While this year's team was not as talent-laden as the one that took the Southern League title in 2005, it still was good enough to tie the franchise record for victories with 86, taking the first-half title in the process. It was able to do that by virtue of some fine performances by some rather unsuspected sources- people like Spike Lundberg, T. J. Nall and Wilkin Ruan plus some fine additions from Vero Beach like Matt Kemp, Chin-Lung Hu, Tony Abreu, Mark Alexander and Casey Hoorelbeke.
Lundberg, a nine-year minor league veteran rediscovered by Mike Brito while pitching in Mexico, was truly a marvel, becoming the league's Pitcher of the Year with a 15-2, 2.37 record. Nall had been battered at Las Vegas last year but was re-signed as a free agent because they felt he had more to give. He did exactly that, going 10-7, 2.82 and leading the league with 155 strikeouts.
Ruan who rejoined the organization after being released elsewhere, took over in center field after Kemp was promoted and delivered well, hitting .260 and
sparkling on defense. Kemp had been the league's best player at .327-7 before he went all the way to L.A. Hu and Abreu were a delight in the middle of the infield while Alexander was exceptional as a closer, racking up 26 saves with a nigh-unbelievable ERA of 0.96. Hoorelbeke was almost as good, going 2-2, 2.63, and saving seven while Alexander was up in Las Vegas.
There was more in the revival of Joel Hanrahan. Some felt he was yesterday but he showed there could be a bright tomorrow as well, with a 7-2, 2.58 mark. He was another who went up to Vegas as did Andy LaRoche, who hit .309 with nine homers before advancing.
Two free agents were picked up to play first. Craig Brazell was a power, ripping 21 homers and leading the league in RBI with 91 but A. J Zapp was one of the few disappointments hitting only .223 with eight homers. Outfielder Ty Meadows returned from last year's squad to perform well again- .299-11.
Free agent Brad Cresse hit .259 and shared the catching with A.J. Ellis, who hit .250. Still another free agent, Adam Greenburg, joined the outfield but hit
Like Nall, Heath Totten came off a bad year at Las Vegas to post an 8-5, 3.29 mark. Danny Muegge came up from Vero to pitch creditably (9-9, 3.68). Greg Miller was strong (1-0, 0.79) before he, too, was taken off to Vegas. Two obtained by trades- B. J .LaMura and Ben Kozlowski- both performed nobly (1-1, 1.96 and 1-2, 2.85 respectively.)
The loss of Justin Orenduff (4-2,3.40) to injury hurt but Scott Elbert filled the gap when he arrived from Vero to go 6-4, 3.81. Alvis Ojeda (7-3, 2.95) and Carlos Alvarez (4-1, 2.93) were strong in relief.
There was a great deal to smile about with this team.
Average- Abreu .287
Hits- Abreu 131
HR- Brazell 21
SB- Kemp, Ruan, Hu each had 11
Wins- Lundberg 15
Innings- Lundberg 150.2
SO- Nall 155
Saves- Alexander 26
Biggest Surprise- There were several but Lundberg had to be the biggest, having a career year.
Biggest Disppointment- No one really was a huge disappointment although outfielder Anthony Raglani never did hit as well as expected with a .244 mark.
Best Prospect- Kemp, while he was here; Elbert, after he came up. Both are among the best at what they do in all the minors.