HR Roll Call: Seuly Matias (1,2), Hunter Dozier (1), Samir Duenez (1), Gabe Cancel (1)
BPKC Hitter of the Day: Seuly Matias 2-4 2 HR, 2 RBI
BPKC Pitcher of the Day: Jon Dziedzic 5 IP 5 H 0 R 0 ER 1 BB 4 K 4-5 GO-FO 90p/54k
Notes from J.J. Picollo Assistant GM of Player Personnel
The first thing that J.J. wanted to make clear to the fans is that the Royals strongly believe in Ryan O’Hearn’s ability and future within the organization. As I wrote last year, the move to NW Arkansas late in the season was O’Hearn’s choice to get at-bats. The organization felt that his decision to make that move was the true sign of a “winner” and “team” guy to make when faced with a numbers crunch.
A similar numbers crunch was felt with the Kyle Zimmer and Miguel Almonte moves earlier this week. As J.J. stated the Royals have a number of guys at the top two levels of the organization that may be pushing their way on the 40 at some point in the season. Knowing that makes it difficult to hold onto players on the 40 man roster that are unable to contribute at this time with injuries.
There were quite a few players mentioned during the conversation, but one that J.J. feels has an opportunity to breakout this season is Emmanuel Rivera, the third baseman for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. The Puerto Rican draftee turns 22 during the season and is starting to come into his strength alongside an improving approach. Tomorrow I’ll write about a few pitchers back with the organization that may be opening eyes after some time away.
Starter Nolan Watson, coming off his strongest spring since joining the organization, was steady in the opener. The former first round pick gave up a pair of runs in five innings, striking out five before turning things over the bullpen. The pen helped the Legends earn that opening night win with four shutout innings, including four strikeouts from Tyler Zuber to earn the save.
Seuly Matias had staked them to a lead with his second home run of the night in the seventh inning. Matias, a former 16-year-old Dominican bonus baby, pulled a 371 foot home run in the third inning to give Lexington an early 2-1 lead. A few innings later and facing a 0-2 count, lefty JP Sears left a ball a little too far over the plate. The 19-year-old did the rest, knocking it over the left-center fence 393 feet away to give the Legends the lead and the eventual win.
The Rocks found a way to put together enough offense to earn a win despite the team striking out 18 times on the evening. They were able to do that thanks in part to a pair of Puerto Rican sluggers from the system who continue to show their growth at the plate. Second baseman Gabriel Cancel got the offense started in the first inning with a solo home run to left to give Wilmington a quick lead. After starter Cristian Castillo had given the lead up an inning later, it was Cancel and Rivera teaming up in the fourth with a pair of doubles to tie the game back up. The Rocks pitching staff only earned five strikeouts on the night but it didn’t matter as they limited that Nats to just six hits, allowing Rivera to give them back the lead with another double in the sixth to plate Rudy Martin. After the bullpen allowed a run in the seventh, Chris DeVito singled in Khalil Lee in the eighth and Meibrys Viloria came home in the ninth after a pair of errant pitches pushed him around to third prior to a sac fly, giving the final margin of victory.
The Naturals are excited about the influence that new hitting coach Leon Roberts could have on 21-year-old Samir Duene,z and for one night things looked great. In the first inning, Duenez connected on a two-run home run to right-center, giving the Naturals an early 2-0 lead. After the Hooks took a lead with four runs in the middle innings it was Duenez getting the offense going again in the eighth, doubling and scoring the first of two runs in the inning after Donnie Dewees tripled and scored on Corey Toups two-out single. It’s too early to tell if there is a change in the approach, but in the final inning Duenez did something that earlier in his career he might not have. In the past with two on and two out in the ninth, Duenez may have tried to play the hero, expanding the zone in an effort to try to bring in the game-winning run. However, on this night he took a close 2-2 pitch to run to a full count before taking another ball to walk and push the bases loaded. With the bases juiced, outfielder Elier Hernandez flared a single to right to walk it off for the Naturals.
The Chasers couldn’t get much going on offense on this night, dropping a pair to the Brewers Triple-A squad while two players collected the four total hits on the night. In the first game, Jon Dziedzic tossed five shutout innings before leaving with a 1-0 lead that Hunter Dozier had created with a solo home run. Reliever Kevin McCarthy gave up a pair of runs to take the loss.
In game two, Trevor Oaks gave up seven hits in 4.1 innings while walking a pair. The only hits for the Chasers came courtesy of Ramon Torres, who singled and doubled but was left stranded on both occasions in the shutout loss. Reliever Josh Staumont struck out three but gave up a run on a walk and a double in his inning of relief.