Cleburne Railroaders on Track for Post-Season Run

Cleburne Railroaders on Track for Post-Season RunAmerican 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 additions the Cleburne Railroaders have made over the last week and how that should effect the team. 

Additions Make Cleburne Railroaders Real Threat

It has been an interesting last couple of weeks for the Cleburne Railroaders. The team opted to not bring back Manager Gabe Suarez, who had done a fine job with the club, going 47-53 in their inaugural season. Instead, Shelby Ford was named as the manager a week ago, and the team has been quite active since he took over as the club’s new conductor.

Taking the Helm

Last season, Suarez dig a great job of building the team’s pitching staff, which finished fourth overall in the American Association, but the hitting never really materialized. This doomed the club to a second place finish in the South Division, leaving them out of the playoffs.

Getting a few big bats for the middle of the order was a huge a priority, and Shelby Ford likely found a big piece with the addition of outfielder Matt Helms. Helms hit .315 in 2014 for Quebec (Can-Am League), but his average dropped over the next two seasons to a career low of .247 in 2016. However, 2017 saw Helms put up huge numbers for Ottawa, hitting .290 with season highs for homers (7) and runs scored (60).

Helms can play all three outfield positions and is a solid outfielder, making just one error last season, with 6 assists. He also stole 8 bases in 11 attempts, which could make him the ideal No. 2 hitting in this order.

A Developing Pitching Staff

Ace Patrick Mincey came to terms on a new deal on Tuesday, which will give Ford a potential 12-14 game winner at the top of his rotation. However, in a surprise move, the team opted to release RHP Carlos Pimentel, who had been acquired about five weeks ago.

Over the last three days, the Railroaders have added four pitchers who should make solid contributions this season. RHP Dylan Mouzakes was acquired by Suarez for the final three months of the 2017 American Association season, posting a 5-6 record with a 4.39 ERA in 17 appearances, 13 of which were starts. He will likely be the No. 3 or 4 starter on the team.

Josh Hodges was also reacquired by the team. He started the 2017 season in Cleburne before joining the Salina Stockade. Prior to being released, the right-hander put up solid numbers for the Railroaders, going 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 6 starts. His ERA rose nearly two runs for the struggling Stockade, but he has the kind of stuff that could make him a No. 2 starter behind Mincey.

The starting rotation has not been the only part of the pitching staff that Ford has addressed. RHP Tyler Wilson was acquired from the Lincoln Saltdogs and LHP Will Mathis was re-signed. Mathis made 11 appearances for Cleburne in 2017, going 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA. He has solid stuff, striking out 24 in 20.1 innings pitched, while only walking 6. Wilson pitched in the Atlantic League with Long Island last season, where he was 2-2 with a 5.47 ERA in 24 appearances. The right-hander also has good stuff, striking out 26 in 24.2 innings pitched, but he must cut down on the walks (16).

The Building Blocks for Success

The Cleburne Railroaders added three other pieces to build the lineup. Trevor Sealey was signed on Thursday. The outfielder-second baseman gives Ford versatility in the field and looks to rebound at the plate after hitting .215 in 94 games for the Texas Airhogs in 2017. While he may not hit .373 like he did for Trinidad in the Pecos League in 2016, no one should expect numbers like last year’s either.

Alex Polston and Axel Johnson were re-signed as well.  Polston is a solid shortstop, who hit .212 last season in 73 games. Johnson hit .251 in 87 games with 12 stolen bases and can play all three outfield positions.

Full Speed Ahead

With the 2018 American Association season less than 50 days away, the Cleburne Railroaders are looking to make some noise in the South Division. The starting staff is taking shape and, with a few more big bats, this could be the surprise team of the league.

American Association Daily Notes

The Gary Southshore RailCats added RHP Chuch Weaver. Weaver pitched in the Frontier League his first three seasons before joining the Miami Marlins in 2015. Last year he was at the team’s Mid-A Greensboro team, where the righty was 9-5 with a 3.02 ERA in 14 starts. The RailCats also acquired RHP Myles Smith from the Kansas City T-Bones in exchange for LHP Carlos Diaz. Smith spent four seasons in affiliate ball reaching AAA-Reno in 2016 (Arizona Diamondbacks). Last season, the right-hander pitched for the T-Bones, where he was 2-2 with a save and a 3.38 ERA in 44 appearances…The St. Paul saw infielder Noah Perio return and signed Max Murphy. Perio had signed with St. Paul earlier this year, but had his contract purchased by the Colorado Rockies. Murphy played for the Minnesota Twins organization the last four seasons, playing at High-A Fort Myers and AA-Chattanooga last season. Combined, he hit .285 with 6 homers and 62 RBI in 130 games…The Lincoln Saltdogs added LHP Kyle Kinman. He reached AA-Mississippi (Atlanta Braves) in 2016 before needing season ending surgery. The injury forced him to sit out 2017.

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By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA

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