Your 2008 Durham Bulls

Hey guys, much like Steve I have been asked to contribute a couple of times a week to this great big fun-fest we call DRaysBay.  I will be bringing updates on how our farm system is doing, as well as other things that I find interesting.  If you have been around awhile, you probably know who I am. 

There are a couple of stories that won't seem to go away (thanks P Brady) involving confusion over sportswriter gender as well as my ability to stay sober (lack of) when the Rays are kicking tail.  For those that don't know me, my name is Jason Hanselman.  I live in Orlando, and have loved the Rays for about 8 years now.  I like, in no particular order, numbers, baseball, women, booze, and expanding my knowledge through constructive dialogue.  So without further adieu here are your 2008 Durham Bulls.

 

Before the season kicks off, it will be my goal to cover our farm by showing how 2008 went.  I do not claim to have a scout's eye, nor know everything about everything.  With that in mind let's use this space to further enlighten everyone.  First let's look at the guys that put up runs for the 2008 International League runner-up Durham Bulls.  I will be using the stat data provided by MiLB.com with a few other calculations thrown in.

2008 Bats

I want to point out a few things in this sheet.  You will notice the colors blue and green.  These are guys that I have confirmed have been moved up a level or are out of the organization, respectively.  I say confirmed, because some of the guys have no trail.  This is something I expect to get murkier the deeper we go.  You will also notice on page 2, *OPS*.  This is the format I will be using to show how data has been sorted.  Once Spring Training ends, we will have a good idea of the roster, instead of just process of elimination, but basing our opinions on solely this data it would seem to confirm the belief that our organization is pretty shallow when it comes to positional players. 

Looking at just the offensive-side, there is not much to like.  We all know that Briggy needs to hack less, which should help his K/PA and BB/PA, and consequently, his slash line should follow.  The same could be said for Helliot Johnson, who has similar numbers to Briggy (I heart doubles), except that he's nearly two full years older and doesn't play SS. 

On the corners we have Nowak at 3B and Chris Richard on 1B.  Richard is old, Nowak is not.  Richard is an accomplished minor league hitter, will Nowak get to that point?  S^3 alert (54 AB):  I like his high BB/PA rate of 11.5% helping him to a .393 OBP, but for a guy that didn't show much power .352 SLG he sure did K a lot (19.7%).  I want to see a bigger sample out of Nowak this season and hope he tears the cover off the ball. 

I think everyone is pretty well briefed on Jaso.  Good stick, needs to hone his craft behind the dish.  With his eye some feel he could bat in the Majors right now, that's a bold claim, but if he can hit decently as a catcher, we will sure prefer that over hitting decently as a DH.  In the OF, Nando's injury really opened the door for a guy in AA to get a lot of PA's.  Losing his glove might be the more important loss, though his 43 steals (78% success rate) will be equally hard to replace.  So far I see Jon Weber (Mr. March) and Ruggs as the set in stone guys.  Weber is the kind of guy you root for, but it will be difficult for him to get above this level as his talent plateaued long ago. 

Using the great MLE calculator over at MinorLeagueSplits (go there, it's good) I was able to see how each of these guys' seasons would have been had they played at Tampa.  For simplicity I will only show the Slash Lines.

This is self-explanatory:

2008 Major League Equivalent

Well if you are still reading, we can move on to the pitchers, if you are not you are probably a closet Sox fan or something similarly degrading.

Again, I have used Stats from MiLB.com.

2008 Pitchers

You will notice that this is sorted by K/BB which can be found on page 2.  My best guess at how we will be starting the year is with some mix of Price, Davis, Talbot, Cummings (last stop?), and Mason.  With the army of pitchers we brought into Spring Training I think this will take about a month, a promotion, and some injury for this situation to be completely different.  Price won't last long at Durham, in my opinion, and Davis will be the de facto ace for most of the season.  I think it is really interesting how good Talbot is at AAA.  Down the line he could make a pretty decent swingman in the pen with his slower stuff and assortment of pitches. 

All you Dale Thayer fans should feel that your love is justified.  I love his low HR-rates as well as high K-rates.  If he can shave about a half a walk off his BB/9, you will see a guy that could prove very valuable at the Major League level. 

I think 2009 will be an interesting year for Durham's staff.  Losing Price, McGee's injury, and Hellickson being a few months away leads to a lot of opportunity for guys to come out and show off.  Tommy's boy, Carlos Hernandez, could see a bunch of innings as he continues his reclamation project.  Similarly, this could be a make-or-break year for a guy like Chris Mason.  An absolute stud in 2007 at Montgomery, Starter of the Year, he was very prone to the gopher ball last year.  If he can make 2009 at Durham look more like 2007 then we could have a potentially lethal rotation, if he continues to disappoint, then we may trade him to get some balls back that he let get lost over the fence.

All in all, 2008 was a great year for Durham.  Losing in the Championship Series is nothing to be ashamed of.  Though pitching was a strength last year, I think the young bats are going to need to develop for this team to have a chance in a competitive International League.  My guys to keep an eye on are Chris Nowak and Chris Mason.  We know what the Wade Davis's, Mitch Talbot's, and Chris Richards are capable of, but if this team turns into a powerhouse it will be due to the guys that must make good on their promise.

 

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