Wilson, Buck Return, Railroaders Add Two Others
CLEBURNE, Tex. (Apr. 17, 2020) – The Cleburne Railroaders announced Friday the signing of infielders Grant Buck and Michael Hill and right-handed pitchers Joe Lienhard and Tyler Wilson.
Buck joined the Railroaders on June 11 as a true rookie out of Cal State San Marcos. He recorded a hit in each of his first four professional games, and provided a number of clutch hits over the course of his 60 contests in a Railroaders uniform. In just his third game with the club, Buck delivered a two-out, two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift Cleburne to a 7-6 win over the Kansas City T-Bones. On July 4, he connected for a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning against the Chicago Dogs to help the ‘Roaders rally for an 11-8 win.
For the season, Buck produced a .280/.362/.385 slash line, recording 16 doubles, two triples and one home run. Seven times he racked up three hits in a game, setting a career-high with four RBI against the Sioux Falls Canaries on August 18. His first professional long ball came against the Milwaukee Milkmen on July 10. Among true rookies who played in at least 50 games, only Graham Low of Sioux Falls and Tom Walraven of Gary SouthShore posted a higher OPS than Buck’s .747. The 26-year old first baseman was hitting .303 as late as August 20, before a 1-for-20 stretch dropped his average to its final .280 mark.
Buck arrived in Cleburne after finishing his college career at Cal State San Marcos, starting all 50 games with the Cougars in 2019. He hit .335 with a team-leading 10 home runs, 104 total bases and 29 walks, posting a .997 OPS as the club’s primary first baseman. A native of Carlsbad, California, Buck was named Second Team All-California Collegiate Athletic Association following his senior season at CSUSM. He finished fourth in the CCAA in runs scored and fifth in home runs.The 6’6 left-handed hitter started his career with two seasons at Palomar College, hitting .371 as a sophomore to catch the attention of Houston Baptist, where he transferred as a junior. Buck hit .284 with five doubles and four home runs in 44 games while with the Huskies, earning All-Southland Tournament Team honors after going 9-19 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI.
Hill brings a strong collegiate and professional pedigree to Cleburne. The native of Orange, California is a veteran of five pro seasons, three of which came in the Kansas City Royals organization. A versatile defender who has played every position except centerfield professionally, Hill was selected by the Royals in the 22nd round of the 2014 MLB Draft after four seasons at powerhouse Long Beach State University. He climbed from Rookie-level Idaho Falls that same year to reach High-A Wilmington for a pair of stints in 2015 and 2016.
Hill’s 2016 season was a productive one, producing a .256/.328/.425 slash line across two levels. The campaign included career-bests in doubles (23) and home runs (10), representing the first of three consecutive seasons in which Hill cracked double-digit homers. The 28-year old signed with the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League in 2017, where he hit just .214 but showcased impressive power and walk numbers to the tune of a .327 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage. Those numbers improved across the board the following year, as Hill slashed .240/.348/.458 with a career high 14 home runs and 39 RBI, despite playing in just 78 games for Washington.
Hill is the older brother of Jacob Hill, who signed with the Railroaders prior to the 2019 season. Michael’s brothers David and John also played for Long Beach State, as did their father Robert.
Lienhard (pronounced LIN-hard) enters his second professional season after an impressive rookie campaign in 2019. After going undrafted following four seasons at Oklahoma State, Lienhard signed with the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters. The right-hander’s contract was purchased by the Kansas City Royals after just five appearances with the Skeeters, including one start. Kansas City assigned Lienhard to Rookie-level Idaho Falls, and the 23-year old responded with excellent numbers, fashioning a 2.88 ERA in 13 games out of the bullpen. Over 25.0 innings of work, he struck out 24 while walking just nine.
The native of Wichita, Kansas was a durable and consistent force during his four seasons at Oklahoma State, leaving the program seventh all time with 76 appearances (32 starts). Lienhard finished his Cowboy career with a 13-7 record and 4.69 ERA over 207.1 innings of work, helping Oklahoma State to a College World Series appearance in 2016 and a Super Regional in 2019. The 6’5, 235-pounder delivered a number of clutch performances during his time as a collegian, most notably a six-inning, one-run outing against UConn in his final career start to send Oklahoma State to the Super Regionals.
Lienhard’s father, Steve, also pitched at Oklahoma State and played in the minor leagues for six seasons.
Wilson had a career-best season operating as the Railroaders closer, finishing the year 3-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 41 appearances, covering 42.0 innings. The flame-throwing righty picked up 24 saves along the way, striking out 59 while issuing just 17 walks and allowing only 33 hits. He started and finished the year on a high note, beginning the campaign with 12 consecutive scoreless appearances and ending it with nine straight zeroes. He allowed an earned run in only five games during the season, and surrendered more than one earned run only once.
The 30-year old Wilson was at his best pitching at The Depot at Cleburne Station, where he allowed just one run in 24.2 innings, amassing a staggering 35/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Among pitchers who worked at least 40.0 innings, Wilson’s 12.6 strikeouts-per nine innings ranked fourth in the American Association, trailing only Matt Pobereyko of Sioux City, Myles Smith of Milwaukee and Casey Crosby of Chicago.
Wilson impressed in a brief stint with the Railroaders in 2018, going 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 16 relief appearances. He notched 35 strikeouts along the way, yielding a rate of 15.0 strikeouts per nine innings that ranked tops in the American Association among pitchers with at least ten innings of work.
A native of Rome, Georgia, Wilson was drafted out of Armuchee High School by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. After signing, Wilson began his professional career with the Red Sox Gulf Coast League affiliate as a starter. Over the next three years, Wilson steadily climbed the organizational ladder, first to Low-A Lowell and finally to Class-A Greenville. His best season came in 2011, when Wilson went 6-6 with a 3.44 ERA across two levels and 68.0 innings of work.
Wilson joined the Independent ranks in 2013 with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles of the Can-Am League, making 30 starts over the next two seasons to the tune of a 7-11 record. In 2015, the righty was converted to a reliever while with the Ottawa Champions, and immediately posted the two best campaigns of his career. Over 74 relief appearances, Wilson compiled a sparkling 2.57 ERA, racking up 15 saves in the process. He also began to find his strikeout stuff, piling up 113 punch-outs to only 41 walks in 87.2 innings.
Wilson moved to the Atlantic League with the Long Island Ducks in 2017, going 2-2 with a 5.47 ERA before signing with the Lincoln Saltdogs. He was traded to Cleburne on March 27, 2018 in exchange for a player to be named later.
The signings give the Railroaders 27 players under contract for the 2020 season. American Association clubs may carry up to 28 players during Spring Training.
INF Alay Lago
C John Nester
C Blake Grant-Parks
RHP Jesus Sanchez
INF Chase Simpson
RHP Alex Boshers
OF Angel Reyes
RHP Angelo Palumbo
LHP Michael Gunn
INF David Gonzalez
RHP Osmer Morales
LHP Rick Teasley
OF Hunter Clanin
RHP Arlett Mavare
INF Colton Pogue
RHP Edward Cruz
RHP Garrett Alexander
RHP Jake Joyce
LHP Nathan Foriest
RHP Bryan Saucedo
RHP Landon Holifield
OF Zach Nehrir
LHP Mason Melotakis
INF Grant Buck
INF Michael Hill
RHP Joe Lienhard
RHP Tyler Wilson
For information on partnerships, season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Railroaders main office at (817) 945-8705, or visit the Railroaders official website at www.railroaderbaseball.com.
By Denning Gerig, Cleburne Railroaders