Former Walker Valley standout Ryan Fraser is adjusting to AA ball after his promotion in the New York Mets organization, while Ryan Casteel, who played for the Bears and Cleveland State locally, is holding steady for the Colorado Rockies’ class A team in Asheville, N.C.
The local trio were all taken in the 2010 Major League First Year Players Draft and began their professional careers that summer.
After being selected in the 42nd round by the Cardinals, Brand chose to bypass a scholarship offer from Clemson University and jumped at the opportunity to play pro ball.
Going 2-3 with a 5.12 earned run averge in his first season, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound right hander returned to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2011 and lowered his ERA to 3.81. He struck out 23 batters and walked just three in 28 innings on the bump last summer.
After extended spring training this year, Brand once again stayed in Kissimmee, Fla., for the “short” season and has given up just one earned run in 16 2/3 innings on the hill, helping the Cardinals to a 24-11 start and a six-game lead in the GCL Eastern Division race.
His 0.54 ERA in 14 relief appearances, has helped him notch three saves and a pair of “holds” while finishing seven contests.
Brand has allowed just 11 hits, while striking out 10 and walking just two to post an impressive 0.78 WHIP (walks and hits divided by innings pitched statistic).
After 19 appearances in high-A ball at Port St. Lucie, Fla., to start his third pro season, Fraser was called up to class AA Binghamton, N.Y. Fraser has been in 15 games since his promotion and has a 2-2 record with three “holds” and a save in 19 1/3 relief innings on the hill.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right hander has struck out 15 and walked 11 while posting a 4.66 ERA as Binghamton is 50-55 in Eastern League play, which puts them 11 games back and in fourth place in the Eastern Division.
Combined this season (at Port St. Lucie and Binghamton), Fraser is 5-4 with three saves and a 3.08 ERA. He has 33 Ks and 18 base on balls in just over 30 innings of work.
Selected in the 16th round of the 2010 draft after a standout career at the University of Memphis, Fraser played his Rookie League ball in Brooklyn, N.Y. (3-3, 12 saves, 1.44 ERA), before moving up to A ball at Savannah, Ga. (7-9, 1 saves, 3.58 ERA), last summer.
Playing his usual, consistent defense behind the plate, Casteel is working hard to get his batting average back to where he expects it to be.
Although he is hitting at just a .245 clip, Casteel has a .310 on base percentage with 15 walks to go with his 39 hits in 46 games so far this season.
With 11 doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs helping him collect 20 RBIs, Casteel has also stolen 15 bases and scored 20 times. He went 2-for-3 with a run scored, plus he drove in a teammate in Friday night’s 4-1 Tourist victory in Charleston, S.C.
Casteel was a 17th round draft pick three years ago and spent his first two summers of pro ball in the Pacific Nortwest, playing Rookie ball at Casper, Wyo., and the 2011 campaign at Tri-Cities in Washington state.
Former Ooltewah standout Tyler Massey is still one of Casteel’s teammates and is leading the Tourists with 88 hits and 55 RBIs. The South Atlantic League All-Star has ripped 13 doubles, three triples and smacked seven home runs while batting .308 in 79 games.
Casteel and Massey helped Asheville claim the SAL’s Southern Division first half title with a league-best 47-23 record. The Tourists are currently 18-17 in the second half and in third place, three games behind the Rome (Ga.) Braves.
Former Cleveland State and Tennessee Tech standout Stephen Pryor is back to playing after going on the 15-day disabled list while with the Seattle Mariners last month.
Also selected in the 2010 draft, in the fifth round, Pryor started this season in AA with the Jackson Generals of the Southern League. After just 16 innings of work with the West Tennessee club, he was promoted to class AAA Tacoma (Wash.) for 19 innings before getting called to “The Show.”
Although he only got in a half dozen games before hurting his groin while covering first base, Pryor did earn his first Major League victory in historic fashion — as one of six Mariner pitchers to combine on a no-hitter on June 8.
Returning from the DL on July 13, Pryor did a short rehab stint at class A High Desert, Calif., before returning to Tacoma, where he has thrown seven innings of shutout ball since.