Batavia Muckdogs Notebook: 2011 Week 1

The Cardinals' 2011 New York-Penn League club began with a 3-5 week. returning outfielder Mike O'Neill has been hot in the early going.

Current Record: 3-5
Current Standing: Tied with Williamsport (Philadelphia) for fourth, three games behind Auburn (Washington)

Of Interest:

Welcome to the 2011 New York-Penn League season featuring your Batavia Muckdogs.

The New York-Penn League saw a couple of towns switch affiliates during the off-season. After nine seasons in the Toronto organization, the Auburn Doubledays' joined the Washington Nationals camp when Toronto moved their Short-season squad to Vancouver. The Vermont Lake Monsters, whose facilities are reportedly among the worst in the league, became an Oakland affiliate when Washington moved to Auburn.

Closer to home, the Muckdogs are up for sale and their future at Batavia is very much in doubt. The team did not do much to encourage fans to attend as they lost both of their home games.

Nothing like having your first roster move just before the first report appears. But the promotion of lefty Iden Nazario to full season A Quad Cities does not really change the report as it focuses on the Opening Day roster of which Nazario was a part.

Another roster move is the arrival of southpaw Justin Edwards. The Daily News reports that he arrived on Wednesday from St. Louis' extended spring training facility in Florida. (Edwards' data is not included in the Opening Day roster as he was on the Disabled List at the time.) This is Edwards' third round at Batavia so look for him to move quickly, one way or the other. Edwards started Friday evening's game for the Muckdogs.

The Roster:

Several things stick out when looking at Batavia's initial roster. The first is the heavy predominance of lefties on the pitching squad. Seven of the 15-man squad are southpaws (prior to Nazario's promotion). Compare that to only three lefties on the 15-man squad that comprised the 2010 Opening Day roster and St. Louis' stated emphasis on left-handed pitching in 2011 is clear.

Another item of note is the lack of ‘Returnees' on the roster. One of the ways in which the players are categorized here is by prior professional experience. Players are placed into one of four groups: Pro Debut, Returnee - all prior plate appearances or innings pitched at this level or below, First Timer - all prior plate appearances or innings pitched at this level or below and Other - has plate appearances and/or inning pitched at higher level(s).

The 2010 Opening Day roster included six Returnees, five pitchers and an infielder, all of whom spent the entire 2009 season at this level. The 2011 roster has just two Returnees: pitcher Javier Avendano and outfielder Mike O'Neill. Avendano was briefly glimpsed for the first time at the end of the 2010 season and 2010 draftee O'Neill had just four at bats from August 2nd, when he hurt his wrist during an at bat, through season's end so lost about half of his pro debut season.

The low number of Returnees appears to be the result of an apparent organizational emphasis on more aggressively moving players. They either move up or out. An example of this is 2010 Muckdog Pat Biserta. Biserta was a 24th round selection in the June 2010 draft and is no longer in the organization a year later as he was released during spring training.

The 2011 Opening Day roster reflects the continuing growth of St. Louis' Latin America program. The 2011 roster has almost twice the number of players signed directly from a foreign country (Not Drafted or ‘ND' for short) as did the first 2010 roster, nine versus four.

Two of the nine have circumstances that really pop out: Haitian pitcher Jose Almarante and shortstop Cesar Valera. Almarante is making the extremely rare jump from the Dominican Summer League in 2010 to short-season A ball in 2011, by-passing the Rookie level entirely. 19-year-old Valera, the youngest player on the squad, was signed out of Venezuela but all of his professional experience has come in the United States which is very unusual. Three more names to watch are Yunier Castillo, Romulo Ruiz and Javier Avendano.

The first table below lists the squad by how they were acquired: drafted, signed directly from a foreign country (ND) or a non-drafted free agent (NDFA). The years listed are either their draft class or their first professional year in the case of the ND and NDFA players. The final column is the player's professional experience category.

Player Position Draft  ND NDFA Experience
Jose Almarante RHP   2008   First Timer
Javier Avendano RHP   2008   Returnee
Corey Baker RHP 2011     Pro Debut
Andrew Benes RHP 2010     First Timer
Adam Bileckyj LHP     2011 Pro Debut
Jonathan Cornelius LHP 2011     Pro Debut
Patrick Daugherty LHP 2009     First Timer
Hector Hernandez LHP 2009     First Timer
Michael (Seth) Maness RHP 2011     Pro Debut
Ricky Martinez RHP     2010 First Timer
Todd McInnis RHP 2011     Pro Debut
Travis Miller RHP 2011     Pro Debut
Danny Miranda LHP 2011     Pro Debut
Iden Nazario LHP 2010     First Timer
Sean Watson LHP     2011 Pro Debut
Juan Castillo C   2007   Other
Kevin Moscatel C   2008   Other
Jordan (Casey) Rasmus C 2011     Pro Debut
Yunier Castillo SS   2008   Other
David Medina 1B   2006   First Timer
Jeremy Patton IF 2011     Pro Debut
Romulo Ruiz 1B   2007   First Timer
Daniel Stienstra 1B 2011     Pro Debut
Cesar Valera SS   2009   First Timer
Virgil Hill CF 2009     Other
Nicholas Martini OF 2011     Pro Debut
Mike O'Neill OF 2010     Returnee
Roberto Reyes OF   2008   First Timer
Reggie Williams OF 2010     First Timer

