2014 Everett Aquasox Preview
I know I say this every years and mean it whole-heartedly every year, but writing an opening day roster preview for the ‘Sox at this stage is an exercise of limited utility. A lot of players haven’t signed, a lot of players will be eased into pro ball and appear later, some guys will only be here to get warmed up and then be off to California (the state) or Iowa. The team that opens the year will bear some resemblance to the team that ends it in that some players will stick around and do baseball until there is no more baseball to do. For now.
Acknowledging what the situation is, the only grade I can conscionably give the Aquasox is “incomplete.” No, that’s a bit lazy. I like the outfield and there are a few players in this group who have some of the best raw power in the system so long as you don’t ask about their contact skills. The group they have catching at the moment is interesting if not good. The infield isn’t going to be great, yet, but the pitching should hold up so long as they don’t walk everyone. One of the players on this roster may be the second coming of Leury Bonilla.
I’ve heard word this morning that Austin Cousino signed, but no, I don’t know yet if he’s going to be on this roster or if they’ll play him higher. Where the draft picks are assigned to play is often a mystery until it isn’t.
Pitching: RHP Dan Altavilla, RHP Noel de la Cruz, RHP Dylan De Meyer, RHP Rigoberto Garcia, LHP Blake Holovach, RHP Kody Kerski, LHP Leoncia Munoz LHP Cruz Pereira, RHP Ricardo Pereira
As a preface here, I don’t know what the rotation is going to look like because there are college guys who have been starting all along and the M’s usually like to rest their draft picks a bit, but the alternatives aren’t great, so there are only three guys here that I think “yeah, they should start.” This rotation needs some Luiz Gohara in a bad way.
Garcia started the opener for the ‘Sox last year and could do it again for all we know. He’s still a big dude (6’5″, 200 lbs), still has good stuff (92-94 mph), but he’s been a little slow to develop. He couldn’t stick with Clinton earlier this year (after logging 50+ innings there in 2013), and is now back in Everett, where he had five starts last year. The book on him appears to be roughly the same as it ever was: he walks too many (3+ per 9) and can’t quite offset that with a 7 per 9 K-rate, along with his occasional dinger issue. He’s in the Jesus Colome family of pitchers until he proves otherwise. It’s a family that provides a boisterous and sloppy reunion on the rare occasions it can plan ahead far enough to get a location without changing it six times.
De Meyer is still identified as our most recent South African signing even though I’m pretty sure he went to high school in California. South African baseball fans still want to claim him. He’s from a small town in the northeastern part of the country known as “Centurion” which sounds like a badass place to be from provided that you aren’t a Carthaginian or a Gaul. I’m not quite sure how the org sees him because he’s dabbled in both starting and relieving and has been station to station his first couple of years. In Pulaski he had five Ks for every walk which is awesome to see except he also seems to get hit around a lot. At present, he has above-average velocity and likes to throw a sinker. Could be ‘pen long-term.
Noel de la Cruz goes by his middle name instead of his given name, Adderilin, probably so as to evade association with an prescription drug given to people with ADHD and thus do his part to avoid arousing drug-testing suspicion. Last year was his first in the states after three in the DSL and he saw his numbers translate pretty well with a noted increase in swinging Ks and also the fact that they were just hitting him better. He had reverse splits last year which makes me wonder if he has a functioning change-up helping him out. Any other remarks I’d have on his arsenal would be speculative. He started the Everett Cup game against the Merchants so it would seem as if he’s in the rotation.
Altavilla was our fifth round pick and one of the guys I rather liked from the draft. D-II Pitcher of the Year! He’s also one of four draft picks we spent on sub-6’0″ pitchers because maybe shortness is the new inefficiency. Working out for Erasmo. So Altavilla has a good arsenal with a low-to-mid-90s heater as centerpiece and then a two-seam, change, and slider as secondary offerings in development. He’s not bad at using them but the mechanics tell people that he’s just putting all he can into the pitch. On one hand, that’s not conducive to endurance from this stature. On the other, he completed five games this year. Mac seemed to want to keep trying him out there though they may have him keep his innings down from the ‘pen.
