The GCL Tigers wrapped up their season on Thursday, finishing in last place in the North division of the Gulf Coast League. Of course, Gulf Coast League games are more or less glorified scrimmages, teams only face others in their own division, and rarely are there spectators for the game.
In yesterday's notebook, we discussed possible changes to the entire minor league system as a whole, and the future of the Gulf Coast League likely rests in the decision of the owners and general managers, as quite a few teams are pushing for the rookie level clubs to be shut down as a cost saving measure.
Of course, if that were to happen, it would make the next step that much more important. Everyone has heard of the Arizona Fall League, the October-November league where each team sends a half dozen of their most promising prospects to face some of the top competition around. Some teams have already started to announce which players will be headed to the AFL, and while the Tigers have yet to make such an announcement, it's likely expected in the coming weeks.
But what is right now already an important step in the development of these youngsters' careers will become even more important. Fall Instructional League is run much the same way as the Gulf Coast League, with ‘Instructional' being the key word. Players and pitchers alike return to the offseason homes of their parent club (Lakeland in the Tigers' case) and play another six weeks of semi-organized baseball. Should the Gulf Coast level be done away with, ‘Fall Ball' will likely take on even more importance, as it'll be the first taste of professional baseball for all recent draft picks.
This level of baseball will be especially important for youngster Eric Beattie, who first saw his control problems emerge last year in the Instructional League. After first being selected as the type of player that would move quickly, any control Beattie once had over his pitches seemed to disappear. Those problems continued through the season, and while he did show signs of improvement late in the year, Beattie is certainly facing an uphill battle in trying to recover from this.
There is no specific diagnosis for what exactly has happened to Beattie, though he's certainly not the first. Rick Ankiel is one of the most notable examples of pitchers with talent who just one day can no longer hit the broad side of a barn, let alone a catcher's mitt from 60 feet away. The greater concern is that while physically there is nothing wrong, there has yet to be an example of a pitcher that completely loses control, and later on regains it. So, it certainly isn't time yet to give up on Beattie, but the odds aren't in his favor.
The big fish that everyone was hoping to see of course was Cameron Maybin, but his contract squabbles have kept him off the field. But Audy Ciriaco, Angel Reyes, Daniel Sandoval, Agustin Guzman and Casper Wells all had fairly impressive starts, and should all be ones to watch among the position players on the team. As far as pitchers, Rhiner Cruz, Jesse Caraballo and Brendan Wise are all guys to keep an eye on as they progress.
Moving finally to Erie, where with just days left on their lease with the city of Erie, nothing has been made official yet. It was even reported earlier this week that Mandalay Baseball Properties had broken off talks with Erie, and would be looking to move somewhere in Michigan for the 2006 season. Consider those ripples nothing more than wishful thinking from a columnist with no information concerning the situation.
"There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that we have broken off talks for a lease extension in Erie," said SeaWolves general manager John Frey. Frey continued, "Actually we agreed to most terms months ago and should have something signed and done soon. We are playing in Erie in 2006." So for those Erie fans that were scared at the possibility of losing their beloved SeaWolves fear not, there will still be baseball on the lake in '06.