The 2019 Biloxi Shuckers season once again saw the Shuckers clinch a playoff berth and play for the Southern League Championship. The journey through the season was another incredible path for the Shuckers, and below are just some of the highlights of a record-breaking 2019 season.
#ShuckYeah: Biloxi had 21 position players appear for them in 2019, including: Ryan Aguilar, Blake Allemand, Alexander Alvarez, Luis Aviles Jr., Bruce Caldwell, Skyler Ewing, Mario Feliciano, David Fry (postseason), Jake Gatewood, Trent Grisham, Devin Hairston, C.J. Hinojosa, Cooper Hummel, Patrick Leonard, Max McDowell, Michael O'Neill, Corey Ray, Robie Rojas, Joantgel Segovia, Dillon Thomas and Weston Wilson.
27 pitchers logged innings for the Shuckers in 2019, including: Clayton Andrews, Luke Barker, Johan Belisario, Anthony Bender, Rodrigo Benoit, Alec Bettinger, Daniel Brown, Luis Contreras, Marcos Diplan, Nattino Diplan, Dylan File, Bowden Francis, Nate Griep, Thomas Jankins, Aaron Kurcz, Jon Olczak, Freddy Peralta (ML Rehab), Angel Perdomo, Cody Ponce, Drew Rasmussen, Cameron Roegner, Tyler Spurlin, Trey Supak, Brent Suter (ML Rehab), Justin Topa, Braden Webb and Devin Williams.
Hey Now, You're An All-Star: Not only did the Biloxi Shuckers host the 2019 Southern League All-Star Game at MGM Park, Biloxi had nine players make the South Division roster, including Luis Aviles Jr, Luke Barker, Johan Belisario, Nate Griep, Trent Grisham, Patrick Leonard, Trey Supak, Dillon Thomas and Weston Wilson. Biloxi also had three postseason All-Stars: Right-handed starter Trey Supak, relief pitcher Nate Griep and first baseman Patrick Leonard.
King of the South: For a second consecutive season, the Biloxi Shuckers won both halves in the South Division, accumulating at least 40 wins in each half. The Shuckers also parlayed their regular-season half titles into a berth to the Southern League BC® Powder Championship Series, the first team from the South Division to make back-to-back trips to the final since the Mobile BayBears went three-straight seasons from 2011-13.
82 Wins: After the Shuckers set a franchise record with 81 wins in 2018, the 2019 Shuckers did one better, going 82-57 during the regular season to set a new franchise record. Combined with their five wins in the postseason, the 87 wins by Biloxi also set a new record for most overall wins in a season. Biloxi's 82 wins during the regular season were tied for the eighth most in all of Minor League Baseball, trailing only Delmarva (90 - SAL), Montgomery (88 - SOU), Down East (87 - CAR), Round Rock (84 - PCL), Hickory (83 - SAL), Las Vegas (83 - PCL) and Visalia (83 - CAL).
10x10: Despite having a playoff berth in the bag, the Shuckers went on not one, but two ten-game winning streaks during the second half of the season, winning ten in a row from July 12 to 22 and then ripping off ten in a row from August 5 to 16. During the first winning streak in July, the Shuckers won five straight at home against the Chattanooga Lookouts (with two days lost to Hurricane Barry) before going to Mobile and winning all four against the BayBears. That included a pair of 12-run games, winning 12-7 and 12-3 on back-to-back days. Biloxi finished off their first winning streak with a 3-2 victory over the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
During their second ten-game winning streak, Biloxi got a 2-0 victory over Jacksonville at home on August 5 before going to the Smoky Mountains and winning all five contests against the Tennessee Smokies. The series against the Smokies featured a 6-5 win in 11 innings to start the series and an 11-7 win in 10 innings in the final game of the series. The Shuckers returned home and won three in a row over the BayBears, including a sweep of a doubleheader. Biloxi capped their second ten-game winning streak with an 8-4 win over Mobile on August 16. The previous best winning streak for the Shuckers was eight games, set in April of 2018.
Bust Out The Brooms: The Shuckers swept four (!) series in 2019- Pensacola at MGM Park from June 7-11 (a series that helped the Shuckers claim the first half South Division title), Chattanooga at MGM Park from July 11-16, Mobile at Hank Aaron Stadium from July 18-21 (four-game series) and Tennessee at Smokies Stadium from August 7-11. The Shuckers also avoided being swept in a series, meaning that in five seasons, the Shuckers have never been swept in a series.
Throwing Up Zeros: Biloxi registered 16 shutouts in 2019, the most in a single season in team history.
The Hotter the Better: The Shuckers got hot during one of the hottest months, going 20-9 in the month of July. The 20 wins were the most in a single month in Shuckers history, surpassing the 19 wins in June by the 2015 Shuckers squad.
Milacki's Men: Pitching coach Bob Milacki helped navigate the Shuckers staff to one of the best ERA's in Minor League Baseball. For the 2019 season, the Shuckers recorded a 3.25 ERA, good for the 13th lowest ERA among full season Minor League clubs. The Shuckers also had a team ERA of 2.57 in the month of May, the second lowest monthly ERA in Shuckers history, only behind the 2.35 team ERA of the 2015 team in April.
From Biloxi to the Brewers: Devin Williams and Trent Grisham both started the year in Biloxi, and by the middle of August, both were playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. It is the 11th and 12th time a player has logged time in Biloxi and made their Major League debut at some point that season.
Two Nights at MGM Park: For the first time in franchise history, the Shuckers hosted the Southern League All-Star festivities at MGM Park on Monday, June 17 and Tuesday, June 18. In the Home Run Derby on June 17, Jamie Westbrook, Jeffry Baez, Weston Wilson, Trent Grisham, Travis Blankenhorn and Jaylin Davis all competed, with the two best sluggers moving on to the final round. Baez and Westbrook advanced, and ultimately Baez took home the title of Home Run King.
The Southern League All-Star Game on June 18 featured some of the top prospects in all of Minor League Baseball, including Luis Robert, Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, Jesus Sanchez and Daulton Varsho. The North Division scored one run in the first and five runs in the second to jump out to a quick 6-0 lead. Patrick Leonard drove in Trent Grisham in the bottom of the fourth for the first run of the game for the South Division, and Drew Water hit the lone home run of the game, a solo shot to left in the seventh. The North ended up defeating the South 7-3 as Luis Robert took home MVP honors, going 2-for-3 with a double, a triple, two RBI and a run scored.
Get Hot Grish: Trent Grisham returned to Biloxi in 2019 after spending the entire 2018 campaign with the Shuckers. The 15th-overall pick in 2015 started the year well, homering in the first game of the year against Birmingham and hitting safely in four out of five contests. But by the end of April, Grisham was slashing .232/.318/.411 with three doubles, a triple, four home runs and 12 RBI, walking 12 times while striking out 30.
On May 22, Biloxi's centerfielder went 0-for-3 with two walks against Mobile, dropping his batting average to .215. After a day off on May 23, Grisham would begin a streak that catapulted him to the Major Leagues. The lefty hit safely in his next five games, including a monster performance on May 26, going 4-for-5 with a triple, a home run, three RBIs and a run scored.
He would be held hitless on May 30 against Tennessee but delivered one of the performances of the year on May 31. With the Shuckers trailing 4-0 going to the bottom of the sixth, Grisham doubled and came in to score on a fielding error. When Grisham came to bat next in the seventh with two men on base, he knocked his second straight double, plating both runs before coming to in to score himself and tie the game at 4-4. Tennessee would retake the lead in the top of the eighth, but after a pair of walks and a dribbling single from Luis Aviles Jr. that tied the game, Grisham stepped to the plate and crushed a go-ahead three-run homer to right, winning the game for the Shuckers 8-5. If this sounds familiar, it's because he did the same thing for Milwaukee just over two months later.
The next day, Grisham would reach base safely in all six plate appearances, going (in order) walk, double, home run, walk, walk, intentional walk. He would follow it up with a 1-for-4 day on June 2 against Mississippi, driving in four with a three-run home run and a sacrifice fly. He capped his incredible week with yet another homer on June 3, becoming just the second player in Shuckers history to homer in four straight games. He was named Southern League Player of the Week for his exploits.
All told, over his final 20 games with the Shuckers, Grisham slashed .342/.479/.822 with seven doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 25 RBI, walking 20 times while striking out just eight. He reached base safely in 19 of those 20 games and hit safely in 15 of them. He was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star and started in centerfield at MGM Park in the All-Star Game on June 18 before a promotion to Triple-A San Antonio. At the time of his promotion, Grisham led the Southern League in walks (44), was second in RBIs and extra-base hits (30), tied for second in home runs (13), and third in total bases (119) and OPS (.875).
For his exploits in Biloxi and San Antonio, Grisham was named the Robin Yount Award winner for 2019, given to the best Minor League Player in the Brewers system. He joined Orlando Arcia (2015) and Corey Ray (2018) as winners from the Biloxi Shuckers.
Sup, There It Is: Even though he was promoted to Triple-A San Antonio with a little more than a month left in the regular season, RHP Trey Supak's campaign with the Shuckers in 2019 was so incredible that he was recognized as the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher. Across 20 starts with Biloxi, the 23-year-old went 11-4 with a 2.20 ERA. When Supak was promoted on July 26, he led qualified Southern League pitchers in innings pitched (122.2), wins (11), WHIP (0.87) and opponent average (.192), and beat out the likes of Ian Anderson, Tucker Davidson and Kenny Rosenberg to earn the league's top pitching honor. He became the third Shuckers pitcher in five seasons to take home the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher honor, joining Zack Brown (2018) and Jorge Lopez (2015).
The La Grange, TX native started the season with authority, tossing six scoreless innings against the Birmingham Barons in a seven-inning game to open his season. He would turn in back-to-back scoreless outings, spinning six frames on April 16 against Pensacola before hurling seven scoreless innings against Jacksonville on April 21. The righty was honored as the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for his two starts, allowing a grand total of five hits and one walk between his two outings.
After his shortest outing of the season (four innings) on April 26 at Chattanooga, Supak went on a string where he pitched at least five innings in each of his final 15 starts and went seven innings or more on six occasions.
One of the highlights of the season for Supak came at MGM Park on May 30 against Tennessee, when he sat down the first nine batters in order before Clayton Daniel reached on an error. The Texan proceeded to retire the next 17 men in a row, coming within one out of a no-hitter before Daniel recorded the first hit of the game on a ball hit to shallow centerfield. The 8.2 innings still marked the longest outing of his career.
Supak was named a Midseason All-Star in the Southern League and started for the South Division in the All-Star Game at MGM Park on June 18. He closed out his season in Biloxi with four strong starts, including six innings on July 3 where he allowed one run, and seven innings on July 8 against Mississippi where he allowed just one run on two hits. Yet again, the righty came within one out of a no-hitter on July 16 in Game One of a doubleheader against Chattanooga, allowing his lone hit in the top of the seventh inning. Supak would record the final out to log his first career complete game, tossing seven innings of one-hit baseball where he walked one and struck out a season-high nine batters.
For his exploits, Supak was named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for a second time in the 2019 season, just the third time in Shuckers history a player has earned Pitcher of the Week honors twice in one season. Following his 20th start of the season on July 22 at Jacksonville, Supak was promoted to Triple-A San Antonio on July 26.
The Brewers' #11 prospect was also named a Southern League Postseason All-Star and was recognized as the Brewers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year by MLB Pipeline.
Enter the Grim Grieper: For a second consecutive season, the sounds of Moby's 'Flower' rocked MGM Park in the late stages of ballgames, the musical selection of closer Nate Griep. Already the all-time saves leader in Shuckers history following a 34-save season with the team in 2018, Griep once again served as the most dominant closer on the circuit.
The 25-year-old recorded a save on Opening Day for Biloxi and converted all four save opportunities in the month of April. But May was the month where 'The Grim Grieper' was essentially untouchable. Across 11 appearances, the righty allowed a grand total of four baserunners, two hits and two walks, while not allowing a run. He converted seven save opportunities and picked up a win, tossing 12.2 innings of scoreless relief work. He made eight perfect appearances and was named the Southern League BC® Powder Relief Pitcher of the Month for May. He also recorded his 100th career save on June 2 at Mississippi, pitching the final two innings against the M-Braves.
Griep finished the first half 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA, successfully converting all 14 save opportunities. He was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star for a second consecutive year and recorded the final two outs in the top of the ninth inning for the South Division.
During the second half of the season, Griep continued his excellent run of form, going 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA while converting 8 of 13 save opportunities. While the first round of the postseason wasn't kind to Griep, the righty delivered a pair of saves for the Shuckers against the Jackson Generals in Games One and Four of the Southern League BC® Powder Championship Series. He was named a Southern League Postseason All-Star, the second straight year to earn the reliever spot for the Southern League on their postseason awards, and the fourth consecutive year he has earned a Postseason All-Star honor. He finished 2019 with 22 saves, tied for the eighth-most saves in all of Minor League Baseball.
El Futura: Devin Williams started the season in a long-relief role for the Shuckers and ended his time in Biloxi as a dominant closer alongside Nate Griep. Williams' first Double-A appearance came in the first game of the season, and despite walking six batters, he allowed just one run over a season-high 3.1 innings to receive the win in a 5-3 Shuckers victory over Birmingham.
The former second-round pick continued to be a viable long-relief option for the Shuckers during the first month-plus of the season, picking up five wins in his first 11 outings. One of the highlights early in the season came in Chattanooga on April 29, when Williams doubled off the centerfield batters' eye for his first professional hit, sparking a five-run seventh inning that helped the Shuckers snap a five-game losing streak.
The St. Louis native saw an uptick in his fastball velocity as the season continued and started pitching in shorter stints beginning in May, not logging more than 2.0 innings after May 8. From May 19 to June 11, Williams made seven straight scoreless appearances, dropping his ERA to 2.83. He was picked as the lone representative for the Milwaukee Brewers at the MLB All-Star Future's Game and struck out the one batter he faced at Progressive Field on July 6.
Williams was moved to the back end of the bullpen following the Southern League All-Star break and thrived in the new role. He made nine appearances with the Shuckers following the break and didn't allow an earned run, successfully converting four save opportunities. In 10.0 innings, he allowed just four hits and one walk while striking out 17 batters, keeping hitters off balance with a 98-mph fastball followed up with a mid-80's changeup and mid-80's slider.
Williams was promoted with Trey Supak to Triple-A San Antonio on July 26 and made three scoreless appearances before he was called up to Milwaukee on August 5. The righty made his Major League debut on August 7 at PNC Park against Pittsburgh, tossing 1.2 innings and allowing two unearned runs. He was optioned to Biloxi for the South Division Championship Series and was recalled by the Brewers on September 10.
Standing Pat: One of the driving forces to the Shuckers success in 2019 was first baseman Patrick Leonard. In his first season with the Brewers, Leonard brought stability to the Shuckers at first base and proved to be one of the most consistent hitters in the Southern League. After hitting .217 in the month of April, Leonard came to life in May, slashing .340/.398/.495 with seven doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and 17 runs scored, raising his overall batting average to .291 as the calendar turned to June.
Leonard continued his hot hitting in the month of June, logging a 15-game hitting streak from May 30 to June 15, setting the longest-hitting streak for any player in Shuckers history. He also reached base safely in 42 of the last 48 games in the first half of the season. Leonard was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star, his third Midseason All-Star nod in his career, and started at first base for the South Division at MGM Park on June 18.
Unfortunately, Leonard missed the last month of the season due to an injury, logging just one game in August. At the end of July, he was second in the Southern League in OBP (.378) and batting average (.304), third in hits (107), total bases (163) and OPS (.841), tied for fourth in runs scored (54), fifth in extra-base hits (34) and tied for fifth in doubles (22).
More than his offense, Leonard was one of the best defensive first baseman in all of Minor League Baseball. He was one of just two first baseman to record a .999 fielding percentage, committing one error in 734 total chances. His lone error came on August 5, the last game that he played before landing on the injured list. Despite missing most of August, Leonard was named a Southern League Postseason All-Star, the second time he earned a postseason All-Star honor in his career.
DT: Arguably the most consistent offensive force from the start of the season all the way through the postseason was outfielder Dillon Thomas. Thomas started his season with a three-run homer on Opening Day… with the first swing that he took. He followed it up with another three RBI game in Game Two of the Opening Day doubleheader, and two days later went 3-for-4 with three doubles and a pair of runs scored, the only Shuckers player to notch three doubles in a game all season.
Thomas primarily played in right field until the promotion of Trent Grisham when he shifted over to center. During the first half of the season, Thomas had a stretch where he went hitless for eight straight games from May 10-17 but followed it up with a nine-game hitting streak, his longest of the season, from May 18-28. He showcased his RBI potential again on June 9 against Pensacola when he went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and five RBI in an 8-0 win over the Blue Wahoos. He was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star the next day.
The Houston, TX native enjoyed another five-RBI day on July 19 at Mobile, part of an impressive four-game series against the BayBears where he went 10-for-20 with three home runs, nine RBI, six runs scored and six stolen bases in seven attempts. He also homered in three straight games from July 18 to 20, becoming just the sixth player in Shuckers history to homer in at least three consecutive games.
At the end of the regular season, Thomas finished third in the Southern League in RBI (71), tied for fifth in triples (5), sixth in total bases (195), tied for sixth in hits (119) and doubles (25), and tied for seventh in extra-base hits (44), runs scored (62) and stolen bases (22). He set new career highs in games played (131), home runs (13), RBIs, walks (41), stolen bases, slugging percentage (.434) and runs scored. But the one moment that Shuckers fans will remember was his walk-off homer in the tenth inning to top the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 11-10 in Game One of the South Division Championship Series, arguably one of the wildest games in Shuckers postseason history.
WILLLLSSSOONNN: Weston Wilson exploded for the Shuckers in the month of April, driving the offense for the first month of the season. The 25-year-old got especially hot at the end of April, including a record-setting day against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on April 20. Wilson went 4-for-5 with a double and two home runs, accounting for a season-best 11 total bases in a 12-7 Shuckers win. The former Clemson Tiger went 2-for-3 against Jacksonville the next day before going on a home run streak, hitting a longball in three consecutive games from April 22 to 24 against Jacksonville.
He was named the Southern League Player of the Week for the week of April 22 to 28, and was named the Southern League Player of the Month for April after slashing .295/.380/.591 with six doubles, a triple, six home runs, 18 RBI, 12 walks, 11 strikeouts and 20 runs scored. At the end of April, Wilson led the Southern League in OPS (.971), slugging percentage, runs scored and total bases (52).
The utility-man was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star and started for the South Division at third base. Wilson demonstrated his flexibility with the Shuckers in 2019, logging 35 games at first base, 14 games at second, 45 games at third, nine games at shortstop, and 22 games in the outfield.
After hitting one home run in June, Wilson launched eight homers in the final two months of the season, finishing the year with 19 home runs to lead the Shuckers in home runs and finish fourth in the Southern League in homers. He also ended the season in the top 10 on the Southern League leaderboard in walks (8th - 58), extra-base hits (9th - 41) and total bases (10th - 185).
Gate Keeper: One of the highlight moments of the 2019 season was the return of Jake Gatewood and its 'you can't write this stuff' start. After suffering an ACL tear on July 24, 2018 in Jackson, TN, Gatewood returned to the Shuckers lineup on May 12 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. With a man on base, Gatewood connected on a 1-1 pitch for an opposite-field homer in his first at bat since tearing his ACL.
Gatewood would again deliver a dramatic moment on July 27 at MGM Park against the Jackson Generals. With the Shuckers trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Gatewood came to the plate with the tying run at third, and on a 1-2 pitch from Michael Kohn, unloaded a walk-off homer over the left-field wall. The home run was the ninth of the season for Gatewood, but more importantly, it was his 32nd with the Shuckers, making him the all-time home run leader in franchise history, surpassing the 31 homers hit by Nick Ramirez in his career with the Shuckers. Gatewood would finish the regular season with 13 home runs, giving him 36 with Biloxi.
The Clovis, CA native did have his struggles at the plate, never hitting over .200 for the season. However, in the final two series of the regular season, Gatewood hit safely in six of his last nine games, setting the stage for an incredible postseason. In the opening round against Pensacola, Gatewood hit an impressive .429 with three home runs, six RBI and just one strikeout in five games. He recorded multi-hit efforts in the first four games and helped drive the Shuckers to a second consecutive Southern League Championship Series berth. Across all ten games in the postseason, Gatewood slashed .293/.293/.585 with four home runs and nine RBIs.
Bet on Bettinger: A 10th-round pick by the Brewers in 2017, Alec Bettinger was supposed to start the season in High-A with the Carolina Mudcats. By his own account, he had an apartment arranged in North Carolina just days prior to camp breaking in Arizona. But at the last moment, Bettinger was informed he would be heading to Biloxi, and he did not disappoint.
Across his first five starts, Bettinger went 0-2 with an 8.34 ERA, allowing 22 runs (21 earned) in 22.2 innings. He then allowed four runs in the first inning of his start on May 5 at Pensacola, but from that point on was one of the most consistent pitchers on the Shuckers staff in 2019. Excluding the first inning of that May 5 start, Bettinger went 5-4 with a 2.27 ERA, allowing a total of 31 earned runs in his final 20 starts with the Shuckers.
The Alexandria, VA native would start his impressive run with back-to-back seven-inning outings on May 11 and 16, allowing one run on five total hits while striking out 17 in that span. He followed that up with a pair of six-inning outings on May 28 and June 2, yet again allowing just one run on a total of six hits while striking out 15. For his pair of impressive starts, Bettinger was recognized as the Southern League Pitcher of the Week.
All told, Bettinger finished the year with a 5-7 record but his record was subject to some bad luck. In the second half of the season, Bettinger went 1-2 with a 2.72 ERA over 13 starts. He tossed at least six innings in 11 of his final 13 outings, including his final seven starts, but didn't earn a win after July 25 despite turning in a quality outing in six of his last seven outings.
Still, Bettinger set a new single-game high in strikeouts when he punched out 12 on June 6 against Pensacola and tied his career high with seven innings pitched on seven occasions in 2019. After pitching to a 2.81 ERA over six starts in July, he was named the Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Month and finished second in the Southern League in strikeouts with 157, also a new career high for the righty. Additionally, Bettinger finished tied for first in the Southern League in games started (26), second in innings pitched (146.1) and WHIP (1.07), fourth in batting average against (.223) and sixth in ERA (3.44).
Crushin' (then on-base) Coop: Cooper Hummel went on two very different but impressive streaks during the second half of the Shuckers season. As with some of the other members of the Shuckers in 2019, it starts with a slight low point on July 9, when Hummel was hitting .195, the lowest his batting average had been since April 23, just 16 games into the season. Following an off day, the Shuckers started their series against Chattanooga, and Hummel homered in the fifth inning, his sixth home run of the season. He homered in the following game (which started on July 12 but was completed on July 15 due to Hurricane Barry), a two-run blast in the fourth, and then homered for a third time in four games on July 16.
All told, Hummel would homer in five of seven games between July 11 and July 21 and would hit seven home runs in the month of July. The first multi-homer game of his career came on August 2 against Jacksonville, and to make it more impressive, the switch-hitter homered from both sides of the plate. His power streak came to an end on August 13, when he hit a solo home run against the BayBears, his 17th of the season. In 29 games from July 11 to August 13, Hummel hit 12 home runs, coming one shy of matching his career home run total in his first three seasons in the Brewers organization.
Though Hummel did not hit another home run in 2019 after August 13, the left fielder put together a 25-game on-base streak to end the season, tying the Shuckers franchise record. From August 5 to September 2, Hummel found his way on base in every game that he played for the Shuckers, slashing .360/.496/.528 with two doubles, two triples, three home runs, 11 RBI, 22 walks, 23 strikeouts and 18 runs scored. His on-base streak stretched two games into the postseason before he was kept off base in Game Three of the South Division Championship Series against Pensacola.
Hummel finished the season second in the Southern League in OBP (.384), third in walks (62), fourth in OPS (.834), and tied for seventh in runs scored (62).
Corre, Luis, Corre!: The Shuckers finished tied for second in the Southern League in stolen bases in 2019, and a big impetus for their production on the bases was shortstop Luis Aviles Jr. During the first half of the season, Aviles successfully stole 20 bases in 23 attempts, including a perfect 4-for-4 day on June 9 against Pensacola. The Havana, Cuba native also hit .274 in the first half with eight doubles, two home runs, 24 RBI and 37 runs scored from the top of the lineup.
Aviles was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star and started at shortstop for the South Division in the Southern League All-Star Game on June 18. He continued his good run of form, hitting safely in 15-straight games from June 7 to 27, tying Patrick Leonard for the longest hitting streak in Shuckers history.
The 30th-round pick by the Brewers in 2013 did miss time from July 8 to 18, and after just one game back, ended up back on the injured list from July 20 to August 15. Aviles missed time from August 21 to August 31, but showed he was ready for the postseason in the final game of the regular season on September 2, going 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
In the South Division Championship Series against Pensacola, Aviles hit safely in four of five games, going 7-for-21 with two doubles, an RBI, three walks and four runs scored. Arguably his best performance of the season came in Game One of the Southern League BC® Powder Championship Series, when Aviles went a perfect 5-for-5 with a home run, an RBI and four runs scored. It was the first five-hit game of his career and the first time a Shuckers player had five or more hits in a game since August of 2017. Despite missing time during the second half, Aviles finished fifth in the Southern League in stolen base with 27.
Bowden Mowing 'Em Down: One of the best strikeout pitchers in all of Minor League Baseball, Bowden Francis made 25 appearances, 24 starts, with the Shuckers in 2019. Armed with a mid-90's fastball, a changeup and a nasty slider, Francis struck out eight or more batters in eight of his starts and notched double-digit K's in four of his outings.
His most dominant stretch of the season came at the end of the first half in consecutive starts. When Francis took the mound on the morning of June 11 against Pensacola, the Shuckers were looking to finish off a series sweep of the Blue Wahoos, and Francis delivered one of his best outings of the season. The righty allowed just one hit and three walks over six scoreless innings, striking out six of the first seven batters he faced and totaling ten strikeouts in just four innings. The righty would record two more strikeouts before his outing was over, setting a new career-high with 12 K's in the game.
The Tallahassee, FL native then took the hill in the final game of the first half for the Shuckers on June 16 against the Jackson Generals in Tennessee. Looking to avoid a series sweep, Francis completely shut down the Jackson offense, at one point striking out nine of 13 batters he faced and retired the final 16 batters in order over seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits without issuing a walk. Francis was named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for June 10-16 after leading all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts during the week with 22 while not allowing run.
Between his three starts in Carolina and 25 appearances with the Shuckers, Francis recorded 165 strikeouts, tied for the 12th-most strikeouts in all of Minor League Baseball. He also finished third in the Southern League in games started, fourth in strikeouts (145), fifth in innings pitched (128.2), sixth in batting average against (.233), and ninth in WHIP (1.24) and ERA (3.99) among qualified pitchers.
Giant Acquisition: He was acquired in exchange for catcher Erick Kratz just days before the 2019 season started, and second baseman C.J. Hinojosa ended up being a staple of the Shuckers offense in 2019. Even though his name didn't end up on any of the Southern League leaderboards, Hinojosa put together some vital stretches for the Shuckers while holding down the fort at second base for most of the season.
During the Shuckers first ten-game winning streak, Hinojosa was in the midst of a 15-game hitting streak that spanned from July 2-23, hitting .400 with four doubles, two home runs, 10 RBI, eight runs scored, six walks and just four strikeouts. The Houston, TX native continued his hot hitting in August, slashing .364/.417/.525 with seven doubles, three home runs, 15 RBI and 12 runs scored, hitting safely in 24 of 28 games in the month. He finished the regular season with 24 doubles, a new single-season career high.
In the postseason, Hinojosa was one of the most vital bats in the Shuckers run to the Southern League Championship Series. Against Pensacola in the first round, Hinojosa went 8-for-19 (.421) with three doubles, two home runs and a team-high seven RBIs. The second baseman also came around to score five times and drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-RBI double in the eighth inning of Game Five against the Blue Wahoos at MGM Park. Hinojosa drove in a pair in the Shuckers 9-7 win over Jackson in Game One of the Championship Series, but left Game Two with an injury in the seventh inning. Across seven games in the postseason, Hinojosa hit .400 with four doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs, leading the Shuckers in run production.
