Results tagged ‘ Kingsport Mets ’

Who’s Next on the Appy All First Round Team?

As the fifth overall selection in the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft, Burlington Royals center fielder Bubba Starling is the highest draft pick currently on an Appalachian League roster. Starling is not, however, the league’s only first-rounder.

The latest addition to the All First Round Team is this year’s 13th overall pick, Courtney Hawkins of the Chicago White Sox. Shortly after signing his first professional contract yesterday afternoon, Hawkins was assigned to Bristol, VA. The charismatic high school outfielder has already endeared himself to fans across Major League Baseball and should be a crowd-favorite in Bristol. You may remember Hawkins doing a back-flip on live television right after he was drafted. The show earned Hawkins a first-impression rose with the fans (shameless Bachelor reference), but also probably gave Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Kenny Williams a month’s worth of nightmares. “That is the last back-flip you’ll ever do in your life,” Williams told Hawkins half-jokingly over the phone. So, expect to see a great show from a guy who hit .437 with 11 home runs in his senior season, but don’t expect to see any more acrobatics from Hawkins unless it helps him get to a baseball at Boyce Cox Field.

Joining Hawkins and Starling in the Appalachian League is shortstop Gavin Cecchini of the New York Mets’ organization. Cecchini, who was drafted one pick ahead of Hawkins, inked his pro contract just four days after his draft day. The younger brother of Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini (read that carefully) forewent a commitment to the University of Mississippi and will begin 2012 in Kingsport, TN.

Hawkins, Cecchini and Starling are the Appy League’s top first rounders, along with 10 first compensation round picks from 2011. That list could grow in the near future, though. Remember, the draft was only two weeks ago. Prominent first round picks, like Mike Zunino (Seattle), have not even been signed yet. Then there are those who have been signed, but are being placed in other rookie leagues like the Gulf Coast League (GCL) and the Arizona League (AZL). Any of those players could end up in the Appalachian League by season’s end. But who will be the next to show up in an Appy uniform? Agree or disagree, these could be the most likely candidates:

1. OF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (2nd overall): Coming out of Appling County High School in Georgia, Buxton was highly regarded as the top outfielder in this year’s draft and will start the season in the GCL. That placement, however, is subject to change. After being drafted, Buxton went to Minnesota for a pre-signing physical. The same day, he took batting practice at Target Field in the same hitting group as former Elizabethton Twins Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Is it just a coincidence? Maybe… But worth noticing, especially when you consider the report by Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger, which said Buxton could move up to the Appy League affiliate by the end of the season.

Also of note in this argument is the Twins’ organizational structure. Minnesota does not have a true rookie or short season affiliate above the Appalachian League club in Elizabethton, TN. A reasonable next step for a Buxton-like prospect would be a rookie league team in the Pioneer League or a short season club in the New York-Penn or Northwest Leagues. However, Minnesota does not have that option, so they typically ticket top prospects for the Appalachian League at the beginning of their development. To give some idea of the quality of prospects who have been through Elizabethton in the past, A.J. Pierzynski, Denard Span, Matt Garza, Morneau and Mauer are all alumni. Byron Buxton could be next on that list.

2. C Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners (3rd overall): University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino has not yet signed with the Mariners, but don’t expect that to last long. The Gators lost a heart-breaker to Kent State last night and were knocked out of the College World Series. Negotiations between the catcher and Seattle were reportedly on hold until after the Gators’ run. No word yet on how long it will take Zunino to sign, but he is not projected to be a difficult sign for the Mariners. Zunino’s father, Greg Zunino, is a scout for the Cincinnati Reds and has said he expects the deal to get done. Once that is finalized, the question remains as to where Zunino will land first. The Mariners have a full arsenal of affiliates, especially at the class-A level. With that in mind, I would expect Seattle to start Zunino in the AZL. The popular trend seems to be for clubs to send their first round picks to either the GCL or AZL with the possibility of moving up to a higher short-season league later. Zunino, the Dick Howser Trophy winner as this year’s best college player, will probably take the same path.

3. SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (1st overall): Go big or go home, right? We already mentioned the second and third overall picks as potential Appy Leaguers this year. At number one overall, Correa is in that conversation, as well. Correa is 18, but highly skilled, sometimes compared to Alex Rodriguez. However, the organization isn’t showing signs of rushing him. The Astros placed Correa in the GCL, following the conventional top prospect gameplan. Houston has shown a willingness to move prospects along, though. Lance McCullers, Jr., who the Astros took in the first compensation round, will begin in the GCL with Correa, but is expected to move to the Appalachian League affiliate in Greeneville, TN later in the season. In addition, Houston’s 2011 first-rounder, OF George Springer, is already playing at high-A Lancaster. How will the Astros handle Correa? Will he be ticketed for the Appy League soon? It remains to be seen. But for admittedly selfish entertainment purposes, we sure hope so.

Andrew Luftglass

Like this blog? Have your own opinions? Email the Burlington Royals’ broadcast booth at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com or tweet me at Lufty_broyals.

