First Off-Day of Season Gives Chance for Reflection

The Dust Devils have their first off-day of the season today. Overall they, as well as each Northwest League (NWL) team, get three off-days all season throughout their 76 game schedules.  Now that we’ve hit break number one of the 2011 NWL schedule, let’s take a look at how the Dust Devils and their division rivals have performed so far.

Yakima Bears (7-18, Fourth Place):

This season is shaping up to be one to forget for the Yakima Bears, whose play on the field hasn’t helped the rumors of the team’s proposed move away from their home for the last 22 years. Apart from the play of relievers Kable Hogben and Evan Marshall, the numbers don’t paint a pretty picture of the 2011 Bears.

Yakima didn’t win a series in the month of June and have won just one series, July 1-3 when they took two of three at home against the Boise Hawks, while losing six series. Offensive production has been the biggest struggle for the Bears. They have the lowest team batting average (.212) and on-base percentage (.279) as well as the least amount of team runs scored (78) and runs batted in (68) in the Northwest League.

Currently sitting at 7-18 on the year at the bottom of the NWL East Division, the Bears have struggled in most circumstances. Yakima is 5-10 against the East Division, 2-8 against the West Division, 4-5 at home and 3-13 on the road. Although they’ve played the least amount of home games of any team in their division, being seven games back of division leader Boise with 13 games remaining in the first half of play this season will likely be too big of a hill to climb for the Bears.

 

Spokane Indians (13-12, Second Place):

 

Sitting in second place and just one game back of the division lead is a scenario the Indians would likely have taken at the beginning of the season and is where they are at now. After an up and down start to the year, Spokane, like much of the East Division, has leveled out of late and is in contention for the first half East Division title.

As opposed to Yakima, Spokane is one of the top hitting teams in the league, with the second highest NWL team average (.276). With five regular players each batting .321 or higher, the Indians have one of the tougher lineups in the league. The offense is led by catcher and first baseman Brett Nicholas, who leads the team in average (.361), home runs (4), runs batted in (22) and doubles (9).

The bulk of the Indians’ struggles have come on the road, where they are 3-6 and have won just one of their three series. At home, on the other hand, they have played well, going 10-6 and losing just one of their four series at Avista Stadium.  Should their strong offensive performances continue, nobody will be surprised to see Spokane return to the NWL playoffs for the second consecutive season.

 

Boise Hawks (14-11, First Place):

 

The Boise Hawks are alone atop the East Division despite, like Tri-City and Spokane, having some very inconsistent play this season. The fact that the Hawks are in first seems a bit strange when you look into the numbers a little bit deeper.

The Hawks have yet to win a series on the road, tallying a 4-7 record away from Boise, and have won just three of their seven series this season. You wouldn’t expect a team that has lost more series than it has won to be leading their division. But, it isn’t how many they’ve won, but who they’ve beat that has put the Hawks in prime position. Boise is 10-5 against the East Division, giving them the best intra-division record of any East Division team.

Statistically, Boise doesn’t jump off of the page when you look at their team as a whole. They are in the bottom half of the NWL in the majority of the team batting statistics and have just one player, Pin-Chieh Chen who is batting over .300 at .319. Although their pitching statistics are better, they are somewhat underwhelming. Boise has the third lowest team earned run average (4.08) and the second least runs allowed (118). But, they’ve also surrendered the second most walks (105) and have the league’s second highest WHIP (Walks-Hits per Inning Pitched) at 1.48.

The East Division first half crown race will likely stay tight until the July 26 end date, and one would think that if the Hawks are going to stay in the top spot that either their hitting or pitching will have to become more consistent. Although, if they continue to beat up on their division rivals as they have thus far this season, they may not need to be.

Tri-City Dust Devils (12-13, Third Place):

 

In third place and just two games back of the division lead, the Tri-City Dust Devils are in as good a spot they could hope for as they are 12-13 on the year.

On July 4, as they started an eight game road trip, Tri-City was in first place in the East with a 10-7 record. After the trip the Dust Devils slid down to third, going 2-6 away from home, losing two of three in Spokane and four of five against Salem-Keizer. Leading up to the road trip the Dust Devils hadn’t lost back-to-back games all season, but they had to win the series finale with the Volcanoes to end their longest losing streak of the season at four games.

Solid pitching and timely hitting have often been the Dust Devils’ recipe for success, playing half of their games at pitcher-friendly Gesa Stadium, but this season power offense has found its way to Pasco. The Dust Devils are third in the NWL in home runs (18) and lead the East Division in that category as well. They’re also second in the league in runs batted in (135) and third in the NWL in doubles (51).

Leading this power surge are first baseman Jordan Ribera and outfielder Tyler Massey.  The duo has combined for nine of the Dust Devils’ 18 home runs and 44 of their 135 runs batted in. They are each also batting over .300 on the year and are among the Northwest League’s top hitters in the majority of offensive statistics. Although these numbers are great, they don’t reflect the inconsistency with which the Dust Devils’ lineup performs. Tri-City has scored in double-digits an impressive four times this season, but has also scored two or less runs five times.

Pitching has also been somewhat of a guessing game for the Dust Devils. As a team they have the second lowest earned run average (3.60), tied for second lowest amount of runs allowed (118), second lowest walks allowed (82) and the third lowest WHIP (1.36).

