Quad Cities River Bandits Notebook: Week 2

The week that was in the Quad Cities, covering the period from April 8-19, as the River Bandits are off to a hot, 9-3 start.

Baseball is back; all is well. For the next five months, life will be as it should be. The Quad Cities River Bandits have had an exciting start to the season with a record of 9-3 (.750) and only one loss at home.

The team is currently batting only .256 for seventh place in the league, third in the Western Division. Only the Lake County Captains have more runs than the Bandits. While the pitchers have given up 11 home runs in 12 games (highest in the League), they have also allowed only 32 walks in 108 innings, second lowest in the League.

Scott Schneider, 2-0, carries an ERA of just 0.64 in his 14 innings of work as a tandem starter this spring. He has not walked anyone yet and he has struck out more than one an inning. Eric Fornataro is the next pitcher on the league-leaders list. He has an ERA of 4.24 and is 1-2 on the young season. He has pitched 17 innings. He has given up 18 hits, 9 runs, 8 ER.

Ryan Jackson has been the spark plug at the plate so far. He is currently on a nine-game hitting streak, batting .359 with 14 hits on 39 at bats. His OPS is .894. Jason Stidham is hitting .323 on 31 at bats and Devin Shepherd is at .313 and has an OPS of 1.019. Matt Adams is looking good early, too, hitting .311 with an OPS of .945.

The most improved player since last summer is Niko Vasquez. Last spring he swung at just about everything that was thrown at him. This year he has a much better plate presence and has drawn 14 walks. He's hitting .286 and his on base percentage is .500. He has only committed one error in his play at third base. His strike outs are a little high at nine, but we're early in the season.

Luis Mateo is the cool, quiet, stabilizing force on the team. At just 19 years old, he is showing maturity beyond his years. His stats aren't outstanding yet, but he is definitely on my watch list. I was going to add Kyle Conley and Jonathan Rodriguez to this list but they have been returned to EST already. I'm not the only one here who is disappointed to see them go and hope they are both back here soon.

Besides Schneider, the pitchers who have my attention the most are Joe Kelly and Deryk Hooker.

Joe is already touching 97 and 98 mph with his fast ball and has an ERA below 1.00 in his first 9 1/3 innings. He has only given up five hits and one ER but he has also only struck out four opponents. He has good control of his pitches and he seems to know when to throw each one to keep the batters off balance.

Hooker is the enigma this year since we didn't get to see him throw last year. He's strong and he throws hard with good movement on his pitches. His ERA is exactly 1.00 right now. Closer Jesse Simpson is also on my watch list but I really can't put my finger on why right now.

I'm also keeping an eye on Chris Notti, Mike Blazek, and Chris Corrigan. Corrigan has had the roughest start so far, but on Sunday he looked pretty good.

I went to the games in Clinton this week to see how the team was coming together on the road. I see a real team. Most of them played together last year in Batavia and Johnson City so it wasn't as difficult a process this year as it has been in years past. The pitchers will need to keep track of who is hitting home runs and do more to pitch around them. The batters will need to keep more consistently "on" during the games.

My apologies to the readers who look for a player interview. This week my schedule just didn't get aligned with any of the players. I'm hoping to get ahead on that so I always have an interview in reserve because I know there will be more weeks like this one!

You may have noticed that I didn't mention our first or second round picks this week. They are both getting a lot of attention but I really haven't seen any "greatness" out of either of them yet. I'm sure their time to shine will come soon, but it just wasn't this week.

More soon, thanks for reading!

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