Results tagged ‘ Rougned Odor ’

Ten RoughRiders Chosen as Mid-Season All-Stars

14113697719_8d4923a6ee_bBy: Chris Vosters, Jay Wallis and Cameron Varnau

The Frisco RoughRiders have been a force in the Texas League so far and their record-number All-Star selections reflects this dominance. The league announced that ten of the team’s players will be 2014 Texas League Mid-Season All-Stars. The game will be played at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, June 24 at 7:15 p.m.

The selection committee voted four ‘Riders pitchers and six position players to the South Division side. Starting pitchers Alec AsherEdwar Cabrera and Luke Jackson will travel to Arkansas as well as reliever Phil Klein. Infielders Rougned OdorGuilder Rodriguez and Ryan Rua each earned spots on the squad in addition to outfielder Jake Smolinski and catcher Tomás Telis. Infielder Odubel Herrera will replace Odor, who is currently with the Texas Rangers. Rua will serve as the starting third baseman for the South Division and Smolinski will start the contest in the outfield.

The RoughRiders boast more All-Stars than any team in the Texas League. This is the most mid-season all-stars for the ‘Riders since 2011 when Frisco also earned nine selections, including current Texas Ranger Leonys Martin.

Balloting for the Texas League All-Star Game was conducted by votes gathered from managers, coaches, broadcasters and beat writers representing all eight teams.

FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS MID-SEASON ALL-STARS

Ryan Rua – 3B: The RoughRiders’ everyday third baseman is batting .318 (67-for-211) through 59 games with the club this season. Of his 67 hits, good for second in the Texas League, 12 have been doubles, and his ten home runs are tied for fifth in the league with teammate Jake Smolinski. The native of Amherst, Ohio also ranks third in on-base and slugging percentage with totals of .395 and .526, respectively, and has 32 RBI. This will be Rua’s first all-star appearance in the Texas League; however, the utility infielder was named to the Mid-Season and Postseason All-Star teams in the South Atlantic League in 2013 for his efforts with the Hickory Crawdads.

Jake Smolinski – OF: In his eighth season and first in the Rangers organization, the 25-year-old native of Rockford, Illinois has shown patience at the plate and the power to go deep as his .516 slugging percentage reveals. Reaching base in 53 of 61 games, Smolinski finds a way to get on and work his way home. The left fielder leads Frisco in doubles (13) and walks (28), and paces the Texas League in runs scored (39). He is also second in the Texas League with 26 extra-base hits. He has been a dependable defender as well, going a team-high 27 consecutive games without an error. Smolinski also garnered Mid-Season All-Star honors with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns in 2012.

Alec Asher – RHP: The 22-year-old native of Lakeland, Florida has earned his way onto the 2014 Texas League All-Star team with his league-leading 71 1/3 innings pitched. He accumulated those innings across 12 starts with a 6-4 record and 3.28 ERA. The 6-foot-4 righty has issued 58 hits in 262 at-bats, which is good for an opponent average of .221, the fifth-lowest mark among qualified starters in the Texas League. This will be Asher’s first Texas League All-Star Game; he was named to the Carolina League Mid-Season All-Star team in 2013.

Edwar Cabrera – RHP: The native of Baní, Dominican Republic is no stranger to All-Star appearances as he was a South Atlantic Mid-Season All-Star with Asheville in 2011. He also represented the Tulsa Drillers as a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star in 2012. In his first season with the Rangers organization, the southpaw is 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA in nine games as a starter and has struck out 44 in 47 2/3 innings of work. As a reliever, Cabrera has a 2.61 ERA with one save in 10.1 innings pitched.

Odubel Herrera – INF: Herrera, 22, is in the second season with the ‘Riders and made the All-Star Game last year as well. The native of Zulia, Venezuela is batting .282 (24-for-85) with a home run, three doubles, a triple and 14 RBI in 22 games. He began the season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and was called up May 12. In his second game with the team, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder matched a season-high with four hits against the Midland RockHounds. Since that time, Herrera has become a reliable infielder for the RoughRiders. He has not been charged with an error since returning to the Texas League.

Luke Jackson – RHP: As the 2013 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Jackson is making his first All-Star appearance in Double-A. He made the All-Star team last year with the Advanced-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The Floridian is fourth in the Texas League in ERA (2.55), first in wins (7), second in strikeouts (85), sixth in innings pitched (67) and third in WHIP (0.96). Jackson ranks fourth among starters in allowing just 9.29 baserunners per nine innings. During one of his best outings of the year on April 21, the 6-foot-2 righty took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the San Antonio Missions and allowed just three hits to go along with eight strikeouts and no walks in seven innings pitched.

Phil Klein – RHP: The 6-foot-7, 250-pound right-hander has been in the Rangers organization since 2011 and worked his way up to the ‘Riders in 2013. Being called up to Frisco for part of the 2013 season, Klein has improved in almost every statistical category compared to last year. Among Texas League pitchers, the reliever has the second-lowest batting average among relievers (.152) and strikes out 11.75 batters per nine innings, the third-lowest ratio in the league. He has become the RoughRiders’ closer and is a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances. The former Youngstown State Penguin has worked eight straight scoreless appearances and has not conceded more than one run in any single game this season. After walking ten in his first eight outings, Klein has only walked three in his last 12 appearances.

Rougned Odor - INF: The Rangers’ 2013 Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year earns his second straight All-Star selection after starting the 2013 Carolina League All-Star Game at second base. In 32 games with the RoughRiders in 2014, Odor batted .279 and slugged .450 with 36 hits (two doubles, one triple, six home runs) and 17 RBI. His work led to a promotion to the Texas Rangers on May 8. He has played in 24 big league games with Texas and is batting .290 with seven runs, 20 hits and two home runs in 69 at-bats.

Guilder Rodriguez – INF: The fourteen-year professional played his first 12 seasons without an All-Star selection, but is now set to appear in his second consecutive Texas League All-Star Game. The switch-hitter has played the most minor league games (1,040) among all current players who have no big league experience. With multiple hits in five of the last eight games, Rodriguez ranks first in the Texas League in batting average .380 (27 for 71) and second in on-base percentage (.457) since his return from Triple-A Round Rock on May 15. The utility infielder has settled into the shortstop position this year but is still diverse enough to play where his team needs him. Since joining Frisco in 2009, Rodriguez has played every position except catcher. 

Tomás Telis – C: The switch-hitting catcher returns to the Texas League All-Star roster for the second consecutive year after making his first appearance in 2013. Telis was also selected for two previous All-Star teams in the 2008 DSL All-Star Game, in which he was named MVP, and in the 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Telis is batting a league-leading .327 (56-for-171) in 45 games this season. He has scored 18 runs with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers and 26 RBI, and has posted an .807 OPS.

The Dandy Dozen: The ‘Riders Turn 12

It's shaping up to be another great summer at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

It’s shaping up to be another great summer at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

This article originally appeared in the March 21 edition of SportsPage Weekly, which is a free publication available throughout the Metroplex.  To view the article in the online edition, click here.

There are very few “sure things” in life, but when it comes to local sports and entertainment options, the Frisco RoughRiders are just about as close to a sure thing as you can get.  Year after year, Dr Pepper Ballpark hosts exciting baseball action, premium prospects and fun for the whole family.  Ask anyone who has ever been to a RoughRiders game and they’ll tell you how memorable the experience is.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the RoughRiders will soon begin their 12th season on April 3 at home against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals affiliate).  In honor of a dozen years of Frisco baseball, we present the top 12 reasons to catch the RoughRiders in action this season at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

#12 – A winning tradition

Everybody loves a winner.   And over the past decade the RoughRiders have been one of the most consistent winners in Minor League Baseball.  In 2013, Frisco finished with a 70-70 record, its eighth consecutive season with a .500 or better mark on the ledger.  The last time Frisco finished with a losing record was the only time in team history: back in 2005, when the team finished 58-82.  The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years.  The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten).  Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.

#11 – History in the making

Baseball fans appreciate the sport’s history and tradition, and the Texas League plays an important role in the lineage of the game. The RoughRiders and their fans belong to a storied Texas League pedigree that dates back to 1888 (the American League was founded in 1901). A game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is more than just a chance to contribute to baseball’s history; it affords fans the opportunity to witness history as it happens. Notable Texas League alumni span the generations and include Major League Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Dizzy Dean, Joe Morgan and Whitey Herzog. It is a legacy furthered by many stars in the game today who also enjoyed success in the Texas League. Current Rangers Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus had All-Star seasons in the Texas League in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Outside the organization, an impressive crop of recent alumni continue to cultivate the Texas League brand as their big league careers flourish. The Texas League footprint extends across the Major League map and features young stars Mike Trout, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Jean Segura and numerous others.

#10 – Rehabbing Rangers

Matt Harrison was one of 13 rehabbers who played with the 'Riders in 2013.

Matt Harrison was one of 13 rehabbers who played with the ‘Riders in 2013.

Players, coaches and fans dislike injuries, but they remain an inevitable component of any professional game. For a major league club, the inconvenience of an in-season malady is lessened—somewhat—when an affiliate team plays in the neighborhood. No one in Frisco hopes for a rehab assignment, but when a Rangers’ regular tweaks a calf or strains a wrist, Dr Pepper Ballpark provides a two-fold benefit for both the player and the fan. Players can stay in the Metroplex to nurse an injury and play in an atmosphere that approximates a big league ballgame. On the other hand, fans receive a unique opportunity to view their favorite Rangers in a more intimate setting and at an affordable cost. A total of 13 Rangers players donned a RoughRiders’ cap for a rehab assignment in 2013, including pitcher Matt Harrison, who unfortunately started as many games for Frisco (two) as he did for Texas. Rehab assignments rarely occur with much forewarning, but thanks to Derek Holland’s dog, Wrigley, the southpaw has likely already booked a stint with the RoughRiders in 2014. Make sure you’re in the stands when the Rangers’ rehabbers visit Dr Pepper Ballpark.

#9 – A new skipper

For the first time in five years, someone other than Steve Buechele will write out Frisco’s lineup card.  With Buechele managing the Rangers’ Triple-A club this season, Jason Wood steps into the role for the RoughRiders in 2014.  Wood, a five-year major leaguer and veteran of 18 professional seasons as a player, will begin his fourth season as a manager in the Texas farm system.  The 44-year-old spent the previous three years as the skipper for Advanced-A Myrtle Beach.  He led the Pelicans to the playoffs in all three campaigns and looks to get the ’Riders back to the postseason this year.  While Wood is a fresh face in the dugout, the rest of his coaching staff will remain in place from the last two seasons.  Jeff Andrews returns as the team’s pitching coach following a season in which Frisco’s hurlers collectively set numerous team records.  This past offseason, Andrews was honored the co-recipient of the Rangers’ annual Bobby Jones Player Development Man of the Year award.  Jason Hart will begin his third season as Frisco’s hitting coach and his instruction has been lauded for helping former RoughRiders Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Leury Garcia, Chris McGuiness and Engel Beltre all reach the major leagues over the past two seasons.

#8 – Affordability

One of the charms of Minor League Baseball is getting a big league experience without paying a premium price.  RoughRiders games are no different because the team strives to make sure everyone can afford to watch games at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  It can be a major strain on the wallet to attend other professional sporting events.  The average cost for a family of four to attend a Major League Baseball game is approximately $208; for an NFL game that number is $444, with the NBA checking in at $442 and the NHL at $355.  That figure for a Minor League Baseball game?  Just $61.  With RoughRiders tickets starting at just $7 (less than the cost of a movie theater ticket), attending a game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is very much accessible.  But say you’re interested in getting even more value at the ballpark.  The RoughRiders offer affordable ticket plans that include all-you-can-eat food and drink, and even packages that include alcohol.  These value-based ticket plans make attending games in Frisco possible without denting your bank account.

#7 – The other guys aren’t too shabby either

Tomorrow’s stars play today in the Texas League and 2014 is no exception. The RoughRiders will welcome a host of talent from around the circuit to Dr Pepper Ballpark this season, many of whom are ranked on the MLB.com Top 100 Prospects list. The Tulsa Drillers figure to field a strong pitching rotation bolstered by top 50 prospects Jon Gray (#14) and Eddie Butler (#41). Both pitchers bring high-octane velocity to the Drillers’ staff and can touch the upper 90s on the radar gun. Catcher Austin Hedges (#24) of the San Antonio Missions is rated as the second-highest prospect at his position by MLB.com. His strong arm and good footwork behind the plate will give would-be base stealers second thoughts. Kyle Zimmer (#25), the number five overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, is expected to start the season with the Northwest Arkansas. The Royals promoted Zimmer to Double-A late last season where he held a 1.93 ERA through four starts with the Naturals. Position players to watch for elsewhere in the Texas League include speedy leadoff hitter Delino DeShields (#66) of the Corpus Christi Hooks, Jorge Bonifacio (#91) of the Naturals and gifted batter Stephen Piscotty (#98) of the Springfield Cardinals. Every mentioned player has big league potential.

#6 – You won’t be the only one cheering

The vocal and expressive fan will find a home at Dr Pepper Ballpark. For nine consecutive seasons, the RoughRiders have led all 30 Double-A teams in total and average attendance. More than half-a-million fans routinely fill Dr Pepper Ballpark every season and the team averages better than 7,000 fans per game.  Not only is that the best in Double-A, but it’s also higher than 17 Triple-A teams! On 21 occasions in 2013, the ’Riders drew crowds of more than 10,000. Frisco’s fan base is second to none and players say the crowds enhance the in-game environment more than anywhere else in the Texas League. Bring a sign, be loud and shout until your voice goes out. You won’t be cheering alone.

#5 – More than just peanuts and Cracker Jack

RoughRiders cuisine far outstrips traditional ballpark fare. Sure, fans can still fill up to the gills on foot-long hot dogs and brats from Smokie’s Sausage Shack, but Dr Pepper Ballpark serves something for any palate. The new Beer & Barbeque stand will cook in-house, smoked Texas barbeque favorites while Lone Star Pizza offers a wide range of personal style pies. Deep-fried Oreos grace the à la carte lineup for the first time this season, and for those in search of a healthy option, Greek yogurt is also available. Of course, many Frisco fan favorites will be back on the menu as well, from fresh-spun cotton candy and funnel cakes to snow cones and freshly squeezed lemonade. Of course, few things taste better on a hot Texas night than a cold serving of Dippin’ Dots. It’s never summer without great food, great drinks and RoughRiders baseball.

Luke Jackson figures to lead a very talented starting rotation this season.

Luke Jackson figures to lead a very talented starting rotation this season.

#4 – An arsenal of arms

For the best pitching this side of Yu Darvish and Arlington, Dr Pepper Ballpark is the place to be. The RoughRiders will rely on their mound men to bolster the franchise’s quest for an eighth playoff berth. Right-hander Luke Jackson is expected to lead the group in 2014. The fireballer started the previous season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and made his RoughRiders’ debut on August 4, 2013. He didn’t miss a beat in Double-A and finished the season with 134 combined strikeouts at both Myrtle Beach and Frisco and held the eighth-lowest ERA among all full season minor league pitchers (2.04). Those numbers were a big reason why the Rangers named Jackson the club’s 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Alex Claudio figures to take the reins from Jackson and the starters as a key piece in the RoughRiders’ bullpen in 2014. The deceptive Claudio fools batters with his changeup and was named the Rangers’ Minor League Reliever of the Year last season. Another burgeoning prospect, Alex Gonzalez, hopes to excite the Frisco faithful this year. Don’t call him Alex, though. Gonzalez prefers the nickname “Chi Chi,” given by a family member. Baseball America rates the 2013 first round draft pick as the number six prospect in the Rangers’ organization. Fans on the wild side will anticipate the return of eight-year veteran Kevin Pucetas as he unleashes his newly developed knuckleball pitch on the diamond this season. Other highly-ranked pitchers that are expected to see time in Frisco this season include Alec Asher, Nick Martinez and Jerad Eickhoff.

#3 – Rougned Odor

Top prospect Rougned Odor is expected to begin the season at second base in Frisco.

Top prospect Rougned Odor is expected to begin the season at second base in Frisco.

