TEXAS LEAGUE BASEBALL: RockHounds honor all-stars at luncheon

MIDLAND The Midland RockHounds will be well represented at next week’s Texas League All-Star Game with seven players selected for the mid-season contest.

The group was introduced to fans and media Tuesday at the RockHounds’ annual all-star luncheon at Security Bank Ballpark.

Outfielders Dairon Blanco and Luis Barrera were named starters for the South Division, while catcher Collin Theroux, infielder Mikey White and outfielder Greg Deichmann were picked as reserves. Starting pitcher Brian Howard and closer Kyle Finnegan will be on the South pitching staff for the game, which is scheduled for next Tuesday at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field.

“They’re amazing,” RockHounds manager Scott Steinmann said of the group. “We couldn’t have done anything without them, especially Mikey White. He’s our leader in the clubhouse and in the dugout. He’s a special man.”

Theroux said the diversity of the selections reflects well on the RockHounds, who finished second in the South Division in the first half behind Amarillo.

“On a team level, it means a lot to have this many guys at different positions,” Theroux said. “It shows we’re a well-balanced team. It shows who’s representative in an all-star game.”

RockHounds broadcaster Bob Hards, who served as emcee for the luncheon, said Blanco (.284 batting average, 7 HR, 39 RBIs) and Barrera (.304, 3, 20) are just fun to watch.

“(Blanco has) a remarkable blend of power and speed,” Hards said. “He is in the top 10 in the league in both RBIs and stolen bases. These first two guys already have a combined 18 triples. Dairon has seven of those.”

Hards said “electrifying” is the word he uses to describe Barrera.

“I think, had it not been for an injury that cost him 15 days, this might be your Texas League Player of the Year through the first half of the season,” Hards said. “He missed a little time and took a little to get going, but he has cranked it up. He’s in the top five in the league in both batting average and slugging.”

Hards said Deichmann (.213, 7, 24) has made rapid progress after missing much of last season because of injury.

“I was really pleased to see this guy named to the all-star team because he is just getting started in terms of his pro career,” Hards said. “Like Dairon and Luis, he has an amazing blend of power and speed. The batting average hasn’t yet caught up to the rest, but he is our co-leader in home runs. He’s in the top 10 in the league in stolen bases with 14 and he’s been caught only twice.

“Greg played 58 games last year before a wrist injury sidelined him. (Monday) was his 58th game of this season. MLB.com rates him as one of the top 15 prospects for the A’s. Their line was, ‘First order of business is a full season of reps.’ He’s halfway there and I think the second half could be really intriguing.”

Theroux (.250, 7, 21) took over as Midland’s No. 1 catcher after splitting time with Jonah Heim, who was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on June 9.

“You know catching is the toughest job on the planet, maybe the toughest defensive job in any sport,” Hards said. “(Theroux) has absolutely been a rock.

“The batting average dipped a little bit over the last week or two, but he’s on pace for a career year that way. He’s the co-leader in home runs for the RockHounds, the hardest working guy on the team.”

White (.274, 6, 40), like Deichmann, earned all-star status after missing much of last season because of injury.

“He has really made up for lost time,” Hards said of White. “Mikey is now in the top 10 in the league in runs batted in and leads the club with 40. He’s the league leader in doubles (20) and is on his way to a career year in terms of batting average at a full-season level.

“He didn’t get on base (Monday) for the seventh time this season. He’s been on base in 53 of 60 games. That’s just under 90 percent.”

Howard (5-3, 3.11 ERA, 57 strikeouts in 72.1 innings) has been a consistent performer in the RockHounds’ rotation.

“Brian Howard is third in the league in ERA, second in wins, top eight in WHIP (1.33) and average, and he probably hasn’t pitched up to his potential yet,” Hards said. “If you’re that good to start with and maybe haven’t pitched your best yet, that is something.”

Finnegan (0-1, 1.69, 34 strikeouts in 21.1 innings) leads the league with nine saves.

“Kyle Finnegan leads the league in saves even though he’s missed a little bit of time,” Hards said. “He’s clearly the top closer in the Teas League for 2019.

“We all know he shouldn’t be here, but we also know that baseball at the minor-league level is not always fair. There isn’t always an opening where you deserve to be. All Kyle has done is come here and pitch his backside off.”

Steinmann said the selections are just one indication of the players’ potential for a bright future within the Oakland organization.

“We definitely like that these guys have had their individual performances,” he said. “Our goal is to teach them how to win in the major leagues, so we have to win in the minor leagues, too. We think that’s important. We find that that creates a lot of community, team-bonding culture.

“We’ve done that here with Oakland for a long time. I think that’s part of why they’re pretty consistent in the big leagues.”