Fight of a Dog

by Rodger M. Wood

While watching the three hard fought, close games and imbalance of talent on the two teams competing in the 2018 West Division, Rookie A  Appalachin League Playoff Series between the Elizabethton Twins and the Kingsport Mets, I kept remembering a statement Mark Twain made many moons ago, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

2018  Mets #1 Draft Pick Jared Kelenic Started in CF for Kingsport

Before the series started, Kingsport looked like a lock to win. Possibly looking ahead  to an Appy League Championship, the New York Mets had stacked their Rookie A  affiliate with five prime prospects, 2018 #1 draft pick CF Jarred Kelenic, 17-year old #8  top prospect SS Ronny Maurico, #10 top prospect 3B and DH Mark Vientos, #16 top prospect 3B Shervyan Newton and 2018 #2 Draft Pick 17 year old Texan high schooler RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson, while the Minnesota Twins placed  only #14 top prospect, 19 year old Dominican CF Gilberto Celestino, and 21st top prospect Dominican 2B Yunior Severino on the Elizabethton roster.

 Twins 21st Top Minor League Prospect Yunior Severino played 2B for Elizabethton

In Game 1 played at Kingsport August 31st, four  of the five  Twins game heroes turned out to be a 2017 30th round draft pick, 3B Alex Robles who drove in three rbi with timely 2-out hits in the 2nd and 7th innings, 2017 Draft 6th Round pick, SS Ricky De La Torre, who also drove in two runners with two outs and 2018 #7 Round Draft pick out of Virginia Military Institute, RHP Josh Winder who pitched a 6 inning 4 – hitter, one earned run, 8 K to get the win. Twins top prospect, Gilberto Celestino knocked in two runs with a 7th inning homer to help the Twins win Game 1 7-3.

 Elizabethton 3B Alex Robles Starred in Appy Series

Visiting team Kingsport came back slugging  to win the second game in 10 innings 7-6, After scoring three runs in the first inning, Kingsport did not score again until the 10th inning. The Twins tied the game 3-3 with runs in the 2nd, 4th, and 7th  innings.  In the top of the 10th inning, Mets Mark Vientos  hit a one-out, two run double and Ranfy Adon hit a 2 – run single to put Kingsport up 7-3.

Mets Mark Vientos’ Double Wins Game 2 

Elizabethton did not give up in the bottom of the tenth inning.  Gilberto Celestino cut the lead to 7-5 with a two run double, and scored on a single by Twins #4 2018 Draft pick 1B Chris Williams. On a passed ball, Williams then advanced to second, and Robles walked.  Jarred Akins grounded out for the second out and both runners advanced to second and third bases. However, Kingsport closer Nelson Leon came in to put out the fire and Kingsport won a tight no give up game 7-6 to even the three game series 1-1.

All of the marbles were on the line in Game 3 at Elizabethton, the winner taking the West Division title and going on to face the Princeton Rays in the 2018 Appalachin League Championship Series. Both teams scored a run in the second inning, Kingsport on Domingo Martinez base hit to left field scoring 3B Shervyan Newton and  Elizabethton on Yeltsin Encarnacion’s single to right to score LF Lean Marrero. CF Gilberto Celestino’s 2 – run home run in the fifth gave the Twins some breathing room 3-1, but Domingo Martinez’ double closed the gap driving in Shervyan Newton to cut the lead to 3-2. With his third hit of the day, 2B Yunior Severino doubled in a run in the seventh inning, driving in a run, and Chris Williams singled in a run in the eighth to make the score 5-2.  Late 2018 draft picks pitched in the game for the Twins, starter Andrew Calazaz (18th round) threw  4.1 IP, 1 run, 1 hit,  winning pitcher Brian Rapp, (26th Round) 3.2 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, and Tanner Howell (35th Round) the 3-out save.

Twins Chris William Drove In 3 Critical RBI

Neither team gave up in this series, The first game was a 2-1 game until the top of the sixth when the Twins scored a run. In the second game, down 7- 3 in the tenth, Elizabethton  fought back to score 3 runs in the bottom of the tenth and had runners on second and third when stopper Nelson Leon got the third out. In the championship game, the score was tied 1-1 until Elizabethan scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Twins prospects, Yunior Severino (14 AB, 4 RS, 6 H, 1 RBI)  and Gilberto Celestino (13 AB, 4 RS, 5 H, 5 RBI, 2 HR) starred at the plate in this series but so did lesser prospects Chris Williams (9 AB, 3 RS, 3 H, 3 RBI, 4 BB), Alex Robles (12 AB, 1 RS, 4 H, 4 RBI), Ricky DeLaTorre (10 AB, 1 RS, 4 Hits, and 2 RBI), and RHP Josh Winder with a 4 -hitter, 1 run  in Game 1. They were the game winners, the spark that got Elizabethton the tough wins.

Top Twin Prospect Gilberto Celestino Homered Twice

With the exception of DH and 3B Mark Vientos (12 AB, 3 RS, 4 H, 1 HR, 4 RBI, Kingsports stars did not get many timely hits.

You cannot measure heart or desire in a baseball player, but sitting next to the Elizabethan Twins’ dugout this series, I could feel the adrenalin flowing, see the desire, and the determination on the Elizabethton  players’ faces, and hear the encouragement  the manager, coaches, and players gave each other.  The chatter never ceased, It got me pumped up and enthusiastic about their chances to overcome the odds to win.

The Elizabethton players did more of the little things necessary to win games. They hit in the clutch, they ran the bases with abandon, they stayed down low on hard hit ground balls, and their pitchers consistently threw strikes when it counted. You could tell Elizabethton players  wanted to win by the way they played. The other team had more premium players, but the low budgeted Twins had the edge in heart. Old Mark Twain was never more right than when he predicted that the size of the fight in the dog would determine the winner of  the game..

With lots of heart the Elizabethan Twins went onto beat Princeton in the League Championship series 2 games to none.

Truly A Field of Dreams

Fifty-eight ball players, just out of high school and college got their chance of a lifetime to play on a  “field of dreams”  in the 2018 New York Penn League All Star Game at Medlar Field at Labrano Park, State College PA August 14th.  Two days of fun festivities, autograph sessions, media interviews, old time picnics, and baseball in an idyllic 5,570 capacity ballpark nestled at the foot of a majestic mountain in a central Pennsylvania valley could not help but jumpstart the participants’ imaginary thoughts about the importance of this life defining event

The lower the level of baseball, the purer the game becomes and the lesser a mighty dollar drives the game. The NY/PA League is usually the first or second stop for college or high school youngsters drafted by major league teams the preceding June. The North squad in this game was composed of players playing their first professional season baseball in picturesque hamlets in Auburn NY, Batavia NY, Norwich CT, Hudson Valley NY,  Troy NY, Burlington VT, and Lowell MA, the South in Aberdeen MD, Brooklyn NY (maybe not idyllic), Mahoning Valley Ohio, Morgantown WV, Williamsport, PA, and State College PA,

Thirteen (13) major league teams drafted these young players with hopes they would realize the athletic potential that scouts had told them could carry them to the major-leagues. The Washington Nationals, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Tampa Rays, Houston Astros, Oakland A’s, and Boston Red Sox, placed players on the North squad, and the Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals on the South squad.

Starting South SS, Tyler Freeman Fires the Ball to 1B

Prospect Watch rated only six (6) of these young players, Tyler Freeman (Indians), Delvin Perez (Cardinals), Travis Swaggerty (Pirates), Tyler Frank (Rays), Jeremy Pena (Astros), and Alex McKenna (Astros) in their major league teams’ top 30 prospects, and only one Travis Swaggerty (Pirates) made the  list of the top 100 prospects (84th) in minor league baseball. The other 47 ballplayers still had to earn their fame and fortune.

Much  of a parent major league team’s interest and developmental resources is expended on their 1st  through 5th Round draft picks. Three First Round and Compensatory First Round Picks (Travis Swaggerty – Pirates, Tyler Freeman – Indians, and Delvin Perez – Cardinals), two Second Rounder (Tyler Frank – Rays, Chris Betts -Rays), one Third Rounder, (Carlos Cortes – Mets), two Fourth Rounders, (Sean Reynolds – Marlins, and and Alex McKenna – Astros), and one Fifth Rounders (Nick Dunn – Cardinals) played in this game.

The remaining 48 players on the North and South rosters were either drafted in the 7th through 32nd rounds (31 players) or signed out of Venezuela (8 players) or the Dominican Republic (7 players) and  would have to stimulate greater interest from their parent clubs with a good all star performance.

Ross Adolph Hits a 2- run Triple in bottom of 1st

The mighty feats of the all star game started in the bottom of the first inning when the Mets 12th Round draft pick out the University of Toledo, and  South #3 hitter, Ross Adolph blasted a 2-run triple over the out stretched glove of  centerfielder Eric De La Rosa.  “I was just trying to make sure I was’t going to miss my pitch,” said Adolph. “He had walked the batter before, so I was assuming no one wants to walk two guys in a row in an all star game so I figured he would throw me a fast ball in a 3-2 count. I just relaxed, made sure I didn’t miss and just got the job done.”

The next South batter and cleanup hitter, Edwin Rodriquez brought Adolph in with a sacrifice fly to deep right center-field to give the South a 3-0 lead.  In the top of the 2nd, North 2B and Washington Nationals prospect,  Kyle Marinconz doubled in Boston baserunner Korby Batesole  to make the score 3-1.   Not all of the excitement, however, came  from the batters, as Mahoning Valley RHP Luis Santos threw a 100 mph fast ball to Sean Reynolds in the top of the 3rd.  After the pitch, Santos pointed to the right field wall where the speed was registered before striking Reynolds out with a much slower slider to end the inning.

Indians RHP Prospect Luis Santos Throws a 100 mph Fastball

Adolph did his deed again in the bottom of the 3rd inning with a solo homer over the right field fence to make the score 4-1. “I was feeling pretty good after the first at bat and told myself I was going to take a good hack at the first pitch I saw over the plate.” Pirates 2018 #1 draft pick (10th overall) out of South Alabama  and CF, Travis Swaggerty added to the South’s lead in the bottom of the 4th with a 2-run single to make the score 6-1.

Travis Swaggerty Singles in 4th to drive in 2-runs

North pitchers, Tigers Yaya Chentouf, Nationals David Smith, A’s Slater Lee, Astros Austin Hansen and Marlins Manuel Rodriquez shut the South hitters down the 5th – 8th innings.Four  players, Eric De La Rosa ( Connecticut Tigers), Travis Swaggerty, Willy Yahn (Aberdeen Iron Birds), and Ross Adolph got two hits, 14 of 17 pitchers threw a shutout inning, 4 pitchers struck out two batters in their IP, and 8 one hitter.Only three players made errors and one combo, West Virginia Pirates Mike Gretzler and Aberdeen Iron Birds 1B JC Escarra executed a a double play.Three players got extra base hits, Orioles Willy Yahn a triple and double, Red Sox Korby Batesole a double, and Ross Adolph a triple and homers.

While the South won the game on the field, a 12th round draft pick, Ross Adolph drove in 3 runs with a 3B and HR, and won the game’s  Bush MVP  Award. A  23 year old Dominican pitcher threw a 100 mph fast ball. The other 56 players on the field had the thrill of playing in their first professional all star game before  3, 570 fans who acted like  they walked on water. Apart from  the game, they had the thrill of signing an autograph for an excited 10-year old boy who waited in 20-deep lines just to talk to them. Young smiling ladies they’d never see again asked them to have a selfie taken with them. Down – to earth folks with old time values showed them the way to fame and fortune.   

Baseball can be cruel. The laurels go to the fittest, and the lesser skilled ball players fall quickly by the way side. Young ball players  realize this and in some cases strive just to  have the experience of playing professional baseball.
 
To be in  this game environment at State College, and be a celebrity all star professional baseball player was  an experience they’ll never forget.The 2018 New York/ Penn All Star Game was for these young players truly a game played on a field of dreams.

Matt Manning – Lessons Learned

                                                                         Matt Manning Starts His Delivery
 

20 – year old RHP Matt Manning is learning how to use his pitches, hold the runners, and is quickly developing his potential into a major league pitcher, who could lead his parent club back to the roses..

The 6-6 youngster has all of the makings of the  #1 ace on a major league pitching staff. The Detroit Tigers drafted him in Round 1 of the 2016 Draft (9th overall).  Savvy baseball folks have rated him the 47th best prospect in all of minor league baseball, and second or third best of Tigers’ minor league prospects. He is the son of a NBA star, Rich Manning and could have played basketball at Loyola Marymount, but the Detroit $3.5 million offer persuaded him to forego college and pitch baseball.
In 29.1 IP at GCL Tigers in 2016, in his professional baseball debut, he struck out 46 batters, in 2017 at NY/PA Rookie A Connecticut Defenders, he struck out 30 batters in 33 IP, and in a couple starts at Low A West Michigan near the end of the season, he stuck out 26 batters in 17.2 IP. 
Matt Manning Unleashes His Fast Ball
In the first half of this season, he continued pitching at  the Tigers’ Midwest League affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps, where after recovering from a strained oblique and a resulting slow three games start, he pitched  a stretch of games in which he allowed one run or less in 5 of his next 8 outings and consecutive 7 IP shutouts to close out his  Midwest League stay  with a 2.34 ERA in his last 8 starts and overall the first half of the 2018 season, a 3-3 W-L, in 11 GS, and 3.40 ERA, 28 BB, and 76 K in 55.2 IP pitched.
Tigers brass thought he was ready for a tougher test in late June and promoted him to the Fast A – Florida State League where In his first three starts with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, he’s 2-0, with a 2.70 ERA, 10 BB, 20 K in 16.2 IP.  

Matt Manning is Averaging More than a K an inning

Although Manning has at each minor league level consistently doubled or better the number of his Ks to BB, his pitching coach at West Michigan Jorge Cordova believed he still had some pitching lessons to learn. “He needs to understand  with the great stuff he has that he doesn’t have to pitch to swing and miss every batter. He’s got such a great fastball, he has such a great curveball, and he can get hitters off balance with the change up,” that he can get the hitters out on contact too.
In the Midwest League, he learned to hold the base runners better too.  Cordova observed, “he was holding runners pretty well his last starts against Dayton and South Bend.  While there weren’t many runners in those games, four and five each game respectively, “He’s learning, understanding he needs to be quick to the plate. He needs to vary his look, he needs to hold the ball as long as he can.”
Interviewed after the Dayton game, Manning said he did his homework before the game, “I studied the Dragons  hitters’  tendencies in the two previous games, and thought if I pitched to contact, forced the hitters to swing, and located my fastball inside to both lefties and righties, I’d be successful.”
The outlook for Matt Manning is bright as he is applying the lessons he has learned to his minor league pitching and is blossoming more and more each start. If he keeps getting A’s on his Florida State League report card, it won’t be long before he moves up to  the AA- Erie Sea Wolves  then AAA – Toledo Mud Hens and onto the pitchers’  mound at Detroit’s Commerce Park. 
There the tall lanky RHP may remind some old timers of another tall right-hander who won 183  games in 13 seasons  for the Tigers because  Matt Manning could be just as good or better than that pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.

All of the Players Got a Chance in the 2018 Eastern League All Star Game

I like Tim Tebow, but there were fifty – nine other bonifide major-league prospects trying to show their talent in the 2018 AA Eastern League All Star Game at Trenton Thunder’s Arm and Hammer Field last Wednesday.

Binghamton’s Tebow’s double in his first All Star AB in the bottom of the second inning probably caused as much fan and media stir as the batter before, Phillies’ prospect Deivi Grullon’s HR, which gave the East an early 2-0 lead.

Tim Tebow cracks a double to left center field in the bottom of the second inning

Twenty-three of the 60 players playing in the game were among major league teams top rated 30 minor league prospects, including a couple #1s, Colorado Rockies’ SS Brandon Rogers representing Hartford and Toronto Blue Jays 3B Vladimir Guerrero representing New Hampshire.

East SS, Brandon Rodgers is the #1 minor league prospect of the Colorado Rockies

The All Star Game featured a little bit of everything, power hitting, good pitching, good defense, good base running, and drama at the end, all of the makings for a good game.

.East and West pitchers threw 18 IP, allowing only 15 hits, 8 earned runs scored, 6 BB, and an impressive 22 K, and a better than an average 1.22 K per inning. Sixteen (16) pitchers had at least a K, and six (6) two K in their IP.

Seventeen (17) of the combined East and West 22 pitchers pitched shutout ball, with only five of the pitchers allowing any of the eight runs scored.

East pitchers, New Hampshire’s Jordan Romano and TJ Zeuch and Portland’s Matt Kent and Kyle Hart didn’t allow a hit until Harrisburg’s Taylor Gushue singled for the West with one out in the fifth inning.

 

Colorado Rockies 2016 # 1 draft pick, TJ Zouch, pitched a scoreless 3rd inning for the East.

The defense of both teams was flawless as neither made an error the entire game.

East runners, New Hampshire’s Jonathan Davis stole second base off strong armed Harrisburg’s catcher Taylor Gushue in the first, and Hartford’s Sam Hilliard off Bowie’s Michael Cervenka in the seventh inning.

Phillies Jan Hernandez’s solo HR added to to the East’s lead in the bottom of the 4th inning.

 

East’s Jan Hernandez’s solo HR in the bottom of the 4th made the score 3-0

The West’s offensive attack began for real in the fifth when Akron’s Joe Sever and Connor Mirabell and Altoona’s Ke’Bryan Hayes put together one -out hits, Mirabell and Hayes tagging up on a fly ball hit by Erie’s Will Maddox, and Mirabell scoring on wild pitch to lift the West into a 3-3 tie.

The West went ahead 4-3 in the eighth inning on Richmond and Bush’s All Star MVP winner Luigi Rodriquez’ blast of a 0-1 offering over the left center fence.

Richmond Flying Squirrels and Giants minor leaguer, Luigi Rodriquez won the Bush All Star MVP

West (and Altoona Curve) manager, Michael Ryan complimented Rodriquez after the game, “He’s just a special hitter with the hand eye coordination that he has. He’s a special type of player…..”

The East rallied to tie the score in the 9th inning when Binghamton’s Patrick Mazurka singled and scored the tying run on a double hit by the home team Trenton’s Trey Amburgey.

To resolve the 4-4 tie game, Altoona’s Will Craig and Reading’s Zach Green played a form of sandlot’s “flies and grounders,” so many points for hitting a homer over the fence, line drive up the alleys, grounders,………………with Craig outhitting his opponent to win the game for the West Division.

East manager, Jay Bell thought it was a great game. “For me, it’s about all the players getting in the game and showing their talent and I think both sides accomplished that. tonight

Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 #1 Draft Pick, Will Craig won the “flies and grounders” and 2018 All Star Game for the West

Keegan Akin, Leftie on the Rise by Rodger M. Wood

Left handed pitchers are at a premium in the major leagues, every team wants one or two of them on their pitching staffs, if not more, to get those tough hitters out in the opposing teams’ lineups.

The Orioles are fortunate enough to have some good ones in their minor league organization, but flying high above the radar right now at AA – Bowie Bay Sox is their Baseball America (BA) ranked 11th top minor league prospect, 23 year old LHP Keegan Akin.

The Orioles drafted Akin 2nd (54th overall) in 2016, out of Western Michigan University, where he had set the school’s single season strikeout record (133), was named BA Third Team All America, and had streaks of 30.2 and 22.2 innings pitched without an earned run.,

Three weeks after the draft, he was showing Orioles minor league brass enough stuff on and off the mound with Rookie A- Aberdeen Iron Birds (0-1 W-L, 1.04 ERA, 29 K, 7 BB, 9 GS, 25 IP) to warrant skipping him past Low A- Delmarva Shorebirds and starting him in his first full professional 2017 season at Fast A, Carolina League Frederick Keys

With the Keys, he pitched a 100 innings, and mixing his 92-93 mph sinker, which he could locate inside to both left and right handed batters, with an 82 – 85 mph change up, he struck out an average of more than one of those older, more savvy Carolina League hitters per inning and a 111 for the season.

This season the young left-hander has been challenged by AA – Eastern League competition. ” I’m trying to learn how to command each of my pitches to the maximum in any given situation. If you get behind hitters in the count in this league, you’ll pay the price. I’m trying to see the hitter’s swing and pitch to it. This season my goals have been to work hard, refine my pitches, be consistent, and stay healthy.”

So far this season, he has pitched 9 quality starts, after allowing only one run over 7 IP June 21st against Harrisburg, and allowing a pair of runs with 7 K against Portland Sea Dogs June 15th.

He has given up only two earned runs or less in 11 of his 15 starts this season, including 6 of his last 7 games. He is 7th in the Eastern League with 95 K, 5th with a 2.98 ERA, and with 8 wins, is tied for 2nd in wins.

Named an All Star, he will be pitching for the West Division in the 2018 Eastern League All Star Game Wednesday, July 11th at Trenton, NJ.

Bay Sox pitching coach Kennie Steenstra thinks highly of the youngster, “Keegan Akin is one of the best pitching prospects in the Orioles minor league organization. We’re working hard on sound fundamentals, mechanics, and improving his slider to go along with his fast ball and change up, If he keeps delivering like he has been, I believe we’re looking at a pitcher who will be throwing at Camden Yards some day soon.”