Because the makeup of minor league teams are up to the discretion of the parent club, you never know who will be on the Opening Day roster until very late in spring training.  That is typically the case with the RoughRiders, but one player who looks very likely to be with the team on April 3 is second baseman Rougned Odor.  The Venezuelan with the memorable name is the Rangers’ top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America and he showed why during a 30-game stint with Frisco at the end of the 2013 season.  Odor was promoted to Double-A in early August and hit .306/.354/.530 with six home runs, eight doubles, two triples and 19 RBI.  And he did all of that as just a 19-year-old, the youngest player in Double-A.  (Projecting those numbers out over a 140-game season, he would have hit 28 homers with 37 doubles, nine triples and 89 RBI.) Now 20, Odor spent the first half of spring training in big league camp and hopes to use that experience to further propel his ascension to the major leagues.  For the time being, however, the spunky infielder with the big bat is expected to ply his trade at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

#2 – Family-friendly entertainment

The RoughRiders are well-known for making trips to Dr Pepper Ballpark about more than just the game on the field.  The atmosphere on game nights is a blast, even for folks who aren’t big baseball fans.  The RoughRiders employ a full-time entertainment director whose sole job is to make sure that families have fun when visiting the ballpark.  From spectacular fireworks shows following every Friday night home game to a collection of more than 180 hilarious on-field skits and promotions that rotate throughout the season, there is something fun for everyone who comes to a game.  Dr Pepper Ballpark even features a pool in right field and two playgrounds (including one specifically designed for two-to-five-year-olds).  And for a lot of fans, their favorite RoughRiders aren’t ones you might see in Arlington someday – they are Deuce and Daisy, the team’s loveable mascots.

#1 – The home of future Rangers

With Odor and a tremendous pitching staff leading the way, there should be another impressive assortment of talent on display at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season.  This has been the norm in each of the RoughRiders’ first 11 seasons in Frisco, and with the Rangers’ relentless pursuit of building a winning organization from top-to-bottom, don’t look for that trend to change anytime soon.  Since 2003, 107 former RoughRiders have reached the major leagues, almost one-third of all Frisco players.  In 2013, ten former ’Riders made the big leagues, including Nick Tepesch, Beltre, Garcia and McGuiness.  One look at the Rangers’ 40-man roster shows that half of its members played in Frisco.  Elvis Andrus, Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Holland, Leonys Martin, Profar, Neftali Feliz, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez are just a few of the Texas stalwarts who once wore a RoughRiders uniform.  Outside of the Rangers organization, All-Stars such as Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Adrian Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson all spent time in Frisco as well.

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With the RoughRiders, fans get winning baseball, exciting prospects, delicious food, affordable family fun and the future of the Texas Rangers on display.  It all shows that the Frisco RoughRiders continue to be a sure thing for families and sports fans across the Metroplex.

Day Three in Surprise: Chi-Chi, Cacti and Camelback Ranch

Tommy Hansen faces the White Sox at beautiful Camelback Ranch.

Tommy Hansen faces the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

This week I’m taking in my first visit to Surprise, Arizona for Rangers Spring Training, and I’m bringing you with me. Click the links if you missed the earlier recaps of my trip: Day One ….  Day Two.  

As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I had never been to Arizona prior to this trip (29 states down, 21 to go).  I had an expectation as to what it would be like out here, but I was a little bit jarred seeing cacti and palm trees almost equally share this suburban landscape.  Sure, I was expecting the saguaro, prickly pear and barrel cacti; but I didn’t know about the palm tree prevalence here.  The sight of such disparate plants juxtaposed with each other makes for a strange sight, but I guess there were some people who also thought it bizarre to combine soft serve vanilla and chocolate ice cream into a magnificent swirl of tasty goodness.

I might argue that baseball in the state of Arizona presents a bit of a dichotomy. Here you have a place that is mostly desert with its capital city receiving just eight inches of rain per year.  When you fly over the area, the predominant color is some combination of beige/brown.  A baseball field’s most striking color is green.  When people walk into a stadium for the first time, they don’t often remark about the infield dirt; it’s the lush green grass that catches the eye.  And the grass gets that green because groundskeepers need to regularly douse it with tremendous amounts of water.

I’m not trying to make some sort of environmental case against baseball in Arizona.  I’m just saying it’s always interesting when you see two things put together that don’t naturally seem to belong.  That was the theme I kept coming back to as I took in my final full day in the Valley of the Sun.

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Alex Rios waits for his turn to hit during batting practice.

Alex Rios waits for his turn to hit during batting practice.

9:15 a.m. – I get to the complex a little later this morning, which is no worry because the back fields are still empty by the time I arrive.  Fields 1 & 2, however, are a different story.  The big league club is active with batting practice and Ron Washington is holding court in an otherwise empty dugout at Nolan Ryan Field with a larger media contingent than we’ve seen the last few days.  The reason is two-fold: the Round Rock Express front office has just gotten into town and arrive with several members of their local media, hungry for information on the 2014 squad.  Also, Matt Harrison is making his spring debut in the “B” game this morning against the Royals.  There’s a definite buzz in the air that I hadn’t felt the previous two days here in Surprise.

As I attempt to poke my head into the media scrum, my attention is drawn away by Rangers PR man John Blake, who asks if I can help him with a media request involving minor leaguer and longtime RoughRider Guilder Rodriguez.  One of the DFW TV stations wants to do a story on a veteran player in the minors who helps teach the younger guys how to play the game and Guilder (pronounced “WHEEL-dair”) is the perfect candidate.  I’m happy to help, but I’m also struck by the unusual request.  With all of the great players in camp, some of them brand new to the Rangers (Fielder, Choo), this station wants to report on a 30-year-old Venezuelan utility man with two home runs in 13 professional seasons.  It’s not an easy story to sell the average fan back home, who will likely never see G-Rod play in a game.  Impressed by the request (I’ve never known TV sports guys to be the most enterprising of reporters…), I head to the back fields to tell Guilder that he will be interviewed later in the day.

Matt Harrison delivers to Eric Hosmer in the "B" game on Tuesday.

Matt Harrison delivers to Eric Hosmer in the “B” game on Tuesday.

10 a.m. – They let the fans in a little early today so they could catch the “B” game and Harrison’s start.  The “B” game is played on one of the Rangers practice fields and not in the main stadium.  It looks very much like a minor league spring game, given the spartan surroundings.  But this is no quaint exercise in pitchers simply getting their work in.  It can’t be when the Royals bring over prized big leaguers Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Danny Valencia and Mike Moustakas to play in the contest.  Over on Field 2, batting practice with some of the big leaguers is still going on while Harrison unleashes a fastball for strike one to get the contest started.  He retires the first batter thanks to a superb sliding catch down the right field line by second baseman Rougned Odor, gives up a hit, but retires the next two batters to complete his work for the day.   Harrison says after his outing that he felt good and the recovery into Wednesday will be key to determining the next step for him as he comes back from three 2013 surgeries.

Harrison is the only “regular” playing for the Rangers in this game; most of the others will be suiting up later in the day against the White Sox. Odor ends up providing all of the offense in the “B” game, stroking an RBI triple and a two-run home run off lefty Everett Teaford.  I wasn’t there to see it, but Odor allegedly flipped his bat after going yard.  In an unrelated note, the RoughRiders open the season against the Royals-affiliated Northwest Arkansas Naturals on April 3.

Rougned Odor and Engel Beltre strike a similar pose in the "B" game.

Rougned Odor and Engel Beltre strike a similar pose in the “B” game.

Greg and Mike Maddux get a good look at the pitchers along with the Royals coaches.

Greg and Mike Maddux get a good look at the pitchers along with the Royals coaches.

10:30 a.m. – I spy Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez nearby and chat with him for a bit about his first Spring Training.  Because I want you to learn a little more about the Rangers’ 2013 first round draft pick, I recorded the interview so I could post it here.  I’ll transcribe it when I’m back in Frisco, but here’s a link to the audio for now.

11 a.m. – I head to the back fields for the start of more intersquad games between the Rangers minor leaguers.  Just like yesterday, the teams are mixed up pretty significantly, with Triple-A guys playing alongside short-season guys in some cases.  After the final out of each half inning is recorded, the team on offense sends up a player to bunt so that both sides can work on bunt execution.  The players seem to forget that they’re doing this every inning, so most of them begin running off the field after the third out is recorded, only to have about eight people yell “BUNT PLAY!” at them so they stay in their positions.

Alec Asher, a prospective 2014 'Rider, pitches to Nomar Mazara. Asher sat 94-95 with his fastball and looked sharp.

Alec Asher, a prospective 2014 ‘Rider, pitches to Nomar Mazara. Asher sat 94-95 with his fastball and looked sharp.

Many of the players found themselves away from their natural positions.  Travis Demeritte, a shortstop by trade, played at second base.  Ryan Rua, an infielder, was in left field.  Catcher Jorge Alfaro was at first base, as was outfielder Jared Hoying (who also saw time at second base in a “B” game earlier in Spring Training; he reportedly impressed Ron Washington with his performance).  The reasons for moving players around like this include building up a player’s versatility, experimenting to determine if a new position might be a better fit or protecting a player from injury.

Jared Hoying plays in on the grass at first base.  Jairo Beras lingers off the bag.

Jared Hoying plays in on the grass at first base. Jairo Beras lingers off the bag.

11:45 a.m. – I get permission to watch some of the games from up in the tower that sits between all four of the minor league fields.  Many of the coaches will shuttle between the observation tower and field level to watch the action.  It’s a great way to keep an eye on as much of the games as possible.  Some of the coaches who are up there with me include Field Coordinator Jayce Tingler, Infield Coordinator Casey Candaele, Special Assignment Hitting Instructor Harry Spillman and some guy named Ivan Rodriguez.  Yeah, I’ve never heard of him either.

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It won't be framed anywhere, but here's a good look at the view from the observation tower.

It won’t be framed anywhere, but here’s a good look at the view from the observation tower. (Click to see a bigger image)

Once the intersquad games are complete, I make one last lap around the facility and say my goodbyes to folks.  I fly back to Texas on Wednesday morning and won’t be back at Rangers camp on this trip.

Pudge is still a pretty popular guy with Rangers fans.

Pudge is still a pretty popular guy with Rangers fans.

A scout's view at Camelback Ranch.

A scout’s view at Camelback Ranch.

2:30 p.m. – Following a quick lunch, I make my way to Camelback Ranch, the Spring Training complex in Glendale that is home to the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Rangers are playing the Pale Hose in another Cactus League matchup and by the time I arrive, it’s 5-0 Sox in the sixth inning.  I saunter over to the scout seats behind home plate and find my friend Jason Cole.  Known to many Rangers fans as the publisher of “Lone Star Dugout” and a contributor to Baseball Prospectus, Jason was also the color commentator for our RoughRiders TV broadcasts the last few years.  During the off-season, the Tampa Bay Rays recognized his talents as an evaluator and hired him to be a professional scout (read more about it here).  Sadly, Jason will no longer be able to join me on the air, but I’m very excited for him and his new path in baseball.  He’ll still make it to Frisco every now and then to scout the Rangers (maybe picking out the pieces in a future David Price trade?), so there will still be future opportunities to make him laugh at my awful jokes when he’s up in the press box, as he’s dutifully done in recent seasons.

2:45 p.m. – I take a lap around the ballpark to see the sights of one of the newer facilities in the Cactus League.  It is located just south of University of Phoenix Stadium (the home of the Arizona Cardinals) and the land around the ballpark is mostly desert scrub.  If you look at the surrounding area on Google Maps, you see what appears to be a large river flowing near the complex.  Sadly, the Agua Fria River is completely dry.  Check out the same map through the satellite view and you’ll see what I mean.  It is not a picturesque area near the park, however inside the complex it looks and feels like a resort.  Man-made ponds, winding pathways and an elaborate collection of trees make Camelback Ranch feel quite different from the land around it.  I will say, it is a very nice facility and it has the most unique design of the three complexes I have visited on this trip.

Resort, or baseball complex?

Resort, or baseball complex?

This is the view you get when you walk into the ballpark from the center field gate.  You wouldn't even know it's a baseball stadium.

This is the view you get when you walk into the ballpark from the center field gate. You wouldn’t even know it’s a baseball stadium.

Bring a hat to Camelback Ranch, because there is very little shade for a vast majority of the seats.

Bring a hat to Camelback Ranch, because there is very little shade for a vast majority of the seats.

Looking in from left field.

Looking in from left field.

The Dodgers' offices are located beyond left field while the White Sox have an identical building beyond right.

The Dodgers’ offices are located beyond left field while the White Sox have an identical building beyond right.

Brett Nicholas (bottom left) and Wilmer Font (upper right), both 2013 RoughRiders, help man the Texas bullpen.

Brett Nicholas (bottom left) and Wilmer Font (upper right), both 2013 RoughRiders, help man the Texas bullpen.

The park looks empty, but most fans have flocked to the shade, leaving the tan seats baking in the sun.

The park looks empty, but most fans have flocked to the shade, leaving the tan seats baking in the sun.

One of the reasons I especially wanted to come to this game was the fact that the White Sox were the Rangers’ opponent.  Prior to

My former skipper Joe McEwing waves home a White Sox player.

My former skipper Joe McEwing waves home a White Sox player.

joining the RoughRiders, I spent two seasons as the broadcaster for the Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A affiliate of Chicago.  In addition to seeing many familiar players suit up for the White Sox, I recognized a few coaches.  The Dash’s manager in 2010, Joe McEwing, is now the third base coach for Robin Ventura’s squad, while the bullpen coach is former Winston pitching coach Bobby Thigpen.

During my walk around the park, I spy “Thiggy” in the home bullpen and call down to him during a lull in the action.  He’s happy to see me and we have a short chat that is interrupted by an usher.  He tells me to not stand next to the bullpen railing or converse with the coaches during the game.  I sheepishly say goodbye to Thiggy and then make my way back to the concourse, feeling like an embarrassed third grader who was caught talking during class.

3:45 p.m. – After the Rangers rally to take the lead in the top of the eighth, Chicago ties it in the bottom of the inning and then wins it in the ninth to send Texas to a 7-6 loss.  Afterwards I grab dinner with the Rays’ newest pro scout and bid adieu to Arizona baseball.  In the natural scheme of things, it might not make a lot of sense, but watching so much baseball in the desert this week was a blast and I’m already looking forward to another trip next year (not to mention Opening Day in about three weeks).

Getting over my palm tree-cactus complex.

Getting over my palm tree-cactus complex.

I’ll have more from my trip to Arizona over the next few days, but it’s back to DFW for now.  As always, thanks for reading.

- Alex

Putting a bow on the 2013 Season

The 2013 season ended eight days ago and before we start thinking about Opening Day 2014 (currently 205 days away, but who’s counting?), let’s wrap up this year with some of the notable notes & factoids. The following tidbits are stolen taken from the RoughRiders’ end-of-season notes, which you can see in their entirety here.

SEASON NOTES

Report Card: The RoughRiders finished their 11th season with an overall record of 70-70, good enough for third place in the Texas League South Division and fourth-best in the eight-team circuit.  Frisco was 39-31 in the first half, claiming second place in the division, and 31-39 in the second half (third place).  The RoughRiders missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time in team history.  For the first time since becoming a minor league manager in 2009 (Bakersfield), Steve Buechele oversaw a team that did not make the postseason.  Two RoughRiders were named to the postseason All-Star Team: DH Brett Nicholas and RHP Neil Ramirez.

Playing not to lose: For the eighth straight season, the RoughRiders finished with a non-losing record.  The last time Frisco finished below .500 was the only time in team history, back in 2005 when the team finished 58-82.  The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years.  The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten).  Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.

Home Field Advantage: A crowd of 10,712 watched the RoughRiders beat Corpus Christi in the home finale on August 30, marking the second-biggest attendance at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season.  It was exceeded only by the July 4 game against Arkansas, when 10,801 saw the Travelers edge the ’Riders 3-2.  Frisco welcomed 479,873 fans to the ballpark this year (an average of 7,057), the highest total in Double-A for the ninth straight year.  The total and average attendance figures are higher than 17 Triple-A ballclubs this season.

Pitching in: Pitching coach Jeff Andrews can be proud to point out that this year’s Frisco staff statistically rates as the best in franchise history.  Of the 11 seasons in RoughRiders history, the 2013 team finished with the best ERA (3.58, placing in the top two of the league for just the second time ever), strikeouts (1,111), WHIP (1.265), and hits/9 IP (8.0, the lowest figure in the TL since 2003).  The team’s strikeouts/9 IP (8.0) was tied for the second-best in team history.  Making these feats even more impressive is that the RoughRiders utilized 37 different pitchers (by far the most in the league, five more than Springfield, which had used the second-most), including 19 starters.

Saint Nicholas: Frisco first baseman Brett Nicholas has had a great year in his first Double-A season.  Before to this year, Nicholas had 17 career home runs in three combined pro seasons but hit 21 in 2013.  In addition to the long balls, the Arizona native established career-bests in games (136), plate appearances (575), at bats (506), hits (146), batting average (.289), slugging percentage (.474), OPS (.831), RBI (91), runs (71), triples (3) and total bases (240).  Nicholas finished among the Texas League leaders in average (fourth), games (first), at bats (third), home runs (seventh), RBI (first), hits (first), extra-base hits (tied for fifth, 49) and total bases (first, 240).  He was the only player in the TL in the top seven in all three of the Triple Crown categories.  Nicholas was named a mid-season and postseason All-Star (at DH) and will be one of the Rangers’ representatives in the Arizona Fall League.

Teo Time: Teodoro Martinez had a breakout season in many respects in 2013.  The diminutive outfielder was second on the team with 15 home runs and was also among the team leaders in hits (second, 110), runs scored (third, 51), RBI (fourth, 47), total bases (third, 168), and steals (second, 21).  Martinez entered the season with ten career home runs and single-season high of six, but more than doubled his career output in longballs with a year that landed him on the mid-season All-Star Team.  He had a career game on the penultimate day of the regular season in Midland, going 4 for 5 with a double, two home runs, eight runs batted in and three runs scored.  The eight RBI matched his total from July (three) and August (five) combined and represented what is believed to be a RoughRiders single-game record.  It was only fitting that Martinez had his huge game against Midland; in 27 games against the RockHounds, he hit .336/.351/.600 (.951 OPS) with two doubles, nine home runs, 28 RBI, 16 runs scored and seven steals.

New Kids on the Block: The makeup of Frisco’s roster changed dramatically in early August, when nine new players joined the team and seven players were sent elsewhere.  Of the new RoughRiders, second baseman Rougned Odor and pitchers Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez—all promoted from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach—shined the brightest.  From August 1 through the end of the season, Odor led the Texas League in hits (41) and was tied for second in extra-base hits (16).  At 19, he was the youngest player in Double-A and over 30 games hit .306/.354/.530 with six homers, eight doubles, two triples, 19 RBI, 20 runs scored and five steals.  Jackson did not allow a run until his fifth ’Riders outing and went 2-0 over six games (four starts) with a 0.67 ERA (2 ER/27 IP), 30 strikeouts and a .144 opposing batting average.  Dating back to his time with the Pelicans, he ended the season having gone 15 games (13 starts) since last suffering a defeat (May 27 at Lynchburg).  Martinez did not work the strikeouts like Jackson, but he was stellar in five games (four starts), going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA (4 ER/32 IP), 11 hits allowed, a 0.56 WHIP and a .107 opposing batting average.  While pitching in relief of rehabber Nick Tepesch on August 27 against Corpus Christi, he threw seven no-hit innings and retired the last 19 batters of the ballgame.

Don’t walk this way: A constant theme over the course of the season was the inability of the ’Riders to draw walks while on offense.  Frisco not only finished last among all Texas League teams with 303 walks this season, but also last among all full-season minor league teams (Advanced-A Brevard County was closest with 343).  In fact, the ’Riders had fewer walks than 13 rookie-level teams whose seasons began well after Frisco’s.  The 303 walks set a new Texas League record for fewest walks ever received by a team, “besting” the 1992 San Antonio Missions (310).  The RoughRiders’ on-base percentage of .300 was the seventh-lowest of all 229 MiLB teams and the second-lowest of all full-season squads.

Guilded Age: The 2013 season was a banner one for longtime RoughRiders utility player Guilder Rodriguez.  This past season was Rodriguez’s 13th in professional baseball and his fifth with Frisco.  Thanks to a terrific first half of the season, the Venezuelan was named to his first All-Star Game and came in off the bench to play in the South Division’s 6-0 win over the North.  Rodriguez set several career Frisco records over the course of the year; he has played in more games as a RoughRider (407) than any other player in team history.  On August 4, he passed Renny Osuna as the franchise’s all-time hits leader; he has 352 career hits as a RoughRider.  On August 25, playing in his 1000th professional stateside game, Rodriguez stole his 66th base in a Frisco uniform, snapping a tie with Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry for the most career steals.  G-Rod is now 66 for 92 stealing bases as a ’Rider; Gentry was 65 for 79 in 207 Frisco games.

This ’pen is mightier: Despite a constantly rotating cast, the RoughRiders’ bullpen was the strength of the pitching staff this season.  Frisco’s relievers won almost as many games (34) as the team’s starters (36) while posting an impressive 2.55 ERA (166 ER/586.2 IP).  The bullpen was heavy on strikeouts (9.1/9 IP) and stingy on allowing hits (6.9/9 IP).  Ben Rowen (0.53 ERA) and Wilmer Font (1.41 ERA) led the group with ten saves apiece while nine total players had at least one save.  The strong back end of the bullpen was a major reason why the RoughRiders went 51-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning, not blowing a ninth inning save all season.  Frisco was the only Texas League team that did not lose a game when leading after eight innings (all other teams had at least two such losses).  The ’Riders were one of eight full-season minor league teams that did not blow a ninth inning lead and one of three (New Orleans, 72-72; West Michigan, 69-70) that did it while failing to post a winning overall record.

- Alex

‘Riders on the Record: Dunk City baseball and September call-ups

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‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

The second-to-last ‘Riders on the Record features Richard Bleier on the rise of his alma mater to “Dunk City,” the inaugural turn for Rougned Odor on the Record (via translator Arlett Mavare) and the always enlightening Jason Cole on the newest ‘Riders hurlers. Want to find out if Rougned Odor voted for himself in Moniker Madness? Be sure to listen in to Alex’s chat with him from Thursday.

It’s been a pleasure reliving these conversations with the players, coaches and special guests this season. We will put off next week’s Record until Monday and include the final eight days of interviews for the season. Thanks for continuing to tune in.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 18, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


Steve Buechele weighs in on the the previous night’s antics when Odor knocked a walk off single for the second straight night. He gives his take on late-game enthusiasm and how close the ‘Riders came to blows with the Drillers Saturday night. He tries to explain the late fielding blunders for the club and what he expects of Neil Ramirez, who would make his final appearance for the club that night.  (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 – LHP Richard Bleier


Relief pitcher Richard Bleier joined the RoughRiders after a rocky start to his season in Triple-A. He talks about dealing with the adversity and disappointment of demotion back to Double-A and how he has rebounded to have a strong year out of the ‘Riders bullpen. He recalls the decision to shave his beard in the middle of the season and remembers his time at Florida Gulf Coast. (w/ Alex)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 – Hitting Coach Jason Hart


Hitting coach Jason Hart joins the pregame show and talks about the newest RoughRiders like Ryan Rua and Kalian Sams as well as how he tries to improve as a hitting coach. Getting close to the end of the season, he explains how he keeps the hitters motivated and focused through the end of the season. (w/ Alex)

Thursday, August 22, 2013 – 2B Rougned Odor


Translated by Arlett Mavare, Rougned Odor explains to Alex about his adjustment to the Texas League and what it was like to have back-to-back nights in which he collects a walk off hit. He talks about the importance of staying with his double play partner Luis Sardinas and the stock he places in the Moniker Madness competition put on by Minor League baseball to crown the best name in the sport. (w/ Alex)

Friday, August 23, 2013 – Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus


Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus sits down before the ‘Riders’ last game in San Antonio to discuss the trio of new ‘Riders pitchers: Luke Jackson, Jerad Eickhoff and Nick Martinez. He breaks down the play of Luis Sardinas and speculates on potential September call-ups to the Rangers. (w/ Alex)

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: baseballese – the overall language of baseball, comprising official terminology, slang, and jargon. 

