Monday, August 26, 2013

10 Lugnuts Who Should Be Proud of 2013

This year has been disappointing for the Lugnuts as a team, filled with losses.

Still, here are 10 players who should be proud of their efforts nonetheless...




10.
 In 2012, infielder Shane Opitz batted .225 for the Lugnuts, finishing the season with a troubling series of errors.  He began the 2013 season on the Lugs' Disabled List. Once activated, the Coloradan enjoyed a career breakthrough, tearing into Midwest League pitching to the tune of a .370 average and earning a promotion to Dunedin, where he's batting .310 in 59 games.


9.  Infielder Gustavo Pierre entered his third year in Lansing in 2013, having batted .187 (with a slew of errors) in 2011 and .252 last year.  After a rocky April, Pierre delivered a sizzling .391 May to capture the Midwest League's Player of the Month honor and his first call-up to the Florida State League.  While Gustavo was in the Lugnuts lineup, there was no one more dangerous, more impactful, or more exciting.



8. 
 21-year-old Jorge Flores may have been a 2012 Northwest League Postseason All-Star, but a slow start left Flores with a .201 average after April, and he played only 10 games in May. As the weather warmed, however, so did Jorge, batting .276 with an .836 OPS after the All-Star Break and receiving a promotion to Dunedin.




This is the first of two much larger head shots... ready yourself.


7.  Justin Jackson played for the Lugnuts in 2008 and 2010 as an infielder, but a career change moved him to the pitcher's mound this year. Consider the move a success, with Justin moving up to Dunedin following 22 appearances with the Lugs.




6. 
 Ben White's line in 2011 with Vancouver:  1-1, 7.00.  In 2012 with Vancouver:  4-7, 5.73.  This year with the Lugnuts:  8-8, a deceivingly high 4.06 ERA, and the surprise leader of the starting rotation.  White tossed a seven-inning shutout at West Michigan and provided the Lugs with consistent innings and solid work. This year was a huge step forward for the Temple signee.



5. 
 Make no mistake, Arik Sikula was a fine pitcher in 2011 with Bluefield (2.97) and in 2012 with Vancouver (2.45).  This year, Sikula has been better, posting 18 saves and a 2.02 ERA, limiting the opposition to a .194 average, and locking down the 9th with an ever-improving arsenal.  Dunedin will enjoy having his services next season, with New Hampshire not far away.



4.  Last year, Dwight Smith, Jr. batted just .226 in Bluefield before struggling to a .175 average for Vancouver. Drafted 53rd overall in 2011, the results were disappointing. This year:  No worries, showing off power, speed, discipline, and the ability to play all three outfield positions. Consider the young prospect back on track.


3.  Sidearmer Wil Browning was signed as a nondrafted free agent last season out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe... and immediately commenced dominating opposing hitters with a 1.14 ERA between three levels. This year, more of the same, earning an All-Star nod as the Lugs' best reliever followed by a deserved promotion to Dunedin.


2.  Admit it:  You didn't know Emilio Guerrero's name before this year started.  It makes sense -- The young infielder batted just .239 in the 2011 Dominican Summer League, followed by a meager 2012.  This year, Manny Acta's nephew has been a revelation, slamming seven HRs, stealing 17 bases, tying the franchise and league records with a 6-hit game on Aug. 16, and establishing himself as a prospect to watch.


1.  Check out this column, titled "Is Daniel Norris a bust?"  It was understandable at the time, but Norris refocused with pitching coach Vince Horsman, adjusted his mechanics, improved his fastball command, and began to dominate.  (In August alone, he has a 0.75 ERA, allowing two runs in 24 IP while K'ing 29.)  Down the road, Daniel Norris may well look back upon 2013 as the season that turned his fortunes around.


*  *  *


My first book is out and available!

Have you purchased your Baseball Thesaurus yet?

No comments: