Category: Roster moves

Chukars’ notebook: Chukars, Royals looking for speed

Chukars’ Angel Medina rounds third on his way to home after a hit by Nathan Eaton in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, speed wins. Or, it certainly helps win.

Ask Al Davis (I mean, if you can talk to the dead).

Ask Usain Bolt or any sprinter. Ask any dude who’s ever tried to tackle running backs Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson.

Heck, even ask the Kansas City Royals — who, despite being amidst a rebuild, are looking for speed, Chukars field manager Omar Ramirez said.

“That is the Kansas City Royal’s identity. Run, run, run, run, run,” Ramirez said July 4. “I like to run (the bases, put pressure on defenses). That’s the Royals’ identity. And personally, I’m that type of manager.”

The Chukars certainly embody that “speed-first” idea from the Royals’ higher management.

Idaho Falls leads the Pioneer League in stolen bases this summer with 69. The second-most? Grand Junction at …. 52.

With speedster Tyler James — who overwhelmingly leads the league in stolen bases with 26 — and Offerman Collado batting second, the Chukars are trying to put as much speed as possible on the bags. Even Nate Eaton, who bats third, has 10 stolen bases, tied for the fourth-most in the league.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

On paper, it’s worked. The Chukars host one of the most prominent offenses in the Pioneer League — scoring the second most runs (295) with a league-leading on-base percentage of .390. Simply put, the Chukars get on base often (they’re first in hits with 452; hit the most doubles and triples; walk the second-most out of any team), steal, and can play relatively smart small ball.

“That is my game: get on base anyway I can whether it’s a walk, hit, error, bunt. And just try to score runs,” James said previously. “Try to get in scoring position for the guys that knock me in.”

While in the big leagues, the correlation with speed and winning has yet to field results for the Royals — at least not yet. The Royals are tied for 12th in stolen bases (49) — Whit Merrifield is tied for fourth with 22 stolen bases — and have nine of the fastest 150 players in the MLB, per the MLB’s Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard metrics.

They’re at the bottom of the AL Central with a 32-71 record.

Standings (as of Saturday morning and in order by second half records)

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 19-21, 2-0

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 16-23, 1-0

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 19-20, 0-1

* Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 22-18, 0-2

Pioneer League South

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 22-19, 2-1

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 22-18, 1-1

Orem Owlz (LAA) 13-27, 1-1

* Ogden Raptors (LAD) 27-14, 1-2

* – Denotes first-half division winner

Increasing stock

Catcher Chase Vallot.

On rehab assignment, Vallot joined the Chukars in mid-July and brought a heavy bat late in the Chukars’ lineup. After batting an abysmal .101 in Wilmington, he’s now batting .263 for the Chukars including a 3 for 5 night Friday against Orem. He had three RBIs and a home run in the sixth inning. He also hit two doubles.

Decreasing stock

Third baseman Angel Medina.

While batting .246/.281/.361 for the Chukars in 14 games, Medina committed three errors during Friday’s loss (two fielding, one throwing). His nine errors is second-most on the team (shortstop Offerman Collado has 11) but Medina has committed more in a half the amount of games (Medina’s played 14 games; Collado’s played 28).

Recent transactions (from July 21 to July 28)

– None, though Kansas City Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas was recently traded from Kansas City to the Milwaukee Brewers for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. Moustakas played for the Chukars in 2007 and was a pivotal piece for the Royals’ World Series team in 2015.

First half MVPs

Nate Eaton, Reed Rohlman and JC Cloney.

While names like Manny Olloque, Carlos Diaz and Kyle Isbel provided more offensive firepower in a shorter span, and eventually moved up in the Royals’ farming system, Eaton and Rohlman have been the most statistically consistent offensive batters for the Chukars.

Eaton — who’s played a variety of infield positions — has batted .355 and knocked in 24 RBIs (second most), two home runs (tied for third), eight triples (first) and 10 doubles (third) in 124 at-bats. He’s also shown promise fielding, showcasing solid arm strength.

Rohlman, who exclusively plays first base, has batted .348 from mostly the cleanup spot. He leads the team in hits (48), RBIs (38) and home runs (4), displaying solid power and contact at the plate. He’s done it all in 138 at-bats.

Finally, Cloney. The southpaw ace selected out of Arizona in the ninth round of last year’s draft has been the Chukars’ most consistent arm. He’s a perfect 7-0 on the season, allowing 40 hits in 43.1 innings pitched. His 2.28 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 1.06 WHIP are some of the team’s best.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is on the road until Thursday, playing two games in Ogden and three games in Orem. The Chukars return home Thursday for a crucial four-game homestand with Grand Junction, which may have some Pioneer League playoff implications down the line.

Chukars’ notebook: Olloque, fast start for Chukars

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

You better get to Melalueca Field quick: some of the Chukars’ best are moving up rather quickly.

After Manny Olloque blasted two home runs against Ogden, he was recently bumped up to Lexington.

