It was a tough year in Amarillo last season, as the Sox went 37-63, the second worst record in the American Association. However, the team looks for big changes this season, starting with a renaming of the team itself. Last year’s Amarillo Sox are this year’s Amarillo Thunderheads, and with a new name comes a new attitude that believes that the Thunderheads have what it takes to bring home the South Division title.
The Amarillo Thunderheads have been plenty busy since the 2014 season concluded. A day after the season ended the then-Sox dealt 1B Andres Rodriguez and INF Joe Weik to Fort Worth of the United League to complete an earlier deal. One day later RHPs Jeremy Gooding and RHP Kellen Moen headed to Forth Worth as well, but they would not remain there long.
While the trades were necessary to complete the deals, they were costly losses for Amarillo. Both Weik (.304) and Rodriguez (.312) hit over .300 in a combined 97 games played, with 49 total runs scored and 53 RBI between them. Together Moen and Gooding made 43 total appearances, 4 starts, with Moen posting a 3-6 record with a save. He was especially effective out of bullpen, posting a 3.62 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts.
On October 13, the Thunderheads exercised the option on infielder Kevin Mahoney’s contract. Mahoney had been a solid performer in Texas last season, hitting .286 in 61 games with 2 home runs and 21 RBI. He also scored 28 runs, and 21 of his 62 hits went for extra-bases.
Just one week into November, Amarillo brought back two of those that had just been dealt. Moen was resigned on the 9th and Gooding returned to the club on the 7th. Gooding will get a shot to join the Thunderheads’ rotation in 2015, and Moen will return to the bullpen, likely as the one of the team’s primary setup men.
On December 10, the club released three players: INF Travis Weaver, OF Derek Perren, and RHP David Casillas. Perren was a .322 hitter in 2014. In 76 games he had a home run and drove in 32 runs, while scoring 39 more. The signing of Moen and Mahoney made Weaver expendable after a season where he hit .285 with 11 RBI in 47 games. Casillas struggled in five starts for the club last season, posting a 1-2 record and a 6.84 ERA.
A week later, RHP Collin Allen was signed, and Moen found himself on the move again, this time to Camden of the Atlantic League, in exchange for infielder Zach MacPhee. Allen returns to the United States after playing in Australia in 2013. He has been battling injuries the last few seasons, but his stuff looks good, and he should have a real shot at making the club.
MacPhee is an outstanding fielder who can play third, second and short. He has an adequate bat, hitting .200 last season for Camden, with 2 home runs and 35 RBI in 125 games. He does have some speed, stealing 20 bases.
The team got a late Christmas present when LHPs Ryan DeJesus and Jan Granado signed with Amarillo on December 28. Both left-handers are battling their way back from injuries.
The day after the New Year began, Amarillo swung a deal with Fargo-Moorhead, sending Gooding for RHP Erik Draxton and OF Sawyer Carroll. Draxton had been with Amarillo before, splitting time last season between the Sox and the RedHawks. Between the two, he was 0-1 with a 3.44 ERA in 47 appearances. He also had six saves for Amarillo. Draxton brings the heat, striking out 53 in 49.2 innings pitched.
Carroll had a fine year in Fargo-Moorhead last season, hitting .258 with 7 home runs and 51 RBI. He also scored 58 runs and had 27 extra-base hits, while making just two errors in 69 games in leftfield.
On the 14th of January Amarillo signed 1B/OF Matt Chavez. Chavez played for both Fort Worth and San Angelo of the United League last season, combining to hit .332 in 50 games with 7 home runs and 40 RBI. He also had an outstanding .404 on-base percentage and scored 42 runs. He should be a real force in this lineup for next season.
The Thunderheads continued a pattern on January 23, when the newly acquired Draxton was dealt to Bridgeport of the Atlantic League in exchange for infielder Juan Martinez. Martinez played in 128 games last season, hitting .230, scoring 53 runs, driving home 37, and blasting 8 home runs.
On February 6, Amarillo traded infielder Ransom LaLonde to Windy City of the Frontier League for infielder Ryan Soares. Soares had a quality season in the Windy City last year, hitting .227 with 3 home runs and 45 RBI. He scored 50 runs in 95 games and hit 23 doubles.
The most recent move by the team was to acquire infielder Matt Padgett from the Kansas City T-Bones. Padgett will be entering his 17th season of professional baseball in 2015, after splitting time between Monclova of the Mexican League and Kansas City last year. Combined he played in 120 games, hitting .304 with 16 home runs and 87 RBI. He also scored 81 runs and rapped 33 doubles. He will add some potency to their batting order.
By Robert Pannier