Tuesday, April 25, 2017

L.I. Ducks: Talking Quack; 2017 Season Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


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Liberty Division Champs

After falling behind the Somerset Patriots 0-2 in last year's Liberty Division playoff series, Long Island stormed back with three straight victories to win the division flag, and advance to their fifth ever Atlantic League championship series.  However, the Ducks were denied their bid for a fourth trophy by the Sugar Land Skeeters, whom swept Long Island in three games to capture the 2016 Atlantic League title.

After a previously failed bid in 2014, Sugar Land gained their first championship in their short five year existence, and became the Atlantic League's ninth different champion in its 19-year history.  

The 20th Season of Atlantic League Baseball is Underway!

Long Island's reigning all-time pitching ace, John Brownell, returns for his sixth season with the Ducks. He is the organization's all-time leader in starts, innings pitched, wins, and strikeouts, and likewise holds Ducks single season records for starts, innings pitched, complete games, and strikeouts.  

John posted a 10-8 mark last season with a 3.30 ERA and 1.260 WHiP.  He averaged 7.8 K/9 with 147 strikeouts and 2.0 W/9 after issuing just 38 walks through 169 innings pitched.  After which, Brownell, 33, made his annual return to Puerto Rico where he pitches winter league baseball for the Caguas Criollos.  There, he made seven appearances for this year's LBPRC champions, posting a 2.91 ERA for Caguas through 34 innings pitched, with 17 strikeouts.

John Brownell will be pitching with a revamped stable of mates this season featuring Rafael Perez, Matt Larkin, Keith Couch, and Tim Melville.

  • Rafael Perez, 34, is a southpaw and former major league relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.  He posted a 21-12 record with a 3.64 ERA through 329 innings pitched, with 268 strikeouts during his seven seasons with the Tribe.  He spent the last two seasons pitching in the triple-A Mexican League and in the Dominican Republic's professional circuit.
  • Right-hander Matt Larkins, 28, was acquired from the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association last year, and squeezed in three appearances for the Ducks before season's end.  He was 7-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 21 appearances for Lincoln.
  • Newcomer to the Ducks, right-hander Keith Couch, 27, is a Mineola, Long Island kid, and former Boston Red Sox minor league farm product, with 157 innings pitched at the triple-A level.
  • Another newcomer, right-hander Tim Melville is an eight year veteran of the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds respective systems.  Through 161 appearances mostly as a starter, Melville owns a 34-59 record with a 4.83 ERA and 578 strikeouts over 726 career innings pitched.

When right-hander Rob Rogers was signed on April 19, southpaw Jack Snodgrass was placed on the inactive list.  Rogers, a 26-year old New York native hailing from Bayshore is a Los Angeles Dodgers product whom gained limited experience at double-A, and enjoyed a very brief sip of Gatorade at triple-A.  Snodgrass made 14 starts last season for the Ducks, posting a par 6-6 record with a 3.79 ERA and 85 strikeouts through 78.1 innings pitched.

Rejoining the bullpen from last season will be Eury de la Rosa, Patrick Crider, and Zac Treece.   They'll be joined by newcomers Jim Fuller, Dennis O'Grady, Chin Hui Tsao, and major league veteran David Aardsma.  For now, Amalio Diaz will open the season as the Ducks closer.  But should Diaz falter, I would argue newcomer Tyler Wilson could step into that role.

  • Tyler Wilson was acquired from the Ottawa Champions of the CanAm League.  He made 42 appearances last season, posting a 3-4 record with a 2.07 ERA and 14 saves over 47.2 innings pitched with 60 strikeouts.
  • Jim Fuller comes to the Ducks via the Pirates organization.  He was originally drafted by the Mets, and played for the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2009.
  • Dennis O'Grady is another local kid from Floral Park, N.Y., who attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens.  After five seasons in the San Diego Padres organization, he missed all of 2016.
  • Chin-Hui Tsao is a six year major league veteran with the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers.  But similar to Dennis O'Grady, he missed all of the 2006 and 2008 seasons.
  • David Aardsma is a nine year MLB veteran, whom pitched for the Mets in 2013, and as the Seattle Mariners closer saved 69 games between 2009-2010.

The Ducks will sport two fresh faces behind the plate: right swinging Alex Burg and lefty swinging Dominic Blanco.

  • Alex Burg is a potential power hitting backstop who spent the last two seasons toiling in the Texas Rangers system.
  • Drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners, Dominic Blanco is still young at 21-years old.  He enters the season with just 63 professional games under his belt, mostly at the rookie league level.  He's noted for having a strong arm.

The infield once again features popular shortstop Dan Lyons who returns for his seventh season with the Ducks, and third baseman Cody Puckett, entering his fourth straight season with Long Island.  

  • The team is anticipating a full season and lots of slugging from first baseman Nate Freiman, who hit two home runs in just six games last season for Long Island after being acquired as a free agent.  In 2012 for the San Diego Padres double-A affiliate, Freiman slashed .298/.370/.502 through 137 games and 516 at-bats, with 24 home runs and 105 RBI.  He went on to play in 116 MLB games and slugged .408 for the Oakland A's during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
  • Infielder Elmer Reyes first played for the Ducks in 2015, and in just 18 games and 71 at-bats, slashed .380/.389/.746, with six home runs and 15 RBI.  Talk about catching lighting in a bottle.  He spent last season playing for the Nicaraguan National team.  Still only 26-years old, there's a very good chance for lightning striking twice.
  • Marc Krauss, 29, is a three year MLB veteran.  He played 85 games and hit 14 home runs last season for the triple-A Las Vegas 51s.
  • Giovanny Alfonzo, 24, is a Miami Marlins product, with 126 games played split between the New York-Penn League and South Atlantic League.

In the outfield, the ageless Fehlandt Lentini is back for his fourth season with the Ducks.  A long time independent league veteran, Lentini turns the big four-zero this summer.  He is also coming off a career year for Long Island.  In 140 games and 571 at-bats last season, Fehlandt slashed .313/.364/.455, with 42 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, 75 RBI, 108 runs scored, and 51 stolen bases.

Delta Cleary Jr. returns for his third season.  He finished third in the Atlantic League last season with a .321 batting average, and placed fifth with 32 stolen bases.

  • Newcomer to the Ducks, corner outfielder Nolan Reimold, 33, is a nine year MLB veteran mostly spent with the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Angelo Songco, 28, is a Los Angeles Dodgers product.  He averaged .298, with 15 home runs and 64 RBI during his three previous seasons playing for the St. Paul Saints.

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