2011 Jackson Generals Preview
Sometimes, you play with the roster you have and not the roster you would like to have. I mean, look at the Mariners bullpen. The Jackson Generals, in their first season with a new name, are running into a similar issue. They have eight players on their DL to open the season, spanning all throughout the roster. I have no idea what the team will really look like a month from now, but here’s some projections based on the available data. It seems like it could be a pretty solid team with a chance at the playoffs. I guess.
Pitching Staff: RHP Andrew Carraway, RHP Josh Fields, RHP Jarrett Grube, RHP Steve Hensley, RHP Moises Hernandez, LHP Nick Hill (DL), LHP Donnie Hume (DL), RHP Stephen Kahn (DL), RHP Kenn Kasparek, LHP Bobby LaFromboise, LHP Brian Moran, RHP Scott Patterson, RHP Stephen Penney, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, LHP Anthony Vasquez
This is another group where figuring out who is starting and who isn’t might be a little tricky. Among the safe bets, I’d include Carraway and Vasquez. If you went to the last USSM event, you probably learned that Vasquez led the system in IP last year. Except me. I already knew. Vasquez rocketed from Clinton to West Tenn last year, lost some Ks here and there, and gained a few hits, but maintained a surprisingly stable walk-rate and an ERA around or below 3.00. I think of him as a fourth starter type, but such is a useful thing to have around. Carraway came out a full season of High Desert with mind, body, and soul intact, so far as I know. He has a four-pitch mix with average velocity, and his ability to keep hitters guessing a little probably helped him. He’s not a huge strikeout guy, but no one in the rotation really is, they’re just hoping to stay above that safe line.
Hensley and Grube are two other returners who could also see time in the rotation. Hensley missed a little time at the end of last season with arm issues, but he seems to be all right now. He’s lost some command in the move to double-A, and some of the shine off his prospect status, so I’m not so sure he starts long-term anymore. Grube is a former indy league arm in his physical prime who can eat up innings with little trouble. If he were a few years younger, one might talk of him as a probable 40-man addition, as his stuff is all right and he knows how to pitch.
Kenn with two Ns is a near lock for the rotation, one would think. Like Carraway, he survived having High Desert as a home park, but he lost three Ks per nine somewhere between Iowa and California and it’s hard to survive when such a thing has happened. LaFromboise has a name which in French resembles the word for raspberry. He gained a walk in moving to High Desert while his K-rate was close to the same, but he’s spent the past two years between relief and starting and I don’t really know where the club sees him. Hume is somewhat in the same grouping but has the added complication of not pitching in over a year, and whenever he does get back, it will probably be slow going to start.
Erasmo seems to be in town in large part due to all the injuries, and could easily get pushed to a lower level as soon as someone among the pitchers who isn’t Kahn comes off the DL. He has an average to slightly above fastball and a great change, but his command is where he separates himself from the pack and makes him seem interesting. The stuff says back-end starter, but one never knows.
In the bullpen, we have the annual Josh Fields double-A assignment and the annual Stephen Kahn DL stint. Jack said yesterday afternoon that Fields’ velocity was 95-99 this spring, which is quite hopeful. Are his mechanics still wonky? Probably not. Is his curveball still a bombshell? One would hope. Doe he still look like a zombie when pitching? Too soon to tell. The last time Stephen Kahn pitched for a double-A team, San Antonio was our affiliate. At this point, he’s busted so many different things that he may be some kind of mummy or Frankenstein or General Mills monster cereal mascot by the time he’s thirty. I don’t know why I’m on this horror kick.
The bullpen has two other interesting relievers in Moran and Penney, but each have their own interesting flaws. Moran lacks velocity, but has great command and deception and is thought of as a possible LOOGY type bullpen arm. Penney has quality stuff and great command but is probably the last guy a manager would want to bring in with inherited runners as they tend to score in short order. Any improvements in that department, and I’d be willing to consider him a fringe MLB reliever.
The remainder of the group includes Felix’s older brother, an army lieutenant, and man who is aparently a cool guy but just looks really sour in every photo I’ve seen of him. Going over those in order, Moises is of the Orioles and the Atlanta organizations and was traded for a pitching coach at one point. Someone probably thought they could lure Felix out with the opportunity to pitch with his brother, but they thought wrong. Unfortunately, big bro has only pitched 35.0 innings in affiliated ball for the past three years. Hill managed to pitch more than that last year, but not much more. He seemed to be having hip issues from what I recall, which kept him sidelined and out of the rotation. When healthy, he’s a left-hander with good stuff and sinking pitches. Patterson is the only guy on the roster with major league experience, less than five innings split between the Yankees and the Padres. He was pretty darned good for Tacoma last year so I don’t know why he’s here.
Catchers: Brandon Bantz, Jose Yepez
So here’s some more evidence that our internal catching situation is not so good. Yepez is a Toronto castoff, but unlike Quiroz, I don’t think he was ever regarded as a top prospect. He caught 30+ games for the D-Jaxx last year and hit .328/.396/.426, which isn’t too bad except that he’s turning thirty this year so I’d expect maybe he’d learn to hit a little as he got older. There’s certainly a big difference in how he’s done for us vs. how he did for Toronto before his indy league stint.
Like Maurer, Bantz was also with the Adelaide Bite in the offseason (along with McOwen!), and he hit .226/.331/.444, which was surprising in as much as he was second on the team in home runs with eight. Bantz has played eighty-five games in his career and only hit five home runs in those. I don’t get it. Anyway, he’s skipping over High Desert entirely and going back to double-A, where he filled in last year. He’s pretty good defensively, but not so young, so if he starts, one could consider this a “challenge.”
