Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 2)
The second and final installment of my look at the potential 2010 roster finally makes its way to the LumberBlog today. I had originally planned on getting it out before the Hot Stove, but last week was a busy one.
In a way, it’s nice to save this second part till now. I had the opportunity to talk with manager John Tamargo about the team during our car trips to and from the Quad City Airport in Moline, IL. It was good to pick his brain on some of the talent he had in Everett last year.
With that being said, I want to preface my following predictions. At this time, we do not know the 25-man LumberKings’ roster for next year. The Seattle Mariners will not finalize that until camp breaks in early April, and at that time we will know for sure. It is common for changes to be made even after that point. Many people didn’t know that Scott Savastano, the man who turned into the offensive MVP of the team last year, was a last-second add to the roster. Two years ago, Mitch Moreland was scratched from our Opening Day roster because of a minor injury. You just never know until the bus shows up.
A First-Rounder Not Named Ackley
In my post last week regarding the Top 10 Seattle Prospects as selected by Baseball
America, I mentioned a young man by the name of Nick Franklin (pictured right). While Dustin Ackley has attracted most of the spotlight, Franklin is also a rising star. The 18-year-old shortstop was Jack Zduriencik’s second first-round pick (taken 27th overall) out of Lake Brantley (FL) High and had a nice showing in six games with Tamargo’s AquaSox (.400, 3 XBH, 2 RBI in 20 at-bats). Seattle scouting director Tom McNamara liked his confidence and fielding ability in a brief workout with the big-league club last August. I don’t think you’ll see Ackley in Clinton next year, but Franklin could very well add some first-round flavor to the roster.
Franklin might not be the only talented shortstop to head here. South African-born Anthony
Phillips made 67 starts at short for Everett last season and put up some respectable power numbers at the plate. The 19-year-old hit .247 with 8 doubles, 7 HR and 28 RBI over 68 games in the Northwest League last season. Venezuelan shortstop Gabriel Noriega could also make the club, following an impressive second season at Pulaski. Noriega hit .311 with 14 doubles, 4 HR and 26 RBI in 61 games last year.
Avila Following the Gac Path?
Staying on the Everett infield, a lot of folks have asked me if Gerardo Avila (pictured left) might head to Clinton. As Midwest League diehards already know, Avila is a three-season veteran with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (’06-’08), but never hit above .260 and had just one career homer in the league in 63 games. Then, following the Ian Gac pattern, Avila went to High Desert in 2008 and found his way back to the Northwest League in 2009. There, he finally went off for a league-high 13 HR while also finishing first in slugging (.582), second in RBI (54) and third in hitting overall (.333). As Gac-like as this story is going, he could very well be in Clinton. However, he could also go back to the Cal League, where he hit .303 in nine games two seasons ago as a Maverick.
If Avila heads back to High Desert, Jharmidy DeJesus could be the man to fill first base. DeJesus was amongst my predictions for last year’s club and was the #8 prospect in the Mariners’ system prior to last year. Hailing from Jose Vallejo’s hometown of Bani, Dominican Republic, DeJesus hit .249 with 7 doubles, 4 HR and 24 RBI in 48 games with Pulaski last year. He made 30 starts at first base in a platoon situation with 11th round pick Tim Morris (.214, 4 HR, 24 RBI in 50 games).
Rounding Out the Infield
Second-baseman Hawkins Gebbers, Seattle’s 33rd round selection hit .301 with 13 doubles, 2 HR and 21 RBI in 54 games with Everett last year. Cesar Fuentes (.261, 4 HR, 20 RBI) and Fred Bello (.250, 5 triples, 2 HR, 12 RBI) each split time at second base in Pulaski. Third-baseman and 10th-round pick Vincent Catricala led Pulaski with 40 RBI, hitting .301 with 14 doubles and 8 HR in 59 games. Blake Trinkler played the utility role for Everett, hitting .229 with 18 RBI in 41 games.
Headlining the group of potential Clinton catchers is certainly Steven Baron, Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick (#33 overall) out of Ferguson (FL) High School. Baron struggled in his first pro assignment with Pulaski, hitting .179 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 30 games. However, his numbers slightly improved towards the end of the season. Baron raised his average 39 points over his final seven games. Taking into consideration that ’09 LumberKing Nate Tenbrink hit just .198 with Everett in 2008 prior to batting .282 with 10 HR and 59 RBI last year, it’s possible that Baron comes to Clinton and improves at the plate. However, Tenbrink was older and more experienced than Baron will be heading into 2010. Tenbrink also didn’t have the added responsibilities of working with a pitching staff like Baron has.
If no Baron, 2009 draft picks Trevor Coleman (9th round) and Brandon Bantz (30th round) could catch for the Kings. Coleman struggled, hitting .184 in 32 games with Everett, while Bantz produced a solid .290, 3 HR, 15 RBI stint with the AquaSox. Given the fact that Juan Fuentes, Tommy Johnson and Henry Contreras all saw limited time behind the plate in Clinton last year and could be back, it’s quite possible that none of these three arrive in ’10.
A Wealth of Potential in the Outfield
When looking at the outfield of both Pulaski and Everett, it’s hard not to get excited about the
group that could be coming in. The AquaSox had both James Jones (4th round) and Matt Cerione (13th round) in their outfield last year, in addition to Jose Rivero (pictured right). Jones hit .311 over 45 games, mashing 3 HR and 24 RBI in that span. Cerione flashed a little more power with 7 HR, hitting .266 with 14 RBI over 43 games. Rivero finished third on the club in RBI behind Avila and Mario Martinez with 32, going along with his .251 average and 4 HR.
Brandon Haveman (29th round) was Pulaski’s standout outfielder thanks to a .339, 5 HR, 18 RBI campaign. Jarrett Burgess (.187, 5 HR, 22 RBI), Mark McGonigle (.283, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and Greg Waddell (.195, 2 HR, 6 RBI) all saw time in the Mariners’ outfield as well. Burgess is still trying to find his way after a 6th round selection in the 2008 June draft.
Much like the catching corps, it’s tough to say which of these players will be LumberKings this year. It’s more likely that we see the return of Ryan Royster, Welington Dotel, Dwight Britton and others at least at the beginning of the season.
The Rotation: A Tough Act to Follow
It’s no question that pitching was the key to success for the LumberKings last year, specifically starting pitching. At times last year, at least three Kings’ hurlers ranked amongst the league’s Top 10 in ERA. Kenn Kasparek finished the season as the ERA leader, Clinton’s first since Salomon Torres in 1991. Quite simply, it’s going to be hard to top last year.
Here’s some of the new names that might try. Right-hander Taylor Stanton (pictured left), Seattle’s 26th round pick in 2008, had a breakout year of sorts with Everett. In 15 starts, he went 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA. Most notably, he led the rotation in innings (87.1), WHIP (1.23) and wins (5). Outside of Stanton, only two other pitchers made at least 14 starts for the AquaSox…Chris Kirkland (a LumberKing briefly last year) and right-hander Luke Burnett. Like Stanton, Burnett was an ’08 draft pick (14th round) that finally saw action last year. He went 2-4, 4.66 in 14 starts.
Righty Taylor Lewis (3-1, 7.82 in 5 starts) and left-hander Nick Czyz (2-2, 3.34 in 5 starts) were also brief members of the Everett rotation. Lewis also logged one start for Pulaski.
Transitioning back to the Appalachian League, the Pulaski club featured four pitchers with eight-or-more starts. Thirty-sixth round right-hander John Housey (3-2, 2.62) was the most successful of that bunch, posting a 1.10 WHIP and a .194 opponent batting average. Righty Brandon Maurer (3-4, 3.61 in 12 starts, 1 CG) and Jean Tome (3-4, 5.18 in 10 starts) put up very similar numbers. Eighth-round lefty James Gillheeney is the top draft pick of the group (8th round), but he went 0-3, 4.84 over six games, four starts.
This is a resounding theme, but with Kirkland, Anthony Vasquez, Maikel Cleto, Andres Esquibel and Jon Hesketh all possible returnees, its not for certain who might join the rotation this year. One thing is for sure, they have their work cut out for them to match last year’s league-leading 3.35 team ERA.
Can the Pen Get Any Mightier?
Much like the conversation on the starting rotation, it’s fairly clear that next year’s bullpen will have big shoes to fill. Last year’s staff featured All-Stars Ruben Flores and Cheyne Hann, plus solid set-up in guys like Brandon Josselyn, Jose Jimenez, Brian Moran and Matt Renfree.
Next year’s pen might very well consist of some of the pitchers mentioned in the above section, but here’s a few more to consider. Right-hander Christian Staehely (pictured right) went 4-2 with a pen-best 3.16 ERA in Everett, striking out 40 while walking only nine over 31.1 innings. Pulaski right-handers Jorden Merry (40th round in ’09) and Chris Sorce (26th round in ’09) were the most serviceable relievers in an otherwise lackluster pen. Merry led the club in saves, converting 5-of-6 in addition to his 2-1, 3.06 statline. Sorce was 2-1, 3.45 with a save in two chances over seven outings.
Some AZL Standouts
At about this point, I’m sure you’re thinking “what about the guys in Peoria?”. Well, many of the players listed above (Franklin, Rivero, Housey, etc.) did spend some time in the Arizona League last year. I’ll list a few more below who could see Clinton this year.
First-baseman Rich Poythress, last year’s second-round pick and a Golden Spikes finalist while at Georgia made his pro debut in AZ and hit .300 with a HR and 6 RBI over six games. It’s very possible Poythress’s college experience (.376, 25 HR, 86 RBI as a junior) will help him move directly to High Desert like fellow second-rounder Dennis Raben did a year ago. First-baseman Evan Sharpley, Seattle’s final draft choice in 2009 (50th round) had a nice showing over 37 games, hitting .333 with 12 doubles, 7 HR and 29 RBI. Second-baseman Kevin Mailloux (45th round) hit .311 with 14 doubles, 5 HR and 37 RBI before a brief call-up to Everett.
On the mound, Peoria’s most impressive man was their closer. Right-hander Jeff Breedlove went 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA and converted 10-of-12 saves. Opponents hit just .205 against him over his 20 appearances. In the rotation, Miguel Celestino (5-3, 4.73) and Chris Kessinger (5-3, 2.45) were the only pitchers with at least seven starts. Kessinger was a 37th-rounder last season.
And there you have it, my preview is complete. Again, this is all speculation and we won’t know until early April who has actually made the 25-man roster. Once that announcement is out, you’ll see it here and on LumberKings.com before anywhere else. Finally, as I said at the finale of Part One, if there’s anyone I’ve overlooked, any mistakes you’ve caught or any differing opinions you might have, feel free to add your thoughts/comments.