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Arizona Diamondbacks Minor-league Review: Hillsboro Hops

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Our short-season A-ball affiliate in Hillsboro made it back to the post-season, but weren't able to defend their NorthWest League title. How did their season go?

@HillsboroHops, via Twitter

The Hops certainly saw their share of roster turnover in 2016, setting a Northwest League record for moves and players used in a single-season. All told, 31 hitters and 32 pitchers pulled on a Hillsboro jersey, doubly impressive when you consider that, at only 75 games, their season was less than half the length of a major-league one. But it didn't seem to matter too much. After a slow start, dropping eight of their first eleven games, the Hops improved, and finished the season with a 42-33 mark that got them into the playoffs. They beat Eugene 4-3 in the opener, to preserve a perfect 6-0 post-season record at Ron Tonkin Field, but dropped the next two on the road to drop the NWL title they won in 2015.

Speaking of last year, how did our 2015 Hops' picks do in 2016? On the hitting side, that was Zach Nehrir, who failed to impress much, managing only a .574 OPS in two stints with Kane County, surrounding a brief stint in Visalia. Never exactly a power hitter, he managed one home-run in 411 PA, to go with a K:BB ratio of 81:15. There was much better success for pitcher Jared Miller, who started at Kane County and found himself at Reno by August 1. Over four levels, he had a 2.64 ERA and struck out 80 batters in 61.1 innings, with 23 walks. He's someone who might be of help to the major-league bullpen, as soon as next season, and will also be in the Arizona Fall League shortly.

What of the 2016 crop of Hops?

Hitting (min 100 PA)

  • Hits: Luke Lowery, 69
  • 2B: Lowery, 15
  • 3B: Jason Morozowski + Alexis Olmeda, 3
  • HR: Morozowski, 9
  • RBI: Lowery + Josh Anderson, 34
  • SB: Lowery, 20
  • BB: Marcus Wilson, 38
  • SO: Lowery, 66
  • BA:Mark Karaviotis, .344
  • OBP: Karaviotis, .473
  • SLG: Morozowski, .597
  • OPS: Morozowski, .967

Lowery wins most of the counting stats honors, but it helps he had 27% more plate-appearances than anyone else, and for reasons explained above, only a handful of players managed only 200 PA for Hillsboro this year. But Lowery is interesting, not least because he's a catcher - not many of those steal 20 bases! - and was named to the year-end NWL All-Star Team, along with colleague Anfernee Benitez. Some Internet detective work (or "stalking", as the restraining order has it, but what do they know?) tells me Lowery is getting married next Friday, so good luck with that!

Karaviotis, a two-time D-backs draftee (picked by us in both 2013 and 2016) got a quick promotion from the AZL after hitting .361 there, and continued to hit well in Hillsboro. He's still only 20, and the even younger Marcus Wilson impressed enough with a K:BB ratio of 40:38, to be moved up to Kane County in early August, yet still led the Hops in walks. But we'll go with Jason Morozowski, who tied for second in NWL home-runs, despite only arriving in Hillsboro the last week in June. He had struggled with the Cougars, but found life with the Hops much more to his liking, twice falling a triple short of the cycle. The 22-year-old outfielder will need to show he can perform at a higher level in 2017.

Pitching (min. 20 IP)

  • Wins:Anfernee Benitez, 7
  • Losses: Benitez + Tyler Mark, 5
  • ERA: Tommy Eveld, 1.86
  • Sv: Jake Winston, 5
  • K: Mark, 75
  • BB: Benitez, 31
  • WHIP: Eveld, 0.862
  • K/9: Wei-Chieh Huang, 12.5
  • BB/9: Riley Smith, 1.1
  • K/BB: Smith, 7.50

Pitcher of the year here goes to Rodrigo (a.k.a. Bo) Takahashi, who despite his name, is actually Brazilian. The 19-year-old appeared at three levels this year, but went the other way: he started in Visalia, moved to Kane County, before really settling in with the Hops. The youngest pitcher on the roster made 10 starts for Hillsboro, posting a 2.50 ERA and not allowing a single home-run over 50.1 innings of work, facing 208 batters. He was part of the roster for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier, starting the game against eventual winners Israel, and holding a strong line-up to one run over four innings, on two hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Anfernee Benitez, as mentioned above, was an NWL season All-Star, and had a 3.48 ERA over his 12 starts and two relief appearances, striking out almost a batter per inning. Rotation colleague Tyler Mark had a similar K-rate, with a good ratio of 75 strikeouts to 23 walks, and the team as a whole did average more than one K per frame. Out of the bullpen, 16th-round pick Tommy Eveld made good first pro impression, allowed six runs over 29 innings, while striking out 31. Riley Smith, selected eight rounds later, also showed good control, with a K:BB ratio of 30:4 during his 32.1 innings, working to a 2.51 ERA. Finally, 4th-round choice Curtis Taylor didn't arrive until mid-July, but then fanned 23 over 16.1 IP.