Since we last checked in on our friendly neighborhood minor league baseball club, the Asheville Tourists broke even for the week, winning three of their past six games. That’s nudged them down just a bit in the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Southern Division standings.
As of May 8, the T’s have a 17-14 record, placing them third in the division. Asheville currently trails the first-place Savannah Sand Gnats (affiliated with the New York Mets) by 4.5 games and is one game behind the Greenville Drive (a Boston Red Sox affiliate).
Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Lexington Legends was a curious one, as Alex Balog was the losing pitcher despite allowing no earned runs. Errors by third baseman Ryan McMahon and catcher Jose Briceno led to three runs scoring. Balog’s 3.28 ERA is actually the second-best among Tourists starting pitchers, but his 2-3 record shows that he’s experienced some tough luck and doesn’t necessarily reflect how well he’s pitched thus far.
Shortstop Pat Valaika (whom we interviewed last week) did hit a home run for the Tourists, extending his hit streak to 22 games — longest in the minor leagues this season. Of the 25 games Valaika has played this season, he’s only gone hitless once. His current .363 batting average ranks fourth in the SAL. For more on Valaika, check out Bill Ballew’s feature for MiLB.com.
If you’d like to watch the Tourists while they’re on the road, their next six games can be seen online through MiLB.TV. You do need a subscription for the streaming service, however. Rates begin at $12.99 per month and a full-season subscription is $49.99. That’s a bit much (especially since not every Tourists game is carried), unless you’re a minor league diehard or a baseball writer who covers this stuff.
Besides, you can’t go wrong by listening to Doug Maurer’s radio play-by-play call on 100.7 WRLS-FM.
David Dahl Turning Heads
Outfielder David Dahl has been among the Tourists’ recent standouts. During the past week, he hit three home runs (two of which came in Monday’s Education Day matinee at McCormick Field) with six RBI (Runs Batted In) and three stolen bases. Currently, Dahl is batting .275 with an .857 OPS (On-base plus Slugging percentage), eight home runs, 16 RBI and nine stolen bases.
Dahl has been followed closely by minor league analysts all season long. So as you might expect, his power surge got the attention of those looking for big things from the 20-year-old, expecting him to advance quickly through the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system.
MiLB.com’s Sam Dykstra wrote a profile of Dahl this week, in which the outfielder talked about his approach at the plate, shaking off unsuccessful at-bats and dealing with the “rustiness” that resulted from missing almost all of last season due to a disciplinary demotion and hamstring injury.
Former Tourist Arenado Grabbing Headlines
One of the biggest stories in Major League Baseball this week is Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who played with the Tourists in 2010. The 23-year-old extended his hit streak to 27 games on Wednesday night. That ties a Rockies franchise record — and if you have visions of grandeur, it’s halfway to Joe DiMaggio’s all-time record of 56 games. (That mark has lasted for 73 years, by the way.)
The parent club of the Asheville Tourists currently has the fourth-best record in MLB at 22-14 and is beginning to look like a potential playoff contender. A big part of that success has been Arenado, whose .324 batting average ranks seventh among National League batters. His defense at third base was impressive enough to earn him a Gold Glove award last year, and that part of his game hasn’t changed this season.
During his 2010 season in Asheville, Arenado batted .308 with an .858 OPS with 41 doubles, 12 home runs and 65 RBI. Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of following a minor league baseball team like the Tourists is seeing developing talent like Arenado in the early stages of their careers. Fans watching him excel with the Rockies can boast that they watched him early on here.
*** The Asheville Tourists return to McCormick Field on May 14 to begin a seven-game homestand. May 15 is a Thirsty Thursday, and on Saturday May 17, the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free replica Tourists road jersey. Single game tickets are currently available at the McCormick Field box office. For more information, contact the Tourists’ front office at (828) 258-0428.
Ian Casselberry covers Major League Baseball at The Outside Corner and provides analysis for The WISE Guys on ESPN Asheville (1310 and 970 AM) every Tuesday at 4:20 p.m. Follow Ian on Twitter.