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Game #26 Preview – Dash at Frederick

Game #26 – Road Game #17
Winston-Salem Dash (11-14) at Frederick Keys (14-12)
Wednesday, May 6 – 7 p.m.
NYMEO Field at Harry Grove Stadium (Frederick, Md.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

A seven-run seventh inning for Winston-Salem, highlighted by Trey Michalczewski’s grand slam, cut a 10-2 deficit to just one, but the Keys prevailed 12-10 in Tuesday’s series opener. Since their five-game winning streak, the Dash have lost five of six games.

Trey Michalczewski crushed the Dash's first grand slam of the year Tuesday. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Trey Michalczewski crushed the Dash’s first grand slam of the year Tuesday. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Jake Peter – 2B
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Chris Jacobs – DH
Omar Narvaez – C
Nick Basto – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Keenyn Walker – RF
Jake Cose – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Before Tuesday’s 10-run output, Winston-Salem had mustered just 11 runs in its previous five contests (2.2/game). In fact, the Dash surpassed the six-run mark for just the second time in 2015 and the first since Opening Day, also in Maryland. The Dash’s 12 hits represent a season high and the club’s highest total since posting 13 on August 22, 2014 (8-7 loss vs. Carolina). Still, the Dash are eighth in average (.230) and seventh in runs per game (3.8) in the league.
  • Trey Michalczewski sparked the late-inning rally on Tuesday night with one swing of the bat. On the first pitch he saw in his seventh-inning at-bat, Michalczewski launched a grand slam to right-center field. It marked the second grand slam in the CL this season (Potomac’s Wilmer Difo, April 18 at Lynchburg). It was also the second four-run homer of Michalczewski’s Minor League career. Thanks to this big blast and an eighth-inning RBI groundout, the Jenks, Okla., native tied a career-high with five RBIs.
  • Before Tuesday, Winston had only gone yard four times, which was tied for second fewest in the Minors (Low-A Rome, 3). However, the Dash launched three home runs on Tuesday. Cleuluis Rondon crushed a solo shot in the fifth. Nick Basto blasted a three-run homer shortly after Michalczewski’s grand slam in the seventh. Tuesday’s home run output was the club’s highest since June 19, 2014 (4; 12-4 win vs. Salem).
  • The Dash jumped to the Carolina League’s top spot in stolen bases (36) with six on Tuesday night. Winston-Salem has swiped 17 bases in its five games against Frederick. This total includes the Dash’s seven on April 9, tied for the most in a single game during the Dash era (2009-present). Keenyn Walker assumed the top spot in the CL with three more swipes to give him 16, which are tied for fourth in the Minors.
  • Jake Peter had only gathered four stolen bases in his first 81 Minor League games, but he also ripped off three. Adam Engel did not steal a base on Tuesday, but he is third in the CL and tied for eighth in the Minors with 13.
  • A serious back injury during the 2013 offseason threatened Jake Cose’s baseball career, but his 613-day wait is over. He will pitch in a Minor League game for the first time since August 31, 2013. The former 27th-round pick went 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his final six starts with Winston-Salem in 2013, helping him earn the CL’s Topps Player of the Month award for August.
  • Winston-Salem has been an up-and-down club throughout the season. Through 11 games, the Dash were a Carolina League-worst 3-8. Over the next eight contests, Winston-Salem rattled off seven victories and climbed back above the break-even mark for the first time since Opening Day at 10-9. This included a five-game winning streak from April 24-29, Winston’s longest since August of 2013. However, the Dash have fallen in five of their last six games, dropping from a half-game back of first to four-and-a-half away.
  • Both Chris Jacobs and Cleuluis Rondon are riding six-game hitting streaks. Adam Engel’s seven-game run from April 26 to May 2 represents the longest by a Dash hitter in 2015.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Wednesday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:45 p.m., with the first pitch at 7 p.m.

– Scott

Game #25 Preview – Dash at Frederick

Game #25 – Road Game #16
Winston-Salem Dash (11-13) at Frederick Keys (13-12)
Tuesday, May 5 – 7 p.m.
NYMEO Field at Harry Grove Stadium (Frederick, MD)

GAME BACKGROUND:

The Dash saw a ninth-inning rally fall just short Monday in their 4-3 loss at Wilmington. The Blue Rocks took three out of the four games in the series and Winston-Salem has now lost four of five heading into a three-game set Tuesday with Frederick.

