Ten Express players headed to Big League Dreams Showcase
ROCHESTER, MInn.- For the second straight year, the Northwoods League has gathered the top 100 Major League prospects to participate in a showcase game, the Big League Dreams, at Warner Park in Madison, home of the Mallards.
In 2014, 10 percent of the league’s most intriguing prospects belong to the Eau Claire Express, as five position players and five pitchers will represent the ballclub.
The event, which takes place on the last off day of the regular season in the Northwoods League on August 5, is split into two games with 25 players on each roster.
All 10 Express players will play in game two at 7:35 p.m. Eight of them will be on the North squad, and two will play for the South squad.
On the North roster, the dynamic duo of All-Stars Daniel Salters and Tyler Hermann headline the team. Salters has been one of the league’s most consistent players. He is hitting .315 with five home runs and a team-leading 31 RBIs. Hermann has been near the top of the league in hits all year, and leads the Express with a .320 average. He too has crushed five home runs to go along with 22 RBIs.
Two of Eau Claire’s finest defenders also made the team. Brent Gibbs, a catcher, is hitting .250 with two home runs and 18 RBIs, but his snap throws behind the plate and high percentage of players caught stealing make him a notable prospect. Also, slick-fielding shortstop Peter Van Gansen will suit up for the game. While he reached base safely in 27 straight games at one point this season, his glove does a lot of his talking. His .967 fielding percentage has him near the top of the league in terms of shortstop, and his 113 assists are second best at that position.
Rounding out the lineup for the Express is Jeff Hendrix, who has exploded as of late. In his last 10 games, Hendrix is batting a team-best .387. He also is third on the team with four home runs.
On the bump for the North roster will be Express pitchers Orlando Meza, CJ Eldred and Ian Doughty. Meza, a middle reliever who has occasionally started, had his best outing on June 25 when he went five innings and struck out five while allowing two runs. Eldred, who has become one of the league’s most efficient pitchers, has a 3.26 ERA in nine starts. He only has nine walks in 49.2 innings, and he threw a 78-pitch complete game victory on July 3. Doughty is third on the team with 31 strikeouts in 43.1 innings of work.
Pitchers Taylor Duree and Travis Neubeck will represent the ballclub on the South roster. After being a starter a year ago for Eau Claire, Duree is third on the team with 11 appearances out of the bullpen. He has three wins on the year, and he has 29 strikeouts in 31.2 innings of work. His fastball has increased about four to six miles-per-hour in velocity since last summer. Neubeck joined Eau Claire in late July, but his sizzling fastball makes him intriguing. He’s been clocked in the mid 90s on multiple occasions.
The Express had just two players, pitchers Paul Voelker and Matt Trowbridge, in last year’s contest. Coincidentally, both of those players were selected in the top-15 rounds of the MLB Draft this June.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 21st season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 115 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (STL) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com.