At Chukars media day earlier in the month, he mentioned the difficulty of moving up and down and around the country for minor league ball.

“You definitely have to have to have faith that’s for sure,” Olloque said on June 13. “You just gotta trust the process and can’t look to far ahead of that. Just play everyday and try not to worry too much about the other little things. … I got caught up with it this year, you know, but I’ve been staying strong with it and just having fun.”

Despite playing in triple-A Omaha for nine games earlier in the year, Olloque came back down to the rookie-A level, bring some experience and early season offense to Melaleuca Field. Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said Olloque wasn’t going to be held up in triple-A for too long — he was called up as an emergency call, per Ramirez — but it was clear from Chukars’ opening day that Olloque wouldn’t be in Idaho Falls for too long either.

He batted .474 in 19 at-bats, knocking in nine RBIs, two home runs, a triple and two doubles. One of his two home runs was a grand slam.

Chukars’ J.C. Cloney pitches in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

“I’ve learned to humble myself,” Olloque said. “I know this game isn’t going to last forever, and I know there’s more to (life) than baseball. Just having a closer relationship with God lets me stuff in different perspective. Just try to be not too high, not too low, just even keel.”

“Manny is a good hitter,” said Ramirez after the Chukars’ opening day win. “Manny has always been a good hitter and he’s going to be a good help for the team.”

Even with Olloque gone, though, the Chukars still have a plethora of solid contact hitters. They’re batting .332 through eight games — the highest in the Pioneer League — as of June 23.

Kansas City Royals’ third-round pick Kyle Isbel has been sharp his first few games with the rookie-A affiliate. He’s batting .500. Offerman Collado, Julio Gonzalez, Nick Hutchins and Andres Martin should be steady hands at the plate this summer.

Collado and Gonzalez, in their second stints in Idaho Falls, are batting .368 and .364, respectively. Hutchins has batted .321 in a team-high 28 at-bats. He is tied for first in doubles (3) alongside Isbel and first baseman Reed Rohlman.

While only suiting up for three games thus far, Martin’s small sample size is promising. He’s gone 5 for 11 and knocked in two RBIs. He’s truck out once and walked once.

In terms of pitching, the Chukars’ have vastly improved from a year ago. A year ago, the Chukars were one of the worst — if not, the worst — pitching club in the Pioneer League. Now, they’re among the top.

Of course, minor league teams change rapidly and it’s early in the season, but the Chukars currently rank one of the better rotations and bullpens in the league.

The team’s ERA is 4.43 (second-best in the Pioneer) with their WHIP at 1.35 (tied for second best).

JC Cloney (2-0) is molding into a reliable ace, giving up just 10 hits and three earned runs in 13 innings pitched. He’s struck out 16 and has a WHIP of 0.77. Domingo Pena (1-0) looked sharp in his one appearance thus far. He holds a 1.80 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP.

Again, it’s early. But the Chukars have solid pieces to be excited about if you follow the Royals’ farming system.

“I think it will be a strong group of pitchers and I think that they’re going to be learning just like everybody else will be learning,” Chukars’ pitching coach Jeff Suppan said prior to the season starting.

Standings

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 4-2

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 3-2

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 3-4

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 2-4

Pioneer League South

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 6-2

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 4-4

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 3-5

Orem Owlz (LAA) 3-5

Increasing stock

Kyle Isbel. Since joining the Chukars on June 18, Isbel has proved to be a reliable at-bat for Idaho Falls. In the past five games, the third-round pick has batted 10 for 20 (.500) with seven RBIs, three doubles and seven runs. He’s struck oout twice.

Decreasing stock

Jose Caraballo. Since June 15, Caraballo went 6 for 27 (.222) at the plate including a four-game stretch where the 21-year-old went 0 for 14. His slump could be ending shortly, though, as he’s registered back-t0-back two-hit games at Grand Junction.

Recent transactions (from June 18 to June 23)

– Right-handed pitcher Joe Ramirez assigned to Idaho Falls from DSL Royals2.

– Left-handed pitcher Marcelo Martinez assigned to Idaho Falls from DSL Royals2.

– Catcher Jesus Atencio assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington Royals.

– Catcher Nathan Easton assigned to Idaho Falls.

– Right-handed pitcher Dillon Drabble assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington Royals.

– Shortstop Kyle Krasser assigned to Idaho Falls.

– Right-handed pitcher Jon Heasley assigned to Idaho Fals.

– Right-handed pitcher Tyler Gray assigned to Idaho Falls

– Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Bowlan assistned to Idaho Falls Chukars.

– Centerfielder Isaiah Smith assigned to Idaho Falls from AZL Royals.

Upcoming

The Chukars play at Orem until Monday before hosting Grand Junction for a four-game homestand starting Tuesday. First pitch is 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field.

Raptors blast Chukars, 18-1

Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
For Ogden, Thursday night at Melaleuca Field looked similar to Wednesday.
After scoring 17 runs the night before, the Raptors hit three home runs and led the Chukars 11-0 by the top of the fourth. They would go on to register 18 runs on 17 hits to beat the Chukars 18-1 Thursday at Melaleuca.

Chukars infielder Offerman Collado (1) makes it to first base during a game against the Ogden Raptors on Thursday night at Melaluca Field.

The Chukars fall to 8-10 while the Raptors moved to 10-8. Ogden has outscored Idaho Falls 35-4 the past two games.
Ogden’s offense was hot early and often. The Raptors scored a run in every inning until the seventh inning stretch Thursday.
For Idaho Falls, Thursday was a continuation of one of its early struggles this season: pitching.
After allowing 11 runs on nine hits in five innings, newly acquired lefty Robert Gracia finally put a stop to the Raptors’ streaky offense. He finished with five runs (three earned) on five hits while striking out five batters.
Jake Wakamatsu — usually a position player — finished on the mound for Idaho Falls. He allowed two runs (one of which was earned) on four hits and struck out one batter in 1.1 innings pitched. It was his first time pitching.
Offerman Collado scored the Chukars’ first (and only) run of the game with an RBI-single, scoring Cristhian Vasquez in the fifth frame. The frame ended with a Raptors 6-4-3 double-play while bases were loaded.
Idaho Falls ended the night with eight hits and five errors. Collado led all Chukars by going 2 for 3 at the plate.
Luis Paz hit a 439-foot, 3-run home run before some fans even got to their seats Thursday. From there, the Raptors scored 10 runs from innings two through six. Moises Perez went 4 for 6 with three runs and RBIs, respectively. Nick Yarnall went 2 for 6 and four RBIs. Paz finished 2 for 4 for three RBIs.

What’s important:

A day after surrendering 17 runs, the Chukars surrendered 18 in their fourth loss in five games.

Player (s) of the game:

Offerman Collado. A day after scoring an RBI, Collado got his second RBI in two days. He scored Cristhian Vasquez in the bottom of the fifth.

Notables:

Attendance was announced as 2,217.
Vance Vizcaino has now tallied a hit in seven-straight games. Robby Rinn has tallied a hit in six-straight games.
Back-to-back Chukars were hit by an Adalberto Pena pitches during the bottom of the fourth. Vizcaino was hit in right leg on a pitch. Tyler Straub was hit in the shoulder the very next pitch.

Chukars infielder Jonathan McCray unsucessfuly slides to first during a game against the Ogden Raptors on Thursday night at Melaluca Field.

Three former Chukars are in this year’s MLB All-Star Game: Salvador Perez (2009), Mike Moustakas (11 games in 2007) and Greg Holland (2007).
During the first inning, Offerman Collado accidentally broke third base after sliding into it. The Chukars’ groundkeeper fixed it after a few minutes.
A rabbit was occassionally seen hopping around right field late Thursday night.
After one inning, Ogden’s catcher Garrett Hope tripped and fell on his way back to the Raptors’ bullpen. He was called “safe!” and swung his arms out like an umpire while on the ground.

Upnext:

The Chukars will finish out a four-game home stand against Ogden at Melaleuca Field Friday. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.

Chukars best Rockies behind late surge

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Idaho Falls was in a slump. And it seemed its offense had collapsed after a home stand which included four losses in six games.
But then, the Chukars (5-5) woke up in the bottom of the sixth against the Rockies (3-7) Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.

Wakamatsu

Idaho Falls scored six unanswered runs during the sixth and seventh frames to beat Grand Junction 6-4. The win halts a two-game slide and was (partial) revenge for Grand Junction’s five home runs the night before.
Jake Wakamatsu lead the Chukars by going 2-for-3 at the plate Wednesday. And it was Wakamatsu — the son of Royals’ bench coach, Ron — and Logan Gray who ignited the Chukars in the bottom of the sixth.


Gray’s double to right field set up Wakamatsu’s second single. The duo started a hit parade.
After Wakamatsu singled, Offerman Collado (Idaho Falls’ leadoff hitter) got a hit. Then Christhian Vasquez got a hit. Then Amalani Fukofuka got a hit. All three that followed Wakamatsu’s lead notched RBIs and helped Idaho Falls overcome a four-run deficit.
“We had a couple tough games the past couple games, so it feels nice to get a win before the road trip,” said Wakamatsu, referencing the Chukars’ five-game road trip starting tonight and ending Monday.
Before Wakamatsu, though, the Chukars fell into a 4-0 hole after four errors and a Geoffrey Bramblett wild pitch scored a Rockies runner. Todd Czinege was a perfect 4-for-4 and had one RBI for Grand Junction.
The Chukars’ first hit came from Wakamatsu in the third inning with a pop-up shot behind second base. He was left on base.
But Wakamatsu and Gray revived the Chukars right when they needed it. After being outscored 23-7 in the previous two losses, Idaho Falls finishes its first home stand of the season 2-4 and a win at home.
“That was a big win for us right there,” said Chukars manager Justin Gemoll, praising Christopher Marte (1-0) closing Wednesday’s game.

What’s important:

After a bleak start Wednesday, Idaho Falls climbed back from a 4-0 Grand Junction deficit to win 6-4 and end its six-game home stand 2-4.

Player (s) of the game:

Jake Wakamatsu and Offerman Collado. Collado had two RBIs on 1-for-3 hitting. Wakamatsu, who will probably see more at-bats with Jonathan McCray being sent up to triple-A, was 2-for-3 at the plate Wednesday.

Quote of the game:

“We had a couple tough games the past couple games, so it feels nice to get a win before the road trip.” – Jake Wakamatsu

Notables:

Wednesday was the fastest game this season at two hours and 33 minutes.
The Chukars wore white jerseys with purple stripes Wednesday at Melaleuca Field to support “cancer awareness”. It was the first time they wore them this season.


Jonathan McCray was called up to the Omaha Storm Chasers before Wednesday’s game. McCray was one of the Chukars’ best hitters during his eight games. He batted a .361 and registered 13 hits.
Idaho Falls did add catcher Chris Hudgins, the Royals’ 16th round pick this season. Hudgins is the third catcher on the Chukars.

Upnext:

Idaho Falls ends its six-game home stand by traveling to Orem. First pitch is 7:05 p.m. The Owlz beat the Chukars twice earlier this season (10-6 on June 23; 9-3 on June 24).

Rockies blast Chukars, 14-3

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Ugly baseball happened at Melaleuca Field Tuesday night. Specifically, the Chukars seventh inning against the Rockies.
Grand Junction blasted Idaho Falls, 14-3, after scoring 11 runs in four frames. Five of them came during the seventh inning.

Chukars outfielder Amalani Fukofuka (8) runs to steal second base during a games against the Grand Junction Rockies at Melaluca Field on Tuesday night.

After an initial slow start, Grand Junction scored five runs — taking advantage of the Chukars’ four errors — to suck the energy out of Melaleuca Field by the seventh inning stretch.
The Chukars answered with a run by the bottom of the inning, but by that point, the outcome was clear. The Chukars drop to 4-6 on the season. Grand Junction advance to 3-6. Grand Junction has outscored Idaho Falls 23-6 during the previous two games.
Idaho Falls’ bullpen struggled: 18 hits allowed, wild pitches throughout, four errors. All four pitchers (Andres Sotillet, Garrettson Harris, Michael Silva, Jose De Leon) surrendered two or more earned runs.
The beginning of the end began when Grand Junction’s Nate Coronado came to the plate a top of the fourth inning. He crushed an Sotillet pitch out of Melaleuca Field for a 468-feet, 2-run home run.
The blast gave Grand Junction a three-run lead.
The Rockies would add two runs an inning later, one coming off a gorgeous Amalani Fukofuka diving catch in right field.
Then Grand Junction added a run in the sixth. Then the five-run seventh inning.
Despite some pretty fielding plays by the Chukars, the Rockies simply hit their way to victory Tuesday night. The Rockies’ 18 hits were the second-most this season (the most is 23; also came against the Chukars).
Unlike previous games in their six-game home stand, Tuesday night started off slow offensively.
The Chukars took a 1-0 lead in the first frame after Jonathan McCray hit an RBI to score Fukofuka. McCray’s RBI is his sixth this season.
The Rockies would answer the next inning after Chukars’ pitcher Andres Sotillet threw a wild pitch, allowing Chad Spanberger to jog home.
Spanberger’s jog was foreshadow of what happened later Tuesday. Tuesday’s win was just too easy for the Rockies.

What’s important:

After surrendering five home runs the night before, Idaho Falls was flat against Grand Junction Tuesday. The Rockies outscored the Chukars 11-1 from frames four through seven. The Chukars only scored three runs off five Rockies’ errors.

Player (s) of the game:

Darrell Miller Jr. had an valiant effort. He went 2-for-5 and had two RBIs.

Schedule woes

The Chukars are in trouble: they have 12 pitchers to finish out the next 13 games. Idaho Falls starts the season with 22-straight games, and from Tuesday’s poor pitching performance, pitcher fatigue may be something to look out for in the near future.

Notables:

Grand Junction’s Nate Coronado hit a 468-foot home run over Melaleuca’s center wall in the fourth inning. Per MiLB, Melaleuca field’s center wall is 400 feet.

Rockies third baseman, Jeff Bohling, was injured in the top of the fifth after a line drive to left field hit his face. He left the game after being evaluated by trainers.

Right handed pitcher Emmanuel Estevez transferred to the Arizona Royals before Tuesday’s game. His departure leaves Idaho Falls with only 12 pitchers.

During their first four home games this season, the Chukars had surrendered a run in the top of the first inning. That streak ended Tuesday against Grand Junction thanks to a 6-4-3 double-play to end the top of the first.

The attendance was announced as 2,661 Tuesday.

Upnext:

The Chukars finish off a six-game homestand against Grand Junction Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m. Gates at Melaleuca open at 6 p.m.

