Grand Prairie Airhogs Mid-Season Review: Airhogs Avenue
The Grand Prairie Airhogs reach the mid-season break at 30-37, 15.5 games out in the South Division of the American Association. They entered the break as winners of six of their last 10, but face a massive uphill battle as the Wichita Wingnuts look extremely tough to catch.
The Airhogs are sixth in the league in hitting at .271 and are tied for eighth with 332 runs scored. Their run production has been hurt by the fact that they have hit just 34 home runs in 67 games, ranked 10th in the AA. The pitching staff has struggled as well, ranked 10th in the American Association with a 5.09 and they have an opponent batting average of .291, also ranked 10th.
Top Airhogs Player: The Airhogs have three players that could stake their claim to being the best player on the team at the mid-season point. All-Star Abel Nieves is hitting. 329 with a home run and 28 runs scored. He has also has scored 37 runs. SS Jimmy Mojica is seventh in the league in runs scored with 50 and has a .303 average. Both of these are quality choices, but Airhogs Avenue feels that OF Jason Botts is the clear choice because of his all-around play.
Botts enters the second half hitting .310 and has nine homers and 54 RBI. His RBI total ranks him third in the AA and his 34 walks puts him tied for 10th. The outfielder has dominated most offensive categories on the team. He leads in doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, and total extra base hits, plus he is second in hits and runs scored. Clearly he has proven himself to be the top player at this point in the season.
Top Airhogs Pitcher: Despite no longer being with the team, right-hander Aaron Wilkerson was the best pitcher for Grand Prairie at the mid-season break. Wilkerson had made 12 starts and was 3-1 with a very respectable 3.54 ERA. While others had a better ERA than the big righty, they were unable to put up the other numbers he had attained. In 73.2 innings of work Wilkerson had given up 69 hits and 31 walks while striking out 77. They were solid enough numbers that the Boston Red Sox organization purchased his contract and he is now at Lowell, (Low-A) where he has won both of his starts, yielding just two earned runs in 13 innings.
Season Outlook: The Airhogs are in a tough division, considering the team with the best record in the league (Wichita) is with them. 15.5 games back is just too many to make up this late in the season, and therefore it is time for the team to focus on their future plans. They have some quality hitters, but one must wonder if they will be able to keep Nieves and Botts, or if the two will move to a Major League organization. Grand Prairie can be proud of the amazing job they have done in developing some of their talent, and now they will have to develop some more for next season.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA