22 little Lugnuts and how they grew
(Yes, that title is a reference to this book.)
During the past two days, I examined the top prospects and performers in the Eastern and Western Division.
Today, I examine the Lansing Lugnuts.
It is easy to list in big bold lettering Top Prospects in Lansing in 2014 and follow that up with Miguel Castro, D.J. Davis, Matt Dean, Chase De Jong, Kendall Graveman, Dawel Lugo, Mitch Nay, Rowdy Tellez.
Heck, if I were a broadcaster for another team trying to capture the Lugnuts' season, I would focus on Kendall Graveman and Mitch Nay, and maybe Miguel Castro, Derrick Loveless, Griffin Murphy, and Jeremy Gabryszwski, too.
I'd rather do this, though:
Lugnuts Who Had the Best Season of Their Professional Career
That's what this is about, isn't it? This is about players who are growing, improving, developing.
- Anthony Alford - now playing at Ole Miss, made Single-A debut and was a smash success.
- Justin Atkinson - entered 2014 with reputation as no-hit glovesman, exited with a .291 average and an OPS approaching .700.
- David Harris - showed off speed, terrific power, and the versatility to play left field and third base in addition to second base.
- Derrick Loveless - career highs in every offensive category, and not just because of the full-season schedule; he was the Lugs' true breakout position-player prospect, and a deserving midseason All-Star; should be one to watch in the coming years.
- Ian Parmley - no, Ian didn't have a great experience in Lansing, but he was tremendously effective in Dunedin after a second-half callup.
- Jorge Saez - what a season! Jorge crushed it in 42 games for the Lugs (.825 OPS, superb defense), moved up to Dunedin and overcame early struggles to finish strong.
- Rowdy Tellez - began in Bluefield, opened with a slew of at-'em balls that gave way to a white hot streak that led to a late Lansing promotion; batted .357 (15-42) with two homers in limited MWL action.
- Dickie Joe Thon - tough call here between his splendid 2013 and this year, but Dickie played in 103 games, which was a big step (even with a late season concussion); bashed 27 extra-base hits, diversified to left field and second base, and set himself up for a much better 2015 in Dunedin.
There's no Mitch Nay or Matt Dean on this list because their 2013 seasons were better. There's no shame in that, especially considering this was their first full-season experience and both did their darndest to carry the Lugs' offense all season.
- Miguel Castro - from the Dominican Summer League in 2013 to the Florida State League in 2014, with an impressive four-start cameo in Lansing along the way; the Kevin Durant lookalike is legit.
- Jimmy Cordero - fatigue cost Cordero time from late April until the second half, but he returned with greater velocity (upwards of 100 mph) and greater command; if he refines his change and slider, he becomes lights-out.
- Brady Dragmire - no, the ERA (2.91) wasn't as low as it was last year (2.16), but Brady discovered his role in the second half, destroying MWL offenses with a low-90s sinker and pinpoint command; add a breaking ball to that mix and he'll master the Florida State League, too.
- Alonzo Gonzalez - I'm going out on a limb with this one, but my gosh, was Alonzo good by year's end! His fastball sat 93, and he used it to challenge the best hitters in the league; a 6'5 lefty who throws 90s and has strikeout stuff is a definite candidate to rise.
- Francisco Gracesqui - added a curve to his fastball/change repertoire, improved his command (by light years), and finished the year with a 1.26 ERA and 44 K's in 35.2 innings between Vancouver and Lansing; that's one heck of a nondrafted free agent.
- Kendall Graveman - in April, he was in Lansing; in May and June, he was in Dunedin; in July, he was in New Hampshire (for one start); in August, he was in Buffalo; now he's in Toronto. In one word: Success.
- Phil Kish - the power sinker was money, the command was superb, and an assignment down to Vancouver to take the lead in the Canadians' bullpen led to 14 innings with only one unearned run allowed; Kish should pitch in Dunedin next year.
- Jason Leblebijian - 0.00 ERA; what a pitcher!
- Joe Lovecchio - after wearing down at the end of 2013 pro debut, earned 2014 Northwest League All-Star nod, and then allowed only two runs in 7.2 innings in Lansing.
- Griffin Murphy - the former 2nd-round pick found himself in the first half, dominating the MWL with a circuit-best 16 saves; his fastball was in the 90s, his slider was wicked. (He lost himself in Dunedin, unfortunately.)
- Scott Silverstein - the 11-4 record is gaudy, the ERA (4.08) is a bit lower than 2013 (4.15), and, most strikingly, the lefty averaged more than one strikeout per inning while being used more heavily than any other Lugnuts reliever. Next year: Dunedin!
- Starlyn Suriel - his composure and performance led to a speedy promotion from Vancouver (even speedier than Castro), and he pitched effectively (3.21 ERA) in nine appearances.
- Frank Viola III - it culminated in a release from Dunedin, but the knuckleballer sure had fun in Lansing, allowing only two runs in his first 15.2 innings.
- Chase Wellbrock - the only 2014 draftee to reach Lansing, he was unhittable in Bluefield (one earned run in 24.1 innings, with 34 strikeouts compared to one intentional walk), and then debuted with three scoreless innings at Dayton.
Did I miss anyone?