbone sliding into home plate June 6 and is likely to be out the remainder of the season. At the time of the injury, Olt was hitting .286 with 10 homeruns in 54 games.
Robbie Ross: Ross was selected in the second round of the 2008 draft and ranked 24th on Baseball America’s Rangers top prospect list. The lefty opened the season at Myrtle Beach and has been there the entire year. Through his first three starts in July, the Kentucky native posted a 1.06 ERA. Overall, his ERA sits at 2.40.
Barret Loux: Loux was slotted as the 19th prospect in the Rangers organization entering 2011 and he hasn’t disappointed. Through July 15, the 6’5’’ Texas A&M product leads the Pelicans with 108 strikeouts in 90.1 innings.
Miguel de los Santos: Overshadowed by the success of Ross and Loux, de los Santos came of the DL on June 29 after starting the year in Frisco where he experienced command issues. However, through his first three starts for the Pelicans in July, the Rangers’ tenth best farmhand went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 19 strikeouts.
Hickory Crawdads (Low-A):
Jurickson Profar: Profar started the season as the number two prospect in the organization in just his second year of pro ball. The Curacao native is hitting .272 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs. Scouts have been impressed with his advanced plate discipline as an 18 year old. In the XM All-Star Futures Game last week, Profar posted an RBI triple for the World Team.
Jake Skole: Skole earned the South Atlantic League player of the week honors June 14. The 19-year-old Georgia native is improving every game and has seen his average jump to .278 after struggling to hit .219 in May. Skole was drafted 15th overall in the 2010 draft.
Spokane Indians (Short-Season):
Will Lamb: Standing at 6’6”, the Clemson standout has shown why the Rangers selected him the 2nd round last month. Lamb has compiled 17 strikeouts in his first ten innings of work. After five relief appearances, Lamb made his first professional start July 10, going three innings and allowing one run while striking out three.
Zach Cone: Cone was selected 37th overall in this year’s draft and has adjusted quickly to using wooden bats. The University of Georgia product hit .359 in his first month of professional baseball. Known for his power/speed combo, Cone swiped seven steals in his first 17 games.
Surprise Rangers (Rookie):
Luis Sardinas: The 18 year-old shortstop out of Venezuela enters his second year at Arizona after only appearing in 22 games last year. Many comparisons have been made between Sardinas and Profar, but the consensus is that Luis is more of a contact hitter than Profar. Through the first twelve games of 2011, Sardinas is batting .289.
As always, thanks to RoughRiders team photographer James Garner for tonight’s shots.
Rangers number four prospect Robbie Erlin battled through six innings of work but suffered his first career Double-A loss.
Renny Osuna jumps back to first after reaching third base in the first inning. Osuna finished the game 1-for-4.
Davis Stoneburner pulled Frisco to within two runs with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly. Stoneburner went 1-for-3 and now has 26 RBIs on the year.
The Hooks earned their second straight win over the RoughRiders Saturday night by a score of 4-2. The finale is Sunday night at 6:05 from Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Baseball America came out with its “Midseason Top 50 Prospect List,” and the RoughRiders were a fixture on the list. Three current ‘Riders are in the top 34. Frisco is the only minor league team that can boast that.
At number six in the rankings is left-hander Martin Perez, who entered the rankings this season at 24. Perez was named to both the Texas League All-Star Game and the XM Futures Game, and he sits 4-2 with a 3.16 earned run average. Perez is second in the TL in strikeouts (83), third in ERA and sixth in WHIP (1.31).
Outfielder Leonys Martin checks in at 25th on the list. Martin, who joined the RoughRiders May 12, is hitting .339 in 28 games. If he were qualified in the league rankings (he is not because of a shortage of necessary at bats), Martin would be fifth in the Texas League since May 12.
Finally, southpaw Robbie Erlin is 34th. Erlin, who was promoted from High-A Myrtle Beach in late May, is 5-0 with a 4.10 in seven career Double-A appearances. Erlin is third among Texas League hurlers since May 29 with 44 strikeouts.
Rangers shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar is 12th, and he is the only non-RoughRider from Texas’ farm system who appears on this list. Profar is currently with Low-A Hickory, and he will join Perez on the World Team in the Futures Game this Sunday.
To read the entire list, click here.
For the first time since June 8, outfielder Leonys Martin is in the RoughRiders starting lineup. Martin is leading off and playing in center field.
Martin has missed 19 games with a herniated disc in his back. He did play in four games with the Rangers’ Arizona League team in Surprise. In those four contests, he hit .267 (4-for-15) with two runs and one RBI.
Before getting injured, Martin was hitting .357 with the RoughRiders in 22 games. He had three home runs and 18 RBIs. Martin’s OPS sat at a ridiculous 1.028.
Here are a few other notes before the ‘Riders and Cardinals take the field tonight.
- The RoughRiders have shuffled around the rotation a little bit to begin the post-All-Star break slate. Ben Snyder will start tonight, and Carlos Pimentel and Joe Wieland will round out the rotation in this three-game series against Springfield.
- Behind that trio, Martin Perez will pitch Sunday against Arkansas, and Robbie Erlin will go Monday. For Perez, it will be his first start with the ‘Riders since June 22 (11 days). He did pitch in the All-Star Game last night.
- Springfield has the services of St. Louis’ top prospect–right-hander Shelby Miller. Miller is 3-1 with a 1.69 earned run average in five Double-A starts. He is scheduled to pitch tomorrow night against the ‘Riders.
- The Texas League has been blessed with top prospects in 2011. Currently, five of the eight teams have their respective organization’s top prospect. Along with Miller, Grant Green (Midland, Athletics), Casey Kelly (San Antonio, Padres), Martin Perez (Frisco, Rangers), and Mike Trout (Arkansas, Angels) are in the TL.
- The ‘Riders and Cardinals have split their first six games this season. Frisco took two of three from Springfield at Dr Pepper Ballpark in the first series of the season April 7-9.
We’re back on the air with you beginning at 6:35 p.m. Listen live on the RoughRiders Baseball Network. Enjoy!
Carolina League All-Star Joe Wieland is now a Frisco RoughRider. The Rangers made the move earlier today, and Wieland is expected to start for the RoughRiders tonight against Corpus Christi. Today on the blog, Stephen Harmon talks about Wieland’s trip from high school to Double-A. Check it out.
Few high school baseball players are talented enough to bat over .500 and lead their state in RBIs. The 21-year-old Reno native, Joe Wieland (pronounced WEE-land), did just that during his senior year at Bishop Manogue high school in Nevada. What’s even more impressive is that the Rangers drafted him in the 4th round of the 2008 draft not for his bat, but for his right arm.
Standing at 6’3’’, Wieland attracted scouts from across major league baseball during his senior year in high school. The Rangers were impressed with his control and his 90 mph fastball, which he could manipulate to drastically run in and way from hitters. Although Wieland originally signed a letter of intent to play at San Diego State University, the opportunity to play professional baseball was too much to resist.
His high school coach, Charles Oppio said of Wieland, “As good as he is athletically and physically, mentally he’s the best player I ever had.” Wieland’s advanced mental game proved ready for the minors as he baffled professional hitters in his first season. After being drafted in June of 2008, he made his professional debut in the Arizona League where he posted a 1.44 ERA alongside 5 wins over 13 games, seven of which were starts.
Wieland’s next stop in the Rangers farm system came in 2009 where he spent the season pitching for the Low-A Hickory Crawdads. Midway through 2010 Wieland earned a promotion to High-A Bakersfield, the Rangers previous Advanced-A team before making the move to Myrtle Beach this season.
Before Wieland’s promotion, he impressed the Rangers with a 3.34 ERA over 15 starts in Hickory. Although Wieland initially struggled in Bakersfield by giving up 30 runs in his first 33 innings, he soon adjusted and posted a 1.73 ERA with 28 strikeouts and four walks over his final 26 innings pitched. His time in Bakersfield has highlighted by a career-high 14-strikeout performance on August 3 at Visalia. For his efforts, Weiland was named California League Pitcher of the Week.
The 2011 season saw Wieland make his debut for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans out of the bullpen. After one scoreless appearance in relief, Wieland was back into the starting rotation, where he dominated the Carolina League by mixing in a plus curveball with his fastball. The Pelican’s ace continued to show off his impeccable control. Through 85 and two-thirds innings, Wieland struck out an astounding 96 batters and walked only four.
With these numbers, it is no surprise that the Reno native owns the best walks per nine innings ratio in all of minor league baseball. The right-hander’s impressive start to the season made him Carolina League’s starting pitcher in the Carolina League-California League All-Star Game this season where he worked a perfect 1-2-3 first inning.
Wieland’s best start for the Pelicans this season was in a rain shortened 7-inning complete game shutout on May 11. This dominant performance came directly after a previous start that saw him toss six innings of shutout baseball against Potomac that included thirteen strikeouts.
The hard throwing righty comes to Frisco after pitching alongside fellow highly touted pitching prospects, Robbie Erlin, Robbie Ross, and former first round draft pick, Barret Loux. 20-year-old, Erlin made the jump from Myrtle Beach to Frisco earlier this year in late May, and just tossed a 14-strikeout gem against the Corpus Christi Hooks on Sunday.
Ross, a second round draft pick in 2008, pitched six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits and no walks Sunday afternoon for the Pelicans against the Salem Red Sox. Teammate and Texas A&M product Barret Loux owns a 7-1 record and has compiled 81 strikeouts in just 73 and one-third innings pitched. Riders’ fans can more than likely expect to see both Ross and Loux at Dr Pepper Ballpark before the end of the year.
Coming from a standout pitching rotation that leads the Carolina League in ERA and strikeouts, Wieland has shown that he is both mentally and physically ready to contribute to the ‘Riders. He makes his Double-A debut Monday night in Corpus Christi against the Hooks.
Pre-game coverage for the ‘Riders and the Hooks begins at 6:35 on the ‘Riders Baseball Network. Enjoy!
Frisco starter Robbie Erlin struck out a career-high 14 batters in his start Sunday at Corpus Christi.
Erlin worked six and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs on five hits. Only one runner reached second base until the seventh, when the Hooks hit a pair of solo home runs.
Of those 14 strikeouts, 12 were swinging. Erlin whiffed the side in the first, second and fifth innings.
The Rangers No. 4 prospect’s previous peak in strikeouts was ten, which came April 25 when he tossed seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over Potomac.
Erlin’s 14 strikeouts are the most ever by a Frisco RoughRider pitcher in a single game. John Danks and Thomas Diamond were tied with 12 each each for the previous record. As an amateur, Erlin had a 15-strikeout no-hitter for Scotts Valley High School in California before the Rangers drafted him in the third-round in the 2009 draft.
April 7 seems like a long time ago. September 5 seems like a long time from now. Welcome to the halfway point of the 2011 season. The RoughRiders finished up the first half at 40-30, which is good for the second best record in the Texas League.
Before the ‘Riders begin the second half, let’s take a look back at the first half. It’s a Top 10 edition of the Facts.
FRISCO FACTS (Top 10 moments from the first half):
10. Three straight blowouts (June 15–Frisco 14, Midland 7)
The RoughRiders were rolling on the road in the month of June, and the trend continued in a big way at Midland. Frisco posted double-digit run totals in three consecutive games for just the second time in franchise history. In those three contests, the ‘Riders scored 37 runs on 54 hits. This game, a 14-7 beating at Citibank Ballpark, capped off the three-day dominance. Frisco was 9-1 on the road in June after this one.
9. Bianucci’s blast sinks Hooks (June 18–Frisco 9, Corpus Christi 6)
You don’t have to look too far for this one. Saturday night, Mike Bianucci crushed a three-run home run off Kyle Greenwalt to give the ‘Riders the lead for good in the 13th inning. This blast rewarded Adalberto Flores, who set highs in innings pitched (4) and strikeouts (6) by a Frisco reliever in a single game, with his second win of the season. Bianucci leads the club and is in the top five in the Texas League with 16 home runs.
8. Adair’s single stuns San Antonio (June 10–Frisco 5, San Antonio 4)
After San Antonio finally mustered a hit (and four runs) against starter Robbie Erlin, Travis Adair decided to save the day. His RBI single in the bottom of the ninth kept the ‘Riders in the playoff chase. Unfortunately, the Missions would go on to clinch the first half title. Still, it was a memorable moment in front of a Fireworks Friday crowd at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
7. Adair’s two-out, bases-clearing magic (May 7–Frisco 9, Midland 8 )
This one foreshadowed the dominance that the ‘Riders would have over the RockHounds this year. Midland took an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth with three runs. In the top of the ninth, the ‘Riders packed the bases with two down. Travis Adair, a new outfielder fresh up from High-A Myrtle Beach, doubled home everyone with a shot down the left field line. It was a big win for a club starting to come into its own.
6. Ruiz’s shot clinches 6-0 trip (June 6–Frisco 9, Tulsa 4)
The score wouldn’t indicate it, but this game was close throughout. The RoughRiders took a 5-4 lead into the ninth and scored four more, capped off by Jose Ruiz’s three-run home run. The win wrapped up Frisco’s first perfect road trip since April 29–May 2, 2008. At that point, the ‘Riders had won 24 of 34 games.
5. Throwing error hands ‘Riders win (April 8–Frisco 7, Springfield 6)
In front of the first of many 10,000+ crowds at Dr Pepper Ballpark, the RoughRiders erased a four-run deficit and completed the comeback when Richard Castillo overthrew first base on a sacrifice bunt try by Tommy Mendonca. The win gave Frisco an early 2-0 start.
4. Leonys Martin thrives in debut (May 12–Frisco 10, Corpus Christi 7)
Days after signing a $15.5 million dollar contract with a $5 million signing bonus, Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin went 3-for-5 in his debut with the ‘Riders. In his first at bat, Martin doubled to deep center. Martin drove in a run and scored one in a game that was decided by a three-run eighth.
3. Ruiz walks off with a RoughRiders win (May 17–Frisco 1, Midland 0)
Scoreless game. Two down. Bases empty. Bottom nine. The game was destined for extras, until Jose Ruiz corked a towering home run over the right field fence. To this point, it is the only walk-off home run for the RoughRiders this year, and it was the most dramatic Frisco win during a four-game sweep of the ‘Hounds in mid May.
2. Hamilton homers in rehab start (May 18–Frisco 8, Midland 7)
The defending American League Most Valuable Player made a stop at Dr Pepper Ballpark before heading back to the Rangers following a shoulder injury that kept him out of action for more than a month. Swinging at the first pitch in his second at bat, Hamilton lined a two-run home run to left field. Hamilton finished the day 2-for-4 and helped the ‘Riders win a close one against the RockHounds. He also made many RoughRiders fans very happy after the game.
1. Perez tosses rain-shortened perfect game (April 19–Frisco 1, Arkansas 0)
Martin Perez, the Rangers’ number one prospect, set down the first 15 men he faced. In those situations, with a pitcher that is as talented as Perez, it is easy to start thinking about history. However, mother nature wanted to make sure Perez made history. Severe thunderstorms rolled through North Little Rock, Ark., forcing the game’s umpires to call the game in the top of the sixth inning.
Perez’s perfecto was the fifth in Texas League history and the second in RoughRiders history. Not only was it a historic night, but it showed that Perez was going to improve upon his 2010 numbers when with the ‘Riders. So far, so good for Perez, who boasts a 4-1 record and a 3.30 ERA.
