2016 Eastern League Preview: Bowie Baysox

Chris Lee (photo courtesy Bert Hindman / Bowie Baysox)

Chris Lee (photo courtesy Bert Hindman / Bowie Baysox)

With the start of the 2016 season right around the corner, we’re previewing the 12 Eastern League teams in reverse order of last season’s record. Complete rosters are still not finalized, so my Players to Watch is pure speculation at this point.

Up next, we have the Bowie Baysox…

2015 record: 79-63

Affiliation: Baltimore Orioles

Coaching Staff
Manager: Gary Kendall
Hitting coach: Howie Clark
Pitching coach: Alan Mills
Field coach: Shawn McGill

Five Players to Watch

C Chance Sisco – No one doubts Sisco’s ability to hit as the backstop is advanced at the plate way beyond his 21 years of age. Sisco has a great approach and excellent feel for the strike zone as evident by his .326 average and .402 on-base percentage in three professional seasons. But the big question is whether he will stick as catcher or not. Sisco threw out only 25% of runners last season, but he also did a fine job handling the pitching staffs at Frederick and Bowie.

LHP Chris Lee – Lee took a big step forward last season after a change of scenery did him wonders being acquired by the Orioles’ organization in May. The southpaw pitched to a 3.07 ERA and allowed only one home run in 21 starts over 114.1 innings. That was good enough for Baltimore to add him to the team’s 40-man roster over the winter.

RHP David Hess – Hess shined in the second half of the season as the righty dominated to a 1.61 ERA in his last 15 starts including two big wins in the playoffs for the Baysox. The 22-year-old pitched out of the bullpen during part of his time at Tennessee Tech and questions abound whether he’s better suited to that role. A real intensity on the mound and a high-effort delivery probably signal a change in Hess’ future, but for now he’ll pitch in the rotation.

OF Josh Hart – Hart has a ton of tools, but has yet to put it all together for the Orioles in three professional seasons despite signing for a $1.45 million bonus after being drafted in the supplemental first round. The center fielder has shown little to no power during games and an even worse patience at the plate.

SS Adrian Marin – Marin is an old school, glove first shortstop in the vein of the 1970s. Forty years later offense is more highly thought of at each position and until he can show he can consistently hit, he will remain scuffling in the minors. If (and that’s a huge if) Marin can find his groove at the plate, expect him to be a fast riser in the system.

2016 Outlook:
The defending Eastern League champions will return the majority of the team that topped the Reading Fightin’ Phils in five games including last season’s batting champ Trey Mancini who will surprisingly begin 2016 in Bowie. The Baysox seem to always be a formidable offensive force with a couple of minor league veterans strengthening their lineup. Last year they were buoyed by a solid starting rotation (like Terry Doyle and Joe Gunkel) and a lights out bullpen (Mychal Givens and Andrew Triggs). Their success in 2016, which I expect but not to last year’s level, will once again fall to their pitching staff.

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The Island Chronicles podcast, Episode 4 (March 30)

LOS ANGELES - APRIL 17: Phyllis George and Vin Scully as co-hosts on "Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes."  Image dated April 17, 1977.  (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Terry Byrom, voice of the Senators, and myself are back for the March 30th episode of the Island Chronicles podcast.

We discuss what we know about the 2016 Harrisburg Senators’ roster (not much at this point) and then branch off into how social media and the interwebs have changed how we follow teams, players, and the games.

We would love to get feedback from you so let us know what you like, what you don’t, and topics you want to hear us discuss in the future.

And one more thing…if you like it, please help us spread the word and share it with everyone.

Thanks!

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2016 Eastern League Preview: Binghamton Mets

Amed Rosario (photo courtesy Chris McShane)

Prior to the season we’re previewing the 12 Eastern League teams in reverse order of last season’s record. Rosters won’t be finalized until the week before Opening Day, so my Players to Watch is pure speculation at this point.

Up next, we have the Binghamton Mets…

2015 record: 77-64

Affiliation: New York Mets

Coaching Staff
Manager: Pedro ­­­­­­Lopez
Hitting coach: Luis Natera
Pitching coach: Glenn Abbott

Five Players to Watch

1B Dominic Smith – Smith is coming off a 2015 season which saw him slash .305/.354/.417 on the way towards winning the Florida State League MVP. The Mets’ first round draft pick in 2013 is a pure hitter in the throwback mold, but for a corner infielder he has yet to show a power stroke slugging only 10 home runs over three minor league seasons.

SS Amed Rosario – The 20-year-old got a taste (more like an amuse-bouche) of Double-A last season as the B-Mets competed in the playoffs. Rosario has a strong arm and great footwork to stick at shortstop, but he has yet to show enough offensively more than a swing and approach at the plate that is contact-oriented.

LHP Josh Smoker – Smoker was at one time a top prospect of the Washington Nationals after being selected 31st overall in 2007. But injuries piled up for the southpaw and his velocity took a nosedive until he found himself pitching in Rockford, Ill., in the independent Frontier League. But somehow, Smoker rebounded in 2015 as his fastball got back into the upper 90s and he fanned 60 in 49 innings.

2B L.J. Mazzilli – After being suspended for a “drug of abuse” for the first 50 games last year, Mazzilli struggled to get back on track. His abundance of grit and improving batter’s eye don’t quite make up for his lack of power, but as the son of former Mets All-Star Lee Mazzilli he has the pedigree that will enable opportunities.

3B Jhoan Urena – The corner infielder managed to break both of his hamate bones last season and he wasn’t the same afterwards. Urena hit only .186/.240/.228 in 24 games when he returned to St. Lucie. The switch-hitter may very well spend 2016 repeating the Florida State League, but if he can show he’s healthy and productive he may finish the season in the Southern Tier.

2016 Outlook:
Under the patience and guiding hand of Pedro Lopez, the B-Mets have made the playoffs each of the last three seasons while averaging 82 regular season wins. For my money, Lopez is the best manager in the Eastern League and I’m shocked he hasn’t moved up in the Mets’ system or been poached by another organization yet. The B-Mets’ roster won’t be as talented as the recent past, but that shouldn’t stop them from once again playing meaningful games into September.

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2016 Eastern League Preview: Altoona Curve

Harold-Ramirez

Harold Ramirez

Prior to the season we’re previewing the 12 Eastern League teams in reverse order of last season’s record. Rosters won’t be finalized until the week before Opening Day, so my Players to Watch is pure speculation at this point.

Up next, we have the Altoona Curve…

2015 record: 74-68

Affiliation: Pittsburgh Pirates

Coaching Staff
Manager: Joey Cora
Hitting coach: Kevin Riggs
Pitching coach: Justin Meccage

Five Players to Watch

OF Austin Meadows – The 20-year-old brings an advanced approach to the plate and showed that in a brief stint with Altoona last season when he slashed .360/.429/.680 in six games that catapulted the Curve into the playoffs. Meadows, however, will start 2016 on the disabled list as he will be out until at least early April with a fractured orbital bone he suffered in a freak Spring Training injury.

OF Harold Ramirez – Ramirez remains of the more enigmatic prospects. The Colombian is a stud with a bat in his hands at the plate, has good speed on the basepaths, and can adeptly play all three outfield positions. But Ramirez can also be surly with umpires, lack focus at times, and be the poster child for TOOTBLAN.

RHP Yeudy Garcia – Garcia is a late bloomer who went 12-5 with a 2.10 ERA at Low-A West Virginia in his first season in the States. The native Dominican throws a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a hard slider that elicits weak to little contact. The righty will begin 2016 in Bradenton, but could move up the ladder quickly.

C Reese McGuire – McGuire has a reputation as a defense-first catcher and it’s warranted as he’s one of the best receivers in the minor leagues with a feel for calling a game behind the plate. The big question mark is will his hit tool ever develop enough to be little more than a backup. Double-A will really put his offensive skills to the test.

RHP Clay Holmes – After Tommy John surgery in 2014, the Pirates have brought Holmes back slowly beginning with six starts at High-A Bradenton last year. Holmes features a heavy sinker and an effective change-up to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. The ninth round draft pick was the valedictorian of his high school and uses his intelligence to prepare and attack hitters.

