Results tagged ‘ Kenn Kasparek ’

Audio from Walker’s Complete Game

In case you missed it, 18-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker authored another chapter in his amazing first full season in the Mariners’ system last night, tossing a nine-inning complete-game win over the Great Lakes Loons.  After allowing a first-inning two-run homer to Blake Dean, Walker limited the Loons to just one more hit the rest of the way, struck out seven and retired the final 17-straight batters to end the game.

Here’s the final out, Jetsy Extrano to Tim Morris, securing Walker’s CG:  Walker Finishes CG vs. Loons 7.13.11

It’s the first 9.0-inning CG thrown by a LumberKing since right-hander Kenn Kasparek tossed a three-hit shutout on August 3, 2009 against Burlington.

Game notes, additional highlights from last night and a new interview will be posted later today.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Rick Waits

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

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

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

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.17.11 kingsnotes

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

Starting Lineups:

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

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

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

-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

Odds and Ends for 8/27

The LumberKings split a doubleheader with Quad Cities last night, losing 5-4 in 10 innings in game one before rebounding for a 6-3 win in game two.  All 10 runs they scored in the game came in two innings, the fourth (game one) and the second (game two).

  • Vinnie Catricala went a combined 2-for-5 in the two games, extending his hitting streak to 15 games.  That’s the longest streak by a LumberKing since Luis Nunez’s 17-game streak last year.  Every long streak needs a bit of luck, and Vinnie received some in game two.  Nick Franklin and Mickey Wiswall each singled with two outs to extend the seventh, and Catricala legged out a bounding baseball up the third-base line for an infield single.
  • Speaking of streaks, Wiswall saw his nine-game streak snapped, while Matt Cerione saw his eight-game streak end as well.  Cerione’s still hitting .411 (23-for-56) in the month of August.
  • Left-hander Jason Markovitz tossed 3.0 scoreless innings in game two, making his first career start in a spot role.  Aside from two walks in his final frame, he looked fairly impressive with a well-controlled fastball and a sharp curveball.
  • Yes, Clinton had their chances to win game one.  Henry Contreras popped up a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, and Gabriel Noriega grounded out to end the game with the tying and game-winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the 10th.  It’s a tough way for those chances to end, but you can’t blame either one for being aggressive at the plate.  You don’t want to see Contreras watch strike three in his situation, and you don’t want to see Noriega take good pitches either the way he’s been stinging the ball lately.
  • Outfielder Daniel Carroll was activated from the disabled list today and shipped up to high-A High Desert.  Seattle’s third-round pick in 2007, Carroll last played with the Mavs in 2008.  Here’s hoping he finishes the season strong and stays above the Midwest League.
  • Franklin remains just one homer shy of the single-season franchise record.  Maybe tonight’s the night to tie Dick Kenworthy.  As for the team, the Kings lead the league with 124 team home runs, surpassing (what we think is) the franchise record of 115, set by the 2008 LumberKings.
  • Erasmo Ramirez lowered his ERA to 2.70 yesterday, second in the Midwest League.  He’s closing in on Kane County lefty Ian Krol (2.65) for the ERA title and would be Clinton’s second-straight ERA champ (Kenn Kasparek, 2.41 ERA last year).
  • With 12 games remaining, the Kings remain ahead of Kane County by 2.0 games for the top playoff spot in the West.  Following tonight’s game, they finish the season with five games in Peoria, three at home against Beloit and three on the road at Burlington.

All those notes and more in tonight’s Game Notes: 
8.27.10 kingsnotes.pdf

Right-hander Yoervis Medina (4-0, 2.74) makes his fifth start for the LumberKings as they wrap-up a four-game series against the Bandits.  First pitch is at 6:30 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Greetings from Peoria, AZ

GreetingsfromAZ.jpgMy six-day journey through the Cactus League officially kicked off today at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, AZ, and boy what a start it was.  Today’s game between the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants featured all the great Spring storylines…a Cy Young award-winner getting roughed up, a host of new faces trying to make good first impressions, a late four-run rally, a future star tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, and a pair of former LumberKings getting hurled into some unexpected duty.

Where to begin?  Well, not more than 20 minutes after my arrival, I ran into some old friends.

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That’s left-hander Anthony Vasquez (left) and 6’10″ right-hander Kenn Kasparek (right), both members of the Clinton starting rotation last season.  I spoke most with the 2009 Midwest League ERA champ Kasparek, who told me that he and Vasquez were essentially the “emergency” guys for the game.  For those of you unfamiliar with that term, various pitchers from minor league camp are asked to sit in the bullpen for big-league games in case the team burns through its scheduled pitchers or the game goes to extra innings.  More on that later.

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After catching up with Vasquez, Kasparek and former pitching coach Lance Painter, I settled in for the start of the game.  I shot some video on both the Peoria Sports Complex, the Mariners taking the field for the first time and right-hander Doug Fister’s first pitch of the Spring:

Fister didn’t fare well after that first-pitch strike, yielding a three-run homer to Aubrey Huff in the first inning for a 3-0 Giants lead.  That lead would be short-lived as the Mariners responded with a three-run home half on the strength of a Ken Griffey Jr. sac fly and a pair of RBI singles by Jose Lopez and Casey Kotchman.  By the way, all that damage came against an erratic ace in Tim Lincecum (pictured below, staring down Ichiro).

 

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The Giants built a 7-3 lead thanks in part to a two-run double by shortstop Emmanuel Burriss, but the Mariners fought back with two runs in the sixth and two more in the ninth.  Former Wisconsin Timber Rattler Michael Saunders doubled to help set up the late rally, and the game-tying run came across on an RBI groundout up the middle by super-prospect Dustin Ackley.

That’s when Kasparek was suddenly summoned to warm up.  Pitching coach Rick Adair had used all seven of his scheduled pitchers, leaving only former LumberKings in the pen for the 10th.  That meant it was Kenn’s turn to jog to a Major League mound for the first time.

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Despite Painter’s “just have fun” advice, Kasparek looked a bit nervous while struggling to find the strikezone.  He walked all three men he faced before getting the hook from Manager Don Wakamatsu.  The only arm left in the cupboard?  Vasquez.

vasquez.spring.debut.jpgThe other former King couldn’t strand the bases full, yielding the game-winning RBI single to pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman.  He did, however, execute a brilliant 1-2-3 double-play (unfortunately no video of this) to end the inning.  The Mariners then went quickly in the bottom of the 10th for the 8-7 loss.

Kasparek took the loss in his first pro appearance, but today still must have been a thrill for both he and Vasquez.  If not for them, it certainly was for me.  Any taste of the big leagues, even if it’s only an early-March Spring Training game, has got to be sweet. 

One “LumberBlog Programming Note” to pass along…

Unfortunately, due to $14.95 internet access here at the hotel in Scottsdale, I will likely be postponing the rest of my Cactus League blog updates until I return to Clinton.  Still, expect plenty more pictures and video, including more from Peoria as the Mariners take on the San Diego Padres this Friday.

-DL

Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 2)

The second and final installment of my look at the potential 2010 roster finally makes its way to the LumberBlog today.  I had originally planned on getting it out before the Hot Stove, but last week was a busy one.

In a way, it’s nice to save this second part till now.  I had the opportunity to talk with manager John Tamargo about the team during our car trips to and from the Quad City Airport in Moline, IL.  It was good to pick his brain on some of the talent he had in Everett last year.

With that being said, I want to preface my following predictions.  At this time, we do not know the 25-man LumberKings’ roster for next year.  The Seattle Mariners will not finalize that until camp breaks in early April, and at that time we will know for sure.  It is common for changes to be made even after that point.  Many people didn’t know that Scott Savastano, the man who turned into the offensive MVP of the team last year, was a last-second add to the roster.  Two years ago, Mitch Moreland was scratched from our Opening Day roster because of a minor injury.  You just never know until the bus shows up.

A First-Rounder Not Named Ackley

In my post last week regarding the Top 10 Seattle Prospects as selected by Baseball
franklin.JPG
America,
I mentioned a young man by the name of Nick Franklin (pictured right).  While Dustin Ackley has attracted most of the spotlight, Franklin is also a rising star.  The 18-year-old shortstop was Jack Zduriencik’s second first-round pick (taken 27th overall) out of Lake Brantley (FL) High and had a nice showing in six games with Tamargo’s AquaSox (.400, 3 XBH, 2 RBI in 20 at-bats).  Seattle scouting director Tom McNamara liked his confidence and fielding ability in a brief workout with the big-league club last August.  I don’t think you’ll see Ackley in Clinton next year, but Franklin could very well add some first-round flavor to the roster.

Franklin might not be the only talented shortstop to head here.  South African-born Anthony
Phillips
made 67 starts at short for Everett last season and put up some respectable power numbers at the plate.  The 19-year-old hit .247 with 8 doubles, 7 HR and 28 RBI over 68 games in the Northwest League last season.  Venezuelan shortstop Gabriel Noriega could also make the club, following an impressive second season at Pulaski.  Noriega hit .311 with 14 doubles, 4 HR and 26 RBI in 61 games last year. 

Avila Following the Gac Path?

Thumbnail image for avila.JPGStaying on the Everett infield, a lot of folks have asked me if Gerardo Avila (pictured left) might head to Clinton.  As Midwest League diehards already know, Avila is a three-season veteran with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (’06-’08), but never hit above .260 and had just one career homer in the league in 63 games.  Then, following the Ian Gac pattern, Avila went to High Desert in 2008 and found his way back to the Northwest League in 2009.  There, he finally went off for a league-high 13 HR while also finishing first in slugging (.582), second in RBI (54) and third in hitting overall (.333).  As Gac-like as this story is going, he could very well be in Clinton.  However, he could also go back to the Cal League, where he hit .303 in nine games two seasons ago as a Maverick.

If Avila heads back to High Desert, Jharmidy DeJesus could be the man to fill first base.  DeJesus was amongst my predictions for last year’s club and was the #8 prospect in the Mariners’ system prior to last year.  Hailing from Jose Vallejo’s hometown of Bani, Dominican Republic, DeJesus hit .249 with 7 doubles, 4 HR and 24 RBI in 48 games with Pulaski last year.  He made 30 starts at first base in a platoon situation with 11th round pick Tim Morris (.214, 4 HR, 24 RBI in 50 games).   

Rounding Out the Infield

Second-baseman Hawkins Gebbers, Seattle’s 33rd round selection hit .301 with 13 doubles, 2 HR and 21 RBI in 54 games with Everett last year.  Cesar Fuentes (.261, 4 HR, 20 RBI) and Fred Bello (.250, 5 triples, 2 HR, 12 RBI) each split time at second base in Pulaski.  Third-baseman and 10th-round pick Vincent Catricala led Pulaski with 40 RBI, hitting .301 with 14 doubles and 8 HR in 59 games.  Blake Trinkler played the utility role for Everett, hitting .229 with 18 RBI in 41 games.

The Backstops 

Headlining the group of potential Clinton catchers is certainly Steven Baron, Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick (#33 overall) out of Ferguson (FL) High School.  Baron struggled in his first pro assignment with Pulaski, hitting .179 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 30 games.  However, his numbers slightly improved towards the end of the season.  Baron raised his average 39 points over his final seven games.  Taking into consideration that ’09 LumberKing Nate Tenbrink hit just .198 with Everett in 2008 prior to batting .282 with 10 HR and 59 RBI last year, it’s possible that Baron comes to Clinton and improves at the plate.  However, Tenbrink was older and more experienced than Baron will be heading into 2010.  Tenbrink also didn’t have the added responsibilities of working with a pitching staff like Baron has.

If no Baron, 2009 draft picks Trevor Coleman (9th round) and Brandon Bantz (30th round) could catch for the Kings.  Coleman struggled, hitting .184 in 32 games with Everett, while Bantz produced a solid .290, 3 HR, 15 RBI stint with the AquaSox.  Given the fact that Juan Fuentes, Tommy Johnson and Henry Contreras all saw limited time behind the plate in Clinton last year and could be back, it’s quite possible that none of these three arrive in ’10.

A Wealth of Potential in the Outfield

When looking at the outfield of both Pulaski and Everett, it’s hard not to get excited about the
Rivero.jpggroup that could be coming in.  The AquaSox had both James Jones (4th round) and Matt Cerione (13th round) in their outfield last year, in addition to Jose Rivero (pictured right).  Jones hit .311 over 45 games, mashing 3 HR and 24 RBI in that span.  Cerione flashed a little more power with 7 HR, hitting .266 with 14 RBI over 43 games.  Rivero finished third on the club in RBI behind Avila and Mario Martinez with 32, going along with his .251 average and 4 HR.

Brandon Haveman (29th round) was Pulaski’s standout outfielder thanks to a .339, 5 HR, 18 RBI campaign.  Jarrett Burgess (.187, 5 HR, 22 RBI), Mark McGonigle (.283, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and Greg Waddell (.195, 2 HR, 6 RBI) all saw time in the Mariners’ outfield as well.  Burgess is still trying to find his way after a 6th round selection in the 2008 June draft.

