- Part 1 of 4: Great Lakes Loons
Despite it being a hitters' haven, that quartet was supposed to lead the Quakes to the playoffs -- and it almost did in the first half.
The Quakes were tied with the High-Desert Mavs for the top spot. A one-game playoff between the two on June 25 determined the first-half champion. With Sanchez on the hill, the team jumped out to a 5-2 lead after 4 1/2 innings. The Quakes allowed six runs in the next two innings, giving the Mavs the playoff berth.
Lee pitched well before being promoted to Double-A, Reed pitched sparingly (35 innings) before his promotion to Double-A. The rotation was spearheaded by Gould (5.75 ERA), Sanchez (6.58 ERA) and Jon Michael Redding (4.42 ERA). Andres Santiago threw 96 1/3 quality innings until he was promoted to Chattanooga.
The Quakes lost some quality players in 2012 to promotions. With the number of quality players in Chattanooga, I wouldn't expect there to be a lot of up-and-down action between the two squads (injuries notwithstanding).
The 2013 roster doesn't look as good as 2012, but it could surprise some folks.
Starting pitchers (5)
Duke von Schamann
Relief pitchers (8)
The best prospects on this projected roster are Baldwin, Dickson Gould, Sweeney and Rathjen. Guys like Garcia, Gould and Sanchez are slated to repeat High-A because of poor performance and because there's a logjam in Double-A ahead of them.
The bullpen has three guys capable of starting (Gomez, Martinez, Ozoria), but they have to pitch somewhere. Perhaps one of them could unseat Sanchez in the rotation.
I'm not sure Rathjen and Stripling will begin with Rancho, but I'd like to see the Dodgers be aggressive with two of their selections from the 2012 draft.
Garcia RF/Schebler LF
Baldwin didn't hit a lick in Low-A, but he does have decent on-base ability. Maybe a hitter-friendly environment will help him, but it's also likely to hurt him, especially if he hits a few dingers early on. Rathjen could eventually work his way up in the lineup.
The rotation could be strong if Stripling handles the aggressive assignment well enough and Gould and Sanchez pitch to their capabilities. The bullpen has a nice back-end combination of Campbell and Garcia, while Thomas could be a nice sleeper in the group.
Someone who didn't make my projected Loons or Quakes roster is Juan Rodriguez. I have a hunch -- and that's all it is -- that he'll be released prior to the season. If he isn't, he'll likely begin in High-A.
The Cal League is a crap shoot, and this year is no exception.
Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue