Only five players remain from last season's 37-38 team (pitchers Jose Almarante, Adam Bileckyj, Yunier Castillo and Kevin Jacob and outfielder Roberto Reyes). That means the vast majority of the roster is either experiencing its first week of professional baseball or is stepping up to a higher level of competition in the New York-Penn League.
The Muckdogs started the week by losing three of four games against the Doubledays – but by a combined total of three runs – and then by two runs on Friday against the Jammers. The Doubledays are coming off a divisional first-place season in 2011, having lost to the Staten Island Yankees in the NYPL finals. They feature several high draft picks such as Tony Renda (2nd).
Patrick Wisdom, the highest draft pick on the Muckdogs as a supplemental first-rounder (No. 52 overall), played in two games (both as a third baseman) and went 0-for-5 with two walks and a strikeout. Sometimes looking off-balance and uncomfortable in at-bats, the right-handed hitter had a rough time at the plate and was limited to two games because of an undisclosed injury. Wisdom has raw power that could take time to develop.
One of the most interesting players to follow on the Muckdogs' roster is Yunier Castillo – a middle infielder converted to pitcher last year – who threw three scoreless innings with six strikeouts. Scouts have been speaking very highly of the pitcher this season who sat at 94 mph during his outings. He looks much more confident and polished than last season when he first started his transition (9.0 innings pitched in 2011). Castillo has also developed what one scout called "a wicked slider."
Middle infielder Breyvic Valera – who was added to Batavia's roster on June 13 – is a good a slap hitter who has a knack for finding gaps and is quick defensively with good hands but needs time to develop a feel for the game and make better decisions.
Catcher Jesus Montero (brother of Seattle Mariners' catcher of the same name) is not known for hitting like his sibling. However, in the Muckdogs' first week, he went 10-for-21 with a double and two home runs. To put this in perspective, Montero had two career home runs in four years with a line of .239/.344/.313. The first two games of the season (June 18-19), Montero finished 7-for-8 with the three extra-base hits. The final three games of this week, though, were quieter (3-for-13, three strikeouts).
Another Muckdog with a strong first week is starter Joey Cuda (four scoreless innings with four strikeouts). The 27th-rounder from Florida's Eckerd College is a strike-thrower with strong control. In his initial outing, Cuda scattered four hits without any real threats from batters. The right-hander does not have an overpowering arm, but he got ahead in counts often (especially 0-2) and obviously did not allow any scoring damage.
June 13 - INF Breyvic Valera sent to Batavia from Springfield
June 20 - INF Leandro Mateo transferred from Johnson City to Batavia
The Muckdogs continue their three-game series with the Jammers Saturday and Sunday, then host the State College Spikes for three games before facing Jamestown again starting next Thursday.
With a 1-4 record, but a 6.0 runs/game average, it will be interesting to track the Muckdogs' pitching as players start to settle into a new season – and for most – a new experience.
(For rotation specifics for all short-season clubs, subscribers can refer to this article, "Cards using pseudo-piggybacks in short-season".)
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