(Photo Credit: Christopher Kays)
The Southern Illinois Miners announce that infielder Niko Vasquez, whose blistering bat was a key contributor to the team’s strong second half in 2014, will return to the team in 2015.
Acquired in a mid-season trade from the Gateway Grizzlies for a player to be named later, Vasquez tore up the Frontier League with Southern Illinois. In just 39 games with the club, the Las Vegas native hit a remarkable .336 with 11 doubles, six home runs and 33 RBIs. Combining his time with the Miners with his 51 games played for Gateway, 2014 was Vasquez’s best year as a pro at the plate, with a .309 batting average and 22 doubles while tying his career-best with 13 total homers and driving in 67 runs, a mark which was his second-highest career total.
Vasquez also showed off a tremendous eye at the plate, drawing 66 walks to rank second in the league against just 65 strikeouts for a .425 overall on-base percentage (.446 with the Miners). In addition, the former 3rd round pick of the Cardinals had two separate hitting streaks of 12 or more games in his time with the Miners alone, including a Miners season-high 14-game streak that was snapped in the regular season finale at Lake Erie.
A skilled and versatile defender who can play second base, shortstop or third base, Vasquez played all three with Southern Illinois with a .945 combined fielding percentage. The Miners as a team went 27-12 after Vasquez joined the squad en route to the East Division title.
“We are very happy to have Niko back with us,” Miners manager Mike Pinto said. He was an important part of our division-winning team last season both offensively and defensively. Niko brings a power bat while finding his way on base at a very important middle-of-the-field position at shortstop. He and Frankie (Martinez) in the middle of the field should be among the league’s best.”