Dust Devils Alumni Update

Former Tri-City Dust Devils litter the Colorado Rockies’ farm system, with the majority of former players playing for the two teams in the levels immediately above the Dust Devils,  the single-A affiliate Asheville Tourists and advanced-A affiliate Modesto Nuts. Players promoted from Tri-City are most often sent to one of these two teams. Here’s an update on how former Dust Devils are currently doing on those two teams:

 

Asheville

Starting pitchers Ben Alsup and Chris Jensen lead the rotation for the Tourists, who took home the South Atlantic League Southern Division first-half title, going 47-23. Overall on the year Asheville is currently 58-32 and the two former Dust Devils right handers are a big reason why. Both Alsup and Jensen have recorded nine wins this season, one shy of the South Atlantic League high of 10.

 

Alsup, a Dust Devil in 2011 after being drafted by the Rockies in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, is 9-4 in 16 starts with a 4.56 earned run average for the Tourists. Awarded the SAL Pitcher of the Week honors on July 2nd, Alsup has thrown 104 2/3 innings this season, allowing 53 earned runs on 118 hits while striking out 60 and walking 29. Jensen, also a Dust Devil in 2011, was drafted by the Rockies in the 6th round of the 2011 draft and spent his entire first professional season in Tri-City, going 2-1 with a 2.65 earned run average in eight starts. Since joining the Tourists this season Jensen has continued his success, going 9-3 with a 4.73 earned run average in 17 starts.

 

A few former Tri-City relievers are also doing well on the Asheville staff. Lefty Ken Roberts, who was named a Northwest League Post-Season All-Star as a Dust Devil in 2011, is 3-1 with a 1.97 earned run average in 34 appearances this season.  The third-year pro has allowed 10 runs in 45 2/3 innings while recording 33 strikeouts and six walks. Right-hander Nelson Gonzalez has continued pitching well for the Tourists this season after a stellar season for the Dust Devils last year. In 2011 for Tri-City Gonzalez was 7-0 with a 1.71 earned run average in 20 appearances. This season he’s 3-1 in 34 appearances for Asheville.

 

A trio of Dust Devils alumni make up the Tourists’ 2012 outfield as Tyler Massey, Brian Humphries, and Jared Simon split time, all of whom played together for the 2011 Dust Devils.

 

Massey, a SAL Mid-Season All-Star for Asheville this year, is playing very well, batting .326 with seven home runs and a .405 on-base percentage in 65 games. Humphries, who batted leadoff for Tri-City and has secured the same position in the Asheville lineup, is doing well in that spot, batting .297 and ranking 10th in the SAL in runs scored (57). A Dust Devil in 2010 and 2011 after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB draft out of Tampa University, Simon is batting .246 with nine home runs and 40 runs batted in. This group has now won three consecutive “half” division titles, after winning both halves for the Dust Devils last season and the first half for the Tourists this year.

 

First baseman Jordan Ribera, who began the season with Asheville and was then assigned to the Dust Devils for a short time before once again being promoted to the Tourists, is now getting more consistent playing time with the club. After batting .324 with six runs batted in in nine games for Tri-City in 2012, Ribera returned to Asheville. In 22 total games for the Tourists this year Ribera is batting .227 with one home run and 14 runs batted in.

 

 

Modesto

Finishing in third place in the California League North Division first-half title race, the Nuts have improved their play in the second half, going 13-7 thus far, just one-half game out of first place. A large part of their success overall this season has been the pitching of former Dust Devil Christian Bergman.

 

Named a 2011 Northwest League Post-Season All-Star as a Dust Devil as well as a 2012 California League Mid-Season All-Star as a Nut, Bergman has flourished his last two seasons. The leader of the 2011 Tri-City pitching staff, the righty was 7-5 with a 2.59 earned run average in 15 starts, two of which being complete-game shutouts,  for the Dust Devils.

 

In 2012 Bergman is leading the California League with 12 wins. Overall he is 12-5 with a 2.91 earned run average over a league-leading 111 1/3 innings pitched in 18 starts. The outstanding numbers don’t stop there, as the 24th round draft pick of the Rockies from the 2010 draft has also recorded 84 strikeouts and walked just 24 and has the fourth lowest WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) in the league at 1.15.

 

In the bullpen for the Nuts a couple of former Dust Devils left-handers have pitched well.  A 2010 Dust Devil, Kraig Sitton has made 34 appearances for the Nuts in 2012, going 1-1 with a 1.80 earned run average.  In 40 innings pitched Sitton has allowed eight earned runs. Roberto Padilla, who began 2012 with Tri-City after starting his professional career with the Dust Devils in 2011, was promoted to Modesto on June 25th. In his short time in Modesto this season, Padilla is 2-0 in five appearances with a 4.22 earned run average over 10 2/3 innings on the mound.

 

Catchers Dustin Garneau and Bryce Massanari, both members of the 2010 Dust Devils, are splitting time behind the plate for the Nuts this season. In 57 games Garneau is batting .264 with five home runs and 21 runs batted in. Massanari, in 26 games, is batting .232, but is currently on the disabled list.

 

Modesto infielders Tim Smalling and Jayson Langfels, who each played for Tri-City in 2011, are both seeing time in the field. In 48 games Langfels is batting .282 with one home run and 25 runs batted in while Smalling, in 44 games, is batting .257 with one home run and 23 runs batted in. These two are joined by outfielder Juan Crousset, who has continued his progression through the Rockies’ farm system and is playing well for the Nuts. In 40 games the lefty is batting .295 with six home runs and 26 runs batted in.

 

You can watch potential future Tourists and Nuts at Gesa Stadium on July 19th as the Dust Devils return to the Tri-Cities for an eight game home stand. The Dust Devils open with a five game series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, which is followed by a three game set with the Spokane Indians. Tickets are on sale now and you can get yours by visiting the Dust Devils’ front office Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., calling the front office at (509) 544-8789, or online at www.dustdevilsbaseball.com.

 

2012 Colorado Rockies’ Draft Picks – Player Profiles

Here’s a glance at the 42 players drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft. A number of these players will become Dust Devils in the near future, check the team website, facebook and twitter to keep up with the latest Dust Devil information.

2012 Colorado Rockies Draft Picks

BOLD – Drafted from College

Italics – Drafted from HS/Other

David Dahl – OF – HS (AL) (10th Overall, 1st Round) – Committed to Auburn

6’2” and 185 Pounds – 04/01/1994

B/T: L/R

Although he’s committed to the University of Auburn, Dahl was wanted by many teams early in the draft as a member of a group of talented high school outfielders. Dahl worked out for the Rockies earlier this year. In addition to the Rockies, Dahl visited the Mets, Cardinals and Nationals, and worked out for the Pirates. But when he worked out for the Rockies, he hit nine batting-practice home runs and ran a personal-best 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash. “I honestly fell in love with it out there,” Dahl told the Birmingham News. “Colorado is a great place to live and just seemed like a nice place to be. The big thing is that park and that field is with how the ball carries. It would just be an awesome park to play in.”

 Eddie Butler – RHP – Radford (46th overall, Comp. Round A)

6’2” and 165 Pounds – 3/13/1991

S/R

Butler, 6-foot-5 and 165 pounds, went 7-4 with a 2.20 ERA and struck out 85 in 98 innings, covering 14 starts this season. Butler was named co-pitcher of the year in the Big South Conference. Some analysts have said Butler could be developed as a reliever, but Rockies Vice President-Scouting Bill Schmidt said there is no reason to change Butler, whose fastball has been clocked at 97 mph. Butler’s season included three complete games and two shutouts, and he held opponents to a .213 batting average, second-lowest among Big South starters. Butler shared Big South pitching honors with Coastal Carolina reliever Aaron Burk.

 Max White – OF – HS (FL) (73rd overall, 2nd Round)

6’2” and 175 Pounds – 10/10/1993

L/L

Scouts like White’s tools in center, as he is a consistent 6.5-second runner over 60 yards with improving instincts. He was named to the 2012 Florida All-Region team. The 19-year-old White, a University of Florida signee, hit .407 his senior season, with five homers and 24 RBIs. White also had a .968 fielding percentage in 29 games, 24 of which he started in the outfield.

 Tom Murphy – C –University of Buffalo (105th Overall, 3rd Round)

6’1” and 220 Pounds – 04/03/1991

R/R

Murphy’s best offensive tool is his power. He has very good bat speed with an ability to hit the ball out anywhere. Murphy has a good approach, but there is some concern about his ability to make consistent enough contact to tap into that pop. Murphy batted .311 last season for the Bulls, hitting 13 home runs while driving in 51 runs. He played in 56 games, all starts behind the plate, garnering a fielding percentage of .992 and tallying three errors on the year.

 Ryan Warner – RHP – HS (CO) (128th Overall, Comp. Round B)- Committed to North Carolina State

6’7” and 195 Pounds – 1/21/1994

L/R

Warner batted .493 with six home runs and 31 RBI this past season, leading his school to the second round of the Class 5A state tournament. A returning Class 5A Honorable Mention All-State selection as named by The Denver Post, he produced a .971 slugging percentage and .611 on-base percentage in addition to scoring 32 runs. Colorado’s Gatorade Player of the Year and North Carolina State signee, Warner,  also went 7-1 with a strikeout-per-inning ratio of 1.74.

 Seth Willoughby – RHP – Xavier (138th Overall, 4th Round)

6’2” and 190 Pounds – 6/28/1990

R/R

Willoughby was the closer last season for the Musketeers and earned 12 saves in 25 appearances while having an impressive 1.01 earned run average and 2-1 record. Xavier was undefeated when leading after 7 innings, with Willoughby’s strong relief playing a key role. In 35.2 innings pitched the righty tallied 44 strikeouts while walking 12 and allowing four earned runs all season. Willoughby is Xavier’s all-time saves leader with 28. He’d have one more year of eligibility if he chooses not to sign with the Rockies, which is unlikely.

 Matthew Wessinger – SS – St.John’s (NY) (168th Overall, 5th Round)

5’11” and 190 Pounds – 9/20/1990

R/R

Wessinger led the Red Storm in hitting his senior season, batting .353 in 61 games, all starts, while stealing 34 bases in 36 attempts. Helping lead St. John’s to a 40-21 record, Wessinger hit six home runs and drove in 47 runs on the year. He also drew 34 walks while earning an on-base percentage of .442 and tallying 84 hits on the season.  Wessinger was drafted in the 37th round by the Kansas City Royals in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Wessinger had a team-high 22 errors, so a switch to a less-demanding position like second base is a possibility.

Matt Carasiti – RHP – St.John’s (NY) (198th Overall, 6th Round)

6’3” and 205 Pounds – 7/23/1991

R/R

In 18 appearances and 14 starts, Carasiti went 7-5 with a 3.98 earned run average. The righty threw 83.2 innings last year and recorded 64 strikeouts and walking 31 and having a .274 batting average against. Carasiti has started for St. John’s but has had more success as a closer. He has good command and won’t walk many batters but will mostly pitch to contact and won’t get many strikeouts. Unlike his teammate Wessinger, Carasiti — chosen with the No. 198 pick — has some leverage with the Rockies, as he still has a year of collegiate eligibility remaining.

 Wilfredo Rodriguez – C – Puerto Rico Baseball Academy HS (PR) (228th Overall, 7th Round) – Committed to Seminole State College

5’10” and 202 Pounds – 1/25/1994

R/R

Rodriguez has good feet, running many 60-yard-dashes in under seven seconds, which is good for a catcher. He has good arm strength, is very accurate and his footwork is also solid. His swing is simple and produces line drives, but he does bar his front arm and has a difficult time with good pitches on the outer half. The 5’10″ Rodriguez hits from the right side of the plate and is viewed as a project player by most scouting reports.

 Derek Jones – OF – Washington State (258th Overall, 8th Round)

6’0” and 210 Pounds – 6/3/1990

L/L

The WSU career home run record holder (41), Jones led the Cougar offense with a .335 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage. He was also second on the team in home runs with 9 and 45 runs batted in while starting all 55 games he appeared in. Jones was named to the 2012 All-Pac-12 Conference Baseball Team after earning honorable mentions in 2010 and 2011. He ranks on the Washington State all-time top 10 in total bases (third), hit by pitch (tied-fourth), RBI (fifth), at bats (fifth), games (seventh), outfield assists (tied-seventh), runs (ninth) and hits (10th).

 Zach Jemiola – RHP – HS (CA) (288th Overall, 9th Round) – Committed to UC Riverside

6’3” and 200 Pounds – 4/6/1994

L/R

In 23 1/3 innings pitched in 2012, Jemiola held opponents to a .173 batting average but also had an ERA of 5.40. He struck out 24 and walked 25. Jemiola had pledged to attend UC Riverside.

 Ben Waldrip – 1B – Jacksonville State (318th Overall, 10th Round)

6’6” and 240 Pounds – 6/27/1990

L/L

Waldrip started all 53 appearances he made for Jacksonville State in his senior year last season, batting .330 and hitting 18 home runs with 61 runs batted in. The lefty also had an on-base percentage of .410 and a slugging percentage of .660, earning 23 walks and tallying 140 total bases, 19 more than his next highest teammate. Waldrip also had a .985 fielding percentage while committing seven errors and recording 453 putouts last season.

 Trevor “TJ” Oakes – RHP – Minnesota (348th Overall, 11th Round)

6’5” and 210 Pounds – 7/15/1990

R/R

Drafted in the 41st round by the Minnesota Twins in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Oakes opted to stay in state play for his father Todd, who is the pitching coach for the Golden Gophers. Oakes had a 7-3 record in 14 appearances, all starts, twice going the distance. His 2.31 was the best on the team among starters while he struck out 78 and walked just 15, recording a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.2 in 97.1 innings pitched on the year.

Correlle Prime – 1B – HS (FL) (378th Overall, 12th Round) – Committed to State College of Florida

6’5” and 200 Pounds – 2/18/1994

R/R

Prime, a right-handed prospect from Manatee High School in Florida carried the team as a pitcher this spring, but it’s his bat the Rockies are most interested in. As a junior (his senior stats are thus far unavailable), Prime hit .398 with 30 RBIs.

Kyle Von Tungeln – OF – Texas Christian (408th Overall, 13th Round)

5’10” and 180 Pounds – 9/18/1990

L/L

TCU is still playing, recently advancing to the Super Regionals, but Von Tungeln’s stats right now include a .301/.442/.521 slash line, two homers and 24 RBIs. He has only grounded into one double play all season and has drawn as many walks as he has strikeouts (42). Von Tungeln is a junior.

 Shane Broyles – RHP – Texas Tech (438th Overall, 14th Round)

6’1” and 180 Pounds – 8/19/1991

R/R

Broyles, a 6’1″ right-handed pitcher, came on in relief in 18 of his 23 appearances, recording a 2-2 record to go with a 4.42 ERA — in 57 innings pitched, he allowed 28 runs. Broyles was better as a sophomore at Seminole State J.C., where he finished with a 2.81 ERA and a 7-1 record.

 Scott Oberg – RHP – University of Connecticut (468th Overall, 15th Round)

6’2” and 205 Pounds – 3/13/1990

R/R

With their last pick of the second day (No. 468), the Rockies have drafted Scott Oberg, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Connecticut. All 22 of Oberg’s appearances were in relief last season. His .99 ERA jumps out, as does the .154 average he held opposing batters to. Oberg had nine saves, as well as a 5-0 record. He struck out about one batter an inning and allowed just two extra-base hits (both doubles). Oberg is a junior.

 Jeffrey Popick – OF – Mesa State College (498th Overall, 16th Round)

6’3” and 220 Pounds – 6/17/1989

R/R

A national semi-finalist for the Tino Martinez Award in 2011, which goes to the best collegiate D-II baseball player in the country, Popick followed up last season with a solid 2012. This year Popick batted .424 in his 52 games, all starts, hitting a team-leading seven home runs and driving in 65 runs. He also struck out just 16 times in 184 at-bats while earning a .524 on-base percentage.

 Jason Stolz – SS – Clemson (528th Overall, 17th Round)

6’1” and 190 Pounds – 3/21/1990

R/R

A co-captain of the Clemson Tigers in 2012, Stolz is known for his defense more than his offense, earning a .985 fielding percentage and making four errors in 64 games, all starts, at various infield positions. At the plate Stolz batted .270 while hitting seven home runs and driving in 27.

Aaron Jones – C – Oregon (558th Overall, 18th Round)

6’1” and 200 Pounds – 4/14/1991

R/R

Jones batted .303 in 53 appearances, 52 of which starts, while hitting 6 home runs and driving in 39 runs. He also committed just two errors behind the plate, earning a fielding percentage of .985. Jones was the team’s number one catcher as the Ducks went 45-17 in 2012.

Kyle Newton – 3B – Florida Atlantic (588th Overall, 19th Round)

5’11” and 185 Pounds – 7/3/1990

R/R

Newton transferred to Florida Atlantic after having success at South Florida community college. This past season, he hit .311 with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 34 RBIs for FAU. In his 54 starts, Newton also struck out 51 times in 219 at-bats while earning an on-base percentage of .364.

Anthony Seise – LHP – HS (FL) (618th Overall, 20th Round)

6’1” and 188 Pounds – 2/23/1993

R/L

He has signed with State of Florida College, formerly known as Manatee Community College.

Rayan Gonzalez – RHP – Bethune-Cookman (648th Overall, 21st Round)

6’4” and 210 Pounds – 10/18/1990

R/R

The ace of the staff, Gonzalez led the Bethune-Cookman pitching staff with a 2.15 earned run average and 9-2 record in 15 starts this season. He tallied 92 total innings pitched and three complete games, two of which were shutouts. Gonzalez also struck out 82 while walking just 21 on the year while recording a .232 batting average against. He missed the early part of his junior year with a shoulder injury.

Jordan Mejia – RHP – Riverside CC (678th Overall, 22nd Round)

6’2” and 190 Pounds – 4/6/1991

R/R

Mejia appeared in 12 games, eight of which starts, earning a 4-2 record with a 1.89 earned run average. He tallied 52.1 innings pitched on the year while striking out 33 and walking 24.

Andrew Brown – RHP – Akron (708th Overall, 23rd Round)

6’2” and 195 Pounds – 11/11/1989

R/R

As a senior, Univeristy of Akron righty Andrew Brown went 6-8 in 14 starts with a 3.19 earned run average. He also recorded 67 strikeouts and 28 walks in 98 innings pitched, on his way to owning the school’s innings pitched record.  He had six complete games on the year, two of which were shutouts.

Michael Mason – LHP – Marshall (738th Overall, 24th Round)

6’3” and 190 Pounds – 4/3/1990

R/L

Mason went 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 starts at Marshall this past season. He ended his career with 217 strikeouts which ranks fourth in Marshall history. He also ranks second on Marshall’s list of career starts (48) and fifth in innings pitched (261.1).

Alec Mehrten – SS – Fresno Pacific U (768th Overall, 25th Round)

6’3” and 190 Pounds – 7/24/1990

R/R

Alec Mehrten earned Golden State Athletic Conference honors by hitting .304 and posting a .932 fielding percentage as a senior. He started 52 games, driving in 28 runs and hitting two home runs.

Adam Paulencu – RHP – Embry-Riddle University (798th Overall, 26th Round)

6’4” and 205 Pounds – 11/17/1990

R/R

Right-handed pitcher Adam Paulencu went 8-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 17 games, including 14 starts, with 73 strikeouts against 25 walks for Embry-Riddle University, a NAIA school in Florida.

Matthew Flemer – RHP – California (828th Overall, 27th Round)

6’2” and 210 Pounds – 11/22/1990

R/R

Cal right-hander Matt Flemer, a 19th-round choice of the Royals last year, was 7-5 in 16 appearances, 15 starts, with a 2.58 earned run average. He totaled 111.2 total innings pitched while striking out 66 and walking 15.

 Justin “Ryan” Arrowood – RHP – Appalachian State (858th Overall, 28th Round)

6’3” and 190 Pounds – 8/24/1990

R/R

Appalachian State right-hander went 11-0 with a 3.81 ERA in 16 starts, and won a whopping 28 games in his collegiate career.  He started 16 games his senior season, tallying 99.1 innings pitched and a .242 batting average against.

