Shane Hoelscher is well aware that the left side of the Modesto Nuts’ infield has been a springboard to the major leagues.
All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2005), now with the Toronto Blue Jays, and All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado (2011) are Modesto’s most well-known alums, hitting it big in Colorado with MVP-caliber seasons.
Ian Stewart, the third baseman on the ’05 Nuts squad, hit 25 homers for the Rockies in 2009.
Third baseman Ryan McMahon, perhaps the face of last year’s Modesto club, is one of Colorado’s prized assets and starts this year at Double-A Hartford, as does 2015 Nuts shortstop Raimel Tapia, who last season hit at least .300 for the fourth consecutive year, batting .305.
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And, of course, Rockies rookie shortstop Trevor Story (2013-14) made a big splash Monday night by hitting two home runs off Arizona’s Zack Greinke in his major-league debut.
“I’ve definitely got some big shoes to fill,” said Hoelscher, who batted .328 with 11 homers, 61 RBIs, 37 doubles and an OPS of .951 last season at Class-A Asheville. “It’s the kind of situation where you don’t want to compare yourself too much to those guys and you just come out and play the way you play. I think that’s what each one of those guys have done.”
Modesto fans will see if Hoelscher can match the kind of seasons produced by the aforementioned when the Nuts open the 2016 campaign Thursday on the road against the rival Stockton Ports. First pitch at Banner Island Ballpark is slated for 7:10 p.m.
The Nuts will make their home debut April 14 against the Ports in a 7:05 p.m. start.
While Hoelscher takes residence in the Boardwalk of John Thurman Field, 20-year-old first-round draft pick (2014) Forrest Wall sets up on Baltic Avenue – second base.
According to Baseball America, since the MLB amateur draft moved to single phase in 1987, only 12 high school players, including Wall, were selected in the first three rounds and were declared second basemen.
In other words, second base is where infield prospects without the requisite fielding or throwing tools are sent.
Surgery on Wall’s throwing shoulder in 2011 weakened his arm and made some scouts weary of his throwing ability, even though he had the glove and range of a shortstop. But it’s Wall’s bat that earned him a $2 million signing bonus out of Orangewood Christian High School in Maitland, Fla.
He had an OPS of .907 as an 18-year-old in rookie ball at Grand Junction in 2014 and a combined .802 in stops last year at Asheville and Boise.
Notes – Right-hander Jesus Tinoco will start for the Nuts in the season opener, followed by left-hander Sam Howard and righties Carlos Polanco, Ryan Castellani and Yency Almonte. Polanco is slated to start the home opener. ... Only four players – outfielder Drew Weeks, shortstop Emerson Jimenez, catcher Troy Stein and right-hander Troy Neiman – return from last year’s club.