Results tagged ‘ Jessie Nava ’

Tonight’s Interview: Stephen Kohlscheen (Vol. 2)

Clouds overhead at Elfstrom, but likely no two-our rain delays tonight.

The LumberKings completed their final goal of the regular season last night at Kane County, clinching the top playoff spot in the West Division with a 6-1 win over the Cougars.  Eddie Menchaca’s crew had to wait out a two-our, 20-minute rain delay before finally hitting the field at 8:15 PM, but once they did, they were ready to go.  Brad Miller went 3-for-5 with three RBI on the night (listen:  Miller 2-run single 9.3.11), while right-handers Stephen Kohlscheen and Jessie Nava combined on a seven-hitter with just one run allowed.  Kohlscheen improved to 5-3 with the win, getting some assistance from his defense (including Stefen Romero’s throw to John Hicks on a double-steal attempt, listen:  Romero to Hicks Play on Espinal 9.3.11) as he pitched largely to contact all night.  Nava struck out six over the final 3.0 innings including Yowill Espinal to end the game, cementing Clinton as the top second-half seed in the West (listen:  Nava Strikes Out Espinal to Clinch Top Playoff Spot 9.3.11).

My interview guest tonight is Kohlscheen, the starting pitcher in each of Clinton’s last two wins including their August 28th victory over Beloit that clinched a playoff spot.  He talks about last night’s outing including waiting out the two-hour-plus rain delay, pitching in back-to-back clinching games, facing Quad Cities in the first round of the playoffs, the club’s second-half turnaround and more.

Listen Here:  Kohlscheen Interview 9.4.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  9.4.11 kingsnotes

Left-hander Anthony Fernandez was scheduled to start tonight, but has been given the game off to rest up.  Left-hander Ryan Kiel (0-1, 3.24) will make just his second pro start in a spot role tonight instead.  Kane County counters with right-hander Leondy Perez (7-13, 3.53).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM, listen to the game on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: John Hicks (Vol. 2)

Three, it’s the magic number.  Literally.

And yet it was almost still four as the LumberKings watched a 4-1 lead suddenly turn into a 4-4 tie heading into the 10th last night in Cedar Rapids.  A pair of two-out hits from Julio Morban and another from Kevin Rivers helped the Kings establish the early lead behind right-hander Carter Capps, who gave up just one run over 5.0 innings and struck out seven.  Right-handers John Taylor and Ben Versnik combined on 3.0 scoreless innings, but right-hander Jonathan Arias allowed a two-run single to Brian Hernandez in the ninth and issued a wild pitch on what was supposed to be the final strike of the game on Jean Almanzar.

Instead of Almanzar going down swinging and Arias locking down his 10th save, the ball kicked to the left of catcher John Hicks for a wild pitch, scoring Ricky Alvarez to tie the game.  Arias recovered to strand runners at second and third, and in the 10th, Hicks lifted a sacrifice fly scoring Morban to put the Kings back ahead (listen:  Hicks GW sac fly 8.26.11).  Right-hander Jessie Nava then worked the Kernels 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th to secure Clinton’s sixth-straight win (listen: Nava Strikes out Cruz for 3rd Save 8.26.11).

Hicks saw a string of three-straight three-hit games come to an end as he went a mere 1-f0r-4 last night, but he still extended his hitting streak to eight games and notched the game-winning RBI in the latest “must-win game” for the LumberKings.  Now, he joins me for the pregame interview for the second time this season.  We talk about the wild pitch that scored the tying run in the ninth, his game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th, his recent offensive hot-streak (which he credits to work with hitting coordinator Jose Castro and Terry Pollreisz), catching Capps last night and more.

Listen Here:  Hicks Interview 8.27.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.27.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  8.27.11 lineup

It’s an action-packed opening night of the final homestand of the year as the LumberKings take on the Beloit Snappers.  Once the nearest challenger to the Kings for the Wild Card spot, the Snappers are now fighting to catch up to Kane County as they trail the Cougars by 6.0 games for the West’s final playoff spot.  Clinton can secure their trip to the postseason with two wins against the Snappers in this four-game set. 

