Sunday, April 26, 2015

Long Island Ducks 2015 Preview: Back to the Finals or Bust

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

The 18th Regular Season of Atlantic League Baseball is Open For Business.


Long Island Ducks Open Their 16th Regular Season With a Victory Over York.

The Long Island Ducks commenced their 16th season of professional baseball on the road Friday evening, with a 5-2 victory over the York Revolution.

Right-hander John Brownell climbed the hill for Long Island and pitched a gem.  He faced 23 batters in 7-innings of work, allowed no runs on just 2 hits, walked one batter, and fanned 4 to earn his first victory of the season.

Ducks right fielder, Bryan Sabatella, led off the game with a base hit to left off York starter Shawn Hill, then promptly stole second base.  After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Sabatella scored the season's first run on Lew Ford's ground out to second.

The Ducks added to their lead in the 4th, on first baseman Jon Griffin's 2-run blast off reliever Matt Neil.  In the 6th, third baseman Cody Puckett's home run gave the Ducks a 4-0 lead.  And in the 7th, Lew Ford's sac-fly scored Bryan Sabatella to cap off Long Island's scoring.

Right-hander Ryan Kussmaul pitched the 9th to earn his first save of the season.

Saturday Final:
Ducks  1
York   3

The Revolution evened the series on Saturday, with a 3-1 victory over starter Mark Rogers and the Ducks.  York scored their runs in the bottom of the 4th, on a 3-run home run by left fielder Brandon Jones.

Rogers pitched 5 innings, allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits, walked just one batter, and fanned 4 batters in his first loss of the season.

Long Island's lone run came in the second inning, on Cody Puckett's 1-out ground rule double, and an RBI single by Jon Griffin.

Long Island Ducks: 2015 Preview - Back to the Finals or Bust.

No one needs reminding - the Long Island Ducks failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, thus snapping a run of three straight Atlantic League championship series appearances.  After losing to York in the 2011 finals, the Ducks rebounded to win consecutive titles in 2012 and 2013.

One might argue that newcomers to the Liberty Division, the Somerset Patriots, upset the established order of things.  The Somerset Patriots and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were realigned prior to the 2014 season.

The Ducks finished second behind the Patriots last season with a 73-67 overall record; 12 games back.  Even the Ducks 41-29 first half record was still 6 games back of Somerset.  Long Island then struggled in the second half to post a 32-38 record, and ended the season losing 7 of their last 10 games.

The Somerset Patriots, meanwhile, posted a league best 85-55 record, but were upset in the division round by the eventual champions, Lancaster Barnstormers.

The bar was nevertheless reset, leaving GM Michael Pfaff with plenty of off-season work to do insofar as closing the gap with Somerset.

Some of the notable names gone from last season's roster include the very productive Adam Bailey, Fehlandt Lentini, and pitchers Shaun Garceau, Bobby Blevins, and Jared Lansford, just to name a few.

In fact, only four players remain from the Ducks last championship: Lew Ford, John Brownell; Eric Niesen, and Dan Lyons.  Four other returning players only made their Long Island debuts last season.
The rest of this year's roster will be populated by fresh faces.

Kevin Baez enters his 5th season at the helm, and perhaps faces his toughest challenge to date.   He'll need to draw on his unique experience as a former Ducks player whom helped his team win the 2004 Atlantic League title, and whom then guided the Ducks to a pair of titles in only his 2nd and 3rd years as field manager.

Here is a tentative look at the 2015 Long Island Ducks.


  • John Brownell, the only returning starting pitcher from last season, is entering his 4th season as a member of the Ducks.  He made 29 starts last season and compiled over 200 innings pitched. He posted a 13-9 record with a 3.61 ERA, with just 54 walks and 130 strikeouts.
  • Mickey Jannis, 27, spent his first 2 season in the Tampa Bay rays system, and has pitched in the Frontier League and Atlantic League since.  He was a full time starter last season with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, posting a 4-1 record in 10 starts, with a 2.37 ERA in 57 innings pitched.
  • Ian Marshall, 28, made 27 starts for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs last season, and posted a 10-10 record with 4.09 ERA over 156.1 innings pitched.  He also relieved 10 games in the Australian Baseball League.
  • Mark Rogers, 29, is a long-time Brewers farmhand, who started 18 games last season for the Lancaster Barnstormers.  He suffers from control issues, but posted a modest 5-6 record, with a 4.17 ERA over 86.1 innings pitched.
  • Amalio Diaz, 30, is a 10-year minor league veteran of the Mexican circuit, the Frontier League, and 7 seasons of affiliated ball in the Angels system.  He owns a career 4.39 ERA in 757.1 innings.  In 267 appearances, he started 84 games, relieved in 183 games, and finished 74 games.


