For the first time in Fresno franchise history, five Grizzlies were named All-Stars.
Starting pitchers Brady Rodgers and Mike Hauschild, and closer James Hoyt will participate in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.
Rodgers will start for the Pacific Coast League squad, becoming the first Grizzlies pitcher to start a Triple-A All-Star game.
In addition, shorstop Alex Bregman and starting pitcher Joe Musgrove went to San Diego for the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday as part of the U.S. team.
Previously, the most Fresno players sent to All-Star games in the same season was four during the Grizzlies’ inaugural season in 1998.
The prospect-laden Houston Astros farm system again has armed the Grizzlies with a wealth of talent – a year after the Grizzlies won the Triple-A national title during their first season as the Astros’ affiliate.
“I think it’s a testament to how stacked the Astros system is when they can make a trade (this previous offseason) that included some of our better, young talent,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said, “and we’ve still got more.”
Brady Rodgers is enjoying a career year. The right-hander sports an 8-3 record with a 2.88 ERA and 86 strikeouts to 16 walks in 93 2/3 innings.
A year ago, he was 9-7 with a 4.51 ERA, and batters hit .289 off him.
But with a better understanding of how to sequence his arsenal of five pitches, and perhaps more importantly a stronger ability to throw his offspeed stuff with more precision, Rodgers has taken another step in his development.
Everything has been going my way, which has been really nice. It’s a great opportunity to start in an All-Star game. It’s definitely an honor. I’m humbled.
Fresno pitcher Brady Rodgers, who will start for the Pacific Coast League team in the Triple-A All Star Game
“Everything has been going my way, which has been really nice,” said Rodgers, who is in his second full season in Triple A. “It’s a great opportunity to start in an All-Star game. It’s definitely an honor. I’m humbled.”
Most notable about Rodgers’ progression: He isn’t serving up as many home runs.
A year ago, Rodgers surrendered 13 home runs in 115 2/3 innings – a home run per nine innings rate of 1.012.
This season, the 2012 third-round pick out of Arizona State has allowed just four homers in 93 2/3 innings for a HR/9IP rate of 0.384.
How impressive is that number? Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has an active major-league-best HR/9IP rate of 0.535 over his nine-year career.
“What happened before was he’d do a pretty good job most of the game but leave one or two offspeed pitches too far over the plate that’d go yard,” Grizzlies catcher Tyler Heineman said. “Brady’s got more movement on his slider than he did before. He’s more accurate and trusts himself.”
There might not be a Grizzlies player more prepared for a call-up than closer James Hoyt.
Fresno certainly knows how valuable the 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander has been.
Hoyt, 29, leads the PCL with 22 saves, along with a 1.87 ERA and a whopping 76 strikeouts to 16 walks in 43 1/3 innings. Batters are hitting just .153 off him.
1.73 Fresno Grizzlies closer James Hoyt’s ERA dating to June 2015, spanning 78 innings.
If one includes the start of his dominant run that began in June 2015, Hoyt has a 1.73 ERA with 125 strikeouts to 20 walks in his past 78 innings.
“James Hoyt is still the best pitcher in our entire organization, including MLB team,” Morgan Ensberg, the former Houston Astros star, tweeted late last month. Ensberg serves as a special assistant throughout the Astros farm system.
As imposing as Hoyt has been, one area the Astros would like to see improvement is when pitching multiple innings.
In outings when Hoyt is asked to throw beyond three outs, he has given up six earned runs in 14 2/3 innings for a 3.68 ERA with 27 strikeouts to 11 walks.
“I’m just trying to get better each time I go out there,” Hoyt said. “I’m really not trying to do too much, whether it’s one game or a three-run game.
“Just make quality pitches, get ahead of hitters and let our defense work. My slider’s been working well, slider location and being able to throw it in the dirt when I want to with two strikes, get ahead of hitters.”
The unassuming one
From his quiet personality to his peculiar baseball background, Mike Hauschild and his contributions often can go unnoticed.
He was a 33rd-round pick out of Dayton by the Astros. He’s never been considered a prospect.
But at 26, Hauschild is an All-Star for the first time in his professional career with his statistics doing some loud talking.
The 6-3, 210-pound Hauschild ranks second in the PCL with his 2.71 ERA, having surpassed his teammate Rodgers last week after firing off eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
“It’s pretty exciting to be going,” Hauschild said. “Ever since I mixed some mechanical stuff … make sure I was heading more toward the plate instead of throwing across my body … I feel like I can throw any pitch at any time and that keeps batters off-balanced.”
Hauschild is trying to become only the sixth player from Dayton to reach the majors.
For the season, Hauschild is 7-7 with 81 strikeouts to 23 walks in 96 1/3 innings. And with just four home runs allowed, he has a HR/9IP rate of 0.372.
In his past six starts combined, Fresno Grizzlies starting pitcher Mike Hauschild has allowed three earned runs over 39 innings for a 0.69 ERA. He also has 31 strikeouts and seven walks and 22 hits allowed for a 0.74 WHIP.
In his past six starts, Hauschild has allowed a mere three earned runs over 39 innings for a 0.69 ERA with 31 strikeouts, and seven walks and 22 hits allowed for a 0.74 WHIP.
“Biggest thing is fastball location,” catcher Heineman said. “Mike’s always had been hit-or-miss. He’s hitting his spots more often now.
“He’s keeping his ball down, his slider’s improved. His changeup has been his bread-and-butter. It’s tough to time it.”
Alex Bregman has played just eight games with the Grizzlies.
But he’s been lights out from the start. The prized shortstop is batting .389 (14 for 36) with five home runs, 10 runs and 14 RBIs in his first Triple-A stint. He also has a .421 on-base percentage and a .899 slugging percentage.
The Grizzlies, in turn, are 6-2 with Bregman in their lineup.
But it’s what Bregman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, did most of the season with Double-A Corpus Christi that helped him get selected to the All-Star Futures Game.
It’s a huge honor to be selected to the Futures All-Star Game. I just wish it was for the
Fresno Grizzlies shortstop Alex Bregman
“It’s a huge honor to be selected to the Futures All-Star Game; I just wish it was for the present All-Star Game,” said Bregman, who batted .297 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in Double A. “It’s been good, feel like I’ve been squaring up the ball a lot.
“I’ve liked what I’ve done so far,” Bregman added. “But I’m never satisfied. I want to keep getting better.”
At the Futures Game on Sunday, Bregman went 3 for 5 with one run, coming within a home run of the cycle. Bregman’s U.S. Futures squad lost to the World Futures 11-3.
Bregman, rated No. 8 according to Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100 prospect rankings, will rejoin the Grizzlies after the All-Star break.
With Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena’s improved play since June that’s helped him boost his season statistics to .269 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs, Bregman might receive additional at-bats with the Grizzlies for the time being despite his immediate Triple-A success.
Bregman said he isn’t worried.
“I feel like I’m close,” he said. “I’m just going to keep improving, working on all parts of my game until my time comes.”
The local kid
Joe Musgrove grew up 20 minutes from San Diego’s Petco Park in El Cajon.
When he found out he was selected for the All-Star Futures Game via a phone call from ex-San Diego Padres standout closer Trevor Hoffman, an ecstatic Musgrove immediately notified his family.
“It’s my first time as a pro being named to an All-Star game and for it to be in San Diego is pretty awesome,” Musgrove said before Sunday’s game. “Definitely excited to go home and represent my hometown.”
Musgrove needed just 11 pitches to throw a perfect inning Sunday for the U.S. Futures, including an induced groundout against World Futures star Yoan Moncada, considered the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball.
Musgrove, ranked the No. 32 overall prospect by Baseball America, went 2-1 with a 0.34 ERA in six games, including four starts, at Double-A Corpus Christi to begin this season.
He hasn’t been able to dominate in Triple A, though, particularly with the parent Astros intentionally resting Musgrove to limit his innings.
Without a regular rotation routine, Musgrove has gone 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA and 41 strikeouts to six walks in 45 innings for Fresno.
“Not throwing for 10 or so days gets you anxious out there,” Musgrove said. “You miss that much time, it’s kind of hard to control your emotions in the beginning.
“It’s something I’m getting used to.”
Musgrove, though, is expected to pitch more regularly during the second half of the season.
“He’s got four quality pitches that he can throw for strikes any time,” Grizzlies pitching coach Dyar Miller said. “He’s a competitor. What really stands out is he can make in-game adjustments with his pitches and his focus.
“He’s just a real pro. He’s got a great future ahead of him.”
Triple-A All Star Game
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE AT INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE
- Game: 4:05 p.m. Wednesday at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, N.C.
- Series: International League leads 11-7 over the Pacific Coast League
- TV: MLB Network
- Of note: Grizzlies will be represented by Brady Rodgers, who will start for the Pacific Coast League team, and fellow pitchers Mike Hauschild and James Hoyt. Ex-Fresno State stars Aaron Judge and Casey McGehee made the International League roster, though Judge is on the disabled list with a bruised and strained knee.