Grand Prairie AirHogs Press: March Update
The Grand Prairie AirHogs are watching their South Division rivals lose some key pieces, and have to be thinking that they have a real good shot of making the playoffs in the upcoming American Association season. Their two biggest obstacles, the Wichita Wingnuts and Laredo Lemurs, have seen key pieces depart from the team, and this has opened the door for Grand Prairie to make a move.
To meet those ends, the AirHogs have been active this off-season, looking to improve their roster. They have brought in some real talent, but unfortunately some of that talent they have not been able to retain.
One key loss was catcher Sean O’Connell, who signed with the Chicago White Sox. O’Connell had been signed by the team in early February, but his stay was not long. The young catcher has shown that he is on the rise. In 2013 he played for Lincoln and struggled, hitting just .174 in 51 games. Last year, however, playing for Fort Worth of the United League, he hit .288 with 25 RBI in 62 games. He has a lot of talent, and clearly the White Sox recognized this.
On February 12, the AirHogs acquired infielder Victor Diaz from the Wichita Wingnuts to complete an earlier deal. Diaz played briefly for Renosa (AAA) of the Mexican League before the Wingnuts brought him in. For Wichita he hit .240 in 12 games, but proved to be a real run-producer, driving in 12. The infielder has a career .285 average in 1201 games played with 205 homers and 821 RBI.
On the 23rd of February, Grand Prairie re-signed RHP Dakota Watts and signed OF Victor Ferrante. The right-hander was 0-4 in 44 appearances for the AirHogs last season, with a 4.56 ERA. Watts was a longtime Minnesota Twins prospect before signing in Grand Prairie.
Ferrante was out of baseball last season after suffering an injury in 2013. Playing for El Paso in 2013, who used to be in the American Association, Ferrante appeared in just 9 games and had one hit in 10 at-bats. He has been playing independent ball since 2010.
On February 26, the AirHogs inked a pair of right-handers. Logan Norris split time between three different levels for the Colorado Rockies last season, finishing the season with the team’s Mid-A team, Asheville. Combined he was 6-1 with a 4.11 ERA and a save. He has good stuff and will likely be in the team’s bullpen, but has the ability to fill in as a starter if need be.
Also signed was righty Julio Rodriguez, who split time between the Chicago Cubs AA-team, Tennessee, and Bridgeport of the Atlantic League. He made three stars for Tennessee before being released, going 1-2, but was very effective for Bridgeport. In 9 appearances Rodriguez was 3-4 with a 4.31 ERA. The right-hander has great stuff, but his command needs some work. He walked 45 batters in 54 total innings last season. If he can regain command of his stuff, he will be back with an affiliate club in no time.
On March 4, the team re-signed Brett Wallach. The right-hander made 31 appearances last season, after sitting out the 2013 season, and had a great year for the AirHogs. He was 4-0 in 31 appearances with a 3.21 ERA. Wallach has great command of his pitches, walking just 11 in 33.1 innings pitched.
On the same day, infielder Matthew Burns was also re-signed. The infielder played in 56 games last season, hitting .164 with 4 homeruns and 17 RBI. He can play short, second and third, and has a good glove.
By Robert Pannier