CHARLESTON, S.C. – Six RiverDogs including left field starter Canaan Smith and hard-throwing righties Luis Gil and Alexander Vizcaino will represent Charleston on June 18 in West Virginia as the league office announced the rosters for the 60th annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Charleston’s All-Star choices also include former second-round selections Josh Stowers as a utility outfielder and Josh Breaux at catcher, along with utility infielder Mickey Gasper. The six selected from the initial ballots are the most for the RiverDogs since 2005, their first season as a Yankees affiliate. It was also announced that defensive coach Francisco Leandro will join the six RiverDogs as a coach on the Southern Division staff.
“It’s very exciting when you have so many players on your team that represent you in the All-Star Game, along with a member of our staff,” said RiverDogs manager Julio Mosquera. “Two pitchers and four position players is outstanding and they each deserve it.”
Smith, a 20-year-old product out of Dallas, TX, gets the nod to start in left field after producing a breakout first two months since joining Charleston five days into the regular season. The former fourth-round selection enters play Tuesday hitting .318 (56-for-176), ranking fifth among qualifying hitters in the league, with three home runs, 20 RBI, and an OPS of .899 that ranks sixth. Bouncing back from a down season with Staten Island last year, Smith has produced consistent hard contact while cutting his strikeout rate 7 percentage points, down from a 30 percent clip last year. He leads the SALLY League circuit with a 29 percent line drive rate according to Fangraphs.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Canaan Smith. We as an organization have always believed that he can hit,” said Mosquera. “He wasn’t excited that he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, but he worked as hard as he could in Extended and when he came here, he was ready to play. It’s very impressive the way he handles himself on both sides of the ball, defensively and hitting.”
Joining him in the outfield will be Josh Stowers, the Yankees’ preseason No. 25 prospect per MLB.com, who gets the nod for the first time with his new organization after being acquired in a January trade from Seattle. The former Louisville Cardinal has slashed an impressive .273/.363/.442 with five home runs while leading Charleston with 13 stolen bases on the season before being placed on the 7-day injured list on Monday.
“Josh is a great kid. We have a great relationship with him and he works hard... He started out the season a little quiet [in the clubhouse] when he first showed up not really knowing anyone, but the atmosphere that we’ve created on this team has helped welcome him and he feels like he’s part of the team and having fun now. He just has tremendous eyesight when it comes to hitting. He’s very selective, he doesn’t chase too many pitches, and it’s something that’s good to see at a young age with that kind of patience at the plate. It’s only going to get better as he moves up.”
Gil, 21, will start the game on the mound for the Southern Division after toeing the rubber as Charleston’s most dominant starter this season, producing a sterling 2.08 ERA, good for fourth among qualifying pitchers in the league, in 10 starts this season while striking out 63 batters in 47 2/3 innings of work, an average of 11.9 per nine innings.
“You can see this guy has a tremendous arm, but he also makes adjustments a little bit at a time with his delivery and he’s attacking the zone a lot more this year. It’s exciting for us to see him growing up when he’s on the mound and taking stuff into his own hands. Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win."
Vizcaino, 22, has also impressed in Charleston’s young rotation, sporting a 3.96 ERA 62 punchouts in 50 innings over his nine starts this season. His 1.06 WHIP ranks T-10 in the league.