Keller Citizen

Will this be the year for former Tarrant baseball stars?

Former Grapevine pitcher Mason Melotakis is hoping to heal up in Double A ball and join the Twins’ bullpen this season.
Former Grapevine pitcher Mason Melotakis is hoping to heal up in Double A ball and join the Twins’ bullpen this season. Special to the Star-Telegram

There’s nothing like the combination of the smell of the grass and the first week of April. The Major League Baseball season has begun and the pennant race is on.

So what does that mean for Northeast Tarrant County?

Well, actually quite a bit. As this area has grown, it has produced more and more big league hopefuls. Several are either with the parent club or making their way through the farm system pursuing their dream of one day getting there.

The season started on Sunday with three games, while the rest of the slate began on Monday. Minor league seasons start later this week.

So we thought this week’s entry would be a good idea to let you know where some of the top NET pros are to begin 2017.

Max Muncy, Keller, INF, Oakland A’s: This is probably going to be a telling summer for Muncy. The A’s designated him for assignment back in January so they could take him off the 40-man roster. He was a non-roster invitee to spring training and is expected to start the year in Triple-A Nashville.

While Muncy has had some opportunities to play at the Major League level, they haven’t been for extended stints. Still, Muncy just didn’t hit enough to remain a part of the A’s immediate future. He hit only .186 in 2016. This season could be really important for him to show the A’s, or maybe somebody else, that he can play. Muncy is 26.

Tyler Collins, Justin Northwest, OF, Detroit Tigers: Going back and forth between Triple-A Toledo throughout his career, Collins made the opening day roster this year as the Tigers opened the season Monday in Chicago against the White Sox.

Collins, who has hit .253 with nine home runs and 43 RBI in his career, has a chance to see significant playing time early. Detroit lost one of its top outfielders J.D. Martinez to an injury and he is on the disabled list. Collins hit .259 in the spring but also hit three home runs. Collins is 26.

Ross Stripling, Carroll, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: At the end of spring training, Stripling learned that he had made the big league club as a relief pitcher. This is the first time for him to make an opening day roster. Of course, Stripling made 14 starts (22 total appearances) for the Dodgers in 2016 and threw 100 innings. He finished 5-9 with a 3.96 ERA.

He told the Orange County Register that he proved that he was ineffective the third time through a batting order and being a relief pitcher is a better fit.

“I believe I can keep up max effort for nine outs,” he said. Stripling, who went to Texas A&M, is 27. The Dodgers opened the season Monday at home against San Diego.

Mason Melotakis, Grapevine, LHP, Minnesota Twins: The hard-throwing left-hander is starting the season with the Twins’ Double A team in Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, that’s not really bad news. He has been dealing with some injuries. The Twins had enough faith in him that they kept him on the 40-man roster.

He was sent to the minor league camp in the middle of March. However, there is some long-range hope that he can be an option at some point during the season. Left-handers who top 90 mph are always going to be in demand. Melotakis, who had Tommy John surgery in late 2014 and missed all of 2015, is 25.

Kyle Kubitza, Colleyville Heritage, INF, Atlanta Braves: After bouncing around from the Los Angeles Angels to the Texas Rangers to the Atlanta Braves, Kubitza remains in the Braves organization. He's not on the 40-man roster but is a member of Triple-A Gwinnett (Georgia) in the International League. He saw little time with Gwinnett because he joined the team in August.

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