American Association 2021 Mid-Season Report: Cleburne Railroaders
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the first half of the season for the Cleburne Railroaders, looking at top players, areas to improve, and where this team is likely to finish.
Cleburne Railroaders Reach Midway Point
Record: 28-21 (2, T-4) (Place in Division in parenthesis, followed by record overall)
(Overall ranking in American Association listed in parenthesis)
Average: .282 (4)
Homeruns: 50 (T-8)
Runs: 267 (8)
Stolen Bases: 49 (T-7)
On-Base Percentage: .367 (3)
Slugging Percentage: .354 (8)
ERA: 4.47 (3)
Strikeouts: 404 (9)
Opponent Batting Average: .262 (7)
Saves: 13 (T-4)
Fielding Percentage: .975 (9)
Errors: 43 (8)
First Half Recap
The early season woes for the Railroaders have become as routine as an Alay Lago–Osvaldo Martinez double-play, and this season has been no exception. Cleburne was 11-16 through June 17, relegating them to fifth place. However, Cleburne has rebounded and is one of the two hottest teams in the American Association (Unfortunately, rival Kansas City is the hottest).
The Railroaders are 17-5 in the last 22 games and have won seven straight series. That has been against premium talent as well, including Milwaukee, Kane County, Sioux Falls, and Lincoln. The team faces the Monarchs on August 5-8, which should be a real test of how good these teams are.
After a disappointing 2020, Zach Nehrir has re-established himself as one of the best players in the league. He is hitting .366 and is a threat on the base paths (12 stolen bases) and on defense. Clearly, one of the best five all-around players in the American Association. This is a solid lineup that is very tough 1-5. The combo of Martinez-Lago at the top of the order is as dangerous as any, and Ramon Hernandez is an RBI machine, tied for the league lead with 56. They need John Nester to hit better.
Tyler Wilson has regained his form he flashed two years ago, making him nearly automatic in the closer’s role. That has allowed Kyle Chavez to return to the setup role, which gives the team even more flexibility. Jheyson Manzueta has become the ace and he has been very good.
When Wilson was out, Chavez stepped into to close games out and he was great. Now, he returns to the setup role and there may be no better reliever in the league. The righty has been scored on just once in his last 15 appearances, allowing a single run in his last 15.0 innings. Chavez does not strike out a lot of guys. He just gets outs.
After a difficult start to the season, it looked like Chase Simpson had turned things around, but he is back in a slump. In his last six games, Simpson has just one hit, going 1-23. That has his average back under .200.
What They Need
The Railroaders have overcome some serious issues this season, and this is the one area where they may have a leg up on any other team. They have lost Martinez, Wilson, starter Michael Mariot, among others, but have found a replacement each time. That is where Cleburne may be in a better position than the others. They already have someone on the roster who can do the job if needed.
What to Expect
The Railroaders are the deepest team in the South Division. They have a rotation that is good enough, a very good bullpen, and a solid lineup. No one is going to catch Kansas City, but the Railroaders will make their first playoff appearance in franchise history.
By Robert Pannier