Tag: Paul Young

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.