Earlier this week, Hot Rods owners Stuart and Jerry Katzoff, along with general manager and chief operating officer Adam Nuse, announced that BGBP would be undergoing renovations that would enhance the ballpark experience for fans. This is the full announcement from Monday.
As yet another round of arctic cold takes it’s hold of the Bowling Green area, we at The Tune-Up Blog are thinking warmer thoughts today, and we hope to help you “heat” up as well by profiling a right-hander who brings the heat, Jaime Schultz. The cheering you may have heard coming from the Gulf Coast side of Florida in the middle of last June was the Tampa Bay Rays front office cheering that Schultz was still available in the 14th round of the First-Year Player Draft.
Many Rays scouts were surprised when Schultz was still on the board, but they snapped him up with the 428th overall pick. Coming out of Division I High Point, Schultz’s fastball regularly sat around the 93 miles per hour range, but frequently hit 96. This type of velocity for a guy who can start made scouts drool, and his swing-and-miss stuff was evident the moment he stepped on High Point’s campus in 2010. He was named to the Big South’s second-team after striking out 68 batters in just 57. 2 innings of work.
He red-shirted because of Tommy John surgery in 2011, but he rebounded in 2012 and was a reliable back-end option out of High Point’s bullpen. In 23 games, Schultz converted six saves and struck out 49 batters in 43 innings. He took more of an extended role his final season, and made six starts out of his 14 total appearances. He compiled a 3.05 earned run average, and struck out 59 in 60.2 innings. He finished his collegiate career with 176 strikeouts, good for 9.78 K’s per nine innings pitched.
Schultz was assigned to short-season Hudson Valley after signing with the Rays, and was a regular feature in the bullpen at the start of his pro career. However, after making seven relief appearances, he was moved to the rotation with great success. In 10 starts, Schultz posted a 3.13 ERA, and struck out 37 in just 31.2 innings of work. His best start came against Aberdeen (Baltimore Orioles) on August 29, when he went five innings and allowed just one run to go along with six strikeouts. He averaged 11.17 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his first pro season, but it’s unclear if his future lies in the rotation or bullpen.
A great baseball name will be profiled next, as you’ll get to know Johnny Field a little better. The former Arizona Wildcat had a good professional debut season last year, and just might be patrolling the outfield at Bowling Green Ballpark this season. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
A red-hot finish to the 2013 season catapulted today’s Hot Rods Hopeful onto this year’s “Hopeful” list. While Hunter Lockwood only has one professional year under his belt, there is a great chance Lockwood will be behind the plate or at first base for the 2014 Bowling Green Hot Rods. This right-handed hitter possesses great power, and is projected to be a very good defensive catcher, if that is indeed where the Tampa Bay Rays keep him down the road.
Lockwood, like so many other high school players, was a pitcher/position player when he was coming out of Bell High School in Bedford, Texas. He lit up radar guns at times, even touching 97 miles per hour his senior season, though he typically sat in the upper-80′s when he threw extended innings. Regardless, that shows just how strong Lockwood is. He was a 17th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2011, but he chose to attend the University of Oklahoma instead.
He starred as a Sooner his freshman season in a loaded Big 12, he even was second in the conference with 11 home runs. It was clear Lockwood’s future was in the pro ranks, and to speed that process up, he transferred to JUCO powerhouse Weatherford College (Tex.) for his sophomore season. He batted .333 and dominated the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, one of the best JUCO conferences in the country. That performance, coupled with his freshman season at OU, prompted the Rays to take him in the 11th round of last year’s draft. He was their first pick of day two.
After signing with Tampa Bay, Lockwood was assigned to Princeton of the rookie-level Appalachian League. He batted just .207 in his first full month as a professional, but it was the way he finished the season that moved Lockwood onto our list of hopefuls. In the month of August, Lockwood batted .278 (32-115) with seven of his team-high nine home runs. He added 10 doubles and six triples, quite impressive for a guy that caught and was the DH in most of his games. His long-ball total ranked fifth in the Appy League, and displayed the type of raw power the now 22-year old Lockwood has.
A strikeout artist will highlight our next edition of Hot Rods Hopeful as we’ll take a look at right-hander Jaime Schultz. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
The Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft has a name almost as long as the draft itself. 40 rounds, 1,200 players, and that is among the hundreds of thousands that showcase their talent in front of scouts every year. They say if you’re good they’ll find you, and the Tampa Bay Rays have a great track record of doing just that. Today’s Hot Rods Hopeful might be another late-round gem that seems to generate at least one heartwarming story every year. D.J. Slaton was the 1,118th overall pick in last year’s draft, but could find himself in the Bowling Green Hot Rod rotation come spring.
Before we look into Slaton’s breakout debut season of last year, let’s look at his collegiate career at San Jose State University. He did not see much of the field in his 2011 campaign, his first with SJSU. He appeared nine times for the Spartans, and allowed 11 runs in just over 13 innings pitched. The Salinas, California native spent his second season on campus between the bullpen and rotation. He made six starts, but also came out of the ‘pen on seven occasions. He compiled a 1-5 record, with a 5.74 earned run average in 31.1 innings tossed.
His high walk total was a concern going into 2013, but he drew the attention of the Rays with his performance.He was a mainstay in the SJSU rotation his final year in college, and he posted a respectable 4.04 ERA in a career-high 91.1 innings. He also walked just 37, dramatically improving his control. His record of 4-8, and his 6’1″ frame allowed Slaton to slip in the draft. The Rays gobbled him up in the 37th round with that 1,118th overall selection.
Slaton carried a large collegiate workload to Princeton where he was assigned, but that didn’t stop him from having a breakout debut. He went on to make 12 starts for the P-Rays, and the result was a sparkling 2.66 ERA in 61 innings. He teamed up with Jacob Faria to compose one of the Appalachian League’s best pitching rotations. He finished with a 4-3 record, and walked just 14 batters as opposed to 42 strikeouts. His earned run average ranked sixth in the Appy League, and he was in the top ten in innings pitched.
With a fastball topping out at 93, Slaton is another prototypical Rays pitcher that is being molded. He possesses great control of that fastball, and also features a slider, curveball, and changeup. The Tampa Bay farm system has been a factory, especially in terms of pitching, and Slaton hopes to be the latest product of that fine-tuned machine.
Next time on Hot Rods Hopeful, we’ll take a look at a potential home run hitter at BGBP, Hunter Lockwood. Hot Rods general manager Adam Nuse should recognize Lockwood, who spent his freshman season at the University of Oklahoma. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Today’s edition of Hot Rods Hopeful sets sail for Oceania, and our “boat” hits the shores of Australia as we profile Darryl George. The Carlton, Australia native was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays as an international free agent in May of 2010, and he just finished up playing in his native Australian Baseball League (a winter circuit) with the Melbourne Aces (not to be confused with the Reno Aces). More on that later as we highlight this infielder who has gap-to-gap contact potential.
George made his professional debut with the Rays’ affiliate in the Gulf Coast League in 2011 at the age of 18, and he played half of the season. In 24 contests, he batted .243 (18-74) with three doubles, seven runs batted in, and 11 runs scored. The numbers weren’t eye-popping, but considering George’s start in baseball was much later than the pitchers he was facing, it was easy to see the learning curve being tackled by the right-handed hitter.
After hitting .231 in 32 games in his first season of winter ball in Australia, George was assigned to rookie-level Princeton in 2012. With the P-Rays, he played in 50 games and launched the first two home runs of his pro career. For the season, George batted .260 (44-169) with 10 doubles and 28 RBIs. He proceeded to play in 41 more games in the ABL with Melbourne in the off-season as his fundamental baseball skills began to catch up with some of his counterparts.
George enjoyed a breakout contact season with short-season Hudson Valley last year. In a full-season for the Renegades, he compiled an average of .286 (65-227) with eight doubles, two triples, nine stolen bases, and 18 RBIs. He showed great value in situations against right-handed pitching, as he batted .294 against his fellow righties. He primarily hit second for the Renegades behind Ariel Soriano, and he excelled there, hitting .295.
While George will continue to get better as an infielder, he was actually the winning pitcher when his team (Victoria) clinched the Under-16 national championship in Australia. With all due respect to Mr. George, we hope to see him in the batters box and on the base paths this season, not exactly the mound. Maybe George can play all nine positions, we’ll just have to wait and see.
In our next feature of Hot Rods Hopeful, we’ll head to Princeton to see how right-hander D.J. Slaton did in his first professional season. SPOILER ALERT: He did very well in his first pro season out of San Jose State, not bad for a 37th round draft pick. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Baseball simply runs in the Griffin family (not Family Guy, a real-life Griffin family). A.J. Griffin was great in his rookie season with the Oakland Athletics (7-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 15 starts), but his sophomore season included him reaching 200 innings, and winning 14 games. He has left a nice blueprint for his younger brother, who is the subject of today’s Hot Rods Hopeful piece. Aaron Griffin hopes to be hurling on an American League East mound opposite his brother in a few years time.
Griffin was highly thought of when the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 10th round of last year’s draft. His senior season numbers at Loyola Marymount (Ca.) weren’t overpowering (4-5 record with a 3.07 ERA), but his potential and pedigree warranted a high selection. As a collegian, Griffin never posted an ERA higher than 3.28 after his freshman campaign. He has a bit of an unconventional delivery, but he hasn’t allowed that to disrupt his ability to keep the ball in the strike zone.
After signing with the Rays, Griffin was assigned to short-season Hudson Valley, where he played for current Hot Rods manager, Micheal Johns. He began his pro career in the bullpen, but was quickly moved to the rotation on June 29. He didn’t allow more than one run in each of his first four starts, and did a very effective job keeping players off the bases. He issued just eight walks in 75.2 innings, and recorded a 2.02 ERA in 17 games (12 starts).
Our next edition of Hot Rods Hopeful will head “down undaa”, and we’ll profile Darryl George. In addition to having two first names, George has a great contact bat and played his winter baseball in his native home of Australia. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
The Hot Rods’ record-setting season in 2013 was built on great pitching and solid contact hitting. Power wasn’t found in the daily lineup, but that may change at Bowling Green Ballpark in 2014. Today’s Hot Rods Hopeful provides plenty of power in his bat, and at just 20 years old, is a fast-rising name in the Tampa Bay system. Oscar Hernandez had a brief stint with the Hot Rods last summer, but he’s poised to be blasting home runs this summer in Bowling Green. Despite his youth, some prospects lists have Hernandez cracking Tampa’s top ten entering this season.
Hernandez, a native of Punto Perez, Venezuela, was signed by the Rays as an international free agent in August of 2009. He got off to a mild start in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2010, when he hit .223 in 34 games. He added six doubles and six home runs in a summer where he didn’t turn 18 until the halfway point of the season. Hernandez started to grow into his 6’0″, 200 pound frame, and he stormed his way onto prospect sheets in 2011.
In ’11, Hernandez dominated the Venezuelan Summer League circuit. He accomplished the triple crown, leading the league in average (.402), home runs (21), and runs batted in (66). Perhaps most impressive of all was low strikeout rate for a young, power bat. He only whiffed 44 times in 239 at-bats, and added 96 hits. For his stellar season, Hernandez was awarded the VSL’s Most Valuable Player award. It was clear that Hernandez was ready to take his talents stateside.
He made his stateside debut in 2012 with the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League. It took some time for Hernandez to adjust to his new surroundings, but he powered three of his five homers in the final 18 games of the season. He finished his tour with the P-Rays with a .231 average in 49 games. Despite the low contact average, he posted a .349 on-base percentage, and showed glimpses of the talent he displayed when playing in Venezuela.
