Jared Miller Overcomes Rough Start To 2017, Earns 40-Man Roster Spot

2017 Generals reliever Jared Miller overcame a scuffling April, dropping his ERA almost 5.00 points over the next two months. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

At six-foot-seven, Jared Miller is decidedly big. And in 2018, the 2017 Jackson General may reach an even greater height: big-league reliever.

After completing a 2017 campaign that featured a 2.93 ERA in 70.2 innings between Jackson and Triple-A Reno, Arizona made the 24-year-old Miller the youngest pitcher on their 40-man roster in November. As a consequence of that early Christmas present, the former Vanderbilt Commodore will get the chance to prove himself worthy of a Major League look in 2018 Spring Training.

“I was at home [in Indianapolis], hanging out. I think the 40-man deadline was around seven o’clock that night,” Miller said of getting the news. “I was expecting to be added, but I didn’t get a call until pretty close to that deadline, so you kind of get anxious and start to wonder if they have different plans or what’s going on. But then I got the call from [Diamondbacks vice president of player development] Mike Bell, and the good news followed that.”

April, The Cruelest Month

Believe it or not, Miller’s 2017 season began at Jackson in choppy seas. His second outing of the year saw him give up three earned runs in one inning of work against Birmingham, as the Generals’ bullpen allowed the Barons to rally from a two-run deficit for the win.

Miller knuckled down for three straight scoreless appearances thereafter, but a nightmarish April 20 outing against Montgomery gave spectators some pause. Who was this imposter, the guy giving up seven earned runs in one third of an inning? Where was the real Jared Miller?

“I think being tested like that in April, mentally more so than anything, was really big for me in my development,” Miller acknowledges. “I think in this profession, you get caught up looking ahead and trying to be somewhere you’re not at the current moment. I think that can cause you to press a little bit.”

Miller finished April with as many earned runs allowed as innings pitched (12); his team-worst ERA (9.00) matched his walk total. The Generals’ offense had carried them to a league-best 15-8 record, but Miller wasn’t contributing like the guy who had who had impressed scouts and analysts at the Arizona Fall League.

“It’s an easy game for things to get out of control on you, so if you’re not focused in the moment and just focused on the day at hand, I think stuff like what happened to me in April could happen pretty easily,” Miller said in hindsight. “If there’s certain things you can fix mechanically, then you need to fix them. But things like [a bad game] are going to happen, and I think over time you learn to put them behind you.”

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Jared Miller enters 2018 as the only left-handed reliever on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster who has yet to reach the majors. At 24, he’s also the youngest pitcher. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)  

The Road to Reno

Two elements, one physical and one mental, helped steer Miller back on course. First, he put a greater emphasis on moving forward in his motion. That helped his walk rate, dropping it from 6.7 per nine innings in April to 2.9 through the rest of the year.

“The biggest thing for me—and DC, [Diamondbacks pitching coordinator] Dan Carlson, helped me with this—is making sure my whole body is going towards the plate,” Miller said. “I think in the last couple weeks of Spring Training and the first couple weeks of the Double-A season, I was kind of falling off a little bit and not really staying through on my pitches. So that explains the lackluster command.”

Pair a refreshed delivery with Miller’s own inborn confidence and buoyancy, and it’s not a shock that the towering southpaw got up quickly from the canvas.

“I think as soon as I hit the locker room after a game, [thoughts of a bad game] are pretty much over with,” Miller said. “I think just carrying yourself in a certain way does so much in this game. When hitters can smell blood in the water, it gives them an edge, and as a pitcher, you never want to give that edge up.”

The edge quickly became razor-sharp for Miller. His final 27.1 innings at Jackson featured 37 strikeouts, nine walks, and a 1.69 ERA. Miller’s promotion to Triple-A Reno in July felt a tad more comfortable than when he first arrived there for a five-game stint in 2016.

“The biggest difference for me was just knowing that I belonged,” Miller said. “I think when I got there in 2016, I had come all the way from Low-A, and I didn’t know any of the guys [at Triple-A]. I was in minor league camp [to start that year], and I got to Triple-A. I think for the first time in my career, I kind of second-guessed whether or not I belonged, and that showed.”

“This year, when I got called up, I just went there and tried to dominate. Obviously the main goal is to make it to the big leagues, so that was really all that was on my mind.”

The odds are good for Miller to crack The Show in 2018. Fortifying Arizona’s bullpen has been a priority for the team over the offseason, addressed with trade acquisition Brad Boxberger, Rule 5 draft selection Albert Suarez, and Japanese signee Yoshihisa Hirano. All those additions have been right-handed.

Miller, a lefty, isn’t concerned with others as he prepares to head to Arizona in early January.

“I just want to be myself. I think if I go out there and do what I do best, I’m going to like where I’m at, come the end of March,” Miller said. “So I’m just really focusing on me and not really worrying about the outside noise or necessarily the competition aspect of things, just taking care of what I do best. The rest will take care of itself.”

Follow Jared’s journey from afar on Twitter: @JaredMiller24.


*Miller was very aware of teammates Brad Keller and Victor Reyes being selected in December’s Rule 5 Draft. “Yeah, what a week,” he laughed. “I lost my Scottsdale [Arizona] roommate, so now I’ve got to wear all the rent or find someone else [to live with]. I was going to live with Keller, but Surprise [Arizona, where the Kansas City Royals train] is a little far. I told him, ‘Dude, you don’t want to make that drive every morning.’ I think [being with Kansas City] will be a good situation for him.”

*If he wants an opinion on his pitching from an outsider, Miller will reach out to his former college pitching coach or previous teammates. “Scott Brown, the pitching coach at Vandy [Vanderbilt], really has an understanding of me,” Miller says. “I can always send him a little shot [of what I’m doing], and he can tell me what he sees if I’m struggling…It was cool this year for the first time, after going to the [Arizona] Fall League, playing against guys that I had been teammates with for those six or seven weeks in Arizona. One of my catchers was with Biloxi in 2017, Jake Nottingham…Just seeing what they see [is important], because they are the ones that really see you best, because they’ve got the best view on the field.”

*Born in Columbus, Ohio, Miller recently turned down a chance to attend the Ohio State-USC matchup in the Cotton Bowl. “Very unlike me,” he said. “But I told my family I’d be home for New Year’s Eve, and that game wasn’t really conducive to the travel plans. I have not been to any Buckeye games. I got to go to my first Chicago Blackhawks game a couple weeks ago, and that was really cool.”

Tyler Springs does media relations and broadcasting for the Jackson Generals. Keep up with team news on Twitter by following @JacksonGenerals. Tyler tweets, too: @TyphoonSprings.


Brad Keller Rides Strong 2017 Second Half to Rule 5 Draft, Trade

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Brad Keller was one of two Generals selected in the December 2017 MLB Rule 5 Draft. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

It’s not real until it is. That’s how 2017 Jackson Generals pitcher Brad Keller felt about his Rule 5 Draft selection on Thursday.

“Some people were telling me it might happen, and I didn’t really believe it,” the 22-year-old Keller said. “I thought that would be a pretty cool situation if it did happen, but I didn’t put too much thought into it. My agent kind of downplayed it, saying ‘It’s like, 50-50, we’ll see, it should be interesting.’ And I was like, alright, whatever.”

Sitting at the breakfast table in his Atlanta area home, the six-foot-five right-hander saw a familiar name drafted early: 2017 Generals outfielder Victor Reyes went first overall to the Detroit Tigers. Still, no strong premonitions for Keller.

“When I saw Vic’s name, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome. A guy I was playing with, and now he’s got a chance to go to the big leagues,’” Keller said. “I walked out the door, headed to workouts, and it happened while I was driving, so it was kind of tough [to respond to anything]. Once I got to workouts, all my buddies had already found out about it, so they were going crazy, which was pretty cool.”

Taken with the fifth pick in the Rule 5 draft by the Cincinnati Reds, Keller was traded within minutes to Kansas City for cash or a player to be named later. In need of pitching depth, the Royals didn’t stop dealing after Keller, trading also for former Tampa Bay right-hander Burch Smith, another Rule 5 selection by the New York Mets.

Smith has been up and down over the last few years after a debut with San Diego in 2013. Keller is still on his way up, though 2017 was a battle at times.

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Keller led the 2017 Generals in strikeouts with 111. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

“Started off really well, and then went through a crazy rough patch right through the middle of the season,” Keller recalled. “I was really happy with how I was able to learn from everything that went down, actually learning how to pitch, being able to go out there and execute the game-plans, especially later in the season, and turn some things around.”

Keller rolled through his first four starts at Double-A, completing 20.2 innings with a 1.31 ERA by May 1. The next two months proved difficult, as Keller failed to finish the fifth inning in six of his next ten starts. His ERA ballooned to 5.24 as July began, so the Generals’ field staff brought Keller into the shop for some tuning. Generals manager J.R. House, who had also been Keller’s skipper at High-A Visalia in 2016, turned on the tape.

“Me, House, and Dougie [pitching coach Doug Drabek], we went back and looked at film. We went through what we did last year at Visalia and what was working at the beginning of the year,” Keller said. “We found some mechanical adjustments that we worked on, and also just pitch sequencing. I think being able to use it all better [was key]. I was really only pitching with two [options], because I had very little comfort in my changeup at the time. And they said, ‘Alright, we’re going to force you to throw changeups.’”

Having a third usable pitch is often the difference between big-league starters and relievers. Second and third cycles through the other team’s lineup become easier with more pitches, because opposing hitters can’t predict what’s coming quite as well. Keller had some hiccups, but he pitched into the sixth inning and allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his final twelve starts. His last four contests featured a 1.09 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 24.2 innings.

“Ever since [making that change], I started throwing really well,” Keller said. “We tweaked some mechanical things, and I felt like the ball was coming out way better. That’s pretty much all that happened. So I’m just focusing on that last month, month-and-a-half. Focusing on what I did there and then just kind of [trying to] carry that over [to 2018].”

Generals fans can follow Keller’s journey from afar on Twitter: @Brad_Keller13.


*Keller credits 2017 Generals personnel like catcher Michael Perez, strength coach Mike Locasto, and trainer Ryne Eubanks for giving him additional help when he struggled. Perez had caught Keller on a regular basis since the two worked together at Low-A Kane County. “I had a really good supporting staff [at Jackson],” Keller says. “It was awesome, it was fun.”

*Keller’s offseason so far has been pretty simple: travel a little, golf some, train a lot. “I can never seem to put a full 18 [holes] together, but we’ll get to it one day,” he says. “I’ve been traveling a little bit, but mostly [been] hanging out in Atlanta. I’ve got all the resources I need here to get better.”

*At 22, Keller becomes the youngest pitcher on the Royals’ 40-man roster. He doesn’t think about his age much. “I was telling one of my buddies this: When I go and play with these guys, I just feel like we’re all the same age, like age gets thrown out the window,” Keller notes. “We’re teammates. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 21 or 31, we’re all on the same team, working for the same goal.”

Tyler Springs does media relations and broadcasting for the Jackson Generals. Keep up with team news on Twitter by following @JacksonGenerals. Tyler tweets, too: @TyphoonSprings. 

2017 Jackson Generals: By The Numbers

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Victor Reyes takes joy in his work. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

League Leading Numbers

140      Games played (first time playing 140 games since 2012)

1246    Hits

280      Doubles

118      Home runs; 76 of them (64%) were solo shots

1,932   Total bases

.265     Batting average

.412     Slugging percentage

.748     OPS

424      Extra-base hits

16        Shutouts by the Generals’ pitching staff

Ryan Atkinson delivers a throw to first base. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)


16        Games in a row in which Kevin Medrano recorded a hit

138      Games played by Kevin Cron (a franchise record)

3          Home runs in a game for Kevin Cron (tying a franchise record)

256      Total bases by Kevin Cron (a franchise record)

5          Hits in a game for Kevin Medrano

280      Doubles by the Generals, a franchise record

20        Runs scored against Birmingham on April 9, most in any game this year

33        Home runs by the Generals in the month of May

1,037   Times struck out (2nd fewest in the league)

52        Sacrifice flies (2nd most in the league)

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Joe Mather and J.R. House share a light moment. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)


6          Midseason All-Stars (Kevin Cron, Colin Walsh, Rudy Flores, Taylor Clarke, Joey Krehbiel, Gabriel Moya)

3          Player of the Week Awards (Colin Walsh, Jamie Westbrook, Victor Reyes)

2          Pitcher of the Week Awards (Ivan Pineyro, Joel Payamps)

1.5       Postseason All-Stars (Kevin Cron, JXN; Gabriel Moya, CHA-JXN)

1          Player of the Month Award (Kevin Medrano – June)

1          Reliever of the Month Award (Gabriel Moya – June)

1          Southern League MVP (Kevin Cron)

3          Best Tools honorees in Baseball America’s Best Tools survey (Michael Perez, “Best Defensive Catcher”; Kevin Cron, “Best Power Prospect”; Dawel Lugo, “Best Infield Arm”)

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The Generals take the field before the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham).


24        position players used in 2017

30        pitchers (excluding C Jose Queliz)

9          shortstops employed by J.R. House

13        infielders who threw to first baseman Kevin Cron

11        players who started and finished the season on the Generals’ active roster

3          Generals players who qualified for the Southern League’s batting average title race (Jamie Westbrook, Kevin Cron, Victor Reyes; 2nd fewest qualifiers of all SL teams)

2          Generals players who qualified for the Southern League’s ERA title race (Alex Young, Brad Keller)

1          game after which the Generals lost ¾ of their starting infield (July 17 vs. Montgomery – 2B Kevin Medrano, 3B Dawel Lugo, SS Domingo Leyba)

3          Players going to the Arizona Fall League (Michael Perez, Ryan Atkinson, Victor Reyes)

1          Former General invited to play in the 2017 AFL (Jack Reinheimer, JXN 2015)

15        new players who joined the Generals in late July & August; 9 of them were with the team at the end of the year

Vladimir Frias makes a diving grab in front of Kelly Dugan. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)


588     Plate appearances by Kevin Cron, a franchise record

515     At-bats by Kevin Cron, a franchise record

8.0       Most hitless innings pitched by a Generals starter in one start (Frank Duncan)

5          Most RBI in a game (Marty Herum, Kelly Dugan)

12        Most Ks in a game (Ivan Pineyro, Taylor Clarke)

1          Complete game (Joel Payamps)

18.1     Most consecutive scoreless innings pitched by a Generals starter (Ryan Atkinson)

4          Players to hit multiple home runs in one game (Kevin Cron, Stewart Ijames, Dawel Lugo, Kelly Dugan)

2          Grand slams by Jamie Westbrook, only Southern Leaguer with multiple slams

167      Strikeouts by Ryan Atkinson, topping all D-backs prospects

1          Home run by Travis Denker in his last at-bat of the season


52        Straight games the Generals lost when trailing entering the eighth inning; streak snapped by a ninth-inning rally at Tennessee, 8/31

11-6    Record when the score was tied after eight innings

5          Walk-off wins

10        Most games over .500

2          Most games under .500

-5         Biggest comeback to win (7/11 at Mississippi)

14        Longest game by innings (twice: 6/6 at Chattanooga, 9/3 at Tennessee)

2:02     Shortest game by time (6/25 vs. Jacksonville)

95        Hottest first pitch temperature (8/15 vs. Biloxi)

56        Coldest first pitch temperature (5/1 vs. Chattanooga)

4          Grand slams

12        Last at-bat wins

12        games scoring 10+ runs, all wins; Generals never lost when scoring 8+

5-5       Record as the alter-ego Hub City Hippos

2-2       Record in specialty uniforms (Star Wars, Shark Week, Spiderman, Pirates)

119      Individual multi-RBI performances; 82 (68%) were 2-RBI efforts

47        Quality starts by Generals starting pitchers

49        Wins by Generals starting pitchers

3          Most consecutive games with a save recorded (2x)

6          Longest winning streak (7/7-7/12)

6,224   Largest attendance (June 3rd – Star Wars Night)

[Photo credit for Cron/Westbrook two-shot: Extra Innings UK]

2017 Second Half Highlights

Victor Reyes finished the season with a 13-for-19 series at Tennessee. He will play in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)


At 71-69 overall, the 2017 Jackson Generals finished their second straight year with an above- .500 winning percentage in the Southern League, compiling a 34-36 record in the Second Half. The Generals’ offense ended the season leading the league in eight different categories, though roster upheaval in July and August made it tough on manager J.R. House and hitting coach Jason Camilli to sustain Jackson’s early dominance. Pitching coach Doug Drabek’s corps of arms gained some traction down the stretch, as an improved starting rotation helped Jackson to a league- best 16 shutout victories. The Generals missed the playoffs by a few games, though they weren’t eliminated officially until the season’s final week. These are some of their highlights:

(NOTE: These memorable moments from the Second Half are by no means comprehensive—feel free to chip in your own thoughts in the comments below, or Tweet @JacksonGenerals on Twitter with your best memories of the 20th season of pro baseball in West Tennessee! There will also be a “2017 By The Numbers” post coming out soon that highlights many of the interesting statistics and figures from the year.)


Saturday Night’s Alright for Five-ing

Kevin Medrano hit in a league-high 16 straight games during his remarkable June. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

After hitting .232 in May, Generals infielder Kevin Medrano rebounded with an outstanding June. Looking to tie Jonathan Rodriguez for the Southern League’s longest hitting streak, Medrano erupted for five hits at Birmingham on Saturday night, driving in a season-high four runs. The five-hit game was the first for a General since Tyler Bortnick in 2015, and it put Medrano in elite company as one of only seven Southern Leaguers to accomplish the feat this season. The five-hit night was the masterstroke on Medrano’s June canvas, wherein he painted a .371 batting average en route to Southern League Player of the Month honors.


Dealing a Dozen

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Ivan Pineyro struck out 12 Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on June 25, tying Taylor Clarke for the Generals’ 2017 season-high single-game mark. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Inserted into the starting rotation to begin the Second Half, veteran right-hander Ivan Pineyro faced a former team in his first series and did not disappoint. In trying to even the Jacksonville series at 2-2, Pineyro struck out 12 Jumbo Shrimp hitters in seven scoreless innings, tying teammate Taylor Clarke for the Generals’ best single-game strikeout mark in 2017. Pineyro retired 19 straight hitters in his best stretch, and he came away with the narrowest of 1-0 victories after catcher B.J. Lopez scored from third base on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh. Joey Krehbiel and Gabriel Moya threw perfect eighth and ninth innings, as Moya recorded his 12th save overall and his third in four nights. Pineyro did not walk a batter. Pineyro was honored as the Southern League Pitcher of the Week, his first weekly honor in a seven-year career.


Westbrook Whacks A Homer, Generals Avoid Sweep

Jamie Westbrook hit safely in 24 of 29 games in July. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Jamie Westbrook spent the whole month of June on the disabled list, and he came off it wanting to make up for lost time. Westbrook’s solo home run at Tennessee on July 3rd helped propel the Generals to a 4-1 victory, and it bore signs of what was to come in July. Westbrook had hits in 24 of 29 July games, including a 2017 personal-best streak of 10 straight games with a hit. He finished the month with a .320 batting average and 19 RBI, earning internal Double-A Player of the Month honors from the Diamondbacks’ front office. Westbrook also scored his first career outfield assist on July 7th in a 9-6 win over Birmingham. Jamie finished 2017 with his 4th straight season of at least 100 games played and at least 100 hits, one of only seven Generals position players who were on both the Opening Day roster and the 2017 finale roster.



Won on the Fourth of July

Brad Keller and the Generals got the win on the Fourth of July. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Hosting a home contest on Independence Day for the first time in eight years, the Generals bested eventual SL Pitcher of the Year Michael Kopech and the Birmingham Barons, 8-2, in front of 4,270. The rain-shortened contest nonetheless featured 11 hits from the Jackson offense, including multiple hits from Kevin Cron, Dawel Lugo, Evan Marzilli, and Galli Cribbs. Brad Keller earned the victory, while the Generals climbed a game ahead of the Barons with the help of Jared Miller’s second save of the year. The Generals finished 2017 with a 7-3 mark against the Barons at The Ballpark at Jackson, the best against any of their North Division opponents.


A Southpaw Snaps the Skid

Alex Young pitched to a 3.05 ERA in the Second Half. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

After being shut out on back-to-back nights at Regions Field, the Generals offense appeared severely handcuffed by the recent losses of third baseman Dawel Lugo (trade), shortstop Domingo Leyba (injury), and second baseman Kevin Medrano (promotion) in quick succession. In dire need of a win, Alex Young helped Jackson snap a five-game skid. The lefty delivered six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and one walk while recording a season-high eight strikeouts in a 2-1 Jackson victory. The win was Young’s third in a row and third in the month of July, his best month in 2017. Young threw no fewer than five innings in any of his final ten starts, pitching to an ERA of 2.49 while striking out twice as many batters as he walked. His 2.51 road ERA was the best by any Jackson pitcher with at least 10 games started in 2017.


Atkinson Beats BayBears

Ryan Atkinson led all Diamondbacks minor leaguers with 167 strikeouts in 2017. He will pitch in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Wearing a slick black-and-blue jersey in appreciation of Shark Week, right-hander Ryan Atkinson struck out six batters in 5.1 innings and allowed one run, good enough to win his Double-A debut vs. Mobile. The victory gave the Generals the series win and continued an unexpectedly successful season for Atkinson, an undrafted free agent who took 13 months off from baseball before being signed by the Diamondbacks in July 2016. In his first full season as a pro, Atkinson struck out 167 batters, more than any other Diamondbacks minor leaguer. With the Generals, he pitched to a 3.22 ERA in seven starts, earning an invitation to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in October along with Michael Perez and Victor Reyes.


Payamps Dominates Tennessee Completely

Joel Payamps threw a complete game shutout on August 3rd, Jackson’s only CG of the year. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Though Jackson avoided playing any home double-headers through the season’s first four months, rain finally forced the Generals and Tennessee Smokies to play a twin-bill in early August. Right-hander Joel Payamps started the opener, and he made lightning-quick work of a stout Tennessee lineup. Using 84 pitches and a solid mix of fastball, slider, and changeup, Payamps threw Jackson’s first and only complete game of 2017, shutting out the Smokies 4-0 in seven innings while allowing only one hit. Payamps’ CG earned him his first Southern League Pitcher of the Week award, and it kicked off an awesome August, featuring a 2.32 ERA across five games with a 1.00 WHIP and an opponents’ batting average of just. 216.



Perez Breaks Moya’s Earned Run Streak

Michael Perez hit .298 with an .835 OPS in 50 Second Half games at Jackson. He will play in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Facing his former team for the first time since a July 27th trade from Arizona to Minnesota, Chattanooga closer Gabriel Moya earned the save in a 3-1 victory over the Generals. However, Moya’s outing included a solo home run allowed to Jackson catcher Michael Perez, the first earned run allowed by Moya in over three months. Moya, having already earned Relief Pitcher of the Month honors for June and Midseason All-Star accolades as well, would go on to be named a Postseason Southern League All-Star, converting all 24 of his regular season save opportunities (17 with Jackson, 7 with Chattanooga). For Perez, the moment punctuated a rise from the Opening Day backup role to starter, featuring an OPS of .835 in 50 Second Half games with Jackson. Perez would also win “Best Defensive Catcher” recognition in a survey of Southern League coaches by Baseball America, solidifying his best season to date as a 25-year-old minor leaguer.


Duncan Nearly No-Hits Shuckers

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Frank Duncan narrowly missed becoming the second pitcher in franchise history to throw a no-hitter. (Photo credit: Tyler Springs)

An August addition to the Generals’ rotation, right-hander Frank Duncan stuck to his strengths, and his second start at Jackson very nearly made history. Duncan held a 2-0 lead while carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning, striking out five Biloxi batters while collecting 12 groundball outs and stroking a single on offense. An infield single and a double in the ninth brought Biloxi within a run and chased Duncan, but Joey Krehbiel preserved the win with a two-out save. Duncan pitched five or more innings in each of his five starts with the Generals, earning an ERA under 4.00 and a groundout/flyout ratio of almost 2:1 (1.92). The near-miss allowed Dave Manning’s July 22, 1999 no-hitter to remain as the only no-hit game in franchise history.


Herum’s Homer Evens Season Series with Wahoos

Marty Herum held his own at third base, hitting .284 in 43 games after a promotion from High-A Visalia in mid-July. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Jackson failed to score more than four runs in any of their 10 games against Pensacola in 2017, but they did enough to finish the season series 5-5 against the Blue Wahoos. The final meeting was a 0-0 Friday night chess match all the way into the ninth inning. Marty Herum, having gone more than two months without a home run, broke out the big stick with a two-out, two-strike mash to left field that put the Generals ahead 1-0. Herum’s first home run at Double-A proved to be enough for the Generals’ victory, and it revealed the power stroke that may be flashed again next season at Jackson. The 25-year-old third baseman hit .284 in 43 games with the Generals, drilling a team-leading nine doubles in August with a team-high .337 batting average during that time. Herum’s offensive numbers aren’t far from the pace set by Dawel Lugo, who manned third base for Jackson before being traded from Arizona to Detroit in mid-July.


Kevin Cron Wins MVP, Generals Beat Chattanooga

He raised his batting average 61 points from last season. He hit 25+ home runs for the second straight year. He played in a league-high (and franchise record) 138 games, going over four months without a day off to end the year. He is Kevin Cron, and he earned the 2017 Southern League Most Valuable Player award just before the Generals took their second series from Chattanooga in August with 4-0 series finale shutout. (Notably, Cron recorded the walk-off RBI single in the Generals’ 5-4 victory over Chattanooga two nights before.) Cron anchored an offense that led the league in dingers and doubles, and he demolished his previous career high by recording 56 walks, almost twice his 2016 mark. He also led the league in assists at first base (69).


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Kevin Cron and Jamie Westbrook celebrate Cron’s 25th home run of the year at Tennessee. Cron led the league in home runs, assists at first base, and games played. (Photo credit: Extra Innings UK)

In tandem with 2016 MVP Tyler O’Neill, Cron becomes a part of the first tandem of players to win back-to-back MVPs for the same franchise in the 21st century. He’s the first to lead the Southern League in home runs in consecutive seasons in more than 40 years, since Jim Obradovich did so in 1975 & 1976. Cron joins Jake Lamb (2014) and Paul Goldschmidt (2011) as the third Diamondbacks minor leaguer to win Southern League MVP in the last seven seasons. The list of Southern League MVPs who are current Major Leaguers also includes Max Kepler (MIN), Marcus Semien (OAK), Evan Longoria (TB), and Joey Votto (CIN).


Lockhart’s Last Stand

Daniel Lockhart’s 11-pitch at-bat with two outs in the ninth inning kept Jackson alive in an eventual 8-7 win at Tennessee on August 31. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

In 52 previous 2017 games when trailing after eight innings, the Generals were 0-52. Staring at a 5-2 deficit to begin the ninth inning, they still did not flinch, scoring a run to pull within 5-3 with two outs and men on the corners. Daniel Lockhart, a former Tennessee Smokie himself, fell behind 0-2 against Smokies closer Craig Brooks, but he wouldn’t go down. Lockhart fouled off five straight pitches before Brooks threw two balls, evening the count. After another foul to stay alive, Lockhart lined the 11th pitch of the at-bat into left field for an RBI single, drawing Jackson within 5-4. The Lockhart-Brooks duel catalyzed the Generals’ offense, which scored six runs across the final three frames in an eventual 8-7 victory in 11 innings. Starter Tyler Badamo did not factor in the decision, giving up five runs over six innings while striking out 10 Tennessee hitters in what would be his only Double-A start of the year.


A Finale You Could Feel

In the season finale, the Generals watched a duel unfold on the mound, as Jackson’s Ryan Atkinson tried to keep Tennessee’s Duane Underwood Jr. from winning his league-best 14th game of the year. Scoreless through three innings, the Generals drew first blood, as Victor Reyes smashed his fourth home run of the year over the right field wall for a 2-0 lead. Having held Tennessee down through six innings, Atkinson belted a two-out, two-run double off the left-center field wall in the seventh, recording his first professional hit in dramatic fashion. The Generals plated two more runs in the eighth, helped by Reyes’ fifth triple of the year and a sacrifice fly by Marty Herum.

Victor Reyes tallied a team high 11 outfield assists in 2017, playing in over 120 games and hitting at least .290 for the third straight season. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Entering the bottom of the eighth with a 6-1 lead, Jackson looked momentarily shaky, as a bases-clearing three-run double by Tennessee’s Yasiel Balaguert brought the Smokies within 6-4. However, Kirby Bellow bore down for the inning’s final two outs, and Josh Taylor finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning. Taylor stranded a pair of leadoff hits by getting three consecutive outs, ending the game with the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate. The save was Taylor’s first of the year, and the win clinched an above-.500 winning percentage for the Generals for the second straight year. Reyes finished with nine total bases in the game, falling a single shy of the cycle. His 13-for-19 effort in the Tennessee series propelled him to being honored as Jackson’s third Southern League Player of the Week in 2017.