Kenyan Walker's 13 steals tie him with Adam Engel for the second-most in the Carolina League. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Kenyan Walker’s 13 steals tie him with Adam Engel for the most in the Carolina League. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Jake Peter – 2B
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Chris Jacobs – DH
Omar Narvaez – C
Nick Basto – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Keenyn Walker – RF
Robinson Leyer – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Winston-Salem has been an up-and-down club throughout the season. Through 11 games, the Dash were a Carolina League-worst 3-8. Over the next eight contests, Winston-Salem rattled off seven victories and climbed back above the break-even mark for the first time since Opening Day at 10-9. This included a five-game winning streak from April 24-29, Winston’s longest since August of 2013. However, the Dash have fallen in four of their last five games, dropping from a half-game back of first to three-and-a-half away.
  • The Dash’s offense has struggled in recent games. During this five-game funk, Winston-Salem has scored just 11 runs (2.2/game) and hit .114 (5-for-44) with men in scoring position. In their previous eight contests, the Dash amassed 33 runs (4.1/game). As a club in 2015, the Dash find themselves in the basement of the eight-team CL in batting average (.225) and runs per game (3.5). The Dash’s four home runs are tied for second fewest in Minor League Baseball with Great Lakes (Low-A, LA Dodgers). Only the Rome Braves (Low-A, Atlanta) have fewer (3).
  • Despite some offensive issues, the Dash have pitched tremendously well. Winston-Salem’s 3.07 earned run average is second-best in the CL, despite bringing up the rear in strikeouts per game (5.2). The Dash have permitted three or fewer runs in 11 of their first 24 games.
  • On Opening Day in Frederick, Winston-Salem matched a Dash-era record for stolen bases in a single game with seven. The Dash have been one of the CL’s best base stealing clubs ever since. Winston-Salem’s 30 stolen bases trail only Salem (33) on the circuit. Adam Engel and Keenyn Walker share the league lead with 13 stolen bases apiece, a figure that places them in a tie for sixth with three others in the Minors. Walker has swiped a bag in nine games. In all of those contests, Engel has also stolen a bag. Engel has recorded a stolen base in two others.
  • In his second start and third game of the year, infielder Ethan Wilson delivered his first Minor League hit since August 30, 2010, on a third-inning single to right. He also collected his first RBI on a bases loaded walk in the ninth. Wilson missed the 2011-2014 seasons due to a kidney disorder; he had a kidney transplant in August of 2013. His previous hit was a fifth-inning triple with rookie-level Bristol at Kingsport (2-1 win).
  • Winston-Salem chose a bad time to drop a four-game series. It was a wraparound weekend for interdivisional battles within the Carolina League, and the Dash’s other Southern Division brethren all logged four-game sweeps. First-place Myrtle Beach completed a brooming by scoring a season-high 14 runs in an eight-run defeat of Lynchburg. Carolina ousted Frederick from first place with four consecutive wins at home, and Salem prolonged Potomac’s woes. Thus, the Dash are three-and-a-half games back of first place almost one month into the 2015 campaign.
  • In Monday’s nailbiting loss, Keon Barnum recorded a pair of doubles, becoming the fourth Dash hitter to accomplish that on the season.
  • Winston-Salem lost for just the second time when facing a left-handed starter.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Tuesday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:45 p.m., with the first pitch at 7 p.m.

– Scott

Game #24 Preview – Dash at Wilmington

Game #24 – Road Game #15
Winston-Salem Dash (11-12) at Wilmington Blue Rocks (12-11)
Monday, May 4 – 6:35 p.m.
Frawley Stadium (Wilmington, Del.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

The Dash mustered just one run Sunday in a 4-1 defeat at Wilmington. James Dykstra (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season. A Winston-Salem win Monday would give the Dash a series split over the four-game set with the Blue Rocks.

Jace Fry takes the mound for the Dash Monday at Wilmington. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Jace Fry takes the mound for the Dash Monday at Wilmington. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Keenyn Walker – RF
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Chris Jacobs – DH
Omar Narvaez – C
Nick Basto – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Ethan Wilson – 2B
Jace Fry – LHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Despite a rocky first inning, Dykstra settled in and worked through five innings Sunday at Wilmington. In fact, the two first-inning runs Dykstra surrendered were the first that he gave up on the road this season. In his first two road starts, Dykstra gave up just one hit in 13 innings, which included his seven-inning no-hitter April 15 at Potomac. While his earned run average climbed from 0.78 to 1.29, Dykstra maintained his third-place position in that category in the Carolina League. Also, his 0.68 WHIP is good for sixth among Minor League qualifiers.
  • The Dash possess the league’s second-best team earned run average, which stands at 3.01. Dykstra and Matt Heidenreich have been the catalysts for this lofty ranking. Heidenreich is 10th in the Minors in ERA with a 0.76 mark, while Dykstra checks in 33rd. Winston-Salem is one of six Minor League teams with two hurlers in the top 35 in ERA. Plus, their seven combined wins lead all CL teammate duos and stand second in all of High-A baseball.
  • While the Dash are near the top in pitching, their recent offensive funk has dropped them to the basement in the eight-team CL in average (.224) and runs per game (3.5). Winston-Salem has plated just four runs and hit .184 (18-for-98) in this series. The Dash’s four home runs are tied for second fewest in the Minors (Rome, three).
  • While Winston-Salem’s power has been slow to develop in the season’s first month, its speed has been on full display. The Dash’s 30 stolen bases are good for second place in the CL, two behind Salem for the top spot. Adam Engel and Keenyn Walker share the league lead with 13 stolen bases apiece, a figure that places them in a tie for sixth in the Minors. Walker has swiped a bag in nine games this season. In all of those contests, Engel also has amassed at least one stolen base. Engel has recorded a stolen base in two other games.
  • Engel pocketed his 13th stolen base without the use of a base hit on Sunday, which means his seven-game hitting streak, the longest by a Dash hitter in 2015, is no more. The Loveland, Ohio, native was 11-for-27 (.407) with four RBIs and four runs scored during the run. He still stands first in the league in hits (27), second in runs scored (17) and eighth in average (.307).
  • The Dash’s pitching staff added an arm in advance of Monday’s finale in Wilmington. The White Sox announced that righty Peter Tago will join the Dash from Low-A Kannapolis, where he was 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in seven relief efforts. The 47th overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, the former prep star went 8-25 with a 6.53 ERA in his four seasons with the Rockies’ organization. During his time with Colorado, Tago climbed as high as High-A Modesto, but he issued more walks (205) than strikeouts (187) in his 289.2 innings. He did boast a 10 to 2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his short time with the Intimidators.
  • Following Monday’s contest, the Dash continue their week-long road trip with a three-game set at Frederick. Winston-Salem opened the 2015 season there by dropping three of four to the Keys, who boast the league’s best home record (9-2).
  • The Dash are 4-1 when facing a left-handed starter thus far this season.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Monday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:20 p.m., with the first pitch at 6:35 p.m.

– Scott

Around the White Sox system – April

On Friday, we reviewed the first month of the season for the Dash (they did lead the Carolina League in ERA). Today, we will examine the rest of the Chicago White Sox system to see how their Aprils went, starting from the top:

Chicago White Sox (MLB): An offseason that saw the White Sox acquire RHPs Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson, LHP Zach Duke, 1B Adam LaRoche, OF Melky Cabrera and UTL Emilio Bonafacio led to some believing that Chicago would contend in the American League. However, the White Sox struggled in the season’s first month and the rumbling has already begun about rebuilding around this core for 2016.

Jose Abreu has crushed five homers this season.  (Jesse Johnson/USA Today Sports)

Jose Abreu has crushed five homers this season. (Jesse Johnson/USA Today Sports)

That being said, the core is the envy of nearly every team in baseball. Jose Abreu has mashed to a 126 wRC+, while Avisail Garcia has been a surprise to match that production so far. Meanwhile, the White Sox lineup has seen LaRoche (87 wRC+), Cabrera (75 wRC+), Alexei Ramirez (46 wRC+) and Adam Eaton (36 wRC+) get off to slow starts, meaning this talented lineup should start to turn things around and get hot at any moment.

The same could be said about the Chicago pitching staff. Both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have posted ERAs above 5.00, with Samardzija currently at 4.78. The White Sox have also brought up top prospect and former Dash LHP Carlos Rodon, who has pitched to a 2.76 ERA in 6.1 innings thus far.

Although the White Sox are currently 7.0 games behind the Tigers, nearly everything has gone wrong for them so far, and turnarounds from what was supposed to be one of the deepest lineups and best starting pitching trios in baseball could make Chicago a team that makes a run later in the year.

Carlos Sanchez is off to a torrid start in 2015. (Buren Foster/Charlotte Knights)

Carlos Sanchez is off to a torrid start in 2015. (Buren Foster/Charlotte Knights)

Charlotte Knights (AAA): April saw Charlotte storm to a 13-7 start to take the early lead in the International League South division. Former Dash INF Carlos Sanchez has put together one of the best performances in all of Minor League Baseball. The 10th-ranked prospect in the White Sox system according to MLB.com, Sanchez is batting .407/.432/.582 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs. Nearly half of those RBIs came in a May 2 game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, when Sanchez went 4-for-4 with two homers and a double to drive in seven runs. That capped a run that saw Sanchez reach base in 10 straight plate appearances, recording a hit in nine of those.

Former Dash OF Trayce Thompson, the No. 19 White Sox prospect, has raked to a .326/.365/.517 tune with three triples, two home runs and 11 RBIs thus far. On the mound, RHP Erik Johnson, who pitched for Winston-Salem in 2012, leads the club with a 3-1 record and 2.04 ERA, fanning 19 in 17.2 innings.

The flip of the calendar to May also saw the White Sox release OF Jared Mitchell. The 2010 first-round pick was batting just .050 this season for Charlotte and was a .205 hitter with 10 homers in 144 Triple-A games.

With a record of 14-9, the Knights are enjoying the perch of the division by one game over the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays).

Tim Anderson has stolen the most bases in the Southern League. (Buren Foster)

Tim Anderson has stolen the most bases in the Southern League. (Buren Foster)

Birmingham Barons (AA): Like the Dash, the Barons had an up-and-down opening month of the season, finishing an even 10-10. Former Dash INF Tim Anderson, who is now the top-ranked prospect in the Chicago system with Rodon in the bigs, has stolen 11 bases and batted .309 with 13 RBIs in the early going. Meanwhile, 2014 Dash members Jacob May (.337/.378/.424, 10 SB) and Jason Coats (.340/.354/.532, 9 2B) reinforced an offense that ranks in the top half of the league in both batting average and slugging percentage. Coats did earn a late-April bump to Charlotte thanks to his strong production.

In the rotation, Frankie Montas and Myles Jaye, who both pitched in Winston-Salem last year, have helped lead a pitching staff that is just four off the lead for most strikeouts in the Southern League. Montas has a 2.63 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13.2 frames, while Jaye is 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA and 20 punchouts against six free passes in 20.1 innings.

The Barons are currently 2.5 games behind the Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs) in the Southern League’s North Division.

Jordan Guerrero's 0.69 ERA is the sixth-best in MiLB. (Ray Marsden/Kannapolis Intimidators)

Jordan Guerrero’s 0.69 ERA is the sixth-best in MiLB. (Ray Marsden/Kannapolis Intimidators)

Kannapolis Intimidators (A): Former Dash manager Tommy Thompson and his Intimidators did not have a winning or losing streak of more than two games throughout April. LHP Jordan Guerrero (No. 29 White Sox prospect) has gotten off to a ridiculous start to the campaign. Guerrero has the sixth-best ERA (0.69) in all of Minor League Baseball, while his 0.77 WHIP ranks 18th. The southpaw is 3-0, has given up just 15 hits in 26.0 innings and fanned 26 against only five walks.

The Kannapolis offense has posted the third-best average and slugging percentage in the South Atlantic League. INF Chris Curley’s 20 RBIs lead the club, and he has hit .281/.326/.551 while smashing a team-high nine doubles and five roundtrippers. C Brett Austin, Rodon’s roommate at NC State, is batting .333/.453/.548 with three triples, and former Olympic silver medalist Eddy Alvarez has slashed .301/.396/.422 with six steals.

The Intimidators’ 10-13 record has them at the bottom of the SAL Northern Division, 6.0 games behind the Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers).

Stay tuned for our Dash game preview as they wrap up a four-game set Monday with the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

-Scott

Game #23 Preview – Dash at Wilmington

Game #23 – Road Game #14
Winston-Salem Dash (11-11) at Wilmington Blue Rocks (11-11)
Sunday, May 3 – 1:35 p.m.
Frawley Stadium (Wilmington, Del.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Matt Heidenreich tossed seven innings and scattered five hits to lead the Dash to a 2-0 victory Saturday over Wilmington. Winston-Salem vies for at least a series split in this four-game set today.

Matt Heidenreich became the first Carolina League hurler to four wins. (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash)

Matt Heidenreich became the first Carolina League hurler to four wins. (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash)

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Jake Peter – SS
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Chris Jacobs – DH
Nick Basto – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – 2B
Keenyn Walker – RF
Sean O’Connell – C
James Dykstra – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Thanks to his seven-inning gem on Saturday, Heidenreich is the first Carolina League hurler to earn his fourth victory. The Coronado, Calif., native is one of nine pitchers in Minor League Baseball to reach that plateau, and he is one of five to win each of his first four starts. Since giving up a two-run homer to the second batter he faced this season, Heidenreich has permitted just two runs (one earned) in 23.2 innings.
  • Heidenreich may not be alone atop the circuit in wins. Teammate James Dykstra, the Dash’s Sunday starter, is 3-0 through his first four starts. Heidenreich (0.76) and Dykstra (0.78) are second and third in the Carolina League in ERA, respectively. In all of Minor League Baseball, the two are ninth and 10th. Winston-Salem is the only team in the Minors with a pair of pitchers in the top 10 in ERA among qualifiers. The White Sox are the only organization with more than one in this group, and they boast three. Lefty Jordan Guerrero is seventh with a 0.69 ERA in four stellar starts with Low-A Kannapolis.
  • Despite losing consecutive contests before Saturday’s shutout win, the Dash have won eight of their last 11. The pitching staff owns a 2.02 ERA (21 ER in 93.2 IP) during this stretch. As a result, Winston-Salem is within 1.5 games of Myrtle Beach for the Southern Division’s lead.
  • Winston-Salem outfielder Adam Engel pushed his hitting streak to seven games, the longest by a Dash player in 2015. It is also tied for the second-longest active streak in the Carolina League. The Loveland, Ohio, native is 11-for-27 (.407) with four RBIs and four runs scored during the run. Engel leads the league in hits (27), while he is tied for first in stolen bases (12), second in runs scored (17) and third in batting average (.321). He is one of three CL position players to have been in the field for every inning thus far this season, joining teammate Keenyn Walker and Myrtle Beach’s Jeimer Candelario.
  • Dash slugger Chris Jacobs has emphatically bounced back after a 2-for-30 slump from April 17-28. In his last three contests, Jacobs is 6-for-10 with one homer, four RBIs and two runs scored. In the process, the Winston-Salem native’s batting average has skyrocketed 70 points from .180 to .250. Jacobs became the fourth Dash player to record multiple doubles in Saturday’s victory in Delaware.
  • Almost four weeks into the 2015 season, the Carolina League is tremendously competitive. No team is more than three games above .500, while all four Southern Division clubs are at or above the break-even mark. The Dash did not gain any ground on their three divisional rivals, as all of them won on Saturday.
  • In its first 19 games, Winston-Salem did not strike out more than nine times, but the Dash have recorded double-digit strikeouts in each of the last three games. In all, the Dash have gone down on strikes 34 times since Thursday after averaging 5.9 per game beforehand.
  • Winston-Salem and Potomac are tied for the CL lead with three shutout wins. All six other clubs have exactly one shutout.
  • Ethan Wilson made his first start since August 30, 2010. He has returned to the Minors after a serious kidney disorder.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 1:20 p.m., with the first pitch at 1:35 p.m.

– Scott

Game #22 Preview – Dash at Wilmington

Game #22 – Road Game #13
Winston-Salem Dash (10-11) at Wilmington Blue Rocks (11-10)
Saturday, May 2 – 7:05 p.m.
Frawley Stadium (Wilmington, Del.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Wilmington plated five in the seventh and one in the eighth to surge toward a 6-1 win Friday over the Dash. Winston-Salem has lost two in a row to drop under .500 on the season.