The Rays decided to promote Hernandez after a strong spring in 2013, and he began the season with short-season Hudson Valley. There he hit .228 in 43 games, and drove in 33 runs with six homers. He stole a career-high nine bases, and was only thrown out once. That type of speed is rare for an everyday catcher. At the end of August, Hernandez earned a late-season promotion to Bowling Green, and he went 2-9 in three games with the Hot Rods, adding an RBI, a run scored, and two walks.
While he may have just received a cup of coffee with the Hot Rods in 2013, many anticipate he will be in Bowling Green to begin the 2014 campaign. Adding in his power bat to some of the speed we’ve showcased in earlier posts, this could be a very potent lineup this summer in the Midwest League. That’s good news for a team that is facing high expectations following a franchise record 82 wins last season. It may be cold outside, but Citizens First Opening Night is right around the corner on Thursday, April 3rd!
Tomorrow we will look at one of the young aces of the Rays’ minor league system. Aaron Griffin was dominant last year for short-season Hudson Valley, and his name should ring a bell. His older brother A.J. is coming off a 14-win season in the big leagues with the Oakland Athletics. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
We turn our attention back to the prospective Hot Rods rotation today by taking a look at a lefty that was a mainstay in the Hudson Valley pitching arsenal last season. Chris Kirsch, a 6’2″ southpaw from Newtown Square, Pa., made it to Advanced-A Port Charlotte last season in an emergency role. His short stint there could mean the Tampa Bay Rays move him there out of spring training, but if they see him as a long-term starter, he has a chance to land a spot in the Bowling Green rotation.
Kirsch was drafted three different times, and finally signed when the Rays picked him in the 14th round out of Lackawanna College (Pa.) in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He was previously selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. His professional career did not begin as a starter, and he made 10 appearances out of the bullpen with the Princeton Rays (Rookie/Appalachian League) in 2012. He struggled after in his first go-around in the pro ranks after a long college season, conceding 15 earned runs in 16.2 innings pitched.
The promise shown in spring training prompted the Rays to move Kirsch to short-season Hudson Valley to begin 2013, and he did not miss a start when with the Renegades. He led the New York-Penn League in starts (16) and was second in innings pitched (82.2). He was a surprising omission from the All-Star team, given his sparkling 2.94 earned run average. He utilized the defense behind him, and generated groundball after groundball. His walk total was good (33 in 92.2 total innings), and if he can maintain or even improve that control he will be a vital asset wherever he is assigned out of camp.
The possibility of having Kirsch join a rotation with Kevin Brandt, who was previously profiled as a Hot Rods Hopeful, would create a match-up nightmare for opposing managers. The presence of these two southpaws shows the Rays’ commitment to depth in the organization, and their ability to grab quality pitching after the opening ten rounds. If Kirsch is indeed in Bowling Green, he’ll help lead a rotation that will be tasked with matching one of the best seasons by a staff. The Hot Rods led all Midwest League pitching corps with a 3.06 earned run average.
Tomorrow, we’ll profile a powerful hitter who has just recently taken his talents stateside. Oscar Hernandez was highly touted coming out of Venezuela, and even saw some limited action with Bowling Green last season. Have a question for us, or just want to keep tabs on the Hot Rods? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Today’s Hot Rods Hopeful was is the first top 100 selection we’ve profiled so far. James Harris played in his first full professional season in 2012 after being drafted with the 60th overall pick in 2011. All indications are Harris will be making his debut in a full-season format, most likely with Bowling Green. His tools are very similar to another speedy outfield prospect, Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton. Harris, who is just 20 years old, will look to up his on-base totals to make that speed even more lethal.
Harris was Tampa Bay’s fourth selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft despite being picked all the way at 60, showing you the amount of draft picks the Rays had stockpiled. When he was drafted, he was a shortstop, but the Rays have seen him as an outfielder so far in his pro career. They lured him away from his Oregon State commitment, and he made his pro debut with the GCL Rays in 2011. While the results were under-whelming, Harris managed to swipe 13 bases after recording 26 hits in 45 games.
Princeton was Harris’ destination in 2012, and he spent the entire season with the Rays’ Appalachian League affiliate. He batted just .182 in 58 games, but did manage six doubles, four triples, and six steals. His bat made steady improvement in 2013 while with short-season Hudson Valley. For the Renegades, Harris posted a career-high .258 batting average, and and smacked 56 hits in 67 games. His year also included career bests in steals (16), on-base percentage (.309), and extra-base hits (14).
Harris hails from Oakland Technical High School, and his raw skills have been compared to an alum of Oakland Technical, Rickey Henderson. Harris will be looking to take another big step forward this season, and if he is indeed with the Hot Rods, fans won’t have to wait long to see this speedster. His top of the order potential could create havoc on the base paths in the Midwest League, and he will surely be able to cover a ton of ground in the outfield at Bowling Green Ballpark.
Michael Johns has been named the fourth manager in Bowling Green Hot Rods history, the Tampa Bay Rays announced on Monday. Johns takes over for Jared Sandberg, who will manage Advanced-A Port Charlotte. The Rays also announced pitching coach Bill Moloney, hitting coach Dan DeMent, and athletic trainer Nick Flynn will comprise Johns’ staff this season.
Johns is entering his seventh season in the Tampa Bay organization, and his fifth as a manager. He spent the 2013 campaign as the manager in short-season Hudson Valley, and led the Renegades to a 38-37 record in New York-Penn League play. He skippered the Princeton Rays for three seasons, winning 99 games while with the Rays’ Appalachian League affiliate. This will be Johns’ first season managing at the full-season level.
“I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Rays for allowing me the opportunity to manage the Bowling Green Hot Rods,” said Johns. “My staff and I are very excited for the 2014 season and I look forward to joining the Bowling Green community.”
Johns’ playing career began in 1997 when he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 19th round of the amateur draft out of Tulane University. He spent two seasons in the Rockies system, reaching Class-A Asheville in 1998. He finished out his playing career in 1999. Johns joined the Tampa Bay organization in 2008 as a coach with Hudson Valley.
Moloney returns to Bowling Green after tutoring the pitchers in Port Charlotte in 2013. He has been a pitching coach in the Tampa Bay organization since 2007, and was in Bowling Green for the 2012 season. He has also coached in the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds organizations, and played six seasons in the minor leagues, mostly with the Red Sox. He appeared in 216 career games as a professional, and played three seasons with Triple-A Pawtucket.
DeMent will be tasked with leading the hitters, and like Johns, joins Bowling Green from Hudson Valley. He was the hitting coach for the Renegades for the last two seasons, and is beginning his sixth year as a member of the Rays’ minor league field staff. DeMent was signed by Tampa Bay out of the University of Alabama in 2000. He recorded 803 hits in 863 career minor league games, and played in 78 contests at the Triple-A level.
Flynn will serve as the athletic trainer for the Hot Rods in 2014. He is another familiar face to Johns, as he spent 2012 as Princeton’s athletic trainer. The 2014 campaign will mark Flynn’s third in professional baseball, all with the Tampa Bay organization. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, and his master’s degree from Georgia State.
The calendar is speeding towards Citizens First Opening Night, which is set for Thursday, April 3 at Bowling Green Ballpark when the Hot Rods welcome in the South Bend Silver Hawks (Arizona Diamondbacks) at 7:05 p.m. With a brand new concession deal that will bring a delicious menu to the ballpark, fans can expect even more exciting additions to the ballpark experience to be unveiled before Citizens First Opening Night. Call the Hot Rods at (270) 901-2121 or stop by BGHotRods.com to secure your seats.