2011 High Desert Mavericks Preview
The end of spring training leaves the Mavericks in a strange position, perhaps stranger than the fact that I am still writing about them in 2011 when I did not want to be writing about them in 2009. On one hand, they’ve eliminated radio broadcast in a cost cutting measure, though I’ve heard that one fellow will be doing weekend games on a pro bono basis. On the other, ticket prices are down (yay?) and the new ownership group plans on sticking it out in Adelanto and trying to talk the city into making stadium improvements. We are going to be stuck there forever, in a park that had a 156/156 factor for home runs last year. Might as well make the best of it…
Pitching Staff: RHP Tim Boyce, LHP Nick Czyz, RHP Daniel Cooper, LHP Jimmy Gillheeney, LHP Jonathan Hesketh, RHP John Housey, RHP Austin Hudson, LHP Jose Jimenez, RHP Chris Kirkland, RHP Yoervis Medina, RHP Stephen Pryor (DL), RHP Chris Sorce, RHP Taylor Stanton, RHP Alfredo Venegas (DL)
I would feel uncomfortable if there were a number of pitchers on this roster that really excited me. To start the season, one of them is on the DL. The rotation seems likely to be led by Medina, who was mistaken visually for Felix a few times in camp. Medina spent four years in the VSL, though, while Felix spent none, so the comparisons aren’t really fair. He has a low-90s fastball and a really strong curve which ranks as one of the best breaking pitches on the staff, along with a splitter and a change that make starting seem realistic long-term. His mechanics and command control are both works in progress.
Boyce is a likely candidate to follow him somewhere in the rotation. He was late pick, is already twenty-four, and his mechanics have caused some to cringe, but he has enough of pitches and stuff to remain in the rotation. This is all assuming that his arm doesn’t blow up or something.
Other starting candidates include Gillheeney, Hesketh, Sorce, Stanton, and possibly Czyz. Gillheeney was the ace of the Clinton staff for much of last season before getting a few promotions late in the year. Weirdly, he saw his Ks increase at the more difficult levels, which is hardly common. His stuff is average, but he doesn’t have the typical finesse lefty approach. Hesketh has less stuff, but the same basic mindset on the mound and will put up as much of a fight as anyone. He started half the season with the Mavs last year and saw the usual slip in command.
Sorce was a closer in college, but he started for the Aquasox last year and showed enough aptitude for it to hold down a middle-to-back-end spot. He was quite good down the stretch for the Aquasox, but overall, I don’t think of him as being all that interesting. Stanton has seen three years of level-to-level pitching in the minor leagues and has seen his hits rise while the walks and Ks both decreased, which sounds like an alarming combination for what he’s getting into. Czyz started for Clinton and relieved for the Mavs last year after his command fell apart. He’s yet another left-hander with fringe stuff.
Had all gone well out of spring training, I would be devoting the bullpen space to talking about how awesome Stephen Pryor is and how he’s going to be at least in double-A to end the year. Right now, his arm is a little sore and he may not be in games for a few weeks. His fastball is mid-to-high 90s and he strikes out everyone, but his breaking pitch is still developing and his command comes and goes.
The rest is not so exciting, which is perhaps to be expected with draft picks ranging from 21st-round to 36th-round. Kirkland is a former catcher who is surprisingly okay at pitching and seemed to show improved command last year. Housey was in both Clinton and Everett last year and had trouble staying ahead of the more experienced hitters of the Midwest League. Hudson was awfully reliant on his defense in Everett last year, which is worrisome, but he is skipping a level so who knows, maybe he’s also developed a few new tricks. Cooper is similar, but provides more of both walks and Ks. Jimenez seems to have finally escaped the Midwest League only to be trapped in High Desert, and is the same “okay stuff, weak command” pitcher as he’s always been. Venegas would be looked on as a bit of an enigma, since he was out all of last season, but has started nearly three-quarters of his games for his career. Either role would make sense for him.
Catchers: Trevor Coleman, Ralph Henriquez
Behind the plate, we find a couple of familiar faces from last season, which is both good and bad. Both of the catchers can switch-hit here, but we’re a long ways distant from the days of Adam Moore and Travis Scott providing offense from the position. Coleman can handle a pitching staff and caught a lot of the big names back in college, but with a .624 OPS in 83 games started, he was the worst regular hitter on the roster last season by a wide margin. Henriquez isn’t much better, and is a year older. I could see the starting job here decided by Rock, Paper, Scissors, honestly, but the job is most likely to go to Coleman, who was promoted more aggressively and has some reasons for his struggles. This backstop tandem is one of the reasons the catching depth in the system concerns me.
Infielders: 3B Matt Browning, 3B/LF Vinnie Catricala, SS Nick Franklin, SS/2B Gabriel Noriega, IF Shaver Hansen (DL), 3B Mario Martinez (DL), IF Jake Schlander, 1B/DH Dennis Raben
Over the winter, there was some talk about young wunderkind shortstop Nick Franklin ending up double-A to start the season, but that seemed a bit aggressive for a kid two years removed from high school (Zduriencik had some words on that) and he struggled throughout spring training, so now he’s going to the place with no radio feed. Weep. Weep for what you will never know. I consider this a bit of a setback, but am overall no less concerned about our #3 prospect, beyond what will he do for an encore.
The Mavs also have Clinton’s second-best hitter from last season in Vinnie Catricala, who hit forty-one doubles and seventeen home runs while walking fifty-six times (and also striking out a lot). He should end up at one of the infield corners for the Mavs, as they don’t seem to have many other available options, though ideally he’d spend time at both and in the outfield on occasion. Pulaski’s second-best hitter also joins the team, and that’s Browning, who spent half a season there posting a .947 OPS and showing a good eye at the plate. Until the DL situation is squared away, he’s going to be at the other corner where Catricala isn’t.
Noriega is going to be Franklin’s double play partner again. He hit .227/.280/.283 last year after hitting .311/.360/.456 in Pulaski the year before. See why I’m a little worried about that park? Part of me hopes he gets back on track here and starts to look at least like a defensive-minded infield back-up, but part of me wouldn’t know what to do with the information if he was really hitting well for the Mavs. Schlander was the team’s 31st-round pick last year, a shortstop who figures to be around to hold down a bench spot until someone comes off the DL. He doesn’t hit much, but has pretty glovework.
Hansen and Mar Mar are both DLed. Hansen was with the Mavs for half a season and showed that he could walk a little, though the rest of his game was a bit questionable. His bat had a good reputation in college even if he didn’t show it last year. Mario Martinez is more of a glove man, and has fallen a bit off the prospect radars after hitting poorly in the years after his Pulaski campaign. He rarely walks, but strikes out a whole lot. Last year, he had a career-high twelve home runs.
Raben ends this list because he’s the likely DH and I’m more down on him than most people. Some might look at his .356/.413/.681 line and say that it’s only injuries keeping him from being amazing. I look at the .256/.293/.385 against left-handers and the weaker numbers away from home and find myself thinking that he’s a defensively-limited, injury-prone, platoon bat. But hey, this is one of my many sour predictions where I’d love to be proven wrong.
Outfielders: CF Denny Almonte, CF Daniel Carroll, RF James Jones, RF Kalian Sams
If nothing else, this is a group that is strong armed and could expect to cover a good amount of outfield ground out there if the top three are playing. Jones is the one to be excited about as he hit .321/.387/.487 in the second half with a more aggressive approach. He lost some walks and added some Ks though, and very often the most difficult part of any prospect’s development is reconciling power and patience.
Case in point: Almonte, who had nearly half his plate appearances result in Ks last year. He also hit twenty-two home runs. Dingers! He can cover ground out there in center field, but is best regarded as a lesser incarnation of Greg Halman. Carroll gets out of the Midwest after spending parts of the last three seasons there. Parts is a decent descriptor, as he only plays parts of seasons. His career high in games played is ninety, set last year, and he averages about eighty-three due to a knack for leaning into pitches and resisting the normal conditioning that would get a man to stop doing that. At least his hitting picked up last season, but he also doesn’t walk much and was on his third tour.
Sams is the system’s other Swinging Dutchman. His isolated power last year in Clinton was .234. His average was .180. In his Pulaski tour, his ISO was .324 and his average was .204. Sams would challenge Almonte for the strikeout crown given the opportunity, but that’s neither safe nor wise to pursue. Sams would make Rob Deer shake his head in disgust.