Patrick Hutcheson – 2B – Fresno State (888th Overall, 29th Round)

5’10” and 185 Pounds – 10/9/1989

L/R

Fresno State second baseman Patrick Hutcheson hit .290 with five home runs and 30 RBIs to earn second team All-Western Athletic Conference honors. He also stole 13 bases in 17 attempts and led the Bulldogs in hits with 67.

Trent Blank – RHP – Baylor (918th Overall, 30th Round)

6’2” and 190 Pounds – 8/31/1989

R/R

Trent Blank, a right-handed pitcher, is a big reason why Baylor is playing in the Super-Regionals this weekend. The senior went 10-1 with a 2.32 ERA and held opponents to a .240 batting average while helping lead the Bears to a 48-15 record. He totaled 97 innings pitched last season, striking out 56 and walking 24.

Shawn Stuart – RHP – Cal State Long Beach (948th Overall, 31st Round)

6’3” and 210 Pounds – 12/26/1988

R/R

The Rockies have done well with the Long Beach State pipeline (Troy Tulowitzki) and they go to it again, picking right-handed pitcher Shawn Stuart, who was 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA, holding opponents to a .213 batting average. He started 14 games, throwing 92.1 innings and striking out 69 and walking 32.

Austin Simcox – SS – HS (TN) (978th Overall, 32nd Round)

6’3” and 180 Pounds – 6/22/1994

R/R

Ryan Garvey – RF – Riverside CC (1,008th Overall, 33rd Round)

6’1” and 190 Pounds – 3/30/1993

R/R

Ryan Garvey, son of Dodgers great Steve Garvey, transferred from Southern Cal to Riverside Community College three months into his freshman year in order to focus more on baseball and be eligible for the draft after just one season. Garvey, who was drafted by the Phillies in the 15th round last year, hit .261 with 22 RBIs.

Chris Cowell – C – Richmond (1,038th Overall, 34th Round)

6’4” and 215 Pounds – 12/23/1989

R/R

Chris Cowell, a 6’4″ catcher from the University of Richmond, had a .643 slugging percentage with 20 homers and 58 RBIs last season. He batted .271 in 56 games and had an on-base percentage of .387.

Justin Solomon – 2B – HS (NM) (1,068th Overall, 35th Round)

5’9” and 165 Pounds – 8/19/1994

R/R

Kevin Bradley – SS – HS (NJ) (1,098th Overall, 36th Round)

6’0” and 180 Pounds – 1/9/1994

S/R

Casey Burns – 3B – HS (CO) (1,128th Overall, 37th Round)

6’3” and 185 Pounds – 9/30/1993

R/R

Dansby Swanson – SS – HS (GA) (1,158th Overall, 38th Round)

6’0” and 170 Pounds – 2/11/1994

R/R

 Justin Dillon – RHP – HS (CA) (1,188th Overall, 39th Round)

6’3” and 220 Pounds – 9/5/1993

R/R

 Brandon Montalvo – C – HS (TX) (1,218th Overall, 40th Round)

6’1” and 185 Pounds – 3/25/1994

R/R

Rockies Readying for Upcoming MLB Draft

With less than a week remaining until the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, teams are honing in on players to select and fill their farm system.  Several of the picks in each year’s draft are placed on the Tri-City Dust Devils’ roster as well as other teams throughout the Rockies’ system.

In our first blog looking at this year’s draft many of the mock drafts on the internet had the Rockies taking middle infielders. Owner of the 10th selection in the first round, it looks like Colorado will take the best player available, rather than draft for need. At 19-29 so far this season, the Rockies have hit the ball okay, with the seventh highest batting average in the National League. It is on the mound where the Rockies have struggled, garnering the highest earned run average in the NL. However, each of these numbers may be slightly inflated due to the team playing half of their games at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Picking from the tricky position of 10th in the draft, it is somewhat surprising that throughout various mock drafts only rarely does any expert foresee the club taking a pitcher. But the Rockies haven’t had a pick this high in the draft since 2007, when they took right-handed pitcher Casey Weathers with the eighth overall pick. Weathers spent time with the Dust Devils 2010. Colorado has also selected a pitcher with five of their last seven first round picks dating back to 2006, so they could be happy with their minor league haul of pitching for now and be looking for bats to help round out their lineup.

Representing the Rockies at the upcoming draft will be former third baseman and utility man Garrett Atkins. Atkins played seven seasons with the Rockies, hitting 98 homers. Although he’s only 32 years old, Atkins has not played in MLB since 2010. The draft starts with the first round taking place on Monday June 4th at 4 p.m. PT in Secaucus, N.J. That’s followed by rounds 2-15 on Tuesday June 5th beginning at 9 a.m. and rounds 16-40 on Wednesday June 6th at 9 a.m.

Here’s the latest group of guys to be linked with the 10th selection in the upcoming draft:

-           Courtney Hawkinks – OF HS(TX)

Hawkins is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-handed outfielder from Corpus Christi, Texas where he was named on the All-Region First-Team this season. According to Keith Law “Assuming [Albert] Almora and [Carlos] Correa are gone (which is likely), the Rockies are on Hawkins, David Dahl and Gavin Cecchini. Hawkins has one of the quickest bats in the draft and plenty of power.”

We also mentioned Dahl in our first blog of the season as Colorado looks to fill an outfield that, since the departure of Matt Holiday and apart from Carlos Gonzalez, hasn’t found a youthful bat to add depth to the lineup or defense.

The scouting report on Hawkins from “Baseball Prospect Nation” reads as follows:

“One of the more improved high school players in this year’s draft class. He has improved steadily over the last two years. Through 29 games this spring, Hawkins was hitting .452 with ten home runs and 16 stolen bases. He is also an accomplished pitcher, posting a 0.83 ERA in eight games with 44 strikeouts in just 25.1 innings. Hawkins is committed to the University of Texas. Extremely raw all around. Has plenty of power projection but has to hit for it to matter. Quieter pre-pitch mechanics will help hitting ability and could help make him more of a .250-.260 hitter long term. Unlikely to ever work counts consistently. Aggressive mentality and preference for big power will always hamper his raw hitting. Power could make up lack of secondary offensive skills if he can make enough contact. Power needs to play to profile in RF. Unlikely to have defensive ability for CF, putting more pressure on the bat.”

-          Stephen Piscotty – 3B Stanford

At 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds, Piscotty represents the potential infield partner Rockies’ fans have been waiting for. However, drafting a corner-infielder in the first round may be unlikely, with third baseman Nolan Arenado being groomed for the spot next to Troy Tulowitzki currently. Arenado was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft by the Rockies and is currently ranked as the Rockies’ number one prospect while playing for the double-A Tulsa Drillers.

This season for the Stanford Cardinal Piscotty is batting .319 with five home runs and a team-high 54 runs batted in. According to Jonathan Mayo  of MLB.com: “The Rockies are likely still looking at a number of options, from high school hitters like Hawkins, Dahl and Gavin Cecchini to college arms like Michael Wacha. They also could go the college-bat route, deciding between the power of Clemson’s Richie Shaffer or the pure hit-abilitiy of Piscotty.”

After the draft the Dust Devils’ roster will begin to take shape, with team workouts beginning on Friday June 8th.

The Dust Devils open the 2012 season on Friday June 15th at 7:15 p.m. against the Everett AquaSox at Gesa Stadium. Opening night festivities include postgame fireworks presented by Connell Oil, 2012 magnet schedule giveaway presented by Pizza Hut and $1 Family Feast Night courtesy of Lamb Weston. Family Feast Night happens every Friday and has great concession deals with 12-ounce Coke products, french fries, ice cream sandwiches and hot dogs on sale for just one dollar.

Individual game tickets for Opening Night and the rest of the season are on sale Friday June 1st and can be ordered by phone, online at http://www.dustdevilsbaseball.com, at the stadium box office, or at all TicketsWest locations.

Ticket packages are on sale now and start at just $49, with full-season tickets available for as low as $259. Special ticket rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Season tickets, mini-plans, and group tickets can be purchased by contacting the Dust Devils front office at (509) 544-8789 or at the Gesa Stadium box office.

Dust Devil Alumni Working Way Through Rockies’ Farm System

Dust Devil Alumni Update

Although the Tri-City Dust Devils have a respectable number of current players on the Colorado Rockies’ roster, the team has its fair share of prospects continuing to climb through the organization’s farm system as well. Among the “Top 20 Prospects”, formed by Major League Baseball for each team’s website, seven on the Rockies’ list are former Dust Devils.

Edwar Cabrera- LHP – #19 Prospect:

Cabrera spent all of 2010 with the Dust Devils and has continued a steady progression to the double-A Tulsa Drillers, where he started this season and has done well enough to be named to the Rockies’ 40-man roster. In 2011 Cabrera led the Minor Leagues in strikeouts, 217, across two levels of single-A baseball, splitting time in Asheville and Modesto. So far in 2012, Cabrera is 4-3 in eight starts with a 3.20 earned run average.

Hector Gomez – IF – #17

Spending two stints in Tri-City, four years apart, talented infielder Hector Gomez has shown all the right stuff to make it to the top, apart from being able to stay on the field. Troubled with injuries, Gomez has long been projected to become an everyday infielder for the Rockies. He made his MLB debut at the end of last season, playing two games, showing enough to be named to the Rockies’ 40-man roster coming into the season. But injuries once again are taking their toll as Gomez has spent the entirety of 2012 on the sidelines.

Josh Rutledge- IF – #16

After beginning his career with the Dust Devils in 2010 and struggling, tallying only 5 hits in 11 games, Rutledge has turned on the offense and burst onto the Rockies’ infield radar. Looking for infielders to pair on each side of franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Rutledge, although still a couple years away, has as good a shot as any to stake his claim. This season he’s batting .288 with a .310 on-base percentage in double-A Tulsa through 38 games.

Christian Friedrich – LHP – #14

Making his MLB debut last week and following that up with another great performance may help Friedrich stick into a rotation that has struggled this season, where he found himself after injuries forced him into a spot start.

Charlie Blackmon – OF – #13

After making his MLB debut last summer and impressing in his time in the outfield for the Rockies, Blackmon broke his foot, ending his season early. Playing for the Dust Devils in his rookie season in 2008, Blackmon broke into the Dust Devil record books, setting the single-season hits record with 98, and was on the fast-track through the minors. Currently battling a toe-injury that has had him on and off the disabled list this season, Blackmon is getting back to full health in triple-A Colorado Springs. So far this season the Georgia Tech alum is batting .203 in 17 games.

Tim Wheeler – OF – #7

Drafted in the first round of 2009 and helping the Dust Devils earn their second division title in team history in that same year, Wheeler, like Blackmon, is a player that will likely get a good look by the Rockies when he gets his shot at the major league level.  Wheeler emerged last season, blasting a Rockies’ double-A and Tulsa Drillers’ record 33 home runs while also stealing 21 bases. Yet the injury bug bit Wheeler as well this season, as he broke his hamate bone in his right hand in April. In his shortened 2012 season, Wheeler is batting .200 in just eight games.

Chad Bettis – RHP – #4

Taken in the second round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft in 2010, Bettis began his professional career strong and hasn’t stopped improving. Going 4-1 in nine starts with a 1.12 earned run average in his time with the Dust Devils, Bettis was quickly promoted and is currently on the double-A Tulsa Drillers roster. However, he began the year on the disabled list with a triceps issue that has sidelined him all season. The Rockies will hope to sort his injuries out quickly to help their struggling pitching staff. In high-A Modesto last season Bettis was 12-5 in 27 starts and through his solid minor league career has been listed as the 61st best prospect in all of Minor League Baseball.

Friedrich on Fire

Although listed as the #14 prospect for the Rockies, Christian Friedrich is putting his name at the top of every Rockies fan’s list after his first two starts. In those two starts, spanning six and seven innings respectively, the 2008 draft pick has struck out 17, walked two and earned a 1-0 record thanks to a sterling 1.38 earned run average. A large part of Friedrich’s success has been because he’s throwing strikes, a lot of them. This piece in the Denver Post yesterday shows just how accurate the rookie has been. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“Christian Friedrich’s precision is the most accurate way to explain his success. The left-hander has pitched the best back-to-back games of any Rockies starter this season, his emergence as startling as his statistics. Friedrich has thrown 197 pitches, 130 of them strikes.

“He’s made quite a statement for himself,” manager Jim Tracy said.

The numbers become even more impressive when broken down. Fastball: 127 pitches, 86 strikes; curveball: 30, 17; slider: 22, 15; changeup: 18, 12. “

He’s scheduled to make his home debut for Colorado, at well-known hitter’s park Coors Field, on Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have the 27th ranked batting average in the MLB, but he’ll be facing off against Jason Vargas, the #2 pitcher on the Mariners’ staff.

Opening Night- Coming Soon!

There is now less than a month until the Dust Devils’ 2012 season begins on June 15th against the Everett AquaSox! Ticket packages are on sale now and start at just $49, with full-season tickets available for as low as $259. Special ticket rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Season tickets, mini-plans, and group tickets can be purchased by contacting the Dust Devils front office at (509) 544-8789 or at the Gesa Stadium box office.

Former Dust Devils Making an Impact With Current Rockies

With almost a quarter of the 2012 MLB season finished, rosters are taking shape and teams are looking to make adjustments for the rest of the year. The Colorado Rockies’ current 40-man roster includes eight former Dust Devils, five of which are active on the 25-man roster.

Relief pitchers Rex Brothers and Matt Reynolds have become staples of the Rockies’ bullpen, ranking first and third in appearances through the first 33 games of the season. Brothers, who spent time in Tri-City in 2009, is 1-1 in 18 appearances and 12 2/3 innings pitched on the year, with a 3.55 earned run average. Reynolds, who was a part of the 2007 Dust Devils East Division title winning team, is 3-0 this season in 15 appearances. The left-hander has a 4.15 earned run average in 13 innings pitched on the year.

In the rotation former Dust Devil starters Juan Nicasio and Christian Friedrich are each trying to establish themselves as fixtures in a pitching staff that has the second highest earned run average in Major League Baseball, 5.10, only ahead of the early-season candidate for worst team of the year in the Minnesota Twins.

Nicasio spent the 2008 season with the Dust Devils and made the jump to the MLB in 2011, before a line drive hit him and broke his neck, ending his season prematurely. He has rebounded as well as anyone could hope in 2012, going 2-1 in his first seven starts of the year after beginning the campaign in the Rockies’ rotation. In those starts the Dominican Republic native has thrown 40 2/3 total innings and tallied an earned run average of 4.65.

Friedrich, a first-round selection in the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Rockies, spent time with the Dust Devils in that same year and has worked his way up the team’s farm system and has made the most of his opportunities. Last week the lefty made his MLB debut, after injuries and a disappointing start to the season opened up a slot in the Rockies’ starting rotation. In his debut, on the road against the San Diego Padres, Friedrich looked the part of a first-round draft pick, earning the win while striking out seven, walking one and allowing one earned run over six innings. The start was good enough for the Eastern Kentucky alum to earn a second start, which is tonight on the road against the San Francisco Giants.

Offensively there’s only one current active player on the Rockies’ roster who played for the Dust Devils, catcher turned infielder Jordan Pacheco. Pacheco spent portions of the 2007 and 2008 seasons in Tri-City, playing a combination of infield positions as well as catcher. This season Pacheco has played 11 games with the Rockies, batting .200 (5-for-25) with a triple and two walks. He’s played primarily due to the absence of Eric Young Jr., who has left the team to be with his grandfather who suffered a stroke earlier this month. Pacheco earned the call-up in large part due to his bat, batting .433 in 17 games thus far this season in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Former Dust Devils on the Rockies’ 40-man roster, who are inactive for various reasons, include left-handed pitcher Edwar Cabrera, outfielder Charlie Blackmon and infielder Hector Gomez. None of the trio has made an appearance for the Rockies this season, with Charlie Blackmon as the only one with significant previous time playing for the Major League club. Last season Blackmon played 27 games for the Rockies after being called up mid-season, batting .255 in 102 plate appearances. Gomez is currently on the 15-day disabled list while Cabrera is doing well in double-A with the Tulsa Drillers, where he is 4-2 in seven starts with a 3.09 earned run average.

Don’t miss your chance to watch future Major Leaguers as the Dust Devils’ 2012 season begins on June 15th against the Everett AquaSox. Ticket packages are on sale now and start at just $49, with full-season tickets available for as low as $259. Special ticket rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Season tickets, mini-plans, and group tickets can be purchased by contacting the Dust Devils front office at (509) 544-8789 or at the Gesa Stadium box office.

 

Cougar Diamond Classic Kicks Off Summer Baseball in the Tri-Cities

The second annual Cougar Diamond classic at Gesa Stadium gave the 2,500+ fans in attendance an early glimpse of summer baseball in the Tri-Cities. A beautiful day with the sun beaming throughout set up a great day for baseball as the Washington State Cougars defeated the Portland Pilots 4-2. Not quite the sellout of the previous year, the 2012 Cougar Diamond Classic crowd still had an impressive showing, making Cougars’ baseball head Coach Donnie Marbut take note.

“The best thing about tonight was being in the Tri-Cities,” said Marbut in a story in the Tri-City Herald. “I just love the Tri-Cities Cougars, and we won that game tonight because of this crowd. We wish we could have this crowd in Pullman.”

Although none of the three Tri-City natives, pitching brothers Bryce and Ty Jackson of Kennewick, or outfielder Brett Jacobs of Richland, played in the game, the obvious Tri-City support of the Cougars was shown throughout Gesa Stadium, with crimson and gray taking over the stands.

The win gives the Cougs a 1-1 record in the Cougar Diamond Classic, following their 4-2 loss to the University of Washington last year.

Following the Cougar Diamond Classic, Tri-City baseball fans can look forward to the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The draft will provide a preview of potential Dust Devil players for the upcoming season, with much of the roster supplemented by rookies each season. This year the draft takes place from June 4th through the 6th, with the Colorado Rockies, the Dust Devils’ Major League affiliate, owning the 10th pick in the first round and the 46th pick in the “sandwich round” between the first and second round of the draft.

With around a month until the draft, various publications are coming out with their mock drafts of who they think teams will pick in the first round. Past Rockies’ first round picks that have spent time with the Dust Devils in recent years include pitchers Casey Weathers (2007), Christian Friedrich (2008), Rex Brothers (2009) and outfielder Tim Wheeler (2009).

 In these mock drafts there are a few names most often associated with the Rockies’ picks for the upcoming season.

 Deven Marrero – SS – Arizona State

Marrero is a six-foot-one-inch 194-pound junior infielder who most mock drafts have going in the top 10 of the draft. Named 2011 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Marrero was drafted previously in 2009 in the 17th round (509th Overall) by the Cincinnati Reds, before choosing to attend Arizona State rather than go pro. Coming into his junior year with the Sun Devils, Marrero had a .349 batting average in 96 appearances (91 starts) with a .390 on-base percentage and 64 runs scored and 62 runs batted in. His numbers have dropped off this year, as he’s batting .276 in his 44 appearances, all starts, with an on-base percentage of .335. He’s also tallied 30 runs scored and 26 runs batted in while helping lead ASU to a 29-17 record thus far.

 Addison Russell – SS – HS (Fla.)   David Dahl – OF – HS (Ala.)

 The other prospects mentioned in some mock drafts are a couple of Auburn University commits, infielder Addison Russell and outfielder David Dahl. Russell, a six-foot-one-inch right-handed shortstop from Florida, was named a 2012 Rawlings 1st-Team All-American and was ranked by ESPN as the third best high school middle infielder this year. An excerpt from the rankings described Russell this way: “Russell looks more like a third baseman than a shortstop, and his power follows suit. But he moves his feet well and has terrific hands, so there’s a chance for him to stick at short in pro ball as long as he remains in top condition. Auburn will miss out on a premium recruit if Russell signs a pro deal this summer.”

