It's safe to say the Eastern Division roster for the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game is loaded. Just look at the names.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (son of Baseball Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero), Cavan Biggio (son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio), Bo Bichette (son of former MLB player Dante Bichette), and Tim Tebow (former NFL quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner), for example. Guerrero Jr., however, will miss the AS game July 11 due to injury.
Among the five outfielders named is former Crowder and current Hartford Yard Goats (Colorado) standout Sam Hilliard, who earned his third consecutive midseason all-star nod.
Hilliard earned all-star honors last season playing for Lancaster in the California League and then in 2016 for Asheville in the South Atlantic.
On the day of his all-star announcement, Hilliard owned a .289 average (67 for 232) with 37 runs scored, 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBI, 24 walks and 71 strikeouts, and 18 stolen bases in 25 attempts. Hilliard leads the Yard Goats in batting average.
In Thursday night's 4-1 win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels (San Francisco), Hilliard knocked a two-run homer off losing pitcher Garrett Williams.
Hilliard bounced right back from a 0-4 night Saturday with a 2-4 Sunday with his 38th run scored and 19th stolen base of the season thrown in to the mix.
The Rockies selected Hilliard in the 15th round of the 2015 MLB Draft and he’s ranked No. 12 top prospect in the Rockies farm system by MLB Pipeline. Hilliard moved 18 spots ahead from the previous season.
— After making a couple shaky starts in June after coming off a two-month stint on the disabled list, former Crowder and current Single-A Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads (Miami) pitcher Ethan Clark started July with more of a bang Sunday in a game against the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Like one of his starts in June, Clark allowed no earned runs in a game where he issued three walks, but in this start, he earned the win over his five-inning effort. Clark had a pair of strikeouts and gave up five hits.
Clark improved to 1-2 on the season with a 3.28 ERA and 23 strikeouts and 14 walks over 24 2/3 innings. Sunday’s victory gave Clark No. 15 of his career.
In his first pro season, Clark struggled with a 1-5 record and a 6.84 ERA, but he turned it around with seven wins in 2016 and six in 2017 while finishing with sub-3.00 ERAs both seasons, 2.91 in 2016 and 2.59 in 2017 highlighted by a 2.05 ERA during his stint with the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
The Tampa Rays made Clark a 15th round selection in the 2015 MLB Draft straight out of Crowder, for whom he just earned all-Region 16 honors.
— Just a couple days after being named an International League all-star, former Crowder and current Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston) pitcher Jalen Beeks had his worst performance of the season Friday night against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railroaders (New York Yankees).
Beeks allowed five runs (all earned) on six hits over 2 1/3 innings and the International League’s strikeouts leader finished with a season-low one while he walked three.
Beeks’ ERA jumped 50 points to 2.91.
Beeks dropped to 5-5 overall this season with 102 strikeouts and 23 walks over 77 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox made Beeks a 12th round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft and the 5-foot-11, 195-pound southpaw originally from Fayetteville made his MLB debut on June 7 against the Detroit Tigers.
— In his first 11 appearances of the season between Triple-A New Orleans and Double-A Jacksonville (Miami), former Crowder pitcher Mike Kickham had found success from the bullpen.
On Saturday, against the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Kickham earned his first start of the season and it was a near disaster.
Kickham allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits and three home runs and he struck out two and walked none over three innings.
It was not a complete disaster, though, for the Baby Cakes, since they scored the game’s final 11 runs after giving up the first five.
On the season, Kickham remained 1-0 with a 4.84 ERA and 18 strikeouts and six walks over 25 2/3 innings. He’s made 10 of his 12 appearances for the Baby Cakes.
— Former Neosho High and Crowder College standout Trey Turner made his debut for the rookie ball GCL Nationals (Washington) a strong one, with the form he showed on the mound so often at both Neosho and later on Missouri State.
Facing the GCL Marlins (Miami) on Thursday, Turner came on in the fourth inning and struck out the side, working his way through one hit and one walk.
This was Turner's first appearance since being assigned to rookie ball from Single-A Short Season Auburn of the New York-Penn League.
In his first two pro outings, Turner came out with a 6.75 ERA after 1 1/3 innings pitched.
The Nationals selected Turner in the 10th round of the 2017 MLB Draft and in his first pro season, Turner owns a 3.00 ERA with five strikeouts and five walks over his first three full innings. Turner made an appearance Sunday.
— Former Crowder and current Single-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto) pitcher Connor Eller climbed above .500 with a victory in relief Thursday night against the Florida Fire Frogs (Atlanta).
Eller pitched a scoreless seventh and a scoreless eighth, then Dunedin took a 4-3 lead on the Fire Frogs after two runs in the seventh and two in the ninth.
Jake Fishman pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save, and Eller earned his third win.
On the season, Eller owns a 3-2 record with a 5.29 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 14 walks over 32 1/3 innings. Eller made one appearance for Triple-A Buffalo of the International League and he surrendered five earned runs over 1 1/3 innings, producing a 33.75 ERA ... and that's why his ERA stands above 5.00 since he's at 4.06 over 22 appearances for Dunedin.
Over his pro career, Eller stands at 9-9 overall with a 4.13 ERA.
The Blue Jays made Eller a 22nd round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft out of NCAA Division II Ouachita Baptist, his collegiate destination after Crowder.
— On Thursday night, former Crowder and current Single-A Advanced Frederick Keys (Baltimore) pitcher Zach Matson made his debut for the Keys a day after being promoted from Single-A Aberdeen. Matson faced the Winston-Salem Dash (Chicago White Sox).
Matson pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and worked his way through four hits, one hit batter, and one walk with the help of three strikeouts.
Between Frederick (Carolina League) and Aberdeen, Matson pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season with 11 strikeouts, two walks, and only four hits.
On Sunday, in his second appearance for Frederick, Matson surrendered his first earned run of the season, bringing his seasonal ERA to 1.17.
Over the first 38 games of his pro career, Matson owned a 0-5 record and a 3.19 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 26 walks over 62 innings. Matson earned his first pro save in his last appearance for the Ironbirds.
The Orioles selected the 6-foot-3, 225-pound southpaw in the 24th round of the 2016 MLB Draft straight from Crowder. Matson, who stood out at Crowder in both starter and reliever roles, has only pitched in relief in the pro ranks.
— Thursday night was a good one for multiple former Crowder pitchers now in the pros, but not for Single-A Advanced Tampa Tarpons (New York Yankees) reliever Andrew Schwaab in a Florida State League game against the Fort Myers Miracle (Minnesota).
Schwaab surrendered seven earned runs over 1 1/3 innings of work Thursday and he watched his ERA balloon nearly seven full points from 2.45 to 9.35. In his first eight appearances for Tampa, Schwaab had earned a save in his only opportunity and showed improvement from his early season struggles in his first 13 games played for Double-A Trenton.
On the season, Schwaab owns a 2-6 record and a 6.00 ERA with two saves in four opportunities and 29 strikeouts and 18 walks over 27 innings.
Schwaab earned midseason all-star honors last season for Tampa (Florida State League) and in 2016 for Charleston (South Atlantic).
The Yankees signed Schwaab as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
— Former Webb City High standout Breckin Williams (Schwaab's former Mizzou bullpen mate) missed all of the 2016 season due to injury and returned in 2017 for work in rookie ball and then Single-A Short Season Hillsboro.
Williams now pitches for the Single-A Advanced Kane County Cougars (Arizona) of the Midwest League and he owns a 2-4 record with a 4.86 ERA this season with 42 strikeouts and 14 walks over 33 1/3 innings.
The Diamondbacks selected Williams in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB Draft.