2016 Outlook:
Hiring Joey Cora to be the Curve’s new skipper in 2016 was a coup for the Pirates’ organization considering he was thought to be in the hunt for a Major League managerial position. I expect big things out of Cora as Pittsburgh’s top-loaded system will stack the Triple-A Indianapolis roster and push lots of talented players to Altoona. The Curve will have the offense and pitching to contend all season long and are my favorites to claim the Western Division title.

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The Island Chronicles podcast, Episode 3 (March 23)

Harry_Doyle
Terry Byrom, voice of the Senators, and myself are back for the March 23rd episode of the Island Chronicles podcast.

The Adam and Drake LaRoche brouhaha has dominated the interwebs this past week and we delved into the topic, specifically how kids in the clubhouse play at the minor league level.

We would love to get feedback from you so let us know what you like, what you don’t, and topics you want to hear us discuss in the future.

And one more thing…if you like it, please help us spread the word and share it with everyone.

Thanks!

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2016 Eastern League Preview: Richmond Flying Squirrels

ray black

Ray Black

Prior to the season we’re previewing the 12 Eastern League teams in reverse order of last season’s record. Rosters won’t be finalized until the week before Opening Day, so my Players to Watch is pure speculation at this point.

Up next, we have the Richmond Flying Squirrels…

2015 record: 72-68

Affiliation: San Francisco Giants

Coaching Staff
Manager: Miguel Ojeda
Hitting coach: Ken Joyce
Pitching coach: Steve Kline

Five Players to Watch

RHP Ray Black – Black has all the tools to be a dominant Major League reliever for a long time as the Wilkes-Barre, PA native features a tantalizing fastball he regularly throws in the triple digits and a nasty slider. But numerous injuries including Tommy John surgery in high school, a torn labrum in college, and a lat injury last season which limited him to just 25 innings along with serious control issues have raised serious question marks about his future. This quote from prospect guru John Sickels sums it up best, “Ray Black could be an overpowering major league closer, or Ray Black could be pitching in the Mexican League two years from now.”

LHP Andrew Suarez – Suarez famously spurned Washington in 2014 when he chose to return to college at Miami for his senior season instead of signing with the Nationals who had selected him in the second round. The southpaw is a fast riser in the Giants’ system thanks to four solid offerings he commands and a mature understanding of pitching.

SS Christian Arroyo – Arroyo didn’t seem to mind his aggressive promotion to High-A San Jose last season as the 20-year-old still hit .304 in 90 games. The Florida native is thought of as a pure hitter and has hand-eye coordination off the charts. Although a position change is likely in his future, Arroyo is still penciled in at shortstop for now.

RHP Chase Johnson – Johnson is a rare pitcher who was a closer in college and has since been converted to a starter in his professional career. The former third round draft pick struggled to a 5.93 ERA in three starts with Richmond at the end of last season as he allowed 16 hits and walked eight over 13.2 innings. Johnson is a groundball pitcher who showcases a heavy, mid-90s fastball while the rest of his arsenal is developing.

RHP Jason Forjet – Players selected in the 31st round and 958th overall aren’t supposed to get better the higher they climb in the organization, but don’t tell Forjet that. The right-hander has lowered his ERA and WHIP the last two seasons as he notched 7 wins each year. Not thought of in prospect circles, the 26-year-old should get a shot at AA Richmond to see if his stuff can play up even more than it already has.

2016 Outlook:
The strength of the Flying Squirrels the last couple of seasons has clearly been their pitching staff. Their offense wasn’t going to score many runs, but that didn’t seem to matter since Richmond hurlers have been among the best in the Eastern League four of the last five seasons. I don’t believe 2016 will be much different either as High-A San Jose boasted the best pitching staff in the California League last season. Expectations for this team have to include a playoff berth or at the very least in the chase up until the last weekend like this past season.

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The Island Chronicles podcast, Episode 2 (March 16)

bergenbc

Terry Byrom, voice of the Senators, and myself are back for the March 16th episode of the Island Chronicles podcast.

As Opening Day creeps closer into view, we discussed the unwritten rules and how that related to the recent Bryce Harper/Goose Gossage kerfuffle, the construction and utilization of minor league coaching staffs, and what spring training transactions really mean (hint: not much).

We would love to get feedback from you so let us know what you like, what you don’t, and topics you want to hear us discuss in the future.

And one more thing…if you like it, please help us spread the word and share it with everyone.

Thanks!

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