Triple-A Trickledown: Gwinnett Braves

The Syracuse Chiefs are in the middle of a three-game set with the Gwinnett Braves at NBT Bank Stadium. The Braves are in town for the first and only time, so that means its time for Triple-A Trickledown. Let’s take a look at the 45-46 Gwinnett Braves.

Catchers: Christian Bethancourt and Jose Yepez

Christian Bethancourt is ranked the third best prospect in the Braves organization by Baseball America. The 23-year old has spent 61 games in the majors over the past three seasons with Atlanta. However, Bethancourt has struggled both at the plate and behind it in his time in the majors. He began 2015 with Atlanta but only hit .208 in 29 games with one home run and nine RBIs. Bethancourt struck out 18 times in 101 at-bats while only recording 21 hits in that span. Before he was sent back down, ESPN stats ranked him 66th out of 82 qualifying catchers in catcher’s ERA at 4.50, he had the third most passed balls with six and was tied for fourth in errors with three. However, the Braves look at Bethancourt as the catcher of the future. A.J. Pierzynski is now 38-years old and career backup Ryan Lavarnway does not seem like the logical replacement. So it is very possible to see Bethancourt back in a Braves uniform by the end of the season.

First Base: Barrett Kleinknecht and Sean Kazmar

Barrett Kleinknecht is in his first season in Triple-A in 2015. The first basemen is now 26 years old and is in his sixth season of professional baseball with the Atlanta Braves. In 2014, he began his third season with Double-A Mississippi, but was demoted down to Advanced-A Lynchburg for five games during the season. He batted .280 in 2014 in Double-A with nine home runs and 38 runs batted in. This season in Triple-A he is hitting only .206 with three home runs and 18 RBIs but is the everyday first basemen. Sean Kazmar is the backup first baseman. Kazmar spent some time in the Majors with the San Diego Padres and recorded his first hit against C.C Sabathia in 2008. However, since he was optioned back to Triple-A after 19 games with San Diego he has not seen any time back in the big leagues. Kazmar is more versatile than Kleinknecht since he is a utility man and has played all four infield positions for Gwinnett this season. However, with Freddie Freeman at the helm at first for the foreseeable future and with Chris Johnson and Kelly Johnson as backups, don’t expect to see either of these guys to advance unless they have breakout seasons for Gwinnett in the next few years. Freeman is injured and neither of these two received a call up to even serve as backups. So, if that is any indication of how the Braves feel, the future looks bleak for Kleinknecht and Kazmar.

Second Base: Jose Peraza

For the second year in a row, Peraza is ranked the top prospect in Atlanta’s farm system by Baseball America. He is also the 54th best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. The 21-year-old has excelled at every level since he was signed as an international free agent with the Braves in 2012. His lowest batting average came in 2013 with Single-A Rome of the South Atlantic League where he hit .288 for the Braves in 114 games. He still showcased his speed and gap power with 30 extra base hits, including eight triples and 64 stolen bases. His performance was good enough to grant him a promotion to Advanced-A Lynchburg and eventually Double-A Mississippi in 2014. Peraza hit .342 for the Hillcats in 66 games. Then, he hit .335 for the Double-A Braves in 44 games. This season, his numbers are a bit down for Peraza’s standards through his first 83 Triple-A games. He is batting just .288 with 16 extra base hits and 34 RBIs. The Braves are also trying to transition Peraza into the outfield since they have a surplus of middle infielders. With Andrelton Simmons and Jace Peterson emerging in the majors as formidable fits in Atlanta’s system, the Braves are trying to fast track Peraza to the majors by transitioning the youngster into the outfield. The Venezuelan born middle infielder played 13 games in center field so far this season.

Jose Peraza is ranked the number one prospect in the Braves organization by Baseball America

Jose Peraza is ranked the number one prospect in the Braves organization by Baseball America (Photo credit: Mississippi Braves) 

Shortstop: Daniel Castro

The Atlanta Braves have several young shortstops in their farm system that could make an impact with the big club at some point. Daniel Castro is one of those young middle infielders. The Mexican born shortstop is only 22 years old and finds himself in Triple-A in just his fifth professional season in the Braves organization. After excelling at Double-A Mississippi over the first 23 games of 2015, batting .389 with 10 RBIs for the Braves. He was called up to the Major Leagues for one game so far this season and had one plate appearance in a pinch-hit opportunity. Castro took advantage and singled. He was promptly optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett the following day on June 19th. Since he was optioned, Castro is batting .275 with five doubles and 18 RBIs. Castro remains on the 40-man roster and could make an impact for the Braves late in the season when the Major League rosters expand to 40 players.

Third Base: Adonis Garcia

Adonis Garcia spent all of last season with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Cuban born third baseman put together a career year in 83 games for the Triple-A Yankees, batting .319 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs. However, New York had a plethora of third base talent and decided to part ways with Garcia at the end of the 2014 season. The 30-year old signed with the Atlanta Braves and began the season with Gwinnett. He was called up on May 18th for two games before he was optioned. Garcia is hitting .278 with 17 doubles for the Triple-A Braves this season and remains on the 40-man roster. However, Garcia is getting older and needs to make a splash in the Majors soon if he ever wants to be a consistent producer. Garcia began his career late because of fraudulent residency paperwork after he defected from Cuba. However, if he can make a surge late in his career and prove that he can produce during September call-ups, Garcia could make an impact on a Braves team that is thin at third base.

