Starting off behind the plate, after struggling at the plate and battling injuries while at West Michigan, Joe Bowen will be sharing duties with the newly signed Tyler Weber. Bowen was hitting a paltry .176 in 22 games for the ‘Caps, and had only managed two extra-base hits and six RBI over that span. Bowen split time between the GCL and Oneonta in 2007, but never showed much with the bat in those instances either. Former Wichita State Shocker Tyler Weber should bring a solid, veteran presence to the field in Oneonta. Weber is a solid receiver with good leadership abilities and some pop in his bat.
On the infield corners, the O-Tigers will have three players rotating through at various points, including returners Wade Lamont and Carlos Ramirez. Lamont (son of Tiger coach Gene Lamont) moves up from the Gulf Coast League, and will likely see a bulk of the time at first base. After finishing the 2007 season with Lakeland, Ramirez moves back down the ladder to Oneonta, his first trip to the level. Carlos has shown some pop and ability at the plate, but he will need to make serious strides to take playing time away from 2008 draftee Bryan Pounds. The 22-year old Pounds is coming off a monster season with the University of Houston, a season that saw him hit a smoking .354/.427/.549 en route to earning First Team All-Conference USA and Conference USA Tournament MVP honors.
Up the middle, the Tigers have several options that can play multiple positions. New guys like Brent Wyatt and Mike Gosse could team up to perform a solid, and experienced double-play combination. Wyatt is coming off a big year for Lewis & Clark State College, while Gosse ripped a .368 average 23 doubles for the Oklahoma Sooners this spring. Joining them up the middle will be Eric Harryman, who has the ability to play both short and second, but profiles better in a utility role for Oneonta, with his weak stick. Also working in a utility role will be Joaquin Guzman, who joins the club after hitting .182 in four games with West Michigan of late.
The Tigers outfield should be the most dynamic part of the offense, led by William & Mary alum Ben Guez. Ben won't wow you with his tools, but as a tireless worker and good all-around offensive player, he should do well in his transition to pro ball. Also coming in from the college ranks this year will be Sam Houston State's Keith Stein. Stein was named First Team All-Southland Conference this year, and was the only Sam Houston player in history to collect 100 hits in a season in 2007. Returning to Oneonta for another tour will be the speedy Chris White. In 17 games with the club last year, White didn't display the same promise at the plate that he showed starting the year in the GCL, but his defense and heady play was a welcome site in Oneonta. White will look to build on his New York-Penn League experience, and establish himself as a solid outfield prospect.
Rounding out the outfield crew will be two organizational veterans. Outfielder Hayden Parrott comes down from West Michigan, and he will look to settle in as an outfielder after several position switches over the past two years. His bat is going to keep him in the lineup, and he comes in hot having gone 4-for-7 in his only two games with the ‘Caps this season. Coming up from the GCL, and trying to make the comeback from a gruesome ankle injury, Luis Arlet will look to continue his ways of hitting for a high average and stealing bases to make things happen. The 23-year old Arlet is the oldest of the outfielders on the team.
The Oneonta pitching staff has an interesting mix of power arms, polished college types, and guys with enough intrigue to keep your attention all season. Leading the way are likely starters Mark Brackman and Luke Putkonen. Brackman has been struggling with his command this spring, and was shelled in a few outings for Lakeland over the last few weeks. He will be looking to get back on track and duplicate his NYPL success from 2007, where he went 4-4 with a 4.05 ERA in his first taste of pro ball. Putkonen is coming off minor shoulder surgery this spring, and reports have him throwing well over the last few weeks. As a high round draft choice in 2007, the Tigers will be looking for Luke to put his power arm to good use and get moving through the system. Another likely starter will be making his stateside debut, as Darwin De Leon. In the DSL last year, De Leon earned TigsTown DSL Pitcher of the Year honors on the back of a perfect 9-0 record and sparkling 0.76 ERA in 13 starts.
Newcomer Anthony Shawler is also likely to move into the rotation for Oneonta. Shawler saw his draft stock slip in 2008 after sliding back a little bit from his stellar 2007 campaign at Old Dominion; a season that saw him 11-2 and rank ninth in the country in strikeouts (130 in 114.2 innings). Shawler doesn't have the raw stuff of another former ODU draft pick by the Tigers, Justin Verlander, but he does have low-90s heat with a filthy cutter and a split-finger that can get plenty of outs at any level. The final rotation spot has yet to be decided at this time, and it will likely come down to a battle between left-handers Aaron Fuhrman and Dan DeLucia, and right-handers Mark Sorensen and Sean Finefrock. The inside track has to go to Fuhrman, who has the best stuff of the four and profiles the best in a rotation long term.
If things break properly for new manager Ryan Newman, the bullpen could be one of the best in the NYPL. Led by college closers Tyler Stohr and Steve Gilman, and VSL closer Lester Oliveros, there will be plenty of candidates for high-leverage innings at the back end of games. Oliveros has been electric the last two years in the VSL, and the Tigers are challenging him by skipping him to Oneonta for hi stateside debut. Joining those three in the bullpen will be relievers Luis Gil, Tyler Conn, Trevor Freeney, and the remaining three from the fifth-starters battle. This crew should provide valuable depth with the ability to go multiple innings at any time.
Overall, this Oneonta club has its usual blend of youth and experience, and should be able to continue the run of success the team has seen in the NYPL over the last few years. The development of key players like Guez, Wyatt, and the starting rotation will be critical to the success of this roster.