What does the second half have in store? You can find out beginning tonight from Dr Pepper Ballpark. Pre-game coverage along the RoughRiders Baseball Network begins at 6:35. Enjoy!
Right-hander Darren O’Day worked the first inning for the RoughRiders Monday night at Dr Pepper Ballpark against the Midland RockHounds.
O’Day allowed only one hit, but it was a solo home run off the bat of Grant Green, Oakland’s top prospect. Other than the homer, O’Day retired the side on a groundout, flyout and strikeout. He threw 15 pitches, eight of which were strikes.
O’Day is currently on the 60-day disabled list. He has not pitched since April 28 because of a torn labrum.
Frisco left-hander Robbie Erlin, the Rangers’ number four-prospect according to Baseball America, is scheduled to pitch behind O’Day.
O’Day is the eighth Ranger to rehab with the ‘Riders this season.
Every Father’s Day I can’t help but think of that scene from Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner plays catch with his dad (once your done reading you can watch it here).
I’m not ashamed to say it makes me cry every time. I wanted to ask some of the ‘Riders what some of their favorite baseball memories were with their dads, and I’m glad I can share their answers with you.
“To this day, I remember my dad, and my mom, always being there and watching every game my brothers and I played.”
I then asked Boo about the first time his dad got to see him play in the major leagues.
“We were playing the Angles and I had a bunch of friends and family come out to the game. I remember hugging my dad after the game and him telling me that he had tears in his eyes during the National Anthem.”
LHP, Robbie Erlin: Growing up in Santa Cruz, Calif., Erlin’s father probably never imagined that his son would be the Rangers’ No. 4 prospect at just 20-years-old. But as Erlin’s coach in the Scotts Valley Little League, he greatly influenced his son’s future career.
“When I was 9-years-old my dad told me that before I could throw a curveball, I had to be able to locate my fastball. He and I worked after practice on throwing a curve and finally one day during a game I was pitching he signaled to our catcher to call for a curveball.”
As we all know, Robbie’s curveball is now one of the best in the Rangers’ minor league system. I then asked Robbie if 9-years-old was a bit early to be throwing a curve.
“Not if you know how to throw it.”
3B, Tommy Mendonca: By now, we all know how well Tommy has been playing lately. And we all know how hard he’s been working out. Most are aware of the magical ride he went on when playing for Fresno State University in 2008 when the Bulldogs won the College World Series and Mendo was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player as a sophomore.
“Both of my parents were at every game in Omaha during our playoff run. My dad was my little league coach and it was great having him and my mom watching me and supporting me when we were playing in such big games.”
RHP, Jake Brigham: One of seven kids (four brothers, two sisters) , Jake grew up in Florida where his dad was a barber. He had to cut a lot of hair to support all those hungry mouths and thus had one day off a week: Wednesday.
“Every Wednesday afternoon he’d take us seven kids to Barnett Park and we had practically enough players to field a team. I remember him pitching to us … We all got a chance to field, catch, hit, and play the outfield.”
“It was great having my dad coach me in Babe Ruth League. Once I turned pro, he first had a chance to watch me play in Hickory. My best memories are of him watching me in high school, though. It was great then because I always had lots of family at the games.”
2B, Davis Stoneburner: His real name is Ralph, which, so conveniently for today’s article, is his father’s name. After asking him a baseball memory he shared with his dad, Stoney gave me an answer in a way that only he could.
“The first time my dad saw me play as a professional was in Clinton, Ia. when I was playing for the LumberKings. I was a shortstop at the time and he came out to watch me play a four-game series. Bad part was I didn’t get a single hit.”
Fortunately, he’s now riding a nine-game hitting streak. Looks like he’s recovered.
We’ll have more of a tribute to Father’s Day on the pre-game show tonight. Along with Mother’s Day, it’s one of my favorite pre-game segments all season long. First pitch tonight in the series finale in Corpus Christi crosses home plate at 6:05, pre-game coverage kicks off at 5:35.
If for some reason you miss the pre-game segment of all the ‘Riders wishing their dad’s a happy Father’s Day but would like to hear it, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the .mp3 version.
