American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, we look at the acquisition of Carlos Pimentel by the Cleburne Railroaders and how that gives them a dynamic 1-2 at the top of their rotation.
Carlos Pimentel Joins Cleburne Railroaders
The Cleburne Railroaders will take to the field in 2018 for the second season in the club’s history. Last year, the team finished 47-53, second in the South Division to the Wichita Wingnuts, and it was an outstanding pitching staff put together by Manager Gabe Suarez that kept this team competitive all season long.
The Railroaders finished fourth in the American Association in ERA at 3.96, and were fifth in strikeouts (744) and opponent batting average (.255). This was a group that saw a lot of outstanding performances. Cortland Cox finished with a 2.96 ERA in 37 relief appearances, leading the Los Angeles Angels to purchase his contract on February 1.
Patrick Mincey was dominant as well, posting a 3.32 ERA while going 10-8 in 21 starts. He, too, should get a lot of looks from affiliate clubs, and it is surprising he has not already seen his contract purchased.
A Dominant Duo
Last week the Cleburne Railroaders acquired RHP Carlos Pimentel from the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Pimentel will join Mincey at the top of the team’s rotation to form a veteran presence that should make the duo one of the best in the American Association.
Pimentel had a solid season for the Lincoln Saltdogs last season. He was 7-4 with a 4.68 ERA in 14 starts, striking out 88 in 84.2 innings pitched. The right-hander has been in affiliate ball as recently as 2016 when he won 12 games for the AAA-El Paso team (San Diego Padres). That followed a 12 win season for the Chicago Cubs’ AAA-Iowa affiliate where he also posted a 2.95 ERA. That earned him honors as the Pacific Coast League’s Pitcher of the Year.
Making a Run for the Division
Last season, the Railroaders proved that they could stay close in the vast majority of games they played. Cleburne played in 39 games last season that were decided by one or two runs. An additional 1.2 runs per game on average and this team could have easily won 58 games and been a playoff team.
That is the challenge for Gabe Suarez this season. He had some outstanding talent in Oscar Mesa, Maikol Gonzalez, Mitch Glasser, and Shawn Zarraga, but the first three had years slightly below their standards, and Zarraga had his contract purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers during the season.
This played a factor in the team finishing 11th in runs scored (389). The Railroaders were last in home runs (33), and finished ninth in average (.257). Those numbers are going to have to drastically improve as the South Division should be extremely competitive.
However, there is a lot of chance for this team to improve drastically in that department. The team plays in a fantastic ballpark in the Depot at Cleburne Station, which should entice a lot of players to want to come and play on a first rate field. Suarez has really come into his own in this position and has two years of managerial experience under his belt now. Plus, his father, Oscar Suarez, has a number of connections that should allow the manager to acquire first rate talent.
The big question is going to be the commitment from ownership. As mentioned a few weeks ago in the Minor League Sports Report, there was talk that ownership was going to invest more in the Railroaders for this season, but the team was also rumored to be up for sale. This puts Suarez in a fairly awkward position trying to build this team. One thing that can be sure is that the top of this rotation is going to be a real challenge for any team.
American Association Daily Notes:
The Wichita Wingnuts signed former catcher Brent Dean and added LHP Carlos Diaz. Dean spent last season with the Lincoln Saltdogs where he hit .225 with 5 homers and 19 RBI in 55 games. The catcher had spent the previous three seasons in Wichita. He is expected to be the starting left fielder when the season begins. Diaz is a former Chicago White Sox prospect. He sat out last season with an injury, but has a live arm, striking out 186 batters in 191.1 career innings in the White Sox organization…The Sioux Falls Canaries added two pitchers. RHP Kyle Schepel has spent the last six seasons in affiliate ball, pitching last season in the Washington Nationals system. Schepel split time between AA-Harrisburg and High-A Potomac. The right-hander was 2-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 34 total appearances. LHP James Patterson pitched in the Tampa Bay Rays system from 2010 t0 2015. In 2016, the left-hander pitched in Bridgeport (Atlantic League). This off-season he has be playing winter ball in Venezuela.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA