January 2010

USA Baseball Honors Smoak

smoak2.jpgUSA Baseball announced today that former LumberKings’ first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) has been named the 2009 Richard W. Case Award winner.  The award is presented to USA Baseball’s Athlete of the Year and will be given to Smoak on January 29 at the Texas Rangers annual awards banquet.

Smoak tore up international competition at the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup last September, hitting .291 with 9 HR (a U.S. World Cup record) and 22 RBI.  He won the MVP award in helping Team USA capture the gold medal.

Thanks to Jake Fehling of USA Baseball for passing this press release along.



For those of you who are non-prospect junkies and haven’t already seen this, Baseball America unveiled their list of the Top 10 Prospects for each organization this winter and finally arrived at both the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.

It’s no surprise that Dustin Ackley, Seattle’s reigning first-round pick and the $6 million dollar man tops the list for the Mariners.  Last year’s top prospect Greg Halman slipped to #8, but otherwise the 2010 list looks a lot like ’09.  Overall, six of last year’s Top 10 return to this year’s list, including LumberKings’ 3B/1B Mario Martinez, who moves from #7 to #10.

18-year-old shortstop Nick Franklin is intriguing at #7 following a solid pro debut between the AZL and Everett last year.  Seattle’s other first-rounder (27th overall) hit .333 with 4 doubles, a home run and 6 RBI over 16 games last season.  While many Clinton fans are hoping to see Ackley in black and green (a longshot), they could possibly get the chance to see Franklin in his first full season.  He’s a switch hitter with speed who won’t turn 19 until March 3.

Thumbnail image for martinez2.jpgSeattle’s Top 10 Prospects:

1.   Dustin Ackley (OF/1B)

2.   Michael Saunders (OF)

3.   Adam Moore (C)

4.   Alex Liddi (3B)

5.   Carlos Triunfel (SS/2B)

6.   Michael Pineda (RHP)

7.   Nick Franklin (SS)

8.   Greg Halman (OF)

9.   Danny Cortes (RHP)

10.  Mario Martinez (3B/1B)


Seattle’s “Best Tools”:

Best Hitter for Average:  Dustin Ackley

Best Power Hitter:  Greg Halman

Best Strike-Zone Discipline:  Ezequiel Carrera

Fastest Baserunner:  Ezequiel Carrera

Best Athlete:  Greg Halman

Best Fastball:  Michael Pineda

Best Curveball:  Josh Fields

Best Slider:  Steven Hensley

Best Changeup:  Nick Hill

Best Control:  Michael Pineda

Best Defensive Catcher:  Steve Baron

Best Defensive Infielder:  Gabriel Noriega

Best Infield Arm:  Carlos Triunfel

Best Defensive Outfielder:  Michael Saunders

Best Outfield Arm:  James Jones

On to the Rangers’ Top 10 Prospects list, chock full of former LumberKings.  Last year’s #1 prospect, fireballing right-hander Neftali Feliz tops the list once again in 2010.  Feliz made his Major League debut shortly after 2008 teammate Derek Holland and didn’t disappoint, going 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 20 appearances.  Feliz was also 2-of-3 in save chances with Texas and limited big-league opponents to a .124 average.  Not too bad for a guy who was working on secondary pitches in Clinton just two seasons ago.

Another ’08 LumberKing comes in at #2, and that is no surprise, either.  Justin Smoak is on the cusp of his pro debut after combining to hit .284 with 10 HR and 52 RBI between double-A Frisco and triple-A Oklahoma City last year.

Left-hander Kasey Kiker shows up at #6 after a bounce-back 2009 of sorts.  The Rangers’ first-round pick in 2006, Kiker went 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 96.1 innings with the LumberKings in 2007, but followed up with a 5-5, 4.73 season in Bakersfield the next year.  Last season, Kiker went 7-7 with a more respectable 3.86 ERA and struck out 120 batters over 126 innings with double-A Frisco.

Overshadowed by Smoak in hype but finally emerging as an elite prospect is 1B/OF Mitch Moreland.  He holds the #8 spot after another impressive offensive year, this time split between high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco.  Moreland hit a combined .331 with 16 HR and 85 RBI in 116 games, capturing the Rangers’ Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year award.  Like Smoak, Moreland could potentially don a Rangers’ uniform some time in 2010.

Texas’ Top 10 Prospectssmoak.JPG:

 1.   Neftali Feliz (RHP)

2.   Justin Smoak (1B)

3.   Martin Perez (LHP)

4.   Tanner Scheppers (RHP)

5.   Jurickson Profar (SS)

6.   Kasey Kiker (LHP)

7.   Robbie Ross (LHP)

8.   Mitch Moreland (OF/1B)

9.   Danny Gutierrez (RHP)

10.  Wilmer Font (RHP)


Texas’ “Best Tools”:

Best Hitter for Average:  Justin Smoak

Best Power Hitter:  Justin Smoak

Best Strike-Zone Discipline:  Justin Smoak

Thumbnail image for kiker.JPGFastest Baserunner:  Leury Garcia

Best Athlete:  Greg Golson

Best Fastball:  Neftali Feliz

Best Curveball:  Tanner Scheppers

Best Slider:  Robbie Ross

Best Changeup:  Kasey Kiker

Best Control:  Blake Beavan

Best Defensive Catcher:  Leonel de los Santos

Best Defensive Infielder:  Leury Garcia

Best Defensive Outfielder:  Craig Gentry

Best Outfield Arm:  Greg Golson


Don’t forget, the 2010 Hot Stove Banquet is this Saturday at Eagle Point Lodge.  Social hour starts at 6 PM.  You can still buy tickets in advance by calling the office at 563-242-0727.  You’ll get to hear from LumberKings’ manager John Tamargo and have a chance to win some great LumberKings prizes if you attend!


Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 1)

As promised, it’s the second annual “Predict the Roster” segment here on the LumberBlog.  With this being the second season as a Seattle Mariners affiliate, I can now talk about players that might return from last year’s club in addition to new faces from the Everett, Pulaski and Peoria rosters.


Part 1 starts with a look at who might be returning from the 2009 squad.  The LumberKings suited up 57 players last year, many of whom saw limited action in black and green.  Twelve position players appeared in less than 20 games, while 12 pitchers appeared in less than 10 games.

There’s also some regulars from last year’s club that might get a re-visit.  We’ll start there.

Last year’s Opening Day roster featured a pair of highly-touted 2007 draft picks in Denny Almonte (2nd round) and Daniel Carroll (3rd round).  Both have had a measure of success in the Midwest League, but both have also had their struggles. 

After hitting .262 with 12 HR in the first half, Almonte suffered through a dismal second half.  He hit just .183 following an All-Star appearance and hit just one more homer over his final 153 at-bats.  Amongst league leaders in RBI at one point, Almonte finished with 58 (only 14 in the second half).  Is he dominant when he’s on?  Absolutely.  He practically carried the team through May with 8 HR and 21 RBI.  Still, it’s hard to ignore his .091 month of August and his 148 strikeouts in 409 at-bats. 

Carroll’s season was derailed by a pair of injuries.  He missed two weeks with a groin issue suffered on Opening Night in Burlington and then spent nearly all of May and June coming back from a broken thumb.  Once he got truly healthy, Carroll started to hit.  Following the All-Star break, he hit .240, scored 29 runs and stole 15 bases.  He’s been at High Desert before and should get a chance to make that roster with a good Spring.

Bottom line, I believe both Almonte and Carroll will be in High Desert to start 2010.  Almonte’s key to staying there is making consistent contact, while Carroll’s I believe is simply staying healthy.  Only time will tell.

martinez.jpgIf Almonte is gone, who will step in to be the primary power threat?  I think we see the return of ultra-talented third-baseman Mario Martinez (pictured left).  At age 19 last year, Martinez hit .214 with 2 HR and 24 RBI in 61 games with Clinton.  He was getting hot down the stretch of the first half, but was then sent to short-A Pulaski at the All-Star break.  There, he hit .308 with 20 doubles, 3 HR and 33 RBI in 71 games.   Yes, he hasn’t hit for consistent power yet in his career, but the Mariners have high hopes for him and this could be the breakout year.  Defensively, he looked great at both third and first base.  Where he plays next year will likely be determined by whether or not Jharmidy DeJesus makes the roster.

Other position players who could return include Travis Howell (.205, 8 HR, 29 RBI in 66 games), Maximo Mendez (.213, 8 triples, 38 runs scored, 20 steals in 64 games) and Terry Serrano (.236, 40 runs scored, 18 steals).  All three should go to High Desert, but very well could see time back with Clinton next year following injury-plagued 2009 seasons.

Pitching-wise, there shouldn’t be too many returners from the staff that led the Midwest League in ERA.  Starters like Kenn Kasparek (10-6, 2.41), Andrew Carraway (4-0, 2.50) and Bobby LaFromboise (8-9, 4.03) will certainly move up.  Relievers like Cheyne Hann (2-2, 1.32, 12 saves), Blake Nation (3-5, 3.16), Matt Renfree (3-2, 2.60), Jose Jimenez (4-2, 3.38), Brandon Josselyn (0-1, 0.75, 3 saves) and others should all move as well.

Now that we’ve covered some of the more familiar faces, let’s move on to the guys who had brief stints in Clinton last year.

When talking about position players, I’m excited to see what a guy like Ryan Royster can do with a full season in the Midwest League.  In eight games last year, Royster hit .333 with 3 doubles, 2 HR and 7 RBI.  He spent most of his year at Everett and performed there, hitting .325 with 7 HR and 27 RBI in 41 games.

Another intriguing hitter is Welington Dotel.  He exhibited tons of raw power in batting practice, but belted just one homer in 19 games.  Dotel did hit a solid .286 and drove in 11 runs in 49 at-bats.  I believe we’ll see him in the Clinton outfield this season.

We won’t see 2009 third-rounder Kyle Seager back, but we might see the return of sixth-rounder Shaver Hansen if for no other reason than shoring up his defense (13 errors in 36 games, primarily at third base).  Hansen hit .205 with 7 RBI and could probably use another year against Midwest League pitching as well.

Others we might see back include outfielder Dwight Britton (.192 in 11 games), infielder Jetsy Extrano (.045 in 6 games) and catchers Henry Contreras (.167, 2 RBI in 4 games) and Tommy Johnson (.167 in 5 games).

Back to pitching, there’s several 2010 rotation candidates that spent brief time with the LumberKings last year. 

At the top of the list is hard-throwing righty Maikel Cleto (pictured right), who arrived in latecleto.JPG June after some visa issues.  Two stints on the disabled list and a very strict pitch count allowed us a very brief look at Cleto, and it was hard to determine if he was the 0-3, 5.33 guy we saw over eight starts or the guy who struck out six over 3.0 innings in a matchup against Carlos Zambrano and the Peoria Chiefs on August 20.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see Cleto mature in the rotation.

Another potential starter coming back could be Anthony Vasquez.  Seattle’s 18th round pick out of USC went 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA in 7 games, all starts.  The numbers aren’t overly impressive, but Vasquez did win each of his last two starts, lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 5.66 in the process.  He also shut down a volatile Great Lakes Loons’ offense to a run on eight hits over 5.2 innings in his LumberKings’ debut on August 1.  The left-handed Vasquez could be a top-flight starter next season. 

Right-handers Andres Esquibel (1-1, 4.91 in 8 games) and Chris Kirkland (0-1, 5.00 in 4 games), and left-hander Jon Hesketh (1-1, 12.60 in 3 games) could all potentially be starters next year as well. 

Esquibel was 2-4 with a 5.00 ERA in Everett, but flashed dominance with a three-hit complete-game shutout win over Boise on August 6.  Kirkland, meanwhile, led the Northwest League with 85 strikeouts.  He went 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 starts.  Hesketh didn’t fare well in Clinton, but did limit opponents to a .188 average while going 0-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven outings with the Aqua Sox.

The 2010 bullpen is less clear.  Daniel Cooper, a teammate of Vasquez at USC and Seattle’s 21st round pick, went 0-1 with a 9.28 ERA in eight relief appearances with the LumberKings last year.  Ogui Diaz spent most of 2009 as an infielder, but converted to right-handed reliever and went 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four games with Pulaski.  The rest of the pen is a guessing game.

That’s just the first part of my two-part “Predict the Roster” segment.  Next week, I’ll look at potential LumberKings coming from Everett, Pulaski and Peoria.  Feel free to add your comments on my predictions below, especially if any of the players I’ve mentioned have changed organizations without my knowledge.  Hey, I’m human.


Old Faces, New Places

With a little help from LumberKings’ public address voice and resident Midwest League nut
Thumbnail image for bay ('01).jpgBrad Seward
, here’s a list of former Clinton players who have switched uniforms so far this offseason.

While Jason Bay (’01) is easily the most notable former LumberKing to change teams, he’s not the only former Clinton player who will be settling in to new digs in 2010. 

Bay’s four-year, $66 million deal with the New York Mets is certainly the headliner.  The ’01 LumberKing hit .267 with a career-high 36 homers and 119 RBI with Boston last year, but Theo Epstein’s four-year offer apparently wasn’t sweet enough to keep Bay on Yawkey Way.

Never fear for the Red Sox, not only did they get John Lackey, Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron, but they also replaced Bay with another former LumberKing.  On November 25, the Sox swung a deal that sent cash to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for infielder Tug Hulett (’05).

Boston becomes the fourth organization already for the young Hulett, who hit .265 with 70 runs scored and 20 steals for the ’05 LumberKings.  He debuted two seasons ago with Seattle and was traded to the Royals last winter.  Hulett has combined to hit .194 with a home run and three RBI over 45 big-league games.

The Royals subtracted Hulett on the same day that they added another former LumberKing.  Josh Rupe (’03), who went 3-1 with Texas in 2008 but pitched in only four games in 2009, signed a minor league deal after being granted free agency by the Rangers on November 9.  Rupe went 4-1 with a 3.90 ERA over six games with the Kings in 2003.

2003 Rupe Pitching-2.jpgWhile technically old news from the end of the 2009 season, reliever Roy Corcoran (’02) is now in the Houston system after signing a minor league deal last August.  Corcoran was notable as the only former LumberKing on the 25-man roster with Seattle when Clinton signed on as a Mariners’ affiliate last winter.  In 82 Major League outings, Corcoran is 8-3 with a 4.17 ERA and three saves.  He was 3-4 with 11 saves in 2002.

Rounding things out, former Clinton Giant Matt Williams (’86) was named the first base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Clinton Dodger Mitch Webster (’78) is now the Midwest Regional Scouting Supervisor for the Royals.  As reported in an earlier post, former manager Andy Fox (’06) is now in the Mariners’ system as the hitting coach for double-A West Tennessee.

If you have news to share about a former Clinton player or ARE a former Clinton player and want to update the fans on what you’re doing, send me an email at davelezotte@lumberkings.com.  I’d be happy to post it here on the LumberBlog.


Moreland, Gentry Receive Rangers Accolades

In a press release sent out yesterday by the Texas Rangers, former LumberKings Mitch Moreland (’08) and Craig Gentry (’07) were named winners of 2009 Minor League awards.

mitch moreland.jpgMoreland (left) took home the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year honors, hitting .331 with 16 home runs and 85 RBI in 116 games between Baksersfield and Frisco.  He then went on to hit .300 with three blasts and 12 RBI in 18 games in the Arizona Fall League.  Of course, many of you will remember Moreland’s monster 2008 in black-and-green when he hit .324 with 18 homers and 99 RBI.  He also struck out three batters over 2.0 innings as a left-handed reliever.

The speedy Gentry was named the Minor League Defender of the Year thanks to stellar defense primarily with Frisco.  He was third in the Texas League in putouts (296) and tied for eighth in outfield assists (8).  Gentry was called up to Texas in September and became the first 2007 LumberKing to reach the Majors.

Coming up in the near future on the LumberBlog, we’ll take a look at former LumberKings that are switching uniforms in 2010 (yes, others not named Jason Bay) and throw out some possible names for next year’s roster.  That’s right, content coming up!


LumberKings Announce 2010 Hot Stove Banquet

Manager John Tamargo will be keynote speaker at Eagle Point Park Lodge on Saturday, January 30


Tamargo_John.JPGClinton, IA – The Clinton LumberKings are set to heat up the winter at the Eagle Point Park Lodge on Saturday, January 30 for the 2010 Hot Stove Banquet.  This year’s event will feature keynote speaker John Tamargo, recently named as the new field manager for the LumberKings.


Tamargo will speak about his 36 years of professional baseball experience, including five seasons as a Major League catcher and 18 seasons as a minor league manager.  He owns a career 1089-960 record at the helm of minor league clubs with the New York Mets, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners organizations.  Tamargo’s career highlights include managing New Orleans to the Triple-A World Series in 1998 and serving as Astros’ bench coach under Jimy Williams for two seasons. 


The festivities begin at 6 PM with social hour, dinner and program slated to start at 7 PM.  Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children (age 12 and under), meal and program included.  Tickets will also be available at the door at $25 for adults, $20 for children.  Contact a LumberKings’ board member or call the main office at (563) 242-0727 to purchase your seats.


The 2010 season begins on Thursday, April 8 as the LumberKings host the Peoria Chiefs at Alliant Energy Field. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM.  For 2010 season tickets, group outings, merchandise and more, call the LumberKings at (563) 242-0727 or visit www.lumberkings.com.