Denker-House at TNS
Travis Denker (center, with mitt) is greeted by J.R. House (center-left, with forward-facing helmet) after being removed from Game #140 in the bottom of the eighth inning. The 32-year-old Denker homered in his last at-bat of the season in the top of the eighth. (Photo credit: Extra Innings UK)

A special mid-afternoon moment came in the eighth inning, when 32-year-old infielder Travis Denker led off with a solo home run to right field. Denker’s 7th dinger of the year came in his 1,267 professional game between MLB and the minors, giving him 147 jacks in his career. After the Generals took the field for the bottom of the eighth inning, Denker was removed from the game by manager J.R. House, applauded by the Tennessee crowd and hugged by his teammates and coaches. Denker is not officially retired and can still hit, as shown by his .867 OPS in 186 at-bats this season. That said, it was cool to watch Denker—who has never hit a walk-off home run—walk off after a home run in his final at-bat of the season.


So long for now! Opening Night 2018 will be Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 6:05 pm vs. Jacksonville. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Before we turn our backs on 2017, we’d like to say thank you to all the people that have given us feedback and shown interest in the team this year. We’re glad you got to share in the magic of minor league baseball once more! We look forward to seeing you at The Ballpark at Jackson in 2018 or interacting with you online if you can’t make it!

Tyler Springs and Brandon Liebhaber


[Photo credits for Kevin Cron mosaic: Cody Cunningham and Kate Lentz)

Going Back-to-Back: Will Kevin Cron Be The Generals’ Second Straight Southern League MVP?


Can you name the last time a Southern League franchise had their players win Most Valuable Player awards in consecutive seasons?

We’d forgive Kevin Cron (or any Southern League player, for that matter) if they didn’t know. It hasn’t happened in this millennium, and you can barely say that it’s happened in Cron’s lifetime. Cron was a year and a few months old when Pittsburgh prospect Mark Johnson won it with the Carolina Mudcats in 1994; Cron had turned two by the time future Pirates catcher Jason Kendall won it for the Mudcats in 1995. Back-to-back MVPs from the same franchise happened twice in the 1980s and twice in the 1990s, actually, but it hasn’t happened since. That’s a credit to the rising quality of development among the many farm systems that feed Major League Baseball.

Cron, the 24-year-old first baseman for the Jackson Generals, has a strong chance to bring home the award in 2017. But sportsfolk, as history has proven, can define the word “valuable” in a number of different ways, and that may rob Cron of the league’s highest individual recognition. “MegaCron”–as a Generals fan on social media has appreciatively characterized him–has been essential to Jackson’s successes this year, and we’ll give him some printed-word respect on this page, regardless of how the league ends up voting.

First, though, a look at his competition for MVP:


Like Cron, this is not the first season at Double-A for Rodriguez: he was a Texas Leaguer with Springfield (STL) in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Unlike Cron, Rodriguez has tasted Triple-A, posting a .770 OPS in 39 games with Memphis (STL) last season. The experience shows for Rodriguez: while he’s maintained the moderate-to-good level of power often expected of a first baseman or corner outfielder (19 HR, SL #2), he’s also walked more than any other season in his career (78, #2 SL). That combination has pushed Rodrgiuez’s OPS over .900 (as of 8/25), and he’s the only one up on that plateau. Five of the last six MVP winners in the Southern League have led the league in OPS, though 2016 winner Tyler O’Neill was the first to earn it without an OPS over .900. (In fairness, O’Neill’s .882 was still 80 points higher than the next highest OPS.)

Rodriguez is built a bit like Cron, but he has the benefit of playing heart-of-the-order-bat for the league’s winningest team in Chattanooga. Like Cron, his increased walk total has not cut into his strikeout total a lot, but it has rounded him into a better offensive piece.

JOE MCCARTHY—OUTFIELDER—MONTGOMERY BISCUITS                                 OPS: .847

When the season began, McCarthy was manning first base for Montgomery, which is not the likely position he would be expected to play in the big leagues. That said, McCarthy played it adeptly (3 errors in 454 chances), and when fellow Rays prospect Dalton Kelly arrived from High-A Charlotte with a preposterously hot stick, McCarthy picked up right where he left off in left field. Though he’s only made two outfield assists in 55 games this year, McCarthy has yet to make an error out there, and that capable defense has been coupled with a league-high 82 walks, a total practically equivalent to McCarthy’s strikeouts (90).  For a Double-A rookie, that excellent ratio is impressive by itself, and his increasing opportunities on base have given him ample time to steal bases (18). McCarthy’s not the first guy on the list for a Home Run Derby invitation (5 HR this year), but his league-best 8 triples and 31 doubles have helped him to record one of the five highest extra-base hit totals (44) in the circuit.

McCarthy’s OPS has mirrored Cron’s, though each has collected theirs differently based upon individual strengths.  He’s not as highly rated as Chattanooga’s Nick Gordon or Pensacola’s Nick Senzel, but McCarthy’s 2017 performance may be the most balanced of any Southern Leaguer. It’s a big factor in why Montgomery’s league-best offense earned the North Division’s wild card berth in the playoffs, nippng at Chattanooga’s heels.


It’s pretty hard to collect a high OPS when you don’t hit for a lot of power, but Lee is proof that table-setting and experience do matter. A year after hitting just .209 with Montgomery, Lee has diced up Southern League pitching with a league-best .319 mark, and only 3 of his hits have cleared a fence. Lee’s trade from Tampa Bay to Miami played an inescapable role in the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp surging into the South Division lead late in the year. Without Lee, the Shrimp went 30-40 during the First Half, the worst mark in the South. With Lee (for all but the first five games of the Second Half), the Shrimp are 30-23, sporting a team batting average in July and August a full ten points above where it was before the All-Star Break.

