Results tagged ‘ Carolina League ’

A rare sight at BB&T Ballpark

The Dash have done plenty of high-fiving at BB&T Ballpark (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

The Dash have done plenty of high-fiving at BB&T Ballpark (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Since moving into BB&T Ballpark for the 2010 season, the Dash have quickly made the downtown facility one of the most-feared destinations for opposing teams.

Winston-Salem has posted the fourth-best home record in full-season Minor League Baseball during the BB&T Ballpark era, entering tonight with a 173-115 (.601) mark. Only the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low-A, San Francisco) of the South Atlantic League (172-110, .610), the Durham Bulls (Triple-A, Tampa Bay) of the International League (181-116, .609) and the Hagerstown Suns (Low-A, Washington) of the South Atlantic League (170-112, .603) have better winning percentages at home during that span.

While all teams will have the occasional hiccups at their ballpark, the Dash have done an incredible job of bouncing back from lackluster performances. In BB&T Ballpark’s history, Winston-Salem has only been swept twice in 86 previous series!

Unfortunately, one of those sweeps just occurred this week. The Frederick Keys won three straight in the Triad, capturing both ends of Wednesday’s doubleheader, 5-3 and 2-0, before leaving town with a 7-3 victory Thursday night.

The only other sweep came at the hands of the eventual Carolina League champion Salem Red Sox on August 14-16, 2013. The Dash put up a great fight in all three games, losing 5-4 in 10 innings during the opener before being dealt consecutive 2-1 setbacks. This first sweep did not take place until the 82nd series in the facility’s history.

There have been eight other attempts to sweep Winston-Salem within their home confines, and the Dash have emerged victorious on each occasion. In those contests, Winston-Salem outscored their opponents by a 58-31 margin.

For comparison’s sake, the Dash have successfully swept their opponent 18 times at BB&T Ballpark. 18-2 is still quite a lopsided score!

The Dash will look to get back to their winning ways tonight, with the beginning of a four-game series against the Salem Red Sox. We will have a preview of tonight’s game later on the blog.

- Dave

Game #5 Preview – Dash at Salem

Game #5 – Road Game #1
Winston-Salem Dash (2-2) at Salem Red Sox (4-0)
Tuesday, April 8 – 7:05 p.m.
LewisGale Field (Salem, Va.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

The Dash earned a four-game series split with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, winning 7-1 on Sunday afternoon. Winston-Salem now hits the road for the first time this season, meeting a Red Sox team that swept four games from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Opening Weekend. This is Salem’s home opener.

STARTING LINEUP:

Jacob May – CF
Tim Anderson – SS
Courtney Hawkins – LF
Keon Barnum – 1B
Jason Coats – RF
Joey DeMichele – 2B
Martin Medina – C
Nick Basto – 3B
Michael Marjama – DH
Mike Recchia – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Dash outfielder Courtney Hawkins has a four-game hitting streak to start the season. It’s his longest since August 5-10, 2013, when he hit in six straight games. Hawkins is the only Winston-Salem player to have at least one hit in all four games in 2014, and he leads the Carolina League with six RBIs.
  • Dash infielder Nick Basto tied a career-high in hits on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with two singles, a double and two RBIs. The 20-year-old achieved a three-hit day five other times in his pro career, most recently on August 3, 2013, when he was with Low-A Kannapolis against Hagerstown.
  • Last season, the Dash posted a 34-36 mark away from BB&T Ballpark. Since becoming the Dash in 2009, the franchise has a 169-176-1 (.490) all-time road record.
  • Salem boasts a 10-game regular season winning streak dating back to last year, and if you include their 2013 playoff games, the Red Sox have won 15 straight. The all-time Carolina League record for consecutive regular season victories is 16, set by the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals.
  • Through four games, Winston-Salem has the second-best earned run average in the Carolina League (2.50). The Dash pitching staff allowed just 10 earned runs in the opening series against Wilmington.
  • Probable starting pitcher Mike Recchia made five starts with the Dash last season, going 1-0 with a 4.88 ERA. He has made 13 starts during his affiliated minor league career (69 appearances) but led the Frontier League in innings pitched, complete games and shutouts with the independent Windy City ThunderBolts in 2012.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Tonight’s game is available live on wsdash.com/broadcast. The Pregame Dash begins at 6:50 p.m., with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05.

- Dave

Reflecting on a 16-game winning streak

Earl Weaver was the star of the Carolina League's best team of all time--the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals. He is remembered at BB&T Ballpark with this plaque.

Earl Weaver was the star of the Carolina League’s best team of all time–the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals. He is remembered at BB&T Ballpark with this plaque.

Tonight, the Dash begin a three-game series against the Salem Red Sox, the defending champions of the Carolina League. They are 4-0 to start the 2014 season after wrapping up last year’s regular season with victories in their last six contests.

The 10-game regular season winning streak is incredibly impressive, and if you include their playoff run to the 2013 Mills Cup Championship, the Red Sox have come out on top in 15 straight games.

The Carolina League record for consecutive regular season wins is 16, and it resides in the Triad! Today, we reflect on one of the great teams in Minor League Baseball history: the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals.

(NOTE: Because postseason wins are involved with this consecutive streak, we are not sure if, by the Carolina League record books, Salem’s streak is 10 games or 15 games. We have an e-mail into league president John Hopkins about this. However, our guess is that the postseason wins will not count because postseason stats are not added to a player’s overall line).

The Cardinals were the first Carolina League team to crack the century-mark for wins in a season, going 106-47 in 1950. They finished a whopping 19 games ahead of the second-place Danville Leafs. In the playoffs, the Cardinals defeated the Reidsville Luckies and Burlington Bees to complete their championship year.

While Winston-Salem’s offensive numbers weren’t eye-popping individually, they collectively led the league in runs-per-game. They also featured the best pitching in the Carolina League and tied for the league lead in fielding percentage.

During a two-week stretch in June, the Cardinals bulldozed the competition, breaking the consecutive wins record set by Burlington in 1948 (13 games). When it was all said-and-done, the 16-game winning streak became the new standard for Carolina League success.

Among players, Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell had the most successful Major League career of anyone on the Winston-Salem roster. He pitched for nine seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets, compiling a 90-88 record and 3.85 ERA.

The most famous man on that 1950 Cardinals team, however, never played a day in the Majors. Earl Weaver was Winston-Salem’s second baseman that season, hitting .276. He later rose to prominence as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, leading that squad for 17 years. During his time in Baltimore, Weaver won 1,480 games, four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series. One of the most colorful skippers in baseball history, Weaver was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1996.

Since that historic Winston-Salem winning streak was established, it has only been challenged a couple of times. The 1959 Raleigh Capitals rattled off 15 straight wins, and the 2006 Salem Avalanche won 14 in a row. But the 1950 Cardinals remain atop the mountain, and this year’s Dash squad will look to defend Winston-Salem’s honor and halt the latest challenge.

- Dave

Game #4 Preview – Dash vs. Wilmington

Game #4– Home Game #4
Winston-Salem Dash (1-2) vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (2-1)
Sunday, April 6 – 2 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, NC) 

GAME BACKGROUND:

The Dash earned their first win of the season Saturday night, 3-2 over the Blue Rocks. Outfielder Courtney Hawkins slugged a home run for the second straight game, and also drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. Jarrett Casey pitched two scoreless innings in relief to notch his first win of 2014.

Courtney Hawkins is 4-for-10 with five RBIs in the first three games (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Courtney Hawkins is 4-for-10 with five RBIs in the first three games (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

STARTING LINEUP:

Jacob May – CF
Tim Anderson – SS
Courtney Hawkins – RF
Keon Barnum – 1B
Jason Coats – RF
Martin Medina – C
Grant Buckner – DH
Nick Basto – 3B
Michael Johnson – 2B
Braulio Ortiz – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Dash outfielder Courtney Hawkins hit a home run for the second consecutive game Saturday night. The last time he went deep in back-to-back tilts was June 3-4, 2013, when he hit three dingers in two games at Salem. Including the postseason, Hawkins has hit a homer in two straight games three times in his minor league career.
  • Shortstop Tim Anderson fell a home run short of the cycle on Saturday night, going 3-for-4. His three hits tied a career-high, which he achieved three times at Low-A Kannapolis in 2013.
  • Today marks the first day game of the season for the Dash. Last season, Winston-Salem went 13-11 in matinee contests. That includes a 7-7 record at BB&T Ballpark.
  • Winston-Salem will play its 700th regular season game as the Dash on Sunday afternoon. Since changing its nickname from Warthogs to Dash prior to the 2009 season, Winston boasts a 382-316-1 (.547) record, which is the best in the Carolina League over that span.
  • Probable starting pitcher Braulio Ortiz has the most professional starts of any man in the Dash rotation, with 23. The next-highest total among Winston-Salem starters is Tony Bucciferro, who tossed the opening pitch for the 16th time in his career Saturday night.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Today’s game is available live on wsdash.com/broadcast, with Brian Boesch and Dave Polaski providing play-by-play. Every Dash game is also available on MiLB.tv.