Left-hander Tony Butler (2-3, 3.16), 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA against the Snappers back in 2007, gets the game-one nod tonight.  He’ll take on Beloit left-hander Ryan O’Rourke (5-3, 3.05).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.  And, if you’re coming to the game, we’ve got post-game fireworks sponsored by WQAD-TV and post-game karaoke by Fat Dawgs Productions.  Should be a good time on this final regular-season Saturday.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Rich Dorman (Vol. 4)

The LumberKings won the series and kept a 4.0-game Wild Card lead on Beloit in-tact with a 5-2 victory over the Quad Cities River Bandits last night.  Kalian Sams went 2-for-4 with a double (listen:  Sams RBI double 8.19.11) and a solo home run (listen:  Sams Solo HR (#15) 8.19.11), but it was Anthony Phillips’ two-out infield single scoring Mickey Wiswall in the fourth inning that stood as the winning run (listen: Phillips RBI infield single 8.19.11).  Left-hander Anthony Fernandez had a short 5.0-inning outing by his usual standards, but struck out a career-high 10 batters in that time and allowed just two runs to the Bandits (listen:  Fernandez Career-High 10th K, 8.19.11).  Relievers Jessie Nava, Ryan Kiel and Jonathan Arias combined on 4.0 scoreless innings in relief of Fernandez, with Arias picking up his eighth save.

With another great outing by Fernandez, more lock-down relief from Kiel and Arias and a host of new arms to talk about, it’s time to catch up with LumberKings’ pitching coach Rich Dorman for tonight’s interview.  He gives plenty of insight on Fernandez, right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen, Mariners’ third-round right-hander Carter Capps, tonight’s starter Roenis Elias, Arias and his dominant second half and more.

Listen to the 11-minute-long full interview here:  Dorman Interview 8.20.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.20.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  8.20.11 lineup

Mariners’ second-round pick, Brad Miller makes his professional debut tonight at shortstop, batting seventh.  Elias (2-0, 2.89) makes his fourth start for the Kings as he goes up against Kane County right-hander Leondy Perez (6-11, 3.35).  The game begins at 6:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Mickey Wiswall (Vol. 2)

Prior to yesterday’s off-day, the LumberKings completed a three-game sweep of the Peoria Chiefs at O’Brien Field, posting a three-run eighth and winning 9-5.  Mickey Wiswall led the way with a 2-for-4 game including a two-run homer (listen:  Wiswall 2-R HR (#10) 8.15.11) and game-winning RBI double (listen:  Wiswall go-ahead RBI double, 50th RBI 8.15.11), driving in three.  Carlos Ramirez fell a triple shy of the cycle in a 3-for-5 game that included his second home run as well.  Right-hander Carter Capps worked four scoreless innings to start his pro debut but then was touched for three runs over his final 0.2 innings in a no-decision.  Right-hander Jessie Nava twice gave up tying runs, but also left the bases loaded with a huge strikeout of Arismendy Alcantara (listen: Nava Leaves them Loaded 8.15.11 ).  Nava improved to 2-4 with the win in relief and lefty Ryan Kiel locked down his first save with two scoreless innings.

Wiswall joins me for the first time since early June for tonight’s pregame interview.  We talk about his game-winning performance on Monday, his growth as both a hitter and a first-baseman in his first full year in the Mariners’ system, the offense beginning to turn a corner, being part of playoff runs both last year and this year, his goals for the remainder of the season and more.

Listen Here:  Wiswall Interview 8.17.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.17.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  8.17.11 lineup

With the regular-season’s final off-day behind us, the LumberKings begin a challenging seven-game homestand against Quad Cities and Kane County, the top two teams in the West Division.  The Kings trail Kane County by 3.0 games for the top playoff spot, yet still lead Beloit by 4.0 games for the Wild Card.  Left-hander Tony Butler (1-3, 3.43) faces Quad Cities for the first time since June 5, 2007 when they were still known as the Swing.  Meanwhile, the offense will attempt to stay hot against River Bandits’ right-hander Trevor Rosenthal (6-7, 3.61).  Game time is 6:30 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Follow me on Twitter at @davelezotte and the LumberKings at @LumberKings.

Tonight’s Interview: Carlos Ramirez

For the first time this season (and the first time I can honestly recall), the LumberKings won a game after trailing in their final at-bat.  The team’s 11th last at-bat victory and fifth walk-off winner came in the bottom of the 11th courtesy of Carlos Ramirez, whose bases-loaded two-out single scored Robbie Anston and Matt Browning for a thrilling 2-1 win over the Peoria Chiefs yesterday (listen:  Ramirez Walk-Off 2-Run Single in 11th 7.31.11).