 Meanwhile, Dahl is a six-foot-two-inch outfielder from Birmingham, Alabama. He too was named a 2012 Rawlings 1st-Team All-American while being named the second best high school outfield prospect in the country by ESPN. His skillset was described by ESPN in this way: “Dahl is a multi-talented athlete, but his best asset may be his eye for the strike zone. He can throw and run, projects to hit for average and power and should get on base with regularity. He’s likely to end up in right field but could play some center early in his career. Dahl is an Auburn commit, but is a good bet for the first round and is a possible top-10 pick.”

The versatile infield prospects all seem to fit into the future Rockies’ plans, with Marco Scutaro, Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera as the preferred trio of players filling in at third and second base around franchise-shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The thought of taking outfielder David Dahl makes sense as well, with a lack of outfield depth becoming an issue for the club.

The Dust Devils’ 2012 season begins on June 15th against the Everett AquaSox. Ticket packages are on sale now and start at just $49, with full-season tickets available for as low as $259. Special ticket rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Season tickets, mini-plans, and group tickets can be purchased by contacting the Dust Devils front office at (509) 544-8789 or at the Gesa Stadium box office.

Dust Devils 2011 Success: By the Numbers

The Dust Devils are one of the top teams in the Northwest League, one season after having the worst record (30-46) in franchise history. Generally, it’s pitching that leads the way for Tri-City, playing in a spacious Gesa Stadium. This year is no different, except that the hitting and fielding have done their part as well. After going 11-13 in their first 24 games this season, the Dust Devils have caught fire and are now near the top of the NWL with a 27-18 record. Here are some numbers showing how the Dust Devils turned their season around, going 16-5 in their last 21 games.

-Since going 8-6 in June, Tri-City went on a tear in the month of July, going 19-11. Tri-City played 16 games at home and 14 on the road, including their longest road trip (eight games) and home stand (eight games) of the season. The positive play came at just the right time, with the first half ending on July 25, as the Dust Devils rode their hot play to the playoffs.

-When scoring first, the Dust Devils are 19-10 this season, with those 19 wins being the most in the league. Being able to score first and hold on to win is not only good for the team’s record, but good for their mentality as well. When the 2011 NWL playoffs come around in September, being able to get on the board first and know that you can keep that lead becomes a big advantage in a best-of-5 or best-of-3 series. Also, the fact that the Dust Devils have scored first in 29 of their 45 games is a good sign that when the game starts the team is ready, rather than coming out slow or unprepared.

-When leading after six innings this season, Tri-City is 25-1. That is the most wins in the league when leading after six and is a good reflection of how solid the Dust Devils’ bullpen is as well as their ability to close out games. Sometimes good teams aren’t able to capitalize on their talent because they can’t put teams away and win games without a struggle in the later innings, which leads to surprise losses. Being able to lose one out of 26 games in which they’ve led after the sixth inning is yet another good sign that come September the Dust Devils can close games out and secure a few playoff wins. 

-On defense, a place that is often forgotten when looking at a team’s rise or fall from success, the Dust Devils are at the top of the NWL. Tri-City has a .973 team fielding percentage, .002 points higher than second place Eugene. The Dust Devils have made the second fewest errors (49) in their 45 games thus far and made just one error over their final 10 games in July. During that stretch the team went 9-1. Individually, Tri-City has a few players yet to make an error this season, with outfielders Leo Reyes and Jared Simon as well as first baseman Jordan Ribera all perfect in the field this year.  

-The well-rounded offensive attack of the Dust Devils has put up impressive numbers as well. As a team Tri-City is third in batting average (.264), runs batted in (221), runs (249) as well as fourth in on-base percentage (.341) and has not been shut out once this season. With a pitching staff throwing as well as theirs is, being in the top half of most major batting statistics is more than enough support for a solid season. Different players have stepped up at different times, with first baseman Jordan Ribera getting off to a spectacular start in his first professional season, before going down with an injury. After Ribera went on the disabled list, Jared Simon and Tyler Massey took the torch and took over the cleanup spot in the Dust Devils’ order. In the month of July, Simon hit two home runs and drove in 19 runs while Massey hit four home runs and drove in 27 runs. Infielders Tim Smalling and David Hernandez have done well at the plate as well, batting .304 and .322 respectively.

-Although all of these numbers are good, it is the pitching staff of the Dust Devils which has been great. Tri-City has four pitchers (Nelson Gonzalez, Vianney Mayo, Tyler Gagnon and Christian Bergman) in the NWL League Leaders pitching top 10, all of which, except Gonzalez, have been regular starters in the Tri-City rotation all season.  As a team the pitching staff has the lowest earned run average (3.19) in the league and the fewest runs (180), earned runs (144) and second fewest walks (142) allowed. Also, after shutting out the talented Vancouver Canadians three times in their five game series, the Dust Devils have the most shutouts in the NWL with five. The pitching staff is the anchor of the Dust Devils and the team will go as far as the staff takes them, which could be quite a ways this season.

All of these statistics make the Dust Devils turnaround from last season and even earlier this season that much more impressive. They show that the secret to their success is that they have no secret. Good pitching, solid and timely hitting as well as good defense all creates an obvious recipe for success at any level and the 2011 Dust Devils seem to have all of the right ingredients.

Potential Dust Devil Playoff Matchups

Now that the Dust Devils have won the first half title and know they will be in the 2011 Northwest League playoffs, deciding how the first round will be formatted is the next big decision for the club. The winner of the first half each season decides, in the first round of the playoffs, whether they will play the first game of the first series at home, or the final two games of the series at home. Each round of the NWL playoffs are a best-of-three format and gaining the right home-field advantage could decide the series.

The past two times the Dust Devils have made the playoffs, in 2007 and 2009, the format was different, with the two division winners of the full season facing off in a one round best-of-five championship series.  In those series the format was predetermined and the strategy of choosing your own path was non-existent.

So, here are some stats on the Dust Devils performances against East Division opponents, one of which they will face in the first round of the NWL playoffs this season.

Yakima Bears

Tri-City has had more success against the Bears than any other division opponent this season, going 6-2 in their first eight games with four of those wins coming on the road. At Gesa Stadium Tri-City has faced Yakima in one three game series, winning two of three. However, it is unlikely the Bears will make the playoffs, considering they finished the first half with the Northwest League’s worst record at 13-25 and the league’s lowest team batting average (.229). The final regular season series between the Bears and Dust Devils is August 18-20 as Tri-City looks to make it a 4-0 series season sweep of Yakima.

Boise Hawks

The Dust Devils have faced the Hawks the least of any of their East Division rivals this season, playing them six times while they’ve played Spokane nine times and Yakima eight, with the ninth game against the Bears coming tonight. In those six games, a home and away series, the Dust Devils are even at 3-3 as each team won their home series two games to one.

The Hawks, along with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, are the only teams that, so far this season, the Dust Devils don’t have a winning record against. But, the stats against Boise may be the least valuable, because all six of the games between the two took place in the month of June. At that time Tri-City and Boise were 8-6 and since that time, the landscape of the division and the two teams have changed drastically. They will face each other six times in 11 days in August between the 7th and 17th to end their regular season scheduled games.