Omar Narvaez is riding a six-game hitting streak (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Omar Narvaez is riding a six-game hitting streak (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Jake Peter – SS
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Chris Jacobs – DH
Omar Narvaez – C
Nick Basto – LF
Keenyn Walker – RF
Ethan Wilson – 2B
Matt Heidenreich – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Wilmington’s five-run seventh inning represents the largest single-inning output by a Dash opponent thus far this season. In fact, Winston had only surrendered five-plus runs in seven of its first 20 games. This marks the worst inning for Winston-Salem pitching since Myrtle Beach posted a six-run seventh in a blowout win over the Dash on July 18, 2014. It also matched the largest offensive frame for Wilmington in 2015.
  • Not only did the seventh inning drastically alter Friday’s contest, but it also sent the Dash from first to third in the Carolina League in team earned run average. Before this series opener, the Dash were atop the CL with a 3.03 mark. Now, Winston stands in third place at 3.20. The top five pitching units in this eight-team circuit are within 0.31 earned runs. The Blue Rocks now pace the league with a 3.05 mark, while Potomac checks in fifth with a 3.36 ERA.
  • Despite Friday’s loss, the Dash are still trending in the right direction. Winston-Salem has won seven of its last 10, while the pitching staff owns a 2.23 ERA (21 ER in 84.2 IP) during this stretch. This differs greatly from the team’s 4.12 mark in its first 11 games, which resulted in only three victories. Winston-Salem finds itself in the thick of the postseason chase, just 1.5 games behind Myrtle Beach. However, Winston was the only Southern Division club to lose Friday night.
  • Even though the Dash only collected one run on Friday, Adam Engel continued his tremendous work at the plate. Engel recorded his team-leading ninth multi-hit game. This pushed his batting average to .325, fourth-best in the CL. The Loveland, Ohio, native is riding a six-game hitting streak, during which he is 10-for-23 (.435) with four RBIs and four runs scored. Engel leads the league in hits (26), while he shares the top spot in runs (17) and stolen bases (12). He is one of three CL position players to have been in the field for every inning thus far this season, joining teammate Keenyn Walker and Myrtle Beach’s Jeimer Candelario.
  • Winston-Salem is in the bottom half of the CL in offensive strikeouts, but the Dash have gone down on strikes 12 times in each of their last two games. Before this sudden uptick, the Dash were averaging just 5.9 strikeouts per contest, and they had not accumulated more than nine whiffs in a single game all season.
  • Right-hander Matt Heidenreich has a chance to become the first Carolina League hurler to reach four victories. Heidenreich is one of six pitchers with three victories, though he is the only one within this group who has yet to make his fourth start. Only eight pitchers in all of Minor League Baseball have amassed four or more wins in 2015. In addition to his impressive win total, the Coronado, Calif., native also boasts the fourth-best earned run average in the league (1.08).
  • Winston-Salem outfielders Adam Engel and Keenyn Walker are tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 12. The duo is tied for seventh in the Minor Leagues in this category.
  • Omar Narvaez is riding his second six-game hitting streak, and he has recorded exactly one hit in every game during this current run.
  • Jake Peter saw his six-game hit streak end on Friday thanks to an 0-for-4, two-strikeout evening.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:50, with the first pitch at 7:05.

– Scott

Examining the Dash’s pitching and defense

During the first month of the season, the Winston-Salem pitching staff posted the best ERA (3.03) in the Carolina League. When we previewed the Dash’s starting rotation, we mentioned that defense was going to be crucial for the staff’s success because it did not feature many strikeout pitchers.

James Dykstra owns the second-best ERA in the Carolina League (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

James Dykstra owns the second-best ERA in the Carolina League (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Indeed, the Winston-Salem staff has not fanned many, as their 109 strikeouts rank at the bottom of the eight-team circuit. Plus, the Dash have surrendered their fair share of walks (67, tied for third in the CL), and Winston-Salem is tied for fourth in errors (22).

However, for numerous reasons, errors are a flawed way of looking at a team’s defense. While we don’t have defensive statistics like UZR and DRS at the Class A level, we do have some clues that show us the Dash’s defense has actually played very well and is a huge reason why Winston-Salem has the best ERA in the league. Fielding-independent pitching (FIP) measures pitchers based on only the factors they can control: strikeouts, walks and home runs. Any other play has some element of randomness on the defense’s positioning and range, which FIP tries to eliminate when it spits out what a pitcher’s ERA should look like with league-average luck and sequencing.

Of the 15 pitchers to take the mound for the Dash this year, all but two of them have ERAs lower than their FIP, with Robinson Leyer‘s FIP just 0.17 higher than his 3.60 ERA. In addition, two-thirds of the staff holds BABIPs below the league-average of .300, meaning the staff has benefitted from some luck, but also good defense taking away hits. The staff’s left on-base percentage seems to reflect this as well; eight Dash pitchers have stranded runners at a better-than-average 72 percent for a combined 75.1 innings. On the other hand, seven Winston pitchers can be considered unlucky in their LOB%, combining for 79.2 frames.