Yet, despite having good numbers in these key pitching categories, Tri-City is under .500. Much like hitting, the inconsistency tells the story for the Dust Devils’ pitching staff. On the year they have allowed six or more runs seven times, while allowing three or less runs 13 times. In those 13 games in which they’ve allowed three runs or less Tri-City has a 10-3 record. Where they play also seems to be having an effect as well, as the Dust Devils have a team earned run average of 3.45 at home and a 5.71 team earned run average on the road.

Leading up to the end of the first half of the season Tri-City has 14 more games, eight at home and six on the road. While their ending stretch to the first half starts tough, with five games against the NWL leading Eugene Emeralds, who are 21-4 this season, the final nine games should give them a solid chance to take the division. In those nine games the Dust Devils take on the last place Bears for six games, three at home and three away, and the Indians for three games in Spokane as well.

 

Ribera Leads Dust Devils’ Power Surge

In sports, nothing is quite like the sight of a home run. The precision, power and timing of a batter’s swing have to be just right on a ball moving around 90 mph and even that, sometimes, isn’t enough. Fans in the Tri-Cities have often been deprived of this exciting and sought after sports moment at Gesa Stadium in past seasons. With consistent winds often blowing in from the outfield and killing fly balls well before they get near the fence, the ballpark has earned a reputation for being a pitcher’s park where home run hitters suffer.

                This season seems to be a little bit different. Although we are less than a month into the season, the Dust Devils are among the leaders in team home runs, with a good portion of those coming at home. Thus far Tri-City has his 14 home runs, seven of which coming at Gesa Stadium, and trail only the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (15) for the league lead. Those 14 round-trippers give them as many as division rivals Boise (6) and Spokane (8) combined. As a team last season the Dust Devils hit 42 total home runs over their 76 game season and, this season, are on pace to destroy that number and hit an impressive 56.

                Leading the power surge for Tri-City is 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft pick Jordan Ribera. The first baseman from Fresno State was taken in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies and is proving his power-hitting history is no joke. Ribera led the NCAA in home runs in his junior season, hitting 27 bombs while batting .343 and driving in 69 runs over 63 games. However, his senior season with the Bulldogs saw a statistical drop, as he hit just eight home runs and batted .240 in 56 games.

The drop in hitting corresponded with the NCAA changing its bat rules, where the “ping” sounding aluminum bats were no longer allowed. The new composite bats have been tested, at nearby Washington State University, and are said to be 5-6 percent less effective than their preceding counterparts.

This likely attributed to Ribera’s drop to the 21st round of the draft, but has seemed to work in the Rockies’, and Dust Devils’, favor. He currently leads the Northwest League (NWL) in home runs with four while driving in 16 runs, third most in the NWL. The solid numbers don’t stop there, as he’s also third in the NWL in slugging-percentage (.567), tied for first in total bases (38) and is hitting a very respectable .313.

Playing in 17 of the 19 Dust Devil games in 2011, it is safe to say Ribera has secured his spot as the clean-up hitter in the Tri-City lineup. Were he to play as many games as current Dust Devils single-season home run record holders Darin Holcomb (74, 2007) and Joe Koshansky (66, 2004), who each hit 12 home runs, Ribera is on pace to break the team record with ease, hitting 17 or 15 home runs respectively.

You can catch Ribera and the rest of the Dust Devils out at Gesa Stadium next week as they return for an eight game home stand in Pasco. They will first take on the Eugene Emeralds in a five game series. The short-season A affiliate of the Padres, the Emeralds are having an outstanding 2011 campaign and leading the Northwest League West Division with a 17-2 record and have won their last 14 consecutive games, a NWL record. Following Eugene the Yakima Bears will make their first trip to Pasco this season for a three game series against the Dust Devils. Tri-City took two of three in Yakima earlier this season against the Bears, who are last in the East Division with a 6-13 record.

Dust Devils Show Good Signs After First Series

The Dust Devils have concluded their first series and home stand of the 2011 season and there were plenty of good signs pointing in the direction of the team having a better season than last year. Here are a few thoughts from the opening series with Everett and the road opener against Boise that show, thus far, that the Dust Devils are headed for success this season.

1. The Average Margin of Each Dust Devils Defeat

In their two losses this season against Everett, the Dust Devils lost 5-4 and lead at various points of each game. Being in games and staying focused throughout the entirety of the game is something that is sometimes lost and could give the Dust Devils a winning edge before the game even starts.

In the first loss, the season opening game, the Dust Devils blew a 3-0 first inning lead by allowing five runs in the fifth. They then battled back for a run in the ninth and had the tying run in scoring position but failed to bring him home.

In the second loss, Tri-City trailed 2-1 for a large majority of the game and had just three hits going into the ninth inning. They then battled to tie the game to send it into extra innings where they would once again make a comeback attempt, but come up short in a 5-4 loss.

The Dust Devils continued to show that they can stay in games in the series opener with Boise as well on Wednesday night. In their first road game of the season Tri-City fell 3-2 to the Hawks in what was also each team’s first division game of the season. Although the Dust Devils are now just 1-3 in these one-run games, the advantages of gaining this experience early in the season will, hopefully, come to fruition come August and September.

2. Bullpen Pitching

The Dust Devils’ pitching staff, overall, did a great job in the season opening series.  The staff has the second lowest earned run average (2.73) in the Northwest League, allowing 17 earned runs in their first six games. The trio of lefty relievers in Kenneth Roberts, Stephen Head and Craig Bennigson were the bullpen stalwarts of the opening series. They combined for 10.1 shutout innings and allowed four hits while striking out nine and walking just one. Fellow left-hander Isaiah Froneberger has also got off to a good start, earning two saves in his two appearances this season.

