Results tagged ‘ Jandy Sena ’

Fourth-Round Catcher Hicks Joins Kings

The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the addition of catcher John Hicks, the fourth-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Virginia, to the Clinton 25-man roster.  The LumberKings have also promoted right-hander Jandy Sena to high-A High Desert and have received left-hander Ryan Kiel from the Peoria Mariners (AZL).

 Hicks was a three-year starter at Virginia, hitting .316 (245-for-775) with 54 doubles, four triples, 24 home runs and 146 RBI in 195 career games with the Cavaliers.  Defensively, he threw out over 42% of attempting base stealers (37-for-87).

 The 21-year-old Sandy Hook, VAnative hit .332 (92-for-277) with 21 doubles, eight home runs and 59 RBI in his junior season at Virginia.  He and fellow Cavaliers left-hander Danny Hultzen (Seattle’s first-round pick, second overall selection) and third-baseman Steven Proscia (7th round) were all drafted by the Mariners this past June.  Hicks joins outfielder Mike McGee (15th round out of Florida State) as 2011 draftees to reach Clinton this season. 

 Sena, 21, was 4-5 with a 4.56 ERA over 14 games, five starts with the LumberKings this season.  Seattle’s 23rd round pick in 2010 out of Marion Military Institute, Sena walked 17, struck out 19 and limited Midwest League opponents to a .279 average.  His move to High Desert is his second promotion this season.  Sena also pitched twice for double-A Jackson in late May, going 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a save.

Kiel, 24, joins Clinton after going 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA over two outings (2.0 innings) in the AZL.  Seattle’s 37th round pick in 2010 out of Marshall University went 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and one save for the Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League last year.

Hicks and Kiel join the LumberKings in time for the final game of a three-game set againstCedar Rapidsscheduled for 7:00 PM tonight at Alliant Energy Field.  Their additions give the LumberKings a total of 25 active players with two on the disabled list.  Neither player has yet selected a uniform number.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Tony Butler

Happy Independence Day!  The LumberKings freed themselves from a 2-2 tie in the top of the 10th last night in Peoria as Mike McGee ripped a one-out double into the left-field corner, moved to third on a single by Carlos Ramirez and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mickey Wiswall.  Right-hander Jonathan Arias struck out six over the last 3.0 innings including two in the bottom of the 10th, securing his third win and giving the Kings a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Chiefs.

The “Cardiac Kings” have won five of their six games this second half in the last at-bat, with Wiswall now providing the game-winning RBI in the last two of them.  Wiswall also drove in Kevin Rivers for the deciding run in Clinton’s 5-3 win at Quad Cities on Friday night.

In addition to the big nights for McGee (2-for-5, five-game hitting streak), Wiswall (1-for-4, 7-game hitting streak) and Arias (3-0, 2.16 ERA since May), the LumberKings also received a solid start from a familiar name to Mariners’ fans.  Left-hander Tony Butler, making his first Midwest League start since August 31, 2007, turned in 5.1 innings of two-run, four-hit baseball in a no-decision.  Despite walking five, Butler fanned three (listen:  Butler Strikes Out Rohan 7.3.11) and did not allow an extra-base hit.

Seattle’s third-round pick in 2006 out of Oak Creek High School (WI), Butler has taken quite a journey already through six seasons in Minor League Baseball.  As you’ve likely already read, he went from a top prospect in the Mariners’ system (#4 rated by Baseball America back in 2007) to injury-plagued in Baltimore following the Erik Bedard trade, then was released by the O’s, signed by Milwaukee and released again.  This past Super Bowl Sunday, Butler made the decision to stick with his dream of playing professional baseball, moved to Arizona, worked out to get back into baseball shape and secured a tryout with the Mariners.  Now at age 23, he’s using the lessons learned from the ups and downs to make his way back.

Butler talks about his return to the organization that drafted him, last night’s start against the Chiefs, pitching in short-A Everett for the first time since ’06, comparisons to right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen’s 2010 comeback  and plenty more.  It’s an all-OCHS interview that will likely make my old TV teacher Mr. Stock smile.