I don’t really like to do “X is like Y” type comparisons because ideally each player brings something different to the table and as individuals capable of rationally discriminating amongst objects and saying “I prefer this, but that is not for me,” it’s perhaps dissatisfying to be reduced to analogy. Kody Kerski is like Dan Altavilla in that they’re both short right-handers who are athletic but a little heavy. He doesn’t have Altavilla’s arsenal and stuff and seems more comfortable as a fastball-curve guy, which makes the bullpen pigeonholing easier to rationalize when coupled with the fact that he struggled to maintain velocity down the stretch.
Holovach was in Clinton for April and May before getting transferred back to Everett. It’s not like he’s been hanging out in extended all this time. He brings average to slightly better velocity from the left side and his second best pitch is probably the slider, though he throws enough pitches to start. He just hasn’t much. Regarding his apparent conversion to reliever, his strikeouts have increased by about two per nine but the walks have stayed static at about four and a half. He’s been a bit better against left-handers this season, but last year he was considerably worse, so we are still trying to figure out what he’s about. Given that he played all of last year at Clinton, this is something of a demotion unless they’re starting him.
Also in Clinton for a while was Munoz. He’s in his second year in the states and was pretty awesome in relief for the Pulaski M’s last year, with a 43/10 K/BB in 37.1 innings and a .188 average against. You would not think you were watching the same pitcher if you saw the results from the Midwest League, where he had a 10/7 K/BB in 15.0 innings and a .302 average against. He was kicked out after the first week of May when he gave up seven runs in an inning and two-thirds. Is he good? Is he bad? Only time will tell.
Returning to the league for a second tour, Pereira isn’t really anything special, or hasn’t been so far. Fastball, curveball, slider guy, walks about as many as he strikes out. Right-handers pick him up a bit better and have hit him harder, but left-handers, he doesn’t have much to offer so they just sit on his pitches until they walk, which was 16.2% of the time last year. A lot of people look at things like Fernando Rodney sucking at throwing a baseball on TV and think “I could do that!” but more likely what you’d do is closer to Pereira 2013 and he’s still got loads more experience at it.
Cruz is probably of no nuclear relation to Ricardo because they were born four months apart and if it were a situation of twins being that far apart in birthdate, well then forget baseball, I want to read THAT story. CRUZ Pereira was four years in the VSL and two of those he had a K/BB closer to 2/1 and in the other two he was closer to 1/1. He’s always managed low ERAs in spite of that because he doesn’t seem to get hit much or hard. His stuff is not known to me.
Nittoli was drafted as a fifth-year senior from Xavier. What you notice about his college stats is how much he improved that last year, losing about 2.5 walks per nine over his actual senior year, gaining a K, and generally losing a lot of hits. You also notice a big decrease in the home runs he allowed in his college tenure, so he’s pitching smarter now. As a guy with that much experience, you’d think he could move up a level or two pretty quickly here but his development was split between hitting and pitching three of those college years so this may be a unique case.
Cleto joins the ‘Sox after spending all of April in Clinton. Didn’t work out well for him. He pitched fourteen innings and gave up just as many runs as a long reliever for the team. In only one outing did he keep the opponent scoreless. He had one more walk than he did Ks and they were hitting .339 off him. He had been a starter for Pulaski last season, but he wasn’t exactly good at it as his K-rates have been pretty low which means that you can’t walk guys at all. Alas, he does. Like a lot of pitchers on this roster, I neither have a scouting report nor him pegged for a definitive role.
Catchers: Toby DeMello, Luke Guarnaccia, Adam Martin, Kyle Petty
I’ve never known a roster to attempt to list four catchers without having a bunch of them as restricted or disabled. As for who the starter might be, how about Martin? He was drafted in the tenth round this year and separates himself from the profile insofar as he was neither teammates of another player we signed nor the catcher for someone else we might have been scouting, AND he was part of the Southern Conference, NOT the Southeastern Conference. He’s racked up a career slugging of over .500 in college, including .574 this year, but he also struck out in over a quarter of his at-bats this past season which means that you’re left wondering how much contact he can make in pro ball and how many of the BBs were from scared pitchers who couldn’t do much to him anyway. His other bits of scouting profile include “leadership skills” and “strong arm,” but to be honest, catcher reports just don’t read right without those two things.
