Minor League Preview: San Antonio Missions

InsidethePark.com's minor league expert Jason A. Churchill previews the 2004 San Antonio Missions, the Mariners' Double-A affiliate. The two-time defending league champions have reloaded with a fresh set of arms, and a revamped lineup. Which prospects landed in San Antonio in attempt to continue the Missions' domination of the Texas League? Who might be back to lead the club in it's quest for a three-peat? Read on to find out.


The two-time defending Texas League Champion San Antonio Missions will begin their pursuit of a third straight title with the season opener April 8th on the road versus Midland. The road to the Texas League Championship will run through the very same bumps and detours, but the players driving the bus will be very different. The TL MVP is now in Triple-A, as is the TL Pitcher of the Year. The club's multi-talented shortstop has moved on along with the team's cleanup hitter. Do they have a chance to defend their title? Are they going to be overmatched this year or will they simply reload? We'll call it a copout and say both. Many new faces will litter the roster but the raw talent remains quite impressive.

2004 San Antonio Missions Roster

Pitchers
LH-Glenn Bott
RH-Chris Buglovsky
LH-Troy Cate
RH-Juan Done
RH-Emiliano Fruto
RH-Rick Guttormson
RH-Jared Hoerman
RH-Gustavo Martinez
LH-Jose Nunez
RH-Elvis Perez
LH-Tim Rall

Catchers
Jim Horner
Luis Oliveros

Infielders
1B-John Lindsay
1B-Ryan Balfe
2B-Rob Gandolfo
SS-Eriberto Menchaca
3B-Greg Dobbs
3B-Hunter Brown

Outfielders
CF-Shin-soo Choo
LF-Dustin Delucchi
OF-Christian Guerrero
RF-Greg Jacobs

Manager
Dave Brundage

Pitching Coach
Scott Budner

Hitting Coach
Gary Thurman


Projected Starting Rotation
1. Elvis Perez
2. Troy Cate
3. Glenn Bott
4. Chris Buglovsky
5. Gustavo Martinez

Analysis:
Right-hander Elvis Perez and lefties Troy Cate and Glenn Bott are basically guaranteed to be 1-2-3 in some sequence, with Chris Buglovsky slotted for the No. 4 spot. Right-handers Emiliano Fruto and Gustavo Martinez are the most likely candidates for the fifth slot. Juan Done has also started in the past and could see time in the rotation. Bott is coming off of a superb 2003 and could make some noise if the 22-year-old is able to pick up where he left off. Buglovsky was acquired from the Colorado Rockies and fits nicely in the Missions rotation. Cate pushed through an up-and-down 2003 campaign and managed to finished strong. The 23-year-old BYU product could be primed for a huge season in San Antonio.


Projected Bullpen
1. Jared Hoerman
2. Rick Guttormson
3. Emiliano Fruto
4. Juan Done
5. Tim Rall
6. Jose Nunez

Analysis:
Jared Hoerman returns as the team's closer after leading the league in saves last season. Jose Nunez and Tim Rall will serve as the team's left-handed setup men. Rick Guttormson and Juan Done will likely be the main short relievers from the right side. Emiliano Fruto, also a rotation possibility, is a wildcard here. The 19-year-old has top drawer stuff that could land him in the closer's role as well as in the rotation.


Projected Lineup
1. Dustin Delucchi
2. Shin-soo Choo
3. Greg Jacobs
4. Greg Dobbs
5. John Lindsay
6. Christian Guerrero
7. Hunter Brown
8. Luis Oliveros
9. Eriberto Menchaca

Analysis:
Many interchangable parts stack the Missions lineup, but outfielders Shin-soo Choo and Dustin Delucchi are the only true options at the top of the lineup. Greg Jacobs, Greg Dobbs, Hunter Brown, John Lindsay, and Christian Guerrero will provide plenty of run production in the middle of the order. Dobbs will start at third base while Hunter Brown, normally a third baseman, splits time between first, third, and second base, as well as DH. Guerrero and Jacobs will split time between the outfield and the DH spot. Luis Oliveros should be the starter behind the plate with veteran Jim Horner backing him up. Eriberto Menchaca is the only true shortstop on the roster and is generally considered a defensive minded player. Rob Gandolfo will play a lot of second base and can play shortstop or even third in a pinch. Ryan Balfe will see time in the outfield as well as DH and possibly 1B.


The Engineer
The Missions will again be managed by Dave Brundage who is entering his 7th season as a manager and fourth with San Antonio. Brundage was named the Baseball America Minor League manager of the Year in 2003, and was the Texas League Manager of the Year as well.


The Best Of the 2004 San Antonio Missions
Best Hitter for Average: Greg Jacobs, Greg Dobbs
Best Hitter for Power: Hunter Brown, Greg Dobbs
Best Baserunner: Shin-soo Choo
Best Defensive Outfielder: Shin-soo Choo
Best Defensive Infielder: Greg Dobbs
Best Arm: Shin-soo Choo
Most Exciting Player: Shin-soo Choo
Best Fastball: Gustavo Martinez, Jared Hoerman
Best Slider/Curve: Elvis Perez
Best Changeup: Glenn Bott
Best Overall Prospect: Shin-soo choo


2004 San Antonio Missions Prediction: 65-70 wins, and a finish in the upper half of the Texas League standings.

Jason resides in Tacoma, Wash., where his father is his best friend and his nephew continues to develop the fastball-splitter combo that he hopes to have mastered by age 3. Jason enjoys the failures of the New York Yankees and despises the slider speed bat. Feedback is always welcome atJasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com

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