Lee has stolen 8 bases since the trade and has only been caught twice, a much better mark than his flip-a-coin output before the move (12 SB/11 CS).  His 17 outfield assists lead the entire league, and he’s spent the Second Half patrolling a center field in Jacksonville that extends 420 feet from home plate. The Shrimp have to hold off 3 South Division teams within 4 games of the division lead over their final 12 games, but if they do, you’ll see Lee in the postseason.

Three great players. All guys who have made adjustments to their games to get them here. Do you know if any of them have had a day off during the Second Half? We can think of someone who hasn’t…


KEVIN CRON—FIRST BASEMAN—JACKSON GENERALS                                         OPS: .843

Since sitting out on April 24 at Biloxi, there has not been a day on which the Generals have played a game when Cron did not see action. That’s right: Cron hasn’t been given a day off in four months.

“Why?” you ask. “Isn’t that absurd?”

“Well,” the reply might simply go, “do you want to score runs?”

A run is one trip around four bases. For the second straight year, Kevin Cron has made more single-swing circuits of the bases than any other Southern League player, rocking 23 home runs this season. Cron led the Jackson onslaught through the season’s first two months, anchoring a lineup that hit 60 home runs in their first 52 games while scoring 4.8 runs per game. Cron, by the way, remains the league leader even now by good margins in extra base hits (57) and total bases (234). He also tops the charts in RBI (85).

But slowly, piece by piece, the Jackson lineup has been stripped of its armor. Of the 15 players who have homered for the Generals this season, only seven remain on the current active roster. Of those seven, only Victor Reyes has not spent time on the disabled list or been involved in a roster move that prevented him from playing. The offensive firepower that had helped Jackson fend off all its early-season challengers under the 2016 League Champions banner is in much shorter supply in August. As such, Cron and the Generals’ remaining pieces have had more loaded onto their shoulders, and the results have at times been unkind. The Generals are five games below a .500 winning percentage in the Second Half. In games where Cron didn’t start at first base this year (through 8/25), the Generals went 4-7.

After walking 38 times in his first 76 games (and setting a career high in the process), Cron took a free pass just 16 times in his next 50 games. That’s a bit of departure from the more selective Cron seen in the early season, but to his credit, it’s also really the only drop-off for a guy who has had 93% of his at-bats as a first baseman this year. There isn’t the same dugout retreat available to Cron the way it is for everyday players on DH-friendly American League affiliates. He leads the league in assists as a first baseman, and he’s made just nine errors despite receiving throws from 12 different infielders this season.

So what is “most valuable” to you? Is it the newfound plate discipline that has made Jonathan Rodriguez a more complete player? Is it the versatility displayed by Joe McCarthy? Is it Braxton Lee’s hustle and first-to-second-year improvement? Or is it perhaps the unmatched power and durability of Kevin Cron, who has played more Southern League games and hit more Southern League home runs in the last two years than anybody else?

It’s not hard to figure who Jackson fans would vote for. Whether he wins or not—whether he becomes part of this century’s first tandem of back-to-back Southern League MVPs from the same franchise—is out of his hands. Meanwhile, that pair of hands goes back to work.

Mike Hazen, Amiel Sawdaye Interviews

Mike Hazen

With Major League Baseball in the midst of it’s All-Star Break, I figured this would be a good time to post again here on Generally Speaking. So far, things are going well for the Generals in the Second Half. While I post this, the team is in the midst of a five-game winning streak and is very much in the thick of a playoff race.

Now that the draft and the international signing deadline have come and gone, the Generals have had some great visitors from Arizona’s front office. First-year General Manager Mike Hazen came to see the new Double-A affiliate in Jackson while the team hosted Birmingham, and new Assistant General Manager Amiel Sawdaye stopped by with the team in East Tennessee taking on the Smokies.

Both were extremely gracious with their time. I was able to interview both about how year one in Arizona is going, the transition from Boston (where both worked previously), the success of the Major League club and more. Listen below.

The Generals are back at home Thursday to open up a five-game series against division-rival Montgomery. Thirty of the team’s final 50 games are against the three teams they’ve been fighting with in the North Division — Chattanooga, Tennessee and Montgomery.

Should be a lot of fun. The always-popular Disney Night featuring postgame fireworks and a vacation giveaway is Saturday night.

2017 First Half Highlights

As we prepare for the Second Half of the 2017 Southern League season, we thought it’d be timely (and fun) to look back on some of the highlights from the First Half. This is not a complete list – we encourage you to comment below on what moments you enjoyed, and you are more than welcome to Tweet at us (@JacksonGenerals) or email us (JacksonGeneralsBroadcast@gmail.com) with memories of your own.

*=Generals player voted into the 2017 Southern League Mid-Season All-Star Game


Reyes Makes The Hippos HappyReyes HR 480

Generals outfielder Victor Reyes made a difference in his second Double-A game, playing a key role in a 3-2 victory over the Barons. Reyes hit the Generals’ first home run of the year over the right field fence, a solo shot that proved to be the difference in the game. Birmingham put the tying run on base in the ninth inning, but Reyes and infielder Dawel Lugo combined for a fantastic game-ending relay to home plate that gunned down the runner as he tried to score on a single to deep right-center field. The win was the first for the Generals as their Friday night alter-ego, the Hub City Hippos.


Return of the Home Run KingKevin Cron

In the third game of the year, Generals first baseman Kevin Cron* blasted three home runs out of The Ballpark at Jackson, joining Steven Proscia, Carlos Peguero, and Charlton Jimerson as the only Generals players to accomplish that feat in the past decade. Cron’s first bomb, off highly touted right-hander Michael Kopech, came on a 98-mph fastball and ended up 450 feet over the fence in left-center. His third jack of the game tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, pushing the Generals and Birmingham Barons into their first extra-innings game of the year. Cron, the 2016 Southern League leader in home runs, led the league in dingers through May.


20-Run Fun

Stinging from an 8-7 extra-innings loss the night before, the Jackson offense unloaded on Birmingham in a 20-5 blowout on Sunday afternoon. Led by multiple homers from both Dawel Lugo and Stewart Ijames, Jackson did all of its scoring in the first seven innings, tallying 18 RBI and 22 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases. The Generals’ six home runs fell one bomb shy of the Southern League record. Jackson recorded their highest run total since August 7, 2009, when the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx took down Carolina, 20-9. The 22 hits from J.R. House’s squad is the highest hit total for a Generals team since May 10, 2006, a 25-hit effort in a 15-1 drubbing of Mississippi.


Dugan Downs The BiscuitsKR1A0464

Facing a 7-3 deficit with six outs to go, the Generals mounted an improbable comeback, scoring five runs in the last two innings for an 8-7 walk-off win. Generals outfielder Kelly Dugan started the four-run eighth inning with a sacrifice fly, and he finished the game with a two-out ninth-inning broken-bat double into the right field corner that scored catcher Michael Perez from first base.


Gabe, The New Babe

Batting for the second time as a minor leaguer, Generals left-handed pitcher Gabe Speier used his first swing as a professional to crank an opposite-field solo home run in Biloxi. The April 22nd dinger was the first by a Jackson pitcher since August 9, 2006, when reliever Bobby Brownlie homered in the 11th inning of a 7-3 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx victory over Jacksonville. Speier out-did Brownlie, too: both men got the win in their respctive games, but Speier threw 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, while Brownlie only notched 3.0 innings.


Westbrook’s Triple-DoubleJamie Westbrook 4

After starting in a 6-for-50 rut, Generals second baseman Jamie Westbrook erupted on April 24th with a slump-busting 4-for-5 night at Biloxi. Westbrook’s first two at-bats consisted of an RBI double to left and a two-run triple to center field, but he wasn’t finished. In the fifth inning, the Chandler, Ariz. native doubled to right, marking his first game with three or more hits on the season. In the sixth, Biloxi retired the first two batters before Rudy Flores* and Victor Reyes connected on consecutive doubles. Westbrook, batting next, doubled again to right, scoring Reyes. The double was Westbrook’s third of the night and the third in a row in that inning. Westbrook’s rebound from the slump was a week-long fast-break: he won Southern League Player of the Week honors on May 1st after a 13-for-27 week at the plate. He celebrated that afternoon by hitting his first homer of the season, taking Chattanooga’s Felix Jorge deep in a 12-pitch at-bat.


Keller Beats Mahle

Facing Pensacola ace right-hander Tyler Mahle, the Generals came up with an impressive 3-0 victory in front of a big Saturday night crowd. Mahle, less than one month removed from throwing a perfect game, allowed a solo home run to Rudy Flores* in seven innings of work. Jackson right-hander Brad Keller out-dueled him, holding the Blue Wahoos scoreless over six innings. Kevin Cron* and Dawel Lugo also added solo home runs in the eighth and ninth innings to put the victory on ice, handing Mahle his first defeat of the year.


Doubly GrandRudyFlores1

After an 11-6 victory the night before, the Generals offense ate up the Montgomery Biscuits in a 17-5 feast, garnering two grand slams in the process. Generals outfielder Kelly Dugan and designated hitter Rudy Flores* each hit home runs with the bases loaded, marking the first time a team had slammed twice in the same game since current Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick hit two grand slams by himself in an 11-2 Jacksonville victory at Pensacola on May 30, 2013.



20-K Comrades

Generals hurlers Taylor Clarke*, Joey Krehbiel*, and Gabriel Moya* combined to retire 20 Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on strikes in a 4-2 nine-inning comeback victory. Clarke set a career high with 12 punchouts, while Krehbiel added five, a season-high among Generals relievers at that point. The 20-K effort fell two strikeouts shy of the Southern League record (22), which was most recently tied by Jackson in a victory over Chattanooga on April 21st, 2014. Moya had the chance to tie the record, but the final two outs of the ninth inning were recorded via groundout and flyout. Jacksonville led 2-0 until the eighth inning, but the Generals rallied with five hits in the final two frames to overtake the Jumbo Shrimp.



Walking TallColin Walsh 3

Generals second baseman Colin Walsh* reached base safely in a team-best 22nd straight game, making his streak that began on May 10th one of the three longest tears in the Southern League at that time. Walsh went 18-for-63 with five extra base hits and a wondrous 31 walks. Walsh’s walk total (55 through June 2) led all players in the affiliated minor leagues and Major League Baseball. Walsh won the Southern League’s first Player of the Week honor in 2017 by hitting .371 over the first nine games of the year, recording two home runs and seven doubles in that span.



The Force Is Strong With Fans

Wearing Star Wars-themed jerseys adorned with movie character Admiral Ackbar, the Generals played a riveting series finale against the Mississippi Braves in front of a season-high 6,224 fans. The Generals dropped a 4-3 contest, but the crowd was treated to a rousing post-game fireworks show and lots of promotional segments that paid homage to the famous sci-fi film franchise.



Nine Shutout Innings (Of Relief)Joey Krehbiel pitching 2

In the longest game of the year to date, the Generals bested the Lookouts 4-2 with the help of nine scoreless innings from their bullpen. Right-hander Joel Payamps allowed just two runs in his five-inning start, but a five-man relief corps of Miller Diaz, Joey Krehbiel*, Jared Miller, Gabriel Moya*, and Yuhei Nakaushiro held Chattanooga scoreless thereafter. A sacrifice fly from Dawel Lugo and an RBI single by Kelly Dugan helped the Generals pull ahead in the top of the 14th inning. Nakaushiro got the final three outs just before midnight in a four-hour, 17-minute contest.