Guarnaccia was of the catcher-heavy 2011 draft, which immediately preceded us taking Zunino third overall in 2012. Baseball. He’s from Florida and has a heck of a lot of raw power from the left side, but he switch-hits and as a right-handed batter he’s been less impressive. For example, his slugging last year was almost doubled from one side of the plate to the other. B-R has frustrated me by leaving out hard SB/CS from their APL stats so I’m left with the educated guess that he caught around 40% and still has a good arm and good footwork. It’s a little disappointing that he had to repeat the AZL a couple years back, but we all know how long HS catchers can take to develop. He’s interesting depth that just might “get it” someday.
DeMello was the batterymate of Guarnaccia in Pulaski last year, though he was on the DL for some time. He too has some pop in his bat, exclusively as a RHB, but it comes at the expense of him striking out a third of the time. It’s hard to imagine a walk rate high enough to offset that. DeMello was at 8.3%. On account of him hitting dingers while not playing all that much, his BABIP was a silly .404, which isn’t what you’d expect from the catcher profile, but hey, he stole three bases so maybe he’s just fast for a catcher! Or lucky. Maybe he’s lucky for a catcher!
Petty was the M’s 23rd round pick out of California University of Pennsylvania, which is more confusing to me than Miami of Ohio. I mean, Miami could just be a bad transcription or an incidental homophony, but California has always been California. I’ll just get confused or frustrated if I think too long on this. Petty split between Peoria and Everett last year, but that was unusual in that Petty played only first whereas he was everywhere in college, including pitcher, where he was the team’s #1 starter his junior year. Catcher isn’t exactly a new position for him because he was there his first two seasons of college before a herniated disc pushed him off. His first couple of years, he was catching most of a game and then throwing the gear off and getting on the mound to close. Go read up on your new favorite player.
Infielders: 3B/2B Bryan Brito, 1B Kristian Brito, IF Luis Caballero, 2B/SS Jordan Cowan, SS Chris Mariscal, 1B Sheehan Planas-Arteaga, SS Taylor Smart
Of the guys presently on the infield, I guess Kristian Brito would intrigue me the most. We drafted him two years ago in the 11th round when he was just seventeen and he’s been station to station so far, with a tour of Pulaski last year. BA had him with 70 raw power on the scale but was less keen on his batting skills. With that in mind, here are some “fun” splits from last year: Brito vs. LHP, .328/.385/.759, .491 wOBA, Brito vs. RHP, .219/.256/.344, .282 wOBA. Are you ready for more fun? Brito at home: .327/.371/.598, .436 wOBA. Brito on the road: .167/.211/.314, .242 wOBA. He has the kind of potential that could easily wreck the windshields of anyone parking behind Everett Memorial. He could also likely generate some wind power for the stadium itself with his 27.6% whiff rate (that’s just swinging, in case you didn’t get that).
There’s also some power to be had out of Planas-Arteaga, who has a very Irish first name for having such a Spanish-sounding last name. He was well-respected within the Sunshine State Conference, earning all kinds of awards, and led the team batting .388/.507/.600 this year, which was almost seventy points higher than his next competitor in batting average. It was more than that in OBP and slugging. He also was tied for the team lead in stolen bases and walked seventeen more times than he struck out. All this sounds pretty good by me but it would also be pretty crazy if the M’s got an amazing player in the 24th-round out of a D-II school.
Mariscal was picked up ahead of Planas-Arteaga, like ten rounds ahead. He’s a slap hitting, doubles-power type who strikes out a bit and came out of a recognizable baseball program in Fresno State. He’s also a Cape Cod League guy and reports from that pegged him as a competent fielder without elite tools. Since he doesn’t have a lot that draws excited reviews from scouting departments, he’s probably scrappy as all get out and dives for balls and sprays the ball around the field and such. BA reports that he saw some time at third base late in his college career, but the hitting profile you’re looking at here means that he should only see the hot corner for the sake of versatility if he’s going to be any kind of prospect.
Cowan was our 37th-round pick last year out of Kentlake HS. He probably could’ve gone to college or something but then he was all like “sure baseball sounds pretty cool” and who knows, maybe civilization collapses before he gets through college. You gotta chase that dream before the world as we know it ends. The profile Cowan brings is a bit of an unusual one in that he was a high school second baseman who had a very positive profile as a defender. They liked his instincts, they liked his actions, they liked his tools even if he was regarded as a light-hitting infielder. He didn’t play that much as a senior though, or else he might have gone higher. Now that he’s a pro, they’ve had him at short a bit and one of his three appearances in Pulaski last year was as a pitcher. One of your local angles for the year.
