It all starts with talent. In 2005, Oneonta got it, especially on the offensive side of things. The O-Tigers were able to destroy pretty much whoever took the mound against the O-Tigers, as they were far and away the top offense in the league, averaging over six runs per game for the year.
The next closest team in runs scored? Lowell, nearly a full run per game behind Oneonta.
And while they scored plenty, they also gave up plenty too – largely indicative of the fact that most of their pitching talent headed straight to West Michigan, or moved there after a brief stay in Oneonta. Nevertheless, Oneonta still came out in the middle of the pack with a team ERA of 3.78.
That high powered offense coupled with a respectable pitching staff helped give Oneonta the second best record in the league with 48 wins. That total also helped them lay claim to the Stedler division crown and a playoff berth.
The playoff chase didn't last long though, as they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Auburn.
Their pitching staff was middle of the pack, but was exposed against good hitting teams like the Doubledays, who put up 33 runs on Oneonta pitchers in the two games in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the O-Tigers, what likely limited them the most was the loss of the pitchers that in many instances would have been pitching for Oneonta for the year. P.J. Finigan, Kevin Ardoin, and Kevin Whelan were all top ten round selections that typically would spend the year in short season ball. Instead, due to struggling pitching at West Michigan, they headed straight for Low-A ball, leaving Oneonta high and dry.
They weren't completely without prospects, as Matt O'Brien and Burke Badenhop did their best to carry the load. They also got a boost when Jose Fragoso was moved to the rotation in August, adding another solid arm to the rotation.
Those three along with Sendy Vasquez helped carry the rotation, with the four combining for 25 victories and an ERA of just 3.12.
Where they were hurt the most was the Tigers need to find a place to put talented but struggling arms like Jay Sborz and Collin Mahoney. Sborz and Mahoney, while both possessing excellent velocity, continue to battle control problems, and after being chased out of West Michigan, were dealt to Oneonta, where they got shelled on numerous occasions. Towards the end of the season Sborz appeared to settle down a bit as he closed out with a 4.34 ERA, however, that's still not indicative of the fact that he walked more (27) than he struck out (25).
The offense though was a different story. Clete Thomas made a brief stay in Oneonta, while Michael Holliman and William Rhymes emerged as an excellent up-the-middle duo, both in the field and at the plate.
Oneonta also had the benefit of adding Jeff Larish late in the year. After a few days in rookie ball, Larish was sent to Oneonta in late August for the playoff run. His power numbers proved exactly why he was such a highly regarded prospect, falling likely more due to signability concerns than anything. In just 64 at bats, Larish blasted six home runs while slugging .625.
Rounding out the infield was Cory Middleton, who was yet another pleasant development from the Tigers '04 draft. Middleton didn't finish as strong as he started, but far and away led the team with 22 doubles. At such a young age, it's certainly easy to predict that as Middleton fills out, that gap power will turn into home run power and the Tigers will have a long ball threat coming up at the hot corner behind Wilkin Ramirez.
Oneonta fell short of a New York-Penn League crown, but a division title and a number of improving prospects are nothing to scoff at.