The 2023 season of Asheville Tourists Baseball is in the books. The campaign was filled with memorable games, down-to-the-wire finishes, and a record number of fans that came out and saw the Tourists play.
Asheville finished with a 51-76 overall record; 26-35 in the first half and 25-41 in the second half. 30 of the Tourists 51 victories this season, 59% of their total number of wins, came by either one or two runs. Asheville went 27-37 in home games and 24-39 in road games. Their best months record-wise were May (12-12) and July (14-10).
The team’s longest win streak, from May 14 – May 21, reached seven games. Asheville recorded three walk-off wins during the streak and swept their first six-game series in team history.
On April 30 at Bowling Green, Ryan Wrobleski became he first Tourists player to hit for the cycle since July 15, 2007. Wrobleski belted a game-tying Home Run with Asheville down to their final out and completed the cycle with a two-run triple in extras. The victory was one of eight extra-inning triumphs for Asheville on the year.
The Tourists also completed their biggest come-from-behind win since May 23, 2010. Asheville trailed the Brooklyn Cyclones 9-2 on August 22. The Tourists plated the game’s final eight runs and won the ballgame 10-9 on a Miguel Palma walk-off RBI hit in the bottom of the ninth. Palma finished the contest 5-for-6; Asheville’s only five-hit performance of the season.
A grand total of 52 players appeared in at least one game with Asheville this year; 23 position players and 29 pitchers. Tommy Sacco Jr. appeared in the most games, 104, while Tim Borden II played in 100. Carlos Calderon led the pitching staff in appearances with 30.
Borden II finished first on the team in batting average among qualified players with a .245 mark. Tim led the club in hits (89), was second in RBI (49) and topped the entire South Atlantic League in a painful but positive statistic — hit-by-pitches (22).
Sacco Jr. paced the Tourists in on-base percentage and his .354 OBP ranked 16th in the league. Tommy drew the third most walks of any player in the SAL with 66. Sacco Jr. was one of five Tourists players to hit a Grand Slam on the year and his 18 RBI with the bases loaded this season led the Asheville club by a mile.
Wrobleski finished first on the team in RBI with 56, which tied for the 16th most in the SAL. Ryan was second on the team in doubles (18) and tied for first in multi-hit games (21). Palma missed a few months during the middle of the season but ended the year with a .274 batting average in 61 games played.
Jacob Melton, Ryan Clifford, Drew Gilbert, and Zach Dezenzo all spent time with the Tourists before finishing out the campaign elsewhere. Melton and Dezenzo both went to Double-A Corpus Christi; Clifford and Gilbert were traded to the New York Mets.
Dezenzo hit over .400 during his time with the Tourists and posted the longest hit streak by an Asheville player this year (12 games). Melton became the first Asheville player to steal over 40 bases in a season since 2017. Melton also led the Tourists in Home Runs (18), runs scored (73), stolen bases (41), extra-base hits (35), and slugging percentage (.453).
Kobe Kato, Logan Cerny, Zach Cole, and Michael Sandle all provided valuable firepower to the offensive attack. Kato led the team in doubles with 19 and had the lowest strikeout rate among all Tourists players.
Cerny, Cole, and Sandle gave the Tourists good speed across the outfield. Cerny hit 13 Home Runs and stole 20 bases. Cole belted eight Home Runs and stole 12 bases in 41 games. Sandle had a team-high two Grand Slams to go along with one of the best fielding percentages of any outfielder in the SAL. Sandle committed only two errors in 656 innings playing the outfield this year.
Justin Williams, Rolando Espinosa, and Collin Price were major contributors in several of Asheville’s wins. Williams’ .286 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs delivered several key runs in close games. Espinosa had a career-year offensively with five Home Runs, ten doubles, and 12 stolen bases. Price hit six Home Runs, including a walk-off Homer, and 13 doubles before an injury forced Collin to miss the final two months.
Austin Deming, John Garcia, and Tyler Whitaker all joined the Tourists down the stretch. The young trio adapted to High-A quickly. All three played multiple defensive positions and gave the Tourists production at the plate.
Despite some of the hitting struggles throughout the year, this offensive unit displayed one of the best no-quit attitudes in recent memory. The Tourists position players fought to the very end no matter the score or situation.
The pitching staff had many highlights and improved mightily throughout the year. Over the final two months of the campaign, Asheville’s arms compiled a 4.62 ERA and led the league the strikeouts. The Tourists pitchers struck out ten or more opposing hitters in an astounding 73 games in 2023.
Deylen Miley led the charge with a team best 120 strikeouts on the year. Miley’s mark tied for the sixth most in the SAL. Deylen’s 12.2 K/per nine rate innings was also one of the best in the league among starting pitchers.
Valente Bellozo, Miguel Ullola, Alex Santos II and A.J. Blubaugh were all mainstays in the Asheville rotation. Bellozo led the team in innings pitched with 94.2 and was one of only two Tourists pitchers to throw six innings in a game. Ullola’s 116 strikeouts ranked second on the team and ninth in the league.
Santos II was one of Asheville’s best pitchers over the final two months of the season. Alex compiled a 4.33 ERA with 49 strikeouts, a win, two saves, and a .215 opposing batting average across his last ten appearances. Blubaugh tied for the team lead in wins with six and struck out a career-high nine batters during a relief appearance at Aberdeen.
Nic Swanson, Nolan DeVos, and Joey Mancini all began the year in Low-A but finished the campaign as part of the Tourists pitching arsenal. Swanson pitched five shutout innings on four separate occasions. Swanson’s 1.17 WHIP across 52 innings was the best by any Tourists pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched.
DeVos was equally as impressive when he joined the Tourists in late June. Nolan posted a 2.97 ERA in his seven starts with Asheville. His 4-1 record in the months of June and July helped keep the Tourists in contention during that stretch. Mancini finished the 2023 season strong. In two of his last three starts, Joey limited opponents to either one or zero runs. Mancini also posted one of the best strikeout to walk ratios on the team.
The Tourists bullpen remained consistent throughout the season. Max Roberts, Franny Cobos, Ronny Garcia, Walker Brockhouse, Brayan De Paula, and Calderon were the primary relivers. Roberts tied Blubaugh with a team-high six wins; De Paula struck out 98 batters on the year; Cobos, Garcia, and Brockhouse all allowed fewer hits than innings pitched; and Calderon led the team in saves with four.
Tyler Guilfoil, Luis Angel Rodriguez, Michael Knorr, Edinson Batista, and Ryan Gusto provided added depth in the starting pitching department. Guilfoil struck out a career-high 11 batters on the final day of the season. Rodriguez was nearly unhittable in his seven appearances. Knorr had a ten-strikeout performance and pitched six innings in a game. Gusto and Batista both put together highlights early in the year.
The 2023 Asheville Tourists brought the community together at McCormick Field unlike any other year. Countless memories were made for the players, the coaching staff, and the fans. We wish all the members of the 2023 Asheville Tourists the best as they work towards their goals in baseball and in life. They will always be a part of the Asheville Tourists family.
Visit www.milb.com/asheville for more information.
Written by Doug Maurer, Asheville Tourists.