Former Rafters Make a Splash in Professional Baseball
The Rafters have 31 former players making a name for themselves
Ben Heller was activated by the New York Yankees on September 10th after rehabbing from Tommy John’s surgery and a right forearm strain. Heller appeared in six games this season. After returning, he pitched 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts. Heller replaced CC Sabathia in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros.
This year the Rafters had six former players make it to the AAA level throughout the 2019 season. Wisconsin native, JP Feyereisen pitched his second season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who were International League North Champions. He boasted a 10-2 record with a 2.49 ERA. Feyereisen ended the year with seven saves and a career record 94 strikeouts. On September 1st Feyeresisen was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Donnie Dewees spent his year with the Iowa Cubs, the American Northern Division Champions. Dewees ended the year with 93 hits and 52 RBIs, hitting a career high 16 home runs. Zach Jackson continued his climb to the majors by spending his first year in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons. Jackson completed the season with a 9-0 record and a 3.97 ERA. Ernie Clement ended the last three games of his season with the Columbus Clippers. Before being assigned to the Clippers, Clement spent the season with the Indians AA team, the Akron RubberDucks. Between the two teams Clement tallied 109 hits in 101 games. Clement was invited to be a part of the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League and had a successful run in the offseason league, which ended on October 25th. Nolan Blackwood started off his season with the Toledo Mud Hens and was later reassigned to the Detroit Tigers AA team, the Erie SeaWolves. Blackwood had a season low 2.60 ERA and season high 64 strikeouts. Joey Morgan began his season in A Advanced and ended it with the Toledo Mud Hens. Morgan was teammates with Blackwood when they both spent time with the SeaWolves.
There were five players who played at the AA level who were former Rafters. Nate Easley began his season with the Amarillo Sod Poodles and ended his season in late May due to injury with the Padres A Advanced, Lake Elsinore Storm. Jonah Bride spent his last two games of the 2019 season with the Midland RockHounds. Before being reassigned, Bride was with the Stockton Ports (A Advanced). Bride ended the season batting .277 with 10 home runs and 58 RBIs. Hector Lujan ended his season with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in August due to injury. The Twins recognized his contributions on and off the field by awarding Lujan with the Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service. Lujan closed out the season with a 2.76 ERA and tallied up six saves. Brewer prospect, Dylan File had his best season yet with the Carolina Mudcats (A Advanced) and the Biloxi Shockers. He sported a 3.24 ERA with a 15-6 record and struck out 136 batters. File earned Pitcher of the Week in late April and Mid-Season All-Star in his time with the Mudcats in the Carolina League. Layne Henderson split his season between the Corpus Christi Hooks and the Quad Cities River Bandits (A). In 23 games, Henderson held a 4.46 ERA and struck out 55 batters.
There were two former Rafters who shined in A Advanced. Garrett Schilling spent his third season with the Lancaster JetHawks. Schilling managed a 9-8 record and was awarded California League pitcher of the week in June. Through three teams Demetrius Sims had the best accumulated season stats of his professional baseball career. Sims ended the season with the Jupiter Hammerheads, batting .268 with 38 RBIs and 95 hits, totaling more than his previous two years combined.
The Rafters had four former players show their talent in A. Alex Holderbach played for the Quad Cities River Bandits during his second year in the minors. This season he accumulated 53 hits with a batting average of .242. Nic Motley caught for 171 innings this season between two teams, ending with the Boise Hawks. This season Charlie McConnell spent his time with the West Virginia Power. McConnell cranked out 79 hits, including 18 doubles and 38 RBIs. Charlie Ruegger started the season off with the Staten Island Yankees (A-Short Season). After a stellar performance in three games, Ruegger was assigned to the Charleston RiverDogs. He ended the season 4-3 with a 6.34 ERA in 14 games.
A-Short Season sported six former Rafters in the 2019 season. Scott Kapers rallied 12 RBIs in 17 hits during 29 games this season for the Spokane Indians. In his second season with the Hudson Valley Renegades, Jacson McGowan tallied 58 hits with 17 doubles and 43 RBIs. Andrew Turner held a .267 batting average with 39 hits this season with the Batavia Muckdogs. In 18 outings, Justin Wilson boasted a 1.40 ERA with the Staten Island Yankees. Wilson struck out 37 batters and held a WHIP of 1.09. First round draft pick Bryson Stott turned heads in his first year in the minors. After four games in Rookie ball, he was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters. Stott ended the year batting .295 with 49 hits. Nick Avila ended his season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes after spending most of his season with the AZL Giants Orange (Rookie). In an impressive first season, Avila strutted a .95 ERA in 28.1 innings of work with 14 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.02.
The Rafters had one former player in Rookie Advanced ball this year. Wisconsin native, Jake Guenther spent his first season in professional baseball with the Princeton Rays. Guenther sported a .320 batting average with 56 hits and 30 RBIs.
Four former Rafters spent their season in Rookie ball. In his second season with the AZL D-Backs, Marshawn Taylor hit .250 with 44 hits and 31 runs. Trayson Kubo spent his first year in the minors with the AZL Athletics Green and Gold. In 11 outings, Kubo pitched 18.1 innings with 28 strikeouts before ending the season early due to Tommy John’s surgery. In nine games and 17.1 innings of work, Cole Waites held a 1-1 record with 28 strikeouts with the AZL Giants Black. Daniel Ross entered his first professional season with the GCL Pirates. Ross went 2-2 in 13 games with 15 strikeouts.
Justin Kelly ended his summer on the Acereros del Norte, a AAA team in the Mexican League. Kelly also spent time in the Braves organization with the Florida Fire Frogs (A Advanced) and Mississippi Braves (AA). In 35.1 innings of work, Kelly held a 3.31 ERA with 41 strikeouts.
Former Rafter, Justin Jirschele became the youngest manager for a full-season minor league baseball team this year. Jirschele was announced the manager of the Winston-Salem Dash, which is the Advanced A team for the Chicago White Sox. He played for the Dash back in 2014-2015.
Want to attend a Rafters game next season? Rafters Ticket Packages are on sale now! For more information on ticket options visit Raftersbaseball.com, call the Rafthouse at 715-424-5400, or visit Historic Witter Field. The Rafthouse is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday at Witter Field, 521 Lincoln Street in Wisconsin Rapids.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 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, over 200 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (TOR). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.raftersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.