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After the Las Vegas 51’s game on Tuesday night, we met up with Baseball Prospectus math wiz and overall Cool Guy, Zachary Levine. Zach is a Vegas veteran and offered to lead us children on a PG tour of the strip. We happened upon a lot of ridiculous things, including a mezuzah on a door of a trashy clothing store and a guy who we think was trying to sell me Phil Coke in a fantasy league or something. But the most insane thing we saw in Vegas was this: on the sidewalk in front of the MGM Grand there is a Las Vegas Walk of Fame. On this Walk of Fame is a star dedicated to the runner-up of the 2003 AL Cy Young race:

Nothing screams Las Vegas more than Esteban Loaiza.

Eventually, we tired of Las Vegas (we had to check out of the hotel) so we left…but not before we bat flipped a plane. It was easily one of our best bat flips ever, but fortunately it wasn’t our last of the day. On our way to High Desert for our fourth California League game of the trip, we bat flipped Zzyzx. That’s right, there’s actually a place actually Zzyzx. Some nutty dude in the 1940’s wanted his community to be the very last word in the English language, and thus, Zzyzx! –Jake Mintz

High Desert catcher Kellin Deglan is in the middle of his fifth professional season, and his second at the High-A level. During the offseason, Deglan played in the Australian Baseball League where he broke the single-season home run record previously shared by Adam Buschini (4th round pick in ‘09; played 100 games with Double-A San Antonio in 2014) and Brad Harman (had 11 MLB plate appearances in 2008). Deglan took some time before last night’s game to answer some questions about experience Down Under, among other things.

On the process of getting scouted and drafted from a Canadian high school:

I actually got a lot of exposure playing in the states; showcases and playing for the Canadian junior national team. We played a lot of professional teams down in Florida with Team Canada. My club team, the Langley Blaze, up in British Columbia, travelled a lot in the states and got a lot of exposure playing in front of scouts. Our league was called the Premier Baseball League and it's an 18-and-under league, so that was like what high school ball is for Americans.

On whether he was the best player on his Canadian team:

When I was 16, I played with Brett Lawrie and he was clearly the best player on the team. The next year, Wes Darvill, who was a 5th round pick to the Cubs, was probably our best player. My senior year, I was probably the best player on the team. We had some good players; it's one of Canada's best programs. We've got guys that moved to Langley just to play with our club team.

On what it's like being a Canadian in professional baseball where the American culture is so predominant:

When I'm going bad and slumping hard, sometimes I feel like I'm on an island here, like an outcast. But for the most part, all the American guys treat me just like another American. It's different, though. I don't have my boys from Canada, you know, we talk a little different up there. So I miss that sometimes, but for the most part, it's totally fine.

On how he ended up playing in the Australian Baseball League this past winter:

Last August, we were playing the Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A White Sox team, and their manager came up and talked to me. He told me he was managing over there and that he'd love to have me on his team. I told the Rangers that day, and then a few days later I got set up with the team in Australia.

On his experience being one of the best players in Australia and breaking the single-season home run record:

I mean, it was cool. I was hitting 4th every game, and I was one of the main guys in our lineup. It definitely builds confidence; you just feel really good in the box playing every day. I'm just trying to find that right now. I'm hitting eighth down here, and we got a lot of great hitters on this team. Right now, I just gotta pretend I'm hitting fourth and that I'm the guy again, and I'm pretty sure it'll translate.

On the caliber of pitching he faced in Australia:

There still were a bunch of American pitchers over there trying to get signed from independent ball. There were a bunch of guys with Triple-A time, Double-A time, and a handful of guys with big league time played in that league. So it wasn't just a walk in the park by any means. I would almost compare it to like Low-A over here. I'd say the pitching is better here in the California League, but it's not that drastic of a difference for me. Every team had a couple guys who could bring it, but not as much as it is here, where every team has pitchers that can get guys out.

On how he felt when he hit the record-breaking 16th home run:

It felt amazing. I was thinking about that record previous ten days and I really wanted to break it. I ended up hitting 5 home runs in that series — it was a four game series at home — so those last two home runs in that game felt really good.

On how being a catcher affects his development as a hitter:

It is extra work. It's more preparation, and it does take away from your hitting and probably your concentration on hitting, whereas in Australia I was a first baseman and that worked out well. I got really hot over there, and was pretty much hot the whole season. I'm just trying to get back to where I was over there and getting hot over here.

On the best players he's played with in the Rangers system:

I never played with Gallo, I've only seen him in spring training and instructs. Jurickson Profar…I played with him all year. He was a treat to watch and an awesome teammate. He was probably the best all-around player I've played with. –Jordan Shusterman

Game Notes – High Desert Mavericks vs. San Jose Giants

  • Keury Mella had somewhat of a breakout last year who struck out about a batter per inning as a 20-year-old in Low-A. Mella got the start for San Jose last night and showed a mixed bag in three innings of work. The fastball was clearly Mella’s strength, sitting in the 91-94 MPH range with good life on both the two-seam and the four-seam. Everything else was kind of meh: the breaking ball was sharp at times but rarely near the strike zone, the changeup didn’t show much promise, and his delivery was a bit of a mess. Mella’s command was shaky all game, but the stuff was good enough to strike out six High Desert batters, including the final three he faced. He was pulled after three innings and only 68 pitches for no obvious reason; it certainly didn’t look like he was hurt, so we’d imagine he was just on a pitch count. Mella’s an exciting arm to watch, but we left the game thinking, “that’s a reliever”.

  • The Mavericks were wearing their home blacks last night, which are also their road blacks, as well as their alternate blacks…because the team only has one uniform. They wear white pants at home and grey pants on the road, but always with their bland black tops. It probably saves the Mavericks a bit of money, but wearing black uniforms in the California League over the summer can’t be a fun experience for the players.

  • Heritage Field at Mavericks Stadium lived up to all the weird hype. It is in the middle of nowhere: a desert on one side and the same desert on the other. The wind blows hard out to center field, which made batting practice a total joke, as nearly very hitter was able to launch balls out over the left and center field fence with ease. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the stadium itself except that it featured the smallest and lamest team store we’d ever seen at an affiliated team park. Jordan quipped, “I wonder what this room was before they remembered that they needed to sell merchandise.” While our off-the-field experience was relatively tamer than we are used to, the play on the field offered some interesting moments that captured the gleam in our eyes.

Counters

-Meals at In-N-Out: 2

-Mexican Food Meals: 4 (But Jake did find some Matzoh Ball soup)

-Dr. Peppers consumed: Jake – 16/Jordan – 15

-Times we listened to Evergreen by Westlife: 23

What’s Next

YO.

Thank you for reading

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cnote66
5/28
Pretty outstanding column guys! I have driven by Zzyzx and always wondered what it was (song from Rush?), but now I know! Keep up the great stuff!
oldbopper
5/28
Since age has finally caught up with me, I am not making my east coast trips this year. After 10 seasons in which I have been to 24 Sally League, Carolina League, NY Penn League, International League and Eastern League stadiums I am stuck in New Britain, at least for a while.(I was there today, Story homered) Following your trip and your obvious excitement is providing me with a great substitute. Your columns are fantastic.