Spokane Indians

Spokane and Tri-City battled to the end of the first half in close contention for much of the 38 games, each team interchanging atop the division multiple times in June and July. They’ve played each other nine times with the Dust Devils winning five games and going 3-3 on the road at Avista Stadium. At home Tri-City is 2-1 against Spokane, winning their series from July 1-3 earlier this season.

The Dust Devils’ two biggest wins over the Indians came in their last series, with the first half division crown and a playoff appearance on the line. Spokane took the series opener at home, giving them a one game lead over the Dust Devils with four games to play, but Tri-City won the last two and went on to win the first half title. Winning those two games under those circumstances would give any team confidence to play there again this season and should do so if Spokane ends up being the other East Division team in the playoffs this season. The two Highway 395 rivals will face each other three more times this year, August 21-23 at Gesa Stadium.

Other Notes

Overall at home this year Tri-City is 13-6 at home and 9-10 on the road. Although, considering that the Dust Devils will face only an East Division opponent in the first round of the playoffs, their home record against East Division teams this season may be more important. So far they are 6-3 at home against East teams, winning a series against each other team two games to one. On the road against East Division teams Tri-City is a surprising 8-6, with Boise being the only team they have a losing record against.

In series against division opponents this year the Dust Devils are 5-2, going 3-0 in home series and 1-2 in road series with the two losses coming to Boise and Spokane in late June and early July respectively.

So far this season Tri-City is 15-14 in games in which they face a right-handed starter and are 7-2 in games in which they face a left-handed starter. The Yakima Bears lead the Dust Devils’ division opponents with the most left-handed starts this season with 13. Spokane comes in a close second with 12 and Boise is third with just seven left-handed starts this season. The Dust Devils have not started a lefty all season.

You can catch the 2011 Northwest League East Division first-half champion Dust Devils return to Gesa Stadium Wednesday night July 27 as they take on the Vancouver Candadians. The Canadians battled back against the Eugene Emeralds in the West Division to take it to the final day yesterday, but lost the tie-breaker between the two as each team finished at 24-14. The visit will be the lone home series against Vancouver this season for Tri-City as they look to rebound from going 1-9 against the Canadians last season.

Dust Devils Make NWL Playoffs, Here’s How They Work

It is a new feeling for the Dust Devils and their fans, but before the month of August you can plan on playoff baseball in the Tri-Cities this September. Tri-City is ending the first-half of the season on an impressive run, winning 10 of their last 13 and clinched the Northwest League East Division first-half crown with a game to spare. The race for the first-half title, and a guaranteed playoff spot, was close for much of the season, with Boise and Spokane interchanging in the top spot with the Dust Devils. But the late run of wins propelled Tri-City to their third playoff appearance in five seasons.

The system that has given the Dust Devils the division championship and a playoff spot already was new in 2010, and here is how it works.

-          First half winners will have 7 days (Monday, August 1) to decide if they would like to host game 1 or games 2 and 3.

-          If one team wins both the first and second half of the season then the team with the next best winning percentage for the entire season will get into the playoffs. If there is a tie for the next best winning percentage then the second half tiebreakers come into play.

-          First Round in East and West

-          Game 1: Monday, September 5
Game 2: Tuesday, September 6
Game 3: Wednesday, September 7

-          Championship Round – Starting in the East (depending on stadium availability this schedule may change)

-          Game 1: East hosting on Friday, September 9
Game 2: West hosting on Saturday, September 10
Game 3: West hosting on Sunday, September 11

 

This format means that, regardless of how the second half plays out, the Dust Devils will be in the playoffs come September. The Spokane Indians would be the early favorite to be the second team from the East to make the playoffs in the second half, as they will finish in second place in the East after battling the Dust Devils for the top spot. The Boise Hawks were in the hunt as well, but struggled down the stretch and will finish a few games back of first place. Also, should the Dust Devils win the second half East Division title as well, overall winning percentage throughout the entire season is the tie-breaker, giving the Indians an advantage over Boise and Yakima.

As of now, Tri-City is the only team in the 2011 NWL Playoffs. The Eugene Emeralds, who broke the NWL record for consecutive wins and looked assured of a playoff spot weeks ago, is now in a tie with the red-hot Vancouver Canadians atop the West Division.  Tonight Eugene will take on the Everett AquaSox at home while the Canadians will host the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

Also, today Dust Devils outfielder Jared Simon was named Northwest League Offensive Player of the Week by MiLB for the week of July 18-24. During that stretch, during which Dust Devils offensive leader Jordan Ribera went on the disabled list, Simon stepped up his play at the plate and gave the team much-needed momentum. He went 10-for-26 with one home run, seven runs batted in, three doubles and had an on-base percentage of .538.

Former Dust Devils pitcher Josh Slaats also took home honors for his play last week, being named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week by MiLB. Slaats went 2-0 in two starts and 13 innings pitched in which he allowed one run while striking out 13. He is now 6-1 on the year with Colorado Rockies single-A affiliate Asheville Tourists.

Dust Devils Clinch First Half Crown

The Tri-City Dust Devils are the Northwest League East Division first-half champions and have secured a playoff spot in the 2011 NWL playoffs. The Dust Devils have gone on a tear to end the second half, winning 10 of their last 13 and three consecutive series. Tri-City looked to be fading out of the first-half division title picture after losing four of five on the road to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, but turned their fortunes around quickly and will be in the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons.

The Dust Devils needed to take advantage of their longest home stand of the season, following the series lost to Salem-Keizer, to get back on the winning track and that is exactly what they did. Tri-City defeated the Eugene Emeralds, who at the time were 21-4 and running away with the NWL West Division title, four of five games then took two of three games against the Yakima Bears at Gesa Stadium. The 6-2 stretch put the Dust Devils into a tie atop the East Division with the Spokane Indians as Tri-City headed to Spokane for a crucial three game series. In that series the Dust Devils won two of three, including an immensely important rubber match 3-1 on Saturday evening at Avista Stadium to give Tri-City the upper hand with two games remaining.

In order to clinch the division in those final two games the Dust Devils had to win just one of the two on the road against the Yakima Bears, which they did in comfortable fashion Sunday night, 10-4. Tri-City now has seven days, until Monday August 1, to decide whether they would like to host game one, or games two and three in the first round of the Northwest League Playoffs, which take place September 5-7. The Dust Devils will face the winner of the NWL East Division second half in the first round of the playoffs, unless they win it, in which case the team with the next best winning percentage over the entirety of the season in the division will face Tri-City.

After closing out the first half of the season Tri-City will start the second half with a road game against the Yakima Bears followed by a five-game home stand versus the Vancouver Canadians which starts on Wednesday, July 27.

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