Tag: Alec Mills

Chukars Notebook: A heartbreaking end to a strong first half

Bayliss
Bayliss

In the ninth inning of the final game of the first half, the Idaho Falls Chukars didn’t know what their audience did: the Orem Owlz had lost.

Orem’s loss to Billings gave the Chukars an opening. If they came back to beat Missoula, they’d be the Pioneer League South Division first half champions.

As Orem’s game was concluding, the Chukars staged a comeback. A 4-1 deficit turned into a 4-4 tie, and it was feet away from a 5-4 lead. Angelo Castellano hit a double high off the wall to tie it up.

I.F.’s joy soon turned into anguish. Jacy Cave hit a walkoff home run off Brian Bayliss to put a disappointing end to an otherwise successful first half for the Chukars.

“It was a tough loss, especially when the game’s over and you find out that Orem lost,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said. “Still, (we) accomplished a lot. I think a lot of our losses were by one or two runs. A lot of close games. With those close games, it just makes you focus on doing the little things right because a bunch of little things add up to a win.”

In some ways, Bayliss symbolized I.F.’s strong first half and its dispiriting end. Bayliss is a Pioneer League All-Star. The right-hander finished the first half with a 2.87 ERA, 13 strikeouts and three unintentional walks. Cave’s home run was one negative moment in a half full of positive ones.

“It’s baseball. It happens,” Bayliss said. “You’ve got another half season, and you just have to move on.”

The Chukars haven’t won a first half title since 2007, and they went a league-worst 13-25 in the first half of 2015. Bayliss was on last year’s team, and the playoff race this week didn’t feel new to him. It felt like the second half of last year, when the Chukars won the South Division.

The biggest goal for Gemoll and company, of course, is to develop their players. The coaching staff wants all 29 players to improve, wins and losses be damned to some extent.

Not every aspect of development is mechanical. Close games and tight playoff races can also prepare the players for the next level, even if Pioneer League contests feel light years away from the World Series.

“To get to that next level, you’ve gotta be a little bit sharper up top,” Gemoll said. “That’s what the good big league players do.”

One positive from finishing second in the first half title chase: the second half has stakes. The Chukars have another playoff race to look forward to.

LUNA’S STATUS

Chukars starting pitcher Alex Luna strained his left oblique Tuesday at Missoula. The injury will force Luna to miss Tuesday’s All-Star game, but neither he nor Justin Gemoll expect him to miss much time. Luna isn’t exactly sure when he’ll be back, but he hopes to throw again by Tuesday.

Luna leads I.F. with 42 strikeouts, and he’s issued seven walks in 40 innings pitched. The right-hander also leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA.

MONDESI CALLED UP

Kansas City called up former Chukar Raul Mondesi on Tuesday. The 21-year-old has started at second base the previous five games for the Royals and has gone 6 for 17 (.353) at the plate. He recorded his first MLB hit Wednesday, a bunt single against the Los Angeles Angels.

Mondesi, widely considered the Royals’ top prospect, was added to Kansas City’s 2015 World Series roster and made one plate appearance in Game 3. He started this season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas but was suspended 50 games in May after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug. He returned to Advanced Single-A Wilmington on June 25, moved up to Northwest Arkansas on July 4 and ascended to Triple-A Omaha on July 9.

Mondesi played for the Chukars in 2012 at the age of 16. He hit .290 with a .733 OPS in 232 plate appearances.

FORMER CHUKARS LITTER TOP 30 LIST

MLB.com released its updated overall and team prospect lists this week. The Royals’ new top 30 looks similar to their preseason list, but several players have moved around.