Royals draft 41 players, Chukars season starts Saturday

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
Thanks to the MLB Draft, the Chukars may soon receive some solid players from around the country.

(FILE) Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Royals had 41 picks during this week’s 2017 MLB Draft. Highlighting the picks were first basemen Nick Pratto, catcher MJ Melendez and left-handed pitchers Evan Steele and Daniel Tillo during the first three rounds.
The Chukars, a Single-A affiliate of the Royals based in Idaho Falls, could have the chance to groom some of these players this summer (however, none of the Royals 2016 draft picks started the season with the Chukars last year, according to a previous Post Register report). Since 2012, the Royals have usually sent 11 drafted players to the Chukars, according to a previous Post Register report.
Chukars’ media relations member Logan Ratick said the team will officially announce the roster Thursday at 10 a.m. But some of the Royals’ 41 selections may wear a Chukars’ uniform throughout their 76-game regular season.
The Chukars’ season begins Saturday with an exhibition game against the Idaho Falls Bandits’, an American Legion team. The game begins at 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls begins the regular season Monday at Grand Junction.
Here is some insight on the Royals’ draft selections:

First baseman Nick Pratto, selected 14th overall — Ranked the 13th-best player in this year’s MLB Draft, Pratto is worth around $3.7 million, according to MLB.com draft tracker. Pratto is a 6-foot-1, 195 pound lefty from Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School who batted a .318 and hit seven home runs during his senior season at Huntington. He also hit a walk-off home run to win the 2011 Little League World Series against Japan, per the Kansas City Star.
He is considered by many to be one of the best hitters in this year’s draft and is a University of South Carolina commit.

Catcher MJ Melendez, selected 52nd overall — A 6-foot-1, 175 pound catcher from Westminster Christian (Fla.) High School, Melendez is an “all-around” backstop, according to MLB.com’s draft tracker. The website also lauded Melendez’s athleticism and power. He was ranked 72-best in the draft by the website and was the second high school player selected by the Royals.

Left-handed pitcher Evan Steele, selected 73rd overall — A JUCO product courtesy of Chipola College (Fla.), Steele won the 2017 JUCO World Series and caught the Royal’s attention after going 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 40 1/3 innings this season. According to MLB.com, Steele struck out 58 opposing batters while holding them to a .208 batting average.

Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg told Kansas City MLB.com: “To get a big, 6-foot-6 left-hander who throws strikes, who can command his breaking ball, we thought it was a really good day.”

Left-handed pitcher Daniel Tillo, selected 90th overall — From Sioux City, started his career at Kentucky before transferring to Iowa Western and recorded a 2.86 ERA in nine games, according to the Des Moines Register. Tillo has a fastball clocked in around 95 mph, according to MLB.com. He was previously selected by the Minnesota Twins in 2015 (39th round, 1160th pick).

Center fielder Michael Gigliotti, selected 120th overall — A lefty from Lipscomb University, Gigliotti could be a solid professional leadoff hitter. He batted a .310 in the Cape Cod League and recorded a .451 on-base percentage as a junior at Lipscomb, according to CBS Sports. In 2016, he made 49 starts in the outfield and recorded a .301 batting percentage for Lipscomb.

Others selected:

5th round, 150th pick: Charlie Neuweiler/RHP/McClancy HS (Elmhusrt, NY)
6th round, 180th pick: Tyler Zuber/RHP/Arkansas State University
7th round, 210th pick: Brewer Hicklen/OF/University of Alabama-Birmingham
8th round, 240th pick: Holden Capps/LHP/Central Oklahoma
9th round, 270th pick: J.C. Cloney/LHP/Arizona
10th round, 300th pick: Jordan Floyd/LHP/Kansas State
11th round, 330th pick: Sal Biasi/RHP/Penn State
12th round, 360th pick: Collin Snider/RHP/Vanderbilt
13th round, 390th: Cason Sherrod/RHP/Texas A&M
14th round, 420th pick: Isaiah Henry/RHP/North Shore HS
15th round, 450th pick: Robert Garcia/LHP/California-Davis
16th round, 480th pick: Christopher Hudgins/C/Cal State Fullerton
17th round, 510th pick: Julio Gonzalez/SS/ Florida Gulf Coast
18th round, 540th pick: Marlin Willis/LHP/McEachern HS
19th round, 570th pick: Korry Howell/SS/Kirkwood CC
20th round, 600th pick: Bryar Johnson/RHP/Carolina Forest HS
21st round, 630th pick: Isaiah Smith/OF/Battle Ground HS
22nd round, 660th pick: Josh Mitchell/LHP/University of Pittsburgh
23rd round, 690th pick: Matt Morales/SS/Palm Beach CC
24th round, 720th pick: Connor Mayes/RHP/Texas
25th round, 750th pick: Tyler James/CF/William Carey
26th round, 780th pick: Garrett Suchey/RHP/Alabama
27th round, 810th pick: Nick Hutchins/C/Southern Illinois Carbondale
28th round, 840th pick: Taylor Fischer/RHP/Langham Creek HS
29th round, 870th pick: Travis Jones/UTL/Texas
30th round, 900th pick: Adam Brainbridge/LHP/Old Dominon
31st round, 930th pick: Justin Vought/C/Wyoming Valley West HS
32nd round, 960th pick: Andrew Beckwith/RHP/Coastal Carolina
33rd round, 990th pick: Damon Olds/RHP/Indiana State
34th round, 1,020th pick: Jackson Klein/RHP/Stanford
35th round, 1,050th pick: Reed Rohlman/OF/Clemson
36th round, 1,080th pick: Brady Cox/C/Texas-Arlington
37th round, 1,110th pick: Trvor Hauver/SS/ Perry HS
38th round, 1,140th pick: Montae Bradshaw/CF/Patrick Henry CC
39th round, 1,170th pick: Justin Mitchell/C/Platte Country R-3 HS
40th round, 1,200th pick: Yaniel Ramos/SS/Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy

Chukars crumble in an 11-5 loss to Orem

Idaho Falls Chukars bat boy Derik Johnson congratulates Joe Dudek after Dudek’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Orem Owlz Saturday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars bat boy Derik Johnson congratulates Joe Dudek after Dudek’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Orem Owlz Saturday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

The Idaho Falls Chukars went 7-12 on the road in the first half, yet they almost won the Pioneer League South Division title. league-best 15-4 home record kept them in the hunt.

The road struggles have worsened in the second half (3-10), and I.F. has plummeted down to average at home.

I.F. fell to the Orem Owlz 11-5 on Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars are now 7-6 at home in the second half, and the division crown continues to stiff-arm them. They’re dwelling at the bottom of the South standings, five games back of the Ogden Raptors. Twelve games remain.

So close, yet so far

Saturday’s game went back-and-forth for eight innings. Even the Owlz’ three-run rally top of the seventh, which gave them 6-2 lead, was answered. The Chukars scored twice in the bottom half.

Orem’s lead was cut to one when Luke Willis hit a one-out RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth. But Rudy Martin and Nick Heath each struck out, providing omens for the next inning.

Cole Way came in to pitch the top of the ninth, and he lasted a long time in terms of minutes, not outs. Way faced eight batters and recorded one out. He allowed four hits and walked three, leading to five runs (all earned) and an 11-5 for Orem.

“We’ve been fighting,” Chukars first baseman Joe Dudek said. “We just seem to have that one inning that kinda kills us.”

It was a rough night for the entire Chukars bullpen. Starter Igol Feliz allowed three runs (one earned) in six innings. The righty was replaced by lefty Christian Flecha, who allowed three runs (two earned) in the first of his two innings. Overall, the relievers allowed seven hits and four walks while striking out two.

Dudek thrives as I.F. dives

I.F.’s subpar second half has coincided with a Joe Dudek hot streak.

Dudek went 0 for 3 on Aug. 13 against Great Falls, dropping his batting average to .207 and his OPS to .672. The first baseman has gone 16 for 36 (.444) since, including a 1 for 2 showing on Saturday in which he drew three walks and hit two-run home run.

His batting average is now .319, and his OPS is around 1.000.

“I feel comfortable in the box. That’s really all there is,” Dudek said. “Seeing pitches pretty well, putting good swings on it and good things have happened.”

Player of the game

Owlz left fielder Zach Gibbons

Orem first baseman Nick Flair and Jose Rojas each produced three hits, but Gibbons reached base more times. Gibbons went 2 for 3 with two walks, and he stole two bases.

Edwards gets promoted

Chukars infielder David Edwards was promoted to Single-A Lexington on Saturday. The Kansas City Royals did not send player to the Chukars as of Saturday night.

Edwards appeared in 51 games for the Chukars, and he was positioned all over the field. The 23-year-old played 22 games at first base, 16 at second and six at third, according to Baseball-Reference (he was I.F.’s designated hitter in his other seven games).

Edwards hit .284 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage in 218 plate appearances. His eight home runs lead the Chukars, as well.

Up next

The Chukars (32-31 overall, 10-16 second half) welcome the Ogden Raptors (32-32, 15-11) for a crucial four-game series starting Sunday. I.F.’s Andres Machado (4.17 ERA) takes on fellow righty William Soto (5.31). First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Chukars start second half with 7-6 comeback win over Grand Junction

Idaho Falls' Angelo Castellano tags second base and makes the throw to first in time for a double-play during Thursday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Angelo Castellano tags second base and makes the throw to first in time for a double-play during Thursday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars came agonizingly close to earning a Pioneer League South first-half title Wednesday. Now, they’ll have to outlast Ogden and Grand Junction for 38 more games to make it back to the playoffs.

I.F. took one step toward that prize Thursday with a 7-6 win over Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars erased another late three-run deficit, similar to Wednesday’s game at Missoula but in reverse of the crushing one-run loss.