The second table lists only those players acquired via the June First-Year Player Draft and includes their draft round. All those listed were drafted out of college except for Hector Hernandez who was drafted out of high school.

Player Position Draft  Round
Corey Baker RHP 2011 49th
Andrew Benes RHP 2010 35th
Jonathan Cornelius LHP 2011 24th
Patrick Daugherty LHP 2009 12th
Hector Hernandez LHP 2009 10th
Michael (Seth) Maness RHP 2011 11th
Todd McInnis RHP 2011 25th
Travis Miller RHP 2011 16th
Danny Miranda LHP 2011 8th
Iden Nazario LHP 2010 30th
Jordan (Casey) Rasmus C 2011 36th
Jeremy Patton IF 2011 38th
Daniel Stienstra 1B 2011 12th
Virgil Hill CF 2009 6th
Nicholas Martini OF 2011 7th
Mike O'Neill OF 2010 31st
Reggie Williams OF 2010 10th

A couple of final tidbits: The average age of the 2011 Opening Day roster is 21 years-10 months-1 day which makes them 16 days younger than their 2010 counterparts. The oldest guy on the squad is southpaw pitcher Sean Watson at 23 years, nine months and 26 days. In the ‘Where Have I Heard That Name Before?' category are pitcher Drew Benes and catcher Casey Rasmus. Drew is the son of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, and current Fredbird cohort, Andy Benes and Rasmus is the younger brother of St. Louis' current starting centerfielder, Colby Rasmus.

Who's Hot

Mike O'Neill is off to an excellent start, posting a line of .417/.481/.542/1.023, 10-for-24, with three doubles, three walks and two runs driven in through six games. He has a .476 BABIP and .125 ISO and is striking out an average of once every eight at bats. O'Neill has been leading off and splitting time between left field and the designated hitter role.

Lefty starter Pat Daugherty gets the first ‘Hot' of the season. Daugherty has a 2.76 FIP and 0.89 WHIP over nine innings in two game starts. He is holding the opposition to a .206 batting average and has a .261 BABIP. But the most dazzling number is the 13 strikeouts in that time frame against just one walk.

Who's Not

The first report always gives a pass to the players and pitchers so a ‘Not Hot' is not given.

How They Stack Up

O'Neill's 1.023 OPS ranks tenth in the league in the early going while Jeremy Patton's .980 OPS is good for 15th. Patton has primarily appeared at third base but has played second as well.

Mike O'Neill's .481 on-base percentage places him ninth league-wide in that category.

Pat Daugherty is tied with Tri-City's Juri Perez for the league lead in strikeouts with 13. Both pitchers have tossed nine innings but Perez is a righty.

The Games:

The Muckdogs' 2011 season began with a three-game home-away-home series with the nearby Auburn Doubledays. (The two towns are about 88 miles apart.) Batavia drew an excellent crowd estimated at 1,700 for its season opener but fell 6-1. The Daily News covered the season and home opener: link.

The Muckdogs bounced back on Saturday to win 9-6 at Auburn but lost Sunday's home game 6-4. The Daily News' article on the series follows: link.

Batavia began a six-game road trip on Monday when they traveled to Mahoning Valley (Cleveland) for a three-game set. The Muckdogs won the series' opener 10-7 and The Daily News' article reported the game thusly: link.

Batavia dropped the second game of the series 2-0: link.

The Muckdogs fell to the Scrappers 4-3 in 11 innings on Wednesday to lose the series. link.

Thursday saw Batavia in Williamsport Pennsylvania for a three-game series against the Crosscutters (Philadelphia). The Muckdogs won the opener 2-1. link

Friday evening saw the return of lefty Justin Edwards who started the game for Batavia. Edwards tossed two scoreless frames, allowing two hits and walking two while striking out four. It was a game the Muckdogs ended up losing 4-3: link

Questions for Leonda Markee about this Batavia report or any other Cardinals minor league topic? Check out our premium, subscriber-only message board today!

© 2011 The Cardinal Nation, and All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories