Category Archives: News & Features

2013 Minor League Season in Review: Part One

by Rodger M. Wood

Even though committed to teaching Latin at Freedom HS, South Riding, VA, 9 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday, until June 8th, and having a slow start to the 2013 Season, shooting at only 9 games by June 2nd , I ended up shooting photos at a total of 59 minor league ball games, including 6 SALLY, Carolina, and Eastern League playoff games.

I can’t possibly recount all of the great moments this season because I count seeing old friends in that count and I saw a lot of them. I will limit myself to describing only the season highlights.

Javiar Baez Vine Line Cover, February, 2013

Before the season even started, Vine Line used one of my posed shots of Baseball America’s Top Chicago Cubs prospect, Javier Baez, on the cover of their February issue. This was my first cover for Vine Line and started the 2013 season on a very high note.

Javiar Baez Cover

Trenton NJ, April 27th – 28th Xander Bogaert and Brandon Workman

On my first road trip of the season to Trenton , NJ, I shot posed and action shots of two Portland AA players, who the baseball world would see play in the World Series six months later.

Bogaerts Xander
Bogaerts Xander

Red Sox BA #1 prospect, Xander Bogaert played shortstop in 56 games for the AA Portland Red Sox before advancing to play in 60 games AAA Pawtucket and the parent Boston Red Sox in September to play in the post season classic.

Before the first game April 27th, Xander posed for my camera gyrations cheerfully and also gave me a lot of good game shots the two days I was there.

Brandon Workman
Brandon Workman

After a grueling daily pre game work out, RHP Brandon Workman stopped to pose for some shots too. Little did I know, I would see him pitching against the Cardinals in the World Series only a few moths later.

Another First Round Pick! Tim Anderson, Kannopolis Intimidators

By Rodger M. Wood

I photographed another 2013 1st Round Pick, my fourth top pick this season, playing shortstop for Kannapolis at Hagerstown, MD Sunday.

The 19-year old East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi, Tim Anderson was drafted by the Chicago White Sox 17th overall in the June amateur draft and is getting his first professional exposure at full season Low A SALLY League Intimidators this season.

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Noted for his speed in junior college, he was second in the nation in college with 41 SB, Anderson is playing a deep shortstop and already stealing a few bases (13 SB in 43 GP) in the pros.

Baseball’s soothsayers say he’ll have to change his swing to power the ball  of the park but for the time being, he’ll probably keep hitting for average and getting a lot of base and extra bases hits. His statistics at Kannopolis are 45 hits for 169 AB in 43 GP, 0 HR, 7 2B, and 3 3B.

Some experts project his future position in center field, but his speed can also help him cover lots of ground at shortstop. Sunday, he was practicing his between innings throws from deep in the hole, but his natural position will depend largely on what type of hitter he becomes down the road.

Two #1 Draft Picks!

By Rodger M. Wood

Rome Braves pitching coach Derrick Lewis is blessed with the responsibility for not only one but two #1 draft pick pitchers this season at the Atlanta Braves Low –A SALLY affiliate.

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With a 4-4 W-L record, 3.28 ERA in 71.1 IP in this his first full professional season, Atlanta Braves 2012 #1 (21st overall) Snelville HS RHP Lucas Sims is showing  positive results from Lewis’ savvy pitching instruction.

Although 2013 #1 (31st overall) 21-year RHP Jason Hursh is just getting started with his professional career, Lewis has gotten him showing some encouraging signs throwing his 91-96 fast ball past 7 batters in just 6.2 IP in 3 starts.

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Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2012,  Hurst just has to polish his secondary pitches under Lewis to become a bonafide major league prospect.

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It was a pleasure seeing my old friends Rome manager, Randy Ingle, who I have known since he played at AAA-Richmond in 1986,  and hitting coach Bobby Moore, who I first met when I shot his picture at Richmond in 1992.

I missed seeing pitching coach Derrick Lewis, as he was on paternity leave celebrating the birth of his first baby girl.  I have known Derrick since he was a young pitcher in the Carolina League at Macon in 1998.