Comeback trail

The Chukars went up 3-0 after the second inning, but that three-run lead slowly turned into a three-run deficit. After three strong innings, I.F. starting pitcher Matt Portland struggled to find the strike zone. He threw 37 balls against 40 strikes, walked five batters and allowed five earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched.

But the Chukars don’t stay silent with the bats at home games. In their first 19 contests at Melaleuca Field, their lowest offensive output was four runs. They scored fewer than six runs in only four home games, as well. The Chukars kept that category stagnant again Thursday.

I.F. hit three singles and drew a walk in the sixth inning, but the Rockies did just as much to blow the lead. First baseman Hunter Melton made a throwing error, and pitcher Lorenz Ozuna threw two wild pitches that each led to runs. The second tied the game.

Another error placed Chukars on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Jordan Ebert took advantage, driving in Luke Willis with a single to put I.F. up 7-6.

Grand Junction got a runner to third in the top of the ninth against Nick Andros, but the left-hander got a flyout to centerfield to end it.

One-run discrepancy

In the first half, the Chukars went a measly 5-11 in games decided by one run. But the bulk of that losing came on the road. They went 1-9 in one-run games away from Melaleuca Field.

It’s hard to chalk up those struggles to anything but bad luck, mostly because one-run game performance is so random (at least for MLB teams). The Chukars also improved to 5-2 in one-run games at home following Thursday’s win. Their overall home record is now 16-4.

Roster moves

The Chukars added a pair of first-year players on Wednesday left-handed pitcher Richard Lovelady and infielder Joe Dudek.

Lovelady was drafted in the 10th round of June’s MLB draft out of Kennesaw State University. He pitched 10.1 relief innings for the Arizona League Royals earlier this summer, posting a 1.74 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks.

Dudek was an undrafted free agent out of the University of North Carolina. He transferred to the University of Kentucky prior to the 2016 season but did not play for the Wildcats because of NCAA transfer rules.

Up next

The Chukars (23-16, 1-0 second half) and Rockies (16-23, 0-1) return to Melaleuca Field on Friday at 7:15 p.m. Arnaldo Hernandez (6.09 ERA) will get the start for I.F.

Chukars Notebook: Divergent first-half records

Viloria
Viloria

The first half of the Pioneer League baseball season will conclude in four days, and the Idaho Falls Chukars are tied for first place in the South Division. The Chukars have already won 20 games, a mark they didn’t reach last summer until August.

With 20 new players this season, I.F. was bound to play differently than last year’s team. But this much improvement is impossible to predict. Here are a few key areas of success for I.F. this half:

Deep lineup 

Alexis Rivera was one of the Pioneer League’s best hitters last season before moving up to Single-A Lexington (he was released this spring but signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels). Josh Banuelos and Amalani Fukofuka painted the field with hits, as well, especially in the first half. The dropoff between those three and the rest of the lineup was Yellowstone Falls-esque.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini and second baseman D.J. Burt hovered around the Mendoza line. When right fielder Brawlun Gomez wasn’t hitting home runs, he was probably striking out. Third baseman Ryan Dale was never productive.

This year’s lineup is as deep as it relentless. I.F. has five wins this season when it trailed in the seventh inning or later, and that’s despite an error-prone defense and a shaky bullpen.

The bats are highlighted by catcher Meibrys Viloria, who transcends hyperbole. He leads the Pioneer League in five categories: batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, doubles and RBIs.

Viloria’s season has rendered many of his teammates underrated, namely third baseman Manny Olloque, right fielder Yeison Melo, outfielder Luke Willis and first baseman David Edwards.

Outfielder Tanner Stanley and first basemen Colton Frabasilio and Brandon Dulin were all promoted after each hitting over .300 in I.F. Newer starters like second baseman Jordan Ebert and outfielders Nick Heath and Rudy Martin have filled in admirably.

The only mediocre everyday hitters are Ricky Aracena and Angelo Castellano, and even the 5-foot-8 Aracena has trouble fitting into that category. The shortstop was hitting .282 with a .702 OPS through Friday.

The Chukars have already scored 274 runs (8.1 per game) this summer. They mustered 238 (6.3 per game) in the first half of 2015.

Improved pitching 

None of I.F.’s 2016 starters own ERAs worse than 7.00. Three I.F. starters had ERAs above 7.00 at this point last season, which led to more innings for a shaky bullpen. This year’s bullpen has been inconsistent, but manager Justin Gemoll has three arms with sub-4.00 ERAs at his disposal.

The biggest difference between these two staffs: strikes.

I.F. had issued 3.4 walks per game going into Saturday. Last year’s team averaged 3.8. Like nearly every 2015 pitching stat, that number was much higher in the first half.

Home comfort

The Chukars are 5-10 on the road this season, not far off from their 5-13 record away from home in the first half last season. The obvious key difference is at home.