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Rougned Odor Walk-off Madness

081713 Odor web

What an exciting weekend we had here in Frisco. Big crowds, beautiful August weather and a sweep of the Drillers.

On back-to-back nights, the Rangers’ top second base prospect Rougned Odor knocked a walk-off single to send Frisco past the Tulsa Drillers by a 6-5 score. Odor has impressed with his mere presence in Double-A, as he is the youngest player in not only the Texas League but also the entire Double-A level, besting top Cleveland prospect Francisco Lindor by a few months.

His feats on Friday night and Saturday night are unprecedented in RoughRiders history.

Thanks to our friends over at MiLB.com for cutting up the clip. Unfortunately, on Saturday, they chose a different clip, but we do have a GIF from baseball blogger Kazuto Yamazaki, who spends a good chuck of time following the Rangers and their affiliates.

Roogie walk-offNever before has a RoughRider walked it off on back-to-back nights. Four other times, the RoughRiders have collected walk-off wins on consecutive nights.

Hank’s brother Jake Blalock followed Luke Grayson‘s walk-off with one of his own on May 7, 2006.

Jake Blalock walk-off

A wild pitch from Sam Demel made a walk-off winner of the ‘Riders on May 19, 2007, one night after Emerson Frostad singled in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning against the Midland RockHounds.

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Joey Butler and Andy Jenkins beat the Missions with extra-innings walk-off singles on consecutive nights here at Dr Pepper Ballpark in late August of 2010.

Last season, the ‘Riders picked up back-to-back game-ending hits in the South Division Championship Series against the Corpus Christi Hooks. Chris McGuiness doubled in the winning run on September 5 and Leury Garcia knocked a home run to right field to end game two on September 6. The ‘Riders would sweep the series before falling to the Springfield Cardinals in the Texas League Championship Series.

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Rougned Odor was the first to end games on two straight nights in team history. To further the rarity, he did in the same way (a single), against the same team (Tulsa Drillers) and by the same score (both wins were 6-5 RoughRiders victories). Friday’s came in the 13th inning, while Saturday’s contest finished in the bottom of the ninth.

The 19-year-old has impressed to start his Double-A career. He hit safely in his first nine Texas League games. He hit in each game this weekend and has four doubles, adding to his absurd Myrtle Beach two-bagger total for a season tally of 37–the most by any Rangers minor leaguer and tied for fifth in all of minor league baseball.

Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 19 Frisco 16 78 9 20 4 1 3 9 1 1 5 16 .278 .333 .486 .819

The ‘Riders open a series with the San Antonio Missions tonight, trying to extend their hopes at a playoff berth. Frisco needs to win three of the four games over the Missions in the series to avoid San Antonio clinching against them. You can learn more about the ‘Riders of late in tonight’s game notes.

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: massage – to bat a ball

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

The name game: Rougned Odor

This week, MiLB.com kicked off their annual fan participation contest “Moniker Madness” where fans can choose the best name among the thousands of active Minor League players.  RoughRiders new-comer Rougned Odor has been selected by MiLB.com as a contestant this season and he needs your votes.  Odor is also the solo representative from the Rangers farm system.

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Rougned, also known as Roogey, made his Double-A debut on August 1 and became the youngest player at the level this season at age 19.  The Venezuelan second baseman has a 15 year-old brother with the same first name, but the two are separated by different middle names (older Rougned’s full name is Rougned Roberto, while the younger is named Rougned Jose).  The two have an uncle named Rouglas Odor who is a hitting coach in the Cleveland Indians system.

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How to vote

On the webpage, fans will be given a random pairing of two names and will vote on which one they prefer. Then another random pairing will appear and the fan can vote again. This will continue with different random pairings as long as the fan chooses to continue. The ultimate winner of the contest will be the player that wins the most random head-to-head matchups.  Voting will run through noon on Wednesday, August 28.

The link for the Moniker Madness voting page is – www.milb.com/monikermadnes

Other nominated Texas Leaguers:

Delta Cleary Jr. – Tulsa Drillers
Rocky Gale – San Antonio Missions
Cheslor Cuthbert – Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Jett Bandy – Arkansas Travelers

215x160_mm_2013

-Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Seamhead – A dedicated baseball fan

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

‘Riders on the Record: The Franchise Hits Record and Modeling off Tim Lincecum

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‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

Lots of new faces, lots of new voices this week for ‘Riders on the Record. Wednesday through Saturday we heard from folks we have yet to hear from this season, including three players who joined the team this month. If you have seen Luke Jackson pitch, you might make the Tim Lincecum comparison in terms of his windup. Jackson addresses that notion; turns out its not a coincidence. Be sure to tune in to the always poignant G-Rod, who became the RoughRiders All-Time hits leader on Sunday before a promotion to Triple-A on Friday. Why is Ryan Rua hitting so many home runs this year? He tries to explain the uptick in long balls as well.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 4, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


The ‘Riders manager saw a bevy of changes to his roster of the week prior. Steve Buechele discusses the promotion of Carlos Pimentel to Triple-A, the addition of some highly-touted prospects from Myrtle Beach included Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas and Luke Jackson, as well as the challenge of telling players that they have to go down a level. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 – UTIL Guilder Rodriguez


With a pair of hits on Sunday August 4, 2013, Guilder Rodriguez became the all-time franchise leader in hits, passing Renny Osuna who had 347 hits for the club. He discusses the significance of the record, especially in light of him passing a friend and a former teammate. He also shares his parting words with Hanser Alberto and Odubel Herrera when they were sent down to Myrtle Beach. (w/ Alex)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – SP Jerad Eickhoff


Fresh off his Double-A debut, the big right-hander Jerad Eickhoff sat down with Alex Vispoli. Jerad had some family in town for the outing, he talks about how often his family gets to see him pitch. He talks about how he had honed his control and what he makes of Nick Tepesch comparisons. (w/ Alex)

Thursday, August 8, 2013 – SP Arlett Mavare


Arlett Mavare has not been a starting pitcher since his first year in professional ball. Sliding into the rotation of the ‘Riders this season, Arlett has really found a groove. He talks about his curious strikeout numbers, which he piles up despite the lack of an overpowering fastball. (w/ Alex)

Friday, August 9, 2013 – SP Luke Jackson


Rangers top-10 prospect Luke Jackson fired six shutout frames in his first Double-A start. With an unconventional delivery, Jackson is a very hard thrower. He talks about the tinkering of his mechanics as a professional and how he developed the motion in the first place. He also talks about the adjustment to Double-A and the new clubhouse which is now home to a bunch of his Myrtle Beach teammates. (w/ Alex)

Saturday, August 10, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua


A “career year” only begins to describe the kind of season that Ryan Rua is putting together this year. At or near the top in the minors in home runs for most of the season, Ryan talks about how he has been able to unlock the power this season and about his journey from small Lake Erie College to Double-A pro ball. (w/ Alex)
– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: blinker – the back pocket lining of baseball pants

Rangers bestow Buchholz with hardware, we weigh in and post cool graphics

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Kudos to Buch. The ‘Riders primary third baseman this season, Alex Buchholz, promoted for the second time this season to Triple-A on July 30, earned Rangers’ minor league Player of the Month for a scorching hot effort at the plate in July (.347/.413/.622).  New RoughRiders reliever Francisco Mendoza was also honored as the Reliever of the month; he was promoted to Frisco one day after he completed his excellent July.

From the Rangers:

Arlington, Texas – The Texas Rangers announced today the club’s minor league award winners for July. Right-hander David Ledbetter was named Pitcher of the Month, infielder Alex Buchholz was named Player of the Month, outfielder Lewis Brinson was named Defender of the Month, and right-hander Francisco Mendoza was named Reliever of the Month.
 
Buchholz, 25, combined to bat .347 (34-98) with 9 doubles, 6 home runs, 15 RBI, 15 runs, and 8 walks over 26 games with Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock in the month of July. The 6 home runs by Buchholz raised his season total to a career-high 15, eclipsing his previous best of 8 with Bakersfield in 2010. He hit a pair of long balls in Frisco’s 4-3 victory over Midland in game one of a doubleheader on July 17, including a walk-off home run in the 9th inning. Buchholz hit safely in 21 of 26 games in July, including a 9-game hit streak from July 4-13, during which he batted .432 (16-37). Overall, Buchholz has combined to bat .281 (105-374) with 25 doubles, a triple, 15 home runs, 50 RBI, and 48 runs in 100 games with the ‘Riders and Express. He was selected from Cincinnati in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft on December 8, 2011.
 
Mendoza, 25, permitted just one unearned run and whiffed 16 batters over 13.1 innings of work in 10 relief appearances with High-A Myrtle Beach in July. The right-hander converted 6 of 7 save chances during the month, recording the 2nd-most saves in the Carolina League in July. Mendoza stranded 7 of 10 inherited runners, while holding opponents to a .227 average (10-44). He was promoted to Double-A Frisco on August 1 and has gone 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA (15 ER/40.0 IP), 7 saves, and 50 strikeouts in 29 relief appearances overall between Myrtle Beach and Frisco. The Dominican Republic native was signed as a non-drafted free agent on May 19, 2008 by Rodolfo Rosario.
In addition to aforementioned exploits for Buchholz, he ranked tops or near the tops in a number of areas among Rangers minor leaguers for the month of July:

Buchholz stacking up to the system in July

Batting Average:

  1. Kevin Mendoza .395 (43 AB)
  2. Jorge Alfaro .382 (34 AB)
  3. Paul Cantwell .362 (58 AB)
  4. Nick Williams .349 (86 AB)
  5. Alex Buchholz .347 (98)

Slugging Percentage*:

  1. Jorge Alfaro .647 (34 AB)
  2. Fernando Vivilli .633 (30 AB)
  3. Alex Buchholz .622 (98 AB)
  4. Mike Bianucci .591 (44 AB)

* #1 and #2 had around 1/3 of the AB of Buchholz. Second to Buchholz in the system with more than 75 AB was Nick Williams with a SLG of .535 (86 AB)

Hits:

  1. Kevin Torres 35
  2. Alex Buchholz 34
  3. Luis Sardinas 34

Doubles:

  1. Alex Buchholz 9
  2. Rougned Odor 9
  3. Jake Skole 9

Home Runs:

  1. Alex Buchholz 6
  2. Jim Adduci 5
  3. Ryan Rua 5

Total Bases:

  1. Alex Buchholz 61
  2. Kevin Torres 48
  3. Brett Nicholas 47

(All data from MLBFarm.com)

As an aside, if you haven’t had a peek at the greatness that is MLBFarm.com yet, you should. Alex’s page here has all sort of interesting goodies and charts.

Tying it back in, here is Alex’s spray chart for the season:

Buchhspray

Okay, so someone misplaced a groundout point somewhere in Ruthian left field. Let’s let that go.
And here is his “heat” map, which is essentially the same thing. Minus the details. With more cool factor. Or heat factor, I guess…okay, I will stop.
Alex  Buchholz_HeatMapFinally, we come the illuminating bar graph. Less cool but my favorite nonetheless.
buchholz bar graph
Breaking this chart down a bit, here is what he did before July 1:
Buch early chart
Here is what Buch did in July:
Buch july chart
The point, largely, is that it doesn’t change a whole lot. Yes, he hit the ball on the ground a bit less, but the ratios are similar across the board. Outside of maybe striking out slightly less often and walking a shade more often, Alex Buchholz has been a similar player for most of the season. He is having a great year. July was tremendous. But July not a fluke.
- Nathan
Baseball term of the day: fall on a pitcherto get many hits off a pitcher during an inning or over the course of a game

‘Riders in Review: July 2013

Welcome to August. The ‘Riders had to have been happy to close the book on July. The 11-18 mark was the worst month for the team in terms of wins and losses this season and the worst since an 8-14 record posted in April 2011.

August 1 brought some new faces–five in fact. The promotion of Carlos Pimentel to Triple-A and the departure of Hanser Alberto, Odubel Herrera, Nick McBride and Kevin Pucetas to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach made room for the Pelicans to send five players to Frisco: pitchers Jon Edwards, Luke Jackson and Francisco Mendoza as well as infielders Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas. (read more on the new guys here)

Frisco trailed the San Antonio Missions by eight games in the Texas League South Division at the month’s end. Dr Pepper Ballpark proved a tough venue for the ‘Riders in the month. The team won just 3 of 13 games here in Frisco. Still, remarkable performances were put together and some unforgettable moments made.

Texas League Rankings for the Month of July

Record: 55-55 overall, 11-18 in May (T-5th in Texas League), home: 3-10, road: 8-8, vs. division: 9-13

Runs: 110 (T-5th)

Average: .248 (6th)

On-base percentage: .294 (8th)

Stolen bases: 17 (6th)

Home runs: 20 (T-6th)

ERA: 3.78 (5th)

Strikeouts for: 197 (6th)

Walks allowed: 80 (8th)

Avg attendance for the year: 7,165 (6th fewest)

RIDERS REVIEW Record Runs AVG OBP SB HR ERA K BB Avg. Att. TD
April 14-11 107 .250 .297 19 17 2.87 208 84 7060
May 18-11 125 .247 .306 38 32 4.12 255 114 7315
June 12-15 96 .259 .299 23 18 4.10 210 99 7310
July 11-18 110 .248 .294 17 20 3.87 197 80 7165
Season 55-55 438 .251 .299 97 87 3.74 870 377 7165

TL IN MAY Record Runs AVG OBP SB HR ERA K BB Avg. Att. TD
San Anto. 19-10 105 .260 .310 32 20 3.01 225 90 4,349
Corpus 18-11 138 .254 .336 7 34 4.00 179 77 5,475
Arkansas 17-12 110 .258 .314 22 24 3.53 193 77 4,488
NW Ark. 14-15 140 .264 .326 30 31 4.59 233 107 4,756
Springfield 14-15 135 .249 .341 28 28 3.77 247 82 4,929
Tulsa 12-17 96 .243 .299 13 24 3.93 228 82 5,817
FRISCO 11-18 110 .248 .294 17 20 3.78 197 80 7,165
Midland 11-18 112 .234 .316 20 14 3.70 200 79 4,616

Awards

‘Riders Slugger of the Month

3B Alex Buchholz (.341/.412/.615), 15 R, 7 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 9 K, 8 BB, 1 SB)

It’s amazing that four months into the season, this selection has been so easy each month. It’s hard to argue for anyone outside of Alex Buchholz. He very well could win the Texas Rangers Minor League Player of the Month with his torrid July. He added to his stellar July Double-A campaign with a couple of doubles and a ribbie in Triple-A action to close out the month.

No other Rangers minor leaguer posted an OPS of over 1.000. His six home runs represented the highest long ball total on the Rangers’ farm, and was only bested by the big leagues’ Adrian Beltre and his nine July home run in the entire Texas system. Buchholz earned Texas League Player of the Week for the week of June 10-17 when he began his week 7-for-7. Playing for the first time in his career at Triple-A, the former Reds farmhand is in the midst of a breakout season. He has posted a career high in games played (96), doubles (25) home runs (15), RBI (49).

Past winners: Telis (June), Nicholas (May), Hoying (April)

‘Riders Hurler of the Month

RHP Arlett Mavare (0-0, 2.19 ERA, 6 G, 3 GS, 24.2 IP, 20 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 HRA, 16 K, 2 BB, 2 HB, 0.89 WHIP, .222 BAA)

With apologies to a number of relievers who shined in July, most notably newcomers Alex Claudio (1.29 ERA/1.07 WHIP, 14.0 IP 16 K, 3 BB) and Lisalverto Bonilla (0.61 ERA/1.02 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 21 K, 5 BB), it was Arlett Mavare who, not only pitched the best in July but also surprised and saved a RoughRiders rotation in dire need of stability.

With Neil Ramirez on the disabled list and the recent departures of Carlos Pimentel (Round Rock) and Kevin Pucetas (Myrtle Beach), the five men from the Opening Day rotation are now all gone. Cody Buckel is in Arizona working out control issues in the Rangers spring training complex and Ryan Feierabend has spent most of the season in Triple-A with the Express.

