Batavia Muckdogs Notebook: 2012 Week 6

The Cardinals' short-season New York-Penn League club has hit a rough patch in its divisional chase. Breyvic Valera is emerging as a team leader.

The Batavia Muckdogs faltered in Week 6, posting a 2-4 record against Auburn (Nationals), State College (Pirates) and Brooklyn (Mets). Batavia had a four-game losing streak at one point and three of the defeats were by just one run. That adds up to 10 one-run losses out of the team's 18. The other loss this week – 7-1 against Brooklyn Thursday – was the worst margin of defeat for Batavia this season.

With a 3-7 record in their last 10 games, the Muckdogs (20-18) fell to third place in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division behind the Auburn Doubledays and State College Spikes. The Muckdogs have undeniable talent, but the abundance of close losses signifies the presence of untimely errors and mistakes.

About half-way through the short-season schedule, the Muckdogs still rank favorably in the NYPL. In batting, Batavia is in second place as a team in average (.267) and OPS (.725); first in slugging (.388), total hits (367), and doubles (87); and fourth in on-base percentage (.351). In terms of pitching, Batavia sits in third place in earned-run average (2.85) and first in fewest walks allowed (74; 21 ahead of second-place State College).

Garrett Wittels has returned to full-time playing after experiencing a neck injury that forced him to miss almost three weeks. In Week 6, the 22-year-old went 10-for-27 with four doubles and two triples. In Friday's 2-0 win, he provided the game-winning RBI double and is hitting .308/.341/.513 in his last 10 games.

Wittels has been pushed out as a full-time infielder recently because of the presence of Patrick Wisdom at third base, Alex Mejia at shortstop and Breyvic Valera at second base. All three are above-average defenders and Mejia and Wisdom were drafted in the top 150 picks overall in 2012.

While Wittels has made costly mistakes and been shaky in the seven games he's played left field this season, he seems to be improving his reads the last few days. He made an outstanding catch Wednesday against Brooklyn in left field, but it will be a process for him to be truly comfortable in the position.

Other Week 6 Notables:

Brandon Creath had a rough outing this week – uncharacteristic of his season so far. The 44th-round pick in 2011 owned a 0.50 ERA through 18 innings coming into Thursday's game against the Cyclones; but he left with a 2.41 ERA after allowing four earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. He struck out two, though, maintaining his high strikeout total (11.6 per 9). Creath had allowed only one earned run prior to this game with 11 scoreless relief outings for the Muckdogs.

Gary Apelian continues to struggle at the plate. In the last 10 games, the corner outfielder is 3-for-29 with 13 strikeouts.

Danny Stienstra is back with the Muckdogs after rehabbing in extended spring training earlier this year. In three games this week at first base, the 2011 12th-round pick went 4-for-12 with an RBI.

• It's old hat at this point, but Breyvic Valera continues to impress in the NYPL. His range and instincts in the field at second base are outstanding and he continues to lead the Muckdogs offensively. With a .344/.371/.439 line in 37 games, he hit his first homer of the season Tuesday.

• Twenty games into his professional career, Alex Mejia is hitting .262/.279/.357 with a home run and five doubles. The 4th-round pick didn't record a hit in three games this week, but went 3-for-4 with a stolen base on Friday.

• Starter Joey Cuda lowered his season's ERA to 2.67 after five scoreless innings on Friday during which he struck out seven. The 22-year-old is 3-0 with a strong 4.00 K/BB.


7/25 – LHP Ryan Copeland assigned to Batavia Muckdogs from GCL Cardinals: The 24-year-old pitched 2/3 of an inning for Batavia on Friday in which he allowed a hit and a walk while striking out one. He is listed as being on a rehab assignment.

7/25 – INF Leandro Mateo assigned to Johnson City Cardinals: In three games with the Muckdogs, the 22-year-old went 1-for-10 at the plate with a walk and a strikeout.

7/27 – RHP Jose Almarante assigned to Palm Beach Cardinals: The Haiti native went 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 21.0 innings as a reliever for the Muckdogs. Almarante looked rejuvenated from last year when he struggled as a starter, especially at the end of the season. He was on a different level than NYPL batters in 2012, posting a 4.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Coming Up

The Muckdogs take on Staten Island (Yankees) at home for a three-game set through Monday followed by a day off Tuesday. Next will be a road series against Tri-City (Astros).

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