2010 High Desert Mavericks Preview
To start out by setting some reasonable expectations, I expect this year’s High Desert squad to be decent, but have few hopes of them repeating as division winners in both halves. Part of that is that the talent isn’t quite as high as it was in last year, though to be fair, there were a lot of unanticipated breakouts in that group. The other part is that I find the pitching more interesting than the hitting here, which is not something I’m comfortable saying too loudly given what kind of circumstances this crew is going to be dropped into there. That is not to say that the offense will be hopeless, as they have some experience and at least three hitters who could establish themselves as quality prospects in the system with a good showing there, conditional on it being not just a home park thing.
RHP Andrew Carraway, RHP Maikel Cleto, LHP Ryan Feierabend, RHP Cheyne Hann, RHP Kenn Kasparek, LHP Bobby LaFromboise, LHP Travis Mortimore, RHP Luis Munoz, RHP Blake Nation, RHP Stephen Penney, RHP Steven Richard, RHP Marwin Vega, RHP Jake Wild
For an unfortunate few on the pitching staff, the break of camp in spring training represents a sort of Groundhog’s Day, except without the wit of Bill Murray in its prime and a quaint, though inoffensive backdrop, they get to go back to pitching hell again for another few games at least. The stadium isn’t so pretty either. So, to Wild, Mortimore, Richard, Penney, and to a lesser extent, Vega, sorry dudes.
But let us start with some good news. The rotation will likely be fronted by Cleto, Kasparek, Carraway, and LaFromboise, with the fifth spot in flux as the two rehabbers get their licks in. Cleto we know as being the somewhat forgotten piece of the Putz trade, who spent most of last year languishing in the Dominican Republic with visa problems. His stuff is up there with anyone in the system, with heater that’s sometimes hit triple digits. The breaking ball and change-up are less interesting, though he’s young enough to expect reasonable improvement on both. Kasparek led the Midwest League last year with a 2.41 ERA, and was in the top ten in innings pitched with 141.2. He was a 12th round selection in ’08 and as he’s distanced himself from the TJ surgery he had in 2007, he’s actually been rather good. He struck out eight and a half per nine last season while walking only two. Carraway posted even crazier numbers, ending the season with a nearly eight Ks for every walk while splitting time between Everett and Clinton. Few pitchers would grade higher than him on their feel for pitching, and it allows him to outperform his stuff, which is only a tick about average. Another member of the ’08 Clinton rotation, LaFromboise doesn’t have the velocity of the others, but is fairly solid otherwise. One point of concern I’d raise about him is that he’s been a rather flyball-oriented pitcher since turning pro and gave up eleven dingers in the Midwest League last season, which is a bad combo in Mavericks Stadium.
The bullpen will feature two newcomers in Nation and Hann, teammates in Clinton last season. Hann nearly got through the whole season with a sub-1.00 ERA. He’s also 25 though. He’s one of the few guys on the roster who can compete with Carraway for insane K/BB ratios, because he won’t walk anyone for any reason. Nation was a closer at Georgia Southern, but finished only seven games last season, and got a few starts here and there. He’s tied with Kasparek for the tallest pitcher on the roster at 6’8, but is still working on throwing harder. Getting to the more familiar faces, Wild split time between the ‘pen and the rotation last year and may have some growth ahead of him, despite also being 25, due to limited experience before turning pro, though the repeat of the league is not encouraging. Richard has good stuff, and poor command of it, and now that he’s a full-time reliever, I’d say one of his better assets is he at least keeps the ball in the park. Mortimore, peripherally, was better last season than the year before, but cosmetically, the drop off 0.80 points off his ERA was less impressive when he was starting at 7.87. Command is not really his strong suit either. Continuing that particular trend, Vega also falls in that unfortunate category even if his stuff was initially kind of interesting, enough to get him on the 40-man at one point at least. He switched to the ‘pen full-time in ’08 and has had worse issues with walks there than he ever did in the rotation. Penney, on the other hand, he’s all right, and is the third member of the no-walk club on staff. The stuff doesn’t generate nearly as many strikeouts as the others though.
Feierabend and Munoz round out the group for the time being. Feier, as you may know, is coming off Tommy John surgery last season and is in the warm climate for rehab purposes. Munoz was not quite so severely dinged up, pitching in 142.2 innings last year between West Tenn and Tacoma and since he wasn’t horrible in the former, I don’t know what the deal is in putting him here.
Trevor Coleman, Travis Scott
Coleman was a 9th round pick last season who may be more known for catching Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow, and Kyle Gibson than any abilities of his own. He can catch and throw reasonably well, but couldn’t quite make it to the Mendoza Line in Everett last season. It would be strange if he had split time with Baron in Clinton, but I’m willing to consider that he might have done something well in spring training that got him to this particular position. Scott has played in nearly 300 minor league games now and all but thirty-nine of them were in the Cal League. He finally got to the point where he could hit on the road last season and still, he can’t seem to escape the league. The catch-and-throw skills are nothing special even if his blocking has improved.
2B Edilio Colina, SS Juan Diaz, IF Luis Nunez, 1B Rich Poythress, IF Scott Savastano, 2B Kyle Seager, IF Nate Tenbrink
Unlike the pitching staff, it’s mostly new kids here. Poythress got it worked into his contract that he could start out in double-A last season, but the confidence was not quite up to what the skills could produce. He’s dropped to the Cal League now, though among first base prospects in the system, he’s probably my favorite, being more skilled in hitting than slugging with the kind of build that could yield power later. Seager is another interesting guy because he was a third baseman before, mostly, and is now being tried around second to see if he can hack it there, though he would be blocked by former teammate Dustin Ackley. That’s kind of weird when you think about it. He’s not locked in there, and could play around the infield as needed. Tenbrink is also rather versatile, logging innings at every infield position, mostly at the corners, and showing up in left field a few times late in the season. Viewed as being rather raw coming out of college, his bat proved to be a bit ahead of schedule in the Midwest League, where he hit .282/.357/.431. Savastano’s bat is his best tool, but while he led the team with 56 walks, his power is nothing special and he lacks a regular position, playing mostly first, but doing time everywhere but center last season. Nunez is a decent glove at second who hits for a mostly empty average. Of the two returners, I like Diaz the best, as he’s a competent defender and hits well. I have no idea why he’s back, since he was an all-star last season and had no home/road splits to speak of. Expect him to move out if there’s an opportunity. Colina is a slightly better version of Nunez, but probably not much more than a utility infielder at this juncture.
CF Denny Almonte, RF Johermyn Chavez, LF Maximo Mendez, OF Jake Shaffer
The outfield group is only four here, as some of the infielders will see time out there. The crew isn’t especially interesting. Chavez is probably the best prospect of the group. He came over in the League trade and some people love his power, but he struck out in over a quarter of his at-bats last year and doesn’t walk a heck of a lot. Putting him in Mavericks Stadium could lead to a kind of Juan Silvestre scenario. Similarly, Almonte is a lot of tools and not a lot of results. He was worse last year in Clinton than he was in Wisconsin in ’08, and Clinton’s a better hitter’s park to boot. Perhaps something clicked for him in camp. Otherwise, he’s boom or bust in the vein of Halman, without the results at this point. Mendez started out decently in April, but got bogged down by injuries and only logged 44 at-bats after May. He strikes out way too much for a guy with such limited power, and if not for that, his ability to draw walks might make him an option as a leadoff guy for this squad. Shaffer will play anywhere and could see enough time to be a semi-regular. His skillset is similar to former Maverick James McOwen, but with more power and fewer walks.