Talk with you tonight,
The RoughRiders are making a jump in our second edition of the Texas League Power Rankings. Exactly how far they jump is available below. But first, here are a few Facts on Frisco’s great month of June.
- The RoughRiders have a six-game winning streak, which is the club’s longest since it won seven straight from June 22-28. All seven of those games, believe it or not, were also away from home.
- Frisco swept a road trip for the first time since April 29-May 2, 2008 when the ‘Riders took all four at the Wolff against San Antonio.
- Since May 1, the ‘Riders are 24-10. Unfortunately, during that span, the team has only gained ONE game on San Antonio for first place in the Texas League South. The deficit is six games with 14 to go, which sets up a huge four-game series against the Missions tomorrow through Saturday. We’ll preview that set tomorrow.
- By the way, check out our new feature on the main site. It’s called the Dr Pepper Ballpark Planner, which previews the upcoming home stand on and off the field. If you are planning on coming out to a game this week/weekend, that is a must read.
The season is two-fifths of the way over. Time for our second installment of the Texas League Power Rankings. Like last month, we will include a high point and low point of the month plus a key stat.
1. San Antonio (38-18; April Ranking: 1): Despite a strong charge by Frisco, the Missions have basically held their ground since the last rankings. The offense is still strong (.290 batting average as a team) despite a ridiculously strong start. And the pitching is second in the league with a 3.81 earned run average.
HIGH POINT (June 5): The Missions defeated Springfield 4-3 with a two-run ninth. It was San Antonio’s fourth walk-off win in the previous five games. Because of that, the Missions are 5-1 in June.
LOW POINT (May 16): San Antonio dropped its third in four games at Corpus Christi on this night. But, the Missions responded with a six-game winning streak. The reality is that this club has had few “low points.” Their lead has never been truly threatened.
KEY STAT (9): San Antonio’s magic number with 14 games left. A split or better at Frisco in the next four games would pretty much clinch the first half for the Missions.
2. Frisco (32-24; April Ranking: 6): The RoughRiders were the biggest climbers from April to May. Without a late surge at the beginning of May before I compiled the rankings, the ‘Riders may have been in last in those rankings. Now, Steve Buechele’s squad is hanging around a race it had not business being in a month ago. With Robbie Erlin arriving in Double-A and other starters like Richard Bleier and Carlos Pimentel settling in, the ‘Riders may have the best rotation in the league. That is, unless Martin Perez gets that call up to Triple-A.
HIGH POINT (June 6): This one is easy. Frisco completed a sweep of a six-game, North Division road trip with a 9-4 win at Tulsa. The ‘Riders outscored the Naturals and Drillers on that trip by a combined 27 runs. Really, that run is the reason the North is so competitive now.
LOW POINT (May 21): San Antonio’s Kyle Blanks crushed a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning. It was the second of three straight losses at San Antonio for the ‘Riders, who did manage to salvage the finale of that set. They will need more wins this week to stay alive.
KEY STAT (2.60): Martin Perez’s earned run average, which is second in the Texas League. He has won his last three starts.
3. Northwest Arkansas (26-25; April Ranking: 4): The next four teams are North Division teams, and they are all pretty even. I’ll bank on the Naturals because they just came off a six-game losing streak, and I expect them to take the North. But, I could just as easily see the Naturals in second, third, and fourth when all is set and done.
HIGH POINT (May 16): The Naturals rallied from a one-run deficit in the ninth at Tulsa to win 5-4 and claim their sixth straight win. Since then, it has been a jostling for first between Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa. Right now, the Naturals’ have a percentage-point lead on the Drillers.
LOW POINT (June 4): What a strange game. Christian Colon hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. Then, Midland scored seven times in the top of the 10th to win 16-9. That was the Naturals’ sixth loss in a row.
KEY STAT (12-18 months): The recovery time for Natural and highly-touted hurler John Lamb, who found out in late May that he needs Tommy John surgery. Tough break for a tremendous prospect.
