Results tagged ‘ Kalian Sams ’

Today’s Interview: James Paxton (Vol. 2)

I’m forced to keep it brief today with a 1:00 PM eastern time start closing in fast as the LumberKings finish off the series and road trip today in Lake County.  The LumberKings beat the Captains 7-2 last night behind a two-homer night from Mickey Wiswall (listen: Wiswall 2-R HR to Center, 2nd of game (#5) 6.4.11), another homer from Kalian Sams (listen: Sams 2-R HR (#7) 6.4.11) and five scoreless innings from left-hander James Paxton (listen: Paxton Strikes Out Gallas 6.4.11).

Paxton, just announced two days ago as Clinton’s lone All-Star representative, is 2-1 with a 1.39 ERA and 48 strikeouts over his last six outings dating back to his debut loss vs. Peoria.  He’s most deserving of the All-Star nod as he’s now 2-2 with a 2.11 ERA over his first seven starts as a pro.  “K-Pax” weighs in on last night’s outing including his hammer curveball that was the key to nine strikeouts, his thoughts on the All-Star selection and more.

Listen Here:  Paxton Interview 6.5.11

Today’s Game Notes: 6.5.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

LumberKings (18-39):  Jorge Agudelo/2B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Tim Morris/1B, Kalian Sams/RF, Stefen Romero/3B, Steven Baron/C, Matt Browning/DH, Robbie Anston/CF, Anthony Phillips/SS, Forrest Snow/RHP

Lake County Captains (26-30):  LeVon Washington/CF, Carlos Moncrief/RF, Giovanny Urshela/3B, Anthony Gallas/LF, Alex Monsalve/DH, Jesus Aguilar/1B, Alex Lavisky/C, Argenis Martinez/2B, Ronny Rodriguez/SS, Cole Cook/RHP

Forrest Snow starts for the 12th time today in search of some elusive run support and his second win.  Last time the Snowman pitched at Classic Park, he was getting the win in relief of Game 4 of the MWLCS, sending us to a decisive Game 5.  Today, he’ll be looking to secure Clinton’s second-straight series victory and a 5-1 road trip.

First pitch is at 12:00 PM central time, join me for the broadcast on 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 

Tonight’s Interview: Kalian Sams

The LumberKings fell by five runs for the first time since April 29 yesterday afternoon, dropping their fourth-straight game on this road trip by a final score of 8-3 in Peoria.  Kalian Sams got the Kings off to a good start with a solo home run on top of the left-field berm in the second inning and finished 2-for-4, adding a double and scoring a second time later in the game.  Shaver Hansen went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the leadoff spot to keep Clinton close at 4-3 entering the bottom of the seventh, but the Chiefs scored four unanswered runs over the next two innings to win convincingly.

Focusing on Sams, who in his first 10 games back showed more in the way of patience than the raw power we saw for most of 2010, homered off Chiefs’ left-hander Austin Kirk who had dared to pitch him inside.  The blast (listen here:  Sams Solo HR (#1) 5.22.11) was a bit of the old from “the Swinging Dutchman”, his 17th career home run as a LumberKing and his 21st in the Midwest League.  Still, the slimmed down slugger has showed more speed than pop so far (four steals in four tries and more than a few tough running grabs in right field), and that’s a main topic of tonight’s pregame interview.

Sams talks about his first home run back in the black and green, losing 20 pounds with a new trainer this offseason, utilizing his eye and his speed more this year, coming down from High Desert to join the Kings again and more.

Listen Here:  Sams Interview 5.23.11

More on Sams and company in tonight’s Game Notes:  5.23.11 kingsnotes

I’m laying off the lineups again in an attempt to see if it’ll  help us start a winning streak.  Either that or I’m lazy, you decide.  I can tell you that left-hander Edlando Seco (0-0, 5.30) makes his second start for Clinton tonight and that the Chiefs counter with right-hander Dallas Beeler (1-1, 0.86).  Looks like another challenge for these LumberKings’ bats as Beeler hasn’t allowed a run over his last 15.0 innings.

First pitch is at 6:30 PM, listen in on1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Chris Mehring

Another game, another close loss last night as the LumberKings fell 4-1 in the Quad Cities.  For the third-straight night, the Kings had a chance in the ninth with the tying run at the plate.  Mickey Wiswall homered for the first time this season with two outs in the inning and singles by Matt Browning and Kalian Sams set the stage for Steven Baron.  Baron worked the count and was able to check up on a two-strike slider in the dirt once, but the next time he attempted to check on Boone Whiting’s slider, he was rung up for strike three by home plate umpire Mike Dorantes.