  • New closer, Ryan Kussmaul, 28, is a 7 year minor league veteran out of the Chicago White Sox system.  In 327 career innings, he owns a 2.64 ERA, with an impressive 10.3 K/9, and a 3.1 W/9 average.
  • Lefty Eric Niesen returns for his third season with the Ducks.  He was originally drafted by the Mets in 2007, and pitched some in Boston's system.  Last season, he made 59 appearances for the Ducks, and posted a 4-3 record with a 3.06 ERA over 53 innings, with an 11.0 K/9 average.
  • Hector Ambriz, 30, has 3+ years of MLB experience.  In 106 innings, he owns a lofty 5.35 ERA.  In 8 seasons of affiliated ball, he owns a 4.27 ERA over 638 innings pitched.
  • Matt Soren, 23, was born, and went to high school in Roslyn, N.Y.  He spent 2013 in the Phillies system, then last season pitched for the New Jersey Jackals.
  • Bruce Kern, 27, is another local kid, who played his college ball at St. John's University.  He's a 5 season product of the Colorado Rockies system, where he posted a 3.78 ERA over 166.2 innings, with an 8.0 K/9 average.
  • Southpaw Patrick Crider, 27, played his all 5 years of his pro career in the Frontier League, where he posted a 3.00 ERA in 195 innings pitched.  Last season, he posted a 1.43 ERA in 50.1 innings, with an 11.1 K/9 average.
  • Frank DeJiulio Jr., 26, spent 2 seasons in the Anaheim Angels system before joining the Ducks this year in spring training.
  • Carmine Giardina, 27, is another local kid out of Manhasset, Long Island.  He is a product of 4 seasons in the Angels system.  Last season at (AA)-Arkansas, he made 49 appearances, and posted a 4.45 ERA in 56.2 innings, with a 7.1 K/9 average.
  • Lefty Tommy Organ, is 23-years young.  He returns for a second season with the Ducks.  In 20 appearances last year, he posted a 2.29 ERA over 19.2 innings, with an 8.2 K/9 average.
  • Sergio Perez, 30, is another back for a second season with Long Island.  In 20 appearances last season, he pitched to a 2.37 ERA over 19 innings, with 13 strikeouts and a save.

Long Island Ducks Opening Game Lineup;

RF - Bryan Sabatella
LF - Erik Komatsu
CF - Lew Ford
C - Jose Morales
3B - Cody Puckett
1B - Jon Griffin
2B - Blake Davis
DH - Evan Crawford
SS - Dan Lyons

  • Bryan Sabatella, 30, is a veteran of 9 independent league seasons.  He batted .307 in 371 at-bats last season for Kansas City of the American Association, and played 3 season with the New Jersey Jackals of the CanAm league previous to that.
  • Erik Komatsu, 28, has a lot of stickers on his luggage.  After 8 seasons playing affiliated baseball, he makes his first venture into the independent circuits.  He bats left, will draw walks, and keep his strikeouts low.  He has a career .279 average and a .376 OBP.  He'll provide the Ducks with solid defense.
  • The people's champion, 38-year old Lew Ford, is back for his 6th season in Long Island.
  • Catcher Jose Morales, 32, comes to the Ducks via the Camden River Sharks.  He brings 4 years of major league experience behind the plate.  As a switch hitter, he has a career .283 minor league average, and has thrown out 25% of would be base-stealers.
  • Cody Puckett, 28, is back for a second season with the Ducks.  Last season, he batted .298 with 10 home runs and 77 RBI.
  • Jon Griffin is 6' 6", 230 lbs., and is still only 26-years old.  He is a veteran of 5 minor league seasons spent in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.  In 589 combined at-bats at the AA-level, he hit 20 home runs with 90 RBI.
  • Infielder Blake Davis, 31, is making his Long Island debut after 9 seasons of affiliated baseball; 7 in the Baltimore Orioles system.  His last 6 seasons were spent mostly at the AAA-level.
  • Evan Crawford, 26, returns for his second season with the Ducks.  He played 15 games last season, and batted .378 which included an 8-game hitting streak.  In 2013, he played in the Frontier League.
  • Old reliable, shortstop Dan Lyons, 30, returns for his 5th season with the Ducks.


C - Jose Morales
1B - Jon Griffin
2B - Blake Davis
SS - Dan Lyons
3B - Cody Puckett
INF - Reegie Corona
C - Mike Blanke

  • Reegie Corona played with the Lancaster Barnstormers last season.  The first 8 years of his career were spent in the New York Yankees organization.   He is a switch hitter, and in 3,009 minor league at-bats he owns a dual slash of .255/.328.
  • Catcher Mike Blanke, 26, is a 5 year product of the Chicago White Sox system.  In 1,317 career at-bats, he slashed .254/.322/.396 with 33 home runs.  Defensively, he throws out runners at a 33% career rate.  He also made 13 relief appearances last season in the R-Pioneer League, and posted a 4.72 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched.


LF - Bryan Sabatella
CF - Lew Ford
RF - Erik Komatsu
OF - Evan Crawford
OF - Anthony Vega

  • Anthony Vega, 25, is a local kid from Patchogue, N.Y., originally from the Bronx.  He is a 3 year veteran of the Baltimore Orioles system.  He played college ball with the Manhattan Jaspers.

Offensively, the 2015 Ducks seemingly will lack in the power department.  Even if Lew Ford can elude Father Time and repeat last year's 15 home runs, an uptick from Cody Puckett is still sorely needed.  Newcomer Jon Griffin, is obviously being looked upon to supply slugging as well.  Jose Morales has value in the middle of the order as a switch hitter, but I don't know how long he'll last as the clean-up hitter.

Starting pitchers John Brownell, Ian Marshall, and Mickey Jannis, could have the makings of a solid front three.  Last season, Brownell set franchise marks in starts and innings pitched.  Ian Marshall will pitch the series finale this afternoon in York.


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