From the Smokies Media Relations Department
SEVIERVILLE – The Southern League announced Tuesday that six Tennessee Smokies players have been named Southern League Mid-Season All-Stars for the circuit’s 2016 All-Star Game, which will be played on Tuesday, June 21 at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. Representing the Smokies are pitcher Paul Blackburn, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, catcher Victor Caratini, pitcher Brad Markey, second baseman Chesny Young and outfielder Mark Zagunis.
Blackburn has served as the ace of the Smokies pitching staff this season, compling a 3-1 record and a 2.06 ERA (15 ER in 65.2 IP) in 11 starts. The 22-year-old has struck out 39 and walked just 17 in 65.2 innings. Entering Wednesday’s contest, Blackburn ranks tied for second in the Southern League in WHIP (1.04), fifth in innings pitched (65.2) and seventh in earned run average (2.06). The Oakley, Calif. native also has the lowest baserunners per nine innings ratio in the circuit (9.32).
Blackburn was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month for April after putting together a sparkling 3-0 mark with a miniscule 0.29 ERA (1 ER in 31.0 IP) in five starts. The right-hander was also named Southern League Pitcher of the Week for the time period between April 18-24 after going 2-0 without allowing an earned run in 15.0 innings of work. This is the second career All-Star nod for the starter. He was named a Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star while with Low-A Kane County in 2014. Blackburn entered the season as Chicago’s 19th-best prospect according to Baseball America. He was selected by the Cubs in the first round (56th overall) of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Heritage High School (Calif.).
Despite some early season struggles, Candelario has been named a Mid-Season All-Star for the second consecutive season. The 22-year-old was named a Carolina League All-Star in 2015 during his time with High-A Myrtle Beach. In his first 55 games with the Smokies this season, Candelario has tallied a .222 average (46-207) with 30 runs scored, 22 extra-base hits – including four home runs – and 23 runs batted in. Prior to Wednedsay’s games, the Dominican native is in a tie for second in the SL in walks (32) and sits third in doubles (17). Candelario was ranked the Cubs’ No. 10 overall prospect by Baseball America entering 2016 and was signed by the organization as a non-drafted free agent out of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. on September 29, 2010.
Caratini earns Mid-Season All-Star honors for the second time as a professional and for the first time as a member of the Cubs’ organization. The 22-year-old was selected as a South Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star in 2014 while playing with Low-A Rome in the Atlanta Braves’ system. In 47 contests this season, Caratini has posted a .290 average (47-162) with 14 extra-base hits – one of which was a homer – and 17 RBI. The backstop was ranked the Cubs’ 24th-best prospect by Baseball America entering the campaign. He was acquired by Chicago on July 31, 2014 from Atlanta in exchange for former Smokies’ INF Emilio Bonifacio and LHP James Russell.
For the first time in his career, Markey earns the nod as a Mid-Season All-Star. The 24-year-old has been a model of excellence, compiling a strong 5-1 record and a 2.41 ERA (16 ER in 59.2 IP) in 12 appearances (10 starts). Markey enters Wednesday with the eighth-lowest ERA in the circuit and the league’s best winning percentage (.833). The Smokies have performed well behind the Bel Air, Md. native, winning in eight of his 10 starts. Markey entered the year as the Cubs’ No. 23 overall prospect by Baseball America. He was chosen by Chicago in the 19th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Virginia Tech University.
Young has continued to burst onto the scene for the Smokies, pasting together a .299 batting average (63-211) over his first 54 games with nine extra-base hits – inclduing a career-high two home runs – 13 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. After Tuesday’s games, the 23-year-old is tied for second in the SL in at-bats (211), tied for third in hits (63), ranks fourth in walks (31) and is 10th in batting average.
The Forestdale, Mass. resident started 2016 on a tear and was named the Cubs”” and the Southern League’s Player of the Month for April. In 22 contests during the season’s opening month, Young posted a league-best .402 average (33-82) with two homers, nine RBI and 11 steals. The second baseman is a Mid-Season All-Star for the first time in his career after finishing last season as a Post-Season All-Star following winning the Carolina League batting title with High-A Myrtle Beach. Young was chosen by the Cubs in the 14th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Mercer University.
Zagunis has continued his consistency with Tennessee, as he has been named to a Mid-Season All-Star team for the third time in as many seasons as a pro. The 23-year-old was also named a Mid-Season All-Star with Short-Season Boise in 2014 and High-A Myrtle Beach in 2015. In 50 games with the Smokies, Zagunis has accumulated a team-leading .301 average (53-176) with 18 extra-base knocks – including four home runs – and 24 RBI. The Cinnaminson, N.J. native enters the day with the SL’s second-best on-base percentage (.406) and the eighth-highest batting average. Zagunis entered the year considered the 11th-best prospect in the Cubs’ organization by Baseball America. He was selected by Chicago in the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Virginia Tech University.
The 2016 edition of the Southern League All-Star Game takes place on Tuesday, June 21 at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. Players were selected by a vote of League field managers, radio broadcasters, general managers and print media. All players on Southern League rosters as of May 31 are eligible in the voting process. In addition, the Smokies’ six players honored tied with the Jackson Generals for the most of any team in the North Division.