Outfield: Todd Cunningham, Cedric Hunter, Mycal Jones, Eric Young, Jr. and Mallex Smith

Todd Cunningham is the only outfielder on the 40-man roster for Gwinnett. He spent around a month with Atlanta from May until early June. Cunningham spent time with Atlanta in 2013 too, playing in eight games for the Braves. This last stint was his longest time spent in the Majors. He hit .239 in 26 games with four doubles and four RBIs. This season for Gwinnett, the 26-year-old is batting .236 with five doubles and 14 RBIs. This is the third year in a row Cunningham has spent extended time with Gwinnett and his numbers are plummeting. He hit .287 last season. With a drop of 51 points in average, Cunningham may not see much time in the Majors in the future unless his production picks up.

Cedric Hunter has spent six games in the Majors with the San Diego Padres over his 10-year career in baseball and he doesn’t look to be going anywhere fast. In his first season with Gwinnett, Hunter is batting .267 with five homers and 32 RBIs but remains off of the 40-man roster. Mycal Jones is now 28 and has yet to see time in the majors. Eric Young, Jr. is trying to break back into the Major Leagues. After he led the National League in stolen bases in 2013, Young has failed to put up any league leading or eye-popping numbers. At the moment, he is in the midst of a 1-31 slide over his past nine games.

Mallex Smith seems to be on the rise in the Braves organization. The 22-year old came over to the Braves organization in the trade that sent Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft to San Diego for Smith, Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson. Smith stole 64 bases for the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2013, which was one shy of the Fort Wayne record. The following year, Smith compiled 88 stolen bases between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore and led the minor leagues. Smith is in his first stint in Triple-A. He was called up to Gwinnett on June 24th. In 19 games so far, he has stolen seven bases despite batting just .195. Smith is not on the 40-man roster yet, but has potential to break into the Majors in the next few seasons.

Starters: Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Alex White, Kanekoa Texeira, Greg Smith

Mike Foltynewicz is one of two Gwinnett starters on the 40-man roster. Tyrell Jenkins is the other. Both of these young arms were acquired via trade after the 2014 season. Foltynewicz was acquired from the Houston Astros in the trade that sent Evan Gattis and James Hoyt to Houston for the right-hander, Andrew Thurman and Rio Ruiz. Jenkins was acquired in the trade that sent Jayson Heyward and Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for Jenkins and Shelby Miller. Both pitchers are former first round picks in the 2010 draft. Foltynewicz was drafted 19th overall by the Astros while Jenkins was taken 50th overall as a supplemental first round pick of the Cardinals. Both guys are young; Foltynewicz is 23 and Jenkins is 22 and both are teammates for Gwinnett. Both guys are also on the 40-man roster. Foltynewicz has a bit more Major League experience. He appeared in 16 games out of the bullpen for Houston and 12 games, nine of them starts, with the Braves this season. Jenkins is in his first stint in Triple-A with Gwinnett and is ranked the seventh best prospect by Baseball America. Both arms are expected to be vital members of a revamped starting rotation for the Braves in the near future.

Tyrell Jenkins was acquired from the Cardinals in the offseason in the trade for Jayson Heyward

Tyrell Jenkins was acquired from the Cardinals in the offseason in the trade for Jayson Heyward (Photo credit: Taylor Botta) 

Relievers: Carlos Fisher, Peter Moylan, Matt Marksberry, Hunter Cervenka, Vin Mazzaro, Mitch Lambson

The Gwinnett bullpen is the greatest asset to the Triple-A Braves. The Braves three main arms out of the bullpen have ERAs under 3.00 and each have appeared in more than 10 games this season. Carlos Fisher has been the most dominant for Gwinnett. In 26 appearances, Fisher holds a 1.80 ERA and has converted three of four save opportunities. The 32-year old spent time in the Majors with the Cincinnati Reds from 2009-2011.

What is rare about the Braves bullpen is the surplus of left-handers they can call upon late in the games. Matt Marksberry, Hunter Cervenka, Mitch Lambson, and occasionally Greg Smith. In comparison, the Chiefs only have one left-hander in the bullpen. Gwinnett has four different options (five if you include Andrew McKierhan who is here on MLB rehab) to choose from to get lefties out. However, most of the lefties were recent call-ups from Mississippi so they are unproven.

That does it for Triple-A Trickledown about the Gwinnett Braves. Syracuse is seeking its second series win against Gwinnett. The Chiefs took three out of four from the Braves back in mid-May. Tonight, Syracuse sends Taylor Hill to the mound against Tyrell Jenkins. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more IL North teams coming up- Broadcast Intern Andrew Grella

Inside the Locker Room: Darin Mastroianni

When Darin Mastroianni was traded away from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in early May, he immediately began growing out his beard. Through almost two months with the Syracuse Chiefs, Mastroianni has solidified himself in the outfield and as the leadoff hitter. The one element that Mastroianni enjoys the most about the Washington Nationals organization, however, is not the playing time; it’s the ability to be himself.

