Teams often parlay the previous season's success into attendance gains, and that was certainly the case this year in Missoula. The Osprey, in fact, set three new franchise attendance records. The 87,345 fans that streamed through the gates in 2010 set a new single-season attendance mark despite the fact that the team lost one of its home dates to a rainout. Needless to say, this year also marked the best per-game average (2,361) in club history. In addition, the club set a new single-game mark when 4,076 fans watched a gripping 7-6, 11-inning win over Helena on July 3.
FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year - Adam Eaton
Speaking of breaking records, outfielder Adam Eaton set two new Osprey records this past season. Eaton hit .385 with seven home runs, 37 RBI, and 20 stolen bases, plus led the Pioneer League in on-base percentage (.500) and was fourth in slugging percentage (.574). Eaton set new Osprey standards in batting average, beating out Jesus Cota's .368 average in his 2001 Player of the Year season in which he won the league's Triple Crown; and on-base percentage, edging out the .497 on-base mark set by Rusty Ryal in 2005.
If that were not enough to support Eaton as the Osprey Position Player of the Year this season, the 19th-round pick out of Miami also finished second in the league's MVP voting to Ogden shortstop Jake Lemmerman. Eaton was one of just two players (Bobby Stone being the other) who made the start for every Osprey win this season. The Osprey lost all seven games in which Eaton was not in the starting lineup, solidifying him as the most valuable position player on the squad.
Other Notable Position Players
Stone had a solid farewell to Missoula this season, hitting a career-high .280 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI. The third-year Osprey finished in the league's top five in both walks (a team-leading 40) and RBI, while finishing second in the league with 73 games played. Stone has set a number of career marks for the Osprey, including career home runs, RBI, strikeouts, and bases on balls. For his Osprey career, Stone hit .246 in 212 games with 33 home runs, 147 RBI, and four stolen bases. Stone set career-highs this season in walks, on-base percentage (.374), OPS (.829), and stolen bases (three).
Roberto Rodriguez also delivered great numbers at the plate, posting a .309 batting average with 57 runs scored, 16 doubles, six triples, seven home runs, and 31 RBI, primarily batting leadoff for the Osprey. Rodriguez led the team in runs scored, doubles, and triples, plus ranked second on the club in OPS and stolen bases (he was 13-for-16 in steals).
Catcher and designated hitter Richie Rowland, an undrafted free agent, was the hottest hitter in the league coming out of the gate. He batted .538 in his first eight games, then homered in three consecutive games in early July. By mid-July, Rowland was still hitting over .400 and leading the league in hitting, but a combination of fatigue and pitching adjustments derailed Rowland's season. He went on to bat .226 in August and September, and failed to drive in a single run in his final 10 games of the season.
Shortstop Raul Navarro's season went in the opposite direction. After hitting just .200 in June, the Dominican shortstop went on to bat .325 the rest of the way. The 18-year old did commit 26 errors on the season, but scouts like his defensive tools. If he can hone those and keep up his surprising offense, Navarro could quickly emerge as one of the organization's top shortstop prospects.
FutureBacks.com Pitcher of the Year - Patrick Schuster
Overall, the Osprey struggled on the mound, posting a 4.98 ERA and 1.53 WHIP that both ranked second-worst in the Pioneer League. The 65 homers allowed by the pitching staff was most in the league despite the fact that Osprey hurlers threw the fewest innings in the league by a significant margin. Still, there were a few bright spots.
Patrick Schuster became the ace of the Osprey staff. The team's #1 starter all season, the crafty lefty finished third in the Pioneer League in Earned-Run Average with a 3.76 ERA. Schuster also led the team in innings (76 2/3), tied Kevin Eichhorn for the lead in wins (5), and finished runner-up to Eichhorn with 60 strikeouts.
Before his promotion, Eichhorn also posted solid numbers, most of which were skewed in a 26-3 loss to Casper in late August. For the season, Eichhorn went 5-5 with a 4.94 ERA, 71 strikeouts, and 15 walks in 74 2/3 innings pitched. His WHIP of 1.27 was fourth-best in the league, but his dozen home runs allowed paced the circuit, essentially eliminating him from possible Pitcher of the Year consideration over Schuster.
Other Notable Pitchers
Southpaw David Holmberg, became a strikeout machine after he joined the Osprey via the Edwin Jackson trade to the Chicago White Sox. The Sox' second-round pick in the 2009 draft, Holmberg went 1-4 with a solid 3.86 ERA with Missoula, striking out 47 batters in 37 1/3 innings pitched. His 11.33 strikeouts per nine innings pitched put him just out of the top 10 on the Osprey single-season list for non-qualifying pitchers, but was better than the club's mark for starters, set by Greg Smith in 2005 (10.93). Holmberg finished 5th in the league with his combined innings pitched (77 2/3 innings), and his 76 combined strikeouts was fourth-best in the league.
Two of the top three picks by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2010 MLB Draft improved dramatically as the season wore on. Right-handers J.R. Bradley and Robby Rowland each made the jump from high school to professional baseball and made significant strides throughout the summer. Bradley (1-7, 5.93 ERA) allowed just one earned run in his final two starts, while Rowland (4-6, 5.67) went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in his final two outings of the season.
The part of the Osprey squad that struggled most of the season was the bullpen. Of the relievers, only four pitchers finished with an ERA below 4.00, and two of them received promotions during the season. Will Harvil was the first Osprey player to receive a promotion, as he was called up to Hi-A Visalia in early July. Harvil collected three saves in four tries and posted a 2.70 ERA in his 10 innings of work in Missoula.
Justin Albert developed into one of the most consistent arms on the Osprey staff, and led the club in saves. In his 19 appearances, including one start, Albert was 2-1 with five saves and a 3.31 ERA. He and Randy Hamrick were the only members of the bullpen to log more than 17 innings with the club and post an ERA under 5.00.
Jeffrey Shields and Blake Cooper, two later arrivals for the Osprey, also had solid seasons out of the bullpen. Shields managed a solid rookie season, finishing with a 1-1 mark and a 3.78 ERA. Cooper – who pitched over 140 innings for South Carolina in their National Championship season of 2010 – was limited to just eight innings, but scattered eight hits and pitched scoreless baseball in six of his eight outings. In his final four appearances, Cooper allowed just a hit and two walks while fanning five batters and not allowing a run.
A total of eight Osprey players received promotions during the season. They include pitchers Eichhorn, Harvil, Albert, Derek Eitel, and Jeremy Erben; outfielders Eaton and Chris Jarrett; and infielder Eric Groff. Groff had the highest promotion of any Osprey player this season when he was sent to Triple-A Reno to fill in at both second and third base for the final five games of 2010. While with Missoula, Groff was second on the team in homers, doubles, and RBI.
Jarrett and Eitel were particularly effective after their promotions to South Bend. After posting a 5.11 ERA in 49.1 innings with the Osprey, Eitel managed a 1.80 ERA in 15 Midwest League innings. Jarrett hit just .228 in 46 games with Missoula, then busted out with a .305 average in 20 games with the Silver Hawks.
The future of the Missoula Osprey as an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks is in doubt. They are the only D-backs affiliate whose player development contract has not yet been renewed past this season, and there are rumors that the Arizona franchise would like to have an affiliate in the Arizona League, which admittedly makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless, Missoula's excellent season attendance-wise assures them a player development contract with one of the 30 major league clubs, even if their 12-year association with the Diamondbacks is indeed at an end.
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