- Dave

Carolina Countdown – Wilmington Blue Rocks

The Blue Rocks will host this year's All-Star Game (photo courtesy of the Wilmington Blue Rocks).

The Blue Rocks will host this year’s All-Star Game (photo courtesy of the Wilmington Blue Rocks).

Our 2014 Carolina League preview concludes with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. If you missed any of the previous Carolina Countdown entries, click here to catch up!

INTRODUCTION: The Wilmington Blue Rocks have been part of the Carolina League since 1993, but their history extends beyond that point. The franchise began play in 1976 as the Peninsula Pilots, a High-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. After a couple of name and parent club changes, the team moved to Wilmington following the 1992 season. They have won four championships in the Blue Rocks era, the most recent coming in 1999. Wilmington is under control of the Kansas City Royals.

LAST SEASON: The Blue Rocks finished 2013 in third place in the Northern Division, with a 63-77 overall record. The northern-most team in the league, Wilmington struggled on the road last season, going 29-41 away from Frawley Stadium. They posted a 34-36 home mark.

Left-hander Sam Selman was the ace of the Wilmington pitching staff last season, finishing tied for the Carolina League lead in wins (11), while tying for second in games started (27). He was third in the league in strikeouts (128) and seventh in ERA (3.28). Opponents batted a paltry .197 against Selman, which was the best mark in the league. In the bullpen, Andrew Triggs ranked fifth in the league in saves (9). Offensively, infielder Jared Schlehuber led the Blue Rocks with a .299 batting average and 59 RBI in 78 games.  Infielder Dennis Raben topped the team in home runs (12).

MANAGER: Darryl Kennedy returns to Wilmington for his second stint as manager. The 45-year-old skippered the Blue Rocks to a 69-71 record in 2008, qualifying for the Mills Cup playoffs. Kennedy, who managed the Surprise Royals in the Arizona League during each of the last four seasons, replaces Vance Wilson, who moves to the same position with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Joining Kennedy in the Wilmington dugout this season will be longtime Blue Rocks’ pitching coach Steve Luebber, who is now in his eighth straight season with the club, as well as hitting coach Jose Castro and bench coach Justin Gemoll.

SYSTEM: The Kansas City Royals contended for an American League postseason berth until the final week of the 2013 regular season, so 2014 brings an air of expectation to the once-dormant franchise. While trades remain a possibility to get over the hump this season, the Royals prefer remaining focused on developing homegrown talent for both the present and future.

One player to watch is Raul A. Mondesi, a shortstop who played in 125 games with Low-A Lexington last season. The son of retired Major League outfielder Raul Mondesi, the 18-year-old is rated by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the Royals’ organization.

On the mound, Miguel Almonte is a name to remember. The 20-year-old posted a 6-9 record and a 3.10 ERA in 25 starts with Low-A Lexington last season, finishing fifth in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts (132). He is ranked as the Royals’ fifth-best prospect, according to Baseball America.

sportscenter_50_50_200pxBEST PROMOTION: Wilmington is home to the California League/Carolina League All-Star Game in 2014, and this year’s Home Run Derby will be unique to players and fans alike. On Monday, June 16 at Frawley Stadium, sluggers from both leagues will be hitting from center field toward the main grandstand in a special twist to the classic contest. Bring your baseball gloves!

FUN FACT: The Blue Rocks were featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter in 2005, as part of the “50 States in 50 Days” segment. Then-ESPN personality Matt Winer reported from the third-base line concourse at Frawley Stadium, and the crowd of 7,535 for the August 19 game against Lynchburg was the largest in team history.