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Note

Bowie players, parents, family members, friends can see and if they want obtain a copy of photos taken during the 2018 season and before at woodsportsphotography / photo galleries / featured photos / Bowie Bay Sox 2018.

Alex Wells, Ready for the Challenge by Rodger M. Wood

Australian Orioles LHP prospect, Alex Wells, knows it will be challenging for him to pitch at Camden Yards some day, but he is showing positive signs he will be ready for the test.

In 2012, Baseball Almanac listed only 31 Aussies who had played in at least one major league game, 21 pitchers and 10 position players. While White Sox RHP Grant Balfour pitched in the 2013 All Star Game, but other star Australian players have been far and few in between.

Almost every single kid in Australia is said to play at least some T- ball, but 99 percent of them will never play the sport again afterwards. -They leave and play rugby, cricket and other sports.

Alex and his twin brother Lachlan, growing up in Newcastle, did the reverse. They played cricket first and then switched to baseball. Alex said, “it was a natural adjustment for them. The sports were very similar in skills requirements and fundamentals.”

Both pitched youth and school ball, Lachlan a RHP, and Alex a LHP, and made the roster of the Australia National Baseball Team in the World Baseball Classic.

In 2015, the Minnesota Twins signed Lachlan to a contract as an international free agent, shortly afterwards, the Orioles signed Alex to a $300,000 contract. Reports are that Lachlan was signed first because he threw a couple mph faster than Alex, but Alex was said to be the better long term major league prospect.

In the short season Rookie NY/Penn League at Aberdeen in 2016, Alex was 4-5 W-L, compiling a 2.15 ERA in 13 GS, 62.2 IP. He walked only 9 batters, and struck out 50.

In 2017 at Low A-Delmarva, Wells pitched even better, 11-5 W-L, 2.38 ERA, 25 GS, 140 IP, 10 BB and a phenomenal 113 K. When presenting Alex the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award, Orioles General Manager, Dan Duquette predicted, “Hopefully we’ll see Alex out here pitching for the Orioles soon.”

Wells dominated at Delmarva for long stretches last season. In a 5 straight starts stretch, 31 IP, he didn’t allow a run. The last 66 IP, he did not walk a single batter. Command of his pitches, and getting the ball over the plate without the batter hitting it were his forte. .

So far in the current season at Fast A- Frederick, he is 2-5, with a 3.90 ERA in 80.2 IP, 53 K and 24 BB. Alex admits the Carolina League experience is very challenging. “The first time around the circuit, I was getting acquainted with the hitters. They are very tough outs, very challenging lineups. I’m trying to pound the K-zone and get the hitters out.”

A former Orioles, Red Six and A’s pitcher himself and Orioles minor league pitching coordinator, John Wasdin says “Wells is definitely a good prospect. This season is challenging for him, the hitters are more advanced, older, but he’s learning how to use his pitches against them, and how to repeat the mechanics. He is making good progress in learning how to read their swings and get them out.

The (4 seam) fast ball is his primary weapon, he throws in the high 80s and tops out about 91-92. He uses his fast ball aggressively to set up his curve and change up which he throws with a convincing arm action and nice sinking action. Some think his fast ball will top out about 91-92 mph, but with his heart, athleticism, and hard work between starts, I think his velocity may increase.” .

He must be succeeding in meeting the Carolina League challenges because he was named a 2018 Carolina League All Star and pitched the 5th inning of the All Star Game at Zebulon, North Carolina on June 19th, allowing just a hit and 2 unearned runs.

Last spring Baseball America named him the Orioles 2018 thirteenth top minor league prospect.

Step by step, slowly but surely, Alex is overcoming the obstacles and lowering the odds that he will indeed pitch at Camden Yards.

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Parents, family members, teammates,and friends can view and if they want obtain copies of the photos I took at Alex’s start against Winston Salem 29th in the photo galleries / featured photos / Frederick Keys 2018.

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In the August issue of the Orioles Kids Magazine, Alex will be featured in a Minor Marvels interview by David Driver.
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East and West Division Teams, , 2018 Midwest League All Star Game Action Photos On Web

The over 300 action photos I took at the 2018 Midwest League All Star Game on June 19th at Lansing, Michigan are now all published on this web page at woodsportsphotography / photo galleries / featured photos / Midwest League All Star Game, West Division 2018 and Midwest League All Star Game, East Division 2018.