Below are the former and current Chukars who made the Royals’ list:

1. SS/2B Raul Mondesi (preseason: No. 1) Was a Chukar in 2012; No. 54 on MLB.com’s top 100 list

2. 3B/OF Hunter Dozier (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2013

4. LHP Matt Strahm (preseason: No. 10) Chukar in 2012, 2014

6. RHP Kyle Zimmer (preseason: No. 2) Chukar in 2014

8. 1B/OF Ryan O’Hearn (preseason: No. 13) Chukar in 2014

9. RHP Alec Mills (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2012, 2014

10. RHP Jake Junis (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2013

11. RHP Josh Staumont (preseason: 18) Chukar in 2015

14. SS Marten Gasparini (preseason: 8) Chukar in 2014, 2015

23. RHP Brooks Pounders (preseason: 29) Chukar in 2014, 2015

24. LHP Eric Skoglund (preseason: 28) Chukar in 2014

29. SS Ricky Aracena (preseason: 26) Current Chukar

30. 2B/SS Corey Toups (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2014

Former Chukars who dropped out of the top 30: OF Amalani Fukofuka (preseason: 20; Chukar in 2015), OF Brandon Downs (preseason: 24; Chukar in 2014)

WHO’S HOT (FIRST HALF)?

C Meibrys Viloria

Alex Luna, Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo and others had excellent halves, but Viloria is the indisputable choice for this award. In the first 38 games, Viloria led the Pioneer League in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92).

WHO’S NOT (FIRST HALF)?

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the first half with a 10.80 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched. He allowed 27 hits, seven walks (11 strikeouts) and a team-high six home runs.

Chukars Notebook: Raul Mondesi highlights Royals’ prospect rankings

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Since returning from 50-game suspension, Raul Mondesi has been all over the place.

The Kansas City Royals shortstop prospect was suspended on May 10 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Mondesi returned on June 25 as a member of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Kansas City’s Advanced Single-A affiliate. On July 4, he moved up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he played prior to the suspension. And finally, Mondesi was called up to Triple-A Omaha on Friday.

That’s not quite all. Baseball America came out with its midseason top 100 prospects list the same day Mondesi moved up to Omaha. No. 55 on the list? Mondesi. He’s one of several former Idaho Falls Chukars on various prospect lists.

Mondesi is the only Royals prospect to make Baseball America’s midseason list, and he actually moved down 26 spots from the website’s preseason list (fellow Royals prospect Kyle Zimmer was No. 85 on that list).

Mondesi is still ranked No. 1 on almost every online Royals prospect rankings. Zimmer is Kansas City’s consensus No. 2 prospect, and he also played for the Chukars. The right-handed pitcher threw 4.2 innings for Idaho Falls in 2014, posting a 1.93 ERA. Mondesi spent all of 2012 with the Chukars, hitting .290 with a .733 OPS in 207 at-bats.

The next highest former Chukar on MLB.com’s Royals prospect list is shortstop Marten Gasparini. The Italy native is ranked No. 8 on MLB’s list and No. 7 on Baseball America’s, although most other scouting websites are not that high on him. Gasparini is hitting .197 with a .587 OPS for Single-A Lexington this season. He batted .259 with a .752 OPS with the Chukars last summer.

Northwest Arkansas first baseman Ryan O’Hearn is No. 5 on FanGraphs.com’s Royals list, which is also high compared to most rankings. Unlike Gasparini, O’Hearn has produced at just about every level. His career minor league batting average is .300 and his OPS is .898. O’Hearn was named the Pioneer League Player of the Year with the Chukars in 2014, thanks to a .361 average and a 1.034 OPS.

MLB.com ranks Northwest Arkansas lefty Matt Strahm No. 10 in the Royals’ system. Strahm pitched 30.1 innings for I.F. in 2012 and 19.2 in 2014, posting 5.64 and 2.29 ERAs, respectively.

One current Chukar made the top 30 of MLB.com’s rankings. Shortstop Ricky Aracena is No. 25.

Some other notable former Chukars:

Omaha third baseman Hunter Dozier (played for I.F. in 2013) is ranked N0. 10 on Baseball Prospectus’ Kansas City rankings.

Omaha righty Alec Mills (I.F. 2014) is No. 13 on MLB.com’s list.

Wilmington righty Josh Staumont (I.F. 2015) is No. 17 on MLB.com’s list.

Lexington outfielder Amalani Fukofuka (I.F. 2015) is No. 19 on MLB.com’s list.

Righty Brooks Pounders (I.F. 2014 and 2015) is No. 28 on MLB.com’s list. Pounders made his MLB debut on Tuesday at Toronto. He’s allowed one earned run in three relief innings for Kansas City so far.

Roster move

July 5: Chukars first baseman/catcher Colton Frabasilio moves up to Advanced Single-A Wilmington. Frabasilio’s call-up stemmed from an injury to Zane Evans of the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, according to the Chukars. Evans was placed on the disabled list, which led to a promotion for Wilmington catcher Luis Villegas. Frabasilio filled Villegas’ vacant roster spot.

Frabasilio hit .348 (16 for 48) with a .936 OPS in 12 games for I.F. this summer.

Standings update

The Chukars improved to 12-10 with their 10-8 win over Orem on Saturday. I.F. now sits two games behind the Owlz (14-8) with 16 games left in the first half.

Who’s hot?

3B Manny Olloque

Olloque was named the Pioneer League Player of the Week for his performance from June 27 through July 3. He hit .429 (12 for 28) with three doubles and two home runs during the week.

Olloque was a bit quieter this week. Then came Saturday, when he went 4 for 5 against Orem to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Olloque is now hitting .350 on the season with an OPS over .900.

Who’s not?

LHP Sam Selman

Selman joined the Chukars on a rehab assignment. He started the season with Northwest Arkansas and has reached as high as Omaha (in 2014). With the Chukars in 2012, he earned the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year thanks to a 2.09 ERA in 60.1 innings.

Selman has not improved that resume with I.F. this summer.

Selman’s ERA with the Chukars dropped to 9.35 after 1.2 innings pitched on Friday at Orem. But he still allowed two unearned run on two hits.

The lefty allowed three earned runs in each of his first two outings with the Chukars, and his opponents’ batting average is .356. Selman has, however, struck out eight batters and walked only two.

Another year, another new Chukars’ broadcaster

Andrew Haynes begins his first season as the Idaho Falls Chukars’ broadcaster and director of media relations. He is the fifth person to serve that role since 2009. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Andrew Haynes begins his first season as the Idaho Falls Chukars’ broadcaster and director of media relations. He is the fifth person to serve that role since 2009. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

John Balginy enters his 32nd season as an Idaho Falls Chukars broadcaster, yet change continues to flow through the booth.

Andrew Haynes is another agent of that change. The 29-year-old was hired in March as the Chukars’ latest broadcaster and director of media relations. He’s Balginy’s fifth booth partner since 2009, when local legend Jim Garchow passed away at 72 due to leukemia.

“I just hope to grow as an announcer and as a media relations contact, especially with my writing skills,” Haynes said. “Get a little more smooth, especially on the air. Also looking forward to helping out around the team and learn the ways of professional ball.”

Haynes is the Chukars’ third different director of media relations/broadcaster in as many years. Alex Cohen served the position last summer, and he currently works for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Class A Affiliate. Chris Lewis, who now calls Boise State women’s basketball games, preceded Cohen in Idaho Falls.

Balginy is still getting accustomed to the constant movement of his broadcast partners. He called I.F. minor league baseball games with Garchow for 25 years.

“The first year or so, it was strange not having Jim there,” Balginy said. “But I enjoy these young guys. They have a lot of enthusiasm. They’re trying to move up, and I’m just trying to stay here and stay alive.

Balginy has only interacted with Haynes for a few days, and he’s been impressed so far. He said Haynes has already shown better preparedness than Cohen, and that trait can help neutralize Haynes’ relative inexperience.

“Preparation’s always key,” Balginy said. “Jim Garchow always said, ‘If you have a good pregame show, you’re gonna have a good broadcast.’

Haynes’ lone experience as a media director before joining the Chukars was in the summer of 2010, a year after he graduated from Fresno State University. Haynes handled media relations and called games for the East Texas Pump Jacks of the Texas Collegiate League. The Pump Jacks played in Kilgore, Texas, a town of about 15,000 people. Haynes had spent his whole life in Fresno, Calif. (population greater than 500,000) before 2010.

“It was a bit of a culture shock,” Haynes said. “But it was a good culture shock. It was a good eye-opener.”

Haynes returned to Fresno and became a broadcaster for Fresno State’s flagship radio station in 2012, primarily calling softball games. He also called some high school games.

In addition to calling home games with Balginy, Haynes will travel with the Chukars for every road trip. Balginy will accompany him for I.F.’s first road trip to Grand Junction next week, but Haynes will ride solo after that.

At this point, Haynes does not know if he’ll join the Chukars’ drive-thru of broadcasters or if he’ll stick around for at least two summers. Either way, Haynes does not see Idaho Falls as a longterm destination.

“I do hope to work my way up the ladder and hopefully do major league games,” Haynes said. “I might go on a different path, but that is the goal at this point.”

Former Chukars named all-stars

The Texas League announced its all-stars this week, and four former Chukars made the list.

Those four, who play for the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, are right-handed pitcher Jake Junis (played for I.F. in 2013), right-hander Alec Mills (2014), third baseman Mauricio Ramos (2013) and first baseman Frank Schwindel (2013).

Chukars rout Mustangs 10-2 on Mills’s final night

BY JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

Alec Mills bid a fond farewell to the Idaho Falls Chukars on Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound right-hander, who is on his way back from Tommy John surgery, pitched his second straight strong outing, helping Idaho Falls beat the Billings Mustangs 10-2 in front of 3,000 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Mills is heading to Single-A Lexington today to join the Legends.

The 2012 22nd-round draft pick, who underwent elbow surgery last summer, came on in the second and allowed just one run (one earned) on six hits and one walk while striking out five. He also pitched five strong innings last week at Billings.

“I definitely feel like I’m hitting my groove,”said Mills, who also spent the 2012 season with the Chukars. “I’m filling up the strike zone more, throwing the other pitches for strikes and keeping them off balance.”

He hopes the past two outings are a sign of good things to come.

“Pitching’s confidence,” he said. “If you can get it, take it and run with it.”

Continue reading “Chukars rout Mustangs 10-2 on Mills’s final night”

Fourth inning falter costs Chukars in 8-4 loss to Raptors

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Chukars saw a 3-0 lead disappear after a fourth inning marred by an error, an interference call and six runs, as the Ogden Raptors rallied for an 8-4 victory in front of 2,332 fans Saturday at Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls Chukars infielder Luis Valenzuela hits an infield fly during the game against the Ogden Raptors Saturday at Melalueca Field. Valenzuela's batting average is .295 so far this season. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com,

The Chukars have not lost three in a row nor won three in a row during the first-half of the Pioneer League season, a trend that the Raptors (7-13) have had a hand in for the ongoing seven-game series between the teams.

“We didn’t pitch well and we didn’t play good defense,” Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said. “That hurt us and we lost the game. Two of the things that I always say we’ve got to do, we didn’t do.”

The Chukars (9-11) were in control early as DonAndre Clark scored off Wander Franco’s single in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead. Idaho Falls stretched the lead to 3-0 as Kyle Pollock doubled to score Brawlun Gomez, and Pollock came home when Pedro Gonzalez reached on fielder’s choice. The Raptors took over in the next frame.

Back-to-back singles followed by a wild pitch, a strikeout and consecutive walks resulted in Colin Hering coming home for Ogden’s first run with one out. Zach Lovvorn relieved Chukars starting pitcher Alec Mills and the Raptors continued to take over as miscues piled up.

Continue reading “Fourth inning falter costs Chukars in 8-4 loss to Raptors”

Chukars win series with Owlz

After losing the lead once, the Idaho Falls Chukars took it back with a vengeance and held off a late rally en route to a 6-4 win over the Orem Owlz before 2,951 fans Saturday at Melaleuca Field to win the three-game series.

