About David Freier
He is the quintessential southern California guy. Taylor Murphy grew up alternately surfing and playing baseball in the San Diego area. The 6’2”, 200 lb. righty hails from Torrey Pines, just north of the city proper, and had to decide early whether to follow the athlete’s path to surfing or baseball.
“I’ve surfed just about as long as I’ve played baseball,” said Murphy. “I was eleven years old when I had to make a decision on surfing competitively or picking up travel ball. I think I made the right decision.”
Coming out of Torrey Pines High School, he was drafted by the hometown Padres in the 40th round of the 2011 first year player draft.
You generally only see Cameron Hill at two times between when the gates open and the end of the game – pre-game, when he is wearing his headphones and getting his mind focused on the upcoming game, or late in the game, when he is summoned from the bullpen to shut down opposing hitters.
For the current season, Hill has made 29 appearances out of the bullpen – 28 for High-A Lynchburg, and one for the AAA Columbus Clippers. The 6’1”, 185 lb. right-hander out of El Reno, Oklahoma, has put up strong numbers, earning a brief promotion to AAA when the organization was short on pitching following the 19-inning marathon game between Cleveland and Toronto to open the month of July.
Hill grew up with a love of baseball, in part because his father had been a ballplayer.
Sean Brady was selected out of Ida Baker High School in Cape Coral Florida in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. Though he has only been pitching professionally for four seasons, baseball has been part of this life for as long as he can remember.
“Like everybody, I’ve been playing since I was 3 years old,” said Brady.
Anthony Santander hails from Margarita, Venezuela. He began playing baseball at the age of four and has been playing professional baseball since the age of 16. Now at 21, his current season is shaping up as the high water mark for his personal performance.
“Growing up in Venezuela, I played basketball, volleyball and baseball,” said Santander. “When I was 14 I was told I could play [baseball] professionally, so I started to take it more seriously.”
Sunday, June 19, Father’s Day, marked the end of the Carolina League’s first half of play. The High-A Lynchburg Hillcats captured the Northern Division first half crown with a 45–25 record, equaling the win total of the 2009 team which went on to win the Carolina League Championship, their last season as a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate.
The 70 games played in the first half by the Hillcats are distinguished by three elements – a strong offense, top-notch pitching from the starters and the bullpen, and a true sense of team effort. No one player on the Hillcats has completely dominated the rest of the Carolina League. Instead, each night a different player steps up to deliver a strong performance that leads his team towards victory.
On the third day of May, Nick Pasquale was assigned to the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats. That day would be the first of three games cancelled over the next week as heavy rains swept through the Central Virginia area. This forced a doubleheader against the Carolina Mudcats and the loss of an off day in order to make up a game against division rival Potomac.
More importantly, it would produce an opportunity for Pasquale to move out of the bullpen and get an opportunity as a starting pitcher.
As the college baseball Super Regionals are underway to determine which eight teams get to make the trip to Omaha this year, Justus Sheffield is content that he made the right decision when he chose the Indians over Vanderbilt two years ago.
“It was tough. Vanderbilt had welcomed me in as a family member. I loved everything about it, the campus was beautiful, but I followed my heart,” said Sheffield. “I felt like I was ready to start my professional career.”
A 6’0″, 190 lb. right-handed outfielder out of Cal Poly Pomona, David Armendariz was selected in the 23rd round of the 2014 First Year Player Draft. Now in his third year as a professional, he has reached the High-A level with Lynchburg.
A cursory glance at his stats, sitting at about league average, would not usually draw further attention, but since joining the Hillcats team on May 15, he has played in 19 of the team’s 23 games. In all of these appearances he has been in right field, with the exception of two relief innings against Salem on May 19, and has used the opportunity to become a key player in the team’s continued success as they charge towards the first half title of the Carolina League’s Northern Division.
Growing up in Southern California, Armendariz was a three-sport star in baseball, basketball and football. When he reached high school, he cut back to just football and baseball, where he was principally a pitcher. From there he moved on to become a Bronco at Division II Cal Poly Pomona.
Bobby Bradley is the 19-year-old from Gulfport, Mississippi, who was selected in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He has anchored the cleanup spot in the High-A Lynchburg lineup this season, currently leading the Carolina League in home runs with eleven, two ahead of Aderlin Rodriguez of Fredrick, a player who has already had substantial experience at the AA level and is five years older than Bradley. Bradley is also pacing the league with 43 RBI and 35 walks.
His passion for baseball began at the age of four, in T-ball, and has been growing ever since.
“I kind of had a knack for it then,” Bradley said. “I loved playing and that was pretty much all I wanted to do. I started thinking I could be a professional when I was in the tenth grade, and even more so after I had committed to LSU.”
The High-A Lynchburg Hillcats have stormed out to a 29-14 record, good for first place in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. Their strong team effort has been just one part to the stellar start for the whole Cleveland Indians farm system. Given the #1 organizational ranking in a recent MiLB article by Sam Dykstra, the top four Indians farm clubs sported a combined 98-50 record. Only the Texas Rangers organization came close with 94 wins.
The past two weeks have been indicative of their overall season. Swept in a three-game series at the rival Salem Red Sox, they lost leads in the first two games from poor bullpen performance, before moving on to Zebulon, North Carolina. The Hillcats took three out of four games from the Mudcats before returning home for a rematch with Salem. With the wickedly hot Andrew Benintendi having been promoted to AA, the Hillcats only had to concern themselves with the remaining two top prospects in the Red Sox organization in Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers.
In the game of baseball there are two fundamental and opposing goals. On the offensive side of the game the goal is to score runs – more runs for your team means you win the game. A fairly simple calculus, in principle. Whether you are pitching or playing defense, the name of the game is to get outs.
Hidden within the bullpen of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats is a pitcher, David Speer, who has built his career on that simple premise, getting batters out. More often than not, when he makes an appearance, outs are the likely consequence of his time on the mound.
At 6’3” and 210 lbs., Daniel Salters is the epitome of a strapping young catcher. Astute observers of the Indians farm system will recall this name from his New York-Penn League All-Star accolade in 2015. In his first professional season after being selected in the 13th round out of Dallas Baptist University he put up consistent numbers and was awarded with a trip to Aberdeen for the league’s annual All-Star gala.
“It was a really cool experience,” Salters said about his first All-Star game. “It was fun to be a part of that, with a lot of really great players. To get to go to the Orioles game and be announced on the field, then getting to play in the All-Star game was a big honor.”
This opportunity provided him with perspective on what it will take to climb the organizational ladder and someday have an opportunity to play at the Major League level.