BLUE ROCKS IN WINSTON-SALEM: The Blue Rocks will be at BB&T Ballpark for the opening series of the 2014 season, a four-game set beginning Thursday. Wilmington will also be in town on June 9-11 and July 4-6.

- Dave

Carolina Countdown – Salem Red Sox

After a few days off, we continue our season preview with the Salem Red Sox, the defending Carolina League champions.

INTRODUCTION: The Salem Red Sox have been a part of the Carolina League since 1968. Originally known as the Salem Rebels, the team has been affiliated with the Pirates, Padres, Rangers, Rockies and Astros before coming under Red Sox control in 2009. Salem has won five league championships.

The Red Sox surged down the stretch en route to the 2013 Mills Cup.

The Red Sox surged down the stretch en route to the 2013 Mills Cup.

LAST SEASON: The Red Sox enter 2014 as the defending CL champions. They went undefeated in their postseason run to the Mills Cup, sweeping Myrtle Beach in the semifinals and taking all three games against Potomac in the finals. Salem finished the regular season in second place in the Southern Division with a 76-64 overall record.

Catcher Blake Swihart finished fifth in the Carolina League in batting average (.298) and tied for third in triples (7) in 103 games. Outfielder Keury De La Cruz ranked second in the league in RBI (89), third in doubles (36) and tied for third in extra-base hits (51). Among pitchers, Mike Augliera went 9-6 with a 4.23 ERA while leading the staff in innings (140.1), and lefty Henry Owens finished fourth in the league in strikeouts (123).

MANAGER: Carlos Febles will run things this season, replacing Billy McMillon, who moves up to Double-A Portland as their manager. Febles spent the last two seasons as manager at Low-A Greenville. The 37-year-old spent six years in the Major Leagues during his playing career, all with the Kansas City Royals. Joining Febles in 2014 will be pitching coach Kevin Walker, who returns for his fourth season in Salem, and U.L. Washington as the hitting coach. Washington coached with Febles in Greenville last year.

SYSTEM: The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, using a mixture of veterans acquired through free agency and homegrown talent that is maturing at the Major League level. Even with that success, there are still some intriguing prospects worth watching for the future. In fact, the Sox have one of the top systems in baseball, especially at the upper levels.

One name to keep in mind is Trey Ball, a left-handed pitcher who was the first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2013 (#7 overall). The 19-year-old received his first taste of pro ball in the Gulf Coast League, making five starts while posting a 6.43 ERA. Given his lofty draft status, Ball may see a steady advancement through the Red Sox system.

Another player to watch for the future is Manuel Margot, a 19-year-old outfielder who spent last season with Lowell. Margot hit .270 with one home run, 21 RBIs and 18 stolen bases with the Spinners. He will likely start 2014 with Low-A Greenville.

BEST PROMOTION: On Saturday, April 12, Salem will host “Boston Red Sox Championship Night” for their game against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The 2013 World Series trophy will be in attendance at LewisGale Field, where fans will receive the opportunity to have pictures taken with it.

FUN FACT: Salem, Virginia is an important city on the college athletics landscape. It is home to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, which is the NCAA Division III annual national championship game in football. Salem also hosts the Division III national championship in men’s basketball every year.

RED SOX IN WINSTON-SALEM: The Salem Red Sox will first appear at BB&T Ballpark for a four-game series on April 18-21. The defending champions will also be in Winston-Salem on June 19-21, as well as August 19-21.

Tomorrow, our preview concludes with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Talk to you then.

- Dave

Carolina Countdown – Potomac Nationals

Opening Day is just 10 days away! The wait for baseball is almost over, as is our Carolina Countdown feature. Up next, the best team in the Carolina League during the 2013 regular season.

INTRODUCTION: The Potomac Nationals joined the Carolina League in 1978 as the Alexandria Dukes, playing in Alexandria, Va., until 1984, when they moved to nearby Woodbridge. The P-Nats have been affiliated with the Washington Nationals since 2005. The franchise has won four league titles, most recently in 2010.

Potomac advanced to the Mills Cup Finals in 2013 (Gary Dize/Potomac Nationals).

