Key Players to Watch
Jacob Julius, OF, .261 BA, .457 SLG, 24 H, 3 HR, 7 2B, 13 RB
This slender outfielder has put on muscle since being drafted in the 33rd round of last year’s draft and his manager, Gary Kendall, thinks he has room to develop good power. Julius has a smooth left-handed swing and the ball jumps off his bat. Ripken Stadium robbed Julius of his fourth home run in his first AB Friday when he sent a ball out to the 404 foot marker to the left of centerfield before it was caught against the wall. He is one of the few players who have yet to commit an error in the field. He plays a good right field and showed off a good arm in Friday’s game with a strong throw into second on a double to right.
Julius’ story is similar to that of Delmarva standout Joe Nowicki. Both Nowicki and Julius struggled in their professional debuts in Bluefield and right now Julius is far outpacing his Appalachian League results from last year. Keep a close eye on Julius, he could have a breakout year in Aberdeen.
Jedidiah Stephen, SS, .271 BA, .925 OPS, 5 HR, 16 RBI
Stephen appears to be a casualty of a clogged system at third and short. Last year he was moved up from the NYPL after returning from an injury and just 28 games to Frederick where he struggled. This year, he was held back. If it looks like he is out of his league, it is because he is. At 24, we thought Stephen had a chance to start out in Frederick this season. If he keeps producing here he may be called up quickly into a more appropriate level for his age and experience.
Chris Salberg, SP, 5 G, 5 GS, 24.0 IP, 30 SO, 1.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
Chris Salberg may also be a little old for this league at 24, but in fairness, he missed all of last season due to an elbow injury. He pitched through two thirds of an inning in 2007, but now that he is healthy he has been dominant. This year he has split time between extended spring training, Delmarva, and started as the second man in the Aberdeen rotation.
If this story is oddly familiar, it's not just you. Zach Clark, who opened up the short season for Aberdeen last year and turned 24 a year ago Friday, had bounced around between extended and Delmarva before getting into a groove in Aberdeen. Salberg is currently keep his infielders active with a 1.73 Go/Ao ratio, but has also been missing bats, ringing up more strikeouts than innings pitched through his first five starts.
If last year was any indication, injuries are a thing of the past, and Salberg continues to pitch as well as he is now, he will not be in Aberdeen much longer. Clark was called up to Frederick after just 10 appearances in Aberdeen last year.
Ironbirds pitching coach Scott McGregor on Salberg: “He’s got a fastball, curveball, changeup, slider, he’s got all the pitches. He seems to got a knack for pitching.”
Ironbirds manager Gary Kendall on Salberg: “We’re lucky to have him because he’s a guy that can push someone at the higher level just because of the way he can pitch.”
Tyler Kolodny, 3B, .257 BA, .398 OBP, 11 BB, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 21 SO, 7 HBP, 4 E
If Kolodny’s jittery stance in the box doesn’t catch your eye, it’s probably his hustle. From his intense set position for every pitch to his Olympic sprint to first after taking a walk, Kolodny will never let you think he’s slacking. Even his home uniform was dirty before opening day. This16th round pick could be a steal if he makes it with his bat, but his defense is still a work in progress. His manager, Gary Kendall said he has “he’s got a below average arm and needs to work on his range.”
Kolodny is off to a solid start in Aberdeen through 23 games. His level swing and strong hands produce hard line drives off the bat, when he makes contact. His strikeouts are a bit high for 23 games, but it is something that at this stage in his career is of minimal concern.
More from Ironbirds manager Gary Kendall on Kolodny: “He’s been steady [at third base]. He’s been really good going to his left and he’s made routine plays for us, which is all we expect. He’s come up and he’s hit for us. He’s right around a .250 average right now and he’s got some big hits for us. He walks and he sees pitches and he’s done a good job for us.
As for staying at third base…
“Right now, for now, yeah. He can’t play in the middle of diamond, he just doesn’t have enough range I don’t think. With his throwing, probably third base/first base are his two positions in the infield.”
Centerfielder Kyle Hudson, the fourth round selection of this year’s draft, broke his hand on July 4 and may be out for the season.
“They say maybe a month, but it could be the rest of the summer, it depends,” Kendall told ITW. “We’re not going to rush him back or anything like that. Whatever we can get out of him for the remainder of the year would be a plus, but it’s not looking real good right now.”
Hudson is has 80 speed on the 20-80 scale, according to scouts, and his speed had clearly shown how much he disrupts the game. After Hudson’s professional debut, Kendall was excited about having the speedy center when he said “it looks like we got a pretty good player in the draft.”
On the other side of the injury spectrum, the Ironbirds activated Paco Figueroa to begin his rehab assignment.
“We’re happy we could get him, he can run, he’s a good defender, he’s an intelligent guy, it’s like having another coach out there,” Kendall said. “We’re going to take full advantage of him here. He’s not a guy we can run out there everyday, we gotta break him in slow, so hopefully he can contribute.”
Paco Figueroa was ranked as the No. 1 second baseman by ITW prior to the 2008 season.
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