2016 Hillsboro Hops: Meet Your Starting Pitchers
Last years starters left some big cleats to fill as the Hops had three of the top pitchers in the league including the pitcher of the year. This year’s crop of talent show some exciting ball control as well. The roster features two returnees from the 2015 championship club and three new players, including two directly from college and making their pro debut with the Hops. Giving themselves a good mix, the Hops will feature a burning fireballer (Mejia), master off-speed control pitcher (Poche), a high ranking prospect (Mark), a potential strike-out king (Wright) and a durable, long-inning starter who has already earned the Hops first win of the season (Benitez). Here are your 2016 starting pitchers:
This will be the 20 year-old’s fifth season with the Diamondback organization, his first with the Hops. Benitez, a 6’1” left-hander, was signed as an undrafted free agent on 2/4/12. Last year was spent with the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League where many of the past Hops have come from. Anfernee was assigned to the Hops on 6/16/16. He immediately made an impact starting the season opener and earning the Hops’ first win of the season. He has earned a early reputation of being a durable starter giving his team many innings of quality pitching. Aguadulce, Panama is not only the birthplace of the Hops newest starter but also former Major Leaguers Juan Berenger and Carlos Lee. His goal this year is to maintain consistency of his ERA. It is hoped that pitcher friendly Ron Tonkin field will give him that chance.
Tyler is a returning champion from the 2015 Hops where he went 2-2 in a short stint at the end of the season. The 6’1”, 20-year-old right hander is from Culver City, California. Drafted in the sixth round from Concordia University in 2015, he is the 26th ranked prospect in the Diamondbacks farm system. In his first outing of the 2016 season, Mark was hit hard for six runs on eight hits in four innings in a loss. Looking to the future, the Diamondbacks feel he has a clean delivery and three solid pitches. Now, the goal is to continue developing him into a solid starting pitcher on the pro level. A huge fan of the Batman.
Jeferson Mejia (muh-HEE’-uh)
The tall (6’7”) right-hander is also a returning champion from the 2015 Hops where he displayed his burning 97-mph fastball to opposing batters. The 21-year-old also has (so far) an inconsistent curve ball and change up. If he can find his consistency, his speed pitches could open the door to the majors. In his first appearance this season, Mejia lasted 4.2 innings allowing 7 runs (5 earned) on six hits for the loss. Mejia has shown potential as a future starter and as a closer. Originally in the Chicago Cubs organization, the Diamondbacks traded for him on 12/9/14 and he was assigned to the Hops on 6/16/15. Jeferson is from the Dominican Republic.
Colin Poche (po-SHAY’)
The 6’3”, 22 year-old left-hander was drafted in the 14th round out of Dallas Baptist earlier this month. The Hops are his first professional assignment. After Tommy John surgery in June, 2014, Poche relies on a variety of off-speed pitches to maintain control at the plate. He was able to return for the 2016 season at Dallas Baptist to be named Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year, the first Patriot to be so honored. Despite the surgery, Poche can still maintain a 90-mph fastball. Poche was named the Louisville Slugger National Pitcher of the Week for May 13th of this year for striking out 14 batters and earning a 9-5 win. Colin is also a college All-American for 2016. His first starting assignment will be Tuesday, June 21st, against the Eugene Emeralds. His college major was Kinesiology.
The 23 year-old, 6’0” Georgian right-hander was signed by the Diamondbacks as an undrafted free agent on 12/8/15. His first assignment was the home opener against the Eugene Emeralds on 6/20/16. Wright went five innings and, except for a two-run homer in the third, showed some pretty good control on the mound as he struck out nine batters without a walk. Unfortunately, without any run support, he also was tabbed with the loss in his first professional start. Wright was a college teammate of 2015 Hops OF Zach Nehrir.
Photography by Portland Oregon Photographer Craig Mitchelldyer
By Greg Stoker