Highlights from last night:

The LumberKings open a three-game home series tonight against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  Back on April 29 and 30, the Kings took two-straight games over the Rattlers and won their first (and only) road series of the season, two games to one.  Since then, Clinton is 2-10 while Wisconsin is 9-3.

Matt Erickson’s Rattlers have won five-straight games.  In the first two games of this series, Wisconsin will start right-hander Tyler Thornburg (2-0, 1.80), one of the Midwest League’s best in the early going of 2011 and Milwaukee Brewers’ left-hander Zach Braddock who is completing a rehab stint.  Given all of the positives for the Rattlers, I decided to interview their longtime radio voice, Chris Mehring.  We cover their recent winning trend, the fantastic starts of Thornburg and Austin Ross, Braddock’s start tomorrow, Erickson’s first year at the helm and more.

Listen Here:  Chris Mehring Interview 5.13.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.13.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (16-15):  Nick Shaw/2B, Greg Hopkins/3B, Cody Hawn/1B, Mike Walker/DH, Franklin Romero/RF, Robbie Garvey/LF, Reggie Keen/CF, Tyler Roberts/C, Yadiel Rivera/SS, Tyler Thornburg/RHP

LumberKings (9-26):  Robbie Anston/CF, Carlos Ramirez/2B, Tim Morris/DH, Stefen Romero/3B, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Kalian Sams/LF, Jabari Blash/RF, Steven Baron/C, Jake Schlander/SS, James Paxton/LHP

First pitch for Clinton Community College Night is scheduled for 6:30 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Kings Revamp Roster with Five New Players

Sams returns to Clinton from High Desert, Anston, Browning, Reed and Schlander join from Arizona

Clinton, IA – The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the following changes to the Clinton 25-man roster, effective today:  outfielder Matt Cerione and right-hander Willy Kesler have been promoted to high-A High Desert, while shortstop Marcus Littlewood and third-baseman Ramon Morla have been transferred to extended Spring Training.  Outfielder Kalian Sams has joined the Kings from high-A High Desert, while infielders Matt Browning and Jake Schlander, outfielder Robbie Anston and left-hander Nathan Reed have been called up from extended Spring Training.

Cerione, 23, hit .200 with a double, six runs scored and five RBI in his second season as a LumberKing.  Seattle’s 13th round pick in 2009 out of theUniversity ofGeorgia, Cerione hit .287 with 12 HR and 42 RBI in 87 games withClinton in 2010.

Kesler, 23, went 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA and one save in eight relief appearances with the LumberKings this season.

Littlewood, 19,Seattle’s second-round pick out of Pine View (UT) High School in 2010 hit .158 with a triple, HR and six RBI in 27 games withClintonthis season, his first as a professional.

Morla, 21, hit .170 with three doubles, three triples and seven RBI in 28 games with the LumberKings this season.  TheDominican Republicnative had no home runs in that span after launching 17 for rookie-level Pulaski in 2010.

Anston, 23, hit .292 with 13 doubles, two HR and 24 RBI and also stole 15 bases in 24 attempts with short-A Everett last season.  Seattle’s 26th round pick in 2010 out ofBostonCollege also hit .333 with three doubles and three RBI for the AquaSox in the playoffs, helping them to the Northwest League title.

Browning, 23, hit .222 (4-for-18) with a triple and six RBI in five games with HighDesertthis season.  Seattle’s 43rd round pick out of James Madison University in 2010 hit .311 with four HR and 32 RBI in 47 games between the Peoria Mariners (AZL) and rookie-level Pulaski last season.

Reed, 23, was the Mariners’ 40th round pick out ofKutztownUniversity in 2010.  TheTemple,PA native pitched with both the Peoria Mariners of the AZL and high-A High Desert, going a combined 2-6 with a 4.95 ERA over 14 games, 12 starts. 

Sams, 24, hit .200 with six HR and 10 RBI in 20 games for the Mavericks this season after splitting last year betweenClintonand short-A Everett.  A native ofThe Hague,South Holland,Netherlands, Sams hit .180 with 15 HR and 46 RBI in 79 games with the LumberKings last year before finishing up the year with the AquaSox.  He hit .193 with five HR and 12 RBI withEverett.

Schlander, 22, hit .200 with six runs scored in 11 games with HighDesertthis season.  Seattle’s 31st round pick out ofStanfordUniversity in 2010, Schlander started his pro career in Pulaski last season and hit .259 with seven doubles, a HR and 25 RBI in 54 games.

The moves give the LumberKings a total of 25 active players with four listed on the disabled list.  The five new players are expected to be in uniform for tonight’s game against the Burlington Bees, but none have yet chosen uniform numbers.

-DL

Predicting the 2011 Roster (Part 2)

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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

Predicting the 2011 Roster (Part 1)

2011previewpt1.jpg
My third-annual educated guess at the next season’s LumberKings’ roster begins today with part one, looking at potential players from the 2010 West Division Champs that could be back for the pennant defense. 

A warning first…these are my own thoughts and predictions and are based on no official reports from the Seattle Mariners.  Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong.  Last year, I correctly named nine players from the 2009 roster that returned in ’10, although not all in the exact roles or timeframes I expected.  Also, in the event I’ve named someone who has been released, signed elsewhere or retired, feel free to correct me in the comments section below.  It’s happened before.

With that out of the way, here we go.

After a season as successful as last year, it’s safe to assume that most of the impact players will not return.  If you enjoyed watching Nick Franklin, James Jones, Vinnie Catricala, Mickey Wiswall, Mario MartinezErasmo Ramirez, Tom Wilhelmsen and Yoervis Medina at Alliant Energy Field last season, you’ll be more likely to see them all out in Adelanto, CA or Jackson, TN this year.  In the case of Wilhelmsen and Medina, you might sooner see them at Safeco Field.  Both are on the 40-man roster.

That’s not to say that there won’t be some experienced players back from last year’s team.  The one that I expect to return with the highest prospect pedigree will be catcher Steven Baron (pictured above).  Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick (after Dustin Ackley and Franklin) in 2009, Baron was in over his head a bit with his Opening Day assignment to the LumberKings’ roster, but as expected, you could never tell by his raw defensive ability.

The Mariners lured Baron away from Duke University because of his surprising skills behind the plate, some of which we saw last season out of the 19-year-old.  Baron nailed 27 of 64 attempting basestealers, a 42% rate.  While his passed balls total was a little concerning (a team-high 11 in 45 games), it was his bat that truly needed work.  Baron hit just .182 as a LumberKing, with just four of his 28 hits going for extra bases.  He struck out over 30% of the time, looking overmatched against older Midwest League pitchers.  At the All-Star Break, Baron was shipped down to short-A Everett to gain offensive confidence and did just that under hitting coach Scott Steinmann, hitting .253 with 12 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI in 53 games.  After earning the Northwest League’s Post-Season All-Star award and a NWL Championship ring with the AquaSox, Baron returned to the LumberKings during the playoffs and looked like a far more confident player.  I believe we’ll see him back as Clinton’s starting catcher in 2011 as he continues to grow as both a hitter and a backstop.


Continuing around the diamond to first base, it’s not likely we’ll see Wiswall back after his strong performance down the stretch (.301, 4 HR, 18 RBI in 33 regular-season games, .273, 2 HR, 5 RBI in 11 playoff games).  Again, citing the logjam situation at that same position, it might be possible that Tim Morris returns to Clinton.  Seattle’s 11th-round pick in 2009 out of St. John’s University, Morris hit .250 with 14 doubles, three triples, five homers and 46 RBI in 83 games last season.  Depending on how he performs during the spring, the Mariners could elect to send him back to Clinton.

Shortstop Gabriel Noriega could headline the up-the-middle defense for the LumberKings in 2011 now that he won’t have to shift to second base for Franklin.  Noriega was a sure-handed and strong-armed defender at both middle infield spots, but lacked poise at the plate until a hot month of August.  Even with that surge (.281, 10 RBI in 96 at-bats), the 19-year-old Venezuelan hit .227, scored 47 runs and drove in 28 in 112 games.  If Mariners’ 2010 second-round pick Marcus Littlewood doesn’t take over the position (Baseball America expects him to), Noriega might be sent back.

Versatile infielders Hawkins Gebbers and Carlos Ramirez also look like possible returnees.  Gebbers hit .255 with a pair of homers and five RBI during a 19-game stint with the Kings, but spent most of the year with Everett.  He hit .240 with 16 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI in 49 games.  Ramirez is most famous for his two-out, two-strike, game-tying RBI single in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the MWLCS.  Aside from that, he barely played at all in a Clinton cup-of-coffee.  Ramirez was the VSL Mariners’ MVP in 2009 after hitting .336, but struggled offensively in the AZL last year (.234, 12 RBI in 40 games).  I think we’ll see Gebbers and Ramirez both at some point in the year.

As for the outfield, I’ll mention only two names here from last year’s talented crop.  Kalian Sams had arguably THE hottest start in the Midwest League last year with 12 home runs in his first 44 games, but fell off completely when pitchers stopped throwing him fastballs.  Many folks in the Mariners’ system have called Sams the top power prospect in the organization (a definite honor considering Franklin, Greg Halman, Rich Poythress and Joherymn Chavez), but his .180 average and 132 strikeouts in 266 at-bats in his third Midwest League stint are more than a concern.  We know he can hit the ball a long way, but unless Sams can consistently put the ball in play this Spring, we might see him back in Clinton again.

Ryan Royster, the 13th round pick in the ’08 draft, might also finally settle in with the Kings with Daniel Carroll, Matt Cerione, Jones and Catricala all gone.  Royster was a huge boost to the offense two seasons ago when he hit .333 with two homers and seven RBI in eight games, leading me to bank on him becoming a regular in 2010.  That didn’t happen, as he played in just 10 games (.238, HR, 3 RBI) and was primarily with Everett yet again.  The Mariners have plenty in the outfield pipeline coming up, so we’ll see if that affects Royster again this year.

On the mound, there’s no surefire experienced starter set to come back the way Anthony
Blandford10.jpg
Vasquez
did last year.  Sixth-round pick Tyler Blandford (pictured right) has a live fastball and plenty of promise, but the right-hander went 1-2 with a 3.67 ERA in seven erratic starts with Clinton last year before missing the bulk of the season with arm issues.  With all of the fantastic pitching that stepped forward throughout the system in 2010, Blandford now must improve his control (he walked 25 in 27 innings last year) and stay on the mound for a full year just to stay on the radar.  If healthy, I think he’ll get that opportunity in Clinton.

Another starter looking to get back on track from injury will be right-hander Nolan Gallagher.  A fourth-round selection in 2007, Gallagher missed all of 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was forced to shut it down in 2010 after experiencing soreness again.  His 0-4, 6.32 marks didn’t tell the full story…Gallagher logged five-plus innings in four of his five starts before going on the disabled list in late July and then got hit hard late in the year when he returned.  Maybe he’ll be back, rested and healthy as a veteran contributor in 2011. 

I liked what I saw out of right-hander Jonathan Arias in his two spot-starts (0-1, 2.25 in 8.0 IP) and gutsy relief performance in the MWLCS Game 2 marathon.  Does that prove he’s worthy of joining the rotation on a full-time basis this year?  The 2011 season will be only his third as a pitcher after he started his career behind the plate.  Either in the rotation or in the pen, I believe he’ll be a LumberKing again.

While the rotation is sure to look much different compared to last year, the bullpen should actually seem familiar.  Right-hander John Housey went 5-4 with a 4.35 ERA in 25 games, including three spot-starts with the Kings until a late-July demotion to Everett.  Aside from the occasional blow-up outing (he allowed four-plus earned runs in four appearances), Housey was a go-to reliever for a decent stretch of the season.  Right-hander Jorden Merry (0-0, 4.91, SV in 13 games) and left-hander Jason Markovitz (0-0, 4.50 in 9 games) both had similar stats in brief stints with Clinton, leaving plenty of room for growth if they’re back.


The star of the pen could very well be Mariners’ 2010 fifth-round pick, right-hander Stephen Pryor. His 97 mph fastball proved effective against Midwest League hitters as he struck out 29 in just 17 innings, but Pryor’s control became a problem come playoff time as he walked five batters in just 1.1 innings.  Baseball America 
has projected him as the 21st-best prospect in the entire system and a candidate for a big-league bullpen spot as soon as 2012, but it’s possible that he returns to hone his curveball.  Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part, but I’d love to see Pryor saving games in Clinton.

If he’s not, the Kings might still have high-octane heat in right-hander Fray Martinez, who also has an overpowering fastball but struggled through control issues.  Martinez went 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in 12 appearances, walked 11 batters, hit one and issued four wild pitches.  The Santiago, Dominican Republic native was left off the playoff roster, but I think he’ll be back in the bullpen this year.  Right-hander Matt Bischoff could join him for his first full season after coming to Clinton for the playoffs.  Bischoff was dominant in his outings against Cedar Rapids and Kane County, but suffered through two tough relief performances against Lake County in the Championship Series, including a game one blown save and loss.  The Purdue product will get a chance to redeem himself as a go-to arm this year.


In addition to the 2010 returnees, we could also see several players from the ’09 season come back.  All-Star shortstop Terry Serrano (pictured left) hit .307 as a versatile everyday infielder for the AquaSox last year and could give Clinton a lift the same way Luis Nunez did last year.  Infielder-turned-pitcher Ogui Diaz has apparently dropped his arm angle down and went 4-3 with a 5.12 ERA in his first full season on the mound with Everett last year.  Names like Dwight Britton (.216 in 42 games with Everett) and Jetsy Extrano (.230 in 49 games with Pulaski) might pop up from time to time also.

Part two of my predictions on the 2011 roster will be posted next Tuesday.  Then, I’ll be going over some of the players you might expect to see donning the black and green for the first time.

-DL

7/10 Game Notes

100_1907.JPGThe pregame interview is on hiatus tonight after last night’s 1-0 loss to the Quad Cities River Bandits.  The LumberKings saw a chance to tie the game slip through their grasp in the ninth as Tim Morris singled and made it to third base with one out, but was left stranded as Bandits’ closer Aaron Terry struck out Kalian Sams and Matt Cerione to end the game.

It was another night of zeroes against right-hander Deryk Hooker, who now has worked 11.0 scoreless innings against the Kings this season.  Right-hander Nolan Gallagher pitched 5.2 outstanding innings, yielding only a run on six hits to lower his ERA to 3.72…however, he also lost as a result of that run, falling to 0-2.

I contemplated interviewing Gallagher tonight, but I’ve decided that I’d much rather talk to him following a win than a frustrating 1-0 loss.  So, keep waiting for that interview for now.  I also pondered writing another edition of “On the Bright Side”, but those make my blood boil rather than cheering me up (their intended purpose).  Instead, let’s just forget about yesterday and move on.

It’s on to Kane County this evening to start a three-game series with the Cougars, a team the LumberKings have owned this season.  Clinton is 10-4 against the low-A Oakland affiliate, including 3-1 here at Elfstrom Stadium.

Those facts and more in tonight’s Game Notes: 
7.10.10 kingsnotes.pdf

Right-hander Taylor Stanton (6-4, 3.52) makes his 14th start, 17th appearance tonight in the opener of this three-game series against the Cougars.  He’s 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA against them this season, numbers that bode well as the Kings attempt to get back to the first-place spot in the West.  First pitch is at 6:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

2010 First-Half Finale

Happy Father’s Day from the LumberBlog!

Believe it or not, the first half comes to an end today for your Clinton LumberKings.  There’s no playoff spot on the line, only a shot at sole posession of third place and some momentum going into the second half.  If the Kings beat Beloit and Peoria loses to Quad Cities, Clinton’s 38-31 record would put them alone in third.  That’s what we play for this afternoon.

A tradition continues today as we reflect on the year so far with the 2010 First-Half Highlight Reel.  From Kalian Sams’ dramatic home runs to Nick Franklin’s amazing first full season to unbelievable plays in right field by James Jones to the strikeout artistry of Jon Hesketh and more, hear it all (and then some).

Listen Here: 
2010 First Half Highlight Reel.mp3

Today’s Game Notes: 
6.20.10 kingsnotes.pdf

The half ends with right-hander Taylor Stanton (6-3, 3.51) on the mound for his 11th start.  First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 PM, listen to the game online at 1390kcln.com.

After today, check back the next two days for coverage of the 2010 Midwest League All-Star Game in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I’ll be there alongside Franklin, Vinnie Catricala, Brian Moran and Erasmo Ramirez.  It should be a great time.

-DL

The Sound of an Eight-Run Inning

In case you missed it, the LumberKings scored a season-best eight runs in the third inning last night en route to an 11-4 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps.  Tim Morris singled home Daniel Carroll from second to get it started, Kalian Sams added a three-run double and scored on a single by Henry Contreras, and Carroll in his second at-bat of the inning lifted a three-run homer to left-center.

Listen Here: 
Eight-Run Inning 6.11.10 vs. Fort Wayne.mp3

-DL

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