So why might the Dash’s defense be so effective at saving runs thus far? For one, it helps to have a prospect-laden infield, with shortstop Cleuluis Rondon being named by Baseball America as the Best Defensive Infielder in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Another reason might actually be shifting. While defensive shifts aren’t nearly as common in Class A baseball as they are in the upper minors and MLB, where teams are on pace to shift more than 1,800 times (a 37 percent increase on last season), they are being used more frequently. And although the Dash do not move around their infield that often, it’s been their outfield that has been tilted around the most in the season’s early going.

Adam Engel has helped align the defense from centerfield (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Adam Engel has helped align the defense from center field (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

“Later on in the year, we’ll have a spray chart. So it’ll give you where the hitters have been hitting flyballs and groundballs so you’ll see what their swing produces more times than not,” said Dash center fielder Adam Engel. “But I would say we do a lot of stuff based off what we see. If you play the position long enough, you’ll see one guy who does one thing versus another. And you’ll be pretty close to where, if a pitcher throws a pitch down the middle, what his swing will create.

“Each swing is a little bit different and who’s on the mound, all of that plays its role. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to defense against a good pitch. So if a pitcher makes a good pitch and the hitter hits it, we want to be there to catch it.”

It seems that Engel is in command as the captain of the outfield to make sure his corner guys, predominantly Nick Basto in left and Keenyn Walker in right, are in the right spots. But it can also be a collaborative effort.

“I played with a great right fielder last year in Jacob Morris and I played with Keenyn a little bit last year, and they’re both really, really good defenders,” Engel said. “That makes my job easier because I can rely on them as far as to give me a second opinion on, hey, is that guy swinging late, is he spinning, what kind of swing does he have? It helps to be able to converse, he’s got a completely different view of the hitter, and that way we can be right on how we play guys and how we shade guys.”

The Winston-Salem staff hasn’t eliminated many opposing batters with strikeouts compared with the rest of the league. But their pitch-to-contact approach has worked so far with the defense gobbling up balls put in play. Rondon and the infield have played its part mostly straight up, while Engel has helped adjust his comrades in the outfield to give them a better chance at taking away the most lethal kinds of batted balls that stay in the yard: extra-base hits.

Sure, it’s early. But the Dash’s run-prevention methods have them with one of the league’s best ERAs.

– Scott

Game #21 Preview – Dash at Wilmington

Game #21 – Road Game #12
Winston-Salem Dash (10-10) at Wilmington Blue Rocks (10-10)
Friday, May 1 – 7:05 p.m.
Frawley Stadium (Wilmington, Del.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

The Dash had their five-game winning streak snapped by Potomac 5-4 Thursday night. Winston-Salem begins a seven-game road trip with four contests at Wilmington starting Friday.

Adam Engel has scored the most runs in the Carolina League (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Adam Engel has scored the most runs in the Carolina League (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Jake Peter – 2B
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Chris Jacobs – DH
Omar Narvaez – C
Nick Basto – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Keenyn Walker – RF
Tony Bucciferro – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • The Dash had rattled off five consecutive wins before Thursday’s narrow loss. This streak marked Winston-Salem’s longest since a 10-game run from August 19-29, 2013. Last year, Winston did not post a win streak longer than four games, something the club accomplished three times. Still, the Dash have won seven of nine, propelling them from a league-worst 3-8 to a 10-10 mark that places the club in second, a half-game behind first-place Myrtle Beach.
  • Winston-Salem’s pitching staff has been critical to the squad’s recent surge. When the Dash were 3-8, the staff was near the bottom half of the Carolina League in earned run average (4.12). In the last nine contests, the Dash boast a 1.76 ERA (15 ER in 76.2 IP). This has thrust the Dash’s pitching staff to the top spot in the CL in ERA at 3.03. James Dykstra (0.78) and Matt Heidenreich (1.08) are second and fourth, respectively, in ERA, while the duo makes up half of the three-win club on the circuit.
  • In addition to strong pitching, the Dash have trended upward thanks to the great work of outfielder Adam Engel. In his last 13 games, the former Louisville star is hitting .400 (20-for-50) with 11 runs scored. His overall average of .316 paces the Dash and is sixth in the Carolina League. He also stands first in runs scored (17), tied for second in hits (24) and third in on-base percentage (.404).
  • Three Winston-Salem hitters possess a hit streak of at least five games entering Friday’s opener in Wilmington. Jake Peter has matched Omar Narvaez’s season-starting six-game hit streak as the longest for the team in 2015. Since last Friday, Peter is 9-for-25 (.360) with five RBIs. Engel (8-for-19, 4 RBIs, 4 R) and Narvaez (5-for-18, 4 RBIs, 2 R) hope to push their runs to a half-dozen.
  • Engel and Keenyn Walker are the top two base stealers in the CL. Walker leads the circuit and is tied for fourth in the Minor Leagues with 12, while Engel is tied for seventh in the Minors with 11. Remarkably, Walker has stolen a base in eight different games, and Engel has at least one swipe in each of those eight contests. The only time Engel has stolen a base and Walker did not was Saturday’s contest at Myrtle Beach. The White Sox organization contains three of the top nine base stealers in the Minors. Former Winston-Salem star Tim Anderson, now in Double-A Birmingham, is even with Engel at 11.
  • Wilmington, Del., plays host to the Dash’s next four games. Despite playing in a pitcher-friendly facility, the Blue Rocks pace the CL in team average (.263), while their pitching staff trails only the Dash’s in ERA (3.15). Last year, the Dash went 9-10 against the Blue Crew, which included a 4-6 record at Frawley Stadium. In 2012 and 2013, Winston-Salem went a combined 15-5 in the First State.
  • Eight of the Dash’s nine starters recorded at least one hit in Winston-Salem’s 5-4 loss on Thursday. The Dash’s 10 hits fell one shy of a single-game high for 2015. Winston’s offense did endure a season-worst 12 strikeouts.
  • Tony Bucciferro posted a respectable 3.97 ERA versus the Blue Rocks a year ago, but he went 0-3 in those four starts.
  • Friday begins a seven-game road trip, tied for the longest of the season.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Friday’s game will be broadcast live on on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:50, with the first pitch at 7:05.

– Scott

Month in Review – April

It’s hard to believe, but the first month of the season is in the books. The Dash’s peaks and valleys evened out for the most part, with the club going 10-10. Winston-Salem ended April just a half-game out behind the Myrtle Beach Pelicans for first place in the Carolina League Southern Division. With 120 games to go on the year, let’s take a deeper look into what has been a pretty memorable April:

The High Point: The old adage about baseball is that it’s a long season. So when the Dash lost 10-5 to Carolina to slink to 3-8, the worst record in the Southern Division, there was probably a bit more concern than there should have been, although it was the club’s fifth straight loss. However, Winston-Salem responded by winning the next two against the Mudcats to take the series before winning the final three of a four-game set at Myrtle Beach.

When the Dash returned to BB&T Ballpark, they knocked off the Potomac Nationals in the first two games of that series to extend Winston’s winning streak to five games and climb back over .500 on the season for the first time since Opening Day. That run was Winston-Salem’s longest win streak since a 10-game roll from August 19-29, 2013. Last year, Winston did not win more than four straight games, something the club accomplished three times.

The Low Point: After shellacking Frederick 13-0, the Dash promptly lost three straight and eight of ten to get to that aforementioned 3-8 record. Following their Opening Day explosion, the Dash mustered just 27 runs over their next 10 games.

Zach Isler's two saves lead the Dash (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Zach Isler’s two saves lead the Dash (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

The Surprise: Over the season’s first 11 contests, it looked like Winston-Salem might have trouble holding onto leads, with the Dash’s bullpen posting a 4.32 ERA. However, not coincidentally accompanying the team’s hot streak, the Dash’s bullpen has dominated since. The ‘pen closed April with a 1.83 ERA over the final nine contests, surrendering just 22 hits with 26 strikeouts against in 28.2 innings. That leads us to our…

Best PitcherWhile the bullpen has been strong for Winston-Salem, the club’s best pitcher has clearly been ace starter James Dykstra. The right-hander developed a brand-new cutter in the offseason and has added that to his repertoire with ease through the season’s first month. Dykstra was the first Carolina League pitcher to three wins and his 0.78 ERA is second in the circuit. He has fanned 11 against just one walk and 11 hits allowed in 23.0 innings, and his 0.52 WHIP ranks second in all of Minor League Baseball. Dykstra also ranks 14th in the minors in both ERA and batting average against (.147). Oh, and additionally, he did put together what will almost certainly stand as one of the most dominating performances of the season…

James Dykstra ranks among the league leaders in many pitching categories (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

James Dykstra ranks among the league leaders in many pitching categories (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Best Pitching Performance: In the first game of a doubleheader on April 15 at Potomac, Dykstra tossed the 15th no-hitter in franchise history. During his seven-inning performance, Dykstra tossed only 71 pitches, didn’t allow a ball out of the infield and picked off the only P-Nats baserunner before making another delivery to the plate. Of the 21 outs he recorded, 14 came on the ground.

Best Position Player: There’s just two players on the Dash with an OPS above the average .715, making this a somewhat easy choice. But even if we were only considering defense and baserunning, Adam Engel would still be the choice as the Dash’s best position player. Engel has led off and played center field in each of Winston-Salem’s 20 games so far, but got off to a very slow start, batting just .154 through the campaign’s first seven games.

However, a two-hit performance against Myrtle Beach in the home opener at BB&T Ballpark on April 17 got him going. In the 13 games since then, Engel is batting .400 (20-for-50) with seven stolen bases and 11 runs scored. Ranked by MLB.com as the 20th-best prospect in the White Sox organization, Engel leads the Carolina League in runs (17) and is tied for second in hits (24), third in on-base percentage (.404) and sixth in the average (.316). His 11 steals are second behind teammate Keenyn Walker, meaning we should probably mention…

Adam Engel has given the Dash a strong on-base threat at the top of the order (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Adam Engel has given the Dash a strong on-base threat at the top of the order (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Need for Speed: The Dash have the two top basestealers in the Carolina League. Walker leads the circuit and is tied for fourth in the Minor Leagues with 12, while Engel is tied for seventh in the Minors with 11.

Interestingly enough, Walker has stolen a base in eight different games, and Engel has at least one swipe in each of those eight contests. The only time Engel has stolen a base and Walker did not was April 25 at Myrtle Beach. The aggressiveness on the bases is a bit of a theme in the White Sox organization; Three of the top nine base stealers in the Minors play in the Chicago system. Former Winston-Salem star Tim Anderson, now in Double-A Birmingham, is even with Engel at 11.

