Results tagged ‘ Rich Poythress ’

The Interview Vault: Justin Smoak

smoak interview vault.jpg

While everyone around baseball watches shockingly as Cliff Lee dons a Philadelphia Phillies uniform at a press conference sometime in the next few days, I’m focusing in on the centerpiece of the deal that sent the left-hander to the Texas Rangers last July 9.  He just happens to be a former LumberKing and is the feature of this week’s edition of “The Interview Vault”.

Switch-hitting first-baseman Justin Smoak was one of the four former Clinton players dealt by the Rangers in exchange for Lee and Mark Lowe prior to last year’s trade deadline.  Once the undoubted future of the middle of the Texas lineup, Smoak was deemed expendable to help the Rangers turn the corner in the immediate.  Now, the 2008 first-round pick (11th overall) finds himself as the cornerstone of Jack Zduriencik’s rebuilding project in Seattle.

Smoak was fresh off the fishing boat when he arrived in Clinton in August of 2008, rested from a drawn-out signing process that wouldn’t end until 15 minutes before the MLB deadline.  Anxious to play baseball again for the first time since he left the University of South Carolina, he’d still have to wait a day before making his professional debut in Peoria on August 18.

The featured interview today took place between myself and Smoak prior to that first action and was his first minor league interview.  We talk about his hectic first 48 hours, fitting in with the likes of fellow first-baseman Mitch Moreland (who hit a pair of home runs in the previous game vs. the Chiefs), getting ready to hit in the 5-spot in manager Mike Micucci’s order, his thoughts on the first round selection by the Rangers and more. 

Listen:   Justin Smoak, Prior to ’08 Pro Debut.mp3

Not long after the interview, Smoak would take the diamond for the first time as a pro, going 1-for-3 with a double off the right-center wall for his first pro hit.  He’d go on to register at least one hit in 13 of his 14 games as a LumberKing, hitting .304 with three doubles, three home runs and six RBI.

Since ’08, he’s accomplished a lot quickly.  Smoak ascended to the Major Leagues in just his second full season in 2010, making his big-league debut for the Rangers on April 23 vs. Detroit.  He’d hit .209 with eight homers and 34 RBI for Texas before being packaged for Lee, and would finish out the year bouncing between Seattle (.239, 5 HR, 14 RBI) and triple-A Tacoma (.271, 7 HR, 25 RBI).  Smoak teamed up with the red-hot Dustin Ackley to bring a PCL championship home to the Rainiers, winning the PCL’s Offensive Player of the Postseason award (.423, HR, 6 RBI) in the process.

With the likes of Ackley, Rich Poythress and Nick Franklin coming up alongside him, the future for Smoak should be very bright in the middle of the Mariners’ order.    

-DL

Seager Named a Topps Single-A All-Star

Seager.Kyle (strip7).jpgFormer LumberKings infielder Kyle Seager (’09) was named to the Topps Class-A All-Star Team in an announcement that crossed my inbox this afternoon.

Seager hit a Cal League-best .345 with 14 home runs and 74 RBI with the High Desert Mavericks this year, also qualifying for the league lead in hits (192) and runs scored (126).  A third-round pick by the Mariners in 2009 out of the University of North Carolina, Seager started his career with Clinton last season and hit .275 with a home run and 22 RBI in 41 games.

He is joined by fellow Mavericks Johermyn Chavez (outfield) and Rich Poythress (designated hitter) on the list.  Apparently, Topps made no distinction between high-A and low-A, so the Cal League, Florida State League, Midwest League and South Atlantic League are all represented here.  The only low-A qualifiers were Fort Wayne catcher Jason Hagerty and Lexington outfielder J.D. Martinez.  Topps Minor League Player of the Year and former Cedar Rapids Kernel Mike Trout is on the list as well, though he spent half the season with Rancho Cucamonga.

Congrats to Kyle and his fellow HD Mavs.  Revisit an interview I did with Seager last season: 
Kyle Seager Interview 8.18.09.mp3

-DL

Franklin Up for a MiLBY

A week after Clinton right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was nominated for a MiLBY for top Class A pitcher, LumberKings’ shortstop Nick Franklin now finds himself nominated for the Top Hitter award for all of Class A.

Franklin is up against fellow Midwest League post-season All-Star Mike Trout of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Trout’s Kernel teammate Jean Segura, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers slugger Khris Davis and both Jared Clark (Asheville) and J.D. Martinez (Lexington) of the South Atlantic League.

Nick is leading the early vote at 52%.  Vote early and often for Franklin at this link: http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/awards/y2010/hitter.jsp

While you’re checking off Franklin, make sure to show some love for fellow Mariners’ prospects Kevin Rivers (Everett) in the short-season vote and pick either Johermyn Chavez or Rich Poythress (both from High Desert) in the high-A vote.

For the record, Ramirez finished fourth amongst the six nominees for top pitcher with 10% of the vote.  Matt Magill of the Great Lakes Loons won with 57% of the vote despite going just 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA.  I guess the 135 strikeouts was a bigger deal than Ramirez’s 10-4 record and 2.97 ERA.  I disagree.

Following the MLB Division Series, I’ll do an update on former LumberKings in the playoffs.  Turns out I missed one.  Stay tuned for that posting later this week.

-DL

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