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Diamondbacks Minor League Season in review: Hillsboro Hops

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More success from the lower level of the farm system for the Hops, with #1 overall pick in this year's draft, Dansby Swanson getting his pro career off to a solid start.

Norm Hall/Getty Images

Like their siblings in Missoula, the Hillsboro Hops won it all, repeating as Northwest League Champions, after having also taken the title last year. They were taken to a decisive third came by Tri-City, but Hillsboro prevailed 6-1, behind Carlos Hernandez, who was also named Pitcher of the Year by the league. Although their overall record was actually three games worse than the 2014 mark, it was still easily enough for the best W% in the NWL, as they made a champion of manager (and Arizona native) Shelley Duncan, in his first year on the job.

Overall
  • Team record: 45-31 (1st of four)
  • Runs scored: 314 (4.13 per game)
  • Runs allowed: 292 (3.84 per game)
Hitting
  • Age: 20.9 (league average: 20.9)
  • BA: .238 (.250)
  • OBP: .309 (.327)
  • SLG: .345 (.358)
  • OPS: .654 (.685)
  • SB/CS: 67/17 (92/33)

Despite the team's overall success, there wasn't anything particularly impressive about the Hillsboro offense this year, as they finished solidly bottom of the league, batting only .238 for the season. An 8.2% walk rate was also below league average (9.0%), although they did strike out less as well (20.2% compared to 21.1%). They weren't very aggressive on the base-paths, though at least were successful when they tried it, with a 79.8% success-rate, and the fewest CS in the league. All told though, this appears to have been an offense which hit based on the score... [* not a real thing!]

Leaders (min 100 PA for rate stats)
  • Runs: Sergio Alcantara (34)
  • Hits: Alcantara (65)
  • 2B: Zach Nehrir (15)
  • 3B: Fernery Ozuna (4)
  • HR: Trevor Mitsui (10)
  • RBI: Mitsui (42)
  • BB: Mitsui (27)
  • K: Alexis Olmeda (50)
  • BA: Nehrir (.297)
  • OBP: Nehrir (.363)
  • SLG: Nehrir (.418)
  • OPS: Nehrir (.781)
  • SB: Ozuna (16)

Swanson not signing until the deadline day limited his playing time, as he played in only 22 games. But after he arrived he did well - his line was .289/.394/.482, and with one more PA, he'd have qualified and won all the rate categories. The engine-room was 6'5" first-baseman Trevor Mitsui, in his second year with the D-backs, who improved his K:BB ratio to 49:27 from 61:16 the previous season. But the best numbers were put up by our 16th-round pick in June, outfielder Zach Nehrir. He made a seamless transition to pro-ball, notching 11 hits over his first five games, and reaching base safely in 36 of his 40 appearances.

Pitching
  • Age: 21.5 (21.4)
  • ERA: 3.27 (3.85)
  • WHIP: 1.204 (1.340)
  • K/9: 9.0 (8.2)
  • BB/9: 3.3 (3.5)
  • K/BB: 2.69 (2.35)

If the overall offense was nothing special, the Hops' pitching was spectacular, with an ERA more than a quarter of a run better than the next best team. They simply didn't allow very many hits, holding opponents to 7.5 per nine innings, while striking out very close to a batter per inning and issuing a below average number of free passes. They also did a very good job of avoiding home-runs, allowing only about one long ball every two and a half games on average. The defense was solid, with eight fewer errors than the league average per team, and their catchers threw out more than most base stealers (29% vs. 26%).

Pitching leaders (min 25 IP for rate stats)
  • Wins: Jared Miller (7)
  • Losses: three players tied (4)
  • ERA: Brody Greer (0.83)
  • Saves: Greer (5)
  • K: Carlos Hernandez (93)
  • BB: Jeferson Mejia (31)
  • WHIP: Greer (0.857)
  • K/9: Greer (14.1)
  • BB/9: Troy Marks (1.3)
  • K/BB: Miller (4.75)

A quick nod to 3rd-round pick Taylor Clarke, who has still yet to allow a run in pro-ball after 21 innings of work, and with a K:BB ratio of 27:4. His bullpenmate Brody Greer hardly allowed any more - three ER in 32.2 IP, with 52% of his outs coming by the K, though having turned 24 in May, he likely should be kicking ass in Low-A. In the rotation, Carlos Hernandez was certainly a workhorse, starting 15 games and posting a 2.32 ERA, while striking out 93 over 85.1 innings, twenty K's more than anyone else in the Northwest League. But I'm going with Jared Miller, who had a better ERA (1.81) and K:BB ratio, averaging 6.2 innings per start, including the only complete game for Hillsboro this season.