Previewing the ’09 Aquasox
The Aquasox will be opening up their season on Saturday in Vancouver (7:05 pm start time), so now is as good a time as any to preview the third local team, should anyone be curious enough to venture up to Everett Memorial this summer. The roster as constructed right now is especially not-reflective of who will be taking the field for the majority of the season. Not only are there just two â€™09 draftees that have signed at this point, but a recent change in passport/visa rules for entering the U.S. has left the Aquasox with a limited roster, as not everyone has their papers squared away just yet. There are two pitchers listed as in the rotation, RHs Chris Kirkland and Taylor Stanton, that arenâ€™t going to be with the team on the first roadtrip for this very reason. The players who you see on the team at this moment are the ones that are capable of going to Canada and back without issues, but thereâ€™s going to be a noticeable turnover come Tuesday.
Nevertheless, here is more information on the group than you ought to require.
LHP Kyle Brown, 6’2″, 210, 1/2/86
RHP Luke Burnett, 6’8″, 260, 12/10/86
RHP Daniel Cooper, 6’3″, 205,11/6/86 (21st Round, 2009)
LHP Nick Czyz, 6’2″, 215, 4/10/87
LHP Eddy Hernandez, 6’3″, 170, 8/4/83
RHP Taylor Lewis, 6’4″, 205, 6/2/88
LHP Brandon Pullen, 6’4″, 220, 12/7/85
RHP Brad Reid, 6’1″,190, 1/18/88 (of Federal Way)
LHP Jose Rios, 5’10”, 180, 3/2/90
RHP Phillip Roy, 6’4″, 185, 7/29/87
RHP Christian Stahely, 6’4″, 205, 9/28/85
Rotation: Lewis, Czyz, Burnett, Kirkland, Stanton
Notice a theme in the rotation? Itâ€™s okay if you donâ€™t, but each one of the five is from the 2008 draft. The group is headlined by 14th-rounder Luke Burnett, a probable first-round pick last season who had shoulder issues that kept him from pitching after April. He has a live fastball in the mid-90s, touching 97 on a good day, and the makings of a plus bender. The coaching staff seems to be more fond of Lewis, who has a little less giddyap on his fastball, but was talented enough to be picked earlier than the 19th-round, when the M’s selected him. Czyz, the only lefty in the rotation, was another signability concern in the 35th-round, as a strong senior season could have improved his stock. He possesses some good stuff, low-90s heater, slider, but heâ€™s had some trouble putting hitters away in his career and took a step back as a junior. If you end up liking him, you can become a fan of his on Facebook. No, Iâ€™m serious. Rounding out the group is Kirkland (36th), once one of the top prep catchers in the country though he couldnâ€™t hit a lick, and Stanton (26th), who is a former multisport athlete who is now concentrating on pitching.
In the bullpen, there are a few lefties worth taking note of. Rios could make a play for the rotation by the end of the year. One of their few Mexican signings of recent years, theyâ€™ve been careful with him, but he got some time starting last year and dominated, and displays quality stuff for a southpaw. Hernandez is a converted outfielder who couldnâ€™t hit after leaving the Arizona League, Pullen was a situational reliever for Strasburgâ€™s Aztecs team, and Brown has good stuff but lacks command. For right-handers, thereâ€™s local kid Brad Reid, via Bellevue CC, who saw his velocity improve during his time in college, Roy, who has some command weaknesses and canâ€™t get out of Everett, and Staehely, who has suffered from some of the same. Cooper, the one â€™09 pick on the pitching staff, is a late-bloomer who pitched in the â€˜pen for USC this year.
Juan Fuentes, R/R, 6’1″,170, 1/28/86
Guy Welsh, R/R, 6â€™3â€, 226, 5/15/1985
Fuentes, a former mid-dollar signing out of Venezuela, had a slow start to his career after Tommy John surgery in his second year. Donâ€™t judge him too much on age, because his experience is still somewhat limited. He hit .337/.407/.462 for Pulaski last year with almost as many walks as strikeouts, but an early season promotion to Clinton this year saw him in over his head. Welsh is a corner infielder who has a similar eye at the plate, but doesnâ€™t hit quite enough, so theyâ€™ve experimented with him behind the plate, starting in instructs last fall.
1B Gerardo Avila, L/L, 6’2″, 185, 7/15/86
SS Fred Bello, R/R, 5’11, 175, 10/6/87
IF Deybis Benitez, R/R, 6’2″, 170,4/23/87
IF Ben Billingsley, L/R, 5’11”, 185, 10/27/86
IF Hawkins Gebbers, R/R, 6’2″, 200, 7/29/86 (of Brewster, 33rd Round 2009)
IF Anthony Phillips, S/R, 5’9″, 160, 4/11/90
Thereâ€™s some potential here, but not a whole lot thatâ€™s exciting. Bello could be the best â€˜spect, a 20th-round pick out of California, though heâ€™s originally a native of the Dominican Republic. He has solid tools all-around and a contact-driven approach, but needs further refinement. Benitez, an â€™07 Frog who can hit a double now and then, is likely to be on third, and if not him, then Billingsley, a big left-handed hitter who looks like he should hit better than he actually does and has some defensive limitations. Phillips, who languished around the Mendoza-line, is interesting primarily for his country of origin, South Africa, though some like his D. Hawkins Gebbers, whose name alone could steal thirty bases and perform a perfect suicide squeeze, is a possible DP partner for Bello. How gritty is he? Battling an awful cough that had him miss the beginning of a game back in February, he was summoned from his dorm room, where he had been sleeping, to take the infield as a defensive replacement in the tenth. In his first plate appearance of the day, he hit a home run over the left-field fence for a walk-off victory. He hit a team-leading .344/.427/.651 for Biola this year. The non-literal sleeper on the roster is Avila. Iâ€™ve been a fan of his for a long time, but he canâ€™t ever seem to stay healthy, losing time to a right ankle sprain and a torn left ACL over the years. He hit .292/.330/.490 in the Venezuelan Winter League for the â€™07-â€™08 season and was named the leagueâ€™s rookie of the year, despite very limited experience in the high minors.
RF Wellington Dotel, R/R, 6’1″,180, 10/2/85
CF Ryan Royster, L/L, 6’1″, 180, 10/13/85
RF Kalian Sams, R/R, 6’3″, 220, 8/25/86
CF Mario Yepez, S/R, 6’1″, 160, 6/15/88
Royster is the highest drafted player currently on the roster as a 13th-round pick last year. Heâ€™s a five-tooler who has been a little slow to develop after being a two-sport player in high school, but heâ€™s shown signs of coming into his own over the years. Sams is probably the best athlete on the roster, a less-talented incarnation of Halman with a greater penchant for the strikeout, if you can wrap your mind around that. A recent promotion from the Venezuelan Summer League, Yepez is the other centerfielder on the roster, and oddly, the second-youngest position player at twenty. Like Benitez, heâ€™s more of a doubles hitter, but he can handle the bat decently. Rounding out the group is another gifted physical athlete in Dotel. A former Dominican Summer League player, he busted onto the scene late and completely wrecked the league, but has struggled in his time in the U.S. and was busted at one point for performance-enhancing substances, the last Mariners player to suffer such a fate in recent years, which makes his late arrival all the more curious.
As an added note for those who missed it in the round-ups earlier, the pitching coach is farmhand Rich Dorman, who is rehabbing his arm this season, though he insists that heâ€™ll be back and playing soon enough.