Much like the catching corps, it’s tough to say which of these players will be LumberKings this year.  It’s more likely that we see the return of Ryan Royster, Welington Dotel, Dwight Britton and others at least at the beginning of the season.

The Rotation:  A Tough Act to Follow

It’s no question that pitching was the key to success for the LumberKings last year, specifically starting pitching.  At times last year, at least three Kings’ hurlers ranked amongst the league’s Top 10 in ERA.  Kenn Kasparek finished the season as the ERA leader, Clinton’s first since Salomon Torres in 1991.  Quite simply, it’s going to be hard to top last year.

Stanton.JPGHere’s some of the new names that might try.  Right-hander Taylor Stanton (pictured left), Seattle’s 26th round pick in 2008, had a breakout year of sorts with Everett.  In 15 starts, he went 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA.  Most notably, he led the rotation in innings (87.1), WHIP (1.23) and wins (5).  Outside of Stanton, only two other pitchers made at least 14 starts for the AquaSox…Chris Kirkland (a LumberKing briefly last year) and right-hander Luke Burnett.  Like Stanton, Burnett was an ’08 draft pick (14th round) that finally saw action last year.  He went 2-4, 4.66 in 14 starts.

Righty Taylor Lewis (3-1, 7.82 in 5 starts) and left-hander Nick Czyz (2-2, 3.34 in 5 starts) were also brief members of the Everett rotation.  Lewis also logged one start for Pulaski.

Transitioning back to the Appalachian League, the Pulaski club featured four pitchers with eight-or-more starts.  Thirty-sixth round right-hander John Housey (3-2, 2.62) was the most successful of that bunch, posting a 1.10 WHIP and a .194 opponent batting average.  Righty Brandon Maurer (3-4, 3.61 in 12 starts, 1 CG) and Jean Tome (3-4, 5.18 in 10 starts) put up very similar numbers. Eighth-round lefty James Gillheeney is the top draft pick of the group (8th round), but he went 0-3, 4.84 over six games, four starts.

This is a resounding theme, but with Kirkland, Anthony Vasquez, Maikel Cleto, Andres Esquibel and Jon Hesketh all possible returnees, its not for certain who might join the rotation this year.  One thing is for sure, they have their work cut out for them to match last year’s league-leading 3.35 team ERA.

Can the Pen Get Any Mightier? 

Much like the conversation on the starting rotation, it’s fairly clear that next year’s bullpen will have big shoes to fill.  Last year’s staff featured All-Stars Ruben Flores and Cheyne Hann,staehely.JPG plus solid set-up in guys like Brandon JosselynJose Jimenez, Brian Moran and Matt Renfree.

Next year’s pen might very well consist of some of the pitchers mentioned in the above section, but here’s a few more to consider.  Right-hander Christian Staehely (pictured right) went 4-2 with a pen-best 3.16 ERA in Everett, striking out 40 while walking only nine over 31.1 innings.  Pulaski right-handers Jorden Merry (40th round in ’09) and Chris Sorce (26th round in ’09) were the most serviceable relievers in an otherwise lackluster pen.  Merry led the club in saves, converting 5-of-6 in addition to his 2-1, 3.06 statline.  Sorce was 2-1, 3.45 with a save in two chances over seven outings.

Some AZL Standouts

At about this point, I’m sure you’re thinking “what about the guys in Peoria?”.  Well, many of the players listed above (Franklin, Rivero, Housey, etc.) did spend some time in the Arizona League last year.  I’ll list a few more below who could see Clinton this year.

First-baseman Rich Poythress, last year’s second-round pick and a Golden Spikes finalist while at Georgia made his pro debut in AZ and hit .300 with a HR and 6 RBI over six games.  It’s very possible Poythress’s college experience (.376, 25 HR, 86 RBI as a junior) will help him move directly to High Desert like fellow second-rounder Dennis Raben did a year ago. First-baseman Evan Sharpley, Seattle’s final draft choice in 2009 (50th round) had a nice showing over 37 games, hitting .333 with 12 doubles, 7 HR and 29 RBI.  Second-baseman Kevin Mailloux (45th round) hit .311 with 14 doubles, 5 HR and 37 RBI before a brief call-up to Everett.

On the mound, Peoria’s most impressive man was their closer.  Right-hander Jeff Breedlove went 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA and converted 10-of-12 saves.  Opponents hit just .205 against him over his 20 appearances.  In the rotation, Miguel Celestino (5-3, 4.73) and Chris Kessinger (5-3, 2.45) were the only pitchers with at least seven starts.  Kessinger was a 37th-rounder last season.       

And there you have it, my preview is complete.  Again, this is all speculation and we won’t know until early April who has actually made the 25-man roster.  Once that announcement is out, you’ll see it here and on LumberKings.com before anywhere else.  Finally, as I said at the finale of Part One, if there’s anyone I’ve overlooked, any mistakes you’ve caught or any differing opinions you might have, feel free to add your thoughts/comments.

-DL

Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 1)

As promised, it’s the second annual “Predict the Roster” segment here on the LumberBlog.  With this being the second season as a Seattle Mariners affiliate, I can now talk about players that might return from last year’s club in addition to new faces from the Everett, Pulaski and Peoria rosters.

09anthem.jpg

Part 1 starts with a look at who might be returning from the 2009 squad.  The LumberKings suited up 57 players last year, many of whom saw limited action in black and green.  Twelve position players appeared in less than 20 games, while 12 pitchers appeared in less than 10 games.

There’s also some regulars from last year’s club that might get a re-visit.  We’ll start there.

Last year’s Opening Day roster featured a pair of highly-touted 2007 draft picks in Denny Almonte (2nd round) and Daniel Carroll (3rd round).  Both have had a measure of success in the Midwest League, but both have also had their struggles. 

After hitting .262 with 12 HR in the first half, Almonte suffered through a dismal second half.  He hit just .183 following an All-Star appearance and hit just one more homer over his final 153 at-bats.  Amongst league leaders in RBI at one point, Almonte finished with 58 (only 14 in the second half).  Is he dominant when he’s on?  Absolutely.  He practically carried the team through May with 8 HR and 21 RBI.  Still, it’s hard to ignore his .091 month of August and his 148 strikeouts in 409 at-bats. 

Carroll’s season was derailed by a pair of injuries.  He missed two weeks with a groin issue suffered on Opening Night in Burlington and then spent nearly all of May and June coming back from a broken thumb.  Once he got truly healthy, Carroll started to hit.  Following the All-Star break, he hit .240, scored 29 runs and stole 15 bases.  He’s been at High Desert before and should get a chance to make that roster with a good Spring.

Bottom line, I believe both Almonte and Carroll will be in High Desert to start 2010.  Almonte’s key to staying there is making consistent contact, while Carroll’s I believe is simply staying healthy.  Only time will tell.

martinez.jpgIf Almonte is gone, who will step in to be the primary power threat?  I think we see the return of ultra-talented third-baseman Mario Martinez (pictured left).  At age 19 last year, Martinez hit .214 with 2 HR and 24 RBI in 61 games with Clinton.  He was getting hot down the stretch of the first half, but was then sent to short-A Pulaski at the All-Star break.  There, he hit .308 with 20 doubles, 3 HR and 33 RBI in 71 games.   Yes, he hasn’t hit for consistent power yet in his career, but the Mariners have high hopes for him and this could be the breakout year.  Defensively, he looked great at both third and first base.  Where he plays next year will likely be determined by whether or not Jharmidy DeJesus makes the roster.

Other position players who could return include Travis Howell (.205, 8 HR, 29 RBI in 66 games), Maximo Mendez (.213, 8 triples, 38 runs scored, 20 steals in 64 games) and Terry Serrano (.236, 40 runs scored, 18 steals).  All three should go to High Desert, but very well could see time back with Clinton next year following injury-plagued 2009 seasons.

Pitching-wise, there shouldn’t be too many returners from the staff that led the Midwest League in ERA.  Starters like Kenn Kasparek (10-6, 2.41), Andrew Carraway (4-0, 2.50) and Bobby LaFromboise (8-9, 4.03) will certainly move up.  Relievers like Cheyne Hann (2-2, 1.32, 12 saves), Blake Nation (3-5, 3.16), Matt Renfree (3-2, 2.60), Jose Jimenez (4-2, 3.38), Brandon Josselyn (0-1, 0.75, 3 saves) and others should all move as well.

Now that we’ve covered some of the more familiar faces, let’s move on to the guys who had brief stints in Clinton last year.

When talking about position players, I’m excited to see what a guy like Ryan Royster can do with a full season in the Midwest League.  In eight games last year, Royster hit .333 with 3 doubles, 2 HR and 7 RBI.  He spent most of his year at Everett and performed there, hitting .325 with 7 HR and 27 RBI in 41 games.

Another intriguing hitter is Welington Dotel.  He exhibited tons of raw power in batting practice, but belted just one homer in 19 games.  Dotel did hit a solid .286 and drove in 11 runs in 49 at-bats.  I believe we’ll see him in the Clinton outfield this season.

We won’t see 2009 third-rounder Kyle Seager back, but we might see the return of sixth-rounder Shaver Hansen if for no other reason than shoring up his defense (13 errors in 36 games, primarily at third base).  Hansen hit .205 with 7 RBI and could probably use another year against Midwest League pitching as well.

Others we might see back include outfielder Dwight Britton (.192 in 11 games), infielder Jetsy Extrano (.045 in 6 games) and catchers Henry Contreras (.167, 2 RBI in 4 games) and Tommy Johnson (.167 in 5 games).

Back to pitching, there’s several 2010 rotation candidates that spent brief time with the LumberKings last year. 

At the top of the list is hard-throwing righty Maikel Cleto (pictured right), who arrived in latecleto.JPG June after some visa issues.  Two stints on the disabled list and a very strict pitch count allowed us a very brief look at Cleto, and it was hard to determine if he was the 0-3, 5.33 guy we saw over eight starts or the guy who struck out six over 3.0 innings in a matchup against Carlos Zambrano and the Peoria Chiefs on August 20.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see Cleto mature in the rotation.

Another potential starter coming back could be Anthony Vasquez.  Seattle’s 18th round pick out of USC went 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA in 7 games, all starts.  The numbers aren’t overly impressive, but Vasquez did win each of his last two starts, lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 5.66 in the process.  He also shut down a volatile Great Lakes Loons’ offense to a run on eight hits over 5.2 innings in his LumberKings’ debut on August 1.  The left-handed Vasquez could be a top-flight starter next season. 

Right-handers Andres Esquibel (1-1, 4.91 in 8 games) and Chris Kirkland (0-1, 5.00 in 4 games), and left-hander Jon Hesketh (1-1, 12.60 in 3 games) could all potentially be starters next year as well. 

Esquibel was 2-4 with a 5.00 ERA in Everett, but flashed dominance with a three-hit complete-game shutout win over Boise on August 6.  Kirkland, meanwhile, led the Northwest League with 85 strikeouts.  He went 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 starts.  Hesketh didn’t fare well in Clinton, but did limit opponents to a .188 average while going 0-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven outings with the Aqua Sox.

The 2010 bullpen is less clear.  Daniel Cooper, a teammate of Vasquez at USC and Seattle’s 21st round pick, went 0-1 with a 9.28 ERA in eight relief appearances with the LumberKings last year.  Ogui Diaz spent most of 2009 as an infielder, but converted to right-handed reliever and went 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four games with Pulaski.  The rest of the pen is a guessing game.

That’s just the first part of my two-part “Predict the Roster” segment.  Next week, I’ll look at potential LumberKings coming from Everett, Pulaski and Peoria.  Feel free to add your comments on my predictions below, especially if any of the players I’ve mentioned have changed organizations without my knowledge.  Hey, I’m human.

-DL  

Kasparek, Seager Jerseys on Auction Block

09 jersey auction.jpg

Official game-used jerseys of 2009 Clinton LumberKings right-hander Kenn Kasparek and infielder Kyle Seager are now available at Ebay.com.

Kasparek captured the Midwest League ERA title in 2009, going 10-6 with a 2.41 mark.  He became the first Clinton pitcher to lead the league in ERA since Salomon Torres did it for the MWL Champion Clinton Giants in 1991.  Seattle’s 12th-round pick in 2008 out of the University of Texas, Kasparek was named Clinton’s Pitcher of the Year following the season.  His road and batting practice jerseys are available.

Seager arrived in Clinton after being drafted in the third round in 2009.  A star alongside Mariners’ first-round pick Dustin Ackley at the University of North Carolina, Seager hit .275 with a home run and 22 RBI over 41 games with the LumberKings.  His batting practice jersey is available.

Visit this link to see all three auctions:  http://shop.ebay.com/clinton563/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25

-DL

Kasparek Wins MWL ERA Title

Kenn Kasparek’s 2.41 ERA is lowest in the Midwest League in 2009

 

Clinton, IA – Clinton LumberKings’ right-hander Kenn Kasparek finished with the lowest ERA in the Midwest League amongst qualifying pitchers, effective with the end of the regular season yesterday.  Kasparek’s 2.41 ERA bested Kane County’s Kenny Smalley, who finished second with a 2.73 ERA.

 

The 23-year-old Kasparek was Seattle’s 12th round pick in 2008 out of the University of Texas.  After struggling with an 0-2 record and  7.71 ERA in three April starts, he became one of the league’s most dominant pitchers with a 10-4 record and 1.92 ERA over the rest of the season.  He becomes the first Clinton pitcher to finish with the league’s best ERA since Salomon Torres did in 1991 with a 1.41 ERA for the Midwest League Champion Clinton Giants.

 

Kasparek finished atop the club in wins (10), starts (27), quality starts (10), innings (141.2) and strikeouts (134).  His 134 strikeouts and 1.12 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) were both third-best in the league.

 

Kasparek had several highlights in 2009.  He won the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week award on June 7 (0-0, 1.62 ERA, 18 strikeouts in 11.1 innings during the week), the only league pitching award claimed by a Clinton hurler this year.  On August 3, he tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over Burlington, becoming the first LumberKing to toss a complete-game shutout since Chris Barlow did it on August 19, 2002 with an 11-0 win over Wisconsin.

 

The LumberKings begin the 2010 season at Alliant Energy Field on Thursday, April 8 against the Peoria Chiefs.  Game time is yet to be determined.  For tickets, merchandise and more information, visit www.lumberkings.com.

 

A re-visit of all Kenn Kasparek audio from this year:

 


Kasparek Interview 5.2.09.mp3


Kenn Kasparek Interview 6.18.09.mp3


Kasparek 9-inning complete game 8.3 vs. Burlington.mp3


Kenn Kasparek Interview (CG shutout) 8.4.09.mp3

 

-DL

MWL Post-Season All-Stars Announced

The 2009 Post-Season All-Stars were announced by the Midwest League office earlier this afternoon.  The choices are determined by the 14 managers in the league, there are no  media or front office votes.  Spoiler Alert:  There are no LumberKings on the list.

First Base:  Rebel Ridling (PEO)

Second Base:  Alexi Amarista (CR)

Third Base:  Josh Vitters (PEO)

Shortstop:  Dee Gordon (GLL)

Outfielders:  Kyle Russell (GLL), Kyler Burke (PEO) and Josh Harrison (PEO)

DH:  Billy Nowlin (WM)

RH Starter:  Kenny Smalley (KCC)

LH Starter:  Casey Crosby (KCC)

RH Reliever:  Brad Brach (FTW)

LH Reliever:  Andrew Taylor (CR)

MVP:  Dee Gordon and Kyle Russell, Great Lakes Loons

Prospect of the Year:  Dee Gordon, Great Lakes Loons

Manager of the Year:  Doug Dascenzo, Fort Wayne and Marty Pevey, Peoria

And now, for my commentary.  There’s no real surprises or huge snubs on this list that I can see, but I was hoping to see Kenn Kasparek on this list.  Smalley is an exceptional pitcher, but Kasparek will finish with better numbers in ERA and strikeouts, most likely.  Had this evaluation been done based on numbers from May onward, Kasparek wins, hands down.

ecciZJtd.jpgAlso, another thought comes to mind.  I’m a big fan of rewarding both Gordon and Russell with the MVP award for the Loons…the man who set the table and stole 69 bases, plus the guy who drove him in with a league-high 25 home runs.  I won’t dispute those two.  However, it makes me wonder how many votes former Kings’ first-baseman Mitch Moreland (pictured left) would have needed to tie Beloit’s Ben Revere for a split of the 2008 MVP award.  That one still stings a bit.

Revere in ’08:  .379 (129-for-340), 17 doubles, 10 triples, 51 runs, 43 RBI, 44 steals. 

Moreland in ’08:  .324 (151-for-466), 37 doubles, 18 HR, 64 runs, 99 RBI.

They finished 1-2 in the league in average, but Moreland recorded his numbers in 40 more games than Revere.  I will continue to campaign for the asterisk on that MVP award, even to likely no avail.

Oh yeah, tonight’s game notes: 
8.25.09 kingsnotes.pdf

-DL

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