Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Moises, Moises, Moises

That's Moises Sierra, native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In 2007, at age 18, Sierra batted just .203 with the Gulf Coast League Jays.

Toronto nevertheless decided to skip the young outfielder up to the Lansing Lugnuts in 2008.

The 19-year-old started off his MWL career like gangbusters, notching seven hits in three games vs. Fort Wayne from April 4-6.  He finished the month with another three-hit outing and entered May wielding a .310 batting average.  From there, however, the teenager's season took a nosedive.  Following the All-Star Game, he hit a dismal .225 with only 14 walks compared to 62 strikeouts.

When I arrived in Lansing in 2009, I heard rumors that the Blue Jays were considering moving Moises Sierra from the outfield to the pitcher's mound.  After all, though his bat had been overmatched at the Single-A level, his throwing arm had drawn rave reviews.  My Director of Marketing swore that Sierra once picked up a ball at the warning track and fired it in to home plate without a bounce.

Sierra was not alone in his 2008 Midwest League struggles.  International signees like Sierra and Johermyn Chavez joined high school draftees like Eric Eiland, Kevin Ahrens, Justin Jackson and Mike McDade amid a young Lugs offense, with teenagers and 20-year-olds all over the field.

Both Chavez and McDade returned to Michigan's state capital in 2009.  The next year, Eiland, Ahrens and Jackson came back, having run into a wall in Class A-Advanced Dunedin.  All needed more seasoning in Lansing.  But Moises Sierra moved forward.  He enjoyed a breakthrough year with Dunedin in '09, battled through an injury-plagued 2010, blasted a career-high 18 homers for Double-A New Hampshire in 2011, played even better in 2012 for Triple-A Las Vegas, and made his MLB debut on July 31st.

An even more significant honor waited ahead:  Moises Sierra was named a starter on the Dominican Republic national team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Good thing, too.  Last night, facing Puerto Rico in the WBC semifinals, Sierra played a significant role with both his glove and his bat.

In the first inning:

And then, in the fifth inning:

Not bad, eh?  Helping to win the WBC semifinal for your nation is a little different from a Midwest League slump!

If you see a young Lugnuts player struggling this year, you might do well to keep Moises Sierra in mind... and so might that struggling young Lugnut take motivation in Sierra's well-earned success.

*  *  *

I'm a published author!  Have you bought The Baseball Thesaurus yet?  If you have, bring it to the ballpark and I'll personally inscribe it for you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A stab in the dark at the Lugnuts' pitchers

Behold:  Roberto Osuna!

Take these guesses with a grain of salt -- an early prediction of the 2013 Lugs pitchers:

                         Starting Rotation

                         RHP Taylor Cole
                         RHP Javier Avendaño
                         RHP Roberto Osuna
                         LHP Kyle Anderson
                         RHP Jeremy Gabryszewski

                         RHP Zack Breault
                         RHP Wil Browning
                         RHP Chuck Ghysels
                         RHP Ian Kadish
                         RHP Jonathan Kountis

                         RHP Drew Permison
                         RHP Andrew Sikula
                         LHP Colton Turner

Let's talk about some of these players.

*  Taylor Cole was sensational last year in Vancouver, putting up a 6-0 record with a 0.81 ERA.  Even better, when you remove a six-inning, four-run start from his ledger (in which he received the victory), that ERA drops to 0.30.  Good heavens.  He closed with a flourish, firing 7 2/3 no-hit innings in his final regular season start.  Bring this man to Lansing.

*  Javier Avendaño and I got along quickly when he began the season in Lansing last year, serving as a top-notch setup man for Ajay Meyer (30 1/3 innings, 1.48 ERA, 39 strikeouts).  The right-hander then moved down to Vancouver to convert to starting pitching.  The move suited him well:  He was the Canadians' R. Howard Webster Award winner as team MVP, compiling an 8-1 record with a 1.27 ERA.  A quick Javier story -- He's Venezuelan, but his grandfather is Italian, so he roots for Team Italy in international competitions.

*   In his Vancouver debut last year, Roberto Osuna struck out 13 batters in five one-hit scoreless innings.  He was nearly as good in the Northwest League playoffs, whiffing 15 batters in eight shutout frames while allowing only two hits.  If Aaron Sanchez is the Blue Jays' #1 prospect, Osuna could very well be #2.  I'm psyched to have him here.

