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Series Preview: Two MLB Top Prospects Battle

July 25, 2023

Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Patriots return home to the confines of TD Bank Ballpark on Tuesday for a 12:05 PM matinee to open a star-studded six-game set with the Bowie Baysox. The Orioles Double-A affiliate comes to town with Major League Baseball’s number one ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline

Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Patriots return home to the confines of TD Bank Ballpark on Tuesday for a 12:05 PM matinee to open a star-studded six-game set with the Bowie Baysox. The Orioles Double-A affiliate comes to town with Major League Baseball’s number one ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline in 19-year-old outfielder Jackson Holliday.

Somerset is fresh off a lengthy nine game road trip through Binghamton and Hartford in which they went 6-3 overall and have won four straight to improve to 11-9 overall in the second half, which has moved them into second place behind Portland in the Northeast division.

Before looking ahead to this week’s duel with Bowie, here are some of the most prominent story lines and notes surrounding the Patriots heading into this week.

Hard to Stop: Patriots third baseman Tyler Hardman is once again on a tear. On Monday, he was crowned as the Eastern League’s Player of the Week for July 17-23. This marks the second time in less than a month that Hardman has won the POTW honors after previously winning for his torrid stretch from June 26-July 2. The 24-year-old University of Oklahoma product went 9-for-19 with four homers, eight RBI and seven runs scored and hit safely in all five games he played during the series. Hardman, a 2021 fifth round draft selection, has blasted an Eastern League best 24 homers and is tied for the overall lead in minor league baseball.

FareWELLS: After a season ending injury landed Yankees catcher Jose Trevino on the IL last week, a domino effect was felt at the catching position up and down the farm system, and the biggest one to fall was catcher Austin Wells earned a deserved promotion to Triple-A. The organization's second ranked prospect was the Patriots team leader in RBI with 50 and was slashing .236/.321/.354 with 11 homers and 14 doubles to go along with 28 runs scored in 58 games. Since landing at Scranton, Wells has gone 3-for-11 with a double and a walk in his first three games of action for the RailRiders.

Hot Rice: The vacated roster spot left by Wells has been filled by catcher Ben Rice, who comes up to the Patriots after hitting .341 in 15 games for Hudson Valley. The 24-year-old backstop is off to a red-hot start with Somerset, going 8-for-15 with two homers, six RBI and four runs scored with just one strikeout in his first three games with the club. On Saturday night, the 2021 12th round draft pick went 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBI in the 9-3 victory over the Yard Goats.

Rehab Recap: Yankees southpaw Nestor Cortes and outfielder Willie Calhoun both joined the Patriots while they were in Hartford last week to commence rehab assignments on their way to eventually get back to the Bronx. Cortes, a 2022 MLB All-Star, started the series finale this past Sunday and tossed 42 pitches to 12 batters over 2.1 innings of work. Cortes allowed just an earned run on four hits with four strikeouts in his first live game action since landing on the IL on June 8 with a left rotator cuff strain.

Calhoun played in three games for Somerset last week, going 1-for-9 with a homer and two RBI. The 28-year-old outfielder landed on the IL on June 22 with a left quad strain. In his first season with the Bombers after inking a minor league deal over the winter, the 2015 fourth round draft pick has blasted five homers and driven home 16 runs in 134 at-bats in the big leagues this season.

Knowing the Opponent: The surging Baysox are the hottest team in the Eastern League coming into TD Bank Ballpark this week – winners in eight of their last ten ball games, including a 5-1 series victory over Harrisburg last week. Bowie finished in last place in the first half of the season, but their hot stretch to open the second half has moved them into second place overall in the Southwest division with a 12-9 mark – they trail first place Erie by just half a game in the standings as this week gets underway.

Much of that hot streak coincides with the arrival of the games top-ranked prospect in shortstop Jackson Holliday. The 19-year-old Holliday was the first overall pick in last summer’s MLB draft and has already reached Double-A in his first season in professional ball. In nine games with Bowie since being promoted earlier this month, the son of former big leaguer Matt Holliday has slashed .351/.400/.514 with a homer, two RBI, three doubles with six runs scored. He has multi-hit efforts in five of the nine ball games that he’s played in thus far. In 297 at-bats this season spanning three different levels, Holliday is slashing .333/.459/.522 with eight homers, 53 RBI and 20 stolen bases.

Orioles 11th ranked prospect, Cade Povich, has started a team-high 18 games for the Baysox posting a 4.87 ERA, but the 2021 third round draft selection has fanned an Eastern League leading 118 batters in just 81.1 innings.

This week’s matchup will be the second and final meeting for Bowie and Somerset this regular season. The Patriots took four of six from the Baysox in their only previous matchup in the final week of June.

Expected Series Pitching Probables:

Tue: RHP Carlos Tavera (2-5, 4.81 ERA) vs. RHP Blane Abeyta (5-4, 5.87 ERA)

Wed: RHP Ryan Long (1-1, 6.14 ERA) vs. RHP Chase Hampton (1-0, 4.15 ERA)

Thu: RHP Alex Pham (0-0, 1.35, ERA) vs. RHP Yoendrys Gomez (0-0, 1.26 ERA)

Fri: LHP Cade Povich (6-7, 4.87 ERA) vs. TBD

Sat: RHP Connor Gillispie (5-3, 3.61 ERA) vs. TBD

Sun: RHP Carlos Tavera (2-5, 4.81 ERA) vs. TBD

Matt Kardos | Beat Writer

Matt Kardos has covered the Yankees minor league system for over a decade and will spend his 11th season on the beat covering the Patriots for Throughout his career, Matt has contributed to, YES Network and Pinstriped Prospects. When he’s not at the ballpark, Matt enjoys traveling with his wife Kimberly, watching Jets football and collecting sports cards.