The clutch hit, producing just the second and the third runs of the series for the LumberKings, is not the first for Carlos.  Last season, the newly-promoted Ramirez stood at the plate with the Kings down 7-6 to the Lake County Captains in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the Midwest League Championship Series.  His single to right-center scored Tim Morris to tie the game, and although Mario Martinez was then thrown out at the plate trying to score the winner, the LumberKings would end up the victors in the bottom of the 18th on a memorable fielding error by Captains’ third-baseman Adam Abraham.   The 8-7 Clinton win is the longest championship series in league history.

Today, I interview Ramirez for the first time ever.  He admits that he had that MWLCS hit on his mind when he came up to the plate yesterday.  We talk about the game-winning hit, last year’s game-tying hit, his role as a utilityman and switch-hitter and more.

Listen Here:  Carlos Ramirez Interview 8.1.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.1.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  8.1.11 lineup

Roster Moves:  We saw the return of infielder Jake Schlander to the club yesterday as Jetsy Extrano was moved to short-A Everett, today, the LumberKings have re-added first-baseman Tim Morris from high-A High Desert.  Left-hander Nate Reed, who was scheduled to start tonight, has been promoted to High Desert.  Left-hander Roenis Elias, 1-0 with an 0.82 ERA with Pulaski, has joined the club and will fill Reed’s starting spot next Saturday in Burlington.

As for tonight, right-hander Jessie Nava (1-3, 3.13) makes his first start with Clinton in a spot role.  He’ll face off against Chiefs’ right-hander Starling Peralta (1-3, 7.48) in the rubber match.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM, listen to the game on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Jon Hesketh

The LumberKings opened the six-game homestand with a wire-to-wire 5-3 win over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last night.  Julio Morban, playing in his first game since June 26, connected on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Maverick Lasker in the first inning, belting a solo home run to the right-field Lumber Lounge (listen:  Morban Solo HR (#2) 7.27.11).  Two batters later, Stefen Romero dropped the back shoulder and lifted a two-run shot to left (listen:  Romero 2-R HR (#12) 7.27.11), putting the Kings ahead 3-0.

Winning left-hander Nate Reed held the Rattlers to a run over 5.0 innings and an RBI double by Kevin Rivers and solo homer by Kalian Sams raised the lead to 5-1.  Right-hander Jessie Nava yielded a run over 3.0 innings and left-hander Jon Hesketh worked past a run to lock down his first professional save, striking out T.J. Mittelstaedt as the potential tying run to end the game (listen: Hesketh Fans Mittelstaedt for First Pro Save 7.27.11).

My pregame interview tonight is with Hesketh, the veteran arm on the staff.  Seattle’s 20th round pick in 2009 out of the University of New Mexico, Hesketh has come back from a nearly two-month stint on the DL (was hit in the left thumb by a comebacker on May 22 at Peoria) and is back in the Clinton bullpen.  The Langley, BC, Canada native talks about his first pro save,

Listen Here:  Hesketh Interview 7.28.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.28.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  7.28.11 lineup

The series with Wisconsin continues tonight with right-hander George Mieses (4-10, 5.00) on the mound for his team-leading 20th start.  Despite the season numbers, Mieses is actually pitching strong in the second half.  “El Toro” is 3-2 with a 3.16 ERA so far in the second half.  He’ll go up against Milwaukee Brewers’ 2010 second-round pick, right-hander Jimmy Nelson (5-7, 4.19).  First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM, listen to the game online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Going Green with Brad Seward

The LumberKings led 1-0 on a Carlos Ramirez solo home run heading into the seventh inning last night, but the bullpen combination of Edlando Seco, Tyler Burgoon and Jessie Nava surrendered three late runs as the Great Lakes Loons came back for a 3-1 win last night.  Left-hander Tony Butler had his most impressive start to date, striking out a career-high-tying nine batters while limiting the Loons to four hits over 6.0 scoreless innings, but Seco tied the game on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh and Burgoon allowed the game-winning run on a walk and two singles in the eighth.

Read more in tonight’s Game Notes:  7.15.11 kingsnotes

Tonight is not only the rubber match as Eddie Menchaca’s Kings look for their sixth series win in seven tries this half, it’s also “Going Green Night” at the ballpark sponsored by the Clinton County Area Solid Waste Agency and WQAD-TV.  Thus, it’s time for my yearly chat with Brad Seward, the Director of Operations and Education for the CCASWA and the veteran Public Address voice for the LumberKings.

Brad and I talk about the annual “Going Green” event, the expanded efforts by the LumberKings to recycle at Alliant Energy Field, the Enviro-Kids program and baseball topics such as the memorable 2010 season and this year’s second-half turnaround.

Listen Here:  Brad Seward Interview 7.15.11

Starting Lineup:  7.15.11 lineup

Left-hander Nate Reed, a winner in his first start of the year his last time out on July 9 at Beloit (5.0 IP, 3 ER), makes his second start and 16th appearance for the LumberKings in the series finale tonight against the Loons.  He’ll have a tough challenge as he tries to outduel Los Angeles’ Dodgers’ first-round pick, right-hander Zach Lee (5-3, 3.32).  First pitch is at 7:00 PM, listen to the broadcast at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Friday Notes (5/27)

The LumberKings won just their third series all season and first in the month of May last night as right-hander Taijuan Walker and relievers Nate Reed and Jessie Nava combined for a six-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels last night.  Walker went 5.0 innings and allowed just two hits, improving to 2-2 on the season and 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his last three starts.  Stefen Romero and Jabari Blash drove in Clinton’s runs with a single and double, respectively.

Listen to the RBI hits:  Romero RBI single 5.26.11  |  Blash RBI double 5.26.11

Tonight, it’s back home to start a four-game series against the slumping Beloit Snappers, losers of nine-straight.  Right-hander George Mieses will hope to revisit his last start against the Snappers (a 7.0-inning, two-hit, scoreless effort) as he attempts to snap a three-game losing streak (0-3, 10.80 during that span).

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.27.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Roster Move:  NONE!

Starting Lineups:

Beloit Snappers (21-26):  Jamaal Hawkins/2B, Wang-Wei Lin/CF, Nate Roberts/DH, Michael Gonzales/1B, Daniel Ortiz/LF, Lance Ray/RF, Kyle Knudson/C, Andrew Leer/3B, Daniel Santana/SS, Manuel Soliman/RHP

LumberKings (13-35):  Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Stefen Romero/2B, Kevin Rivers/DH, Matt Browning/3B, Steven Baron/C, Jabari Blash/RF, Anthony Phillips/SS, Robbie Anston/LF, George Mieses/RHP

It’s a 6:30 start time tonight at Alliant Energy Field, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tuesday Notes (5/24)

The 10-game road trip shifts to Cedar Rapids for the always-fun commuter series against the Kernels.  It’s good to have a change of scenery as the LumberKings were just swept in Peoria and are 1-6 at O’Brien Field this season.

That record includes another loss last night, 9-4 at the hands of the Chiefs.  The Kings showed plenty of mid-game moxy in recovering from a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead.  Kalian Sams belted a two-run homer completely over the batter’s eye (listen:  Sams 2-R HR (#2) 5.23.11), easily the deepest home run I’ve seen hit this season and ever at O’Brien Field.  My own unofficial estimate, given a 400-foot wall and batter’s eye of roughly a 30-foot height means Sams’ blast traveled at least 450 feet.  Kevin Rivers lifted a solo shot of his own to right-center to give the Kings a temporary 4-3 lead.

But that bullpen again, the one that has seen so many struggles on this trip, gave up six unanswered runs and the Chiefs won by a margin that didn’t really speak to the closeness of the game.  At this point, though, losses are losses.

This trip is still salvageable.  The LumberKings take on a Kernels’ club that is just 2-12 over their last 14 games, had an eight-game losing streak that included a no-hitter at the hands of Kane County and is hitting just .195 as a club over the last 10 games.  Clinton will roll out left-hander James Paxton (0-1, 2.42), right-handers Forrest Snow (1-6, 4.62) and Taijuan Walker (1-2, 5.19) on the series, all three due for some wins. 

It does look like rain will play a role in the series.  The Perfect Game Field tarp crew is assembling as we speak, and the forecast looks awful for tomorrow should this one get rained out tonight.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.24.11 kingsnotes

Your LumberKings Roster Move of the day:  left-hander Jon Hesketh was officially placed on the DL yesterday after getting hit in the left hand by a Kyung-Min Na liner the previous game.  He’s now replaced by right-hander Jessie Nava, up from the Everett roster.  Shortstop Jake Schlander has switched spots with infielder Anthony Phillips, meaning Phillips is again a LumberKing while Schlander is back with High Desert.

First pitch is at 6:35 PM (maybe), listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-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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