Location: Hammons Field (Springfield, MO)
Team Records: Frisco RoughRiders (0-0 Tied for First Place in the Texas League South)... Springfield Cardinals (0-0 Tied for First Place in the Texas League North)
Last 10: 0-0
Road Trip: 0-0
2012 Series Record: 0-0-0
2012 Record against Springfield: 0-0
All-Time Record against Springfield: 46-41
Record on April 5 since 2003: 2-0
Starting Pitchers: Justin Grimm (0-0 0.00 ERA) vs. Scott Gorgen (0-0 0.00 ERA)
New Season, New Faces: Opening Day in any professional sport is always fun. I think in baseball it's more fun than any sport though because there are so many games and anything can happen in the course of a 162 game season. Injuries can hurt playoff hopes and breakout performers can make what looked like a bleak year look stellar. And in baseball nothing is over until game 162 is over, as the baseball world found out last season.
In Minor League Baseball, opening day is a chance to see many new names on a roster and a chance to see players of the past crack major league club's 25 man rosters. For the 2012 Frisco RoughRiders, there is that opportunity this season. Half of Frisco's roster is made up of players that haven't been in Frisco before. There will be many names to get to know and many others that aren't even here right now, that will be in Frisco by the end of the season. Meanwhile, Rangers fans have also seen the rise of Robbie Ross. Ross ended last season with Frisco as a starter and will begin 2012 with the Texas Rangers as a reliever. In 6 starts for Frisco, Ross went 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA. He was the 'Riders best starter down the stretch and took over where Robbie Erlin left off when Erlin was traded at the deadline.
Teenage Phenoms: The first series of 2012 will be a matchup of teenage phenoms. The biggest name for "prospect lovers" in Frisco this season is 19 year old shortstop Jurickson Profar. He was rated the 7th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America and was as low as 4th by Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) among the big name third party scouting sources. By starting in Frisco, the Rangers had Profar bypass high-A Myrtle Beach, which plays in a pitchers park and league. Profar spent the 2011 season in Hickory where he hit .286 with a .390 on base percentage and .493 slugging percentage en route to a Futures Game appearance and the South Atlantic League MVP honor. Profar walked more times (65) than he struck out (63). He is also considered a very good defensive shortstop and is considered to have incredible instincts.
The other teenage phenom that will be on display in this series the Springfield Cardinal's 19 year old outfielder Oscar Taveras. Like Profar, Taveras will be skipping the high-A Palm Beach Cardinals, who also play in a pitchers league. Taveras spent 2011 with the Quad City River Bandits where he batted an incredible .386 with a .444 on base percentage and a .584 slugging percentage. Taveras was rated the 74th best prospect by Baseball America and was rated as low as 23 by Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) among the big name third party scouting sources. Oscar's best tool is obviously his hit tool, which grades out as elite. He has garnered some questions about his interesting hit set up, but the results have been so outstanding, that it's hard to argue.
Top Infield Prospects: Jurickson Profar and Oscar Taveras are not the only top prospects that will be on display in this series. The Frisco RoughRiders have likely the unanimous best left side of the infield in minor league baseball to begin 2012. Playing third base for Frisco to begin the year will be 23 year old Mike Olt, who was rated by Baseball America as the 43rd best prospect in baseball. He was pacing a big year in Myrtle Beach last season before he broke his left collar bone in a collision at home plate in early June. Olt did return to the Pelicans later in the season and used a big Arizona Fall League appearance and a good Spring Training to lead into what could be a big 2012 season for the slugger. Olt holds the homerun record for the University of Connecticut and his 14 homeruns in 240 at bats for Myrtle Beach last year is quite impressive for a league that is generally not conducive for power hitting. Between Olt and Profar, Frisco's pitchers will have very good defense on the left side of the infield.
The Springfield Cardinals infield will include the St. Louis Cardinals' 2011 first round draft choice in second baseman Kolten Wong. Wong, like Profar and Taveras, will skip high-A and jump to the AA level. Wong, 21 years old, hit .335 in 222 plate appearances for the Quad City River Bandits last season after signing. He produced 22 extra base hits and walked 21 times to 24 strikeouts. Wong is not a big guy at 5 foot 9 and 190 pounds, but he has good speed and good discipline at the plate. His contact ability is probably his best asset though.
A Talented League: I already have mentioned 4 of the top prospects in the league, but those are just the tip of the iceberg in what looks to be one of the Texas League's finest seasons in quite some time. Of Baseball America's top 100 prospects in baseball entering 2012, 14 of them will begin the season in the Texas League. Every team in the league will have a position player that ranks in the top 100 prospects in the game. The pitching, while not quite as elite at the top, has plenty of depth and is likely to see it's share of elite prospects later on in the season. The elite talent is what separates the league, but it is the depth that could ultimately make this year a special year. The top prospect team that I have put together for the beginning of the year is:
C- Audry Perez, Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
1B- Jonathan Singleton, Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros)
2B- Jean Segura, Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels)
3B- Nolan Arenado, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies)
SS- Jurickson Profar, Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers)
LF- Wil Myers, NW Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals)
CF- Michael Choice, Midland Rockhounds (Oakland Athletics)
RF- Oscar Taveras, Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
DH- Mike Olt, Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers)
RHP- Jarred Cosart, Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros)
RHP- Jake Odorizzi, NW Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals)
RHP- Sonny Gray, Midland Rockhounds (Oakland Athletics)
RHP- Chad Bettis, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies)
RHP- John Hellweg, Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels)
3B Jedd Gyorko, San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
2B Kolten Wong, Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
OF Jaff Decker, San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
RHP Trevor Rosenthal, Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
LHP Noel Arguelles, NW Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals)
LHP Edwar Cabrera, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies)
RHP Barret Loux, Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers)
More Honors: Baseball America recently put out their list of the top 10 minor league baseball teams on Opening Day. The Frisco RoughRiders came in at #3 on the list. Names that were mentioned were Profar, Olt, Leury Garcia, Justin Grimm, Barret Loux, and Miguel De Los Santos. Also on the top 10 list were the Corpus Christi Hooks (8th) and Tulsa Drillers (10th). While the Southern League had the top 2 teams on the list, the Texas League led with three teams on the top ten. For more on the list, you can see it here: http://bit.ly/I1FGXS
Hart of Frisco: Once a Frisco RoughRider in 2005, Jason Hart is back with the 'Riders, but this time as a hitting coach. Hart played for Frisco in 2005 as a first baseman and led the team in homeruns (21) and RBI (77). In 1,160 plate appearances over two seasons in the Texas League with the Midland Rockhounds and RoughRiders, he compiled 72 doubles, 51 homeruns, and 198 RBI.
Another Debut: Players aren't the only ones making their AA debuts today. Frisco's new radio broadcaster, Alex Vispoli, will be making his AA radio debut today. Alex spent the last two seasons with the Carolina League's Winston-Salem Dash, the high-A team for the Chicago White Sox. He replaces Aaron Goldsmith, who is now a radio broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox AAA affiliate. Frisco will really enjoy Alex, just as they really enjoyed Aaron.
A special thanks to any blog followers from Bristol, VA!
Station to Listen to the Game on: 1630 AM (KKGM)
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And Check Out the Riders Insider Blog for more Frisco RoughRiders info: http://ridersinsider.mlblogs.com/
- By Michael Damman