The Everett Aquasox kicked off the 2012 Northwest League season with one of the most talented rosters they've had in quite a while, and with three games left to go before the season's midway point, the club made good with that talent in clinching the West division title for the first half.
With a mix of 2012 draftees and young, developing former international talent, Everett leads the league in offense by scoring 5.34 runs a game, leads in steals (57) and home runs (25) and also has the 3rd best team ERA in the circuit at 3.42 and the 3rd best team defense with a .971 fielding percentage.
First baseman Taylor Ard, a former Washington State Cougar and the Seattle Mariners 7th round pick in this year's draft, is tied for the league lead in RBI with 27 and third baseman Patrick Kivlehan, the M's 4th rounder this season out of Rutgers, is 3rd in the league and right behind Ard with 26 RBI while leading all hitters with 66 total bases. Shortstop Chris Taylor (5th round, Virginia) ranks 2nd in OPS (.915) and runs scored (26) and his 11 steals leave him behind only teammate Jamodrick McGruder (9th round, Texas Tech) in stolen bases (15).
Dylan Unsworth's league-best 5th win came in the clincher last night and fellow right-hander Victor Sanchez -- the youngest player in the league by almost a full year -- is just one behind him while throwing the most innings in the league at 42 2/3. Both players also rank in the Top-5 in the league in strikeouts.
The bullpen has been led by right-handers Dominic Leone, Mario De Jesus and Brandon Plotz, who have combined to allow just seven earned runs in their 25 appearances and 45 innings so far while picking up seven wins (and no losses) and 6 saves.
Right fielder Alfredo Morales (.276/.321/.398, t-10th w/18 RBI) and catcher Marcus Littlewood (.242/.368/.368, t-10th in BB and HR) have also performed well for Everett on offense, and the club got a big late boost from the 3rd overall pick in this year's draft, catcher Mike Zunino, who has hit .458/.552/.958 with three doubles, three homers and four walks in the first seven games of his pro career.
With all of the team success and all of the players with collegiate experience on the roster, the second half team could look a lot different than the first half team, but the AquaSox guaranteed themselves a postseason place last night. And while this early first half clincher is a nice feather to stick in their collective caps, lefty Scott DeCecco put it best when he Tweeted, "First half champs. We want the real one though."
There is so much talent on this roster that the Frogs duplicating the club's 2010 success and getting that done certainly isn't out of the question. In fact, their .743 winning percentage so far in 2012 far outpaces the .640 rate that they won at in that Championship year. SeattleClubhouse will be watching for them to "Unleash the E!" in that second half.