Rascals Infield Gets Makeover in 2016
Following a 56 win season and a Frontier League Championship appearance, Manager Steve Brook is in the midst of a busy off-season searching to fill the holes left by former infielders Zach Kometani, Hector Crespo and Frontier League MVP Taylor Ard. Besides three returning infielders, Brook signed eight newcomers to compete for starting spots, including five with professional baseball experience.
Known for his heroics in the 2015 postseason, Josh Silver signed a contract extension in November and will begin his second season with the Rascals. The returning shortstop appeared in 69 games during the regular season finishing with a .263 average, 11 doubles and 17 RBI. During the postseason, Silver led the Rascals past the Florence Freedom in the one-game wild card round by delivering a two-out, bases loaded double in the eighth inning. Three games later, Silver hit two grand slams to advance the Rascals into the Frontier League Championship Series. Also very good defensively, Silver played multiple positions last year and will compete to take over for Ard at third base.
Rascals veteran Johnny Morales returns for his fourth season and is on track to play game number 300 in a Rascals uniform by August. Morales has been a key contributor for the Rascals as the starting shortstop hitting .267 with 4 homeruns and 103 RBI in 247 games. His best season came in 2014 where he hit .302 in 82 games (80 at shortstop) and was named to the western division all-star team.
Casey Rodrigue joined the Rascals in late July last year and signed a contract extension after the season. The middle infielder appeared in 29 games and recorded 16 hits, including 1 double and eight RBI. Rodrigue spent the majority of his 29 games in left field last year but will look to battle for the second base job to fill the role of former Rascals player Hector Crespo.
Johnny Ascenzia is joining the Rascals for his first season of professional baseball after being a standout shortstop at the University of Bridgeport. Ascenzia became the universities all-time hit leader, finishing with 184 and was recognized as one of the top defensive players in the country by the American Baseball Coaches Association. As a senior, he finished with a .984 fielding percentage and was awarded a NCAA Division II Gold Glove
Newcomer Austen Smith is a right handed power bat that comes to the Rascals following two years in the Miami Marlins organization. Drafted in the 33rd round out of Alabama, Smith played in 47 games for the Marlins Gulf Coast League team in 2014 and 113 games for the Class A Affiliate in 2015. Between the two clubs, Smith hit .254/.366/.442 with 24 homeruns and 84 RBI. The slugger will compete for a spot at first base.
Josh Eatherly makes his way to the Rascals from the Grand Prairie Air Hogs of the American Association where he finished with a .234 batting average, eight RBI and stole eight bases in 51 games. Primarily a middle infielder, Eatherly showed he can be found all over the field playing eight different positions with the Air Hogs.
One of the most successful players in recent history of UW-Milwaukee joins the Rascals for his first season of professional baseball. Second baseman Mike Porcaro was the Horizon League Player of the year in 2013 and was twice named to the Second-Team All-Horizon League. Porcaro finished his collegiate career placing ninth on UW-Milwaukee's all-time hit list with 215 and looks to compete for a second base job with last year's starter Hector Crespo gone.
Clint Freeman is a left-handed bat that will compete for a spot at the corner infield position. Freeman was drafted in the 18th round out of East Tennessee State by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played two years in rookie ball. He played for the Dodgers Arizona League affiliate after he was drafted and performed well hitting .305/.346/.484 in 32 games. He was transitioned into a LHP his second season and made 24 appearances out of the bullpen for the Dodger rookie affiliate in Ogden.
After finishing up his collegiate career with Southeastern, Willi Martin signed with Schaumburg on June 26th and played in 47 games for the Boomers. The first baseman will begin this season with the Rascals and look to continue where he left off hitting .322 with 11 doubles and drove in 22 RBI.
Dean Long will compete for a corner infield position in his first year with the Rascals. After leading Emporia State as a senior with a .364 average and 23 homeruns, Long was drafted in the 38th round by the Texas Rangers in 2015 and spent his first professional baseball season with the Short-A Affiliate Spokane Indians. In 37 games, Long hit .229 with 15 RBI.
Newcomer Alec Saikel begins his first professional season with the Rascals this year and looks to compete for a spot at first base. Saikel finished up his collegiate playing days in 2015 with SIU-Edwardsville and most recently played for the Canada A's in the California Winter League.
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Frontier League Stories from April 21, 2016
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