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Published On: October 5th, 2018

  (Pictured: Alex Holderbach)


Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – Early September marked the conclusion of the minor league seasons for a number of former Rafters’ players. This year the Rafters alumni in the professionals included one player in the major league, thirty-four players in the minor league, and one manager.

Former pro player Justin Jirschele entered his second year as manager for the Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox A). When Jirschele became manager last season he became the youngest manager in professional baseball at the age of 27. This season the Intimidators fell short in the SAL Northern Division Championship 1-0 to end their 2018 season.

Sole major league player, Ben Heller was placed on the New York Yankees 60-day disabled list on April 3rd this year due to a right elbow bone spur. Although Heller isn’t on the 40-man roster due to injury, the Yankees have made the 2018 playoffs and are looking for their 28th World Series Championship.

Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft, Donnie Dewees has made his way from A-Short Season to AAA very quickly. Shortly after Spring Training Dewees was assigned to the Omaha Strom Chasers (Kansas City Royals AAA). This year he held a .266 batting average with 6 home runs. Former UW-Stevens Point Pointer JP Feyereisen is on his second season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York Yankees AAA). He threw 60 innings this season with a record of 6-6 and an ERA of 3.45. He totaled 59 strike outs for the season.

This year Brandon Downes was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Atlanta Braves. He is currently a centerfielder for the Mississippi Braves (AA).  In 37 games Downes has 26 hits, 3 home runs, and a batting average of.205.  Although they were never Rafters together, Justin Kelly is now playing alongside Downes. The left-handed pitcher was recently assigned to Mississippi where he threw in 7 games, with a one win and no losses. In 2018, Kelly posted a 3.44 ERA and threw 55 innings with 65 strikeouts.

Right-handed pitcher Zach Jackson played this season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays AA). This season he had 62 innings of work with 75 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.47. Nolan Blackwood started off his season with the Midland Rockhounds (Oakland A’s AA) where he was selected as a Texas League All-Star and was ranked the 30th-best prospect in the A’s organization. Recently he was traded and activated by the Erie SeaWolves (Detroit Tigers AA). In his second minor league season, shortstop Ernie Clement was assigned to the Akron RubberDucks (Cleveland Indians AA). In 102 games Clement had 121 hits with 41 walks and only 35 strikeouts. He held a batting average of .289 and a .732 OPS.

Right-handed pitcher Hector Lujan spent his 2018 season with the Fort Myers Miracle (Minnesota Twins Advanced A). Lujan was 5-5 in 38 games with an ERA of 2.64. In his last appearance of the season Lujan recorded a save and helped the Miracle win their second Florida State League Championship. Domenic Mazza finished up his season with the San Jose Giants (San Francisco Giants Advanced A). In 2018, Mazza had 11 starts with a record of 4-6 and an ERA of 4.15. Nate Easley played leftfield for the Lake Elsinore Storm (San Diego Padres Advanced A). In 355 at bats he accumulated 97 hits, knocking in 44 runs. Throughout the season Easley was on and off the 7-day disabled list.

Left-handed relief pitcher Nestor Bautista spent his season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who just recently changed to the Clinton LumberJacks (Miami Marlins A) through team affiliation changes. In 37 appearances Bautista posted a 2.64 ERA with 89 strikeouts, which is only 16 less than his previous 4 years combined. Dylan File played his second season in the minors with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers A. The right-handed pitcher was selected as a Midwest League All-Star with a 3.96 ERA. In 25 games File had 114 strikeouts and only 28 walks. West Michigan Whitecap (Detroit Tigers A) catcher Joey Morgan played against both Bautista and File, however he never had to face them at the plate. Morgan caught 26 players stealing this season and caught for 672.1 innings.

Brock Carpenter ended his seasons with the Great Lakes Loons (LA Dodgers A) on the disabled list. In 50 games Carpenter recorded 43 hits and had a .995 fielding percentage.

Known for his World Series walk-off home run, Rob Calabrese was assigned to the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants A) this season. Calabrese caught in 66 games this year and knocked in 21 runs. South Atlantic League opponent Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies A) have both Garrett Schiling and Nic Motley. Schiling had a record of 8-5 this season with 135 strikeouts in 144.1 innings of work. Teammate Motley was assigned to the Tourists after knocking in 7 runs in one game with the Grand Junction Rockies (Rookie). In 36 games Motley had 28 hits and 7 walks while hitting .239.

Richard Palacios was drafted this year in the 3rd round by the Cleveland Indians. The second baseman started with the AZL Indians (Rookie) where he totaled 7 hits and 2 home runs in 5 games. He was then assigned to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (A-Short) for 20 games where he added 2 more home runs and 30 more hits. After his continued success, Palacios was assigned to the Lake County Captains (A) where he finished the season with a .361 batting average.

The Tri-City ValleyCats (Houston Astros A-Short) won the New York-Penn League Championship this season in typical nail biting fashion. Rookie Alex Holderbach launched a two run single in the top of the twelfth inning that went on to win the game. This was only Holderbach’s 24th and 25th RBIs of the season.  Holding the trophy alongside Holderbach was Logan Mattix, who was also drafted earlier this year. Mattix hit a solo home run in playoffs that helped punch the ValleyCats ticket into the championship series. This was his 4th home run and 65th RBI of the season. In the opposing dugout was Hudson Valley Renegade (Tampa Bay Rays A-Short) first baseman Jacson McGowan, who was teammates with both Holderbach and Mattix in the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Rafters. McGowan also knocked in a run during the championship, but it wasn’t enough for the title. McGowan was an All-Star in the league with 57 hits and a batting average of .269.

New-York Penn League All-Star Jonah Bride had a solid rookie season with the Vermont Lake Monsters (Oakland A’s A-Short). In 54 games Bride totaled 56 hits and collected 24 walks. Defensively the third basemen assisted with eight double plays. Brandon Polizzi was a utility player for the Vancouver Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays A-Short) this season playing all outfield position, 3rd base, 1st base, and even saw the pitching mound. Offensively he had 33 hits and 20 walks on the season.

Demetrius Sims & Andrew Turner were Rafters together on the 2016 World Series team and have continued to be with the Batavia Muckdogs (Miami Marlins A-Short). Sims is on his second season with the Muckdogs. The shortstop had a batting average of .227 and totaled 44 hits on the year, which was 13 more than his rookie year.  Turner was a late addition to the Muckdogs, spending most of his season with the GCL Marlins. This season he had 20 hits and 14 walks.

After a quick stint in the Rookie League, Scott Kapers was assigned to the Spokane Indians (Texas Rangers A-Short). The catcher only recorded 2 errors on the season and caught 8 players stealing. Former Rafter teammate, Charlie McConnell, is now in the opposite dugout as Kapers. The rookie for the Everett AquaSox (Seattle Mariners A-Short) accumulated 64 hits and 11 stolen bases, with a batting average of .284. Defensively McConnell has a perfect fielding percentage and saw playing time at every position in the outfield.

In his second season with the Elizabethton Twins (Minnesota Twins Rookie) Blair Lakso posted a record of 6-2 with an ERA of 3.66 and had no errors. Isaiah Carranza was assigned to the AZL White Sox on June 25th and did not see an appearance this season. Layane Henderson started with the Tri-City ValleyCats and ended his season with the GCL Astrs (Houston Astros Rookie). In his rookie season, the right-handed reliever was 3-0 and posted a 4.26 ERA in 11 games. Marshawn Taylor played his rookie season with the AZL D-backs (Arizona Diamondbacks Rookie) after being drafted in the 28th round. The second baseman played in 31 games with 16 hits and 7 RBIsl.

This season the Rafters were lucky enough to send three players to the pros before the season was over. Justin Wilson was drafted in the 23rd round by the New York Yankees. The right-handed pitcher was assigned to the Pulaski Yankees (Rookie) on July 6th. Wilson threw in 5 games this season with a record of 1-1 and an ERA of 7.71 along with 5 strikeouts. Right-handed pitcher Charlie Ruegger was drafted in the 33rd Round by the Yankees as well. He was assigned to the GCL Yankees East (Rookie) on July 19th and he threw in his first game only 4 days later. In 9 appearances he had a record of 0-1 and an ERA of 2.79. Ruegger had 2 saves in as many opportunities. On July 31st Mason McReaken was signed by the Atlanta Braves as a free agent and was assigned to the Danville Braves on August 4th. In his first pro appearance McReaken recorded a save and struck out a batter in an inning of work. In 7 games he had record of 0-1 with an ERA of 1.50 and struck out 15 batters.