Tri-City Dust Devils manager Anthony Contreras doesn’t necessarily see himself as either a big-picture guy or a detail-oriented guy.
To be a manager, he said, you have to be both.
“Small things develop into big things,” Contreras said. “The important thing is everybody doing something with a purpose. If you’re going to take 10 ground balls, you take 10 perfect ground balls. If you’re going to take 10 swings in the cage, you make those swings perfect and efficient.
“I’m a big believer in efficiency, so in a big game everything takes care of itself.”
Contreras and the Dust Devils will put that theory to work at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, when Tri-City opens the 2015 Northwest League season at Boise.
If fans recognize the names of a few of the Hawks, it’s because they used to represent the Tri-City Dust Devils before their parent club, the Colorado Rockies, signed a new player development agreement with Boise in September. Pitchers Eric Nedeljkovic and Dylan Thompson, as well as outfielder Richard Prigatano and shortstop Joey Wong, are former Dust Devils.
Here’s a preview of what else to look for in the NWL this season.
Tri-City Dust Devils (San Diego Padres affiliate): One of three NWL teams, along with Boise and Eugene, to change major league affiliates, the Dust Devils could have a pitching staff that benefits greatly from playing at Gesa Stadium, where wind tends to limit the long ball. Also, the team built a players’ lounge that will give the Dust Devils a true home-field advantage.
A few fourth-round draft picks might be ready to have big years, led by the Padres’ latest pick in the 2015 draft, catcher Austin Allen out of Florida Tech. Mason Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2013 out of Meridian (Idaho) High School, and hard-throwing right-hander Walker Lockett, a fourth-rounder in 2012, could find their star power emerges in Tri-City.
Marvin Benard, who played nine years with the San Francisco Giants, is the new hitting coach.
Everett AquaSox (Seattle Mariners): Manager Rob Mummau, who returns to the post after Dave Valle returned to the broadcasting booth, will have plenty of talent with which to work.
The Mariners assigned outfielder Alex Jackson, Seattle’s 2014 first-round pick (No. 6 overall), to the AquaSox. Left-hander Luiz Gohara, the seventh-ranked prospect in the M’s organization, will lead the pitching staff.
From the 2015 draft, Everett will featureUniversity of Washington outfielder Braden Bishop (third round) and Stanford shortstop Drew Jackson (fifth round). Oregon State’s Andrew Moore (compensation second round) and Washington State’s Joe Pistorese (17th round) will join the pitching staff.
Spokane Indians (Texas Rangers): Tim Hulett returns for his ninth year with the Indians, who will have one of the top prospects from the 2015 draft — first-round pick Dillon Tate (fourth overall). If he lives up to the hype, Tate, a right-hander out of UC Santa Barbara, should be a lock for the NWL All-Star Game — hosted by Spokane — in early August.
Tate will be joined by pitcher Michael Matuella, a third-round pick out of Duke, and Hanford High School graduate Dan Scheibe, a free-agent pitcher out of Whitworth University.
Vancouver Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays): Don’t be surprised to see first-round pick Jon Harris out of Missouri State in uniform. The C’s, who missed out on a fourth consecutive NWL title last year, aren’t afraid to send their top talent to short season.
Boise Hawks (Colorado Rockies): Former Dust Devils pitching coach Frank Gonzales gets his first professional managing gig with the Hawks, who invested a lot of money to renovate Memorial Stadium to create a more memorable experience for fans and players in Boise. It might be tough to follow the Hawks on the road, however. The team became just the fourth out of 150 minor league teams to eliminate radio or online broadcasts.
Because the Rockies used their first five draft picks on high school players, first baseman Brian Mundell, a seventh-round pick out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is the top draftee on the Hawks’ roster.
Eugene Emeralds (Chicago Cubs): The Emeralds, who had the worst record in the South last season, hope experience will be the key this year. Twenty-four players from extended spring training will open the season with Eugene. Carson Sands, a 20-year-old left-hander who went 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA for the Cubs’ Arizona League club last year, could break out.
Hillsboro Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks): It took just two seasons to bring a NWL championship to Hillsboro. If the Hops land Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick of the 2015 draft, it might not be the last. Hillsboro has a great fan base and some strong players from extended spring training, including pitcher Cody Reed, the Diamondbacks’ second-round pick in 2014.
The Hops, who have a new manager in former major leaguer Shelley Duncan, also got a jump on the NWL as far as technological advancements. They’ve become the first team in the league to stream home games.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (San Francisco Giants): New manager Kyle Haines is a former Volcanoes player who will try to bring home another NWL title to Salem-Keizer. He’ll have help from pitchers Nick Gonzalez, who started 14 games for S-K last season, and Logan Webb, a fourth-round draft pick in 2014.