Joplin Blasters Jive: Off-Season Update
It will be an exciting time in Joplin, Missouri this summer, as the Joplin Blasters join the American Association for their inaugural season. The club has had a lot to do to prepare for the upcoming season, but they have been incredibly active, acquiring 12 players to help the team in its first season in the league.
On January 12, the Joplin Globe reported that Carlos Lezcano became the first manager in the history of the Joplin Blasters. This will be his 22-year in the dugout. Lezcano began his managing career in 1992 when he took over the Seattle Mariners’ rookie league team. In 21-seasons he has 1,012 wins and a .525 winning percentage. Clearly he has shown the ability to win, and was an outstanding choice as the club’s first skipper.
In a statement, Joplin’s general manager, Shawn Suarez, explained the selection of Lezcano. “After a lengthy process that saw numerous qualified applicants, we are tremendously excited to have Carlos aboard and to lead our team on the field. He possesses an outstanding track record in professional baseball, and is the right person to lead the Blasters in this new age.”
Even before the team had a manager they were making moves to fill the roster. The first of these was to acquire OF Oscar Mesa from Sioux City. The outfielder had an outstanding season for the Explorers, hitting .327 with 35 RBI and 45 runs scored in 73 games. He also has good speed, stealing 18 bases. He is a great addition atop the club’s batting order.
On October 17, four days after acquiring Mesa, the Blasters traded for infielder Omar Luna from York of the Atlantic League. Luna split time between three American Association teams last season, and will now get a shot to join his fourth. Last season he played in a total of 52 games, hitting .245 combined with 2 home runs and 13 RBI.
On October 28, Joplin traded for LHP Frank Del Valle from the Wichita Wingnuts. Del Valle appeared in just 9 games for Wichita last season, 7 as a starter, and was 1-1 with a 5.70 ERA. While it wasn’t a great year for the lefty with the American Association champions, he has shown in past seasons that he has quality stuff and should be a great addition to the Blaster staff.
As the calendar flipped to November, Joplin made a trade with the Lincoln Saltdogs, acquiring RHPs Justin Kuks and Jake Meiers for cash considerations. Kuks was used primarily as a starter in 2014, making 16 starts and 2 relief appearances. He was 5-6 with a 5.34 ERA. Meiers made 23 appearances, 22 in relief, and was 3-3 with a 5.72 ERA. If he can cut down on his walks he should an outstanding member of their bullpen.
On November 12, Joplin swung a deal to bring infielder Cory Morales from Fort Worth of the United League. Morales had split time between Amarillo and Fort Worth in 2014, appearing in 54 games, hitting a combined .290 with 20 RBI and 32 runs scored. He stole just 2 bases last year, but had 17 the previous season for Sioux Falls.
A week before Christmas the club signed infielder Tyger Pederson. Pederson played for Rockford of the Frontier League last season, appearing in 45 games while hitting .187 with 15 RBI. He is a wizard with the glove, making just one error.
The day before Christmas, free agent left-hander Jon Jones was inked to a deal. Jones was 1-1 last season, posting an 8.82 ERA in three starts.
Oh January 26 the club signed two players, infielder Austin Gallagher and right-hander Victor Capellan. Gallagher had split time between Lancaster and Bridgeport of the Atlantic League last year. In 73 combined games he hit .186 with 7 home runs and 23 RBI. Capellan was hurt much of last season, making just one appearance for Laredo.
On February 10, Morales was dealt to Amarillo for OF Sawyer Carroll. Carroll had been acquired earlier in the off-season but his stay in Texas was short. The outfielder had a solid season for Fargo-Moorhead last year, hitting .258 with 7 home runs and 51 RBI in 95 games.
By Robert Pannier