Infielders: IF Edilio Colina (DL), 1B Luis A. Jimenez (DL), 1B/LF Johan Limonta, 1B Rich Poythress, IF/DH Scott Savastano, 2B Kyle Seager, SS Carlos Triunfel
The Triunfel and Limonta double-A assignment also seems like something of a spring tradition. Triunfel is one of those guys who came to camp in the best shape of his life, which is something that also happens in the minor leagues. I forget that he’s just twenty-one sometimes. He got to double-A before he could drink in Canada. Churchill said that Triunfel is using a new stance now and getting more loft on the ball, which is exciting if true. My concern is more than he gets himself out by making contact on bad pitches, simply because he’s capable of making contact on most pitches.
Limonta didn’t see San Antoino but has been in West Tenn in all but one of the years of its affiliation with us. He hit well in his first go, not as good in his second, and somewhere in between last year. He’s likely to spent time at first, DH, and the outfield corners. He’s generally good for forty doubles, fifty walks, and double-digit home runs.
Returning to actual prospects, we have Seager and Poythress, who are likely to comprise the right half of the infield. Seager led the minors in hits last season (nearly 200!) and walked seventy-one times to boot, though he did strike out almost a hundred times as well. The power numbers may have been slightly park inflated, but I don’t remember him having any glaring home/road split issues. His hope defensively is to be passable at second, and he’s making progress there, but it’s a large part of why people often consider him as more of a utility type, as his power just wouldn’t be served at the hot corner unless he was really awesome defensively (the Chone Figgins-type third baseman).
Poythress led the minors in RBI with 130, which doesn’t sound as impressive. He can hit the ball to all fields, which bodes well for his hopes of surviving Safeco, and like Jones, he was a bit more aggressive in the second half, as well as pull conscious. Towards the end of the season, he was hitting them out of some pretty unfriendly parks, which leaves me somewhat hopeful for him.
Savastano only sees limited time on the field these days, mostly at first and in the corner outfield spots on rare occasions. He can hit competently, draws some walks, and has never struck out too much, but the fact is that he doesn’t seem to hit for enough power to justify being a bat-only player. I don’t know what the plans for his future are. He’s consistently had a solid fan following, though I don’t feel that’s always been justified.
The two DL guys only have so much I can say about them. Colina is a slap hitter who saw the Cal League twice and is kind of a utility infield type, filling in wherever needed, though I don’t think that he’s suppose to be all that good a glove. Jimenez was last seen batting for Nippon Ham in 2009, and managed to see six different affiliates in the eight years prior, not including a return to the Baltimore system. He hits the ball hard, walks, and strikes out.
Outfielders: RF Johermyn Chavez, LF Joe Dunigan (DL), CF Brandon Haveman, LF Kuo-hui Lo (DL), RF Eddy Martinez-Esteve (DL), CF James McOwen, LF Jake Shaffer, LF Nate Tenbrink
The outfield is where we seem to have the most bodies lying about, which leads me to ponder over certain things. Given that the team doesn’t seem to have a good third base option, we may see a return of Tenbrink at the hot corner to start the season. Tenbrink was one of the more interesting stories of the first half last year when he was hitting .377/.449/.646 through the first month and a half, but a concussion once he arrived in double-A kept him off the field a while and he wasn’t quite the same hitter when he came back.
Chavez is another guy who is more popular with other people than he is with me. I’m concerned by the fact that three-quarters of his home runs came at home, even if he did manage to improve his batting eye a bit last year. He’s still one of the better power bats in the system, I just don’t feel that I have a good grip on what his overall future potential is and what the ceiling could be. Such is the trouble with High Desert breakouts.
Center field is likely to be filled out by one of Haveman or McOwen. McOwen had the incredible hit streak two years ago, but dislocated his shoulder last spring and didn’t see the field until the winter when he hit .340/.412/.613 for Adelaide, showing little rust. I still think of him as a fourth OF type all the same. Haveman went straight from the Appalachian League to the Southern League last year and while he lost some walks and power numbers along the way, he hit for a surprisingly good average considering. The team at one point was toying with the idea of him at second, considering he’s built like a middle infielder, but I think that idea might be off the table for now.
Rounding out the group of those still active, we have Shaffer, who is not to be confused with Jake Schaffer who was an earlier Astros prospect. I made comparisons between Shaffer and McOwen in the past, suggesting they were similar hitters. McOwen hit .340/.393/.494 with the Mavericks in his tenure and Shaffer hit .338/.387./.517, so I feel comfortable saying they are the same hitter except Shaffer walks a little less, hits for a little more power, seems to only play left field.
On the DL, Dunigan, EM-E, and Lo. I predicted a Dunigan flop for double-A and pretty much nailed that one too. The parts are interesting between the power and the speed, but the whole is found lacking in many facets. Still, there’s no reason he can’t improve, I suppose. I still regard Martinez-Esteve as an attempt to recover the 2002 draft years after the fact. He hit well in the Cal League last year, though I’m not willing to make much of it considering he had spent the previous two+ seasons in double-A. Injuries have been an issue for him. Lo managed to take over in center for the D-Jaxx last year when other options were lacking Hitting-wise, he’s still yet to establish himself in double-A, and his overall skillset unfortunately casts him as a bit of a tweener.