2015 Clinton Lumberkings Preview
Did you miss reading thousands of words on things of interest to a narrow subset of the human population? Well good news! Though my prose writing/analytic tendencies are largely occupied with other stuff these days (there’s also going to be a book review on Poetry Northwest’s site sometime soon), I still geek out enough about baseball and prospect happenings that some weird glitch in my brain triggers and I think, “sure, it sounds like a swell idea to write exhaustively on a subject with an inherently high attrition rate! Wheeeee!”
The overhead perspective on this year’s Lumberkings team is that there are some intriguing arms in the rotation who have had a limited or uneven track records so far, the bullpen features a few guys who might be fast-tracked later, the team’s primary catcher won’t be a hitting liability, the infield features a sleeper at the hot corner and a few Latin hitters of some potential, and then the outfield has The Second Coming and some other dudes who I guess are all right by mortal standards.
I’m typing frantically to get some of the other previews in order later (work schedule is not especially friendly at the moment), but in the meantime, the diversions shall take us through talk of baseball’s spread through particular portions of Latin America, twins, names and how one might speculatively pronounce them, bloodlines, teammates, associations one might make based off of initials and positions, a guy who could be on the C/OF track who isn’t an elite prospect, and players whose OBP exceeds their SLG. This somehow ended up more on-track than past entries, despite still not being edited under my usually rather attentive standards. Well, let’s get to it then.
Rotation: LHP Ryan Horstman, RHP Jeffeson Medina, RHP Daniel Missaki, LHP Patrick Peterson, RHP Lukas Schiraldi
The rotation that I’m working with here is somewhat speculative, so don’t be too surprised if reality manages to deviate from this some. While I don’t know at the moment who the nominal ace of the staff is, one guy who is probably garnering a fair amount of attention is Missaki, a Brazilian signing of Japanese descent. Everyone doubts me when I talk about it, but that was how baseball got to Brazil in the first place. Anywho, Missaki’s calling card is that he has pretty darned good control numbers for a prospect with limited exposure to quality competition. He ran a 15/5 K/BB over 13.0 innings in his Peoria debut and followed it up by going 62/16 over 58.2 innings with Pulaski last season. He’ll be a full-fledged member of the L’Kings rotation despite turning nineteen a few days from now. Stuff-wise, he doesn’t have an extraordinary amount to offer, average velocity, the expected supplements of a change and a curve, but his feel for pitching is reportedly quite advanced and people are excited by the notion that he could add some more velocity down the line.
Horstman is a guy that I’m going to say is in the rotation although it wouldn’t surprise me to see it otherwise. To summarize his career to date, he’s pitched 8.2 innings and had a 10/2 K/BB. Now you know. Horstman was a fourth-round pick as a draft-eligible sophomore out of St. John’s back in 2013. He was thought to be a get if he could be signed, and he was, except that the past couple of years he’s been on the DL mostly with what has been described as a “left elbow stress reaction.” Any time I read, “reaction,” I think chemistry and stuff exploding. But Horstman hasn’t had Tommy John or any other surgery yet, so make of it what you will. He was known as being primarily a fastball-change-up guy with a heater that ran 91-94, though he needed to work on developing a passable breaking ball. Still, he was enough of an athlete to have drawn the attention of his college’s basketball coach, who wanted him to walk on despite being only 6’1″. I’ve written this much about a dude who’s pitched less than ten innings.
Jeffeson Medina has no “r” in his name, provoking the ire of the red squigglies native to most modern spell check devices. He signed as an 18-year-old and was in the VSL for one mediocre season before departing for the states. Such circumstantial evidence would usually suggest that he has some stuff and is well thought of and it’s worth mentioning that after his AZL campaign, he was named the affiliate’s most valuable pitcher. This is heartening, in that his results are not there thus far. In the Aquasox rotation last season, he had a 43/22 K/BB over 68.2 innings and had a .279/.341/.379 line against. While I can’t speak to what he throws, I can speak to the results, which have been well-above-average groundball rates and very few home runs. One hopes for more Ks and fewer walks too, but he has at least that going for him.
