Cleburne Railroaders – 2019 American Association Mid-Season Report Card
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier examines the first half of the 2019 American Association season for the Cleburne Railroaders. This includes a recap of what has gone right and wrong for the team, as well providing the top pitcher and player to this point. Plus, a prognosis of what to expect in the remaining two months is included.
Cleburne Railroaders – Mid-Season Report
(League ranking is included in parenthesis)
Record: 35-25 (1st in South, 4th in American Association)
Home Record: 22-16 (7)
Away Record: 13-9 (3)
Team Batting Average: .276 (5)
Team ERA: 3.86 (2)
Team Fielding Percentage: .966 (12)
Average: Daniel Robertson (.331)
Homeruns: Chase Simpson (15)
RBI: Chase Simpson (63)
Runs: Zach Nehrir (43)
Stolen Bases: Nick Rotola (15)
ERA: Tyler Wilson (0.68)
Wins: Jesus Sanchez (6)
Losses: Nefi Ogando, Eudis Idrogo (3)
Saves: Tyler Wilson (15)
Innings Pitched: Jesus Sanchez (77.0)
Appearances: Martire Garcia (27)
There were high expectations on the Cleburne Railroaders entering the season, but an 8-7 May that saw the team hit .235 left some thinking that this may have just been more hype than substance. Slugger Levi Scott was lost just a few games into the season, and has not returned to the team. The bottom of the order was struggling, and it was not long before star shortstop Angel Rosa joined Scott on the disabled list.
Yet, Manager Brett Clevlen and head of baseball operations Josh Robertson did not panic. The team remained just above .500, going 14-13 in June, but it has caught fire in July. Cleburne is 13-5 this month, catapulting into the top spot in the South Division.
It has been an outstanding pitching staff that has led the way, posting a 3.26 ERA in July. However, two shrewd additions by Robertson have this team firing on all cylinders. Both Daniel Robertson and Ryan Brett were signed after being released by Kansas City, and it helped to make this the most formidable lineup in the division.
What Went Wrong
No team will tell you that they can use injuries as an excuse, but losing a guy who was expected to hit at least 15 homeruns less than a week into the season is never an easy loss to overcome. The same can be said of the loss of Rosa, as that was an expected 25 homers and 130 RBI.
The defense for Cleburne has been atrocious. The team is ranked 12th in the American Association in fielding percentage, leading the league in errors was 76, 15 more than the next closest team.
The bottom for this lineup struggled for about six weeks. The group of Hunter Clanin, Nick Rotola, Logan Trowbridge, and Grant Buck took some time to get into a groove, and this was holding the team back for a spell…
What Went Right
However, since this group has taken off, the rest of the Railroaders have jumped on board. Clanin has raised his average 70 points in the last three weeks, and Rotola is playing exceptionally well, leading the team in stolen bases while hitting .261. Buck has become a hitting machine, raising his average to .328.
While much was expected from the starting rotation, the job that Michael Gunn has done this year cannot be overlooked. Gunn has taken a full two runs off of his ERA from last season, posting a 3.52 ERA in nine starts. The left-hander is 3-0, and may be the best No. 3 starter in the league right now.
Mid-Season MVP: Chase Simpson
Simpson leads the league in RBI with 63, and has been a rock star for this team since opening day. He came out of May as the Player of the Month and has ranked among the league leaders in homers and doubles all season long.
It is not just been the big power numbers that have made him a league MVP candidate. Simpson has posted a .405 on-base percentage, walking 38 times in 59 games this season, and has added seven stolen bases, a .624 slugging percentage, and a 1.030 on-base percentage.
Mid-Season Top Pitcher: Tyler Wilson
A case can be made for Jesus Sanchez, but there is no denying what Tyler Wilson has meant to the team. In 24 appearances, Wilson is 2-1 with 15 saves and a microscopic 0.68 ERA. The right-hander has pitched 26.1 innings, allowing 18 hits and nine walks while striking out 38.
In his 24 appearances, Wilson has been scored upon in just two of those outings. That included a run to start the season where he was not scored upon in his first 12 appearances.
Following a three-game series with St. Paul and a three-game set with Chicago after the All-Star break, Cleburne will spend the next six weeks playing teams from the South Division before closing the season in Fargo. Even if they were to go 2-7 in those nine games, this is still their division to win. The Railroaders have six games against Kansas City and six against Sioux City, meaning they can ensure that their next closest opponents stay in the rearview mirror. That is what we expect, as the Cleburne Railroaders win the first division title in franchise history.
By Robert Pannier