The Unofficial Appalachian League Stadium Rankings

Don’t worry, we will get you the daily Royals information with the Bullets, but, as promised, here are my rankings of every opponent’s stadiums. Included in the rankings are the positives and negatives that I saw with each park. We will go in reverse order, beginning with my least favorite and ending with my favorite.

9. Bowen Field (Bluefield Orioles)
Positives: The friendliest broadcaster/PA guy in the league–Buford Early; the uniqueness of being RIGHT on the West Virginia-Virginia border; having seats from old Angels Stadium; gorgeous backdrop of mountains
Negatives: No internet for broadcasts despite saying that they did (biggest disqualification for a broadcaster); lackluster atmosphere; low attendance with the exception of fireworks; awful dugouts

8. Hunnicutt Field (Princeton Rays)
Positives: Embraced tradition (pictures of former P-Rays in right-center); good dugouts; decent main concourse; good between-inning promotions
Negatives: Awful field condition (word is they are fixing that for ’11); small press box; bland backdrop; poor seating outside main box area

7. Joe O’Brien Field (Elizabethton Twins)
Positives: Unique dimensions/wall sizes (I like that kind of stuff); embracing tradition (huge banners for guys like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Kirby Puckett); active crowd
Negatives: Odd, small walkway behind the seats; press box located down the first base line; dugouts behind third base; below average playing surface

6. American Legion Post 325 Field (Danville Braves)
Positives: Great press box and media department; nice locker rooms/dugouts; great backdrop of trees; pretty good atmosphere; bonus points for free ice cream after the August 15th game between the Braves and Royals
Negatives: Nothing that sets itself apart (in other words, very bland); every “good” seat is almost completely enclosed; strange main concourse area

5. Hunter-Wright Stadium (Kingsport Mets)
Positives: Plenty of great seats; two-story press box; one of the best playing surfaces in the league; spacious locker rooms
Negatives: Poor internet connection; very dull atmosphere; poor between-inning games; nothing to set it apart

4. Boyce Cox Field (Bristol White Sox)
Positives: Lots of room around the park; presence of a picnic area; nice press box; unique seating arrangements
Negatives: Press box was really far from the action; dull crowds; no between-inning activities of note

3. Howard Johnson Field (Johnson City Cardinals)
Positives: The hill in right field (the most unique aspect of any park–although right fielders could probably do without it); fair amount of space; perfect press box; the friendliest staff
Negatives: Most box seats are almost completely enclosed; field condition is not great; not great atmosphere (but, in fairness, every game during the Royals series involved rain in some capacity)

2. Historic Calfee Park (Pulaski Mariners)
Positives: The most unique park in the league; all kinds of seating (chairbacks, open air boxes, concrete steps); good press box; middle-of-nowhere feel to it; best PA announcer; best atmosphere and crowd; food smelled delicious (unfortunately I never had any)
Negatives: lackluster internet connection; ugly wall in right field; not a lot of space around the seats

1. Pioneer Park (Greeneville Astros)
Positives: Most modern park in the league; great press box; chairback seats everywhere; fantastic main concourse; great locker room/batting cage area; in essence, this is an A or AA stadium in a rookie league; very good atmosphere
Negatives: Doesn’t totally fit in the Appy League; only average playing surface

Thoughts? Let me know in the comments page. Now, here is what you really care about–today’s Bullets.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • We begin the notes with the game’s final play last night. Ryan Stovall ended Kingsport’s chance in the bottom of the ninth with a tremendous diving catch down the right field line. Stovall has played every infield position this season, but he has only had a handful of appearances at second. Still, his great play ended the contest. That was my first question during my pre-game chat with Royals skipper Nelson Liriano, and it made him chuckle. “We laugh and have a good time watching him play because we know he gives 100 percent every single time,” Liriano said while still smiling a bit. “We just enjoyed that play because we know he gives you great effort.”
  • Naturally, last night’s only reliever, JJ Leaper, also enjoyed the tremendous grab. “I loved it,” Leaper said. “That’s what sets the mood for everything, that he’s willing to lay his body on the line. Players like that–you just admire them.”
  • Behind Royals’ starter Leonel Santiago (we’ll get to him momentarily), Leaper went two and two-thirds and kept the Mets off the scoreboard. This outing followed a couple of tough outings that brought with them six runs (five earned) on nine hits. “I didn’t really try to throw a lot of off-speed,” Leaper said about the difference between that outing and the previous two. “I was trying to just throw the fastball.”
  • Now to Santiago. The righty didn’t have his best stuff, but he did notch his sixth win of the season after six and a third frames. He worked out of a few jams and left a runner on base in every inning. “He threw well,” Liriano said. “He had a few problems, but he got out from there because he threw the right pitch at the right time.”
  • Just so we are all clear, Santiago did not win the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year. Instead, a guy (Johnson City’s Ryan Copeland) who does not even qualify for the ERA lead because he has not thrown enough innings did. In fairness, Copeland did have a slightly better ERA, so I guess I can concede that, but I don’t agree with it. 
  • But, Santiago did not even get the Right-Handed Pitcher spot. That went to Pulaski’s Tim Boyce. When you compare their stats prior to last night’s outing (because votes were due Wednesday at noon), Santiago is better in ERA (1.76 to 2.44), innings pitched (71.2 to 51.2), strikeouts (60 to 48), runs allowed (17 to 23), unearned runs allowed (3 to 9). The two are even in WHIP at 0.99. The only category that Boyce was better in is wins (9 to 5), and that is a stat that a pitcher cannot directly control. OK, I’m done now, but that is a shame. Nothing against Boyce (he has been terrific), but this mistake is on the voters.
  • The team has a long trip back to Burlington this evening (around four hours) and then an early morning. Tomorrow is the day for end of season physicals. So, the Royals will simply hit in the cages and not take regular batting practice or infield tomorrow before the 7 p.m. game against Danville.
  • How about Alex Llanos over the last three games. The Burlington center fielder is 6-for-10 with four runs batted in, including a 3-for-3 day yesterday with a big two-run single in the first. With men in scoring position, Llanos is hitting .309, 51 points higher than his regular batting average.
  • Another quick update about the two other teams in the Eastern Division race. Second-place Danville aims for a sweep tonight at Greeneville. The Braves’ starter has yet to be announced. Whoever it is will go up against the Astros’ Ruben Alaniz (5-4, 4.59 ERA). Burlington is three games behind the Braves. Princeton must basically win out, and the Rays will try to salvage a game at Johnson City tonight. Princeton’s Victor Mateo (1-5, 5.45 ERA) will go against the aforementioned Ryan Copeland (7-0, 1.49 ERA).
  • Finally, a special thanks to Mark Hunter and Bryan Levin back in Athens, Ohio. Tonight is the kickoff of high school football in Southeast Ohio, and I am normally the man behind the mic for the “Athens County High School Football Game of the Week,” but those two guys are filling in for me so I can call the rest of the season. Special thanks to them. They will certainly enjoy one of the best rivalries in the area–Trimble vs. Nelsonville-York.

Our pre-game coverage begins at 6:45 p.m., with the first pitch at 7 p.m. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

Developing in All Areas

Throughout the season, I have interviewed Burlington manager Nelson Liriano before every game for our pre-game coverage. When I first asked him about doing this, he was a little hesitant, which is understandable.

By the outset of July, Nellie had the process down. And since August, I’ve gotten the feeling he legitimately enjoys it. After the interview today, he asked me about the entire pre-game show.

“Do they even understand what I’m saying,” Liriano asked jokingly. “Because we give a lot of notes in this.”

Yes, we do. Well, he gives all the notes, and I’m just in the way.

I told him that everyone understands and, from the feedback I’ve received, appreciates it.

“Good,” he said. “Because I’m getting better at it.”

If that’s not developmental baseball, I don’t know what is. But now, it’s time for some hard-hitting, (hopefully) major-league quality Bullets about the Royals.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • Last night’s bottom of the 8th was, uh, interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a four-error inning, but it happened. And it caused Burlington to drop a game in the standings. Still, Liriano understands that these types of innings can happen. “It’s part of the game,” Liriano said. “Those were physical mistakes. Those are going to happen. Today is a brand new day.”
  • One positive sign for the Royals was the continued good work for Yunior Figueroa. Figueroa, who just turned 20 earlier this month, has hit safely in seven of his last eight games. In those games, the switcher hitter is hitting .345 (10-for-29) with last night’s homer, four runs batted in and three runs scored. “He looks aggressive,” Liriano said about Figgy’s recent surge. “He’s ready to swing at every pitch, and he has a good result lately because he has been taking bad pitches here and there and putting good swings on them.”
  • From a progression standpoint, Figueroa has been doing exactly what you are supposed to do from the beginning of a season to the end–improving significantly. Figueroa hit just .167 in June and improved that to .253 in July. In August, the Dominican Republic product is swinging a .281 stick. He also thrives with men in scoring position (12-for-38; .316).
  • Crawford Simmons had another good outing last night, posting his second straight six-inning, one-run effort against the Mets. In his five starts in August, Simmons is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .182 off the southpaw in the season’s final month. He is scheduled for one more start Monday at Danville.
  • Leonel Santiago is the man on the mound tonight for the Royals, and I have not been shy in claiming that he should win the Pitcher of the Year in the Appalachian League. What sealed the deal for me was Santiago’s eight-inning effort against these Mets back on Saturday in Burlington. That was after his worst outing of the year at Danville and in a big rubber match for the Royals.
  • Liriano admitted that Santiago looked tired after the outing against the Braves August 15, but he had the benefit of an off day in advance of the Kingsport start. Still, Liriano won’t change his approach with Santiago this evening with a normal go-around in the rotation. “If he is throwing strong, we will keep him in the game,” Liriano said. “For now, we expect he goes seven to eight innings. We expect a good game.”
  • With a trip to Instructionals on the way, Santiago realizes the weight of this stretch run. “If I finish strong here, I can hope to go to a better league next year,” Santiago said through a translator. “It is pretty important for me to finish well.”
  • Santiago is averaging just a shade under six innings per outing. If he continues on that pace, Santiago will throw almost 84 innings in the Appalachian League, which is a very high number. “The arm is good,” Santiago said. “Even though I have been throwing a lot of innings, I think I can finish strong and healthy.”
  • A couple of injury updates. Brian Fletcher, the 18th-round selection for Kansas City two months ago, is still slightly bothered by a quad injury that has had him sidelined for almost three weeks and will keep him out of the rest of the Appalachian League slate. Fletcher said he hurt it during his college season, and it flared back up August 8 against the Braves. Fletcher is taking batting practice with the team and doing various drills and rehab exercises, but the outfield product cannot run at full speed. “It’s frustrating,” Fletcher said. “They’re working me back slowly.” As has been stated in the Bullets before, the organization wants him to be ready for Instructionals next month.
  • Shortstop Adrian Martinez is also taking batting practice with the team again. He injured his left knee a week ago and will most likely remain out of the lineup for the rest of the season.
  • Another quick overview of the playoff picture entering today. Danville leads the Royals by three games with six to go. After rolling the Astros 10-1 yesterday, the Braves meet Greeneville again, with Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 4.89), Houston’s first-round pick, going against a starter who has yet to be announced. Princeton, like the Royals, lost last night, 6-3 to Johnson City. Trailing the Braves by three and a half games, the Rays will send Andrew Bellatti (2-4, 3.53 ERA) to the mound against new Cardinal Tyrell Jenkins.
  • Just a tease for tomorrow. I will be ranking all of the road parks in the Appalachian League prior to the Bullets in the blog post. Some factors that will be considered include the atmosphere, uniqueness, playing surface, and (because I’m a broadcaster) press box. Nothing too in-depth, but I love ranking things. So why not?

Our pre-game coverage gets going at 6:45 with the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western. As always, shoot us an e-mail at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com. Thanks!

- Brian

And Then There Was One

No matter what type of season it is, a baseball campaign always seems to fly by. Today marks the beginning of the 2010 Appalachian League’s final week.

When you get into the routine of a season, it is easy to dismiss the excitement and the pleasure that comes with the job. A friend asked me a few days ago a question that lingered with me for a while: “It must be cool to be calling a playoff chase in the minors, huh?”

Yes it is. No doubt about it.

For everyone who supports this club, it must be fun, whether you are a long time supporter of Burlington baseball and have not seen a playoff run in a while or you are a friend or family member supporting a young man gunning for his first playoff appearance at the affiliated level.

For me, with this being my first year in the minors as a broadcaster/blogger/writer/etc., it has been such a treat.

Now, without further ado, today’s Bullets.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • There is little doubt that Burlington’s most consistent bat all year long has been Ryan Stovall. The ’09 19th-round selection leads the team with a .315 batting average. Throughout this season, which has taken him to both Burlingtons and Wilmington, Stovall is hitting .284 in 75 games. As Royals skipper Nelson Liriano always talks about, finishing strong is more important than starting fast. Over his last 10 games, Stovall is hitting .381 (16-for-42) with five RBIs and six runs.
  • His best evening of the season came last night, posting a 4-for-5 effort with a pair of runs. From a win-loss standpoint, last night’s game may have been Burlington’s most important victory, and Stovall knows it. “We’re trying to make a little, late playoff push,” Stovall said. “Pulaski’s got a good squad…but we took care of business, and it is a very big confidence boost.”
  • Just a few other notes on Stovall this year. There is verly little difference in his numbers against lefties (.324, 2 HR, 8 RBI) versus righties (.310, 2 HR, 15 RBI). When Burlington does not have anyone aboard, Stovall likes to get things going, as he is the owner of a .369 batting average with the bases empty. “He’s always a positive guy,” Liriano said. “When the game starts, he is 100 percent focused on the game, and he plays hard every single time. He hustles all the time, runs the bases hard…For us, he brings a lot because he does a lot on the field.”
  • Speaking of offense, the Royals stil aren’t crushing the baseball, and that’s the area that needs the mots improvement in the season’s final week according to the second-year manager. “[We need to] continue to swing at better pitches,” Liriano said. “Sometimes, we miss good pitches to hit in fastball counts. If we do that in the last seven days like we’ve been doing in the last three series, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
  • The Royals’ pitching staff continues to work wonders, and last night was no different with Jonathan Dooley’s five shutout innings. Throw out Jon Keck’s tough outing Sunday at Pulaski, and the other four starters worked 26 innings and allowed only one run. The rotation starts another go-around today with Crawford Simmons on the bump.
  • Former B-Royal Chas Byrne has struggled a little bit during his first week with low-A Burlington. The righty has given up four runs on three hits in two innings of work over the course of a pair of outings, both coming against Beloit.
  • Three other former Burlington boys are with the Bees. Reliever Josh Worrell is currently on the seven-day disabled list, but he has only surrendered one run over six innings. Fellow right-handed reliever Ryan Wood, who was only here for a short time, has allowed five runs in four and a third frames. And shortstop Alex McClure is hitting .242 (15-for-62) with six RBIs and ten runs.
  • With only seven games left, it is impossible to ignore the standings now. Burlington sits two games behind the Braves for second place. Danville isn’t far from the Royals, as the Braves are at Greeneville for a three-game set this week. Tonight, Ronan Pacheco (3-5, 6.50 ERA), who already lost to the Astros last Friday, will go up against Greeneville’s Euris Quezada (3-2, 5.33 ERA).
  • Don’t forget about those Princeton Rays. Michael Johns’ crew is only a half game behind the Royals and two and a half back of the Braves. But the Rays have a tough series at Johnson City, with Eliazer Suero (1-4, 3.10 ERA) going against the Cardinals’ Kevin Siegrist (3-2, 1.78 ERA) in the opener this evening.

Our pre-game coverage gets going at 6:30 with the “Royals Series Report,” as I had a chance to chat with Kingsport skipper and former big league catcher Mike DiFelice. Then, the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western at 6:45, followed by first pitch at 7. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

My Appalachian League All-Star Ballot

This is my first all-star ballot of my career, so I made sure to give it the attention that it deserved. Just so you know, I was not allowed to vote for any Burlington Royals because that is the team that I primarily cover. Two others who cover the Royals were given ballots, too (General Manager Steve Brice and Burlington Times-News beat writer Bob Sutton).

But I will list where I would have voted for a Royal (and, just so you know, there are three different Royals who would be on my list). Here is the team, with justification on all of them.

Catcher: Chris Wallace (Greeneville)
- Wallace has moved up to short season-A Tri-City, but his numbers were too good to ignore. He is one of four players in the Appalachian League to have an OPS above .900 (.910), which is 67 points better than Wallace’s closest competitor–Johnson City’s Cody Stanley.

First Baseman: Marcus Nidiffer (Greeneville)
- Like Wallace, Nidiffer was recently promoted to the Northeast, but was clearly at the top of the heap in this category. His OPS sits at a ridiculous .981, and he is tied for fourth in homers with 11 in only 48 games.

Second Baseman: Elmer Reyes (Danville)
- The man Danville skipper Paul Runge calls “Mighty Mouse,” Reyes has been a huge boost to the Braves offense. He leads the Braves with five home runs and beat out his closest competitor, Bristol’s Drew Lee, in OPS by 60 points. This was a close call, but Reyes’ importance to a struggling and constantly changing Danville lineup, plus the OPS differential, gives him the spot.

Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (Danville)
- This was, by far, the weakest of positions. Simmons edges out Pulaski’s Jake Schlander, who does have a slight advantage on Simmons in average. But Simmons plays better defense and has scored more runs than Schlander. This was the toughest call, and it really was the only decision I made that had a significant “eye test” component. I just wasn’t overly impressed with Schlander.

Third Baseman: Ramon Morla (Pulaski)
- From a close call to a no-brainer. Morla (.325, 14, 45) is the only guy who has a chance to stop Oswaldo Arcia of the Twins from earning the Triple Crown.

Outfielder: Oswaldo Arcia (Elizabethton)
- Speaking of Arcia, he gets my top outfield spot. No real surprise there. He has a lead or a tie for the lead in all three Triple Crown categories (.393, 14, 47). His OPS is at a ridiculous 1.147. That’s not even fair. And he is carrying a playoff team that, by the way, does not have any other player on my All-Star Team.

Outfielder: Jorge Agudelo (Pulaski)
- Not your typical clean up hitter. Agudelo has only two homers, but he has driven in 37 RBIs (tied for fifth in the league) and 23 stolen bases (by far the league leader). He was also an easy choice.

Outfielder: Oscar Taveras (Johnson City)
- Taveras was in contention for the Player of the Year award before being sidelined for a few weeks with an injury. He still checks in with the third-best batting average in the league (.319) and 38 RBIs, fourth-best in the league.

Utility Outfielder: Javier Rodriguez (Kingsport)
- Rodriguez doesn’t have all the power in the world (4 HRs, 24 RBIs), but he is a .319 batter and very much ahead of the next best statistical outfielder, Princeton’s Kevin Kiermaier.

Utility Infielder: Jhonny Medrano (Greeneville) [Would pick Burlington’s Ryan Stovall]
- I made sure that Medrano has played more than one position (third and first), and he has the numbers to earn it. But Stovall has had little help in that Burlington offense, plus he truly embodies the “utility” role, as he has played every position. And the numbers are very similar, with Medrano at .302/7/24 and Stovall at .304/4/22. Remember that Medrano had Wallace and Nidiffer in the lineup, while Stovall has had to be the guy.

Designated Hitter: Aderlin Rodriguez (Kingsport)
- Rodriguez is one of the best power guys in the league (12 HRs, 40 RBIs), but his glove is pretty bad so far. So, I stuck the 18-year-old with all the potential in the world here, especially after Morla had the monopoly on Rodriguez’s main position, third base. Also, I hope people don’t get fooled by Kleininger Teran’s label as “DH” on the Appalachian League web site. Teran is primarily a first baseman.

Right-Handed Pitcher: Matthew Heidenreich (Bristol) [Would pick Burlington’s Leonel Santiago]
- This better be Santiago’s award in a runaway, but Heidenreich is a solid alternate. The righty is 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA. Santiago has the same record with a 1.76 ERA, and he just worked eight shutout innings in his last effort. If Santiago doesn’t win this, it would be a shame.

Left-Handed Pitcher: Enny Romero (Princeton)
- Romero has been awesome this season, owning a 2.10 ERA but just a 3-1 record because of the Rays’ spotty offense. The most impressive number to me is that he has not given up an unearned run this year, which means his “run average” is also 2.10. Elizabethton’s Martire Garcia should also get some votes, but Romero has similar numbers and almost 20 more innings than Garcia.

Relief Pitcher: Hector Corpas (Johnson City) [Would pick Burlington’s Chas Byrne]
- As one of the few legitimate closers in the league, Corpas has 15 saves, which is by far the best in the league. But Byrne left the Appy League last week with a better ERA (0.80 v. 1.90), more innings (33.2 v. 23) and a better WHIP (0.71 v. 0.80). This should be Byrne’s award.

Player of the Year: Oswaldo Arcia (Elizabethton)
- No surprise here. He should be a unanimous pick from non-Elizabethton voters. He leads every category and passes every eye test.

Pitcher of the Year: Enny Romero (Princeton) [Would pick Burlington’s Leonel Santiago]
- Again, this should be Santiago’s award, with apologies to Romero.

Manager of the Year: Mike Shildt (Johnson City)
- In his second year in the league, Shildt has pushed all the right buttons and has his club tied with traditional power Elizabethton for the top spot in the West. Elizabethton’s Ray Smith was second for me, with Pulaski’s Eddy Menchaca third.

Thoughts? Arguments? Agreements? Feel free to comment. And stay tuned for a regular blog post later today.

- Brian

Advancing to “Expert”

When I was younger, video games took up a solid chunk of my free time. I would frequent video games like Madden, NBA Live and almost every baseball game. But my favorite game of all time, without a shadow of a doubt, was Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.

Over the course of a year and a half, I worked my way through an entire 162-game season. Needless to say, I didn’t get out much, but I was like 9, to be fair. After an unbeaten record (and only two resets because I lost–full disclosure here), I decided to roll the dice on all my hard work and use the “Expert” level of difficulty for the playoffs.

After an easy Division Series, I ran into some trouble with Griffey and the Mariners. Down 2-1 in the ALCS, I rallied to win seven straight games and take home the World Series.

What in the world does this have to do with the Bullets? Well, a Royal reliever needed to increase his opponents’ difficulty level, and it happened last night. Details on that, and more, in today’s round of Bullets.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • Chas Byrne was promoted to the Burlington Bees, Kansas City’s low-A affiliate in the Midwest League, earlier this afternoon. He was informed of the switch last night after the game. The righty was fantastic all season long with the Royals, and he should still garner significant consideration for the Appalachian League Reliever of the Year. The Johnson City, Tenn., native was 1-0 with a 0.80 ERA and six saves. He worked 33 and two-thirds innings and struck out 38, or 10.2 whiffs per nine innings. He last allowed a run one month ago today at Princeton.
  • Burlington manager Nelson Liriano has said to me multiple times over the last two weeks or so that Byrne had proven everything he could at this level. The problem was that the Bees did not have a spot for him, until now that is. “He showed us from the first day until last night he is a good pitcher and good competitor,” Liriano said. “He just dominated this league. Finally, he got the good call.”
  • So, Byrne will get a handful of appearances with the Bees before next season. I don’t know the organization’s plan with Byrne, but it is a safe guess that he will start with the Bees again in April 2011. “It’s good for you for the next year because you have an idea what’s going on already,” Liriano said. “For next year, I think he will be ready to have a good season, too.”
  • Another player’s season at the Appalachian League level is most likely done. While Liriano would not say for sure, he did tell me that shortstop Adrian Martinez will probably miss the rest of the season. Martinez tweaked something in his knee a week ago and has been sidelined ever since.
  • So, Michael Liberto, who has gotten off to a good start in Burlington (.269 average, .367 on-base percentage, 5 RBIs), will finish off the campaign as the shortstop. If Liberto needs a day off, Ryan Stovall will shift over to short.
  • Yesterday’s offensive showing was the best this month in a nine-inning contest. Burlington had not scored seven runs or more in a regulation contest since an 11-2 thrashing of Bluefield July 29. And the Royals did it with five runs in the first two innings. “When [the opponent] faces good pitchers, and if we score early runs, it’s twice as difficult for teams to come from behind,” Liriano said.
  • Last night, the “good pitcher” that Liriano referred to was ace Crawford Simmons. The southpaw will mix in an occasional bad start, but for the most part Simmons has been solid all year long. For instance, in his last seven outings, Simmons has gone at least five innings and given up one run or less five times. In the other two starts, Simmons has allowed four runs in each effort.
  • The important thing that an ace must do is give his club a chance to win every time out. Well, the Royals are 8-4 in games that Simmons has started. Put a checkmark by that box.
  • After tonight, the Royals have only two more games at the friendly confides of Burlington Athletic Stadium, which is the second-most imbalanced road-to-home stretch run in the league. Princeton plays its final home game of the season today before finishing the season with a ten-game road swing.
  • Burlington is also second in another category: length of time between the end of a road game and the bus leaving the park for the hotel. But Kingsport wins that honor by a mile. I left the park almost an hour after the end of the game last night, and the Mets were still waiting to leave. Elizabethton is the quickest by a fairly significant margin. The Twins were out of the parking lot around the same time I finished “Royals Wrap-Up.”
  • Yes, this is a shameless plug, but it is also a plug for another web site. So, that is how I will justify it. Check out the “Broken Bat Single Royals Podcast” for an interview of yours truly by Nick Scott. Nick has done a great job with these podcasts (hopefully I didn’t screw it all up with my input), and he also writes for “Royals Authority.” We chatted for about 30 minutes about the Burlington Royals, specifically discussing guys like Simmons, Alex Llanos and Leonel Santiago. (NOTE: We recorded it around 4:30 this afternoon, so give it a little bit after this is published for Nick to post it).

Our pre-game coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. with the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western. As always, e-mail into the broadcast at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

Like a Gobstopper

I felt like Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, when he outlasted Rocco Mediate for the title. I felt like John Isner after he finally defeated Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon a few weeks ago. No, the feeling wasn’t an incredible accomplishment.

I just wanted the night to end. But it wouldn’t. It truly was the gobstopper of baseball games.

As you know, or as you can probably tell by my broadcasts, blogs, tweets, stories, etc., I really like baseball. But even last night was for the most passionate of diehards. The game itself was pretty competitive for almost the entire game, but the lackluster atmosphere and the interminable delays took away from it, which is really too bad because it was a great crowd at 7 p.m.

I promise there is an end to this edition of the Bullets, so enjoy without thinking that it will take up your entire night.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • Again, the whole story as I gathered it over the course of last night. Kingsport’s bus broke down early in the trip to Burlington. Once it was repaired, the bus was backed up because of an accident on the highway. From there, things were slow through the Winston-Salem and Greensboro area. Finally, at 7:45 p.m., the Mets pulled into the parking lot at Burlington Athletic Stadium. Normally, the rule is that the team has 30 minutes between the time it arrives until the time the game starts. But, because the tarp was being removed right around the time that the Mets arrive, they had about 50 minutes to get suited up and ready for action.
  • One light fixture down the right field line went out for the second time yesterday (during our second delay, which began around 9 p.m. because of rain). Apparently, it needs repair but it can be turned back on if it goes out. In other words, it is like a problem with an internet connection–shut it off for a few minutes and then turn it back on.
  • While yesterday was a bizarre game, it was also a loss that fit a few patterns for the Royals this season. Burlington is now 12-18 at home this season, assuring itself a losing record at home in 2010. It also lowered the Royals’ mark against Western Division foes to 8-17. Burlington has only taken one series from the West (July 4-6 vs. Elizabethton).
  • The patterns may have favored a Burlington loss last night, but manager Nelson Liriano was not pleased with the team’s effort. He held a meeting after the game last night, and the club did some early work today prior to batting practice. “We need to have a little bit more concentration,” Liriano said. “We have to be tough because it’s how you finish the season. We did not play good defense last night, and that’s a good moment to let everyone know that mistakes are going to happen, but we need to have more concentration for next time.”
  • One of the bright spots during an overcast day in the sky and on the field was Robert Penny’s dynamite long relief appearance. Penny worked five shutout innings and allowed two base runners all game: a walk and an error by Yunior Figueroa. The atmosphere was different than what it usually is at this level, but Penny was ready for his effort. “You know what they send you out there to do,” Penny said. “I knew I was going in, so I was mentally prepared to go in and just had to transfer that from the bullpen to the mound.”
  • In Penny’s last 13 relief appearances, only one run has scored, and it was unearned. Opponents are hitting .214 off the righty this season. And in the months of July and August, Penny boasts an earned run average of 0.48. “I don’t really think about it,” Penny said. “I just go out there and do what I know I’m capable of doing.”
  • After suffering through an 0-for-12 funk late last week, Anthony Howard is starting to find his stroke again. The right fielder is 5-for-14 (.357) in his last four contests with a pair of long homers to right and three runs scored. The one alarming stat for Howard is his strikeouts. He has whiffed 11 times in his last eight games and more than one strikeout per game (37 Ks, 35 games).
  • Still no update on shortstop Adrian Martinez, but Liriano said the team will know more about his condition tomorrow. Martinez has missed the last week of action because of some knee soreness.