Possessing some major league bloodlines, Schiraldi didn’t match his dad’s 1st-round billing and instead slipped to the fifteenth-round in his first year of being eligible at UTA. He boasted a big yacker of a curveball and folks were pretty excited to see him follow in his father’s footsteps at Austin, particularly after a strong tour of the Cape Cod League, but the results didn’t follow. Schiraldi ran a 35/39 K/BB through 64.0 innings with the Longhorns, a year after dominating the competition at a local junior college. His Everett tenure showed some better command, with a 29/10 K/BB in 24.1 innings, but he also gave up three dingers and threw nine wild pitches. He supposedly has heat on the fastball too, just not-good command. He’s a high-risk/high-reward mid-round guy.
Patrick Peterson is sort of a guess for a spot, but he’s out of NC State (go Wolfpack?) and we’ve scouted that part of the country pretty heavily over the years. People who don’t understand how twins usually work will be interested to learn that he’s the southpaw of the two and his brother Eric, the right-hander, went to the Astros in the 37th-round. While it would have been totally awesome to have them pitch against each other in the Appalachian League last year, no such luck. He’s got an average heater, a change, and an improving curve. Pat helped Eric with the change and then Eric helped Pat with the curve. He had a 54/18 K/BB through 49.2 frames in Pulaski last year, if you need stats beyond the general intrigue of twins pitching and how does it work? If one allows a home run, does the other feel a distant shame? I need to know.
Bullpen: LHP Jarrett Brown, RHP Ramire Cleto, RHP Tyler Herb, RHP Kody Kerski, RHP Peter Miller, RHP Osmel Morales, RHP Rohn Pierce
The lower levels of the minor leagues are littered with various arms and names that no one yet knows much of anything about. Kody Kerski aspires to Ks and has achieved them in shorter stints. He had 46 of them in 39.2 innings with Everett last year, though they were accompanied by seventeen walks. Throughout his career at Sacred Heart, he was a starter, but his velocity was known to dip later in the year and it was thought that between his approach, his stature, and his fastball/breaking ball combo, that he might be uniquely suited to relief work.
Tyler Herb is one more find by our mid-Atlantic scouts, having done his college work at Coastal Carolina. He’s returning to Clinton after spending 22.2 innings of last summer there and running a 24/6 K/BB in that span. BA reported that he was one of a few guys to see velocity increases once we moved him to the ‘pen and he’s touched as high as the mid-90s.
I may as well continue on through the various other college guys from last year’s draft. Brown is the ‘pen’s resident southpaw and comes via the south as well, Georgia specifically. He was a reliever for the Bulldogs and his career numbers with them look rather odd, in that his walks remained static at around five per nine while his Ks steadily dropped from 6.6 to 3.7 his final year. His tour of Pulaski was much the same and he had a 17/18 K/BB in 25.0 innings. There has to be something there in the way of stuff.
Miller, who came to us by way of Tallahasee where he was one of the baseball teammates of Jameis Winston, mostly started through his college career with erratic results. Sometimes his K-rates were impressive. Sometimes they were not. Sometimes his walks were passable. Sometimes they were in red alert territory. The shift to relief work with Pulaski appeared to have done him some good as he had a 39/8 K/BB through 33.1 innings, but then he still managed to throw six wild pitches.
I’m still not sure how to pronounce Pierce’s first name. It seems easy enough, but is the o long or short? Pierce is like Miller in that once he moved into relief as a pro, his Ks spiked, but then control had never especially been an issue for him at Canisius College, where he had a sub-3.00 BB/9 every year for the Golden Griffins (yes, I wanted to type that mascot name). Rather, it was his Ks that nearly doubled from their previous levels. His junior season was his best by a fair margin and so it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me to see him in the rotation at some point.
The international signings we have to work with are Cleto, whose first name does not contain a z, and Morales. Cleto has started in the past, but seems to be increasingly taking on relief work as of last year. He’s always had two distinct problems: He gives up too many hits and his command sort of sucks. Whenever I see H/9 in double-digits accompanied by BB/9s in the threes and K/9s in the fives, I worry. His command appears to have been worse in relief, but hey, he’s got groundballs going for him. That’s one thing. One thing is objectively more than nothing.
Morales was a four-year VSL guy before showing up in Peoria last season and torching the place, with a 65/15 K/BB in 49.0 innings and a .227 average against. He’s already one of the older pitchers on staff, although it’s hard to say he was especially experienced as his first two seasons combined didn’t see him exceed ten innings and he was below twenty in his third year. Statistically, there’s enough to intrigue, but until we know anything at all about his stuff, it’s hard to know how he’ll develop. Making predictions based on limited information tends to be a pain in that way.
Catchers: Adam Martin, Daniel Torres
For as long as he remains in the system, I will probably confuse Adam Martin and Adam Moore. Big catchers, AM initials, in the 6’2″-6’4″, 220-240 lb range. Deal with it. Martin was a Western Carolina Catamount and played four seasons with the team in which he was pretty consistently one of their better hitters. He was on the Johnny Bench Award Watch List a couple years in a row and has always been on various conference and regional teams, so that he ended up taken in the top ten rounds isn’t terribly surprising. I don’t know what his defense is like on the whole (outside of passed balls and CS%s, which weren’t glowing), but if you’re bored with the more touted non-Zunino catchers of Hicks and Marlette, Martin could turn out to be an interesting adopt-a-player.
Torres was the primary catcher for Pulaski despite not playing a majority of the catching games last year. He’s had more issues getting around the passed balls, but fewer gunning down runners on the basepaths and vaguely has that back-up catcher profile. For his career, he’s been one of those delightful weirdos whose on-base percentage far exceeds his slugging, which isn’t so much attributed to an elite eye at the plate as the fact that he just doesn’t really have power.
Infielders: 1B Kristian Brito, 3B Joe DeCarlo, IF Chris Mariscal, IF Martin Peguero, IF Nelson Ward, IF Gianfranco Wawoe
On the infield, the corners seem somewhat settled, but the interior may take until gametime to figure out. DeCarlo figures to end up on the hot corner. While I had previously regarded him as one of our mystifying reaches in the early rounds, he very quietly turned in an interesting season with Clinton last year. The .246 average appears to be nothing special, but then when you notice that his OBP was .105 points higher and that he had 38% of his hits go for extras, you start to wonder a little. DeCarlo took most of June and nearly all of July off after being nailed by a pitch, but he came back with a vengeance and hit .350/.447/.500 in August. He’s likely the system’s best defensive third baseman and has a lot going for him on offense too, provided that he can ever hit for average. Since he strikes out more than a quarter of the time on average, we’re still figuring that part out.
Brito will probably be on the opposite end. When he was drafted in the 11th-round out of Puerto Rico back in 2012, Brito was touted as having potentially 70 grade power if not better. Through his last two stops, he’s had isolated slugging percentages of near or above .200. He’s also never had a batting average above .250 and has struck out in about a third of his plate appearances for his career. If I’m digging for positives, his BB% has at least steadily increased by about 2% annually. Brito could be a fun player. I have doubts as to whether or not he’ll be good. There’s a difference.
Speaking of fun, try saying “Gianfranco Wawoe,” or think of how it might be said. I don’t know either but it makes me happy. Wawoe is one of a dwindling number of prospects in system from Curacao and like… really the rest of this infield, he did a brief stint with the team during the Cactus League season. Wawoe had three years in the VSL before getting called to Pulaski last year where he hit .275/.315/.360. He’s another contact-based middle infielder with some speed, except that he’s also shown up in center and left field in brief appearances. I’m going to guess he’s the starting shortstop.
