GJ Rockies' Mendoza, Vilade and Agis all make Pioneer League All-Star team
Ryan Vilade would like to see if he can follow up winning a home run derby at Wrigley Field before a high school All-America game last summer with winning the Pioneer League All-Star Game Home Run Derby next month.
“I don’t know if five home runs is going to cut it with this league,” the Grand Junction Rockies’ shortstop said with a grin Tuesday after he, second baseman Shael Mendoza and relief pitcher Michael Agis were announced as Pioneer League All-Stars. “We’ll see. I’m just excited to go and see it. The atmosphere is going to be great.”
Colorado’s second-round pick will start at alongside Mendoza, voted the starter at second.
“It’s more comfortable because we know each other and know how each other works,” Mendoza said through a translator, GJ development supervisor Andy Gonzalez, of playing alongside Vilade.
The players found out a couple of days ago that they made the team, which plays the Northwest League All-Stars on Aug. 1 in Hillsboro, Oregon — the 2018 All-Star game will be at Suplizio Field. They were sworn to secrecy until Tuesday, when the Pioneer League announced its roster.
“Frank told us to keep it under wraps or you might not be able to go if it gets out before it gets released,” Agis quipped.
“I’m very excited. We get to see who else was drafted by the Rockies (and assigned to Boise in short-season Class A) and guys in other organizations who have been in the system a little bit,” said Agis, who has excelled in the role of late relief with a 2.40 ERA in 11 games, with 16 strikeouts and only two walks in 15 innings.
“Whatever they want me to do, if it’s for one out, one inning, as long as I get my outing, I’ll enjoy the moment,” said the Rockies’ 36th-round pick out of Florida International.
Making the All-Star team is in the back of every player’s mind, and the Rockies’ three picks are no different.
“I had that in my mind, I wanted to go to the All-Star Game because last year in the Dominican I couldn’t make it,” said Mendoza, who leads the league with a .376 batting average and 19 stolen bases entering Tuesday night’s game. “That was one of my goals and I wanted to do that for my family, as a gift to my family.”
Agis said he hadn’t thought much about it until his best friend, Geno Encina, a pitcher for Class A Lansing in the Toronto organization, made the Midwest League All-Star team. The two grew up together in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” the right-hander said. “Your first year you want to make yourself noticed in a positive way, not only with your team,but organization. This is pretty awesome for my family and me.”
Getting Mendoza and Vilade on the team wasn’t a hard sell, Grand Junction manager Frank Gonzales said, but when it came time for the managers to select the pitching staff, he lobbied hard for Agis.
“It gets competitive when you get to the bullpen because you have a lot of guys that have limited innings,” he said. “We argued a little bit and then put in the vote for Michael. I felt he was deserving.
“He’s just efficient. When you throw three pitches for strikes in Rookie ball, it’s easy to put himself in a leverage position.”
Vilade’s family is in town, so he got to share the news and celebrate with them. The past few months have been a whirlwind, he said, but he’s having a blast. Entering Tuesday’s game, Vilade was hitting .329 with five home runs and 16 RBI.
He’s fourth in the league in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at 1.047, measured to judge how a player pairs the ability to reach base with hitting for power.
“It’s awesome,” Vilade said of being an All-Star his first year in pro baseball. “To be selected my first year, it shows the hard work is paying off. I get to go with two other teammates who have had great years as well. It’ll be fun to go up there with them.
“Of course (the goal) is always to be an All-Star and it’s one of the goals in the big leagues. Coming into (the season) it was a definite goal. I thought I could make it and to actually be selected and know I’m going to participate in it is really an honor.”