4. Springfield (26-29; April Ranking: 5): Last month, I put the Cardinals above their standings because they were playing above their talent level, in my opinion. Now, I’m putting them here because they are my sleeper pick to take the North. The Cardinals have never had a share of first place, but they have some more talent now. St. Louis’ top two prospects–Shelby Miller and Zack Cox–are on the roster now. Watch out for these guys.
HIGH POINT (May 27): A 12-4 blowout of Corpus Christi completed a sweep and extended the Cardinals’ winning streak to a season-high five games.
LOW POINT (June 5): This loss snapped a three-game winning streak, which may seem a little harsh to name this as the “low point.” But, the Cardinals had a chance to clinch a series win at San Antonio, and they allowed two in the ninth to lose 4-3. The next day, Springfield lost 11-1.
KEY STAT (4): Games back of first-place Northwest Arkansas in the loss column. The Cardinals play four at Northwest June 16-19.
5. Tulsa (28-27; April Ranking: 2): The Drillers may be the most inconsistent club in the league. They got off to a great start, but the team has begun to struggle again. Once again, I would not be surprised if the Drillers won this division in the first half. But I don’t know if they have enough offense or enough in the bullpen.
HIGH POINT (May 9): It is tough to find a high point when a team hasn’t won more than two games in a row during a month. On this day, the Drillers clinched a two-out-of-three series take at Northwest Arkansas with a 6-4 win. The Drillers’ record at that point was 18-11.
LOW POINT (June 6): Jose Ruiz’s three-run homer in the ninth was the exclamation point on Frisco’s 9-4, sweep-clinching win over Tulsa.
KEY STAT (6-11): The Drillers’ record in the last 17 games. That’s why the North is so close.
6. Arkansas (25-26; April Ranking: 7): No disrespect to the Travelers, who enter play today just one game back of first place in the North. The Travs have been hanging around, and they have the pitching to compete down the stretch. Arkansas leads the Texas League with a 3.80 team earned run average. The offense just isn’t that strong.
HIGH POINT (May 28): A 5-4, ten-inning win against Corpus Christi pushed the Travelers back above .500 for the first time since April 27. It also capped off a 7-2 run over nine games.
LOW POINT (June 3): The Travelers outplayed the Missions through eight innings in all three games in San Antonio. However, the Missions walked off with three wins to earn the sweep. June 3 was the finale, a 6-5 San Antonio win.
KEY STAT (10): Ten games over the next eight days beginning tomorrow for the Travs, all at home. Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas will play two doubleheaders–Wednesday and Friday. These games will go a long way to deciding who wins the first half.
7. Midland (23-33; April Ranking: 3): The RockHounds fell further than anyone in the Texas League, and it is understandable why. Since our last rankings in early May, the club is 9-19. Midland has been eliminated in the first half chase, and they are nine games back of the ‘Riders for second.
HIGH POINT (May 8): On that day, the ‘Hounds defeated Frisco 2-1 to improve to 15-15. Midland hasn’t sniffed .500 since.
LOW POINT (May 22): The RockHounds lost their eighth straight game 3-2 at Corpus Christi. Since then, the team has not recovered.
KEY STAT (11-23): The RockHounds’ record since May 1, which is tied for the worst mark in the Texas League.
8. Corpus Christi (20-36; April Ranking: 8): No change for a Hooks team that, like Midland, is 11-23 since the start of May. During the month, the Hooks had to cope with the absence of stud outfielder J.D. Martinez for a significant time period.
HIGH POINT (May 22): The Hooks took their first three games against Midland, capped by a 3-2 win on that day. That matched a season-high in consecutive wins this year.
LOW POINT (May 14): An 11-2 loss at Frisco sent the Hooks to a Texas League-high ninth straight loss.
KEY STAT (3): The Hooks had three losing streaks in the month of May: a nine-game streak May 5-14, a three-game skid May 17-19 and a five-game streak May 23-28.
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