Also on the middle infield presumably, also local angle, we have Taylor Smart. Guess if he’s SEC. Go on, guess. Previously he was a JuCo guy and helped bring Western Nevada to their World Series. The overall profile you’d have for him probably reads similarly to Mariscal though he does have a few more home runs under his belt. I would also bet on him being able to lay down a mean sacrifice bunt and hustle up the line regardless of how easily fielded the ball is. Smart hails from Maple Valley and went to Tahoma High School, conceivably giving him his own rooting section. I don’t actually know how the ‘Sox will play up the middle, but between Cowan, Mariscal, the next two guys I’ll write about, and him, they all provide possibilities.
The other Brito has been playing stateside since 2010 and hasn’t yet gotten a full year at full-season ball, just two-and-a-half weeks of games in Clinton in 2012. You could say that since he only really spent one year in the DSL that he was promoted aggressively, sure, but that was also the only year in which he’s had an OPS north of .650. When he was a shortstop, that was more tolerable, but he only had six games there last season and split the rest of his time between third and second. He’s supposedly someone with good wheels and a good arm, but now he’s at less than premium positions and he’s always made errors, so the skills have all yet to come around.
Luis Caballero has been in the system for three years now and I still don’t know who he is. Were you wondering what happened with the PTBNL we were supposed to get from the Braves for Jack Wilson? Did you remember that we were supposed to get a PTBNL from the Braves for Jack Wilson? Luis Caballero! Over three years in the DSL, one with the M’s, Caballero has demonstrated a greater inclination towards drawing walks than most of his brethren and some fielding ability, I’m guessing, since he plays short and third base primarily. He’s also a Panamanian, but even though he had a .709 OPS in Peoria last season, I fear that his power output is too low to send wide swaths of the M’s fanbase into the grips of Panamania.
Outfielders: LF Phillips Castillo, CF Arby Fields, RF Wilton Martinez, CF Brett Thomas
Probably the most interesting hitting prospect on the roster is center fielder Brett Thomas. Or, scratch that, let’s just say prospect. Thomas is a former Oregon Duck who was drafted late by the M’s in the 21st round and still signed anyway. I imagine that his profile could get him leading off because he doesn’t have a lot of power, but possesses some acumen for stealing bases and can walk a bit, though his Ks jumped his junior year. He’s one of those guys who plays better than his tools because he has good instincts for the ball as a defender. Of course, the natural consequence of playing better than one’s tools is that one gets that dreadful tweener tag and people don’t really understand what one’s ceiling is suppose to be.
Speaking of players whose ceilings I don’t understand, Phillips Castillo! Totally had myself convinced that he had a better offensive profile than Guillermo Pimentel. Turns out both of them suck. I’m probably being overly dramatic because in some respects, Castillo got unlucky last year with a .236 BABIP. And then he had a better BB% than Brito and whiffed under 25% of the time. I am defending a player who posted a .576 OPS. Castillo still probably has potential in the eyes of some and is still young for whatever it is that he’s doing. I just wish he would do it better.
If you are perhaps interest in Kristian Brito-ish players, then perhaps Wilton Martinez would also be your guy. Martinez was also in double-digits for home runs in Pulaski. He also whiffed over 25 % of the time. He also walked around 5.5% of the time. He also was amazing against left-handers (1.040 OPS, .458 wOBA) and terrible vs. righties (.563 OPS, .265 wOBA). He did not have the home/road issues. They’re pretty close to the same offensive skillset. Not true for defense as Martinez is light enough to play the outfield and can throw a baseball pretty well I hear. He won’t be all that interesting until he manages to make contact. Even Wlad Balentien made contact.
Fields ends the preview because he’s a player that I know little about. Keep what you know up front and people will maybe stop paying attention when you run out of steam. Baseball Cube tells me that he played for at least three colleges, and he was drafted twice, and he didn’t sign either time but instead went to the White Sox as a NDFA, was released, then picked up by us in the offseason. What a Playa. He’s a short switch hitter and sometimes walked a bit in college. His name sounds fast but I don’t know if he’s really fast in reality.