Hops Are Back. Season Opener Tonight.
The Hops are back! 598 days after their last game on September 11th, 2019. The day they won the 2019 Northwest League championship for the third time in their seven year history. The Hops have had a long time to enjoy the celebration. But now, they are more than ready to get started again. One and two thirds of a year is way too long of a time to wait for the next ball game.
Hops Are Back (to a New Level)
This year is the first year the Hops will be playing a full season as the High-A
affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Replacing the 76-game seasons are new 132-game seasons. Almost twice the fun. And for the same price as the Hops are keeping the ticket prices the same as 2019. Some teams are almost doubling their ticket prices to make up for the smaller crowds. Starting the 2021 season at 25% capacity, the Hops decided to keep the prices the same. Hops president and GM K.L. Wombacher recently said, “Our fans have been incredibly supportive over the last year so raising pricing didn’t even cross our minds.”
Rising to the new competition level means not only two levels higher, but also the Hops are only three levels away from the major leagues. Everyone loves rooting for the minor league player to make it all the way to the top. Watching that player take his first swing or throw his first pitch at the major league level is a reward for the fan who followed him there. Second only to the reward the player himself feels.
Hops Who Debuted in Major Leagues
But the journey from short season A to the majors is uncommon. Before the 2021 season only the following former Hops made a major league appearance:
(from 2013) Aaron Blair, Daniel Palka, Braden Shipley and Jimmie Sherfy; (from 2014) Kevin Cron, Zac Curtis and Brad Keller; (2015) Sergio Alcantara, Ryan Burr, Taylor Clarke, Ariel Hernandez, Mike Freeman, Dansby Swanson and Alex Young; (2016) Jon Duplantier, Kevin Ginkel, Wei-Chieh Huang, Colin Poche and Riley Smith; (2017) Domingo Leyba, Pavin Smith and Daulton Varsho; no one from 2018 or 2019 has made a major league debut as of 2020.
22 (and counting…) out of 302 players have made it to the highest level gives us a percentage of 7% of success. Expect to see a higher percentage from High-A. You will need a larger scorecard to keep track of all of them just five years from now just like Sheriff Brody says “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” in the first Jaws movie.
This list does not include Brian Ellington, Mike Freeman, Henry Owens and Troy Scribner who made their major league debuts before wearing a Hops uniform. For the record, Matt Peacock and Geraldo Perdomo have made their major league debuts just very recently in 2021.
Hops Are Back With New Roster (and familiar faces)
As of this last Saturday, the 2021 roster for the Hops stands at 27. Of those, over
half have worn a Hops uniform in either 2018 or 2019. The biggest representation is by 2019 at a full third of the roster (9 of 27). Not far behind, 2018 stands at 7 of 27 or 26%. The total of former Hops, however, is only 15 (55%) as Luis Frias played for the Hops during both years. At least most of the roster will be familiar with Ron Tonkin Stadium.
The biggest slice of players will take the pitchers mound. The previously mentioned Frias will feel at home with former teammates Kenny Hernandez, Yaramil Hiraldo, Drey Jameson, Kai-Wei Lin, Ryne Nelson, Wesley Rodriguez, Nick Snyder, Kyler Stout and Matt Tabor. It is too early to know the starting rotation but the Hops have announced Bryce Jarvis will be the opening night starter. You can read more about him below under the Top Picks- first rounders. Bryce and Blake Workman will join the returning Hops pitchers on the mound.
The role of position players will see their share of returning faces. The catcher position will see Nick Dalesandro return along with newcomers Axel Andueza and Luvin Valbuena. The only returning face for the infield will be sparkplug Ricky Martinez. In 2019, Ricky had only two errors split between second base and shortstop over 62 games. In addition to that, Ricky batted a respectable .283 at the plate. Joining him in the infield are Blaze Alexander, Spencer Brickhouse, Cam Coursey, Alexander Hernandez, Buddy Kennedy and Leodany Perez.
The outfield will be a reunion between three former Hops: Dom Canzone (2019), Corbin Carroll (2019) and Tra Holmes (2018). Corbin is the leader of this trio as he is the number two prospect in the Diamondbacks organization. But, don’t sleep on Dom or Tra. With only three errors total between them for their respective years, not much goes past them.
Hops are Back (with Top Prospects)
These are the top prospects that get to put on the Hops uniform for 2021. Catch them this year as they probably will be another step or two closer to the Major Leagues next year.
#2 – Corbin Carroll…
…is the number two prospect for the
Diamondbacks organization. He is considered a Tier 1 prospect which means a potential All-Star at the major league level. Strengths are considered to be his foot speed and hitting. There is reasonable hope for his power to come along.
#9 – Luis Frias…
…dazzled Hops fans for two years as he racked up the strikeouts. His totals for just Hillsboro rose to 99 K’s in only 75.1 innings. His fastball reaches into the high 90’s. But, Luis is more than just a fastball pitcher. His spike-curveball and split-changeup will frustrate batters too. His expectations at the top hover around the mid-inning relief with potential for more.
#20 – Drey Jameson…
…gives everything he has into his pitches. Because of that, Drey commonly reaches mid-90’s for his fastball with an occasional faster speed every now and then. But, that same strength also leads to a bit of wildness. In addition, Drey commands a plus curveball and slider. The Big Leagues project him as a middle reliever but he is expected to continue starting this year.
#22 – Matt Tabor…
…worked hard and managed to turn one of his weakest pitches, his slider, into one of his best. Knowing Matt from his Hops days, he has most likely eyed his next step of improvement towards the Big Leagues.
#23 – Blaze Alexander…
…is new to Hillsboro at any level. But he won’t remain a stranger for long. A middle infielder, Blaze can catch and throw with a quick snap. His throws seem to be guided by lasers and almost as quick. He will take part in many double plays this and any year. At the plate, Blaze has good contact but needs work in other areas of his offense.
#39 – Ryne Nelson’s…
…strength may lay in as a future closer. But, until then, other possibilities are still open with a strong fastball. Needs to work on other pitches to build up his arsenal if he wants to be a starter.
#41 – Buddy Kennedy…
…grew up in Mike Trout’s hometown. Like Mike, Buddy can be a power hitter that launches to the opposite field, places his grounders to where the gloves are not and works the pitch count. Must be something in the water there. The left infielder still has a ways to go before he is mistaken for Mike however but he might remind you of him at times.
#48 – Spencer Brickhouse…
…draws high optimism because he is built like his last name states. His strength will launch into orbit any fastball or curveball… if he could hit them consistently. But when he tags them solidly, get your binoculars out if you want to see where they land. Spencer is young enough that he still has all the promise of potential with him. But, his ceiling may be as a designated hitter.
If you want to read more about players mentioned above or the rest of the young Diamondbacks prospects (or any other team for that matter) check out the Prospects1500.com website for some great insight.
Hops are Back (with all of the top picks)
Everybody loves a first rounder. Or a second rounder. Even third rounders get some love. This year is no different. The Hops have plenty of them. Including three first rounders this year. Fans already know two first rounders from 2019: Drey Jameson and Corbin Carroll. Both are highlighted above as top prospects. But, the Hops also sport 2020’s first rounder: pitcher Bryce Jarvis. Bryce came out of Duke as the 18th overall pick.
While at Duke, Bryce caught the attention of the Big Guys. Jarvis is the first and so far only pitcher in the 131 year history of Duke to pitch a perfect game. Read up on Bryce with Matt Kelly’s 10 Things to Know About Bryce Jarvis. Including Bryce’s memories of shagging a line drive from Manny Ramirez in Fenway Park.
2nd and 3rd Rounders
Second rounders for the Hops this year feature a pitcher, Ryne Nelson (2019), out of the Oregon Ducks. Ryne is featured above in the Top Prospects for the Diamondbacks. The Hops third rounder so far this year is 2017’s Matt Tabor who is also featured above with the other top prospects.
In conclusion, keep your eyes open, however, as there could be more on the way before the season is over.
That is a quick look at the Hops start of the season. Most of you know that players will come and go and maybe come back again. Treat yourself – the Hops are back.
In the meantime, check out last week’s column: Who’s Next? To sum up, you can find out about the next stars who could make their major league debut sooner rather than later, including the Hops Corbin Carroll.