Status Update on the Generals: 5/12/18 – Some Weeks, You Just Can’t Win

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“Skipper, this has been a pretty rough week. What can we do?” / “Same thing we do every night, Westy: Try to score more runs than the other guys.” (Photo Credit: Cody Cunningham)

Life can be a preposterously unfair thing. On April 24, you might wake up on top of the Minor League Baseball world, off to the best start in franchise history at 15-2. And yet, you could very well wake up 18 days later and find yourself scuffling through a six-game skid.

Yep, sounds like baseball. Streaks happen when you play every day.

As they arrive home to take on the Mississippi Braves on May 12, the Jackson Generals are mired in a 2-8 opening to the month of May, having fallen 2.5 games behind Chattanooga in the standings after being swept out of East Tennessee in a five-game set.

The biggest reason? Injuries. Five Generals position players–infielder Marty Herum, catchers Matt Jones and Alberto Rosario, and outfielders Jay Gonzalez and Ben DeLuzio–have landed on the disabled list since the Generals’ 15-2 start, and losing more than half of your starting lineup always stings.  Herum and Gonzalez have had the worst of the luck, as each one has already been placed on the DL twice in the 2018 campaign.

In their auspicious April, the Generals went 17-7, scored 5.6 runs per game, held a .793 OPS, kept opponents to a .218 batting average, and allowed 2.64 earned runs per game.

In their migraine-inducing May–which has featured just eight total at-bats from the five injured players–the Generals are 2-8, scoring 4.2 runs per game, holding a .711 OPS and allowing opponents to hit .289 against them while giving up 5.56 earned runs per game. If you’re defense-minded, Jackson’s may has upset you as well: they’ve made five errors in the past four games alone, costing themselves 4 runs in the process. (This, after a month of April in which they made 12 errors total.)

One thing that hasn’t come along as quickly as many hoped: the work of the Generals’ starting rotation. In their last 10 games, they have allowed 35 earned runs in 48 innings, an ERA of 6.56. Three of the starters–Jon Duplantier, Taylor Widener, and Alex Young–are ranked in MLBPipeline.com’s Top 30 Arizona Diamondbacks prospects. It’s still early in the year, and Widener and Duplantier are pitching their first full seasons at this level.  Young looks a bit more comfortable, having won four times and thrown the most innings of anybody in the rotation thus far. But nobody will argue that a 6.56 ERA will do the Generals no favors, especially when hamstrung by a banged-up lineup.

Here are the Generals’ best performers in their ten May games (30+ AB or 5.0 IP):

*INF Kevin Medrano –  .941 OPS, 16 H, 4 D, 6 RBI, 2 BB

*INF Juniel Querecuto – .900 OPS, 13 H, 5 D, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 2 SB

*UTL Jose Vinicio – .707 OPS, 12 H, 3 D, 1 T, 3 RBI

*LF Jamie Westbrook –   .882 OPS, 11 H, 6 D, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB

*LHP Kirby Bellow – 0.00 ERA, 5.0 IP, 7 K, 1.00 WHIP, .111 BAA

*RHP Joel Payamps – 3.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 2 K, 1.00 WHIP, .227 AVG

Last time this squad played Mississippi (in late April), they dropped a 3-2 series, but Querecuto–the active Southern League Leader in batting average, currently at .382–went 9-for-20 against M-Braves pitching. On the hill against Mississippi, Duplantier was one of five Generals pitchers to work 2.0+ innings and not allow an earned run, joined in that category by lefty Gabe Speier and right-handers Yoan Lopez, Mason McCullough, and Joel Payamps.

The M-Braves have six of MLBPipeline.com’s Top 30 Atlanta Braves prospects on their team, including starting pitchers Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, and Bryse Wilson. They also feature former Mariners prospect Alex Jackson behind the plate, joined by left fielder Travis Demeritte and bullpen arm Josh Graham. Mississippi is managed by Chris Maloney, and the former St. Louis Cardinals third base coach has them off to a 15-20 start (4-6 in May).

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE JACKSON GENERALS, you can:

-Log on to JacksonGeneralsBaseball.com

-Call 731.988.5299

-Check out our SoundCloud archive with manager Shelley Duncan – SoundCloud.com/JacksonGenerals

-Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: “at”JacksonGenerals or Facebook.com/JacksonGenerals

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Status Update on the Generals: 5/1/2018

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Generals right-hander Jon Duplantier, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ No. 1 prospect, has won his first two starts at Double-A, striking out 14 batters in 10.0 innings. (Photo Credit: John Sewell)

It’s official: If you’re a Generals fan–and by reading this, you are, whether you know it or not–you’ve never seen a start to the season quite like the Generals had in 2018. First year manager Shelley Duncan guided the club to a Minor League Baseball-best 15-2 mark in their first 17 games, helped by an impressive nine-game winning streak. Jackson had the nation’s top team!

How does a squad with no position players ranked in Arizona’s top 30 prospects shoot to the top of Minor League Baseball?

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Status Update on the Generals: 4/13/18

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Right-hander Taylor Widener struck out eight batters in his five-inning start vs. Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Danny Parker – @TheDannyParker on Twitter/Instagram)

The 2018 Jackson Generals are off to a hot start, beginning their first campaign under manager Shelley Duncan with a 6-1 record. In their opening series against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the Generals tore the cover off the ball offensively in their first two contests, scoring a total of 21 runs across 32 hits in a pair of wins. Over the three contests that followed, Jackson went 2-1 despite scoring only six runs. The West Tennessee bunch pulled off back-to-back walk-off wins against the Jumbo Shrimp to improve to 4-1, helped by 14 consecutive scoreless innings from their bullpen over the last four games of the series. Continue reading

2,414 vs. 1: Ryan Atkinson’s stunning rise to 2018 Spring Training

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The 2016 MLB Draft spurred Ryan Atkinson to prove he could still pitch. Nineteen months later, he has a 2018 MLB Spring Training invitation in hand. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Two years ago, Ryan Atkinson wasn’t pitching. He was a patient services manager at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, moving on with post-mound life. Nineteen months later, the right-hander is trying to pull off an improbably fast rocket ride to the Major Leagues. As a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training, he has a shot to make the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2018 Opening Day roster.

Go back to the 2015 MLB Draft. 632 pitchers and 579 position players were selected, but of those 1,211 picks, only 11 have already made their Major League debuts. Baseball fans know some of those names: Andrew Benintendi, Alex Bregman, Paul de Jong, Dansby Swanson, and Ian Happ all came from the 2015 draft. There’s even a former General, 2016 Jackson hurler Andrew Moore, in that elite eleven.  To ascend quickly, you have to be special, and people usually know it. Those six were chosen in the top four rounds.

Ryan Atkinson, a 2015 graduate of the University of Cincinnati, was not among the 1,211 draftees in 2015. Nor was he one of the 1,214 draft choices in June 2016 (634 of whom were pitchers). He hadn’t thrown a baseball in the twelve months prior to the 2016 draft.

Atkinson signed with Arizona–undrafted in eighty rounds over two years–in 2016. He ranked 13th in Minor League Baseball in strikeouts in 2017.

How does that happen?

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

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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?

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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.

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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

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

SOUTHERN LEAGUE BESTS

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)

AWARDS

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).

ROSTER

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

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

INDIVIDUAL NUMBERS

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

TEAM NUMBERS

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]