First Week For 2021 Season Hillsboro Hops? Mixed Bag
After a long wait, the first week of the 2021 season sure went by fast. While any week, let alone the first one, can hardly represent what to expect for the whole season, it is fun to see what we can find digging around.
Faces may come and faces may go but each season has its own identity. And that identity comes from the faces and the positions you see them at the most. Every young fan who grew up loving baseball can recall the names of the players from his favorite team along with what position they played. Someone this year is a little kid and is memorizing the players they are seeing today for their future – even if they don’t realize it.
The Hops are no different. It has only been one week but they are already establishing themselves around the diamond. Third base may belong to Buddy Kennedy though he did a fine job at first base for the last game of the Everett series (before he took a fastball to the hand). Blaze Kennedy has a firm grip on shortstop with his quick release and fire in his throw. Ricky Martinez is solid at second base. He is one of the familiar faces from 2019. His fielding skills are top of the line. In 2019 he played second for most of the season and only made two throwing errors. None in actual fielding itself. Spencer Brickhouse at first completes the infield with his steady glove and a bat that started to wake up in the last game.
The outfield will seem real familiar. Top prospect Corbin Carroll wasn’t in Hillsboro for long in 2019
but he made a huge impact on the team. He has taken that even further in just the first week of 2021. Tra Holmes is a recognizable face from 2019. This time around he seems situated more for left field but has the arm for right. Right field was looking like it belonged to Dominic Canzone but the week ended with it looking like Leodany Perez is taking it over. Perez is showing off his fielding skills such as an impressive diving catch in the fifth game. But Dominic does deserve a place somewhere. Things will shake down over time.
Finally, Nick Dalesandro is grabbing the position behind the plate. His game management skills appear very capable. The pitcher’s mound should be no surprise. Top prospect Luis Frias owns that mound. He will own that mound until he gets called up to AA ball.
Time will change this roster over the weeks. Some will get a promotion to a higher level. Some may take a step back to get the playing time they are not getting in Hillsboro. Someone may get injured and have to sit out long enough to heal. One thing that I can guarantee you is that someone you might remember 10 years from now isn’t even on the team yet.
First Week Scoring
The Hops are averaging 3.5 runs per game in the first week. Not bad but not great either. The leader for the Hops should not be a surprise. In fact, you are going to see Corbin Carroll’s name all over the stat page this year. By himself, he is averaging scoring over one run per game. No doubt helped by the four runs he scored on Sunday. But, Corbin is more than a fleet of foot. He also has the IQ to know when to run and when not to. Corbin has instincts that you can’t teach. He is one of those guys who can steal home from first base.
As far as hits go, the Hops are averaging a little over five hits a game. Again, not great. There will always be a bat or two that struggles during any game. But, out of nine men and a team batting average around .250, eight or nine hits per game is respectable. Double digits is doing well. Again, it should be no surprise that Corbin is leading the team by a little over one hit per game. But, the good news, he has several teammates right behind him.
First Week Home Runs
Homers, taters, dinger, bomb, moonshot, Ruthian blast, round tripper, four bagger, going yard or grand salami, they are all fun nicknames for a fun stat. Historically, the Hops have rarely been Ruthian giants when it comes to mashing their taters to the moon. But they have had their fair share of round trippers going yard while touching them all.
This week is a slow start after the first game showed so much promise. Both Blaze Alexander and Dom Canzone dinged over the wall to get us started. At that rate and a 132-game season, we could expect 264 bombs by season’s end. But, it all came crashing down to reality when it took the Hops five more games to get the team’s third homer of the year. Now the expectations are for 66 four baggers in the season. Less than the major league record for one person.
First Week Strikeouts
The Hops are leading in one category: strikeouts. The Hops struck out 79 times during the first week. That’s averaging over 13 batters a game. One game, 18 Hops batters struck out. A batter rarely can help his team if he is not putting the ball in play. If the ball is bouncing around, anything can happen. If it is resting in the catcher’s glove, nothing will happen.
Spencer Birckhouse is leading the Hops in K’s but there is good news. Spencer’s bat is now waking up and his numbers will look a lot better soon.
First Week Steals
Another category the Hops lead in is steals with 21 stolen bases. Lowest in the Northwest league is six. Yes, just six. By the Tri City Dust Devils. The Hops lofty perch is buoyed by the all-time record tying eleven steals in one game this week. In fact, the Spokane Indians are the only team that has stolen more bases in a week than the Hops have stolen in one game.
This is a sign of how fast the Hops really are. Of the Hops roster, only three players have not stolen a base and most of that is due to lack of playing time. This is proving to other teams that the Hops are a danger on the base paths. Making an opposing pitcher nervous is the best way to mess with their minds.
Bats have not been consistent. Eugene is hovering over .300 at the top of the league rankings but the Hops are tied for the cellar with only .203 to show for their efforts. Strikeouts are a big part. Those will return back to the mean as the season wears onward but there is still a lot to go to make it to the top. Strikeouts, low batting average, runs scored can all be attributed to the number of hits. The Hops are looking at six and a half per game. Again near the bottom. Average is closer to eight.
For your own deeper look into the stats and the story they tell, click here. (scroll down)
Last Week’s Transactions
Late breaking: Luis Frias is now an Amarillo Sod Poodle as of Tuesday. Going to AA is not a surprise.
Nor that he is promoted so soon in the season. I was just hoping the Hops could have him a little longer.
5/7, last Thursday: RHP Hunter Haworth assigned to the Hops from AZL D-backs. The Diamondbacks signed Haworth as a free agent on the previous Monday. Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2017, the Salem Red Sox released Haworh on April 21st of this year. Since coming to the Hops, Hunter (2-0) appeared in two games as a reliever and walked away with wins from both games.
5/4, day before season start: both LHP Bryan Valdez and RHP Shumpei Yoshikawa placed on the seven day disabled list by the Hops.
Bryan played for the Hops in 2018 and spent 2019 in both low A Kane County and high A Visalia along with time at AA Jacksonville. Coming to the Hops is more of a side move for Bryan.
Shumpei signed as a free agent with the Diamondbacks and played for High A Visalia in 2019. In 2021, Shempei stays at the High A level with the Hops.
Down the Road
That’s it for this week’s look back. I’ll take other looks at the Hops throughout the season along with other news affecting current and former Hops. Check in each week to find out what I saw.
Hops play next on Thursday continuing their series against the Eugene Emeralds, this time in Eugene. I’ll be taking a break from Twittercasts until they return home on the 18th and play their new roommates, the Vancouver Canadians. Until then, read about how the Hops did the next morning in my game recaps at Minor League Sports Report, at home and on the road.
Until then, check out some of my older columns at your leisure.