Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers win despite another major roster hit

Hoppers win despite another major roster hit
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

The faces keep changing and somehow the Hoppers keep finding ways to win.

After losing the completion of Friday’s suspended game, 5-4, the Hoppers bounced back to beat Kannapolis 5-3 in the 7-inning nightcap Saturday at NewBridge Bank Park.

The net result was the Hoppers lost half a game to Hagerstown in the Northern Division standings. The Suns stand at 25-16, the Hoppers are second at 24-18 and Hickory is third at 23-18.

The day got off to an unexpected start for the Hoppers when they got to the stadium and learned that Anfernee Seymour, the leadoff hitter, shortstop and all-around catalyst, had been traded by the Marlins to the Atlanta Braves. Seymour apparently watched the continuation of the suspended game for an inning or two, then got into his car and began to drive to Rome, Ga., where he had been assigned to the Braves’ SAL farm team.

“We didn’t believe it and I don’t think he did, either,” said outfielder Kyle Barrett. “He’s the fastest guy in the league and he scores a lot of runs. It’s a shot to the throat, but we’ll be OK. We wish him the best with the Braves.”

The players had assumed that everyone was safe after the Major League trading deadline of Aug. 1. But deals can still be made through waivers and that’s what happened. Seymour and left-hander Michael Mader, who played here last season, were dealt for left-handed relief specialist Hunter Cervenka.

The Marlins are obviously all-in for making the playoffs this season. Their farm system, rated 29th or 30th among major league teams, has been further thinned by the recent trades of pitcher Chris Paddack, first baseman Josh Naylor and now Seymour. The Marlins received all pitchers in return, giving up a break-out 20-year-old pitcher in Paddack (who tore an elbow ligament after the trade and was scheduled for surgery), a 19-year-old slugger and last year’s No. 6 overall draft pick in Naylor, and a 21-year-old speedster with a bright future in Seymour.

The Hoppers’ roster has felt the brunt of these deals. Slots have been filled with bodies, but nowhere near the caliber of Paddock, Naylor and Seymour. All manager Kevin Randel can do is roll with the punches and find ways to fill out the lineup with who’s left.

One constant this season was Seymour, pencilled in every day as the leadoff hitter and shortstop. He led with team with 104 games played, 61 runs scored and 37 stolen bases in 50 attempts. He was hitting .252 with 13 doubles, three triples, a homer and 26 RBIs.

Born in the Bahamas, Seymour didn’t start playing baseball until he moved to Florida when he was 14. He was a center fielder and right-handed hitter when the Marlins drafted him in the seventh round in 2014 and turned him into a shortstop and a switch-hitter. That’s a lot for one player to handle.

“The organization is pleased with the progress he’s made,” infield coordinator Jorge Hernandez told me about a month ago. “He has stayed with the plan and it’s paying off. He loves playing and he’s going to be something special. The sky is the limit. He has all the ability to do it and play some day in the major leagues.”

Randel, seeing Seymour on an everyday basis, said he made great strides from spring training through the season.

“He puts in great work and he’s out there every day to get better,” Randel said Friday. “His defense needs to improve and that will come with reps (repetitions). On offense, his left side needs to get better and so does his bunting. But he’s willing to put in the work. He has the potential to be an everyday big-leaguer with his skill set, whether it’s at shortstop, second base or center field.”

So what happens now with the Hoppers’ lineup?

Barrett hit leadoff in the second game Saturday and will likely stay there. Gio Alfonzo will probably get the most playing time at shortstop, with Aaron Blanton sliding over there from third base on occasion.

Barrett, a left-handed hitter, went 1-for-3 and scored a run. He led off the third inning with a hard grounder inside the bag at first base that rolled into the right-field corner. With third base coach Jose Ceballos windmilling his right arm, Barrett streaked in with a triple. He then scored on Isael Soto’s double to give the Hoppers a 3-2 lead. They later added two more runs on a pair of errors on one play by Kannapolis first baseman K.J. Woods.

“I’m comfortable there,” Barrett said of the leadoff spot. “I hit there for three years in college, so it’s nothing new. Those are big shoes to fill but my goals will be the same as his — get on base, be a table-setter and make things happen. I’m not Seymour fast, but I can run.”

The Intimidators closed to within 5-3 in the fifth inning and had the bases loaded with no one out. Marcus Crescentini relieved hard-luck Justin Jacome and promptly threw two balls to Cody Dailey, then battled back to get a strikeout. Danny Mendick laced a line drive to right field that Soto caught somewhere around his knees, then fired a low one-hopper to home plate. Catcher John Silviano caught it cleanly and tagged Alex Call trying to score from third. The double play ended the inning.

“That was a major play,” Silviano said. “You couldn’t ask anything more of Soto. I saw the throw coming, checked quickly to see the runner and dropped the tag on him.”

Crescentini got the win and C.J. Robinson finished the game in the seventh with his 22nd save, tops in the league.

“He’s getting better and better,” pitching coach Brendan Sagara said of Crescentini, who lowered his ERA to 0.92. “The word was that he was a thrower but now he’s starting to be a pitcher, using both sides of the plate, changing speeds, things like that.”

Ben Meyer will start Sunday’s 4 p.m. game for the Hoppers, who will play Kannapolis for the 21st and final time this season.