While the other nine full season leagues held their Opening Day on Thursday, the Carolina League waited until Friday to kick things off. That’s fine by me as it’s one of my favorites and I like that it did it’s own thing. What’s not to like about a league that is pitching friendly, offense suppressing and full of spacious ballparks? It certainly doesn’t hurt that my favorite Royals affiliate, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, calls the Carolina League home.
All eight teams were in action on Friday and combined for 77 hits, 8 errors and 47 runs. Only one of the four games wound up being decided by fewer than six runs and there were eight home runs hit on the night.
Game Recap: Lynchburg scored in five of the eight innings they came to the plate and it was more than enough for Hillcats starter RHP Gus Schlosser who turned in an impressive Opening Day start (8.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO). All three Potomac hurlers allowed at least 2 runs with starter Kyle Winters giving up 5 runs on 6 hits – including 2 home runs.
Prospects Present: This game featured the professional debut of Potomac 3B Anthony Rendon (#2) and he didn’t disappoint with a 1-3 performance that included a 3B and BB. Four other members of Washington’s Top-30 -Michael Taylor (#14), David Freitas (#27), Adrian Sanchez (#28) and Kevin Keyes (#30) – took part in the game. The Hillcats showed off five members of the Braves Top-30 in the opener with SS Nick Ahmed (#15) having the best day (2-5, 2 R, 2B, 3B). The other four that saw action were Edward Salcedo (#6), Matt Lipka (#14), Evan Gattis (#27) and Tommy La Stella (#28).
Player of the Game: C Braeden Schlehuber (LYN) 3-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI
Salem Red Sox 9 – Frederick Keys 7
Game Recap: You wouldn’t know this was a Carolina League game by looking at the numbers. The two teams combined to score 16 runs on 24 hits and each team had its share of defensive miscues with 3 errors apiece. All nine members of the Salem lineup got at least one hit and five of the nine had two. For Frederick, seven of the nine batters managed to get a hit and the two that didn’t made their way on base by way of the walk. As you would expect with all the offense and sloppy defense, the pitchers on both sides had a rough go of things.
Prospects Present: Five of Boston’s Top-30 took part in the game with Salem, including three of their Top-10, Xander Bogaerts (#2), Brandon Jacobs (#6), Jackie Bradley (#10), Sean Coyle (#14) and Christian Vazquez (#29). Not only did all five get a hit, each of them also drove in a run. None of the Orioles Top-10 were on the field but four of their Top-30 did see action - Clayton Schrader (#12), Aaron Baker (#14), Kyle Simon (#18) and Trent Mummey (#27). Schrader had the best day of the group throwing 1.2 innings of hitless relief with 2 BB and 4 SO. He was the only Keys’ pitcher to escape the game with his 0.00 ERA intact.
Player of the Game: 3B Michael Almanzar (SAL) 2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI
Wilmington Blue Rocks 0 – Myrtle Beach Pelicans 6
Game Recap: Pelicans starter Cody Buckel and the rest of the Myrtle Beach pitching staff kept the Blue Rocks bats at bay all game long. Buckel teamed with three relievers to weave a 6-hit, 13 strikeout effort with 3 walks. Cheslor Cuthbert accounted for Wilmington’s only extra-base hit with a double. For the Pelicans, Tomas Tellis hit 2 HR and Josh Richmond added a solo shot of his own. In addition to the 3 long balls, the duo combined to go 4-7 with 4 R and 4 RBI.
Prospects Present: The Rangers and Royals both have Top-10 systems but in this game the prospect edge was decidedly in favor of the Pelicans who sent five of the Texas Top-30 on the field: Cody Buckel (#6), Christian Villanueva (#8), Jake Skole (#24), Tomas Tellis (#25) and Odubel Herrera (#27). For the Blue Rocks Cheslor Cuthbert (#5) and Brian Fletcher (#27) were the only two players in the Royals Top-30 to see playing time.
Player of the Game: RHP Cody Buckel (MB) 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO
Winston-Salem Dash 2 – Carolina Mudcats 11
Game Recap: Through six innings the game stood at 3-1 in favor of the Mudcats as Clayton Cook worked around 5 walks to keep the Dash off the board after giving up a run in the top of the first. Carolina put the game out of reach with 2 runs in the 7th and another 6 in the 8th. The two pitching staffs were all over the place combining for 24 strikeouts, 16 walks and 3 wild pitches. Carolina reliever Cody Allen had the best outing by far throwing 2 hitless innings while striking out five Dash batters. Every member of the Mudcats lineup had at least one hit except RF Carlos Moncrief who was on base four times by way of walks.
Prospects Present: The Indians and White Sox are almost universally regarded as having the two worst farm systems in baseball, but there were still plenty of Top-30 prospects in the game with four on each side. For the Dash, Trayce Thompson (#3), Jacob Petricka (#4), Michael Blanke (#20) and Carlos Sanchez (#21) all saw action but did little. Petricka had a very forgettable start and of the three position prospects only Thompson managed to get a hit.
For the Mudcats – Tony Wolters (#7), Ronny Rodriguez (#13), Jesus Aguilar (#25) and Jake Lowery (#27) played. Aguilar led the way while hitting cleanup but Rodriguez had a solid game going 2-4 with 2 R, 3B and 2 RBI. Both of these guys have significant upside and are worth keeping tabs on all season long.
Player of the Game: 1B Jesus Aguilar (CAR) 4-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI, SO