Potomac advanced to the Mills Cup Finals in 2013 (Gary Dize/Potomac Nationals).

LAST SEASON: The Nationals posted the Carolina League’s best overall record in 2013, going 84-55 and finishing in first place in the Northern Division. After sweeping Lynchburg in the best-of-three Mills Cup Semifinals, the P-Nats were upended by Salem in the Mills Cup Finals, three games to none.

Outfielder Billy Burns led the league in stolen bases (54) and finished second in batting average (.312) despite playing in only 90 games before being promoted to Double-A Harrisburg. Outfielder Michael Taylor ranked third in the league in RBI (87) and second to Burns in stolen bases (51) in his second go-around in the CL. On the mound, Blake Schwartz sported an 11-4 record and 2.65 ERA in 23 starts, while closer Robert Benincasa paced the Carolina League with 17 saves.

MANAGER: Tripp Keister will lead the way for the P-Nats this season after guiding Low-A Hagerstown to an 80-57 regular season record and a trip to the South Atlantic League Championship Series in 2013. He replaces Brian Daubach, who moves up to Double-A Harrisburg this season. During his playing career, the 43-year-old Keister spent four minor league seasons in the Mets organization. Joining Keister in the dugout will be hitting coach Brian Rupp, who served as the P-Nats’ manager in 2012, and pitching coach Franklin Bravo. Both served under Keister in Hagerstown last season.

SYSTEM: The Washington Nationals’ recent rise to National League prominence has coincided with a core of young players reaching the big leagues. As a result of having youthful talent in the Majors, however, experts and publications say the farm system has been somewhat depleted.

One prospect pitcher who could eventually see time with the P-Nats is 19-year-old Lucas Giolito, who went 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in 3 starts with short-season Auburn during his professional rookie season. He is currently ranked as the top prospect in the Nationals organization per multiple outlets.

Another hurler on the radar is Jake Johansen, the Nationals’ second-round draft pick in 2013 out of Dallas Baptist University. The 23-year-old compiled a 1.92 ERA in 12 starts with Auburn and Low-A Hagerstown last season, averaging roughly a strikeout per-inning.

Yep, this is a real thing (photo courtesy of the Potomac Nationals).

Yep, this is a real thing (photo courtesy of the Potomac Nationals).

BEST PROMOTION: On Saturday, August 16, the P-Nats will give away Jayson Werth “Wolf-A-Rine” figurines to fans in attendance for their game against Carolina, featuring an especially hairy depiction of the Nationals outfielder. Werth has been especially recognizable for his long hair and beard during the last several years with Philadelphia and Washington.

FUN FACT: While the P-Nats were at the top of the Carolina League standings in 2013, they encountered some trouble against the Dash. Winston-Salem was the only team to post a winning record against Potomac last year (12-8).

NATIONALS IN WINSTON-SALEM: The P-Nats make their first trek to BB&T Ballpark on May 1-4 for a four-game series. They will also visit on May 27-29 and from July 22-24.

- Dave

Carolina Countdown – Myrtle Beach Pelicans

We have reached the halfway point of our 2014 Carolina Countdown. Three down, and three more to go after we break down the Birds on the Beach.

Myrtle Beach has lost in round one in their last three playoff trips, including to the Dash in 2012 (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Myrtle Beach has lost in round one in each of its last three playoff trips, including to the Dash in 2012 (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

INTRODUCTION: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have been Carolina League members since their 1999 inaugural season. Originally affiliated with the Atlanta Braves, the Pelicans have been in the Texas Rangers system since 2011. They were declared Carolina League co-champions in 1999 and won the title outright in 2000.

LAST SEASON: The Pelicans finished 2013 at the top of the Southern Division, going 77-62 overall. It was a short stay in the playoffs, however, as they were swept by second-place Salem in the best-of-three Mills Cup Semifinal series. However, the Birds are the only team in the CL to qualify for the postseason in three consecutive seasons.

Second baseman Rougned Odor, one of the Rangers’ top prospects, ranked third in the Carolina League in batting (.305), while infielder Trever Adams was fourth in the league in RBI (82). On the mound, Myrtle Beach boasted a pair of standout starters. Nick Martinez went 10-7 and sported the league’s third-best ERA (2.87), while Alec Asher went 9-7 and finished fourth in ERA (2.90).

MANAGER: Joe Mikulik will guide the Pelicans in 2014. The 50-year-old was a roving outfield instructor for the Rangers organization in 2013 after spending 13 years as the Asheville Tourists’ manager in the Colorado minor league system. Mikulik started his managing career with the Burlington Indians in 1997-98. During his playing days, Mikulik enjoyed an 11-year minor league career in the Astros organization. Joining him in the Myrtle Beach dugout this season will be Josue Perez as hitting coach and Steve Mintz as pitching coach, both of whom were on the Pelicans’ staff in 2013.

SYSTEM: The Rangers have won at least 90 games in each of the last four seasons and have qualified for the Major League postseason in three of the last four years. While some members of the farm system have matured into MLB-ready players, experts and publications say the pipeline of prospects remains solid as well.

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is rated by Baseball America as the second-best prospect in the Rangers’ system, and he could start the season with the Pelicans. The 20-year-old spent most of 2013 with Low-A Hickory, hitting .258 with 22 doubles, 16 home runs and 53 RBI in 104 games.

Outfielder Nick Williams may also help Myrtle Beach in 2014. The 20-year-old, ranked by Baseball America as the Rangers’ fourth-best prospect, batted .293 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI in 95 games with Hickory last season.

Hopefully "Disco Demolition Night" does not involve a reenactment.

Hopefully “Disco Demolition Night” does not involve a reenactment.

BEST PROMOTION: On Saturday, July 12, the Pelicans will host “Disco Demolition Night” for their game against Lynchburg, celebrating the 35-year anniversary of one of the most dubious promotions in Major League history.

On July 12, 1979, the White Sox staged Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago, where a crate filled with disco records was blown up on the field between games of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. After the explosion, the fans in attendance rushed the field and rendered it unplayable, resulting in a White Sox forfeit of the second game. Let’s hope the anniversary celebration is more civil!

FUN FACT: The Rangers’ Low-A club in Hickory had no shortage of power in 2013, slugging 178 home runs to comfortably lead the South Atlantic League. The second-best team in that category could only muster 108. It will be interesting to see whether that type of production continues this season in the CL as some of those Hickory players graduate to the Myrtle Beach roster.

PELICANS IN WINSTON-SALEM: The Pelicans pay their first visit to BB&T Ballpark on May 5-7 for a three-game series. They will also be in Winston-Salem on July 7-10 and from July 16-18.

- Dave

Carolina Countdown – Frederick Keys

It’s day two of our Carolina Countdown, and the Frederick Keys are up. For yesterday’s entry about the Carolina Mudcats, click here.

INTRODUCTION: The Frederick Keys have been members of the Carolina League since the franchise’s inception in 1989. An affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, the Keys play their home games just 50 miles away from the parent club. Frederick has won the Carolina League championship four times, most recently in 2011.

LAST SEASON: The Keys lagged behind the rest of the Northern Division in 2013, finishing in last place with a 61-78 overall record. They hovered around .500 during the first half of the season, going 34-35 before fading after the All-Star Break.

Catcher Michael Ohlman was the Keys’ offensive standout last season, leading the league in batting average (.313), while pacing the team in doubles (29), triples (4) and RBIs (53). He also tied for the Keys’ home run lead (13). On the mound, Zach Davies went 7-9 with a 3.69 ERA in 26 starts, striking out a team-leading 132 batters in 148.2 innings.

Albert Pujols' cousin Luis will guide the Keys in 2014 (photo via the AP).

Albert Pujols’ cousin Luis will guide the Keys in 2014 (photo via the AP).

MANAGER: Luis Pujols joins the Keys to manage the 2014 squad. The 58-year-old joined the Orioles’ organization in 2013, guiding the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 54-82 record. During his playing career, Pujols spent nine years in the Major Leagues as a catcher with Astros, Royals and Rangers from 1977-85. He replaces Ryan Minor, who spent one season at the helm. He will be joined in Frederick by pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and field coach Torre Tyson, both of whom were members of the Keys’ staff last season.