Players, parents, family member, and friends can view all of the photos and if they want buy copies of the photos in any size as listed.

East Division Players Photos Available: West Division Players Photos Available
Miguel Amaya, South Bend, Chicago Cubs Austin Beck, Beloit Snappers, Oakland A’s
Will Benson, Lake County, Cleveland Indians Matt Brill, Kane County Cougars, Arizona D’Backs
Maximo Castillo, Lansing Lugnuts, Toronto Blue Jays Jazz Chisholm, Kane County Cougars, Arizona D’Backs
Henrik Clementine, Ft. Wayne, San Diego Padres Trace Loehr, Beloit Snappers, Oakland A’s
Rollie Lacy, South Bend, Chicago Cubs Ryan Costello, Clinton, Seattle Mariners
Nick Margevicius, Ft Wayne, San Diego Padres Julio Garcia, Burlington Bees, Los Angeles Angels
Riley O’Brien, Bowling Green, Tampa Rays Torii Hunter, Burlington Bees, Los Angeles Angeles
Kevin Vicuna, Lansing Lugnuts, Toronto Blue Jays Alex Korilloff, Cedar Rapids, Minnesota Twins
Jared Walker, Great Lake Loon, Los Angeles Dodgers Royce Lewis, Cedar Rapids, Minnesota Twins
Chavez Young, Lansing Lugnuts, Toronto Blue Jays Luis Maduro, Burlington Bees, Los Angeles Angeles
Jared Young, South Bend, Chicago Cubs Wyatt Marks, Beloit Snappers, Oakland A’s
Renae Martinez, Kane County Cougars, Arizona D’Backs
Elehuis Montero, Peoria, St. Louis Cardinals
Demi Orimoloye, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Brewers
Dennis Ortega, Peoria, St. Louis Cardinals
Henry Payton, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Brewers

2018 Midwest League All Star Game Was a Show Case of Talent – by Rodger M. Wood

The 2018 Midwest League All Star Game, played in front of 9,396 fans at Cooley Law School Stadium, the home of the Lansing (Michigan) Lug Nuts, was a showcase of young ball players with lots of major league potential, playing a 10 inning walk off 3-2 game.

Midwest League All Star game MVP, Reds prospect, 1B, Montrell Marshall made the game ending exciting, driving in Dayton Dragons’ teammate, Stuart Fairchild from second base with a two out single on a 1-2 count to score the winning run.

Twenty eight pitchers from both the East and West Division squads allowed only 15 hits, struck out 20 hitters, and did not walk a man.

Twenty-four of the 28 pitchers of record threw shutout ball, 17 of the pitchers struck out a batter, and three, Blue Jays and Lansing
RHP Maximo Castillo, Reds and Dayton RHP, game winning pitcher, John Ghyzel, and Angels and Burlington RHP Luis Maduro stuck out two batters each in an IP.

Luis Maduro struck first two batters in bottom of the 2nd Inning

The East Division drew first blood in the bottom of the 1st inning on Blue Jays prospect and home field Lug Nuts 2B Kevin Vicuna’s double to left center field, and Tampa and Bowling Green’s Tyler Wells clutch single up the middle to score the run.

Kevin Vicuna rifles a double up the lf/cf alley in the bottom of the first inning.

The East added to their lead in the bottom of the 5th inning on Dodger’s and Great Lakes 3B Jared Walker’s HR off a 1-2 pitch, making the game 2-0.

Jared Walker gets ahold of ball HR in bottom of 5th.

In the top of the sixth, the West Division hit balls that started to see some light and fall in. With 2 outs, Los Angeles Angels and Burlington Bees 3B Julio Garcia drove in Cardinals and Peoria’s Yariel Gonzalez from 1B with a double to right center field, making the score 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Tension building up with two outs in the top of the 8th inning, Twins and Burlington Bees’ RF, Alex Kirilloff came through in the clutch with a hard hit single to right field to drive in the 2-2 tying run.

Alex Kirilloff hits away in the 8th

Neither side made an error in the game and it wasn’t because the players stayed away from making hard plays. Royce Lewis, #1 Twins Baseball America minor league prospect, 2017 #1 Draft, and Cedar Rapids SS stood out in the field for the first four innings of the game. In the bottom of the second inning, he made an unbelievable play, going wide to his left behind 2B, driving for the ball, getting up, and throwing the runner out at 1B by a nick to end the inning.

Royce Lewis goes after a pop up in bottom of 3rd.

East Division manager, Cesar Martin thought, “both teams played a really good game and both sides made some good defensive plays as well.”

West Division and Quad Cities manager, Mickey Storey agreed, “It was a phenomenally- well played game by both sides.

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Rays Ronaldo Hernandez Win HR Derby

Before the Midwest League All Star Game, Bowling Green Hot Rods and Tampa Bay Rays Baseball America 12th top minor league prospect, 20 year old Colombian catcher, Ronaldo Hernandez won the Midwest League All Star Homerun Derby, beating a close second place contender, Indians top 8th Baseball America prospect Will Benson in a close contest.

Ronaldo Hernandez Hits Away in HR Derby

Victor Robles, A Star in the Making by Rodger M. Wood

It is truly a pleasure watching 20 – year Victor Robles mold his five tool talent together at Fast A – Potomac Nationals this season.

Getting his feet wet the past three seasons in DSL and GCL rookie ball and Low A SALLY Hagerstown, he is stealing bases, hitting singles, doubles, triples and homers, throwing out runners testing his arm, and catching rocket shots up the alleys nowadays at Potomac.

In a typical game against Salem a couple weeks ago, he led off with a double, stretched it to a triple when the Salem right fielder bobbled the ball, and scored on an infield out.

In his second time at bat, he showed a bunt first pitch, protecting the runner stealing second. While he ended up flying to left field, he did his job advancing the runners.

In his third AB, he reached out and slapped a single to left field, and scored on a teammate’ double to right.

For nine innings, he hustled out in centerfield, backing up the plays, racing after well hit balls, throwing to the right bases to stop advancing runners and generally taking charge as a good CFer should.

Although missing two weeks of game play at the end of April due to a hamstring injury, in 37 games this season, 136 AB, he is hitting 296 BA, 7 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, and drove in 17 RBI from a mostly leadoff position in the batting order.

His OBP 391 is ideal for a leadoff hitter – he gets on base 39.1 % of ABs, and 526 SLG shows he can hit for power, lots of doubles, triples, and HR.

And Victor just turned twenty May 19th and already is successfully hitting against older savvy Carolina League pitchers, who know well how to pitch an anxious rookie.

But mature beyond his years, Victor is laying back and getting his licks. He is blending bunting, hitting away, waiting out pitches and varying his hitting strategies to confuse those opposing older players.

He is marrying good hitting with the defensive facets of his game to show all of the signs of becoming a star.

And when he puts it all together, he has the potential to be what the Washington Nationals have always dreamt about – a superstar in centerfield leading off in the batting order at Nationals Stadium.

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Whole Different Ball Game in Frederick

It is a whole different ball game at Frederick this season. The parent Baltimore Orioles have stocked their Fast A, Carolina League affiliate with several minor league cream of the crop prospects, and these youngsters are running around the bases, scoring runs, making plays, pitching good baseball and winning lots of ball games.

Every fifth day, you can see 2017 BA #2 Orioles prospect and 2016 1st round draft pick out of the University of Illinois, RHP Cody Sedlock and 2017 BA #6 Orioles prospect and 2016 2nd round pick LHP Keegan Akin pitch.

Cody Sedlock fires a strike

At SS you’ll find another 1st Rounder (2015) 20-year 6-3 BA #3 Orioles prospect, Ryan Mountcastle, who reminds many fans of former great Cal Ripken at the same position.

Ryan Mountcastle Fires to First

At 3B, you’ll find another 20-year old, power hitting BA #8 Jomar Reyes, who the Orioles are looking down the road for the long ball that characterizes their everyday lineup now.

Domar Reyes Hits Away

Fleet footed BA #7 Austin Hays, 2016 3rd rounder out of Jacksonville University covers the ground in center field and BA #24 Randolph Gassaway left field.

Austin Hays also hits for average and power

Splitting the catching and dh, power hitting BA #31 Yermin Mercedes rounds out the lineup.

At a game last week end, I had an unexpected thought when Frederick was at the plate. The Keys youngsters were so aggressive, hungary for a hit, and clobbering the ball I thought about the old 1927 New York Yankees “Murderers Row,” (Combs, Koenig, Ruth, Gehrig, Meuse, and Lazzeri). While a stretch comparison, watch these youngster play at Frederick, AA- Bowie, AAA- Norfolk in coming seasons and mark my words, you may be seeing a couple major league superstars in the making.

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