Unbelievable Belisario: Lost somewhat in the second half of the season was the remarkable emergence of Johan Belisario as a starter for the Shuckers during their run to a first half South Division title. Signed as a free agent from the Tigers, Belisario began the season in the bullpen, making four scoreless appearances from April 5 to 15. The righty made a spot start for the Shuckers in Game Two of a doubleheader on April 19 before moving to the starting rotation in earnest on May 1.
In just his second start since 2013, Belisario pitched five innings against Pensacola, allowing two runs and picking up the win in a 7-3 Shuckers victory. It set off a stretch where Belisario won six of eight starts without suffering a loss, going 4-0 in the month of May with an impressive 2.48 ERA. He was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star and was the lone pitcher in the All-Star Game to pitch more than 1.0 inning, coming in to relieve Tucker Davidson in the second frame of the game at MGM Park.
Cool-Handed Luke: Another name possibly lost in the shuffle of the 2019 season is righty Luke Barker, who split the closing duties with Nate Griep during the first half of the Shuckers campaign. Barker put together a month of May that was second only to Griep, making nine appearances without allowing an earned run during the month. Across 10.2 innings, Barker allowed just one unearned run (a bonus runner that started on second base in an extra-innings game) on four hits while walking three and striking out 12. He converted all five save opportunities in the month of May and was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star.
Across 23 appearances with Biloxi, Barker went 0-1 with a 1.48 ERA, converting eight save opportunities in the first half with the Shuckers. More than his ERA, Barker's WHIP of 0.63 stood out as one of the lowest amongst relievers in the Southern League as he walked just eight batters over 30.1 innings.
The Chico State product was promoted to Triple-A San Antonio after the Southern League All-Star Game and faired very well in his time with the Missions. Over 17 appearances, Barker went 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA, allowing just six runs, four earned, in 30.0 innings of work, walking seven while striking out 32. For the season between Biloxi and San Antonio, his 0.65 WHIP and .162 BABIP were the lowest in all of Minor League Baseball among pitchers with at least 50.0 innings pitched.
File It Away: He was promoted to the Shuckers right before the All-Star Break, and Dylan File did not disappoint in his first foray into Double-A ball. The righty made his Double-A debut on June 13 against Jackson with five scoreless innings, allowing just three total baserunners on a hit, a walk and a hit by pitch. That start seemed to set the bar for the rest of 2019 for File.
Even though he didn't receive a decision on June 13, File would win his next three consecutive starts, allowing five total runs over 17.2 innings in that span. His lone outing with the Shuckers where he did not pitch five innings and gave up more than three runs came on July 7 at Mississippi, where the righty lasted four innings and allowed seven earned runs.
After his rough outing in Pearl, though, File ripped off five consecutive wins from July 15 to August 5. He made three consecutive scoreless outings in that span, throwing six innings against Jacksonville on July 26, six scoreless innings against Jackson on July 31 and seven scoreless innings where he allowed just three hits against Jacksonville on August 5 at MGM Park. His scoreless streak came to an end on August 11 in Tennessee, but when the dust settled, the 23-year-old had gone 20.1 innings without allowing a run.
During the regular season, File left in line for the win in 12 of his 14 outings with Biloxi and ultimately went 9-2 with a 2.79 ERA. He lived up to his reputation of not walking batters, issuing a grand total of 15 walks, 13 unintentional, over 80.2 innings with the Shuckers.
File's best performance came in his two biggest starts of the year during the playoffs. Following a ten-inning affair in Game One of the South Division Championship Series where the Shuckers had utilized six relievers, File gave the bullpen a night off in Game Two, pitching 8.1 innings against the Blue Wahoos. File allowed just one hit in his first eight innings of work, and also picked up his first professional hit in the game. His lone run allowed came on a solo home run to Alex Kiriloff in the top of the ninth inning, and the 8.1 innings set a new career high for innings pitched in a single contest.
The St. George, UT native followed up his South Division Championship Outing with another stellar performance in Game Two of the Southern League Championship Series against Jackson, throwing 6.0 innings and surrendering just one unearned run on four hits while not walking a batter and striking out nine.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.