SYSTEM: The Orioles posted a second straight winning season in 2013, going 85-77, but trades helped thin what many experts and publications say is a rather shallow minor league system. However, the Orioles do boast some high-end pitching prospects.

One of those pitchers who could someday spend time in a Keys uniform is 19-year-old Hunter Harvey, the Orioles’ 2013 first-round draft pick out of Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C. Harvey made a combined eight appearances in the rookie Gulf Coast League and with the Short-A Aberdeen IronBirds, compiling a 1.78 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

Among position players, shortstop Adrian Marin is rated by Baseball America as the best defensive infielder in the Orioles’ farm system. The 20-year-old batted .265 with 4 home runs and 45 RBI in 108 games with Low-A Delmarva in 2013.

The O’s also boast two of the best pitching prospects in the minors–righties Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Both stormed through Frederick en route to the higher levels. Unfortunately, Bundy may need to make a quick stop back in Frederick after Tommy John Surgery, according to this article from MiLB.com.

Finding diamonds on the diamond in Frederick...

Finding diamonds on the diamond in Frederick…

BEST PROMOTION: On Friday, May 30, the Keys will host a “Diamond Dig,” where 30 lucky ladies will have a chance to dig for a diamond following their game against the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

FUN FACT: If Luis Pujols’ last name seems familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that. He is the cousin of Albert Pujols, the perennial All-Star first baseman. Luis’ cousin Albert will begin the 2014 season just eight home runs shy of 500 for his career.

KEYS IN WINSTON-SALEM: The Keys make their initial trek to BB&T Ballpark for a three-game series on April 15-17. The Dash will also host Frederick from May 15-18 and July 29-31.

- Dave

Top 10 of 2013 – #3: Curley named CL’s MVP

Chris Curley received his MVP award in the Dash's home finale August 30 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Chris Curley received his MVP award in the Dash’s home finale August 30 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Previous Top 10 Moments:
#10: Dash clinch winning record
#9: Comeback in Delaware
#8: 17 runs in six innings
#7: Buckner sets RBIs record
#6: Attendance record on July 4
#5: Beck, Blough toss gems
#4: Four alumni jump to MLB

Moment #3 – August 29
Four alumni promoted to big leagues

After the 2010 season, the Braves released Chris Curley. The Kentucky native remained in professional baseball by signing with the independent Florence Freedom in his home state. During the 2011 season, Curley thrived in the Frontier League but was disappointed when no affiliated organization called.

Curley admitted that he stopped worried about rejoining Minor League Baseball in 2012. He just played for the love of the game. Sure enough, he did get another chance with the White Sox in early July, and his good work with Kannapolis in the regular season and Winston-Salem in the playoffs earned him a spot on the Dash’s 2013 roster. Curley rewarded the organization with the best season of his career.

By themselves, Curley’s offensive numbers are tremendous:
.280, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 149 H, 251 TB, 90 R, 14 SB

When comparing those statistics to his peers, one has to be even more impressed. Curley led the Carolina League in homers, RBIs, runs, total bases and hits. In all of High-A baseball, which includes the offensive-heavy California League, the Campbellsville University product was sixth in homers, tied for sixth in RBIs, tied for sixth in total bases, tied for seventh in runs and ninth in hits.

There is no question that Curley was the most complete offensive performer in the Carolina League in 2013, and managers, general managers and media members voted him the circuit’s Most Valuable Player. Not only was this honor an incredible one for Curley, but it was a landmark achievement for the Dash’s franchise as well.

Curley’s efforts yielded Winston-Salem’s third consecutive MVP award. The Dash became the fourth organization in CL history to boast the league’s top honor in three straight seasons, which is one shy of the league record (Lynchburg, 1983-86).

Last year, Dan Black hit .315 with 17 home runs and 88 RBIs en route to the MVP. Black helped the Dash post the best regular season record in full-season Minor League Baseball. Ian Gac began the impressive streak in 2011. Gac went yard 33 times, two homers shy of the single-season Winston-Salem record, and drove in 96 RBIs.

Another year, another league MVP for the Dash. Curley was a stabilizing force within the Dash’s lineup, and he was rewarded for his efforts.

Check out the Dash Top 10 tomorrow for our second-best moment of 2013. It was a BB&T Ballpark first. Talk to you then.

- Brian

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