12/19/2018 7:16 AM
CLEBURNE, Texas (Dec. 13, 2018) – The Cleburne Railroaders announced Thursday the signing of catcher John Nester and infielder Jared Reaves to contracts for the 2019 season.
In addition to the signings, the Railroaders announced the retirement of infielder Abel Nieves and the departure of infielder Logan Watkins, who signed with Tijuana of the Mexican League. Both were acquired from the Wichita Wingnuts following the 2018 season.
Nester spent the majority of 2018 with Wichita, hitting .269 with seven home runs and 50 RBI over 92 games for the American Association club. The backstop finished the year with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, appearing in five games and recording four hits.
The 2018 campaign marked Nester’s first playing time since 2015, as the native of Greer, South Carolina spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons as a catching instructor in the San Diego Padres minor league system. As a result, Nester got off to a slow start at the plate with Wichita, posting a .208 batting average as late as June 20. Over the final two and a half months of the season, however, few catchers in the American Association proved as productive offensively. Nester piled up 68 hits in 228 at-bats over the final 62 games, good for a robust .298 average, while slugging six of his seven home runs.
Defensively, the veteran backstop has established himself as one of the premier catchers in all Independent baseball, cutting down 30% (22/70) of attempted basestealers last season between Wichita and Somerset. He committed just seven errors in nearly 700 chances, good for a sparkling .990 fielding percentage. For his career, Nester has thrown out 29% of all basestealers, including an American Association-best 44% in 2015.
Nester started his professional career with three seasons in the Oakland Athletics organization after being drafted in the 39th round out of Clemson. The 29-year old was released following the 2012 season, and spent the following year with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League. After an impressive campaign in which he hit .287, Nester was snapped up by the San Diego Padres organization, where he split the 2014 season between three minor league levels. He signed with Wichita in 2015, helping the Wingnuts to a 59-41 record and a South Division title. The Clemson alum played in 80 games, hitting .281 with five home runs, 19 doubles, and 43 RBI.
Reaves was briefly Nester’s teammate in Wichita last year as the opening day designated hitter, but sustained an injury in the first game of the year that ended his 2018 season. The 28-year old comes to the Railroaders with five years of experience in the Detroit Tigers organization, most recently with High-A Lakeland in 2016. His professional debut came in 2012 after the Tigers selected him in the 25th Round of the MLB Draft out of the University of Alabama. Reaves was assigned to the Tigers short-season affiliate in Connecticut, hitting .240 with two home runs in 55 games and earning a promotion to Class-A West Michigan. The Eastman, Georgia, native also flashed the defensive ability that would become one of his calling cards, helping turn 36 double plays while fielding at a .967 clip as Connecticut’s shortstop.
In 2013, Reaves started the year with West Michigan, but another strong performance with the bat and glove helped him finish the year with High-A Lakeland. For the season, the righty hit .272 with a career-best five homers and 37 RBI. His defensive versatility was on display as well, as Reaves split time at second base, third base, and shortstop during the 2013 campaign.
2014 offered Reaves the opportunity to spend the entire season at one level for the only time in his minor-league career. As Lakeland’s everyday shortstop, Reaves hit .236 over 94 games. He repeated the level in 2015, producing a .253 average before earning a call-up to Double-A Erie for nine games. Injuries limited Reaves to just eight games with Lakeland in 2016, and the Tigers granted him his release in March of 2017.
Reaves began his college career at Southern Union Community College, where he hit better than .400 in each of his two seasons with the Bisons. That success carried over into his first season with Alabama, as Reaves immediately established himself as the Crimson Tide’s starting shortstop. In his first season in Tuscaloosa, Reaves hit .340 with 22 doubles, leading the team with 47 RBI. At the time, his 22 two-baggers ranked fourth all-time for single season doubles in program history. Reaves started every game at shortstop for Alabama again as a senior, hitting .316 and pacing the club with four home runs and 34 RBI.
The 3rd season of Railroaders baseball and the club’s pursuit of its first division title kicks off with a four-game home series against the Sioux Falls Canaries, beginning on Thursday, May 16. For information on partnerships, season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Railroaders main office at (817) 945-8705, or visit the Railroaders official website at www.railroaderbaseball.com.
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