Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Crosstown Showdown: glimpsing the future

Out on Kindle, it's the 2nd edition of my Baseball Thesaurus!
The print edition will be arriving shortly, via August Publications.
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Make of this what you will.
This year is the eighth Crosstown Showdown, presented by Auto-Owners Insurance, pitting the Lansing Lugnuts and the Michigan State Spartans.  During the past seven seasons, over 70,000 fans have come in through the gates, watching the Lugs build a 5-2 record in the series against MSU.
The Blue Jays, as the Lugnuts' parent club, began the series playing things relatively straight: Starter Kyle Ginley worked a good five innings in 2007, relieved by Nate Starner for the next 3 2/3, with closer Julio Pinto locking up a Lugnuts win.  The starting lineup featured the regulars, including young Travis Snider (0-for-1, 3 walks).
In 2008, however, the Jays made a decision that they've stayed consistent to till this day.  Instead of using members of the Lugs pitching staff, they sent up younger - and perhaps rawer - guys, who weren't quite ready for the Midwest League yet.
2008:  Joe Wice, Marcus Walden, Tim Collins, Kyle Walter, Brad Cuthbertson
2009:  Scott Gracey, Willy Mendez, Chris Holguin, Jason Roenicke
2010:  Sam Strickland, Shawn Griffith, Ruben De La Rosa, Juan Hernandez, Casey Beck
2011:  Note - instead of pitchers, outfielder Chris Hawkins and infielder Matt Nuzzo flew in for the game
2012:  Roberto Osuna, Daniel Norris, Kevin Comer
2013:  Chase De Jong, Alberto Tirado, Adonys Cardona, Justin Jackson
2014:  Mark Biggs, Yeyfry Del Rosario, Francisco Gracesqui, Adaric Kelly, Garrett Pickens, Jesus Tinoco
Let's discuss this briefly.
*  Tim Collins is now an above-average Major League reliever and Marcus Walden is a Triple-A sinkerballer knocking on the door of the Big Leagues.
*  Matt Nuzzo would go on to hit one of the most dramatic home runs in team history, leading to the playoff elimination of the great 2011 Dayton Dragons.
*  Drew Hutchison, now in the Majors, started the 2011 CTSD.  Aaron Sanchez, now the Blue Jays' top prospect, started the 2012 CTSD.  Both could easily become MLB All-Stars down the road.  If you were a fan at one of those games -- or, heck, if you were one of the Spartans who batted against them -- you have a story to tell.
*  The 2012 sequence of Lugnuts pitchers could look awesome with the passing of time:  Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, and Daniel Norris, pitching in a game televised on the Big Ten Network, in front of a stadium-record crowd of 12,997.  Kevin Comer was a 1st-round supplemental pick who was given a lot of money and then traded to Houston.  He hasn't distinguished himself yet, but stay tuned.
*  The 2013 CTSD serves in retrospect as a perfect preview of the 2014 Lugnuts, with Chase De Jong, Alberto Tirado and Adonys Cardona all ascending to Lansing's starting rotation this year.  There was also this video:

*  As for this year, I'd advise you to keep a long-term eye trained toward 18-year-old Jesus Tinoco.  It's a good sign for anyone that young when the Blue Jays trust in him enough to send him in for a game like this.  At the very least, this is going to be a great experience for a young gun who has never pitched above the Gulf Coast League.

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