After a busy week of roster moves and travel, the 2014 edition of the State College Spikes got off on the right foot with a dominant 10-3 road win over Williamsport (PHI) in the New York-Penn League season opener Friday night. This season-opening edition of the Spikes Notebook highlights the returning coaching staff, preliminary roster, and Friday's season opening win.
Oliver Marmol returns for his second season at the helm of the Spikes. The 2014 campaign will be the 27-year-old's third season as a manager in the Cardinals' system; Marmol managed in Johnson City in 2012 before taking over in State College last year. Marmol also returns his assistant coaches in pitching coach, Dernier Orozco, and hitting coach, Ramon "Smokey" Ortiz.
Under the same staff last season, the Spikes had the best regular season regular record in the New York-Penn League (48-27), and led the league in numerous statistical categories including ERA (2.80), batting average (.275), slugging percentage (.391) and on-base percentage (.345).
There are three returners from last season's club. Reliever Jacob Booden, a 6-foot-8 righty, returns to State College after posting a 1.19 ERA in 16 appearances and 30.1 innings pitched in 2013. Booden was a staple at the back end of the Spikes' bullpen over the final month of the 2013 season. The undrafted 2012 signee expects to be part of the Spikes' late inning rotation and is itching for an opportunity to close.
Potentially competing with Booden for the closer spot is another returning reliever, Jeff Rauh. The 6-foot-2 righty had an ERA of 4.05 over 26.2 innings in 23 appearances last season, but struggled in his two appearances in Peoria this year. With the Chiefs, Rauh allowed six earned runs on four hits and two walks in just 2.1 innings of work.
The only returning position player for the Spikes is Alex De Leon. A 23rd round pick in the 2013 draft, De Leon spent most of 2013 splitting time behind the plate with Luke Voit, but is making the move to first base this season. De Leon played a few innings at first last season, and batted just .197 overall, but showed good feet at first and caught fire at the plate a time or two last summer.
Players to Watch
Fernando Baez, a hard-throwing 22-year-old reliever, posted a 0.82 ERA over 33 innings in Johnson City in 2013. Baez held opposing batters to a .140 average and struck out 47, but showed command issues, as he also walked 23 batters. Baez was The Cardinal Nation's 38th-ranked prospect coming into this season.
Ian McKinney, St. Louis' 2013 fifth-round pick, appeared in 10 games for the GCL Cardinals in 2013, starting five, and posted a 0.89 ERA. The 19-year-old right-hander struck out 24 batters last year, holding opposing hitters to a .217 average. McKinney ranked 25th on our pre-season prospect list.
Rowan Wick hit just .256 in Johnson City last year, but slugged 10 home runs, had 35 RBI and had a .818 OBP. Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, home to the State College Spikes, plays notoriously large at the beginning of the season, but fortunately for the left-handed Wick, the park is much more favorable to left-handed batters. It will be interesting to see if Wick can bring his average up while maintaining his impressive power numbers.
Andrew Sohn, the 2014 sixth-round pick of the Cardinals, hit .323 for Western Michigan in his senior season this year, leading the Broncos in batting. Sohn collected 62 hits in 53 starts, and collected seven doubles, six triples and swiped 17 bases on 23 attempts. The Broncos' shortstop was an offensive catalyst, but also made 11 errors on the season.
Nick Thompson, St. Louis' 2014 eighth-round selection, hit .368 for William and Mary this spring, with 11 home runs, and walked 42 times to 33 strikeouts in 231 at-bats. Thompson is likely to DH or play the corners in the outfield this summer.
June 13 at Williamsport, Win 10-3
The Spikes opened the season on a high note with a 10-3 win over Williamsport in Friday night's NYPL season opener.
The story of the night was Rowan Wick who went 3-for-4 with two home runs, three runs scored and five RBI and a walk. As mentioned above, Wick put up solid power numbers in Johnson City and wasted no time showing off his power in his first game for State College.
State College received offensive contributions up and down the lineup Friday as all but two Spikes' starters collected a hit. Brian Vigo went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI, Jhohan Acevedo went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI and Thompson added a two-RBI single in the Spikes six-run fifth inning for his first professional hit.
As good as the Spikes were at the plate, they were equally impressive on the mound. Dewin Perez started the game for State College, allowing just one hit, while striking out four and walking two in five innings of work.
Baez relieved Perez with two innings of no-hit ball, striking out two cutters. Josh Lucas also worked a scoreless inning and a third to close out Friday's game.
The only dark spot for the Spikes on Friday was reliever Nick Lomascolo, who gave up five hits and three runs in just two-thirds of an inning.
On the Horizon
The Spikes will play their Home Opener in State College Saturday night and head back to Williamsport Sunday, before finishing up the season-opening four-game commuter series with a home game Monday night. Batavia (MIA) will come to State College for a three-game series before hitting the road for two games at Jamestown (PIT) to start next weekend.
Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter @robo_tweets.
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