*  We need a lefty in the rotation, so Kyle Anderson (4-2, 4.81 for Vancouver last year, and pitched well toward the end of the year) fills out the starting five.

*  I'm rushing Jeremy Gabryszewski up the ladder somewhat.  He pitched only for Bluefield a year ago, but he pitched (3-0, 2.35, 46 innings) and he has excellent control (22 strikeouts / four walks).  He's young, about to turn 20 on March 16th, so I can understand if the Jays take it slow and send Jeremy to Vancouver instead.

*  As far as the bullpen is concerned, I have Ian Kadish returning to Lansing simply because we always get a returnee or three.  (Last year, for instance, we got Brandon Berl back.)  I'd much rather see Ian in Dunedin, moving up toward the Majors.  A healthy Drew Permison, Andrew Sikula and Wil Browning should comprise the back end of the bullpen.  Zack Breault is a swing man.  Colton Turner gives the Lugs a shutdown lefty.

*  The two wildest guesses are Chuck Ghysels and Jonathan Kountis.  Ghysels was the closer for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays a year ago, going 7-for-7 in saves with 41 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings.  Kountis was signed out of Indy ball during the offseason after posting a dominating 6-2, 1.06 mark with the Frontier League's Lake Erie Crushers.  As a former Independent League guy myself, I'd love to see him here.

Other possibilities:  Tim Brechbuehler, Matt Johnson, Jonathan Lucas.

*  I'm hoping for top LHP prospect Daniel Norris.  There's a chance, if his spring goes well, that we see Norris in Lansing to anchor the rotation.  Near the end of the year, we might seen another touted lefty in Chase DeJong.

*  *  *

I'm a published author!  Have you bought The Baseball Thesaurus yet?  If you have, bring it to the ballpark and I'll personally inscribe it for you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An early guess at the Lugnuts' offense

Welcome back, Kellen Sweeney... maybe.

Minor League spring training games have begun, so let's take a swing at the Lugnuts' lineup this season:

                         Starting Lineup
                         CF Dalton Pompey
                         LF Nick Baligod
                         2B Christian Lopes
                         1B Seth Conner
                         DH Matt Newman
                         RF Carlos Ramirez
                         3B Kellen Sweeney
                         SS Jorge Flores
                         C Tucker Frawley

C - Tucker Frawley / Daniel Klein, each moving up from Vancouver, with prospect Santiago Nessy waiting in the wings.

1B - Seth Conner, moving up from Bluefield / dare I say, perhaps, The Great Balbino Fuenmayor, after a successful 2012 postseason with Vancouver.  This would have been Art Charles's spot, but he was traded to Philadelphia.

2B - Christian Lopes, rated the Jays' #23 prospect by Baseball America (though he moves up with the trading of Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard), moving up from Bluefield/Vancouver in 2012.  Possibly returnees Jorge Vega-Rosado and/or Andy Fermin, too.

SS - Jorge Flores, moving up from Vancouver / Shane Opitz, returning to Lansing for a second season.  (Andy Burns figures to start at shortstop for Dunedin, a level above.)

3B - Kellen Sweeney, who began last year with the Lugs before playing a full season with Vancouver.

OF - Dalton Pompey, returning to Lansing
OF Nick Baligod, returning to Lansing
OF - Carlos Ramirez, moving up from Vancouver
OF - Matt Newman, moving up from Vancouver

Pretty straightforward amongst the outfielders.  I hope Nick Baligod likely moves upward to Dunedin, though, and Carlos Ramirez might stay for a little more seasoning in Vancouver.

* * *

Now then...

My hope is for OF - D.J. Davis, the Blue Jays' 1st round pick last year, entering this year as the #6 prospect (#4 when subtracting d'Arnaud/Syndergaard).  If D.J. comes to Lansing, he immediately becomes the team's leadoff hitter, moving Dalton down to the #2 spot.

*  *  *

I'm a published author!  Have you bought The Baseball Thesaurus yet?  If you have, bring it to the ballpark and I'll personally inscribe it for you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Next 10 Lugnuts to Reach the Majors (Maybe)

He was the Lugnuts' starting third baseman in 2010...
Can you name him?  The answer is below.

Seven former Lugs debuted in the Majors in 2012:  Tyler Pastornicky, Evan Crawford, Drew Hutchison, Yan Gomes, Aaron Loup, Moises Sierra, and Chad Jenkins.

Who are the likeliest alums to come up this year?

*  Ryan Goins
*  A. J. Jimenez
*  Nestor Molina
*  Mike McDade

To start off, players cannot be called up to the Major Leagues unless they are on their parent team's 40-man roster.  For the Toronto Blue Jays, there are two former Lansing Lugnuts on their 40-man who have yet to play in MLB, middle infielder Goins (2009-2010 Lug) and catcher Jimenez (2009-2010).  Meanwhile, Molina (2010) is on the Chicago White Sox' 40-man and McDade (2008-2009) is on the Cleveland Indians' 40-man.

Quick Mike McDade side story:  Mike's the best-dressed player I've ever met, bar none.

Any wilder guesses?

*  Jake Marisnick
*  Sean Nolin
*  Sean Ochinko/Ryan Schimpf
*  Mark Sobolewski

All right, perhaps Marisnick (2010-2011) isn't the wildest of guesses.  He's one of the game's top outfield prospects, acquired by the Marlins in the off-season; he's ticketed to start the season in Double-A; and he's primed for an MLB debut either this year or next year.  Nolin (2011) is a top-notch left-handed pitcher, also scheduled to start in Double-A, and feels like he's a solid summer away from toeing the rubber in the Bigs.

Quick Jake Marisnick story:  Outside a full, tired, frustrated, ready-to-leave bus in Clinton, Iowa, a boy and his mother approached and requested for Jake to come off the bus and sign the boy's baseball glove.  He did.

The other three are slightly longer shots to break into the Majors this year.  Ochinko (2010) and Schimpf (2010) were teammates at LSU and are slowly climbing the ladder together.  Sobolewski (2009-2010) now plays in the Minnesota Twins' system and shouldn't be too far from a call-up if his year goes well.

And One More...

*  Danny Barnes

Princeton product Barnes (2010-2011) was lights-out in Lansing two years ago, and then dominated in Dunedin last year.  If he can excel at the Double-A level, his time will come.

Quick Danny Barnes story:  All during the 2010 season, Danny was hard at work on his college thesis, studying baseball players' production and their salaries.  His conclusion - Major League teams overpay for homegrown players while paying far more rationally for free agents.

*  *  *

The Lugnut pictured at the top?  Mark Sobolewski.

*  *  *

I'm a published author!  Have you bought The Baseball Thesaurus yet?  If you have, bring it to the ballpark and I'll personally inscribe it for you.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A new voice at Cooley Law School Stadium

photo courtesy of Phil in the press box

First things first:  Jennifer Swanchara has been named the Lugnuts' new P.A. voice of Cooley Law School Stadium.  Read the release here.

A public address announcer does far more than just announce starting lineups, pitching changes, and the name of the upcoming batter.  Jennifer will manage all music and sound at the ballpark, sitting in front of a computer and audioboard.  In essence, she'll be the stadium DJ for the 2013 campaign.  (As a DJ on Impact 89 FM in East Lansing, she's ready.)

As far as we can tell, Jennifer becomes the third female P.A. announcer in pro baseball, joining the Bowie Baysox's Adrienne Roberson and the San Francisco Giants' Renel Brooks-Moon.


My newest article for The Good Point:  Baseball's newest reality shows revealed!  (You know that you'd watch "America's Next Top Spitballer.")

*  Here's why Deadspin is excellent:  In case you missed the circumstances surrounding Yewri Guillen's death, particularly afterward, the sports site spotlights Mother Jones' Ian Gordon's report, with disturbing details about the lack of medical attention in the Dominican.

*  Welcome back, World Baseball Classic!  Big time upset yesterday, too, with the Netherlands knocking off Korea.  The worrisome trend I'm noticing, though, is a pushback from fans who are sick of being told that they should care about the Classic.  It's rather similar, actually, to the blowback from Americans being told that there's something wrong with them if they don't like soccer.  Emotions soon rise on both sides, between pro-soccer and anti-soccer, pro-WBC and anti-WBC, and it becomes a Trout/Cabrera situation.  Unnecessary, really.  Anyway:  Go USA, go Canada... heck, I don't know, go Venezuela!  (I'm patriotic but not discerning.)

Link of the Day:

1.  The Hendrix College batter requests time.  The Berry College pitcher throws at him.
2.  The Berry College pitcher tosses a wild pitch.  The runner from third tries to score.  Boom.