The 2023 season was nothing short of amazing as a fan and a media member of the 2023 Dust Devils, as we saw a lot of talent come and go to AA and beyond. We saw several 2022/23 Dust Devils make it to the MLB and debut on the field with the LA Angels. We also saw the first female manager at the High-A Level debut at Gesa Stadium in 2023 as Ronnie Gawjonski led her Hillsboro Hops in 2023.
Around Gesa Stadium was fun with the Fan Fest before the season, daily Dusty's Dash, Kids Running the Bases, Friday Family Feasts, and Fire Works on weekends. We even got a unique series of away games at home, which was a ton of fun to kick it in in the stands with Erik the Peanut Guy and enjoy a Beat Box Slushy.
Erik the Peanut Guy, Dusty, the voice of the Dust Devils, Doug Taylor, the excellent Front Office Staff, and the park staff were all fantastic. We had terrific national anthem singers daily, tons of little leaguers, and the community behind their Dust Devils. We got an entire season of Dust Devils, Vineros, and Rooster Tails. We also had some fantastic nights at the park, especially when The Amazing Tyler was in the house.
Tons of memories were made: my fiance went to her first Dust Devils game, my kids got to experience more fun in the sun at the stadium, and my daughter even threw over 30 on the gun, and she's 6. Heck, I even touched 60 one time, which was surprising.
Let's look back at my top 5 bright spots of the season.
Road to the Show complete- 2021 Dust Devil- P Sam Bachman, 2022 Dust Devil RHP Victor Mederos, 2022 Dust Devil- OF Jordyn Adams, 2022 Dust Devil INF Kyren Paris,
To AA Rocket City- 1B Gabe Matthews, LHP Nick Jones, RHP Dylan Phillips, OF D'Shawn Knowles, OF Joe Stewart, C Gustavo Campero, INF Werner Blakley, RHP Chase Chaney, RHP Michael Darrel-Hicks, LHP Sammy Natera Jr., INF Adrian Placencia, INF Arol Vera,
I am such a big fan of the Angels system and how aggressive they are with some guys, especially SS Zach Neto, 1B Nolan Shanuel, and RHP Ben Joyce. Seeing my man Kyren Paris get the call to the bigs, start performing well, playing 2B, and killing it before the injury was excellent!
I would imagine we see the likes of OF Nelson Rada, C/OF Alberto Rios, INF Denzar Guzman, RHP Barrett Kent, RHP Jorge Marcheco, OF Jorge Ruiz, RHP Camden Minacci, RHP Walbert Urena, OF Jadiel Sanchez, INF Capri Ortiz all of these young men should pass through the Tri-Cities at some point the 2024 season.
Adrian Placencia and Arol Vera
These two kids, wow. Both have insane UPSIDE. I would not be surprised for one or both to be used as a future trade chip, as 2B/SS looks to be locked up Neto/Paris for the foreseeable future in LA.
Vera- a switch-hitting 2B/SS with a great glove, will push Paris for the job at 2B. Vera is only 21; however, he looks close to ready for his shot in LA. In a small 14G sample at AA, he posted a .711 OPS and played solid defense.
Placencia- a switch-hitting SS/2B, played well in High-A in 2023 and earned himself the promotion to AA. The glove is legit. However, the 20-year-old looks overmatched in his 14G in AA, posting a .463 OPS.
There is a lot of love with both of these guys, and the Angels have a good problem with Vera and Placencia.
Solid Pitching Prospects
Many brilliant baseball minds will tell you the Angels sold off their best pitching prospects at the deadline to go and get some bats. However, I don't necessarily agree; three excellent prospects pitched for the Dust Devils in 2023.
RHP Caden Dana
The 19-year-old, 11th round pick in the 2022 draft, and the 3rd Dana brother to play for the Dust Devils after Cullen and Casey. However, Casey still plays for the team and is in the organization. Caden has the highest upside of the three.
Dana's first entire season in the minors saw him advance from A- to A+, and he is knocking on the door of AA at only 19. Across the two levels and 68.1IP, we saw Dana post a 3.56ERA, 89K-30BB; he allowed 4HR and a .206BAA. I'm unsure about you, but I see Dana becoming a 2/3 SP for LA by 2025. Caden ends the season as the Org #2 and #1 pitching prospect. With a strong spring, we could see Dana squeeze his way onto the club as the 4/5.
LHP Sammy Natera Jr.
The 17th-round pick in 2022 advanced to AA in his first full pro-season at age 23. Natera looked the part in his total 90.2IP. 118K-47BB, 14HR, and a .231BAA. I'm excited to see Natera get a full season at AA in 2024 and develop into a back-of-the-rotation type of arm.
RHP Bryce Osmond
The 15th-round pick in the 2022 draft also advanced to AA in his first full pro-season at age 23. I liked watching Osmond go about each start on the mound, as he looks mature. He doesn't have overpowering stuff. However, he has excellent stuff. In his 96.2IP in 2023, he posted a 4.28ERA between A+/AA, with 100K-47BB and 15HR allowed.
The Conner Van Scoyoc Trade
The Van Scoyoc trade was among the most exciting trades that even Doug Taylor had seen. In the middle of the series, with the Spokane Indians, the High-A affiliate of the Rockies, the Angels, and the Rockies swapped MLB INF Mike Moustakas for MiLB pitcher Conner Van Scoyoc. The righty grabbed his things, walked from one dugout to another, and started the game on June 26th against the Dust Devils.
Van Scoyoc was promoted to AA Hartford to join the Yard Goats in July and looks to be pushing his way to the MLB in 2024.
He will need some fine-tuning at AA before pitching at Coors, as he posted a 5.62 ERA in 8 starts for the AA club.
Home Away from Home Series
The home-away-from-home series for the Dust Devils was due to the Super Regional hosted by the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Oregon, at PK Park, which the Eugene Emeralds share.
The series was planned to start on Tuesday; however, with the Ducks advancing, the teams had to quickly turn around, gather enough staff to open the park, and host some games. The six-game series was played in 5 days and was the most fun I had at a game in a long time. Tickets for fans were $5, and sitting right behind home plate was pretty cool.
You can read all about the series by clicking right here on this excellent link: https://www.ballboymedia.com/post/gesa-stadium-home-of-the-emeralds
BONUS: THE FANS
August 28th, "A crowd of 1,637 attended Sunday night's game on Team Photo Giveaway Night presented by AutoZone, setting a new Dust Devils single-season attendance record with six home games remaining on the 2023 schedule. So far, 182274, the Gesa Stadium gates, eclipsing the 108,136 fans making it out to the park in 2022."
On September 11th, "A crowd of 2,210 enjoyed the season's final game at Gesa Stadium for Tri-City, who set a new single-season attendance record with 120,417 fans streaming through the gates. "
TRI-CITIES YOU SHOWED OUT for your Dust Devils in 2023; how about in 2024, we shoot for 150,000 fans?
A special thank you from me to the Dust Devil's fantastic organization, to Ann, Trevor, Doug, Darrel, and those who allowed me and my family to enjoy countless hours of fun, games, and laughs while improving my writing simultaneously. It's truly an honor to be a part of it. I look forward to being a part of it again in 2024.