Grand Prairie AirHogs Press: Off-Season Report
It was a disappointing 2014 season for the Grand Prairie AirHogs, as the team finished 40-60, 33 games behind the American Association champion Wichita Wingnuts. The AirHogs look to make a splash this year, but so far this off-season they have been fairly silent, making a few moves, but not a big splash to this point. With three months left before the season begins look for the team to make some additions to the roster that will likely bolster their chances to compete in the ultra-competitive Southern Division.
A day after the season ended, the AirHogs exercised the option on 15 different players, including LHP Alex Hinshaw, C Ryan Gasporra, and INF Brian Myrow. This gave the team the rights to each of these players for the 2015 season.
On September 26, Grand Prairie released infielder Alex Nunez and outfielder Ryde Rodriguez. Nunez led the team in hitting in 2014, batting .354 with a home run and 27 RBI. He also scored 40 runs in 68 games, and stole 10 bases. Rodriguez appeared in 23 games for the AirHogs, hitting .171 and 6 RBI.
Less than a month later, Ryan Searle was given his walking papers. The right-hander was 5-9 last season with a 4.38 ERA. He made 20 starts, and led the team in innings pitched with 131.1. Clearly his absence will mean that team needs to acquire a starter who could eat up innings for them.
Two weeks later the AirHogs re-signed RHP Trevor Harden to give them a quality arm to help their rotation. The right-hander made 20 appearances last season for Grand Prairie, 16 starts, and was tied for the team lead in wins with six (6-5). He posted a 4.40 ERA and showed great control, walking just 25 batters in 108.1 innings pitched. Harden has a shot at being the club’s No. 1 starter this season.
On November 6, Grand Prairie released three more from its roster. OF Jason Botts hit .320 last season with 12 home runs and 68 RBI, and played in every game for the AirHogs last season. Botts posted an outstanding .408 on-base percentage.
Also released were C Brian Peterson and INF Miguel Castano. Peterson hit .235 in 39 games with 3 home runs and 14 RBI, and Castano appeared in 15 games, batting .164 with 3 RBI.
Three days later two right-handers were re-signed for the 2015 season. RHP Ty’Relle Harris made 36 appearances out of the bullpen, winning four of his eight decisions, with an ERA of 4.55. Dakota Watts was also re-signed by the club after appearing in 44 games with a 4.56 ERA. Watts led the team in saves with 21, ranked fifth in the American Association.
For the rest of 2014 the team remained silent for the most part, but 2015 began with three more players being released. This included RHPs Tobin Mateychick and Harden Shirley, and INF Brian Myrow. Mateychick struggled in his 18 relief appearances, posting a 10.46 ERA with 40 base runners allowed in 16.1 innings pitched. Shirley also struggled, appearing in six games, allowing 17 base runners in 6.2 innings pitched with a 10.80 ERA. Myrow had a solid season for Grand Prairie, hitting .251 in 58 games with 3 home runs and 21 RBI.
On January 22, the Grand Prairie AirHogs signed two newcomers, both infielders. Jon Dziomba split time between Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League and the Greys of the Frontier League. Combined he hit .252 in 64 games, with 29 runs scored, 30 RBI and one home run.
Victor Lebron was a standout at Fisher College, where he had a career average of .315 with 3 home runs and 106 RBI in 188 career games. Lebron had signed with the Grays Harbor Gulls in the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League in November, but chose to play with the AirHogs instead.
Next came the signing of catcher Sean O’Connell. O’Connell played with Fort Worth of the United League last season, where he starred for the team in 62 games played. The catcher hit .288 with 25 RBI and 36 runs scored in 62 games. He also had an outstanding season behind the plate, posting a .994 fielding percentage and throwing out 31 percent of would-be base-stealers. O’Connell did not remain with the team for long, as less than a week later the Chicago White Sox purchased his contract.
Two players were signed by Grand Prairie on February 5. LHP Ben Whitmore pitched for Traverse City of the Frontier League last season, where he was 6-4 with a 4.32 ERA and a save. The lefty appeared in 20 games, 15 as a starter, and had solid numbers, allowed 88 hits and 37 walks in 93.2 innings pitched, with 47 strikeouts.
OF Dan Treccia had been signed by Sioux Falls prior to last season, but was released before the season began. He signed with the Burlington Bandits of the Intercounty Baseball League, where he led the team with 6 home runs and 14 RBI in 34 games.
By Robert Pannier