I.F.’s home record this summer is 15-4, easily the best in the Pioneer League. The Chukars’ home run differential is plus-60, as well. The club went 8-12 at Melaleuca Field in first half last year, and they were outscored by 12 runs in those 20 games.

CC RAKING IN KC 

Cheslor Cuthbert moved up from Triple-A to the Kansas City Royals in May to fill-in for another former Chukar, Mike Moustakas. The All-Star third baseman is out for the season with a torn ACL, but Cuthbert has done his best to fix the broken hearts in Kansas City.

A 2-for-3 performance Saturday lifted Cuthbert’s batting average over .300 and his OPS over .800, the second time that’s happened in 63 games this season (the first time was in his fourth game).

Cuthbert’s progression has been linear. He hit .253 with a .601 OPS in May, .283 and .844 in June and .377 and .958 thus far in July. He also has nine home runs on the year.

Cuthbert played 14 games for I.F. in 2010 as a 17-year-old. He got a cup of coffee with Kansas City last season, when he hit .217 with a .650 OPS in 19 games.

ROSTER MOVES 

The Royals haven’t initiated much movement with the Chukars roster the last two weeks. In fact, I.F. has undergone just two makeovers since July 5.

July 13: Chukars outfielder Tanner Stanley moves up to Lexington. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons is released. Second baseman Jordan Ebert, outfielder Rudy Martin and right-handed pitcher Paul Young are promoted from the Arizona League to I.F.

July 16: Double-A Northwest Arkansas activates left-hander Sam Selman from the 7-day disabled list, ending his rehab assignment with the Chukars.

WHO’S HOT? 

RHP Andres Machado 

Machado had a 13.50 ERA after his first start. That number shriveled to 4.00 after Monday’s gem against Missoula.

Machado didn’t allow a run or a walk in five innings against the Osprey. He gave up one hit and struck out four.

Machado’s stinginess doesn’t end there. He has allowed one earned run on 11 hits, one walk and 17 strikeouts in his last 14 innings pitched.

WHO’S NOT? 

INF Angelo Castellano

Castellano’s batting average was as high as .280 on July 4. Since then he’s gone 12 for 56 (.214). He still has a solid OBP (.350 through Friday), but his patience has waned lately. And Castellano has only hit five extra-base hits all season, including none for home runs.

Chukars’ home prosperity continues with 8-2 win

Luna
Luna

After a week away from Melaleuca Field, the Idaho Falls Chukars looked revitalized Wednesday.

The offense was its usual destructive self, the defense was crisp and the pitching was stingy. It was the team road crowds have rarely seen and I.F. crowds have grown accustomed to.

In the end, the Chukars beat the Helena Brewers 8-2.

Home cooking

A team succeeding at home isn’t news, but the Chukars have been especially potent at Melaleuca Field and lackluster on the road.

Wednesday’s win improved I.F.’s home record to 10-3, compared to 4-8 on the road. The Chukars have a 32-run differential at home, while their road differential is minus-1.

I.F.’s success this season has sprung from its bats, which delivered again on Wednesday.

The Chukars drew four walks and piled up 15 hits, including three that went for extra bases. Designated hitter Yeison Melo went 3 for 5 with a triple, while left fielder Luke Willis, catcher Meibrys Viloria, center fielder Rudy Martin and second baseman Jordan Ebert each added two hits.

The defense only committed one error and made multiple highlight plays, such as Ebert’s leaping catch that prevented a run and began an inning-ending double play in the fifth inning.

Alex Luna, Sam Selman and Christian Flecha fell into some holes but clamped down whenever Helena smelled a rally.

Olloque’s scare

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque was absent from the lineup Wednesday because he was involved in a car accident before the game.

One of I.F.’s bat boys was driving the car, and Olloque said the other driver was at fault. The front of the bat boy’s car was smashed and the airbags inflated on impact, but none of the passengers were seriously hurt.

“Luckily, we were wearing our seat belts,” Olloque said.

The airbags left lingering pain in Olloque’s chest, which led the Chukars’ coaching staff to hold him out of Wednesday’s game. Olloque believed he could have played, and he said he’ll be ready for Thursday’s game.

Roster moves

The Chukars made several roster changes on Wednesday.

Tanner Stanley (.337 average, .883 OPS in 89 at-bats for I.F.) moved up to Single-A Lexington. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons (5 for 10 with a home run for I.F.) was released.

The Chukars also added three players from the Arizona League: Ebert, Martin and right-handed pitcher Paul Young. Martin played two games for the Chukars last season.

Player of the game

Chukars starting pitcher Alex Luna

Luna got into some hairy jams thanks to nine hits allowed, but he escaped them all. Throwing strikes was a main key to his success. He struck out five and walked none on 55 strikes against 25 balls.

Luna has allowed two earned runs in his last three starts (17.2 total innings). His season ERA is now 2.08, and he’s struck out 29 while walking six.

Up next

Jace Vines will start for the Chukars (14-11) against fellow righty Rodrigo Benoit. First pitch against the Brewers (10-15) is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.