Fireflies Glow Bright In SAL All-Star Game | Astromets Mind

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fireflies Glow Bright In SAL All-Star Game

Dash Winningham was named the games MVP

            The Columbia Fireflies hosted the SAL All-Star Game at Spirit Communications Park Tuesday night and the hometown players stole the show. The game ended early in a 3-3 tie due to rain, but that’s fine since no one really cares about the outcome of a minor league All-Star Game anyway. The threat of rain kept some fans away, which is too bad, because there was a lot of good pitching talent on display in this one. After the game was called due to rain in the 8th, Dash Winningham was awarded with the MVP award for his performance at the plate and in the field.
            Columbia officially had six players named as All-Stars this year: Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, Michael Paez, Dash Winningham, Max Kuhns, and Adonis Uceta. In addition, Manager Jose Leger, pitching coach Jonathan Hurst, and strength coach Tanner Miracle were named to the coaching staff. Four of the Columbia players participated in the contest Tuesday night, but Jordan Humphreys and Max Kuhns were unavailable.
Among qualified pitchers, Humphreys led the SAL in ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/BB, and AVG allowed during the first half, plus he was 2nd in K%, 3rd in swinging strike rate, 4th in BB%, 7th in HR/9 and popup rate induced, and tied for 15th in IP. Statistically, Humphreys was the best starter in the SAL during the first half of the season, but his last start was Friday, so the Mets obviously didn’t want him throwing stressful pitches on an off day. Max Kuhns was placed on the DL on 6/12, which is why Uceta was added to the roster (although he definitely deserved the spot anyway).
While Humphreys was the best starter in the SAL during the first half, Merandy Gonzalez was one of a few guys in the conversation for second best starter, and those two combined are the main reason Columbia started the season 40-28 (the Fireflies went 10-1 behind both starters!). Merandy was named SAL player of the month for April, when he threw 28.2 scoreless innings, and his great season earned him the starting nod in this exhibition. Gonzalez needed just seven pitches during his one inning of work, and he finished the 1st with a strikeout of James Nelson.

Swinging strike

His strikeout

The punch out slowed down

            Both Fireflies position players started in the heart of the SAL South All-Stars lineup, and both contributed during the teams 1st inning scoring outburst. Michael Paez has been the most consistent hitter in Columbia’s lineup all season, and while he may be undersized at just 5’9, he can pack a big punch to the pull side, which is why he’s tied for 1st in doubles and is top-15 in homeruns. For the season, he has a 150 wRC+ and a .219 ISO in 263 PA, which would be the best ISO for a Mets prospect with that many PA in A-ball since Travis Taijeron was in Savannah during the 2012 season. Batting third in the lineup, Paez came up with a runner on base in the 1st and he lined a single into CF.

            Dash Winningham was fifth in the SAL South All-Stars lineup and came up with two on and two outs in the 1st. He’s repeating the level and statistically doesn’t appear to have made huge gains from last season, but he’s really cleaned up his swing mechanics this year and he’s been much better after an April slump: 149 PA, 8 2B, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 34 K: 9 BB, .280 ISO, 137 wRC+. He basically earned the MVP award in his first AB, as he drove a two run double over Jake Ring’s head to give the South a 2-0 lead.

            Although neither position player added any more hits, Dash did draw a walk his next time up and contributed in the field.

            As mentioned, there was a lot of good pitching in this game, as the two sides combined for 21 K: 2 BB and just 12 H allowed over 14 IP. Three of those hits were singles that came against Adonis Uceta in the 7th, but those hits led to nothing for the North squad, and two of those hits didn’t even leave the infield. Uceta has been one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the SAL this year, ranking 10th in swinging strike rate among all pitchers with at least 30 IP, and holding batters to a 70% contact rate. That type of swing-and-miss dominance has allowed him to come into tough situations and strand base runners (he’s stranded 14 of 16 base runners this year), or come in at the end of the game to close out Cola wins (he’s 6-6 on save opportunities). Uceta has a fastball that’s been 93-96 this year, and mixes in a promising changeup, so there’s major league upside for this minor league reliever. Those three singles led to nothing against Uceta because he struck out the other three batters he faced in the inning: Ty Moore, Trae Arbet, and Joel Booker.


K #1

K #2

K #3

            This game wasn’t the only event held at Spirit Communications during the SAL All-Star break, as there was a celebrity softball game and a homerun derby held there Monday night. Both Michael Paez and Dash Winningham participated in the event, and the Fireflies offered a free live stream online. I haven’t seen a archive or YouTube video of the derby posted anywhere yet, so I don’t have as much action as I would’ve liked, but it’s still better than nothing.
Jose Leger pitched to Paez and he hit five homer’s in the first round to advance, but was eliminated after just one homer in the second round.

Jonathan Hurst pitched to Dash, and while Dash hit a number of shots to the warning track, only one of his hits went over the wall, so he was eliminated after the first round.

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