Trend To Watch: Winston-Salem has finished in the top half of the Carolina League in home runs in every season since 2008. In fact, the Dash clubbed the most dingers in every campaign from 2010 through 2013. This year, however, Winston has clouted just four roundtrippers, nine behind first-place Lynchburg. No Dash player has hit multiple home runs, with Keon BarnumChris JacobsOmar Narvaez and Cleuluis Rondon each sending one pitch over the outfield wall this year.

The month of May begins with an important seven-game road trip up north to square off with the two best teams in the Northern Division. Stay tuned for our game preview of the Dash’s opener in Wilmington.

– Scott

Game #20 Preview – Dash vs. Potomac

Game #20 – Home Game #9
Winston-Salem Dash (10-9) vs. Potomac Nationals (9-11)
Thursday, April 30 – 7 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

The red-hot Dash close out the month of April bidding for a series sweep of Potomac after a 6-3 victory last night. Winston-Salem has won six in a row and seven of eight as they play their final game at BB&T Ballpark before embarking on a seven-game roadtrip.

Winston-Salem native Chris Jacobs swatted his first home run of the year Wednesday in the Dash's 6-3 win (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Winston-Salem native Chris Jacobs swatted his first home run of the year Wednesday in the Dash’s 6-3 win (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

STARTING LINEUP:

Adam Engel – CF
Jake Peter – 2B
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Omar Narvaez – C
Nick Basto – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Keenyn Walker – RF
Nolan Earley – DH
Robinson Leyer – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Winston-Salem native Chris Jacobs collected three hits and his first home run of 2015 in the Dash’s 6-3 victory over Potomac on Wednesday afternoon inside BB&T Ballpark. Thus, the Dash have won five straight and are a half-game behind Myrtle Beach for the Southern Division’s top spot. Winston-Salem struck with four in the first, and Jacobs launched a two-run blast beyond the berm in left in the third to cap the Dash’s scoring. This was plenty for left-hander Jace Fry, who logged a career-high seven innings en route to his first High-A victory.
  • The Dash have rattled off five consecutive wins dating back to Friday night. This marks Winston-Salem’s longest win streak since a 10-game run from August 19-29, 2013. Last year, Winston did not win more than four straight games, something the club accomplished three times. Over the last 10 days, the Dash have won seven of eight, propelling them from a league-worst 3-8 to above the .500 mark for the first time since winning the season opener at Frederick.
  • Winston-Salem stumbled out of the gates in 2015. Following a 13-run bombardment at Frederick on Opening Night, the Dash mustered just 27 runs over their next 10 games. The club did not exceed five runs in any of those affairs. Over the last eight contests, the Dash have scored 33 runs, or 4.1 per game. On the pitching side, the Dash have surrendered just 20 runs, or 2.5 per game, in their last eight. In particular, the bullpen has been outstanding. Relievers have permitted just six runs (three earned) on 16 hits over 24.2 innings (1.09 earned run average).
  • Since the start of 2012, the Dash are 25-7 (.781) in home games versus the P-Nats. In 2012, Winston won all 10 meetings at BB&T Ballpark. Since becoming the Dash in 2009, Winston has a better mark against Potomac (73-52, .584) than any other Carolina League foe.
  • Dash slugger Chris Jacobs emphatically busted out of his slump in Wednesday’s matinee. The former Dodgers farmhand was hitting just .065 (2-for-31) in his previous 10 games before reaching in every plate appearance. Jacobs delivered an RBI single in the first inning before clubbing his 88th career Minor League home run, and the first of his Dash and White Sox career, two frames later. This was just the fourth home run from the Dash this season. Winston-Salem is last on the eight-team circuit in homers, nine shy of the top spot (Lynchburg, 13).
  • Adam Engel and Keenyn Walker are the top two base stealers in the CL. Walker leads the circuit and is tied for fourth in the Minor Leagues with 12, while Engel is tied for sixth in the Minors with 11. Remarkably, Walker has stolen a base in eight different games, and Engel has at least one swipe in each of those eight contests. The only time Engel has stolen a base and Walker did not was Saturday’s contest at Myrtle Beach. The White Sox organization contains three of the top nine base stealers in the Minors. Former Winston-Salem star Tim Anderson, now in Double-A Birmingham, is even with Engel at 11.
  • In Jace Fry’s first three games, Winston-Salem combined to score just four runs. In the first frame on Wednesday, Fry received four runs of support. The Dash finished with six runs, tied for the second-highest offensive output for the club. Fry made this offensive boost count by tossing a career-high seven innings, which matches the longest outing by a Dash starter in 2015.
  • In his last 12 games, Dash outfielder Adam Engel is hitting .391 (18-for-46) with 10 runs scored. He began the year by hitting .154 (4-for-26) in his first seven games.
  • The Dash are eyeing their first series sweep since August 1-3, 2014.
  • After Thursday’s game, the Dash travel to  Wilmington for four and Frederick for three.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Thursday’s game will be broadcast live on 600 AM-WSJS and wsjs.com, along with the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:45, with the first pitch at 7 p.m.

– Scott

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