Six players from the Swing of the Quad Cities will be represented on the Western Division roster. They include starting position players first baseman Brandon Buckman and shortstop Christian Lopez, along with four pitchers – starters P.J. Walters, Elvis Hernandez and Brandon Dickson plus reliever Kenny Maiques.
Brandon Buckman, 23, is the MWL leader in home runs with 12 and tied for the most RBI with 47. The left-handed slugger is among the league best with a .336 batting average (third), .593 slugging percentage (second), and 17 doubles (fifth). Buckman looks to be a fine bargain, having joined the system after being drafted in the 19th round of last June's draft. He hit .300/.367/.478 with eight home runs and 34 RBI in 62 games for Rookie-level Johnson City in 2006.
Joining Buckman in the starting lineup will be Christian Lopez, 20 years of age. Named as a shortstop, the versatile Puerto Rican native has played multiple positions on the diamond. Lopez is batting .257 and is second on the Swing with 26 runs scored. He became a Cardinal after being selected in the 31st round in the June, 2005 First-Year Player Draft and played in Johnson City in both 2005 and 2006.
P.J. Walters, 22, drew headlines with a 30 consecutive scoreless innings streak during May. The right-handed starter has a 4-1 record with a 2.48 ERA in 13 appearances this year, including 53 strikeouts and just nine walks over 54.1 innings of work. Walters was named the Cardinals organizational Pitcher of the Month for May as well as the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week from May 7-13. He was taken in the 11th round of the 2006 draft and last season, played for State College.
Elvis Hernandez is a 21-year-old starter from the Dominican Republic with a 4-3 record with a 2.81 ERA through 12 outings this year, including 43 strikeouts over 41.2 innings. "The Mosquito" was named the first Midwest League Pitcher of the Week in 2007 after opening the season with 11 strikeouts over eight shutout, one-hit innings. Hernandez joined the organization as a non-drafted free agent in March, 2005. He played in the Dominican Summer League in 2005 and with Johnson City last season.
Brandon Dickson leads the Swing with seven wins. The 22-year-old right-hander has posted a 7-3 record with a 3.08 ERA. He was the team's Player of the Week for the period ending April 30. Dickson signed with the Cardinals last August as an undrafted free agent from Tusculum College in Alabama on the recommendation of fellow organization pitcher and friend Cory Rauschenberger.
Closer Kenny Maiques, 21, is second in the MWL with 13 saves, including four in a row during which he has allowed just one baserunner. Maiques, has posted a 2.79 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 19.1 innings of work, while holding opponents to a .225 batting average. He is the Swing's reigning Player of the Week. Though drafted in the 37th round of the June 2005 draft, 2007 is Maiques' first healthy season since signing.
The Kane County Cougars (Oakland A's) are hosting the 2007 MWL Summer All-Star Classic on June 19th at Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Illinois.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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