While the bullpen has been great, the starting pitching hasn’t been too shabby either. Specifically starters Nelson Gonzalez, Tyler Gagnon and Vianney Mayo all have earned run averages below 2.50 after their first starts and have given up just three earned runs combined in their 15.1 total innings pitched.

3. Solid Hitting from Returning Players

In the initial roster for the 2011 season the Dust Devils had eight players return that played for Tri-City in the 2010 season. Of those players infielder David Hernandez and outfielders Jared Simon and Leo Reyes have garnered most of the playing time and have shown improvement over their 2010 performances.

Playing in right field for the majority of the time, 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft sixth round pick of the Rockies Jared Simon has held down the cleanup spot in the lineup for the Dust Devils pretty well this season. He’s played in all six games in 2011, leading the team with 23 at-bats, and has a .304 batting average with a .385 on-base percentage and two runs batted in.

Fellow Tri-City “veteran” outfielder Leo Reyes has also stepped up his production at the plate in his first five games of the 2011 season. After starting the year hitless in his first six at-bats, Reyes has a modest three game hit streak and has boosted his average to .316. He is also tied for second on the team in runs batted in with three.

Despite the superb play of the two players mentioned above, middle-infielder David Hernandez, who had a short 18 game stint in Tri-City last season, has gotten off to the hottest start of any Dust Devil. He’s played in four of the Dust Devils’ six games this season and has hit safely in each game, including a 3-for-4 game against Everett on June 20. His fantastic start has him batting a team-high .538 with three runs batted in. He’s also stolen a team-high two bases and has yet to commit an error this season.

These initial signs are positive notes to take in when trying to figure out what type of team the 2011 Tri-City Dust Devils will be. Although the wins and losses are what matters, finding out how the team works and looking for positive, or negative, trends are often what dictates how their season goes. These signs show that, while 3-3 on the year, the Dust Devils could be headed for a playoff spot come September.

2011 Opening Day!

It’s finally here! The Opening Day of 2011 Dust Devil baseball has arrived; Gesa Stadium is getting its final touch-ups and the front office is buzzing with activity. The first lineup of the Dust Devils 2011 campaign is out and here’s what it looks like:

  1. Jeffrey Squier #3 – SS
  2. Tyler Massey #5 – LF
  3. Leo Reyes #33 – CF
  4. Jared Simon #22 – RF
  5. Jordan Ribera #50 – DH
  6. Ryan Casteel #7 – C
  7. Blake McDade #24 – 1B
  8. Jayson Langfels #43 – 3B
  9. David Hernandez #6 – 2b

SP: Christian Bergman #21 – RHP

The opening lineup of 2011 features some familiar faces from 2010, such as outfielders Jared Simon and Leo Reyes, as well as infielders David Hernandez and Jayson Langfels. Of the group only Hernandez appeared in less than 40 games last season.

Joining those former Dust Devils in the starting lineup will be new additions from Casper Jeffrey Squier, Ryan Casteel and Blake McDade. The trio of former Ghosts all played significantly in 2010, combining to feature in 154 games last season. McDade led those three in batting average (.327) and runs batted in (40) while Squier hit the most home runs (6) and all three had on-base percentages over .300.

The lone 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft pick of the Colorado Rockies to start the season in the Dust Devils starting lineup is former Fresno State first baseman Jordan Ribera. Ribera led the nation in home runs in 2010 (27) and compiled an impressive power hitting resume in his four years of collegiate baseball. Batting fifth in his Gesa Stadium debut, behind relative veterans in Simon and Reyes, should give him the opportunity to showcase his talents.

A late addition to the Tri-City roster and lineup is left-fielder Tyler Massey. Massey was drafted in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft and has been playing in the Rockies’ single-A affiliate, the Asheville Tourists, since 2009. He joins the Dust Devils this season after struggling to begin 2011 in Asheville, batting .200 in 20 games with 10 runs batted in.

Getting the start on the mound for the Dust Devils, in their first home season opener since 2005, is former Casper starter Christian Bergman. Bergman was drafted in the 24th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Rockies and went 1-4 with a 5.96 earned run average last season for Casper. Word is that he has been doing very well in extended spring training in Arizona and, pitching in notoriously pitcher-friendly Gesa Stadium, his numbers should improve.

Happy Opening Day! Go Dust Devils!

First Batch of Rookies Join Dust Devils

The Dust Devils have their first batch of 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft picks in Pasco working out with the rest of the initial squad, which was released last week. Now that we know some of the rookies that will for sure be donning the blue and gold of the Dust Devils during the summer, let’s take a deeper look into their college careers.

The highest of the Rockies’ draft picks that has signed and made it into Pasco is Virginia Tech shortstop Timothy Smalling. Smalling was taken in the 15th round, 468th overall, by Colorado and was the third shortstop they selected in the draft. The 6-foot-3 and 207 pound 23-year-old was drafted in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft as well by the Washington Nationals.

The Clifton, New Jersey, native originally went to University of Arkansas but transferred after two seasons. His statistics improved after his transfer where he batted .331 in 105 starts for the Hokies in 2010 and 2011. He ended his collegiate career at Virginia Tech with 16 home runs, 79 runs batted in, 90 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .388.

In the 17th round with the 528th pick overall the Rockies took right-hander William Rankin out of Southern Polytechnic State in Marietta, Georgia. At 6-foot and 192 pounds Rankin dominated for SPSU. In 14 games he had a stellar 1.94 earned run average with a 9-2 record in 83.2 total innings pitched.

In the following round with the 558th pick Colorado drafted righty pitcher Ben Alsup out of Louisiana State. As a regular member of the LSU rotation Alsup went 6-5 last season in 12 starts. In his 65.2 total innings pitched he had an earned run average of 4.66 with a .278 batting average against. Alsup was the first of the Rockies’ draft picks to sign and join the Dust Devils this season.

A few rounds later, in the 21st, the Rockies picked big first base bat Jordan Ribera out of Fresno State. At 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Ribera offers a lot of potential power at a traditionally powerful position. In 2010 he led the nation in home runs with 27 while hitting .343 with a team-high 20 doubles and 69 runs batted in. But, with the new bat rule introduced into college baseball in 2011, Ribera’s numbers slumped. In 56 games last season he batted just .240 with eight home runs and 45 runs batted in. The Rockies, and Dust Devils, are hoping that the Ribera that torched the WAC in 2010 and led the NCAA in home runs will arrive in Pasco this summer.

Adding a tinge of “local” flavor to the Tri-City roster will be right-handed pitcher Chris Dennis. Dennis attended the University of Portland after growing up in Bothell, Wash., about three hours from Pasco. Taken in the 34th round, Dennis led the Pilots relievers in appearances with 28 last season and had an earned run average of 2.29. Going 3-2, Dennis recorded a team-high 10 saves in 39.1 innings and had a solid .173 batting average against.

The latest pick to join the Dust Devils thus far is catcher Richard Pirkle, who was taken in the 35th round, 1068th Overall. Pirkle played at Georgia College and State in the Division-2 Peach Belt Conference. There he provided the power in the Bobcats lineup, hitting a team-high 12 home runs in his 52 starts. He also batted .301 with 37 runs batted in and drew a team-high 45 walks. Pirkle also showed his versatility, stealing 13 bases and having a .985 fielding percentage.

You can follow who else joins the Dust Devils in 2011 by checking out the team Facebook and Twitter (@TC_DustDevils) accounts as well as checking out the team website at dustdevilsbaseball.com.

A Look into the Initial 2011 Dust Devils’ Roster

Now that the initial roster has been released, getting a feel for the 2011 Tri-City Dust Devils can begin. With a large mixture of returners from the 2010 Dust Devils and promoted players from the Rockies’ Rookie League affiliate Casper Ghosts, it looks as though the Dust Devils will have an experienced team (or at least as experienced as a short-season “A” team can be).

The first thing that jumps out when looking at the initial squad is the returners. While each season some guys return for another year (or two) in short-season ball, some of the guys coming back to Tri-City were a bit of a surprise.

The Dust Devils single-season record-holder for wins (8 in 2009), Craig Bennigson is making his third stint with the Dust Devils after starting 2011 in Single-A Asheville. Last season Bennigson had good numbers, a 2.51 earned run average and team-high seven saves in 15 appearances, but had a 0-2 record. Thus far in 2011, with Asheville, Bennigson is struggling, with an 8.16 earned run average in nine appearances with a .323 batting average against. Hopefully some time in a place he’s comfortable pitching and has shown some promise will get him back on track.

Infielder Dominic Altobelli will start his third professional season with the Dust Devils, his second straight with Tri-City. Last season the versatile infielder batted .244 in 39 games and stole eight bases. He, like last season, will likely be battling for the starting spot at third with second-year pro Jayson Langfels. The Rockies drafted Langfels in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Eastern Kentucky in the 16th round. He played in 44 games for Tri-City in his rookie campaign and hit four home runs.

Outfielders Leonardo Reyes and Jared Simon also return to the Mid-Columbia as starters who featured often for the 2010 Dust Devils. Reyes played in a team-high 70 games in 2010 and 2011 will mark his fourth season as a Dust Devil. Last year was his best as a professional, batting .268 with three home runs and 29 runs batted in.

Simon, a second-year pro who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Tampa, will likely be the team’s starting left fielder. He played in 62 games in the outfield for the Dust Devils last season and committed just two errors while batting .226 and driving in 19 runs.

Players from Casper, 13 in all, will join these returners as Dust Devils this season. Eight of those 13 are pitchers including Ghosts 2010 starter Tyler Gagnon. Gagnon started 15 times for Casper last season and went 5-3 with a 3.89 earned run average. He threw 76.1 total innings and struck out 63 opponents while walking just 17.

Also coming from Casper is lefty Kenneth Roberts. Roberts made 16 appearances, two of which starts, last season and had a 3-1 record. Pitching 36.1 innings, he had an earned run average of 3.22 and a WHIP (Walks-Hit per Inning Pitched) of 1.24.

Position players that jump off of the roster who featured for Casper last season and will be in Tri-City this season include first baseman Blake McDade, catcher Ryan Casteel and outfielder Juan Crousset. McDade had the highest batting average of former Ghosts who are joining the Dust Devils this season, batting .327 last season. He also hit three home runs and drove in 40 runs while earning an on-base percentage of .391.

Casteel, a 17th round pick in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, batted a solid .305 in 43 games in his rookie season last year. He also hit three home runs, eight doubles and drove home 22 runs in his first year as a professional. 

Crousset, who played for Casper in 2009 and 2010, provided some left-handed pop for the Ghosts last season. The outfielder from the Dominican Republic hit a personal single-season high five home runs and drove in 28 runs, both fifth highest on the Ghosts last season.

The first 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft pick of the Rockies to sign and be assigned to the Dust Devils was right-handed pitcher Ben Alsup. The Louisiana State alum started 12 games and had 14 appearances for the Tigers last season and went 6-5. He had an earned run average of 4.66 in 65.2 innings pitched and a .278 batting average against.

Also new to the Dust Devils is pitching coach Dave Burba. Burba spent 19 seasons in professional baseball, including 15 seasons in the Major Leagues with Seattle (1990-91), San Francisco (1992-95, 2004), Cincinnati (1995-97), Cleveland (1998-2001, 2002), Texas (2002) and Milwaukee (2003-04). Burba compiled a career record of 115-87 with a 4.49 ERA, 762 walks and 1,398 strikeouts in 511 Major League games. He replaces Joey Eischen, who was promoted to Asheville (low-A), while Eischen replaces Dave Schuler, the Dust Devils’ pitching coach in 2009, who was promoted to double-A Tulsa (double-A).

The Dust Devlis have a solid and versatile roster thus far that will hopefully improve as rookies who were drafted in the 2011 MLB-First Year Player Draft sign and the season starts. Here’s hoping to the addition of another odd-numbered year title to the Northwest League East Division title haul the Dust Devils have from the past few seasons (2007, 2009).

 

A Brief Glimpse of the Rockies’ Draft Picks Through Today…

2011 Colorado Rockies Draft Picks

 

Tyler Anderson- LHP- Oregon (20th Overall)

6’4” and 215 lbs – 21 Years Old

L/L

 

Anderson, a Las Vegas native, finished his junior year with a school career-record 285 strikeouts, and his 114 strikeouts this past season also are a school record. He went 8-3 with a 2.17 ERA in 2011 and is tied for third all-time with 17 career wins. Anderson also pitched impressively for Team USA.  Anderson has a fastball between 90 and 92 mph and a solid group of four pitches and has been compared to Jeff Francis, a lefty the Rockies selected ninth overall in 2002. The Twins originally selected Anderson in the 50th round in 2008 and he became the first Oregon player taken in the first round since the Padres selected right-handed pitcher Dave Roberts in 1972. Anderson was rated the 24th best prospect by Baseball America.

 

Trevor Story – SS – HS(TX) (45th Overall)

6’1” and 177 lbs – 18 Years Old

R/R

 

Rated the 40th best prospect by Baseball America, Story has signed his letter of intent to play at Louisiana State, but is expected to sign with the Rockies. The prep star has experts such as MLBTV’s Jonathan Mayo fawning over his defensive abilities. While high school pitching isn’t quite the same level as professional pitching, Story hit .484 with 10 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 29 RBIs during the high school season. “It’s the best moment of my life so far right now,” Story said

 

Carl Thomore – OF – HS(NJ) (77th Overall)

6’2” and 212 lbs – 18 Years Old

R/R

Rated the 68th best prospect by Baseball America, Thomore has some power and projects as a right fielder at the next level. An advanced approach helps his cause. Thomore is a good athlete with a strong arm, though he’s not good enough for center and profiles best in right. His bat projects to be plenty good for the position though. He withdrew his commitment to Rutgers and plans on signing.

 Peter O’Brien – C – Bethune-Cookman (107th Overall)

6’5” and 225 lbs – 20 Years Old

R/R

 

Though of as a first or second round pick, the Rockies may have drafted a solid value pick with their third round selection. He was seen as possibly the first catcher off of the board on draft day and had a solid summer with Team USA last year. Big power guy with a long swing. Has the potential to be an everyday Major League catcher with middle of the order power and solid arm strength. Batted .304 in 61 starts for B-C this season while also hitting 14 homeruns and driving in 69 runs.

 

Dillon Thomas – OF – HS(TX) (138th Overall)

6’1” and 195 lbs – 18 Years Old

L/L

 

Committed to Texas A&M University, Thomas batted .464 with 8 homeruns and 35 runs batted in in 33 games in his senior season for Westbury Christian High School in Texas.

 

Taylor Featherston – SS – TCU (168th Overall)

6’1” and 185 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

Featherston never batted less than .322 in his three seasons with the Horned Frogs and had a tremendous junior year, batting .335 in 62 games. He hit three homeruns and drove in 42 while earning an on base percentage of .410. In 2010 he was named to the 1st-Team All-Mountain West Conference team at shortstop and also made the 2010 College World Series All-Tournament team.

 

 Chris Jensen- RHP – University of San Diego (198th Overall)

6’4” and 200 lbs – 20 Years Old

R/R

 

Jensen, a Gilbert, Arizona native, went 3-7 with a 3.95 earned run average in 12 starts and 18 appearances for the Toreros in 2011.

 

Harold Riggins – 1B – North Carolina State (228th Overall)

6’3” and 234 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

Riggins batted .314 with 4 homeruns and 35 runs batted in for the Wolfpack in 2011. He was also named the 2010 ACC Tournament MVP after batting .562 in the team’s four games.

 

Roberto Padilla – LHP – San Jose State (258th Overall)

6’3” and 200 lbs – 20 Years Old

L/L

 

Padilla, who played just one season at San Jose State after transferring from junior college, had a pitching staff best 3.19 earned run average while going 9-6 on the season in 14 starts and 16 appearances. He also threw a staff high 98.2 innings.

 

Thomas “Ross” Stripling – RHP – Texas A&M (288th Overall)

6’3” and 190 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

Thomas, who goes by “Ross”, Stripling was a weekend rotation pitcher for the Aggies, a spot reserved for the best starters on the team’s staff, the last two seasons for Texas A&M. This season Stripling put up some very impressive numbers. He went 13-2 with a 2.30 earned run average in 14 starts and 21 appearances. He pitched a staff high 109.2 innings while allowing just 77 hits and 16 walks.

 

Benjamin Hughes – RHP – St. Olaf College (318th Overall)

6’5” and 215 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

Hughes was named the MIAC’s Pitcher of the Year, becoming the ninth player to earn league MVP honors since 1999. Was 7-1 with a 2.50 ERA and struck out 83 against 19 walks in 57.2 innings. Went 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA in MIAC play and had three complete games, two shutouts and at least 10 strikeouts in five of his 10 appearances. Hughes also led the team in wins (7), innings (57.2), and strikeouts (83) while holding left-hand hitters to a .185 average (10-for-54).

 

Alex Gillingham – RHP – Loyola Marymount University (348th Overall)

6’3” and 200 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

Gillingham was the ace of the LMU staff, leading the team in most major pitching categories. The righty had a 2.49 earned run average while going 8-4 on the season. He started 14 games and had four complete games and tallied 112 total innings pitched. He also had a superb strikeout-to-walk ratio at 78-24.

 

13.   David Schuknecht – Catcher – HS(CA)  (378th Overall)

6’2” and 195 lbs – 17 Years Old

L/R

 

Schuknecht led his team in hitting, batting an impressive .411 in 31 games for Palm Desert High School. He also hit three homeruns and drove home 25 runs while earning an on base percentage of .504.

 

Kyle Roliard  – LHP/OF – Louisiana Tech (408th Overall)

6’5” and 190 lbs – 21 Years Old

L/L

 

                The multi-tooled Roliard did it all for Louisiana Tech last season. As an outfielder and starting pitcher, Roliard offers the Rockies options with his pick. As the leadoff hitter and outfielder, Roliard batted .330 in 58 games and had an on base percentage of .394. On the mound he started four games while appearing in 13. Roliard had an earned run average of 5.35 with a record of 1-3.

 

Brian Humphries – OF – Pepperdine University (438th Overall)

6’3” and 195 lbs – 21 Years Old

L/R

 

Humphries started 51 games for Pepperdine, batting .288 and driving home 28 runs. He stole 11 bases in 12 attempts and hit three homeruns. He’s had an eleven game hitting streak and has had four hits in a game three times in his collegiate career.

 

 

Timothy Smalling – SS – Virginia Tech (468th Overall)

6’3” and 207 lbs – 23 Years Old

R/R

 

Smalling, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player draft, has done well for the Hokies the last two seasons after transferring from Arkansas. His average over those two seasons is .331 with 16 homeruns and 79 runs batted in.

 

Preston Tucker – 1B- Florida University (498th Overall)

6’0” and 217 lbs – 20 Years Old

L/L

 

Playing for one of the top teams in the nation, Tucker was one of eight Gators who had started a game that had a batting average over .300, with a .319 average. His major contribution to the team was with his power, where he hammered 13 homeruns, 20 doubles and drove in 65 runs batted in during the team’s 64 games he started. Also, playing both first base and outfield, Tucker committed just one error and had a .994 fielding percentage.

 

William Rankin – RHP- Southern Polytechnic State (528th Overall)

6’0” and 192 lbs – 22 Years Old

R/R

 

Rankin, playing for a smaller NAIA school, dominated for SPSU in Marietta, Georgia. In 14 games Rankin had a 1.94 earned run average with a 9-2 record over 83.2 innings.

 

Benjamin Alsup – RHP – Louisiana State University (558th Overall)

6’3” and  ___ lbs – 22 Years Old

R/R

 

Alsup was a regular member of the LSU starting rotation and was 6-5 on the year. In 12 starts and 65.2 innings pitched he had a 4.66 earned run average and had a .278 batting average against him during the 2011 season.

 

Jesse Meaux – RHP – UC-Santa Barbara (588th Overall)

6’4” and 210 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

Meaux was third on the Gauchos staff in starts with 10 in 2011, going 3-5 with a 3.70 earned run average. In his 65.2 innings pitched Meaux allowed 72 hits, walked 14 and struck out 34.

 

Daniel Winkler – RHP – Central Florida (618th Overall)

6’1” and 190 lbs – 21 Years Old

R/R

 

In 2011 Winkler tied for the team-high with 14 starts and made 18 appearances overall, going 3-4 with a 4.70 earned run average. He struck out 92 batters in 82.1 innings on the mound to average 10.06 strikeouts per nine innings and only walked 24 to have a 3.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Jordan Ribera – 1B – Fresno State(648th Overall)

5’11” and 230 lbs – 22 Years Old

L/R

 

Ribera is a powerful bat at first base and in 2010 lead the nation in homeruns with 27. He also hit .343 with team-high 20 doubles and 69 runs batted in and was named WAC Player of the Year, first-team All-WAC and earned All-American honors from four publications. But, in 2011 with the new bat rule in college baseball, Ribera struggled. In his 56 games Ribera batted just .240 with eight homeruns and 45 runs batted in.

 

Logan Mohan – LHP – SE Missouri State(678th Overall)

6’2” and 195 lbs – 22 Years Old

L/L

 

Mohan, in 21 appearances, had a 2.54 earned run average and 5-4 record while recording eight saves. Opponents batted .208 against the lefty and he struck out 53 batters in his 46 innings pitched.