The three of them are a class act – I always enjoy seeing my old friends.

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Rome also has a number of other prospects in their lineup:  2013 #8 round draft pick OF Kyle Wren, who is hitting 333 BA, 1 HR, and 6 RBI with 16 hits in 48 AB, RHP Maurico Cabrera, Baseball America’s #6 Braves top minor league prospect, shortstop Jose Peraza, BA #10, BA #19 C Josh Elander, who is crushing the ball with 11 HR, 61 RBI, 318 BA, and BA prospect #21, 3B Carlos Franco.

Tigers #1 Jonathan Crawford, Another Frank Lary?

By Rodger M. Wood

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See more Jonathan Crawford images here.

While I shot photos of Detroit Tigers 2013 #1 (20th overall) draft pick, Jonathan Crawford, in the Norwich Dodd Stadium bullpen on June 17th, I couldn’t help but remember the Tigers’ old Yankee Killer of the late 1950s and early 1960s, RHP Frank Lary.

I asked the 21 year old if he had ever heard of Frank Lary, but of course, pitching forty years before he was born, I had to tell him who he was and added that unlike Lary, he would also miss out pitching in old Briggs Stadium, which brought many days of joy to my childhood.

Although Jonathan had not heard about the Tigers’ past, he could well be a large part of their future.

At Florida the past two seasons, the 6-2, 205 RHP pumped a 92-96 mph fastball and wicked curve past opposing batters. Pitching for a young Gators team in 2013 without much hitting early in the season, he went 0 – 4, but bounced back with a
3-2 record to close out the season with a 3-6 W-L record. The highlight of his season was pitching a 2-hit shutout against Ole Mississippi, who went on to do big things in the NCAA tournament.

Statistics are deceiving as Baseball America ranked Jonathan the 24th top prospect in the 2013 draft and he had a good 2012 collegiate season. In the opening round of the 2012 NCAA tournament, he limited Austin Peay to one run and four hits over 6 1/3 innings pitched and made the all tournament team.

Jonathan has lots of promise and while he reminded me of one of my old favorite, someday the reverse may be true. Looking at my old baseball cards of “Tatoes” Lary, I may well be reminded of an intense young Jonathan Crawford pumping his fastball in the bullpen that day in Norwich.

Another Kaline on the Way in Detroit? Nick Castellanos, Erie Sea Wolves

By Rodger Wood

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Older Tigers fans are praying young Tigers BA #2 minor league prospect, Nick Castellanos will develop into a HOF right fielder just like Al Kaline did back in the 1950s.

Tigers brass invited comparisons of the 20-year old to the HOFer, who patrolled right field at old Briggs Stadium for over 20 seasons, when figuring 29-year old Miquel Cabrera would be holding down their hot corner for awhile, they moved young Castellanos from 3B to right field at AA-Erie Sea Wolves this past July.

Erie manager Chris Cron thinks the youngster has all of the tools to be a good right fielder at the major league level.

“He has a strong arm, good speed, moves, and catches the ball well, but he’s playing in only his 46th game in the outfield, and needs to learn the position through a thousand repetitions and lots more hard work.”

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Castellanos says he’ll do his best to help his team at the new position. “I never played right field before, I played only shortstop and third base in high school, and minor league ball so I have to learn the hard angles I have to read to catch fly balls and especially line drives off a left handed batter. Right field is a tough position to to play but I’ll do it.”

Drafted in the First Supplemental round of the 2010 MLB draft, 44th overall, after he hit 542 BA his senior year at Archbishop McCarthy HS (Southwest Ranches, FL), the young right handed hitter proved he could hit beyond his years at Rookie GCL, Low A – West Michigan, Lakeland. When he stops chasing bad pitches and develops better plate discipline, he has the swing and hitting instincts to develop into a 300 BA and 30 HR major leaguer.

He’s advanced fast through the Tigers minor league organization, and while one of the youngest players in AA, he’s proved he can hit the more savvy Eastern League pitchers at AA Erie with a 276 BA in 74 games played, 15 2B, 1 3B, and 7 HR in 301 at bats. As he advanced from rookie to AA – ball, his power statistics have progressively increased against the tougher competition and has done better as the pitchers demonstrated better command of their pitches.

When asked about comparison with the Tiger great, Castellanos modestly reflected, “Al Kaline was a great rightfielder, and I don’t think I can ever fill his shoes, but if given a chance, I’ll do my best to give the Tigers another good right fielder. “

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Kaline was soft speaking and thankful off the field too. Maybe Nick Castellanos, thankful for the opportunity to play right field, will also be the answer to Tigers fans’ prayers when he runs out on the field.

Top Draft Pick’s Happy To Be A Red Sox: Pat Light – Lowell Spinners

By Rodger M. Wood

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Even though he was born in Colts Neck, NJ and raised deep in New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies’ territory, Red Sox 2012 MLD 1st round sandwich, and 37th pick overall, Pat Light is overjoyed to be a Boston Red Sox.

The 6’6” Monmouth University right hander said the Red Sox drafting him was “a dream come true. The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry across New Jersey is tough, and I probably will lose a few friends saying this, but I consider it to be a privilege to be with the Red Sox and part of that old rivalry. I’d love to beat the Yankees in Fenway Park some day.”

Light started 13 games, pitched 75.2 IP, and struck 61 batters for the Blue and White this past college season. Before the 2012 season, he was a Golden Spike or college baseball’s Heisman Trophy Award candidate, and #53 on Baseball America’s pre-season draft prospect list.

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After going 20-0 in three seasons at Christian Brothers Academy and winning a New Jersey high school state championship, he was the Minnesota Twins 28th round pick in the 2009 MLD but elected to go onto Monmouth rather than sign.

Light throws a four seam fastball as fast as 99 mph, a solid slider, which breaks down and away on righthanded batters, and a split change up in the upper 70s.He knows how to pace himself to go the distance, throwing his fast ball in the low 90s and only occasionally slipping in a fastball in the 96 – 97 mph range to keep the opposing batters honest.

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Sometimes victimized by an inconsistent, varying arm slot when throwing his off speed pitches, Light is working on repeating his most effective delivery every pitch at Rookie A NY Penn League Lowell.

“Lowell pitching coach Paul Abbott is working with me every day to improve and maintain my mechanics. My slider and change up sometimes lose their effectiveness late in the game when I tire and change my delivery.”

The 21-year old hurler must be learning his lessons. At Lowell, he is 0-2 W-L with a good 2.96 ERA in 10 starts and 24.1 iP. He’s stuck out 25 batters and walked only 5. The opposition has scored only 8 earned runs against him.

His potential, work ethic, and the way he’s performing at Lowell most certainly make the Red Sox happy too that he’s a Boston Red Sox.
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Click here if you want to view more Pat Light and Lowell Spinners photos.

See a slideshow.

Cubs 19-Year Javiar Baez Promoted to Fast A

By Rodger M. Wood

19-year old shortstop, Javiar Baez,  fed so well off Midwest League pitchers in his first 57 games in his first full professional season at Peoria that the parent Chicago Cubs decided to give him a tougher test at Fast A- Florida State League Daytona midway through the 2012 season.

The Cubs $2.625 million dollar investment after they drafted him first (9th overall) in the 2011 Major League Draft appears to be paying off  handsomely.

The promotion came after Baez was named Midwest League Player of the July 9-15 week, after hitting 478 BA, 11 hits in 23 AB, 3 HR, 2 2B, 2 3B, driving in 6 RBI, stealing 2 bases, and scoring two runs. He had hit safely in 11 games and carried a 331 BA for the week.

The 6-1, 205 youngster looks like he has the range and speed to play major league shortstop, but still growing, maybe into a Cal Ripken sized shortstop, and competing for the position with another stellar prospect in the Cubs minor league system, Arismendy Alcantara, and Starlin Castro at the major league level, may face a position change to 3B, 2B, catcher or even outfielder in the near future.

In 57 games played at Peoria, Baez compiled a 333 BA, 71 hits, 10 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, and 33 RBI in 213 AB. With a 9 BB/48K ratio, he can work on his plate discipline by laying off the bad pitches which Midwest pitchers occasionally fooled him with.

Opposing Fast A- pitchers will be more cunning, and throw more good strikes, but once Javiar Baez becomes acclimated to Fast A baseball, it could be just a brief time before he progresses up through AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa to hitting third in the Cubs lineup at Wrigley Field.

You can view the photo Peoria Cubs galleries and featured photo folders below:

See the slideshow.

See the gallery.

 

Top White Sox Pick Lights up The Field at Bristol

By Rodger M. Wood
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#1 White Sox (13th overall) 2012 draft pick Courtney Hawkins has already shown the potential to dominate a baseball game at Rookie A – Bristol.

In the game I saw him play, he singled to get on base his first two AB, stole second base each time, advanced to 3B on an overthrow and scored the first AB on a sacrifice fly, starting the home crowd buzzing at the old Bristol ball park with excitement.

Although just an 18 year old, he has a certain aura about him which tells you he’ll get a hit, steal a base, and win a ball game for you.

While his speed is rated as only above average, the radar gun doesn’t take into account his baseball canniness, instinct and ability to rile an opposing pitcher into trying to pick him off. I had three perfect opportunities to photograph young Hawkins slideback to 1B in the first inning alone.

The book on this phenomen is he needs more plate discipline, but that will come with age. Critics will say he has struck out 27 of 92 AB in 24 games, but overlook the youngster has shown a knack for hitting the long ball with 2 HR and 5 doubles among his first 23 professional hits.

Bristol is also loaded six other White Sox’s 2012 draft picks: #3 2B Joey DeMichele, #5 SS Nick Basto, #7 C Jose Barraza, #12 1B Zach Stoner, #19 Alex Williams, #23 CF Kale Kiser, and #31 3B Corey Thompson.

You can view photos of all of the draft picks and other players in the photo galleries/featured photo folders/Bristol White Sox 2012 and Courtney.

See the slideshow.

See the gallery.

Much Cubs Future At Daytona

By Rodger M. Wood

On the first leg of my recent South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee photo shoot, I had the pleasure of taking photos of the young Daytona Cubs before and during games at Daytona and Clearwater.

Daytona is blessed with three Baseball America’s “Top 30 Chicago Cubs minor league prospects.”

Just returning from a leg injury, Matt Szezur, BA #3, is hitting 270, 2 HR, 24 RBI, and significantly, has 28 SB in 64 games.

Since promoted to AA-Tennessee Smokies, RHP Tony Zych, BA #15, was 3-3, 3.19 ERA at Daytona.

Rehabbing at Daytona, BA #19 RHP Robert Whitenack started the first game I saw at Daytona and looked stronger each inning pitched against Tampa Yankees.

Just as noteworthy as the BA prospects were several other Cubs youngsters.

Hitting 306 BA, 7 HR, and 51 RBI in the first half of the season, SS Arismendy Alcantara’s glove and bat are burning up the Florida State League. He will soon be near the top of any Cubs prospect list. .

Big tough 1B Greg Rohan is hitting 285, 12 HR, and leading the league with 65 RBI.

Starter, LHP Austin Kirk is 4-2, 2.66 ERA, RHP Matt Loosen 7-3, 2.84 ERA, LHP Frank Del Valle 5-3, 3.90, and middle reliever, Eduardo Figueroa 2-2, 3.42 ERA.

Speedster OF John Andreoli is hitting 270, 0 HR, and 16 RBI and has 30 SB.

As the parent club Chicago Cubs struggles in the NL Central while rebuilding this season, they can be rest assured there is much relief at Daytona on its way up to help them down the road.

You can view photos of the Daytona Cubs mentioned above at this link XXXX and all my 151 Daytona Cubs photos in the photo galleries/2012 Daytona Cubs.