Pipeline Game of the Month features Lawlar, Carter, Acuña ... calf fries?

April 27th, 2023

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The 2023 Minor League season is in full bloom, and as temperatures start to warm across the country from Portland, Me., to Lake Elsinore, Calif., something else is coming back, too – the baseball road trip!

We’ve documented plenty of ways you can plan and start your odyssey through the Minors with the Ballpark Guide series, and now it’s about time we also show you what it’s like out there on the trail to the Majors that is Minor League Baseball. With that in mind, the MLB Pipeline Game of the Month is back for 2023. We’re starting the series up again at Double-A Amarillo’s HODGETOWN on Thursday, April 27.

To walk you through what to expect from the April Game of the Month, we’re going to borrow some lyrics from Texas native Willie Nelson:

On the road again

Each month this season, at least one member of the MLB Pipeline crew will travel to a ballpark as part of the Game of the Month series, where we’ll bring you loads of content about the players, teams, stadiums and atmospheres that make Minor League Baseball so special.

The game itself will be our Free Game of the Day on Thursday and will be easily streamed on MLB.com, regardless of whether you have an MiLB.TV or MLB At Bat subscription (although you totally should to get every other televised Minor League contest this summer).

You’ll want to tune into this one too. The Sod Poodles boast No. 9 overall prospect Jordan Lawlar, the highest-ranked player in the Texas League, and also have solid hitters in Deyvison De Los Santos (AZ No. 4), A.J. Vukovich (AZ No. 12) and Ryan Bliss (AZ No. 30). The visiting Frisco RoughRiders just happen to have a roster MLB Pipeline named as the most loaded in baseball with four Top 100 prospects of their own, led by No. 36 overall talent Evan Carter, who enters the week with a .525 OBP in Texas League play, and No. 65 Luisangel Acuña, the younger brother of Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.

Goin’ places that I’ve never been

HODGETOWN is one of the Minors’ newest ballparks, having opened in 2019. We’ll be recording a ballpark tour that’ll take fans inside the nooks and crannies of the Sod Poodles’ stadium. That will include a culinary sampling of the club’s (gulp) Calf Fries, made famous by their viral alternate identity for the 2023 season.

In addition, NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman will be making an appearance and pouring beer as part of Thirsty Thursday.

We’ll also be conducting interviews with players from Amarillo and Frisco that you can find on the @MLBPipeline and @MiLB social media channels. Down the road, we’ll have an on-camera pitching breakdown with one of the teams’ best pitching prospects that will be used in a future Pitching Lab story on MLB.com, so be sure to circle back for that.

Have a question for D-backs prospects Lawlar or Vukovich? Wondering how Owen White throws his breaking pitches? Let us know what questions you want to be answered on Twitter @SamDykstraMiLB or @MLBPipeline, and we’ll get you answers from the Texas panhandle.

Seein’ things that I may never see again

Amarillo has quickly become one of the most hitter-friendly environments in all of the Minor Leagues, meaning we could witness some truly crooked numbers come Thursday.

To prove the point, look at last year’s splits. Amarillo batters had a collective .396/.376/.511 slash line over 69 home games last year. They went deep 116 times (most in the Texas League) in that span for a rate of 1.78 homers per game at HODGETOWN. That dropped to 0.93 HR/G on the road, where they had a much more mundane .258/.327/.396 line in 68 contests. Amarillo pitchers had a 7.46 ERA at home in 2022 and a 4.65 on the road. Already this season, Amarillo has hosted a pair of 13-10 games … within two days of each other on April 12 and 14.

A combination of elevation and consistent wind leads to the funky numbers in Amarillo, and it's possible we could get a crazy score on Thursday, especially with the quality of hitters on display. Slugfests like those have to be seen to be believed, so make sure you keep it tuned into the broadcast.

And I can’t wait to get on the road again.

As we’ve said, this is just the start of the Game of the Month series for 2023. Last year, we headed to Somerset, Altoona, Norfolk, Durham and New Hampshire. We’ll check off Amarillo on Thursday, and then comes the favorite question of every Minor League road trip – where to next?