Our pre-game coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. with the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western. As always, we are e-mail accessible at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

Who Are These Guys?

UPDATE (6:10 p.m.): Kingsport has had a less-than-stellar day. The team bus broke down en route to Burlington, and now it is stuck in traffic on the way here. Word from Mike DiFelice, the Mets’ skipper, is that the team will pull in around 7:30, but that is an optimistic expectation. The game will begin around a half-hour after the bus gets to the Stadium. Stay tuned to our Twitter for updates on that. What a strange way to start these two squads’ season series.

_______________

No, that’s not what I asked when I chatted with some of the players at the Stadium today prior to the game. One off day doesn’t do that to you. In fact, once the day off is over and you are back in the swing of things, it feels like the off day never happened.

That’s what the Royals are saying about the Kingsport Mets. In fact, that’s what Bluefield is saying about Bristol, Danville is saying about Greeneville, Princeton is saying about Johnson City and Pulaski is saying about Elizabethton.

The Appalachian League’s schedule is unique in the fact that each team has another squad on its schedule six times from now until the end of the season, and the two teams haven’t squared off to this point, yet.

It is a strange quirk to the schedule, but it is a part of the slate that the Royals must capitalize on in order to make a late playoff push. Let’s delve into that, and other things, in a Thursday edition of the Bullets.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • With 13 games left, the Royals have an “Elimination Number” of 10. In other words, any combination of Burlington losses and Danville victories that exceeds 10 will be enough to oust the Royals from playoff contention. Based on my sources, “Elimination Numbers” aren’t as awesome as “Magic Numbers.”
  • Prior to the Royals-Braves four-game set to end the season, Burlington will play Kingsport (23-30) six times and Pulaski (30-22) three times. On the flip side, the Braves get Kingsport for three and Greeneville (25-28) for six. So, from a strength-of-schedule perspective, Danville has a slight edge. Also, the Royals have six of their next nine on the road while the Braves have six at home.
  • Burlington must also worry about Princeton, with the Rays currently two and a half games better than the Royals. But odds are, with the Rays finishing up on a ten-game road trip, Burlington will claw past the Rays if the club plays well enough to overcome the four-game deficit to Danville. That’s an assumption on my part, but it is a reasonable one. Hence, Burlington must play, at the very least, even with the Braves over the next nine games simply to stay alive. If that indeed happens, Burlington (barring a great finish by Princeton) would need to finish the year with five straight wins over the Braves, including a playoff September 1. If Burlington outplays the Braves over the next nine, then the level of difficulty during that final series, obviously, will decrease.
  • By the way, Bluefield currently holds the worst “Elimination Number.” It sits at 3. Bristol and Greeneville have a 6, with Kingsport at a 5. Elizabethton and Johnson City will wrap up their playoff berths soon.
  • No matter how the playoff push turns out, second-year manager Nelson Liriano cares more about this part of the season versus the beginning of the year. “I want to see them finish strong,” Liriano said. “It’s now how you start. It’s how you finish.”
  • And Liriano believes his players have a better chance to succeed now. “They have made a lot of adjustments, especially in the fundamentals of the game.” he said. Liriano emphasized the improvements in the defense and the pitching staff, specifically.
  • The grind of the year, though, can play a big role in a team and an individual’s success in the dog days of August. But this is an important time, says Liriano. “When you are almost done with the season, that’s the time you separate the good players,” Liriano said. “The guys who have stronger minds and more determination to do well separate from the rest of the guys.”
  • One B-Royal who has had a long season of bouncing around is catcher Drew Robertson. He has split his time between both Burlingtons in the Kansas City organization. One thing that the Royals have going for them is that they are contending. Baseball is more fun when you are winning. “Winning every day and coming out and being able to compete and competing for something at the end of the day is probably something that would contribute to you [staying strong],” Robertson said about the stretch run.
  • Just so you know a little something about Kingsport, the Mets are fifth in the league in batting average (.269) and ninth in ERA (4.64). Kingsport has dropped seven straight games and have fallen to the basement in the Western Division. The Mets’ two best hitters are Javier Rodriguez, who is second in the league with a .327 average, and Aderlin Rodriguez, who is tied for second with 12 homers and fifth with 35 RBIs. Former big-league catcher Mike DiFelice, who was last in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, is in his second year as Kingsport’s skipper.
  • Three games in the Appalachian League have already been postponed (Danville-Greeneville, Bluefield-Bristol and Princeton-Johnson City). Fortunately, no games are being hosted by Western Division teams, as floods have hit East Tennessee very hard. Some areas have gotten upwards of a foot of rain.

The Royals and Mets get going at 7 p.m., with the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western at 6:45. WIth possible rain here, the “Royals Series Report” has been canceled. We may be in for a long night (or possibly no baseball) tonight, so stay tuned to our Twitter for all the latest news. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

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