Our Pioneer League affiliate, Idaho Falls, kicked off their 2019 season last night in Billings with a very nice 5-2 victory. As this short season gets started, I would think the Chukars would be a favorite in the North Division and in the league overall. The Pioneer League is described as an Advanced Rookie league for players to make their start in professional baseball. The Chukars start 2019 with what looks to be one of the most experienced teams in the league. All 30 players on their roster have at least 1 full season of professional experience.
While experienced, the roster is a mostly unrecognizable as none of the 30 are on the Royals Farm Report Top 25 and only 2 are in the Top 75: Juan Carlos Negret and Mike Emodi. JCN is a youngster we all know with significant power potential who struggled at Burlington last year. I am looking forward to seeing how these two power bats play out in the hitter friendly Pioneer League.
Beyond these two, the roster is full of draft and grow guys, projects and youth. Here are a few of the favorites that I will be following:
P Steve Ridings — Ridings is a 6’8″ righty that came from the Cubs for Donnie Dewees. Has shown a good FB and put up some nice K numbers.
P Christian Cosby — 2018 14th Round pick is in his first full season as a pitcher and has flashed 95-96 FB. There are talk of potential to 100 mph gas.
DSL Teenagers — 2 Starting Pitchers (Openning Day Starter Zerpa and tonight’s starter Alcantara) and the starting DP Combo (Garcia and Nacero) are all teenagers who have come up the the DSL and AZL.
P Nathan Webb — the Lee’s Summit kid picked in the 34th round of the 2016 draft has shown plus stuff but little control in previous year. Busted out last night in the opener with 4 2/3 IP, 10 K’s, 0 BB, needing only 68 pitches to get 14 outs. Nathan struck out the final six batters of the game and struck out the side three separate times. Obviously, he won’t be at IDF long at that rate.
So the 2019 76-game journey through Big Sky country has begun. Chukars will be in Billings through the weekend, with Adrain Alcantara starting tonight and Rylan Kaufman going tomorrow afternoon. Here’s to hoping it’s a good ride.