Friday, April 22, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Talkin' Quack ~ 2016 Season Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

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The Long Island Ducks 17th Season is Underway...

We left off with the Somerset Patriots eliminating the Long Island Ducks from last year's Atlantic League playoffs.

The two wasted little time resuming their rivalry, opening the 2016 regular season with a four game weekend series at TD Bank Ballpark.

The season's first call to Play Ball was made Thursday, featuring Ducks ace John Brownell versus the quite familiar Patriots starter Mickey Storey.  The game remained tied at three through six innings of play, earning both starting pitchers a no decision.

The Patriots charged ahead with a five run outburst in the 7th, and added another in the 8th, giving Somerset a final 9-3 margin of victory.

Ducks off to an 0-2 start

Darin Downs climbed the hill for the Ducks Friday evening in Game Two, and was opposed by Somerset's Jeremy Horst.  Despite a solid effort from Downs, the Patriots claimed a 5-2 victory over the Ducks.

There are still a pair of games remaining in order for the Ducks to gain a series split.

Yes, that's concern you sense ... it's never too early.

And with that, the 2016 Atlantic League regular season is underway.

Long Island Ducks 2016 Season Preview

General manager Michael Pfaff enters the 2016 regular season with a roster not unlike last year's edition.

Of the positional players, second base is the lone unknown.  The other positional starters are either returning for a second season with the Ducks, or are more established Long Island veterans.

Player/coach Lew Ford's swan song is now in its 7th season!  At 39-years of age, he's either aging like a fine wine or drinking from the fountain of youth - your choice.  In 2014, Lew batted .347 in 544 at-bats, and last season batted .364 in 297 at-bats.  In 1,598 overall at-bats as a member of the Flock, Lew Ford has 547 hits for a .342 batting average.

If the Ducks were to ever consider naming a team captain, long time shortstop Dan Lyons surely would be the easy choice.  In 2015, he established career highs in several offensive categories, most notably his .462 slugging average, and his first ever .300 season average.

Long Island's offense will ultimately be characterized by the sum of its parts.  I'm not sure where they'll draw their power from.  Dan Lyons, Cody Puckett, Fehlandt Lentini, Delta Cleary Jr., and others ideally will combine to make this a fairly balanced line-up (...Kansas City Royals style).

The ace of the staff is still John Brownell, but the ranks are thinning.  After Bobby Blevins, the starting rotation is riddled with question marks.

Meanwhile, the names in the bullpen seemingly grow stranger by the season.  Manager Kevin Baez needs at least three relievers from among this new pack of virtual unknowns to emerge, and help him establish some sort of bullpen semblance.  Presently, all roles appear available.  Inquire within.

Starting Pitchers

Returning Pitchers: John Brownell, Bobby Blevins, Darin Downs
  • Southpaw Jack Snodgrass, 28, comes to Long Island via the San Francisco Giants organization.  He spent most of the last three seasons pitching at the AA level.  In 112 minor league appearances he made 88 career starts, with a 42-24 record, 4.00 ERA, and a 1.332 WHiP in 538.1 combined innings pitched.
  • Right-hander Nick Struck is entering his second season with the Ducks.  Last season he made 50 relief appearances, but over his minor league career Nick made 118 starts in 134 appearances.  The Ducks utilized him in relief again Friday evening against the Somerset Patriots.


Returning Pitchers: Patrick Crider, Bruce Kern, Frank DeJiulio Jr., Amalio Diaz
  • Right-hander Kevin Vance is 25-years young.  He spent five years in the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations.  Last year marked his first touch at the AAA level.   Primarily used as a reliever, he owns a 3.81 ERA and 1.301 WHiP over 328.1 minor league innings pitched.
  • Right-hander Dan Blewett, 30, is a career independent league pitcher.  From 2010 through 2012 he was a starter, but after missing all of the 2013 season he returned as a reliever in 2014 with Camden.   In two seasons, 89 appearances, and 121.1 innings pitched for the Riversharks, he posted a combined 3.12 ERA, with 120 strikeouts, 40 walks, and 108 total hits allowed.
  • Right-hander James Lomangino, 24-years young, is a Long Island native and St. John's University alumni.  His career is still ahead of him.  He has but two brief years of experience to speak of while in the Colorado Rockies system.  He made 15 appearances playing Rookie ball in 2014, and 39 appearances in the South Atlantic League (A) last year.
  • Right-hander Todd Coffey last pitched in the majors in 2012 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.   He's an eight year MLB veteran (2005-2012) whom posted a career 25-18 record with 11 saves, a 4.10 ERA, and a 6.8 K/9 and 2.8 W/9 average in 438.2 innings pitched.  He spent last year with the Seattle Mariners AAA affiliate, where he posted a nifty 1.93 ERA, with an 8.2 K/9 average in 37.1 innings pitched.
  • Southpaw Jarrett Casey, 28, spent six minor league seasons in the White Sox organization with 48 appearances at the AAA level.  He totaled 160 minor league appearances, with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.363 WHiP in 383.2 total innings pitched.
  • Southpaw Eury De La Rosa, 26, is an eight year minor league, and foreign league veteran.  He pitched in parts of two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012 and 2013, where he registered 44 appearances, 51.1 innings pitched, and an 8.4 K/9 average.

Behind the Dish
  • Matt Blanke is entering his second season with the Flock.  In 92 games and 326 at-bats last season, he slashed .282/.337/.411, with 15 doubles, 9 home runs, and 43 RBI.
  • Mike Dowd, 25, is a five year veteran of the Seattle Mariners system where he elevated to AA. He boasts a stellar defensive reputation and possesses an above average throwing arm.

Around the Diamond
  • First baseman Sean Burroughs was acquired mid-season last year from the Bridgeport Bluefish. Don't look to him for power, but have fun watching him hit nonetheless.  In 53 games and 190 at-bats with Bridgeport, he batted .321 last season.  In 37 games and 145 at-bats with the Ducks, he batted .366 with a .422 OBP.
  • If Long Island's opening game against Somerset was an indication, then Blake Barber, 26, appears to be this year's starting second baseman.  He spent the last four seasons primarily in the lower levels of the Miami Marlins organization.  He owns a .268 career average over 962 minor league at-bats.
  • Another native New Yorker, and St. John's alum, infielder Matt Wessinger, 25, spent last season with Bridgeport, and will likely compete for the second base job, but is more likely to play off the bench.
  • Rock steady Dan Lyons is back for his sixth season with the Ducks.  He is coming off a career season, in which he hit 28 doubles, 11 home runs, drove in 73 runs, and batted .301 in 465 at-bats.
  • Entering his third season with the Ducks, Cody Puckett will man third base.  He's a combined .286 hitter during his previous two seasons with Long Island, averaging 20 doubles, 9 home runs, and 65 RBI.

The Outfield
  • From left to right, continuity rules the day.  Delta Cleary Jr. is back to play left; the indefatigable Lew Ford will be in center; and Fehlandt Lentini, 38, will return in right.
  • Blake Tekotte will DH and come off the bench.  He spent the previous four seasons shuffling back and forth between the majors and AAA, accumulating 50 games of MLB experience along the way.
  • Anthony Vega, 25, is a product of the Baltimore Orioles system.  He came to the Ducks last season via the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.  He will provide speed and defense off the bench.

Last word: All hail Buddy Harrelson!

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