Results tagged ‘ Blake Beavan ’

Retro Interview: Kyle Seager

A disappointing 4-3 loss in the ninth inning to the Cedar Rapids Kernels combined with more exciting pre-game news coming from Seattle means another “retro interview” segment today.

Infielder Kyle Seager, a LumberKing just three seasons ago, is joining the Seattle Mariners today after hitting .455 in 12 games with triple-A Tacoma.  Once he debuts, he’ll be the sixth former Clinton player to make an MLB debut this season and the 230th in the history of the franchise dating back to 1937.  For the full press release on Seager, visit this link from LumberKings.com.

As I mentioned in my “Retro Interview” post on right-hander Blake Beavan (who debuted for the Mariners just last Sunday and won with a run over 7.0 innings against San Diego), my old audio links from the pre-WordPress days are inactive.  So, here’s a re-visit of my 2009 interviews with Seager and a couple of his LumberKings’ highlights:

Seager, wearing #15, will be available for Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge tonight as they take on the LA Angels.  Meanwhile, we here in Clinton prepare for game two of a three-game series against the Angels’ Midwest League affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.7.11 kingsnotes

Tonight’s Starting Lineup:  7.7.11 lineup

Right-hander Taijuan Walker dominated the Kernels with five innings of scoreless, two-hit ball back on May 26.  That’s the last time the 18-year-old earned a win, as he’s gone 0-2 with four no-decisions since then.  He’ll take the baseball starting at 7:00 PM tonight, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.

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Beavan Wins Debut

Ted S. Warren / AP

Much like he won his first career game with the LumberKings back in late April of 2008, right-hander Blake Beavan made his Major League debut memorable with a win over the San Diego Padres yesterday.  Beavan limited the Friars to just a run (coming on a Will Venable double) on three hits over 7.0 innings, walked two and struck out four as the Mariners won, 3-1.

Read the full recap of the game via Mariners.com and check out some video on Beavan here:  http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_07_03_sdnmlb_seamlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=sea

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Retro Interview: Blake Beavan

The six-game road trip switches cities tonight as your LumberKings head to Peoria to take on the Chiefs.  Clinton went just 1-9 against the Chiefs in the first half, but are 5-4 and alone in third place so far this half while Peoria is 3-6 and stuck in a tie for last place. 

The Kings nearly pulled off a three-game sweep in the Quad Cities last night as Stefen Romero singlehandedly erased a 3-0 deficit with a 3-for-4 game including a two-run homer to right-center (listen: Romero 2-R HR (#6) 7.2.11) in the fourth inning and a game-tying two-out single scoring Robbie Anston in the sixth.  Right-hander Taijuan Walker settled in after a rough second inning that included back-to-back home runs by Jonathan Rodriguez and Nick Longmire, yielding three runs (two earned) over 6.0 innings and striking out eight.  Unfortunately, right-hander Jessie Nava loaded the bases in the eighth and issued four-straight pitches outside of the zone to walk Packy Elkins, giving the Bandits a 4-3 lead.  Romero doubled to start the ninth (falling a triple shy of the cycle), but Kalian Sams struck out with Romero at third and Kevin Rivers flied to right, ending the game and the chances for the sweep.

While we get ready to see left-hander Tony Butler, Seattle’s third-round pick in 2006, take another step in his comeback as he debuts for the LumberKings tonight, the spotlight shines bright on a former King making a much higher-profile debut.  As  you’ve already likely seen, 2008 right-hander Blake Beavan is making his Major League debut today for the Mariners as they host San Diego.

Ok, so, maybe this was already featured in “The Interview Vault” this offseason, but I thought it’d be a prime opportunity to post my May 1, 2008 interview with Beavan following his first professional start, a win over the Great Lakes Loons.  With the recent “great WordPress migration” of the MLBlogs, my old interview links no longer work, so here’s a re-post of Blake’s first Minor League interview…the topics covered ranged from the start in front of his parents and then-Rangers-pitching coordinator Rick Adair, his fastball/slider/change arsenal, getting drafted in the first round by his hometown team (the Rangers) and more.

Listen Here:  Blake Beavan Interview (after first pro start on 5.1.08)

The man Blake is starting in place of today, Mariners’ lefty Erik Bedard, is also the player acquired by Seattle in the deal that sent Butler to Baltimore (along with Adam Jones and others).  Butler, the top player ever drafted out of Oak Creek High School (my alma-mater)  is making his first Midwest League start since, ironically, defeating the LumberKings at Alliant Energy Field on August 31, 2007.  Hopefully his comeback path goes as successfully as Tom Wilhelmsen’s did in Clinton last year.

More on Butler, Romero and others in tonight’s Game Notes:  7.3.11 kingsnotes

The game begins at 6:30 PM, listen to the broadcast online at 1390kcln.com.

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Former King Beavan to Debut with Mariners

Right-hander Blake Beavan, a 2008 LumberKing, makes his Major League debut in Seattle today

Peoria, IL – Former Clinton LumberKings’ right-hander Blake Beavan is set to make his Major League debut for the Seattle Mariners today as they take on the San Diego Padres at Safeco Field, first pitch scheduled for 3:10 PM central time.

Beavan, 22, was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round (17th overall) of the 2007 June draft and made his professional debut in Clinton (then affiliated with the Rangers), going 10-6 with a 2.37 ERA (32 ER in 121.2 IP), 20 walks and 73 strikeouts over 23 starts for the LumberKings in 2008.  He limited Midwest League opponents to a .234 average, making eight quality starts.

The Irving, TX native continued on a path upwards toward Arlington, reaching double-A Frisco by the end of his second season in 2009 and capturing the Texas League Pitcher of the Year award with the RoughRiders in 2010 following a 10-5, 2.78 line in 17 starts.  On July 9, 2010, Blake was sent along with first-baseman Justin Smoak (a teammate with Clinton in ’08), infielder Matt Lawson (also on the ’08 club) and right-hander Josh Lueke (pitched parts of ’07 and ’08 with Clinton) to the Mariners in exchange for left-hander Cliff Lee.

After a 10-start stint in the Mariners’ system last season at both double-A West Tenn. (2-1, 5.00) and triple-A Tacoma (2-2, 6.47), Beavan made 16 starts for Tacoma this season, going 5-3 with a 4.45 ERA (46 ER in 93.0 IP), 20 walks and 64 strikeouts for the Rainiers.  

Beavan (wearing #49) joins fellow right-handers Lueke, Tom Wilhelmsen (both debuted with the Mariners), Cody Eppley (Texas Rangers) and Maikel Cleto (St. Louis Cardinals) as former LumberKings to be called to the Major Leagues this season.  Once he pitches, he will be the 229th former Clinton player to appear in a Major League game dating back to the franchise’s inception in 1937.

The LumberKings (5-4, 29-50) open up a three-game series at Peoria (3-6, 36-43) tonight, first pitch at O’Brien Field scheduled for 6:30 PM.  Left-hander Tony Butler (0-2, 2.57 with Everett) makes his LumberKings’ debut while the Chiefs counter with left-hander Graham Hicks (1-3, 4.22).  Listen to the game on AM 1390 KCLN in Clinton or live on the web at 1390kcln.com.

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Tonight’s Interview: Rick Waits

After allowing a career-high five earned runs in his previous start, it’s clear that left-hander James Paxton had a rebound outing last night against Quad Cities.  He set a new career high with 13 strikeouts and yielded just one run on four hits over 6.1 innings as the LumberKings beat the River Bandits, 5-1 at Alliant Energy Field.  Paxton struck out six-straight batters at one point in the game (listen:  Paxton 11th Strikeout 6.16.11), but left in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out.  Right-hander Tyler Burgoon came on and left them loaded as he induced a highlight-reel double play started by second-baseman Jorge Agudelo (listen: Agudelo Flip to Ramirez for DP 6.16.11).  Burgoon did not allow a run over 2.2 innings to secure his seventh save, making Paxton a winner for the third time.  Mickey Wiswall had the clutch hit of the night, singling home two runs to open up a 4-1 lead in the fourth (listen:  Wiswall 2-R single 6.16.11).

The efforts for K-Pax and Burgoon were well-timed as they took place in front of Mariners’ Minor League Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits.  After coaching for 15 seasons with the New York Mets (including 2003 as their Major League Bullpen Coach), Waits has inherited a minor league system chock full of potential impact arms.  Waits is my pregame guest tonight, and he shares plenty of his own insight into Paxton, tonight’s starter Taijuan Walker, Burgoon and the Clinton bullpen, former LumberKing and current Tacoma Rainier right-hander Blake Beavan and how close he is to a Seattle call-up, the outstanding arms in double-A Jackson including Andrew Carraway, Erasmo Ramirez, Anthony Vasquez, Kenn Kasparek and Tom Wilhelmsen and more.  It’s definitely a worthy listen.

Listen Here: Rick Waits (Minor League Pitching Coord) Interview 6.17.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.17.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Roster Move:  Despite the potential game-saving play last night, Agudelo has been sent to short-A Everett to clear space for infielder Shaver Hansen, who has been reinstated from the DL and will play tonight in Kane County.

Starting Lineups:

LumberKings (22-45):  Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Tim Morris/D, Matt Browning/3B, Kalian Sams/RF, Shaver Hansen/2B, Robbie Anston/LF, Billy Marcoe/C, Anthony Phillips/SS, Taijuan Walker/RHP

Kane County Cougars (27-39):  Angel Franco/2B, Ryan Stovall/3B, Brett Eibner/CF, Brian Fletcher/LF, Jake Kuebler/1B, Geulin Beltre/DH, Orlando Calixte/SS, Travis Jones/C, Julio Aparicio/RF, Leonel Santiago/RHP

First pitch is at 7:00 PM here at Elfstrom Stadium, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.

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Kings in Spring (March 14)

This may be old news to some, but I was back home in Milwaukee and unable to post it until now.  Right-hander Blake Beavan (’08) made his first Spring start as a Mariner on Saturday against Oakland and earned the win, limiting the Athletics to a run on three hits over 3.0 innings.  Shortly thereafter, Beavan was re-assigned to Minor League camp.  Right-hander Yoervis Medina (’10) also saw his time in big-league camp end as he was optioned to the High Desert spring roster.

In that Beavan start, a 10-2 win over the A’s, first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) finally woke up his bat with a 2-for-2 game including a two-out two-run single in the fourth inning and a two-run homer to left-center in the sixth.  The blast was Smoak’s first in Cactus League action.

The Mariners’ roster still includes Smoak, right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) and catcher Steven Baron (’10) at this time.  I have to say, I’m still surprised Baron is there.

Over in Surprise, the Texas Rangers sent outfielder Engel Beltre (’08), right-hander Fabio Castillo (’08) and left-hander Zach Phillips (’06-’07) back to Minor League camp on Saturday.

Continuing with Rangers camp, Ian Kinsler (’04) is hitting a healthy .367 with a .933 slugging percentage…the former Clinton infielder has a team-high five homers and nine RBI in 11 games.  While Chris Davis continues to assert his value to the team as a corner infielder, Mitch Moreland (’08) keeps fighting to hold onto the first-base spot…he’s hitting .375 with a .719 slugging percentage, five doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 12 games.  Aside from catcher Jose Felix (’08), who is 5-for-5 with a double in big-league action, the group of former Kings that includes Chad Tracy (’07), Craig Gentry (’07), Marcus Lemon (’07) and others has been largely quiet offensively.

Left-hander Derek Holland (’08) is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA, no walks and six strikeouts in his two starts, totaling 5.0 innings.  Right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) has pitched just twice in camp, including one start…the flamethrower has not allowed an earned run over 5.0 innings, but has walked three and has hit a batter in that span.  Lefty Michael Kirkman is carrying a 3.00 ERA in three outings and has struck out eight over 9.0 innings.

Scanning other camps, outfielder John Mayberry Jr. (’06) continues to look impressive in a bid for a roster spot with the Philadelphia Phillies…he’s hitting .324 with three doubles, four homers and nine RBI in 14 games.  Right-hander Maikel Cleto (’09) has had two outings with the St. Louis Cardinals and is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA, one save, four walks, three strikeouts and a home run allowed over 4.0 innings.  Right-hander Thomas Diamond (’04) is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA over four relief outings as he attemps to make the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day roster.  Catcher Manny Pina (’07) and outfielder Tim Smith (’08) have both seen minor action in Kansas City Royals’ camp…Pina is 4-for-16 (.250) with a home run and three RBI in 10 games, while Smith is hitless in two at-bats. 

There’s plenty more players to track, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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Kings in Spring (March 2)

In a game chock-full of former LumberKings, the Mariners held on to defeat the Texas Rangers, 5-4 at Peoria Stadium yesterday.  Milton Bradley was the offensive headliner with a 3-for-3, two RBI performance, but a former (and potentially future) King also had a big day.  Catcher Steven Baron plated the eventual difference-making run in his only at-bat in the eighth, launching a solo homer off Neil Ramirez.

That’s right, the 19-year-old who hit sub-.200 in Clinton last year and had only four extra-base hits started his spring with a home run in his first at-bat.  Should we read too far into his 1.000 average?  Probably not, but it is an exciting first glimpse at a more mature Baron.

The game featured 12 former Clinton players including Baron, Blake Beavan (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) and Josh Lueke (1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, got the win) for the Mariners, plus Engel Beltre (0-for-3), Davis Stoneburner (0-for-1), Mitch Moreland (0-for-2), Jose Felix (1-for-1, double, run, RBI), David Paisano (0-for-1), Chad Tracy (0-for-1), Cody Eppley (1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, took the loss), Zach Phillips (1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER) and Mark Hamburger (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K) for the Rangers.

The Mariners (2-0-1 in Cactus League play) return to action today in Scottsdale as they take on the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his spring debut.  Check out the details over at Mariners.com.

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Predicting the 2011 Roster (Part 2)

Thumbnail image for 2011previewpart2.jpg

Left-handers Anthony Fernandez (left) and Edlando Seco (right) finished 2-3 in the Northwest League in ERA last season.

Part two of my third-annual educated guess at the upcoming LumberKings’ roster is today, with a look at players who I think will make their Clinton debuts at some point in 2011.  Again, my disclaimer…I have no advanced knowledge of the roster via the Seattle Mariners at this point in the year, thus this is just my opinion.  If anyone I’ve mentioned is no longer with the Mariners’ organization (trade, release, retirement, etc.), please feel free to update me in the “comments” section below.

It’s easy to get excited about the crop of talent coming up, given that four of the five teams below low-A advanced to the playoffs last year.  Everett, the team we’re likely to see the most players from, won the Northwest League title last season under the guidance of Jose Moreno and newly-named LumberKings’ pitching coach Rich Dorman.  Pulaski, the other top feeder team, advanced to the postseason under current manager Eddie Menchaca.  The players coming up from those two squads will already be well versed in what it takes to win, and they’ll be working with a staff that is more than familiar with their skillset.  That should be a solid recipe for success here in Clinton.  Now, let’s take a position-by-position look at some of the players who could be wearing black and green in 2011.

Catcher

As I said in part one of the preview, 2009 supplemental first-rounder Steven Baron, who split his first pro season between Clinton and Everett, should be the everyday catcher here.  He started 50 of the AquaSox’ 76 games behind the plate and was named the NWL’s top catcher. Cal State Fullerton product Billy Marcoe (.153, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .383 OPS) appeared in 11 games for Everett as Baron’s backup last year.  He could be filling that role again.  Pulaski’s catching corps included Venezuela native Larry Gonzalez (.267, 1 HR, 17 RBI, .700 OPS), Dominican native Hassiel Jimenez (.229, 0 HR, 8 RBI, .541 OPS) and Seattle’s 32nd round pick out of Vanderbilt, Andrew Giobbi (.291, 2 HR, 12 RBI, .764 OPS).  Seattle’s highest-drafted catcher in 2010 was sixth-round pick Christian Carmichael, who needs a season at short-A before he’s ready for the Midwest League.  Carmichael, drafted out of Mililani High School in Hawaii, hit .100 in just 11 games in the AZL.  It’s anyone’s guess at this point who the other catcher (or second and third catchers) will be, but I’d put my money on Gonzalez or Giobbi and bank on Carmichael in 2012.

First Base   

Evan Sharpley, the Mariners’ 50th-round and final selection of the 2009 June draft, was better known as the backup quarterback to Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame when Seattle selected him.  After solid efforts in the AZL in ’09 (.333, 7 HR, 29 RBI) and Everett in ’10 (.231, 6 HR, 42 RBI, .706 OPS), Sharpley has proven he belongs in pro baseball.  Granted, .231 with a .318 OBP isn’t lighting up the Northwest League, but he still started 64 of Everett’s 76 games last year and can provide power from the left side of the plate.  Pulaski had a first-base platoon situation with Hofstra product and 35th round pick Ethan Paquette (.236, 3 HR, 19 RBI, .643 OPS) splitting time with Matt Browning (.330, 4 HR, 24 RBI, .947 OPS), the 43rd round pick out of James Madison.  Paquette is the only natural first-baseman of the group with Sharpley and Browning both moving over from third base, but I think this spot ultimately goes to Sharpley.  I projected in my previous post that Tim Morris should return, but we’ll see who emerges this Spring.

Second Base

LumberKings’ alums Hawkins Gebbers and Terry Serrano handled most of the second-base duties for Everett last year, and either one could be back on the Clinton infield.  Since this post is about new faces, I’ll focus elsewhere.  Menchaca’s Pulaski team featured an intriguing second-baseman named Jorge Agudelo, who ripped 16 doubles and legged out seven triples in just 59 games while hitting .287.  The Caracas, VZ native also exhibited a knack for baserunning, stealing an Appy League-high 24 bases in 31 attempts.  The Kings haven’t had a true speedster at the top of the lineup since Engel Beltre in ’08, so it’d be great to see Agudelo flying around the bases.  Unless Gabriel Noriega repeats the league and isn’t the starting shortstop (more on that later), I think Agudelo has the inside track on the second base spot.  Gebbers, Serrano and Carlos Ramirez are all solid utility choices, while 30th-round pick Derek Poppert (.242, 8 doubles, HR, 11 RBI) could be in the mix also.    

Third Base

When Menchaca was in for the Hot Stove Banquet in January, he raved about third-baseman Ramon Morla whenever he was asked about his players from Pulaski.  The 21-year-old San Pedro de Macoris product was a near Triple Crown winner in the Appy League, blasting a league-best 17 homers in 62 games while hitting .323 (2nd) and driving in 49 runs (2nd).  Only Elizabethton’s Oswaldo Arcia (who figures to be big in Beloit this year) led more offensive categories than Morla.  He won’t be Mario Martinez on defense, given that he committed a team-high 21 errors at the hot corner last year, but his offensive numbers are exciting enough to forgive that fact.  The Mariners’ used their 12th-round pick on Oregon State third-baseman Stefen Romero, but he was unable to play last season after fracturing his arm in late May.  Romero was hitting .326 with 13 homers and 41 RBI with the Beavers prior to the injury.  Director of Amateur Scouting Tom McNamara is high on Romero, but you can’t argue against Morla’s MVP-like season.  I say, let’s see them both.  Someone’s got to DH.

Shortstop 

No question, the shortstop position will be the biggest shoes to fill in the eyes of most LumberKings’ fans.  Nick Franklin enjoyed one of the best offensive seasons in club history last year and emerged as the #3 prospect in the entire Seattle system.  With respects to Pulaski’s Jake Schlander (the 31st-round pick out of Stanford, hit .259, one HR, 25 RBI, .671 OPS) and Everett’s Anthony Phillips (.204, 2 HR, 12 RBI, .627), 2010 second-round pick Marcus Littlewood should be a more-than-capable replacement to Franklin.  The 19-year-old Littlewood was drafted out of St. George High School in Utah and didn’t play for an affiliate last year, yet was ranked the #8 prospect in the system by Baseball America.  Like Franklin, Littlewood has Team USA experience, suiting up with the 16-and-under National Team at the 2008 Pan Am Youth Games (they won gold) and the 18-and-under squad last year.  BA projects him to hit for average and put up 10-15 home runs as Clinton’s everyday shortstop in 2011.  How can I disagree?

Outfield

Two of Everett’s top four hitters resided in the outfield, with left-handed hitting right-fielder Kevin Rivers leading the way.  Rivers, signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2009 out of the same school that produced Scott Savastano (Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire), shook off pedestrian numbers in the AZL and hit a team-best .332 (3rd in the NWL) with 11 blasts, 48 RBI, a league-best .466 on-base percentage and a 1.022 OPS for the AquaSox.  Centerfielder Robbie Anston also had a productive year for the AquaSox after a 26th-round selection out of Boston College, hitting .292 with 13 doubles, two homers, 24 RBI and 15 steals in 23 attempts.  Anston was one of Everett’s top playoff hitters, batting .333 with three doubles.

Menchaca’s Pulaski team was also anchored by powerful outfielders, most notably Venezuelans Jose Rivero (.295, 7 HR, 35 RBI, .817 OPS) and switch-hitting Mario Yepez (.231, 12 doubles, 6 HR, 27 RBI, .652 OPS).  Left-handed hitting James Wood, the 47th-round pick, hit .291 and had a .794 OPS in 28 games.  The one I’ve heard most about, however, is the eighth-round pick out of Miami Dade Community College, Jabari Blash.  Originally from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Blash looks like the heir apparent to James Jones in right field.  The 6’4″ Blash is just about the same size as JJ, plus he hit at a similar clip (.266, 5 HR, 20 RBI, .839 OPS) over his 32 games in the Appy League.  BA rated Blash the fastest player of the Mariners’ 2010 draft class, and we’ll see if he can cover JJ-like ground when he patrols right-field.  I expect him to be joined by Rivers in left and Anston in center, with Rivero, Yepez, Kalian Sams and Ryan Royster fighting for the fourth spot or stepping in to the DH role.  In regards to Menchaca’s lineup, I’d like to see Anston and Rivers in the 2-3 spots with Blash protecting Morla around the five spot. 

Starting Rotation 

One thing the Mariners have always supplied the LumberKings since the affiliation began in 2009 is brilliant starting pitching.  The 2009 club led the Midwest League in ERA at 3.35 and featured league ERA champion Kenn Kasparek, while the 2010 team ranked second in ERA at 3.66 and sported the league’s top right-hander (Erasmo Ramirez) and second-best left-hander (Jimmy Gillheeney).  Will the rotation live up to the standards of the last two years?

Looking just at the top three starters in Dorman’s Everett rotation, it looks like the 2011 starters should be outstanding.  The AquaSox posted a Northwest League-best 3.22 ERA thanks largely to a pair of southpaws, Edlando Seco and Anthony Fernandez.  The duo finished 2-3 in the league in ERA, with the Calabozo, VZ native Seco going 3-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 14 starts while Fernandez, from Santiago, DR went 8-3 with a 2.59 ERA over 15 starts.  Fernandez finished atop the league in fewest baserunners per 9.0 IP (10.26), tied for first in wins (8), second in WHIP (1.12) and third in fewest walks per 9.0 IP (1.94) while Seco held opponents to a league-low .169 average, finished third in WHIP (1.20) and third as well in strikeouts per 9.0 IP (9.52).  Simply put, the lefties put on a show for the eventual champs.

Yet, they weren’t the only stellar starters for Everett.  Right-hander Chris Sorce, Seattle’s 26th-round pick out of Troy in 2009, made the move from the bullpen to the rotation this season and was fantastic in 15 starts, going 8-2 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.  I had him projected to be in Clinton’s pen last year, but there’s no doubt in my mind he should be in the Kings’ rotation this season.

Pulaski has an ace of their own to offer up.  Right-hander Tim Boyce, the 44th-round pick out of the University of Rhode Island, won an Appalachian League-best nine games (9-3) and had the league’s 10th-best ERA of 2.98 over 13 games, eight starts.  In the mold of Ramirez, Boyce is a control artist — he walked seven while striking out 42 over 47.1 innings as a starter and had a paltry 1.03 WHIP, fourth-best in the Appy League.

Continuing with Pulaski…right-hander Jessie Nava (4-3, 4.36 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) was a reliable starter aside from his propensity to give up home runs (a league-high 8 in 13 starts).  Righty George Mieses went 4-4 with a 3.45 ERA and the league’s third-lowest walks per 9.0 IP average (1.19) over his 13 starts.  Right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen went 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA in seven games, five starts after his 45th-round selection.

All of those pitchers could quickly be overshadowed if Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick, 18-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker, comes to town.  Walker was the 43rd player drafted last year despite having more experience as a high school basketball player than as a pitcher.  That’s because of a large frame (he’s 6’4″ according to most reports) and a live arm (his fastball has touched 95 mph, and he backs it up with a decent slider and change).  Walker went 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA and a stingy .087 opponent average over his four appearances in the AZL last year, a very encouraging start to a career that might take a few seasons to develop.  The Mariners are in no need to rush Walker here to Clinton, but I think he’ll factor into the rotation once the weather gets warmer (much like Kasey Kiker and Blake Beavan did in ’07 and ’08).

Even if Walker doesn’t arrive this year, the Kings could be in for some other surprises from the Dominican Summer League and the Venezuela Summer League much like Ramirez was in 2010.  Left-hander Henry Perez went 7-1 with a 0.86 ERA in 11 starts in the DSL, striking out 76 while walking only 10 (can someone say Erasmo-like?) and limiting opponents to a .187 average over 73.0 innings.  He’s not particularly young (he’ll turn 22 after the season), meaning he likely can handle the jump to the United States.  Left-hander Brandol Perez might be more likely to stay in the DSL despite going 7-0 with a 0.19 ERA (yes, you read that right) over 11 games, six starts last year…he’ll be 18 in August.  Right-hander Vicente Campos was the DSL Mariners’ top starter, going 8-2 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and .231 opponent average in 12 starts.  Campos will turn 19 in July, leading me to believe we’ll probably see him in 2012.

If the Clinton rotation features any combination of Walker, Seco, Fernandez, Boyce, Sorce and Perez this year, we could witness the most dominant LumberKings’ staff in recent history.  Given all that we’ve seen as a Seattle affiliate, that’s saying a lot.

Bullpen

Things certainly look promising for the first six-to-seven innings, but will the Kings’ bullpen be able to finish things off?  A lot of Everett’s bullpen made their way to Clinton and were sent back down, but there’s a few arms out there we haven’t seen.  Right-hander Willy Kesler, the 18th-round pick out of the University of New Mexico, went 3-2 with a 1.47 ERA in 19 relief outings and held NWL opponents to a .213 average.  Kesler led the team in holds (5) and was tied with Jason Markovitz and Stephen Pryor for the saves lead (4-for-4).  Right-hander Austin Hudson, the 27th-round pick in ’09, went 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA over 20 games (including seven starts) but was just 3-for-6 in save attempts.  New York, NY native Eric Valdez was also impressive in seven relief outings for the AquaSox, going 0-0 with a 0.64 ERA and a .192 opponent average.  Right-hander Tyler Burgoon, the 10th-round pick out of Michigan, had decent numbers outside of a 4.40 ERA…his 0.98 WHIP ranked third on the team amongst pitchers with eight-plus outings.

Back over to Pulaski, right-hander Bryan Leigh (2-0, 1.71 ERA, 3-of-3 in saves, 1.05 WHIP, .203 opponent average) was their most reliable reliever.  Right-handers Lance Abbott (0-0, 2.25 ERA) and Preston Vancil (2-1, 2.84 ERA) also checked in under the 3.00 ERA mark, although they had just one hold and one save combined.  I’m pulling for right-hander Ben Versnik, the 38th-round pick out of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, to make the roster.  Versnik, born in West Allis, Wisconsin (my birthplace as well) went 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA in six outings. 

The AZL offers up a few names as well, including left-handers Kody Kurowski (1-3, 4.30, 5-for-7 in saves) and Scott Ronnenbergh (0-1, 2.13, 1-for-1 in saves) and right-handers Danny Cruz-Ayala (1-0, 4.05, 3-for-4 in saves) and Jandy Sena (4-2, 4.01, 1-for-2 in saves).

As you can see, there’s no clear-cut closer amongst the players I’ve named, but we might not know who fits into that role until well into the season.  It will be fun to see how it all pieces together, especially with a lot of returnees to the pen from last year’s playoff club.

Whew, that was a long one.  If you’re still reading by this point, congrats…you’ve stuck with me until the end of this preview and you’re truly a diehard LumberKings’ fan.  Feel free to share your own thoughts in the “comments” section below, I’d be interested in hearing what others think.  Of course, we won’t know for sure until just prior to April 7 when the team arrives from Peoria, AZ.  Check out this blog and LumberKings.com around that time to find out the official word on the Opening Night roster.

-DL

Kings in Spring (Feb. 24)

The Mariners have announced the pitching lineups for tomorrow’s intra-squad game at the Peoria Sports Complex and former LumberKings’ right-hander Blake Beavan has been selected to start against right-hander Michael Pineda.

The 22-year-old Beavan is in his first Spring Training with the Mariners after being included as part of the Cliff Lee trade last July.  He and Pineda will each throw an inning.

Team Two, of which Beavan is starting for, will also feature outings from right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08), Edward Paredes, Yoervis Medina (’10) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10).  It’s a “who’s who” of former Kings, aside from the Wisconsin Timber Rattler alum Paredes.

Unfortunately, I will not be attending Spring Training myself this year, so I won’t be able to post the pictures and video as I have the past two seasons.  Still, I’ll be doing my best to keep an eye on former LumberKings in various camps this spring, from Evan Reed and Omar Poveda with the Florida Marlins to John Mayberry Jr. with the Philadelphia Phillies to Jose Vallejo with the Houston Astros and everyone else in between.

-DL

Baron and Beavan invited to Spring Training

In a press release issued by the Mariners today, former LumberKings catcher Steven Baron (’10) and right-hander Blake Beavan (’08) have been invited to Spring Training, set to begin February 19 in Peoria, AZ.

The 20-year-old Baron, a supplemental first-round pick in 2009, hit .182 with three doubles, a home run and 14 RBI in 45 games with the LumberKings last season.  He also spent 53 games with short-A Everett, batting .253 with 12 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI for the eventual Northwest League champs.  Baron was named to the NWL All-Star Team following the year.

Beavan, originally a first-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2007, went 2-1 with a 5.00 ERA in double-A West Tenn and 2-2 with a 6.47 ERA in triple-A Tacoma after being acquired by the Mariners in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Texas.  The 22-year-old made his professional debut with the Kings in 2008, going 10-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 23 starts.

Beavan was recently featured in an online video produced by the Mariners.  The link is up over at LumberKings.com.  Definitely a must-watch interview.

-DL

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