Erie SeaWolves Season Wrap Up

The Erie SeaWolves began the 2008 season trying to duplicate the success of the 2007 team that won the Southern Division title.

The team turned to Tom Brookens to replace Matt Walbeck who accepted job with the Texas Rangers as their third-base coach. Brookens managed the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps to a Midwest League Championship and was named Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2007. With Brookens at the helm, Ray Burris as the pitching coach and Glenn Adams returning to Erie as the hitting coach the team began with high expectations that they could not live up to.

The season began with a four game sweep over the Bowie Baysox, the eventual Southern Division champion and it finished with a home loss to the second place Akron Aeros. In between that game the team suffered through some really tough stretches but turned it around for a successful finish to the season. After finishing the month of April with a 14-11 record, mainly because of a high powered offense, the SeaWolves limped through the month of May with a 9-22 record. It was evident that the team wouldn't compete for a second consecutive division title by the end of that stretch but the team never gave up on the season and turned things around and finished the season by going 20-8 in August.

The SeaWolves had a potent offense for most of the season but suffered through inconsistent defense and pitching. The 'Wolves pitching staff lacked a power pitcher for most of the season and that magnified their defensive deficiencies. 'Wolves pitchers finished dead last in strikeouts with 763 in 1224 2/3 innings pitched, the next closest team was Altoona with 876 strikeouts. The team ERA was ninth in the league with a 4.59. Despite the inconsistent pitching their six complete games tied New Hampshire for the most in the league.

Lucas French had three of the 'Wolves complete games, tying him with Brandon Magee (New Hampshire) and Bradley Bergensen (Bowie) for the most in the league. French also pitched more innings than any other pitcher in the league with 170. He finished the season 9-11 with a 4.02 ERA but he was outstanding over the final two months of the season. French made 18 starts before the all-star break posting a 5-10 record with a 4.05 ERA and he was 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA in eight starts after the break.

SeaWolves pitcher Josh Rainwater turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the team. He began the season in the bullpen but after being forced to make a spot start he stayed in the rotation the entire season. Rainwater led the team with 10 wins, finishing 107 with a 4.09 ERA. Despite suffering an oblique injury in early May he pitched 132 innings the most in any season of his professional career.

Like the rest of the roster the pitching staff had many changes and at the end of the season Rainwater and French were joined by Danny Christensen, Luis Marte and Guillermo Moscoso. Luis Marte was called up in early May but he spent two months on the disabled list with an elbow strain. After returning to the rotation it took him a couple of starts to get comfortable before he finished the season by going 4-2 in six starts in August.

Moscoso was outstanding for the 'Wolves after being called up from Lakeland on July 30. Moscoso made a total of six starts for the 'Wolves and he was 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA. Moscoso continuously had hitters off balance and he struck out a total of 50 hitters and walked only eight in 34 2/3 innings. Moscoso struck out at least seven hitters in five of his six starts and twice he struck out 10 opposing batters.

The pitching staff had it's share of changes but it doesn't compare to the changes defensively. By the final game on Labor Day only Wilkin Ramirez, Ryan Roberson and Deik Scram remained as position players from the opening day roster. Scram was the only player that was on the roster for the entire season, both Ramirez and Roberson were called up to Toledo for a short time.

After the month of April Ryan Roberson was hitting only .225 with four home runs and 10 RBI. There were questions about him staying in Erie or being sent down but he responded by hitting .273 in the month of May. Roberson went on a season high 19 game hitting streak that began on May 28 against the Reading Phillies and ended on June 27 against Harrisburg. Roberson also played with Toledo during that time period, getting called up on June 4 and sent back on June 14. Roberson finished second in the Eastern League with 25 home runs and fourth with 86 RBI. He hit 13 home runs and had 48 RBI over the final two months of the season.

The only player to make the Eastern League All-Star team was Wilkin Ramirez. Ramirez is a five tool player and he was solid all season. In his first full season in Double-A Ramirez hit .303 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI in 110 games. In addition to his impressive numbers his season was highlighted by an opportunity to play in the MLB Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. Ramirez is still trying to adjust to being an everyday outfielder but he made huge strides this year, committing only four errors and making numerous great plays.

In the middle of the season the roster was changing daily with some veterans released and some other players called up to Toledo. Catchers Max St. Pierre and Dusty Ryan were key contributors to the 'Wolves early in the season but they were both promoted to Toledo during the season. Dusty Ryan really had a breakout season hitting 15 home runs and 50 RBI in only 82 games with the 'Wolves. Freddy Guzman was another player that started the season in Erie and was promoted to Toledo. Guzman hit .281 with 19 RBI in 30 games but it was his defense and speed that the 'Wolves missed the most. Guzman was a fixture at the top of the lineup and was leading the league with 15 stolen bases before he was called up.

As players left the roster it allowed more spots for young guys that were trying to make an impression. Santo Deleon became the everyday third baseman and proved that he can compete at the Double-A level, James Skelton put up decent numbers after being called up on July 31. In his 24 games with the SeaWolves he hit .294 with two home runs and 11 RBI. Skelton proved to be a solid defensive catcher as well throwing eight of the 15 runners that tried to steal on him.

There was one young player that did more than any other to become a legitimate prospect in the Tigers organization, center fielder Casper Wells. Wells has been a forgotten man in the Tigers organization but since the end of June there is nobody hotter than he is. Casper experienced a few career highlights, hitting a grand slam at Akron, hitting for the cycle at Akron and hitting three home runs in one game against Harrisburg at Jerry Uht Park. Wells still needs to work on his defense but he has become a real power hitter, hitting 17 home runs including 10 in the month of August. It took Casper some time to adjust to Double-A pitching, he hit only .208 with two home runs in 59 at-bats during the month of June. He improved to .285 in July and finished the season hitting .345 during the month of August. The incredible turn-around earned Casper an opportunity to play winter ball in Hawaii.

With all the changes this team endured there was mainstay in the lineup until the final week of the season when he was finally called up to Toledo. Will Rhymes was the SeaWolves everyday second baseman most of the season until Tom Brookens decided to give him an opportunity to play shortstop after Danny Worth was called up to Toledo. Rhymes led the Eastern League with 158 hits and finished just five hits shy of the SeaWolves franchise record held by Omar Infante. Rhymes has always put up good numbers but he does it quietly without much publicity, this season he may have been the most important player on the field for the SeaWolves.

The SeaWolves did not reach the goals they set out to accomplish when the season began but they finished the season on high note. It would have been easy for the team to fold when there were players being released and other guys going up and down but there was no quit in this team. There is a sentiment that the team that completed the season will closely resemble next years team with a few changes. If the 'Wolves start 2009 where they finished off 2008 the fans in Erie will be in for a fun time and a very good season.

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