Erie got off to a blazing start at the beginning of the season, largely led by a pitching rotation that was simply incredible. Matt Roney emerged as the ace early on, but he faded as the season went on. But, while Roney faded, Wilfredo Ledezma emerged.
Ledezma pitched well to start the year, and by the time he was called up to the big leagues, he was close to dominating. Ledezma finished the year out with a 10-3 record for the Seawolves, including a 2.42 ERA. Ledezma's secondary stats are excellent as well, striking out 4 batters for each one walked, and having a WHIP of just 1.07.
Ledezma left in the midst of a rough stretch for the Seawolves, as the team struggled to get it going throughout the middle of summer. Injuries to the pitching staff as well as an offensive cool down saw the team drop to 2nd place in the division, which is where they would remain for the rest of the season.
And while they were briefly pushed for 2nd, they held down the spot with a strong August push – largely due to the offensive revival of a pair of budding stars – to get the Seawolves into the playoffs.
Those two that led the club would be CF Curtis Granderson and IF Ryan Raburn. Both received call-ups to Detroit at the conclusion of the Erie season, with both, especially Raburn, having their share of struggles. But that doesn't take away from their incredible season (especially in the second half) for Erie. Raburn, as Erie's starting Second Baseman, hit .301 with 16 Home Runs and 63 RBI, including an OPS of .923. Even more impressive (although somewhat concerning at the same time) is that Raburn put up those numbers while missing the first 6 weeks because of a dislocated thumb.
And while Raburn absolutely crushed the ball, Granderson had arguably an even better season, and without the injuries. Granderson hit .303 with 21 Home Runs and 93 RBI, took 80 walks, swiped 14 bases, and provided excellent defense in Centerfield.
The playoffs concluded with a 3-game sweep at the hands of Altoona, but that still didn't put a downer on the Seawolves 2004 campaign. Besides Granderson and Raburn, the fans also got to watch emerging prospects like 1B Juan Tejada and OF David Espinosa, as well as a great comeback season from Preston Larrison (although that ended abruptly due to elbow problems, which resulted in Tommy John surgery for Larrison, likely sidelining him for most of 2005).
Those that saw the ballclub this season also got the privilege of seeing Kurt Airoso destroy Eastern League pitching. Airoso, a 29-year old minor league veteran, crushed the ball all season long – and ended up belting 34 Home Runs for the season, which was good for 3rd in the Eastern League rankings, and also set a new Seawolves record for Home Runs in a single season.
It was a good year for the Seawolves – and one fans should enjoy, because next season the majority of the prospects they had in 2004 will be moving out – and moving in will be a team from Lakeland that finished at the bottom of their league. Even worse, a number of Lakeland's prospects (like Brent Clevlen and Scott Moore) will probably repeat high-A ball as opposed to moving up to AA Erie, meaning the Seawolves could be in for a rough season in 2005.
But in any case, it was a good year for the Seawolves. A playoff appearance, a dominant ace (for the first half of the year) and a number of emerging prospects were something the Seawolves haven't had since 2001. And while their ace will probably be making his 2005 debut in the Tiger rotation, and most of those prospects will give Toledo a reason to be happy, 2004 will go down as the year that the Tigers brought the prospects back to Erie.