Baseball | 06/14/2022

Nine former Matadors enjoying success in affiliated baseball

YUMA, Ariz. – Nine former Arizona Western Matador baseball players are enjoying success at the professional level in 2022.

Irving Lopez is the lone Matador playing at the AAA level, currently assigned to the Memphis Redbirds, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Hermosillo, Mexico native has played in 28 games this season between both Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, posting a .225 batting average with eight runs batted in. The second baseman hit a career-best .280 in 2018, splitting time between the Cardinals Single-A clubs in Peoria and Palm Beach. Lopez played in 109 career games for the Matadors from 2013-to 2014, leading the team in batting average in each of his two seasons in Yuma. Lopez batted .385 as a freshman in 2013, tying for the team lead in doubles with 12 and driving in a team-best 34 runs. Lopez was able to better his numbers in his sophomore campaign with the Matadors, batting a career-best .423 while doubling 17 times and smacking eight homers. Following his two seasons in the cardinal and gold, Lopez transferred to Florida International University before being taken in the 19th round of the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals.

Four former Matadors are currently at the Double-A level, led by Sean Roby who currently is fourth in home runs among the three Double-A circuits with 16. Roby has played in 47 games for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the San Francisco Giants Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League, and is batting .211 with 33 runs batted in. The infielder has smashed 43 career home runs over the course of four professional seasons, hitting a career-best 19 with the Single-A Eugene Emeralds last season. Roby helped the Matadors to a Region I title in 2018, batting .356 with a team-high 22 home runs, driving in 77. Over the course of two seasons, Roby hit 28 home runs and batted in 115 runs in 121 career games. Following his sophomore season at Arizona Western, Roby was selected in the 12th round of the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants.

Jaden Murray has appeared in nine games, all starts, for the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The right-hander owns a 2-2 record with a 3.45 earned run average, striking out 35 batters in 44.1 innings worked. Murray pitched two seasons for the Matadors, tossing 98.0 innings as a sophomore in 2017, posting an 11-3 record with a 3.12 ERA, striking out 108 batters. Murray continued his collegiate career at Dixie State before being selected in the 23rd round of the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Rays.

San Luis, Ariz. product Gabriel Ponce is in his first season at the Double-A level, appearing in 15 games in relief for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Ponce has posted a 2.05 ERA while recording a save, striking out 33 batters in 30.2 innings of work. Ponce pitched for the Matadors in 2018 and 2019, recording a career-best 1.75 ERA in his sophomore season, and posting a 5-4 record with 92 strikeouts in 72 innings of work. The right-hander was taken in the 28th round of the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Blue Jays after his two seasons at Arizona Western.

Wilmer Flores pitched for the Matadors in 2020, appearing in six games during the COVID-19 shortened season, posting a 1-0 record with 16 strikeouts in 11.2 innings of work. The right-hander is in his second season of professional baseball, having appeared in 11 games split between Single-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie in the Detroit Tigers organization. Flores currently owns a 2-0 record with a 3.22 ERA over five starts for the Erie Seawolves, striking out 30 batters over the span of 22.1 innings pitched.

Trayson Kubo is in his third professional season, having pitched in 15 games in relief for the Lansing Lugnuts, the Single-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. Kubo sports a 4-1 record with a 3.80 ERA while striking out 17 hitters in 21.1 innings of work. Kubo pitched in 28 career games for the Matadors in 2016 and 2017 before going on to pitch at Stephen F. Austin. The right-hander was taken in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Oakland A’s.

Former Matadors outfielder Najee Gaskins is enjoying a nice start to his third professional season, batting .274 with seven doubles and 15 runs batted in through 40 games with the San Jose Giants, the San Francisco Giants Single-A affiliate before being promoted to High-A Eugene. Gaskins played for the Matadors in 2017 and 2018, batting a career-best .281 during his second season in Yuma. Gaskins continued his career at St. Cloud State before being taken in the 20th round by the Giants in 2019.

Spencer Packard has played in 51 games for the Eugene Emeralds so far this season, batting .262 with nine home runs and 29 runs batted in. Packard played in 125 games for the Matadors over the course of two seasons in 2017 and 2018, batting .383 during his sophomore seasons while leading the team in doubles with 25 and smacking eight home runs, driving in 63 runs, the second most behind Roby. Following his time at Arizona Western, Packard played at Campbell before being taken in the ninth round by the Seattle Mariners.

Zach Huffins recently signed a minor league free-agent contract with the Minnesota Twins and made his organizational debut with the Twins Single-A affiliate, the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. Huffins played for the Matadors in 2018 and 2019, batting a career-best .366 during his sophomore season in 2019, driving in 47 runs. The outfielder was selected in the 13th round in 2019 by the Tampa Bay Rays and spent his first two seasons of professional baseball in the Rays organization.

All nine players have helped the Matadors to one of the best stretches of success in program history on current Matadors’ Head Baseball Coach Drew Keehn.

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