Growing up in Mount Kisco, New York, about an hour north of New York City, Mastroianni was surrounded by baseball. Although local competition was not always stellar, his dad, Paul, and grandfather, Sylvio, had experience in higher-level baseball. Paul played college baseball for Fordham, but Sylvio played professional baseball as a pitcher in the Detroit Tigers and New York Giants organizations in the 1950s. Mastroianni always loved playing baseball and his dad was a huge supporter.

“As long as I showed interest, he was gonna support me and I would keep playing,” Mastroianni reflected while noting that his father never pressured him to be involved with baseball.

Once he started playing organized baseball, it was clear Mastroianni found the right game. Mastroianni started playing Tee Ball and showed glimpses of a future major-leaguer.

“I remember playing Tee Ball as a kid and just really liked being out there running around,” Mastroianni said. “I was the kid, kind of like how I play now, just running all over the field. If I was at shortstop, I was always trying to catch the ball in the outfield or at second base.”

Still, Mastroianni was not the biggest or most athletic kid on the field, a fact that would motivate him throughout his entire career. As a smaller kid, Mastroianni learned the proper way to throw and hit “because if I didn’t have a good swing, I wasn’t going to be able to hit. So that was a blessing for me and a benefit of being small and undersized through high school.”

After little league, Mastroianni focused on playing shortstop during his high school and travel baseball career. To make sure their son played against the best competition, Mastroianni’s parents would him drive to Long Island up to three or four times a week, traveling up to hours each way. Nevertheless, Mastroianni was successful in high school baseball, winning a sectional championship his senior year. In the title game, he went 3 for 4 with a home run and earned MVP honors.

Mastroianni played infield through college, but transitioned to the outfield after he was drafted.

Mastroianni played infield through college, but transitioned to the outfield after he was drafted.

Following high school, Mastroianni attended Winthrop College for two years, getting only two at-bats. So, he transferred to the University of Southern Indiana, where he quickly became a major player. In his first season at Southern Indiana, Mastroianni batted .323 with 15 stolen bases. His second season, however, would prove to be the breakout year Mastroianni needed to put his name on the Major League radar. Southern Indiana finished in third place in the Division II College World Series with Mastroianni named to the First Team National Championship. After leading the nation in stolen bases with 64 in 66 games, connecting for 97 hits, and batting over .400, Mastroianni decided to enter the draft to “see what happens.”

Mastroianni is second on the Chiefs in steals this season (8) halfway through the season.

Mastroianni is second on the Chiefs in steals (8) halfway through the season.

On draft night, Mastroianni was sitting in his parents’ den with his father, fielding phone calls from teams saying they would pick him, only to choose someone else. In the 16th round, the Blue Jays called, saying they were “100 percent for [him]” and would take him if he agreed on the spot.

“I looked at my dad and my dad just smiled and said, ‘go for it,’” Mastroianni recalled. “My dad was such a big baseball fan and my dad supported me so much that I think it meant more to him than to me. It was more of the look on his face that struck me and I can still see that in my head today.”

Knowing this could be the only chance Mastroianni had to make the majors, he agreed to be a Blue Jay. Mastroianni became somewhat of a journeyman before arriving in Syracuse in May 2015. He played in different levels in the Toronto, Minnesota and Philadelphia organizations, but never had the ability to show who he is. With the IronPigs, there was a rule against facial hair. Now he’s in an organization that thrives with diversity. That’s where the beard comes in.

For the future, Mastroianni knows that the Chiefs allowing each player having their own personality is key for the team to achieve its goals.

“I love that this organization lets us have our own personalities and that’s a big part of the success in this organization,” Mastroianni said. “They let us have our personalities come out.”

Mastroianni shows off his beard after connecting on a solo home run.

Mastroianni shows off his beard after connecting on a solo home run.

He’s a grinder and runs everywhere on the field because that is what he has been doing since Tee Ball. The beard? Well, that only feeds into the image that Mastroianni wants to portray: “It’s part of my personality. I like being a grinder out there and I think when I have my beard, I’m just a filthy mess and I feel like I’m just out there trying to roll around in the dirt like a little kid. It makes it fun and I enjoy having it… it’s part of me.”

— Josh Hess, Broadcast Intern

Pitcher Primer: Joe Ross

Joe Ross is making his Triple-A debut for Syracuse on Thursday night at NBT Bank Stadium. Ross was traded to the Nationals at the end of the 2014 season in the trade that sent Steven Souza Jr. to Tampa Bay. Ross was called up to Washington at the beginning of June and impressed many in the Nationals organization. He has been optioned to Triple-A to make room for Stephen Strasburg, who came off the disabled list yesterday. Here are three reasons why Chiefs fans should be excited for Joe Ross.

Joe Ross is making his Triple-A Debut for the Syracuse Chiefs on Thursday night (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Joe Ross is making his Triple-A Debut for the Syracuse Chiefs on Thursday night (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

1. He has Major League potential

After making nine starts for Double-A Harrisburg this season, Ross was called up to Washington and made three starts for the Nationals. He was outstanding in his outings in the Major Leagues. Ross compiled a 2-1 record with a 2.66 ERA in 20 and one-third innings pitched. During those innings, the 22-year old allowed only nineteen hits, six earned runs and two walks while striking out 23 batters. In his last two starts for that Nats, Ross threw 15 and two-thirds innings and allowed 13 hits, two walks and most impressively 19 strikeouts. In his last outing against Pittsburgh, Ross fanned 11 hitters over seven and one-third en route to his second win of the season. Joe may have taken a few pointers on how to pitch in the Majors from his brother Tyson, who is a starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres.

2. He has good stuff

According to Baseball America, Ross is a, “young, athletic right-handed pitcher with a power arm. He’s a power (91-93 mph fastball) sinker-slider guy who has an above-average groundball rate, a plus slider that helps him get more strikeouts as he learns to pitch (his strikeout rate was up the second half of 2014), and a changeup that has been playable against left-handed hitters.” After the 2014 season, Ross was ranked the 10th best prospect in the Padres organization by Baseball America before he was traded to the Nationals. In the updated 2015 Top 10 Prospect rankings by Baseball America, Ross is the fifth-best prospect in the Nationals organization. He has tremendous upside as a three-pitch pitcher and will continue to develop those pitches as he gains more experience. He is the youngest prospect to start for the Chiefs since A.J. Cole started for Syracuse last season. Cole was ranked the second-best prospect before the start of the 2014 season.

3. He is a workhorse

Ross is an innings-eater. He has thrown close to 300 innings in his minor league career. The 22-year-old has thrown at least 122 innings over 45 starts the past two seasons for Single-A Fort Wayne, High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. On average, Ross lasts just over five innings per start. Over that stretch of 244 innings over the past two years, the right-hander has fanned 185 hitters and walked just 69 batters he has faced.

Ross will start the final game of the Chiefs four-game set against the Knights on Thursday night. Syracuse seeks its second series win on the homestand. Hope to see you at the ballpark, but if not tune in to Kevin Brown and Eric Gallanty on the Score 1260 AM.

Triple-A Trickledown: Charlotte Knights

Triple-A Trickledown: Charlotte Knights 

Triple-A Trickledown returns with a review of the Charlotte Knights who began a four-game series against the Chiefs at NBT Bank Stadium on Monday night at NBT Bank Stadium. The Triple-A White Sox are in first place in the International League South with a record of 40-30.

Catchers: Kevan Smith and George Kottaras

Kevan Smith is the everyday catcher for the Charlotte Knights in 2015. Smith began his athletic career as a football player. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and played quarterback for the Panthers. Smith started at quarterback in 2007 for a few games after an injury to Bill Stull but was benched after just a few games. However, after the season, Smith’s coaches decided to change his position so he decided to change sports all together. In 2008, Smith switched to baseball and has excelled since. The White Sox drafted Smith in 2011 in the seventh round. He advanced to Double-A in just his third professional season last year. For the Birmingham Barons, he hit .290 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs in 106 games. The 26-year-old is in his first Triple-A season in 2015.

Smith’s back up is former major leaguer George Kottaras. The 32-year old Canadian-born catcher played for 10 organizations (Padres, Red Sox, Athletics, Royals, Indians, Cubs, Indians, Cardinals, Blue Jays, White Sox) including seven seasons in the majors over his 12-year professional career. Kottaras was drafted by the Padres in 2003 and was traded to the Red Sox as part of a deal for David Wells in 2006. He made his major league debut for the Red Sox in 2009. During that season, Kottaras was the personal catcher of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. As a member of the Brewers in 2011, Kottaras became one of seven Brewers to hit for the cycle. He accomplished the feat against the Houston Astros. Kottaras also played for the Greek national teams in the second to last Olympics that baseball was played in. The Ontario native signed with the White Sox in December of 2014 and is in his first year with the Charlotte Knights.

First Base: Neftali Soto and Chris Marrero

Neftali Soto and Chris Marrero share time at first base for the Charlotte Knights. Soto has been in a Knights uniform since the beginning of the season. However, Marrero signed a deal with the Knights on June 5th. Soto began his career as a supplemental third-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in the 2007 draft. He made his major league debut in 2013 but did not record a hit in 13 games that season. The 26-year-old was out righted off the Reds 40-man roster in October of 2014. The Puerto Rican born first-baseman was traded to the White Sox in March for cash considerations. This season for Charlotte, Soto is hitting just .243 but he has drawn 30 walks for an on base percentage of .343. Marrero was originally drafted by the Nationals organization as the 15th pick in the 2006 draft. He attended Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Florida and was teammates with Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. Marrero made his major league debut in 2011 for Washington and played for the Chiefs from 2011-2013 but was taken off the 40-man roster two years later in 2013. During his time with the Chiefs, Marrero hit .281 with 25 home runs and 140 RBIs in 275 games. He held an on base percentage of .353 over three seasons with Syracuse. The 26-year old spent two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles organization before signing with the White Sox earlier this month. Neither Soto or Marrero are on the 40-man roster and with Jose Abreu playing first base with Chicago and 10th best prospect (Baseball America) Rangel Ravelo chomping at the bit in Double-A, there is not much room for advancement for first basemen in the White Sox organization.

Second Base: Micah Johnson

Micah Johnson is ranked the fourth best prospect in the White Sox organization by Baseball America. Johnson began the season in the big leagues and was the starting second baseman for Chicago on Opening Day in 2015. Johnson has moved up quickly through the White Sox organization. He was drafted in the ninth round of the 2012 draft and just two years later was playing for Charlotte in Triple-A. Johnson’s time in Triple-A was cut short last season due to a left hamstring issue. However, Johnson has picked up where he left off in 2015. This season for Charlotte, the 24-year-old is batting .310 with nine extra base hits, 14 runs batted in and an on base percentage of .380. In 27 games for Chicago to open up the season, Johnson hit .270 with five walks, three RBIs and eight runs scored. He was optioned down to the Knights to make room for 22-year old Carlos Sanchez. Johnson remains on the 40-man roster, so it is very reasonable to assume he can still make a splash in the big leagues this season.

Micah Johnson is ranked the fourth-best prospect in the White Sox (Erica Caldwell/Charlotte Knights)

Micah Johnson is ranked the fourth-best prospect in the White Sox (Anna Reed/The Star)

Shortstop: Drew Garcia and Leury Garcia

Two Garcias play shortstop for the Charlotte Knights, Drew and Leury. Leury Garcia is a 24-year from the Dominican Republic. Drew is a 29-year old from California. The Texas Rangers signed Leury Garcia as an international free agent in December of 2007. Leury made his major league debut in 2013 for the Rangers. He also played for the 2013 World Baseball Classic Champion Dominican Republic team. Leury Garcia did not play in the tournament but gained valuable experience behind veterans Jose Reyes and Miguel Tejada. Leury was traded to the White Sox as the player to be named in the deal that sent Alex Rios to Texas in 2013. He made the Opening Day roster for the White Sox in 2014 and played 74 games for Chicago last year. Drew Garcia was drafted out of UC Riverside in 2008. Drew was an all-star second baseman for the University of California Riverside and was drafted in the 21st round by the White Sox. The 29-year-old is in his fifth season in Triple-A. Over five seasons for both Charlotte and Colorado Springs, Drew Garcia is batting .222 with 18 home runs and 156 RBIs in 398 games. Leury Garcia is the only one of the two on the 40-man roster. However, the second ranked prospect Tim Anderson awaits just one level below in Birmingham. So, perhaps there could be some stiff competition at shortstop in the upcoming months.

Third Base: Matt Davidson

Matt Davidson has provided the most power out of the lineup for Charlotte in 2015. Davidson currently leads the International League in home runs with 13 in 68 games for Charlotte. That is equivalent to a home run every 19.54 at bats for the 6’3” right-hander. He is also amongst the IL leaders in RBIs with 41 on the season. Davidson attended Yucaipa High School in California and was drafted in the first round out of high school by the Arizona Diamonbacks. He was supposed to attend the University of Southern California but decided instead to join the Diamondbacks. Davidson appeared in the 2013 Futures Game and was named the most valuable player after he hit a go-ahead, two-run home run. One day later, he took home the home run derby crown with 11 home runs over three rounds to beat out Brock Peterson. Davidson’s major league career has not panned out in one stint so far as he hit just .237 with three home runs in 31 games for Arizona. The Diamonbacks decided to part ways with Davidson in December of 2013. Arizona traded Davidson to Chicago for Addison Reed. Davidson has yet to appear in the majors for Chicago but is on the 40-man roster.

Outfield: Jason Coats, Trayce Thompson, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Tyler Colvin

Trayce Thompson is the only outfielder on the Knights on the 40-man roster and he is arguably the best, most consistent outfielder on the team. Trayce also happens to be the brother of NBA Finals champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. Thompson has appeared in the second most games of any player in the IL this year with 70. He is fourth in the IL in at bats with 258. In those at-bats, Thompson is hitting for power. The 24-year-old has 29 extra base hits and boasts a slugging percentage of .473, which is second in the IL. Thompson scored the most runs in the league so far as well with 39 total on the season and has accumulated 122 bases. Trayce is the only one of the three Thompson brothers to not play professionally in a sport. But, after spending time in the off season with hitting coordinator Vince Law and former White Sox great Jim Thome, the second round draft pick could see some time towards the end of the season.

Jason Coats is in his third professional season out of Texas Christian University. Originally considered a high draft pick after his sophomore season at TCU, Coats tore his ACL in the final regular season game of his senior season. The White Sox took advantage of his damaged stock and selected him in the 29th round of the 2012 draft. In his first 53 Triple-A games, Coats is hitting .248 for the Knights with 17 extra base hits, six of them home runs and 37 runs batted in in 53 games.

Matt Tuisasosopo comes from a football family. His father Manu played professional football as a defensive lineman l from 1979-1986 with the Seattle Seahawks and San Fransisco 49ers. His brother Marques was a quarterback in the NFL for eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets and is currently the tight end and offensive associate coach for the USC Trojans. Matt Tuiasosopo signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Washington but decided to sign with the Seattle Mariners after his third round selection in the 2004 MLB draft. Tuiasosopo has spent parts of four seasons in the majors with the Mariners and the Detroit Tigers. He made his Charlotte debut in 2014 after being dealt to the White Sox for cash considerations from the Blue Jays. This season, he has made 23 starts in the outfield for the Knights.

Starters: Chris Beck, Kyle Drabek, Terance Marin, Erik Johnson and Shawn Haviland

Erik Johnson is the only one of the 12 Knights pitchers to be on the 40-man roster for Chicago. The right-hander was drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of the University of California, Berkeley. Johnson made his major league debut for Chicago in 2013. He has a 4-3 record in the Major Leagues with a 4.73 ERA and 36 strikeouts. In 2015 for Charlotte, Johnson is having a solid year. The 25-year-old is 6-5 with a 3.00 ERA. He is also the IL leader in strikeouts with 88 in 78 innings pitched.

Kyle Drabek is also having a great season for the Knights. Drabek is eighth in the IL in ERA with a mark of 2.98 in 60 and one-third innings. Kyle is the son of former 1990 National League Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek. Kyle Drabek was a first round selection by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2006 MLB draft. He did not spend much time with Philly as he was dealt in the Roy Halladay trade along with Travis d’Arnaud and Michael D. Taylor in 2009. The following year in 2010, Drabek threw the second no-hitter in Double-A New Hampshire’s history. The right-hander made his Major League debut for Toronto in September of 2010. He spent parts of every season with the Blue Jays from 2010-2014. In 2012, Drabek underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. The 27-year-old pitched in three games for Chicago in 2015 but was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on April 23rd.

Terance Marin spent the beginning half of the 2015 season in the Mexican League with los Toros de Tijuana. He was reinstated to the Chicago organization and assigned to the Triple-A Knights on June 5th. In two starts since joining Charlotte, Marin is unbeaten. The 25-year-old has yet to allow an earned run in 15 innings and has only surrendered 10 hits in the International League.

Erik Johnson ranks first in the International League in strikeouts with 88 in 78 innings (Erica Caldwell/Charlotte Knights)

Erik Johnson ranks first in the International League in strikeouts with 88 in 78 innings (Erica Caldwell/Charlotte Knights)

Relievers: Jarrett Casey, Maikel Cleto, Matt Lindstrom, Zach Phillips, Onelki Garcia, Miguel Chalas and Arcenio Leon

Maikel Cleto is the strongest arm out of the Knights bullpen. His fastball touches anywhere between 96 and 99 M.P.H. He began his career as an undrafted free agent with the New York Mets in 2006 and began his career in 2007. He has made appearances in the majors for the Cardinals and the White Sox. In 2014, he made 28 appearances out of the bullpen for Chicago. Cleto surrendered 24 hits, 15 earned runs and 23 walks while striking out 32 in 29 and one-thirds innings of relief.

Miguel Chalas is a 22-year old prospect from the Dominican Republic. Originally a member of the Orioles, Chalas was brought over to the White Sox in a trade for Alejandro de Aza. In his first season in Charlotte, Chalas has a 5.27 ERA in six games. Chalas was originally a started in his first few seasons with Baltimore, but the right-hander struggled so he was moved to the bullpen where he has found success.

Zach Phillips is considered the closer on the Knights and so far in 2015, he has converted four of five save opportunities. The 28-year-old is another starter turned reliever. He made the switch to the bullpen in 2009. Three years later, after minimal success in American baseball, he signed a one-year deal with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan. Last year in 2014 was Phillips first season with the White Sox. In his second year with the Knights, he has appeared in 24 games and has pitched to a 2.35 ERA so far.

That’s all for Triple-A Trickledown. I hope you learned something about the Triple-A White Sox. They are an interesting team filled with athletes from all different backgrounds. But so far this year, the team has been clicking and sits in first place in the IL South. Thanks for reading- Broadcast Intern Andrew Grella.

Player Spotlight: Luis Severino

Luis Severino is set to start his second game of the season for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday night against Syracuse at NBT Bank Stadium. According to BaseballAmerica, Severino is considered the number one prospect in the Yankees organization and the 35th best prospect in all of baseball after the 2014 season.

Luis Severino was ranked the Yankees top prospect at the end of the 2014 season.

Luis Severino was ranked the Yankees top prospect at the end of the 2014 season. (Photo credit: Jason Famrer/RailRiders Staff Photographer) 

What’s the buzz about?

In just his fourth professional season, Severino has skyrocketed through the minor leagues. At just 21 years of age, Severino is 16-11 in 58 minor league appearances with an ERA of 2.42 in that time span. Over 264 total innings in the minors, he surrendered only 71 earned runs and 213 hits. Meanwhile, he struck out 276 hitters with an average WHIP of .106. Over his career he played with the Gulf Coast Yankees, the Charleston RiverDogs, the Tampa Yankees and the Trenton Thunder. Severino started the season in Double-A with the Trenton Thunder but was called up to the RailRiders. The Domincan Republic native made eight starts for the Thunder this season. He held a record of 2-2 with an ERA just above three at 3.36 in 2015. In 38 innings, the right-hander fanned 48 hitters and only allowed 10 walks. Over two seasons with Trenton, Severino recorded 77 strikeouts in just 63 innings.

What does he throw?