Mavare stepped into Ramirez’s spot and has been brilliant. Before the move to the rotation, Mavare was 1-2 with a 6.91 ERA. Mavare made three starts in the month: in 16 innings pitched, he allowed four runs on 12 hits with eight Ks and one walk. One walk.

In his final start in July, Arlett tossed a career-high-tying seven innings pitched, something he hadn’t done since his first pro season in 2009.

Past winners: Tufts (June), Rowen (May), Henry (April)

Official Texas League Players of the Week:

July 1 – 7: P – Matt Wisler (San Antonio) ; B – Audry Perez (Springfield) 

July 8 – 14: P – Carlos Hernandez (Midland); B – Brett Eibner (NW Arkansas)

July 15 – 21: P – Keyvius Sampson (San Antonio); B – Max Stassi (Corpus Christi)

July 22 – 28: P – Aaron Brooks (NW Arkansas); B – Brian Fletcher (NW Arkansas)

Punching Bag of the Month

Corpus Christi Hooks RP Kenny Long

Overall it hasn’t been a great season for Long, but July was particularly brutal. The stock was rising for the former 22nd rounder when he was promoted to Double-A for the first time in his career after a good start in Lancaster (Advanced-A). His Hooks run began solid as well, firing four scoreless outings to begin his time in the Texas League.

It’s been shaky since then, so shaky that he is back down in the California League and likely in large part to the way the ‘Riders punished Long. In seven July outings lasting 7.2 innings before his demotion, Long was knocked around for 10 runs on 18 hits with four walks and two home runs allowed. Good for an 0-2 record and an 11.74 ERA. Both losses ad both homers came against Frisco. He matched up against the ‘Riders in his final three Double-A appearances. Here is the line: 3 G, 2.2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2 HR allowed, .555 BAA (10-for-18). Ouch.

Best Moment of the Month

A second fan won a car at Dr Pepper Ballpark – July 7, 2013 - Remember when Tomas Telis won a fan a car by hitting a home run on the first swing for the ‘Riders in the fifth inning? I remember remarking to someone walking around the ballpark one day how cool it would be if someone actually won this promotion and pegged the odds as somewhere near one in a thousand or so. Shows what I know about chance.

It was only the third time the ‘Riders had run the Pat Lobb Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Magic Swing Promotion this season, and the contestant went home with a brand new 2013 Jeep Wrangler. Good stuff. So we had that feather in the cap. Everyone who was here can say they saw a once-in-a-lifetime kind of promotional giveaway.

Except it happened again. On July 8, Odubel Herrera hit the third home run of the game for the ‘Riders and just his second of the season. In fact, both RoughRiders hitters to accomplish the feat did it on just their second home run of the year. Herrera hadn’t homered in 31 games and has not hit a long ball since. But that day: fate, destiny and minor league promotion at its finest.

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). Joe Benson, ranked 19th in the Minnesota Twins organization by Baseball America to open the season, joined the RoughRiders in late May. Three of the new additions from August 1 are Top 30 Rangers prospects–we will get to them after their first month with the ‘Riders.

Cody Buckel - Nothing new here. Buckel last pitched for the ‘Riders in May. He has been in Arizona at extended Spring Training trying to sort out control issues ever since. Rangers Rehab Pitching Coordinator Keith Comstock updated us on Buckel about a month ago. You can hear my interview with him from ‘Riders on the Record.

Roman Mendez – Mendez is out for the season after undergoing surgery in May to repair a stress fracture in his elbow.

Wilmer Font – No longer with the RoughRiders, Font was promoted to the Round Rock Express on June 29.  The Venezuelan right-hander had a team-high ten saves and sported a career best 1.41 ERA with the RoughRiders in 26 appearances this season. Over his last four RoughRiders appearances he allowed just two hits and issued three walks in 4.1 innings with no runs scored against him and fanned eight. In ten June innings, he allowed one run on four hits and six walks, striking out seventeen. He went three-for-three in save chances and posted a 1-1 record over the month.

Hanser Alberto – In his final game as a RoughRiders swinger (for now), Alberto drove home his double-play partner Odubel Herrera to give the ‘Riders the go-ahead run in an eventual 2-1 win. That was on July 31. One of the roster causalities for the promoted Pelicans on August 1, Alberto really wasn’t able to dig himself out of the offensive hole he was in for most of the season. After hitting .298 in April, Alberto finished with a .213 batting average, the lowest it had been since April 15. Hanser hit just .194 with only four extra base hits. He went 3-for-3 in his return to the Advanced-A level. With a projected hit-tool better than average, expect to see the young shortstop (who is still the youngest player on his team) straighten things out against lower level pitching. 

Neil Ramirez – An overnight household name of sorts, Neil Ramirez went from a high-ceiling righthander that many hardcore Rangers knew about to a player some casual baseball fans, especially in Chicago, became frenzied over when there was wide speculation that Ramirez would be the player to named later in the Matt Garza trade that sent Justin Grimm, Mike Olt and C.J. Edwards to the Cubs. Neil faced a little adversity this month, including a DL stint that began on July 24. Ramirez made just two starts, separated by 14 days to try and allow a sore shoulder to heal. Neither outing showed the best that Neil can offer. He allowed fours runs over six frames against the Travelers on July 5 and lasted a season-low 3.1 innings on July 19 in Corpus Christi. He surrendered five runs on seven hits against the Hooks.

Randy Henry – Henry had his worst outing, statistically, as a RoughRiders pitcher in his last appearance of the month. Against Midland on July 30, he gave up multiple runs for the first time this season, allowing a pair to score on three hits in a low-leverage ninth inning with Frisco leading 11-4. Before that, he had surrendered just one run over eight innings, so the blemish to end July makes him a victim of the small monthly sample size of a reliever. In nine innings, Henry allowed three July runs on five hits. He walked only one and struck out four. He continued to fire strikes and pitch efficiently (117 pitches, 78 strikes).

Joe Benson – Not officially on the top 30 list of Rangers prospects by Baseball America, he probably would be if he was Rangers property to begin the season. After a torrid start to his RoughRiders career, Benson was hampered by a groin injury in June and remained on the disabled list until activation on July 25. After tearing up the Arizona League in a seven-game rehab (.417, 3 2B and a HR). Joe played in just six July contests, all on the road. He hit just .250 (5-for-20), but three of his five hits went for extra bases (2 2B, 1 3B). The important thing is that Joe is healthy and doesn’t feel any lingering affects from his groin tear that sidelined him for most of June and July. He has started all eight games since his activation from the disabled list.

Transactions of July:

7/3 RHP Joakim Soria (right elbow) received on Major League rehab assignment
7/5 RHP Joakim Soria (right elbow) departs from Frisco on his Major League rehab assignment
7/7 RHP Kyle McClellan accepts minor league assignment and reports to Frisco
7/10 RHP Justin Miller promoted to Triple-A Round Rock
7/10 IF Greg Miclat received from Triple-A Round Rock
7/14 IF Guilder Rodriguez (illness) placed on 7-day disabled list (retroactive to July 10)
7/14 RHP Joe Van Meter received from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach
7/14 OF Craig Gentry (non-displaced fracture in left hand) received on Major League rehab assignment
7/15 IF Greg Miclat promoted to Triple-A Round Rock
7/15 OF Jeff Baker (sprained right thumb) received on Major League rehab assignment
7/17 RHP Colby Lewis (torn right flexor tendon) received on Major League rehab assignment
7/18 OF Craig Gentry (non-displaced fracture in left hand) departs from Frisco on his Major League rehab assignment
7/18 OF Jeff Baker (sprained right thumb) departs from Frisco on his Major League rehab assignment
7/19 IF Guilder Rodriguez (illness) activated off 7-day disabled list
7/24 RHP Neil Ramirez (right shoulder) placed on 7-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, July 21
7/25 OF Joe Benson (groin) activated off 7-day disabled list
7/30 IF Alex Buchholz promoted to Triple-A Round Rock
7/31 LHP Matt Harrison (back surgery) received on Major League rehab assignment

Happy August and go RoughRiders!

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: blow a tire pull a leg muscle

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

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