Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an Asheville Tourists game at McCormick Field in Asheville, North Carolina.Â The game was the second of a double-header with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Marlins’ class A affiliate (the Tourists are a Rockies farm team). Â The Tourists took the first game, but the Grasshoppers were able to rally for a 5-3 victory to split the double-header.
The game only lasted seven innings, and for much of those, it was a legitimate pitchers’ duel.Â The Tourists’ Nick Schnaitmann held the Grasshoppers to three hits and two runs over 5 2/3 innings, and only gave up two walks, despite apparently shaky command.Â Schnaitmann’s fastball touched 94, but it seemed to be the only pitch he could locate at all well. Â His off-speed offerings more often than not had catcher Anthony Aguilera leaping or diving for the ball. Â Schnaitmann was a 22nd round pick in 2008 and started the year at high-A Modesto Nuts, but was demoted after posting a 10.16 ERA.
Two of the hits that Schnaitmann gave up went to Marcell Ozuna, ranked eighth in the Marlins’ minor-league system. Â Ozuna is a free-agent signing from the Dominican Republic, and at 20 years old, he has made an impression. Â He’s hitting .239/.304/.429 with Greensboro, and the Marlins scouting reportÂ has this to say:
He’s got the tools to be a perfect right fielder, with obvious power and run production skills and a solid arm. His selectivity at the plate was lacking, and that will have to improve as he moves up the ladder.
Ozuna hit a single and a double in last night’s contest, and came around to score both times. Â His were the only runs allowed by Schnaitmann.
Unfortunately, the Tourists’ bullpen couldn’t keep them in the game. Â Kraig Sitton, a 7th round pick in 2010, entered in the 6th for two quick outs, but fell apart in the seventh. Â He gave up three straight singles, along with two wild pitches which advanced the runners, before striking out Joe Bonadonna for the first out. Â Another run-scoring single got him pulled in favor of Juan Perez, who induced outs from Ozuna and Christian Yelich to stop the bleeding.
Yelich is another Marlins farmhand to keep an eye on. Â Although not ranked in the top 10, he was a first-round pick in last year’s draft and is a strong left-handed hitter. Â His line with Greensboro sits at .299/.375/.461 over 88 games. Â Scouts expect him to develop more power, and he has good speed and decent range; a below-average arm will limit the positions he can play, though. Â He’s currently projected for left or center field or first base.
The Grasshoppers’ Zachary Neal baffled the Tourists batters for five innings. Â Neal gave up two hits and no runs, but walked one and hit two batters. Â The Tourists wouldn’t score until the bottom of the seventh, when they were able to tack on 3 runs to avoid the shutout. Â The runs came off of Greensboro right-hander Michael Brady, who entered for the last out in the sixth and stayed in to close the game.
Cristhian Adames, a free-agent signing in 2007, reached base all three times last night on a fielder’s choice, a single, and an RBI double. Â It was an above-average night for shortstop Adames, a .241 hitter with little power. Â The rest of Asheville’s lineup, even the big sluggers, struggled until the bottom of the 7th, when they seemed to have Brady’s number. Â Mark Tracy started things off with a one-out single, followed by Adames’ double to put both runners in scoring position. Â Second baseman Joey Wong singled to score Tracy and put the Tourists on the board. Â Center fielder Rafael Ortega tripled to score Adames and Wong, but that was all the Tourists would get, as they fell to Greensboro 5-3.
Asheville’s heavy hitters weren’t able to get the job done last night, which contributed significantly to the loss. Â Corey Dickerson, the evening’s DH, went 0-for-3 despite an outstanding .947 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Â Right fielder Kyle Parker, a first-round draft pick out of Clemson last year, also went 0-fer and grounded into a double play (one of three that the Grasshoppers’ infield would turn). Â Parker is hitting an impressive .285/.361/.495 (.856 OPS) in 87 games with Asheville this year. Â Finally, third baseman Helder Velazquez went 0-for-2, but did draw a walk; unfortunately, he was the victim of Parker’s double play. Â Velazquez, a 5th round pick back in 2006, sports a respectable .817 OPS.
The hometown fans, who follow the Tourists pretty closely from what I was able to overhear, let their sluggers know they weren’t happy. Â Boos and heckling were the order of the day each time one of the big bats failed to drive in a run. Â In the end, a perfect storm of slumping sluggers and a rough outing by left-hander Kraig Sitton led to the Tourists’ downfall – but a seventh-inning silver lining of production from the bottom of the order kept Asheville from the shutout.