The win puts the Chukars (8-6 second half) one game behind the Pioneer League South Division leading Owlz (9-5 second half).

It was also the first win for Chukars starting pitcher Alec Mills, who improved his record to 1-3.

The 20-year-old righthander engaged in a pitching duel with Orem starting pitcher Jairo Diaz early and went on to strike out five without a walk in six innings.

“I was spotting the fastball well,” Mills said. “The changeup was definitely my best. I got a lot of people out with that. It was just a mix of a little bit of everything (tonight).”

Continue reading “Chukars win series with Owlz”

Chukars pull within two games of first place

The Idaho Falls Chukars pulled to within two games of first place Monday with a wild 8-6 win at Great Falls.

Facing the Pioneer League’s top starting pitcher by earned run average in J.C. Casey, the Chukars jumped out early with two runs in the top of the first inning. The Idaho Falls’ runs broke Casey’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 23 2/3.

The Voyagers answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame, getting to Alec Mills in his first pro start. But Mills and Chukars reliever Joe Lopez combined to retire the next 13 Great Falls batters in order, including three strikeouts by Lopez in the fifth inning. Continue reading “Chukars pull within two games of first place”

I.F. finds power stroke in Helena

At Helena, Mont., the Idaho Falls Chukars struggled to find any power during a four-game sweep at the hands of the Great Falls Voyagers.

But the Chukars found their big bats in Helena on Thursday as they cranked a double, a triple and a pair of home runs in a 4-3 win against the Helena Brewers.

Idaho Falls racked up 35 hits off Great Falls pitchers in a four-game series earlier this week. But 31 were singles.

On Thursday though, four of the Chukars’ eight hits went for extra bases.

Third baseman Nick Cuckovich led the way, going 2 for 4 with a sixth-inning triple and a third-inning solo home run to left-center field, his second home run of the year.

Catcher Jin-Ho Shin reached up for a pitch around his shoulders and crushed it over the left-field wall in the sixth, driving in Cuckovich for a two-run homer. Continue reading “I.F. finds power stroke in Helena”

Chukars bullpen can’t close out

Nick Cuckovich's bat fractures near his grip after connecting with a ball during the top of the fourth inning of Friday's game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Field in Grand Junctiion, Colo. Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

At Grand Junction, Colo., the third strike proved the most difficult for Idaho Falls Chukars relievers Matt Strahm and Alec Mills on Friday.

The pair earned three 0-2 counts while nursing a one-run lead in the eighth inning. But neither could nail down the out or the win as the Grand Junction Rockies rallied with two runs in the inning for a 2-1 win at Suplizio Field.

The Chukars held a 1-0 lead in a rare Pioneer League pitcher’s duel, thanks to yet another sterling outing from right-handed pitcher Andrew Ferguson. Filling in for Zeb Sneed, who is out with a sore oblique muscle, Ferguson entered the game third in the league with a 1.62 ERA. He lowered that ERA to 1.14 Friday with seven shutouts innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out five as the first Idaho Falls pitcher to complete seven innings this season.

But for the second night in a row, a strong start wasn’t enough. Continue reading “Chukars bullpen can’t close out”

Williams, Mills combine to three-hit Ogden

At Ogden, Starting pitcher Ali Williams held the Pioneer League’s top run-scoring offense in check through six innings and reliever Alec Mills tossed three no-hit innings in relief as the Chukars held on Wednesday to knock off the Ogden Raptors 4-2 in Ogden, Utah.

Ogden entered Wednesday averaging 8.67 runs through the season’s first nine games. But the only damage it could muster off of Williams came from a pair of runners Williams put on base with a pair of bean balls.

Ogden’s second hit-by-pitch runner came around on Jesus Valdez’s single in the third to give the Raptors a 2-1 lead. But that was just one of three hits Williams and Mills limited Ogden to, and the Chukars snatched the lead back in the sixth. Continue reading “Williams, Mills combine to three-hit Ogden”