Category: Around the Pioneer League

O’Hearn wins Pioneer League MVP, makes All-Star team with four other Chukars



The 2014 Idaho Falls Chukars won’t repeat as Pioneer League champions, but their players sure made an impression on the league this summer.

The Chukars posted a league-high five players on the Pioneer League’s 2014 All-Star team, and also walked away with the summer’s top prize when first baseman/right fielder Ryan O’Hearn earned the Ralph Nelles Award given to the league’s MVP.

Third baseman Mike Hill, shortstop Corey Toups, outfielder Robert Pehl and right-handed pitcher Torey Deshazier joined O’Hearn on the All-Star team.

O’Hearn, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed slugger out of Sam Houston State, is the first I.F. player to win the Nelles Award since Clint Robinson in 2007.

He started his pro career with a 5-for-5 night in his debut and never stopped hitting. His .372 batting average entering Saturday’s game was second in the league, and he leads the league in hits (87), runs (58) and slugging percentage (.598) while also belting 12 home runs and driving in 50 runs. He’s currently second in the league in on-base percentage at .449.

“I want to thank God first of all, and my teammates and coaches,” O’Hearn said in a news release. “I’ve been so blessed to end up in an awesome organization in the Royals, and to start my career with the Chukars. I have nothing but great things to say about the fans and my time here. It’s an honor to get picked for this award, and it’s something I will always cherish.”

Toups, a teammate of O’Hearn’s at Sam Houston State, shook off a slow start and is hitting .330 with 46 walks and an on-base percentage of .452. He also has 20 doubles.

Hill showed a strong arm at third base and is also hitting .282 with three home runs, 30 RBIs and a league-high seven triples.

Pehl has been the team’s cleanup hitter for most of the summer, batting .339 with 41 RBIs.

Deshazier has been the Chukars best pitcher all summer, posting a 5-2 record and a league-low 2.85 ERA. He’s second in WHIP (1.23) and opponents batting average (.236) while adding 64 strikeouts.

Kyle Pollock was named honorable mention at catcher while Omar Ramirez was an honorable mention selection as Manager of the Year (won by Grand Junction’s Anthony Sanders).

Chukars eliminated from 2014 Pioneer League playoffs


Idaho Falls did its part to stay alive in the Pioneer League playoff chase Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Ogden Raptors didn’t play along.

Idaho Falls knocked 11 hits, stole five bases and got dominating relief pitching to beat Orem 5-1 in front of 2,698 fans at Melaleuca Field. But down in Ogden, Utah, the Raptors cruised to a 9-7 win over Grand Junction and eliminated the Chukars from the South Division second-half playoff face.

The Chukars played a complete game Saturday.

Brawlun Gomez led the offense, going 3 for 4 with a run scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. Corey Toups went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI and DonAndre Clark was 2 for 4 with a run scored and two stolen bases.

Eric Stout and Matthew Strahm shut the door over the final five innings. Stout earned the win, tossing three scoreless, hitless innings. Strahm followed with two scoreless innings.

The Chukars (35-36, 15-18) finish the regular season with five games against Ogden, the first three in Utah beginning today with the final two at Melaleuca Field beginning Wednesday.

Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game to debut in 2015



The best of the Pioneer League will take on the best of the Northwest League in an all-star game starting in 2015, the leagues announced Tuesday.

The first PBL-NWL All-Star game will be hosted by the Spokane Indians and will be played at Avista Stadium on Aug. 4, 2015.

“The Northwest League and Pioneer League are two prominent short-season leagues in Minor League Baseball,” Pat O’Connor, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball, said in a news release. “To combine the two and showcase the talented individuals from 14 Major League farm systems is a win for everyone, especially the fans.”

The release didn’t specify how the teams would be chosen.

The Pioneer League is made up of teams from Idaho Falls, Ogden (Utah), Orem (Utah), Grand Junction (Colo.), Missoula (Mont.), Billings (Mont.), Helena (Mont.) and Great Falls (Mont.).

The Northwest League has teams in Boise, Spokane, Everett (Wash.), Tri-City (Wash.), Eugene (Ore.), Hillsboro (Ore.) and Salem-Keizer (Ore.).

Around the Pioneer League notebook, July 14

Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game will feature 11 Pioneer League alums. In addition to former Chukars catcher Salvador Perez representing the Kansas City Royals, Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder (Ogden, 2002), Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy (Ogden, 2001) and Toronto first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (Billings, 2001) earned spots on the American League team.

The National League roster features Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (Missoula, 2009), Arizona pitcher Patrick Corbin (Orem, 2009), Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura (Orem, 2009), San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera (Casper, 2006), Cubs pitcher Travis Wood (Billings, 2005), Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (Missoula, 2003) and Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto (Billings, 2003).

Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League notebook, July 14″

Around the Pioneer League notebook, July 7

Missoula Osprey right-handed pitcher Felipe Perez produced a rare feat in the Pioneer League on Monday — a complete-game shutout. With strict pitch counts and schedules for relievers set by Major League clubs, starting pitchers rarely last past the seventh inning. And if they do, a shutout only adds to the feat in the highest-scoring league in minor league baseball. But the 19-year-old right-hander turned in a three-hit shutout of Helena on Monday, facing one batter over the minimum, retiring the final 14 batters in a row and never issuing a walk. Perez only needed 83 pitches (58 strikes) to complete the nine-inning game. He induced three double plays and didn’t allow a Helena runner to reach scoring position. Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League notebook, July 7″

Around the Pioneer League notebook, June 30

The Ogden Raptors are home to five players this year whose fathers played in the major leagues.

Right-handed pitcher Dillon Moyer is the son of Jamie Moyer, who played 25 years in the majors. Third baseman Alex Santana is the son of Rafael Santana, who played shortstop with the Cardinals, Mets and Indians in his seven-year career. Right-handed pitcher J.D. Underwood is the son of Tom Underwood, who pitched for six teams in his 11-year career. Second baseman Zach Babitt is the son of Shooty Babitt, who played 51 games with the Athletics in 1981. And second baseman Jesmuel Valentin is the son of Jose Valentin, who played 16 years as a shortstop until retiring in 2007. Jose Valentin also played with Leo Garcia, Ogden’s hitting coach this summer.

Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League notebook, June 30″

Around the Pioneer League notebook, June 23

Longtime Orem Owlz manager Tom Kotchman resigned from the Angels’ organization last fall after the Angels asked him to focus solely on scouting and step back from managing. Kotchman declined, resigning and then signing with the Boston Red Sox, who made him the manager of the their rookie-level club in the Gulf Coast League, the GCL Red Sox.

Kotchman, 58, has spent the past 23 years managing the Angels’ short-season clubs in Idaho, the Boise Hawks, and Utah, and has worked with the Angels for 29 years. He took over the Provo Angels in their first year in 2001 and moved with the club when it became the Orem Owlz in 2005.

Under Kotchman’s tutelage, Orem/Provo has posted a 532-378 (.585 winning percentage) record, has reached the Pioneer League playoffs every year until 2012 and won four Pioneer League titles. In 34 years as a minor league manager – he spent five combined years with Detroit and Boston, where he managed Roger Clemens – he owns a 1,704-1,435 career record (.543 winning percentage). Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League notebook, June 23″

Around the Pioneer League, July 22

Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton started a rehab assignment with the Grand Junction Rockies on Friday.

Helton, a five-time All-Star, went 2 for 2 with a walk in his three plate appearances and was in the lineup again Saturday. The 38-year-old has been on the disabled list since July 9 with a strained right hip, and he is eligible to come off the disabled list for the Major League Rockies on Wednesday.

Grand Junction drew 5,161 fans Friday, setting a record for the franchise in its first year.

The trip to Grand Junction marks Helton’s second appearance in the Pioneer League in the past three years. He played in three games with the Casper Ghosts in 2010, going 5 for 10 with one double. All three games sold out, a rarity in Casper. Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League, July 22″

Around the Pioneer League, July 15

Orem Owlz center fielder Joel Capote has set the league on fire since arriving July 3. In eight games, Orem’s leadoff hitter has a hit in every game but one — and multiple hits in every game but two — to rack up a .514 batting average. And he isn’t just doing it with slap singles. Of his 19 hits, four were doubles and four were triples. Capote is part of an influx of eight new players the Angels sent Orem after it started the season a franchise-worst 1-8. Since that 1-8 start, Orem has won 10 of its last 16 games entering Saturday.

Great Falls Voyagers OF Kyle Robinson is leading the league in hitting at .429 after hitting .204 in 51 games last season in the Appalachian League.

… The Helena Brewers’ first-year manager, Jeff Isom, was born in Pocatello. Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League, July 15″

Around the Pioneer League, July 8

Billings Mustangs first baseman Robert Maddox has a penchant for home runs on holidays. The slugging first baseman once jacked three home runs on Mother’s Day at Ohio University. He repeated the feat with three home runs Wednesday in a Fourth of July loss to the Helena Brewers. The three home run game was the Pioneer League’s first since Orem’s C.J. Cron on Aug. 2, 2011 at Ogden. Maddox is making his third trip around the Pioneer League and returns to Billings after hitting .282 and finishing second in the league with 16 home runs last year. But power has never been the issue with Maddox. Last year, and a few times early this year, opponents have implemented an infield shift on the left-handed Maddox, moving their shortstop to the right side of second base and daring the 23-year-old to hit the ball the other way.

… The Los Angeles Dodgers’ first-round pick Corey Seager (18th overall) made his professional debut for the Ogden Raptors on Friday. Continue reading “Around the Pioneer League, July 8″