 

Brook Hart – LHP – Yale University (708th Overall)

6’5” and 220 lbs – 22 Years Old

L/L

 

The two sport star for the Yale Bulldogs (he’s also the team quarterback) started nine games and appeared in 11 in 2011. In those games he went 4-5 with four complete games and had an impressive 2.23 earned run average. He also struck out 47 players in his 64.2 innings pitched while walking just 13.

 

Connor McKay – OF – Regis Jesuit HS(CO)(738th Overall)

6’4” and 195 lbs – 18 Years Old

R/R

 

Selected as preseason All-American

 

Patrick Johnson – RHP – University of North Carolina (768th Overall)

6’1” and 180 lbs – 22 Years Old

R/R

 

Johnson, as the ace of the Tar Heels staff, started 15 games and going 12-1 with a 2.36 earned run average. He lead the team in starts (15), wins (12), innings pitched (99.1) and strikeouts (113). He also allowed just 29 walks, giving him an astounding 3.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

Michael Wolford – RHP – UC-Riverside (798th Overall)

6’3” and 200 lbs – 22 Years Old

R/R

 

Wolford led the Highlanders in appearances as the main reliever on the staff. In his 22 appearances Wolford was 2-0 with a 2.35 earned run average and two saves in 30.2 innings of work. He also struck out 26 while walking just five batters all season.

Matt Argyropoulos – 3B – Washington State University (828th Overall)

6’2” and 193 lbs – 22 Years Old

R/R

 

The Cougar’s third baseman batted .283 in 48 starts in 2011 while hitting 5 homeruns and driving in 28. He played at Gesa Stadium for the Cougs as a part of the Cougar Diamond Classic against the University of Washington in late May of 2011.

 

Joshua Correa – OF – Eliosa Pascal HS (858th Overall)

6’2” and 180 lbs – 18 Years Old

R/R

 

 

Matthew Dermody – LHP – Iowa University (888th Overall)

6’5” and 190 lbs – 20 Years Old

R/L

 

Dermody started all 14 games he appeared and finished with a record of 4-6 while registering a 4.15 earned run average and allowing 39 earned runs in 84.2 innings pitched. He also recorded 75 strikeouts, which ties for tenth-most in a season in Iowa history and the led the conference.

 

John Curtiss – RHP – Carroll HS (TX) (918th Overall)

6’4” and 200 lbs – 18 Years Old

R/R

 

How Does the MLB Draft Work?

Unlike the NFL, NHL, NBA and even MLS drafts, the MLB draft is one of those things that do not get much coverage and few people understand. To help those of you without much knowledge of how the MLB First-Year Player draft works, here’s three things to help clarify how it works.

1. There are 50 rounds that span three days.

No other professional league in the United States has as many rounds in their draft, or as many roster spots to fill. Having 50 rounds may seem ridiculous, especially when the active roster of the Major League team only has 25 spots, but filling up a farm system takes a lot of players. For example, the Colorado Rockies organization has seven different teams to fill with their young players, from the Rookie League Casper Ghosts to the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

Another reason to have so many picks is the fact that so few prospects actually make it to the Major Leagues. While every league has busts, it is hard to find a draft that is harder to predict, in terms of “can’t miss” guys, than the MLB draft.

2. Nobody really knows what is going to happen

With other drafts such as the NFL and NBA, knowing approximately where the top 10-15 guys will go is a fairly solid science. Thousands of players are available to MLB teams, from college players and junior-college players to high-school seniors who have just graduated; therefore who exactly teams like and are looking at is often a guessing game. At any point in time, even up to the week before the draft, you can search for five different mock drafts and get five completely different rounds. Each team has their own wants and needs as well as their own philosophies on how to develop players. These factors, which can change quickly, all make predicting how the draft will turn out pretty difficult.  

3. It takes time, sometimes a long time, to go from draft day to the Major Leagues.

The players drafted, despite many being college players, don’t go straight to their Major League team and often take years to get there. Even first-round picks are almost always put into the lower ranks of the team’s farm system and work their way up from there. Developing the fine-tuned skills to become a Major League baseball player takes a lot of work and the right coaching to get the most out of any particular player.

There are the basics of the MLB First-Year Player draft. Although it is one of the more confusing and less-followed professional sports drafts, its uniqueness and level of uncertainty make it one of sports more fascinating events. You can catch coverage of the first round 2011 MLB First Player Draft today (June 6th) at 4 p.m. PT on MLB.com and MLB Network. Rounds 2-30 will be on Tuesday June 7th at 9 a.m. PT and rounds 31-50 will be on Wednesday June 8th at 9 a.m. PT. You can also follow all the Rockies’ draft picks and see who could be coming to play in the Tri-Cities by following the team Facebook and twitter accounts.

Mock Drafts Have All Signs Pointing to Rockies Drafting Wong

 

Since the last addition to The Dusty Trail, more and more websites and news organizations are thinking that the Rockies’ will be taking University of Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong with their pick, 20th overall, in the first round of Monday’s MLB First-Year Player draft.* With this development I’ve decided to dig a little deeper on the type of player Wong is.

By all accounts Wong is a fantastic hitter that projects extremely well to the Major League level. In his first two seasons of college ball at Hawaii he hit .341 and .357 respectively and followed that up by hitting an amazing .378 in 2011. With Troy Tulowitzki as the franchise shortstop for the Rockies, snagging a solid hitting second baseman to hit before him in the lineup and get on base often would seemingly be a perfect fit.

