After rehabbing from off season ACL knee surgery, Ryan Fraser got released by doctors to begin training on May 1. Friday morning he was on a plane heading to New Hampshire to rejoin the New York Mets’ double-A Binghamton, N.Y., team.
“I got released the first of May for running and throwing. I have worked hard to get ready to go,” stated the former Walker Valley and University of Memphis pitching standout. “I’ve about four or five appearances here (high-A Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and felt good. Now they’ve called me back up to double-A.”
Fraser has thrown a total of 241 innings as a professional pitcher with 174 strike outs and 105 base on balls. Mainly serving as a relief pitcher, he has started 21 games (all while with Savannah, Ga. two years ago) and has a 15-16 overall record with 21 saves.
After making the long flight up from Florida early in the morning, the big right-hander tossed two scoreless innings of one-hit ball with a pair of strike outs Friday evening as Binghamton dropped an 8-7 decision to New Hampshire.
Meanwhile on the other side of the continent, Ryan Casteel has had a strong start to the 2013 season, went through a short down turn, but bounced back and is batting clean up for the Advanced-A Modesto Nuts.
“I’ve been trying to stay consistent and put together four or five good at bats each night,” the former Bradley Central and Cleveland State catcher. “Baseball is a game of failures at time, but I never lost my confidence.”
Casteel currently leads the Colorado Rockies’ farm club in doubles (10), runs batted in (31), total bases (79), on base percentage (.356), slugging percentage (.598) and on base plus slugging percentage (.954). He is also tied for the team lead with nine home runs, which also ties him for seventh in the California League, and two triples. Of his 38 hits this season, 21 have been for extra bases.
“My power has always been there, but working with our hitting coach (Jonathan Stone) he has me utilizing my whole body with a short compact swing and the home runs have come from that,” related Casteel, who only had a half dozen home runs in his first three professional seasons combined.
Always known for his defensive catching ability, Casteel has yet to commit an error in 35 games played so far this season. By utilized as a designated hitter some when not behind the plate, he is third on the team with 22 runs scored and a .288 batting average.
“We have pretty much the same team as we did last year (at class A Asheville, N.C., which won the South Atlantic League championship), but the competition level is better with much better pitching and hitting,” Casteel remarked. “You have to be able to make the adjustments and try to find your groove.”
Former Ooltewah standout Tyler Massey is once again one of Casteel’s teammates and is also off to a solid start with 11 doubles, 2 triples, four home runs and 77 total bases in 50 hits. The outfielder is 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts, hitting .263, with 22 runs scored and 19 RBI in 46 games played.
The Nuts are 25-29 on the season and currently in fourth place in the North Division of the California League, nine games behind division leading San Jose Giants.
Both Fraser and Casteel were taken in the 2010 First-Year Players Draft.
After being an All-Conference USA performer at Memphis, Fraser was taken in the 16th round by the Mets and spent his first summer playing for the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Cyclones, earning New York-Penn League All-Star status.
The second year he spent in Class A ball at Savannah, Ga., leading the Sand Gnats to the South Atlantic League title. Fraser started last season in High-A ball at St. Lucie, before getting called up to Binghamton for the second half of the Class AA season.
After being drafted in the 17th round by the Rockies, Casteel has moved up the Minor League latter from Casper, Wyo. (Rookie League), to Tri-Cities, Wash. (Class A short season), to Asheville (Class A full season) to Modesto (Advanced A), being a Ghost, a Dust Devil, a Tourist and now a Nut along the way.
In his first three seasons, Casteel played in 170 games, with 178 hits, including 49 doubles, five triples and six home runs in 626 at bats. Along with his .284 batting average, Casteel also drove in 80 runs and scored 80 times. He also has 16 stolen bases, plus drew 53 walks. He has 14 free passes so far this season.