Peguero used to go by Esteilon instead of Martin and I’ll keep mentioning it until he goes back. He’s entering his third season of playing part of the year in Clinton, as a 21-year-old. The first time around, he hit .232/.246/.276 over roughly 200 PAs. Last year, it was .263/.287/.341 over roughly 300 PAs which is nominally progress. He spent part of the season last year on the DL with a hamstring thing. I would say there was enough money invested in him to start him every day, but then the Mariners just released former bonus baby Phillips Castillo and we’re in year four of waiting for Peguero to exceed a .700 OPS.
Two college infielders round out the group which means we have two HS guys, two int’l guys, and two college guys. Representation. Mariscal comes via Fresno State and has a reputation as a pretty solid glove man, though the majority of his Everett starts came at third. He had a .708 OPS in Everett in which his OBP just barely edged out his slugging. You’d expect this kind of profile to also steal a base now and then, but Mariscal has never topped seven in a season and has a pretty abysmal success rate.
Ward was drafted two rounds higher and was formerly a teammate of Brown at Georgia. He saw three stops last year from Pulaski to Clinton and ran a nearly even K/BB during his longest stint in Everett, which was a plus, given that his OBP managed to be .126 higher than a rather unimpressive average. Like Mariscal, he doesn’t have a lot of speed for the basic profile nor does he excel at base stealing. He is left-handed, however. That appears to be the main difference between the two.
Outfielders: CF Arby Fields, RF Alex Jackson, LF Chantz Mack, OF Estarlyn Morales, LF/C Wayne Taylor
Friends, have you heard the Good Word about Alex Jackson? Alex Jackson hit a ding donger to the opposite field in spring training against a pitcher with real actual major league experience and didn’t even appear to get all of the ball. Alex Jackson could’ve been placed in California to start his first full season and I would have been all “whatever.” He could have made it to Seattle out of spring training and I would have thought “Gosh, I hope this doesn’t hurt his development, but otherwise, party down.” I don’t know what there is to say about him that’s serious. He hit .280/.344/.476 in a Peoria debut that was shortened by him taking a flyball off the sinuses. He’s probably the best hitting prospect we’ve had since A-Rod. For whatever else happens, he alone probably makes the Lumberkings worth paying attention to on a regular basis, but this would be true of any roster he was placed on.
The supporting cast is obviously less exciting, but we get through as we can. Morales is a guy that’s long intrigued me because, you know, names, but last season he hit .303/.379/.495 for Pulaski and that got a bit of attention in that you don’t often see walks and power from a graduate of the Latin American program. That said, I’ve learned to regard Pulaski’s stats as somewhat suspect and as of this year, no longer have to deal with that. If he hits or doesn’t, we have reason to believe it as Clinton is just better data.
Taylor is one of the few dedicated left-handed bats on the roster as of right now. He was a part of Stanford’s baseball program, which means the M’s familiarity with him extends back to Austin Wilson and likely before, though he may have some bat questions. These didn’t manifest as a pro, as he slugged six home runs and had an ISO of .179, but then he spent the majority of his summer in the outfield, catching only fifteen games, after having gone through a similar track in college. It’s weird to have a player who is vaguely on the Chris Gimenez track, but Taylor’s catch-and-throw skills behind the plate are reported to be somewhat suspect.
Mack played four years at Miami as a guy whose OBP exceeded his slugging on a regular basis. This hasn’t really held true as a pro as he’s shown more pop last year in Clinton (eight home runs) that he had cumulatively to that point in his career. He’s a bit old for every place he’s played, but one could be on board provided that he played some center field, which he has, but for less than 20% of his total defensive appearances.
Instead, at least until Cousino comes back, I expect that job to be handed to Arby Fields. His profile generally bears a strong resemblance to that of Mack, both four-year college guys who broke into pro ball somewhat older, except that Mack’s game is little more about power and Fields’, speed and on-base percentage. Like a lot of the hitters here, just because he has speed doesn’t mean that he’s great at using it, and he was caught 36% of the time last year. I see him as a placeholder until Cousino gets over whatever, but again, he did hit reasonably well in that suspect APL environment, so maybe you don’t write him off just yet. Or maybe you do. Friggin’ Pulaski.