Although he’s just 5-foot-9-inches tall and weighs 190 pounds, Wong also has a good amount of power. Batting lefty, Wong hit seven homeruns last season and has tallied 25 in his three-year career at Hawaii. He hits for average, gets on base and has some power; all things that any team would love to have, especially at second base in the National League.

Wong can obviously hit well, but where he provides his real value is with how difficult it is to get him out. Wong struck out just 63 times in his college baseball career in 684 at-bats and, in his college career, has never had an on-base percentage below .416. He finished up the 2011 season with an astounding .492 on-base percentage.

He was previously drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 2008, in the 16th round, but decided to stay home and it looks as though the decision worked out. He’s tallied an impressive list of achievements and awards in his three seasons with the Warriors and has boosted his draft stock well.

Recent mock drafts also have the Rockies potentially taking University of Utah first baseman C.J. Cron. It is widely thought that the Oakland Athletics, who have the 18th pick in the first round, will take Cron, but were he to fall the Rockies would have a tough decision to make. Cron has put together a very impressive body of work at Utah, especially in 2011. He batted .434 in 49 games, hitting 15 homeruns and 59 runs batted in. In his three year career with the Utes, Cron has hit 46 homeruns and has 198 runs batted in.

At 6-foot-4-inches tall and weighing in at a solid 230 pounds, Cron is one of the more powerful bats available in the 2011 draft and is expected to go in the mid-first round. He played most of his first two seasons at Utah behind the plate, but once some knee problems arose they moved him to first base. So far it has been a successful transition for Cron, as he had a .992 fielding percentage last season.  

Then again, these drafts can be unpredictable and the Rockies could end up taking neither Cron nor Wong. Either way, it seems as though the 2011 MLB First-Player Draft is full of solid first-round talent. Whoever the Rockies take could potentially be one of the final pieces added to a roster already featuring young and exciting players such as Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. Here’s hoping whoever the Rockies take spends a little time in the Tri-Cities.

*Mock Drafts (as of 6/2) that have the Rockies’ taking Wong with 20th pick in draft-

http://www.minorleagueball.com/2011/5/30/2195070/2011-baseball-mock-draft-mark-ii

http://milb.scout.com/2/1076134.html

http://denver.sbnation.com/colorado-rockies/2011/5/9/2162203/mlb-draft-2011-rockies-daniel-norris

http://www.draftsite.com/mlb/player/kolten-wong/14935

2011 MLB Draft – Potential Rockies’ First Round Picks

With less than a week until the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the mock draft blogs are hot with their predictions on who they think will go where and when. With much of the Dust Devils’ roster filled with draftees taken during the three day, 50-round adventure, who the Rockies decide to take will largely decide what type of team the 2011 Dust Devils end up being. Here’s a brief look at a few of the projected first-round (20th overall) picks of the Colorado Rockies.

Levi Michael – SS: Michael, a shortstop playing at the University of North Carolina, jumped into the first-round pick debate after a very impressive sophomore season in 2010. He has then followed it up in 2011 well by batting .313 in 57 starts. He also drew 46 walks compared to striking out just 37 times while leading the team in on-base percentage at .459. Reports are saying that if the Rockies’ take Michael, it will be to groom him as a second baseman and potential future partner for franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Matt Barnes – RHP: A righty from the University of Connecticut, Barnes has put together a spectacular 2011 campaign. Going 11-3 in 15 starts, Barnes threw three complete games and recorded a microscopic 1.12 earned run average. The 6-foot-4-inch starter threw for over 100 innings last season, striking out 105 while walking 28. You can never have enough good pitching and grabbing a guy like Barnes could give the team a solid future Major League starter.

Kolten Wong – 2B: Not related to former Dust Devil second baseman Joey Wong, Kolten hails from the University of Hawaii where he has torn apart the rest of the Western Athletic Conference pitching staffs. Wong batted .378, fourth highest in the WAC, in 57 starts this season. While only striking out 20 times on the year, Wong earned a .492 on-base percentage and stole 23 bases in 30 attempts. Similar to UNC shortstop Levi Michael, picking Wong in the first-round would likely signal the Rockies looking for a middle-infield partner to Tulowitzki for the future.

Alex Meyer – RHP: Standing tall at 6-foot-9-inches, Meyer is a big right hander with great velocity and an above-average breaking ball, according to various scouts. He was drafted with the 20th overall pick, the same pick the Rockies own this season, in the 2008 MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox, but decided to go to Kentucky instead. Last season with the Wildcats Meyer went 7-5 with a 2.94 earned run average in 14 starts.

Since the Dust Devils have been the single-season short “A” affiliate of the Rockies, a handful of first-round picks have made their way to the Columbia Basin.

MLB veteran lefty starting pitcher Jeff Francis made an impressive stop in Tri-City in 2002, not allowing a run in his four appearances. Other, more recent, first-round picks to feature for the Dust Devils’ include pitchers Rex Brothers (2009) and Christian Friedrich (2008). Both have gone on to more success and are the seventh and third rated prospects in the Rockies’ organization, respectively, according to MLB.com. Lastly, former Dust Devil outfielder Tim Wheeler (2009), who was the 32nd pick of the ’09 draft, played his first professional season in the Tri-Cities. He is now playing for the Rockies’ “AA” affiliate in Tulsa, where he is second on the team in batting with a .337 batting average.

You can catch the first round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on Monday June 6th at 4 p.m. PT on MLB.com, with rounds 2-30 on June 7th and rounds 31-50 on June 8th. You can also follow the Dust Devils’ website, facebook and twitter accounts for all the latest team related MLB Draft information.