With many the organization's top outfielders already assigned to many of the full-season clubs, the contingent of returning outfielders yet to be assigned, seems a bit anonymous. Toolsy outfielders Brandon Timm, and Casper Wells are all likely to see significant time in the Oneonta outfield. Wells has seen some time with the Lakeland Tigers this year, but has been over-matched and must curtail his strikeouts to make his power a legitimate tool.
Two returning GCL outfielders are likely to experience differing fates. Wilkin Rodriguez posted solid numbers for the GCL Tigers in 2005, but at age 22, he'll have to show something in Oneonta this year to have any chance at an MLB career. His former teammate, Manuel Brea, is likely to head the other way, back down to the Dominican Summer League. Despite his cannon arm, Brea displayed nothing offensively, posting a sub-.500 OPS.
Several new outfielders have joined, or are about to join the organization from this year's draft. Third round choice Brennan Boesch will likely head to Oneonta, with a slim chance of debuting in the Midwest League with West Michigan. Boesch has the advanced approach that suggests he could handle the jump to West Michigan, but he's got enough to learn, that heading to Oneonta may be the more prudent approach. The Tigers brought aboard three other collegiate outfielders that could land in various locations.
In a surprising move, Deik Scram passed up his senior season at Oklahoma State, to turn pro; leaving the Tigers with another somewhat advanced outfielder to find at-bats for. Scram and Ball State outfielder Michael Sullivan are both polished enough that they would likely dominate the GCL, but there may not be enough at-bats for them in Oneonta. If I were a betting man, I think I'd lay money on both debuting in the New York-Penn League.
Twenty-fourth round choice Joe Tucker played outfield at the end of his collegiate career, but could see a move back to his natural position of second base. This positional switch may allow Tucker to get more at-bats wherever he lands. Another outfielder that is likely to join the system is Tigers re-draft, Kyle Peter. Peter is a speedy kid that controls the strike zone well, but is very raw with significant work to do. Kyle's likely destination is the GCL, where he can work extensively on the weaknesses in his game.
The Tigers could also bring several outfielders stateside from the DSL, to help round out the Gulf Coast League roster. The leading candidates to make that trip are likely Luis Arlet, Jose Cruz, Wilson Peralta, and possibly Gorky Hernandez. There are several other outfielders who have shown talent in the DSL, but they are significantly younger with more development to complete before thrusting them into the much more competitive American programs. The top DSL outfielder likely to join the GCL is Hernandez, who posted a .265/.357/.370 line in 63 games last summer. Gorky has speed and a good eye at the plate, but must get stronger and more consistent.
As is always the case in this type of projection, the pitching staffs are the most difficult to decipher. There are quite a few pitchers still floating around extended spring training, many of whom will likely get a chance to pitch during the short seasons. Some of those starters likely to head to Oneonta will include right-handers Randor Bierd, Guillermo Moscoso, Matt O'Brien, and Brendan Wise. Bierd is in the process of overcoming some arm issues; while Moscoso and O'Brien just haven't shown the development necessary to make the jump to full-season ball. Wise likely has the most potential of the four pitchers listed, and at only 20 years old, it's tough to know what to expect from the young Aussie.
A multitude of young relievers will also be looking to return to action with the O-Tigers. That list includes 2005 draftees Loren Fraser and Tim Robertson, as well as starter/reliever Jose Fragoso. Yet again, the Tigers loaded up on pitchers in this year's draft, and many of their more polished selections should see extensive time in the NYPL. As Jonah Nickerson and Lauren Gagnier complete their collegiate careers in the College World Series, many of their draft counterparts prepare to start their season this week. Eighth and ninth round choices Chris Cody and Zach Piccola should both see plenty of innings for Oneonta this summer, along with 16th rounder Jeff Gerbe, and 20th rounder Casey Fien.
Many additional pitchers that will likely be vying for time with Oneonta will include Notre Dame lefty Tom Thornton, Missouri State's Chris Krawczyk, Ohio U's Derek Witt, and Michigan left-hander Paul Hammond. All four pitchers have experienced success at the collegiate levels, but none of them project as stars in the pro ranks.
In addition to the above pitchers, several former GCL hurlers could return to the back fields in Lakeland for more action. Relievers Miguel Trejo and Waldy Sierra, along with starter Eric Beattie could be headed to the GCL for a second tour. Beattie continues his climb back from severe control problems, while also battling elbow soreness. The 2006 season could be a make-or-break campaign for the former second round choice.
Joining these guys in the GCL could be less polished 2006 draftees like Angel Castro, Duane Below, Rudy Darrow, Dana Arrowood, and Alex Shepherd. While all five pitchers have college experience behind them, none have demonstrated the poise and polish necessary to face off against more advanced NYPL hitters.
The last influx of players for the short season teams will likely come from the Dominican Summer League. The big name coming stateside this year will be right-hander Alfredo Figaro. Figaro dominated the DSL last summer, striking 100 batters while showing a calm demeanor and solid control of a dominating arsenal. Figaro's name has been bouncing around for a couple of years now, but he burst on the scene in 2005. Coming over with Figaro could include a list of pitchers such as Eleazar Aponte, Cornelio Castillo, Santo Franco, and Jose Suero. It is a daunting task to determine which pitchers the organization has deemed prepared for their stateside debut, but the combination of age and performance should lead these pitchers to the GCL in 2006.
One name that has been noticeably absent from this list is 14th round choice Brett Jensen. Jensen has enough experience and poise, to warrant a jump directly to the West Michigan bullpen, but could make a pit stop in Oneonta first. Jensen will likely be the first reliever in line for a promotion, should the Tiger brass decide the ‘Caps could use the help down the stretch.
Overall, it appears pitching will once again carry both the Oneonta and GCL squads if they are to challenge for their respective league titles. Neither team projects to pound the ball around the park, particularly considering the difficult offensive conditions of both leagues. Look for several of this year's recent draft choices (particularly the pitchers) to make a name for themselves early, taking their respective leagues by storm.
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