Listen Here:  Butler Interview 7.4.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.4.11 kingsnotes

An excerpt from tonight’s notes to keep in mind on this Independence Day:

The LumberKings are 4-0 on July 4th dating back to 2007, including 3-0 on the road.  Clinton erased a 3-1 deficit with a four-run ninth inning last year at O’Brien Field in Peoria as Mario Martinez laced a bases-loaded two-run double off Chiefs’ reliever Frank Batista and Brandon Bantz (sac fly) and Daniel Carroll (RBI single) added runs against Yohan Gonzalez…right-hander Daniel Cooper (W, 3-2) got the win and closer Brandon Josselyn (S, 10) the save.  In 2009, the Kings hosted Kane County at Alliant Energy Field and won 5-0 behind 6.0 scoreless, three-hit innings from right-hander Aaron Pribanic (W, 7-4)…Blake Ochoa had a three-run double, finishing 1-for-4.  Clinton won in 2008 at Beloit behind 7.0 scoreless, three-hit innings from right-hander Blake Beavan (W, 5-5) and RBI from Mitch Moreland (2-for-3, RBI #49) and Miguel Alfonzo (solo HR, his third of the season).  The 2007 season started the trend as right-hander Kasey Kiker (W, 3-2) handcuffed the Swing of the Quad Cities with 6.0 scoreless, three-hit innings and seven strikeouts.  Craig Gentry powered the road win, going 2-for-4 with a solo HR (his third of the season).  Chad Tracy, Marcus Lemon and Mauro Gomez each had an RBI.

Can right-hander Jandy Sena (4-4, 4.75) bounce back from his 10-run (6 ER) outing against Beloit and secure a fifth-straight July 4th victory for the Kings?  We’ll find out tonight starting with the first pitch at 6:00 PM, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Eddie Menchaca (Vol. 5)

After a four-day hiatus for the Midwest League All-Star Break, your LumberKings are back at it tonight as they open the second half at home against the Burlington Bees.  With the second half beginning, it’s back to a 0-0 record and an eight-way tie for first in the West Division, although the Kings no longer have to worry about both Burlington and Wild Card winner Quad Cities as far as the standings are concerned.

Eddie Menchaca’s LumberKings might get treated like the underdogs as the second half begins, but a 9-8 record so far in the month of June indicates a club ready to turn things around with the fresh start.  My first interview of the second half is with the Clinton skipper, and we’ll talk about the team’s refocused attitude, the strong starting rotation including tonight’s starter Jandy Sena and Futures Game representative James Paxton, an offense now featuring a healthy Julio Morban and a new second-baseman in Jetsy Extrano, setting the tone against the first-half champion Bees and more.

Listen Here:  Menchaca Interview 6.24.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.24.11 kingsnotes

Roster Moves:  Yesterday, the LumberKings swapped second-basemen as Shaver Hansen was promoted to high-A High Desert and Jetsy Extrano was received from short-A Everett.  Today, catcher Billy Marcoe was sent to the AZL to make room for Steven Baron, who has been reinstated from the disabled list.  Extrano and Baron are both in tonight’s lineup.

Starting Lineups:

Burlington Bees (0-0, 45-25):  Royce Consigli/RF, Nino Leyja/2B, Tony Thompson/3B, A.J. Kirby-Jones/1B, Josh Whitaker/DH, Douglas Landaeta/LF, Yordy Cabrera/SS, John Nester/C, Tyreace House/CF, Sean Murphy/RHP

LumberKings (0-0, 24-46):  Stefen Romero/DH, Julio Morban/CF, Matt Browning/3B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Tim Morris/1B, Steven Baron/C, Kalian Sams/RF, Jetsy Extrano/2B, Anthony Phillips/SS, Jandy Sena/RHP

The quest for the 10th playoff spot in the last 14 seasons starts tonight at 7:00 PM.  Listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Jandy Sena

The LumberKings carried over the road success in the opening game of a nine-game homestand last night, shutting out Dayton in a 1-0 win last night.  Right-hander Taijuan Walker lasted only 2.0 innings in his seventh start of the season as a result of a high early pitch count, but right-handers Jandy Sena and Jessie Nava picked him up, combining on 7.0 innings of one-hit baseball.  The lone run came in the second inning when Carlos Ramirez deliverd a two-out RBI single to left scoring Kevin Rivers (listen: Ramirez RBI single 6.7.11).

Tonight, I catch up with Sena, the Cuban-born and Miami-raised right-hander and former first-baseman at Marion Military Institute.  Sena was drafted by the Mariners in the 23rd round of last year’s draft and has already pitched as high as double-A Jackson this season.  He talks about last night’s outing in relief of Walker, his stint with the Generals, his pitches, going to MMI and more.

Listen Here:  Sena Interview 6.8.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.8.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Dayton Dragons (28-30):  Billy Hamilton/SS, Tucker Barnhart/C, Dominic D’Anna/D, Yorman Rodriguez/RF, Donald Lutz/1B, David Vidal/3B, Juan Duran/LF, Devin Lohman/2B, Jefry Sierra/CF, Josh Smith/RHP

LumberKings (20-39):  Robbie Anston/CF, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Tim Morris/1B, Kalian Sams/RF, Jabari Blash/LF, Steven Baron/C, Jorge Agudelo/2B, Carlos Ramirez/3B, Anthony Phillips/SS, George Mieses/RHP

19-year-old right-hander George Mieses looks to finally get on track after going 0-4 with an 8.69 ERA in his last six starts.  Join me for the broadcast beginning at 7:00 PM on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Rich Dorman (Vol. 2)

Yes, the LumberKings went 0-3 on the homestand against the West’s first-place team, the Burlington Bees (including a 4-2 loss last night), but there’s no doubt the Clinton pitching staff is coming around.  As you’ll read in tonight’s Game Notes (posted below), the rotation is 3-4 with a 2.67 ERA over the last 11 games and the bullpen is 1-2 with a 1.64 ERA over the last four games. 

Right-hander Forrest Snow fell to 1-4 despite allowing four runs (one earned) over 6.0 innings last night.  Right-hander Brandon Maurer has an ERA of 0.69 over his last two starts.  Left-hander James Paxton made strides in his second start two games ago.  Right-hander Jandy Sena (no runs in two games, 4.0 IP) and left-hander Edlando Seco (no runs in two games, 6.0 IP) are helping the bullpen turn it around.  There’s signs of life amongst the Clinton arms.

Thus, it’s time to talk to pitching coach Rich Dorman again.  In the full-cut interview (a shorter version will air on the broadcast), Dorman talks about Snow, Maurer, George Mieses, Paxton, tonight’s starter Taijuan Walker, Sena, Seco and others.  Definitelya worthy listen as Dorman elaborates with great detail over nearly nine minutes.

Listen Here:  Dorman Interview 5.10.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.10.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

LumberKings (9-23):  Shaver Hansen/2B, Julio Morban/CF, Stefen Romero/3B, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Matt Browning/DH, Jake Schlander/SS, Jabari Blash/RF, Steven Baron/C, Robbie Anston/LF, Taijuan Walker/RHP

Quad Cities River Bandits (14-17):  Greg Garcia/SS, Starlin Rodriguez/2B, Oscar Taveras/RF, Cody Stanley/C, Jonathan Rodriguez/1B, Packy Elkins/3B, Chris Edmondson/LF, Romulo Ruiz/DH, Frederick Parejo/CF, Seth Blair/RHP

How will Walker and the rest of the staff fare in this three-game road series against 14-17 Quad Cities?  Hopefully it’s the continuation of the trend we’ve seen for the last 11 days.  First pitch is at 7:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Shaver Hansen

It was a character-building win for the LumberKings yesterday in Peoria as they overcame 3-1 and 4-3 deficits over the eighth and ninth innings to beat the Chiefs, 5-4 in 14 innings.  Shaver Hansen (pictured left) went a career-best 4-for-6 with a two-run homer that tied the game in the eighth, and Ramon Morla doubled to score Mickey Wiswall to tie the game again in the ninth.

Finally in the top of the 14th, two walks and Wiswall’s infield single loaded the bases against Chiefs’ right-hander Bryce Shafer.  With two outs, Steven Baron worked the count to 3-2 and took a pitch high from Shafer for a go-ahead bases-loaded walk.  The relief work of right-handers Jandy Sena (3.0 scoreless innings for the win) and Willy Kesler (scoreless bottom of the 14th for the save) helped make Baron’s team-leading 12th RBI stand up.

Yesterday’s Highlights:

Tonight, I catch up with Hansen, Seattle’s sixth-round pick out of Baylor University in 2009 and a third-year member of the LumberKings.  We talk about yesterday’s monster effort, his thoughts on stint #3 in the black and green, shaking off an 0-for-14 start at the plate, his growth as a player in the last three seasons and more.

Listen Here:  Hansen Interview 5.7.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.7.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Burlington Bees (20-7):  Tyreace House/CF, Royce Consigli/RF, Nino Leyja/2B, Jose River/DH, Yordy Cabrera/SS, Josh Whitaker/1B, Douglas Landaeta/LF, Ryan Pineda/3B, John Nester/C, Tyler Vail/RHP

LumberKings (9-20):  Julio Morban/CF, Shaver Hansen/2B, Tim Morris/1B, Stefen Romero/LF, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Ramon Morla/3B, Jabari Blash/RF, Steven Baron/C, Carlos Ramirez/SS, Brandon Maurer/RHP

First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Eddie Menchaca (Vol. 2)

For the second-straight game, the LumberKings’ offense stormed out to a 7-0 lead on Beloit.  Unlike Sunday, the offense kept rolling late and the bullpen survived meltdown as Clinton won by its largest margin of the season, 13-6 over the Snappers.  Ramon Morla (2-for-4) and Carlos Ramirez (3-for-3) each drove in three runs apiece and Jabari Blash went 1-for-2 with a double and two RBI to lead the offense, all backing 5.0 scoreless innings from right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen.

With the offense finally starting to produce, the starting rotation coming back strong (3-0, 0.75 over the last four games) and the addition of two new arms to the roster — including one very high-profile right-hander that you’ve likely heard about already), it’s the perfect time to catch up with LumberKings’ manager Eddie Menchaca for the second time this season.

We talk about the offense including Morla and Ramirez, Julio Morban, Tim Morris and others, the additons of right-handers Taijuan Walker and Jandy Sena, Chaca’s “win the inning” philosophy and more.

Listen Here:  Menchaca Interview 5.3.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.3.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Beloit Snappers (13-9):  Jamaal Hawkins/SS, Andrew Leer/3B, Nate Roberts/DH, Michael Gonzales/1B, Daniel Ortiz/LF, Lance Ray/RF, Kyle Knudson/C, Wang-Wei Lin/CF, Derek McCallum/2B, Logan Darnell/LHP

LumberKings (8-17):  Julio Morban/LF, Carlos Ramirez/2B, Stefen Romero/DH, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Matt Cerione/CF, Ramon Morla/3B, Jabari Blash/RF, Marcus Littlewood/SS, Steven Baron/C, Anthony Fernandez/LHP

First pitch is once again at 6:30 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Kings Add First-Rounder Taijuan Walker

18-year-old right-hander joinsClintonfrom extended Spring Training, joined by right-hander Jandy Sena

Clinton, IA– The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the following transactions for the Clinton25-man roster today: right-handers Taijuan Walker and Jandy Sena have been added to the 25-man roster via extended Spring Training.  Right-hander Seon Gi Kim has been transferred to extended Spring Training, while right-handers Tyler Blandford and Matt Bischoff have been placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Walker, 18, was Seattle’s first-round selection (43rd overall) in the 2010 draft out of Yucaipa (CA) High School.  He began his pro career with the Peoria Mariners of the Arizona League last year, going 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA (1 ER in 7.0 IP) in four appearances.  The 6’4” Walker was named as the Mariners’ fourth-best prospect by Baseball America entering this season.

Sena, 21, was the 23rd round pick by the Mariners in 2010 out of Marion Military Institute.  He went 4-3 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 appearances, four starts between the AZL and short-A Everett last season.

Kim, 19, went 0-2 with a 4.74 ERA across four starts this year.  The South Korean-born right-hander allowed 10 runs over 19.0 innings, walked five and struck out 13.

Blandford, 23, went 0-1 with a 17.61 ERA in six relief appearances with the LumberKings this season.  Bischoff, 23, went 0-2 with one save and a 5.56 ERA over seven relief outings with Clinton.

Walker and Sena are expected to be in uniform for tonight’s game against the Beloit Snappers.  Neither have yet chosen uniform numbers. Walkeris slated to join the rotation and will pitch Thursday night at O’Brien Field inPeoria.  The moves give the LumberKings an active 24 players on the roster with four listed on the disabled list.

-DL

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

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