At the moment, Severino is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a changeup. However, he continues to develop a slider to mix in a third pitch. Normally, a starter who only throws two pitches does not experience too much success. What makes Severino so special is the movement he has on both his fastball and his changeup. His pitches tail down and away from lefties and down and in to righties at the plate. It is very similar to a sinker, but is not considered a true sinker. The sinking action does create a lot of groundballs and groundball pitchers are always top priority with short fences in Yankee Stadium. The changeup is especially deadly since Severino can take off 10 M.P.H. off his secondary pitch. With the tailing action, it looks exactly like his fastball so it is easy for hitters to be fooled and swing ahead of the pitch. His slider is the only pitch that needs work. Severino throws the pitch from a different arm angle, which can be easily identified by the better, more veteran hitters in the Majors. However, seeing as he is only 21, he has time to perfect his craft before reaching that level.

What to watch for?

Severino is one step away from the big leagues and with a few impressive outings with the RailRiders could find himself on the Yankees Major League roster before long. He has a very good chance to make it this season based on the amount of injuries to the starting rotation that New York is experiencing this year. Masahiro Tanaka was just taken off the disabled list with a forearm injury while C.C. Sabathia suffered injuries over the past two years of his career. If any of the starting five go down with an injury and Severino shines in Triple-A, he could be making an impact as early as next month. But for today, Severino is seeking his first Triple-A victory in today’s game against Syracuse. Come catch all the excitement at NBT Bank Stadium at 7:05 p.m., but if you can’t, you can listen live on The Score 1260 A.M.

Triple-A Trickledown: Louisville Bats

Triple-A Trickledown is back for a third time in 2015 as the Louisville Bats finish up a three-game set with the Syracuse Chiefs at NBT Bank Stadium. After a rain out on Monday, Syracuse dropped both games of a doubleheader on Tuesday to Louisville. The Chiefs look to bounce back and take the final game of the series on Wednesday morning.

Catchers: Ramon Cabrera and Chris Berset

Ramon Cabrera is the everyday catcher for the Louisville Bats since the promotion of Tucker Barnhart to the Reds. Barnhart played only five games with Louisville before his promotion to the majors. Since then, Cabrera started 30 games behind home plate in his first season for the Louisville Bats and his first season in Triple-A since 2013 when he played in 39 games for the Toledo Mud Hens. Cabrera hits for average at the plate and he is not highly sought after for his defensive skills behind the plate. The 25-year old from Venezuela is hitting .273 with 12 RBIs for Louisville so far in 2015.

First Base: Chris Dominguez and Josh Satin

Warning: The Bats have a ton of corner infielders that spend time at both first and third base. These are just the most prevalent players at each position. Chris Dominguez is familiar with the Louisville area having played for the Louisville Cardinals for four years during his college career. In 2009, he was drafted to the San Fransisco Giants. Dominguez found his way to Triple-A by his third season in professional baseball and made his major league debut in 2014 with the team that drafted him. This season, Dominguez has three at-bats in the majors for the Reds but is refining his skills in Triple-A. His competition is Josh Satin and corner infielder Ivan De Jesus. Satin just came off the disabled list yesterday and appeared in his first game since May 15th. At the moment, Dominguez has the upper hand since he is on the 40-man roster and has not battled any injuries.

Second Base: Irving Falu

A 13-year veteran in professional baseball, Falu is surging this season for the Louisville Bats. The 31-year old played in parts of three seasons for the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres. After a hot start with Kansas City at the end of 2012 where he hit .341 in 24 games, he did not continue that success. His most recent stint ended after 11 games with the Padres in 2014 where he went 3-20 (.150) for San Diego. This year, Falu is more consistent at the plate in Triple-A. The second-basemen is 10th in the league in hitting posting a .316 batting average in 36 games. Falu does not hit for power but can get his bat on the ball and get on base. He has to hit with more consistency in the majors if he wants to find a spot on the Cincinnati team. Especially with Brandon Phillips holding the everyday spot for the Reds at second base.

Third Base: Hernan Iribarren and Ivan De Jesus

Trading time at third, Ivan De Jesus and Hernan Iribarren are primarily at the hot corner. Iribarren is in his seventh season in Triple-A since he signed as an International free agent from Venezuela in 2002. The 30-year old only tasted the majors for 12 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009 but is a career Triple-A player since then. This season marks the second for Iribarren in a Louisville uniform. So far, Iribarren is reaching base a lot with a .270 batting average and a .360 on base percentage. He is third on the team in runs scored with 18 in 28 games played this season. Iribarren holds great value for the Bats as well since he can play multiple positions on the diamond. He appeared at four different positions for Louisville this season. Son of former major leaguer Ivan De Jesus, Ivan De Jesus Jr. is having a stellar season for the Bats. De Jesus is fifth in hits in the International League as he collected 55 hits in his first 48 games for Louisville this season and is hitting .309. However, the two positions that De Jesus plays are currently occupied by two all stars in Cincinnati. Todd Frazier and Joey Votto are not going anywhere anytime soon, but De Jesus could be a valuable backup if any of the two went down with an injury. The fact that he can play both corner infield positions makes him a valuable asset in the Reds farm system

Ivan De Jesus is a corner infielder for the Bats this season. (Photo credit: Pat Pfister/Pfoto.com)

Ivan De Jesus is a corner infielder for the Bats this season. (Photo credit: Pat Pfister/Pfoto.com)

Shortstop: Eugenio Suarez

Suarez was one of two pieces traded to the Reds from the Tigers for Alfredo Simon in the offseason. The other was Jonathon Crawford who is still working his way up the lower totem of the minors. After just 12 games in Triple-A, Suarez got his break for Detroit last season when Jose Iglesias saw his season fall short with stress fractures in both of his shins. Suarez did a solid job at short for the Tigers. At only 22, he hit .242 in 85 games with 14 extra base hits and 23 runs batted in. Now at 23, Suarez is consistently getting on base for the Bats and is scoring runs. In fact, he leads the team in walks with 23 and home runs with seven and is second on the team in runs scored with 24. Suarez is one of two Louisville infielders on the 40-man roster along with Chris Dominguez.

Outfield: Yorman Rodriguez, Steve Selsky, Ryan LaMarre and Bryson Smith

Yorman Rodriguez is the only healthy outfielder on the 40-man roster in 2015. Donald Lutz is also on the 40-man roster but is sidelined for the season after having Tommy John Surgery. Rodriguez has also been the most consistent outfielder as he has started the most games in the outfield of any Bat on the roster. The 22 year old was called up from Double-A to the majors for 11 games in 2014. According to BaseballAmerica, Rodriguez is the 10th best prospect in the Reds’ farm system. He leads Louisville in runs scored and is second in runs batted in. Rodriguez is hitting for power so far this season with 18 extra base hits, including 10 doubles and five home runs.

Steve Selsky is quietly having a very good season for Louisville. Selsky has not reached the majors yet in his career and is in his second season in Triple-A. In 55 games last season for Louisville, Selsky hit .240 with 11 RBIs. This season he has turned it up a notch. After 35 games in 2015, Selsky already has more runs batted in than he did last season with 20. That figure is second on Louisville behind Chris Dominguez’s 22 runs batted in. Selsky is second in slugging with a .434 mark heading into Tuesday’s doubleheader.

Starters: Dylan Axelrod, David Holmberg, Donovan Hand, Jon Moscot, and Josh Smith

The Louisville pitching staff as a whole has been fairly poor through the first 50 games of the season. The Bats are ranked just above Toledo for second-to-last in the International League with a 4.12 ERA. Louisville allowed 199 runs and 28 home runs while ranking last in strikeouts with only 316 in 435 innings in 2015.

However, Jon Moscot is sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the five-man rotation that Bats send out. Moscot leads the league with seven wins and holds a 3.15 ERA in 54 and one-third innings. Moscot is in his first full season in Triple-A after posting three starts in 2014. The 23-year old is making the most of his time with the Bats. The 6’4” right-hander won his first six contests this season.

David Holmberg and Josh Smith are the only two starters on the 40-man roster for the Bats in 2015. Holmberg is just 23 and has tremendous upside. Just like Moscot, Holmberg also stands at 6’4” but he is a lefty rather than a righty. He made his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2014 and this year is 3-3 with a 4.73 ERA in nine starts. Josh Smith is not as tall as Moscot and Holmberg. He stands just an inch shorter at 6’3”. The right-hander was sent down to Double-A Pensacola earlier in the season but after dominating through four starts for the Blue Wahoos, Smith got the promotion to Louisville on May 9th. In 5 starts for the Bats in 2015, Smith is 1-2 with a 3.81 ERA in 28 and one-third innings.

Jon Moscot leads the International League in wins in 2015 for Louisville (Photo credit: Pat Pfister/Pfoto.com)

Jon Moscot leads the International League in wins in 2015 for Louisville (Photo credit: Pat Pfister/Pfoto.com)

Relievers: Nate Adcock, Jose De La Torre, Pedro Villarreal, Sam LeCure, Carlos Contreras and Drew Hayes

Carlos Contreras and Pedro Villarreal are the only two healthy relievers on the 40-man roster in June. Matt Magill is also on the list but is on the disabled list. Contreras is only 24 and made his major league debut for the Reds last season. In his first major league appearance, he only threw nine pitches and recorded a strikeout. He is lights out in the Bats’ bullpen as well. In 13 innings, Contreras allowed only 4 runs and fanned 21 hitters. He is not untouchable but is certainly hard to hit. Pedro Villarreal is now in the bullpen in Triple-A. However, the Reds tried to make him a starter at one point in his career and made one major league start for the Reds in his career. Cincinnati found a better home for him in the late innings out of the bullpen. Villarreal pitched in 20 innings so far this season and has allowed nine runs. His strikeout numbers are a bit low at 16 and he’s pitched to a WHIP of 1.59.

Two other relievers to keep an eye on are Jose De La Toore and Nate Adcock. De La Torre is used primarily as the set-up man and is second in the International League with six holds in 18 games. However, his numbers besides that are a little concerning. He’s surrendered 13 earned runs in 22 and one-third innings of relief and only struck out 14 hitters in that time frame. Opponents are hitting .232 against De La Torre as well. Meanwhile, Nate Adcock is lights out in the ninth for Louisville. Adcock is second in the International League with 10 saves. He holds a WHIP of 1.15 and is holding opposing hitters to a .217 batting average in 21 and two-thirds innings. Adcock appeared in the majors in parts of three seasons and is working his way back after a seven-game stint with the Texas Rangers in 2014.

That’s all for Triple-A Trickledown for the Louisville Bats. I hope you enjoyed the third edition. Thanks for reading. See you next time- Broadcast Intern Andrew Grella.

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