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Minor League Wrapups; Short Season Teams (10/17)

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With the conclusion of the 2005 minor league season, I am doing a series of wrapups on each minor league team's season, starting with the Triple A level down to the Short Season teams. I have decided to do it on a week by week basis. So without further adieu, here is the wrapup of the short season Hudson Valley Renegades and Princeton Devil Rays.


TEAM: SS A+ Hudson Valley Renegades
LEAGUE: NY-Penn (McNamara)
RECORD: 31-43 (5/6; 20 GB)

SEASON IN REVIEW: The Renegades had a terrible season. Let's make that clear. Things steadily deteriorated after a 7-4 start as they skidded through a rocky July, and then just out and out collapsed in August, enduring a ten game losing streak from August 16th to August 26th, with the NY-Penn League's first All-Star game in the middle. They lost all
but two games in September and the fact that they finished only 12 games under .500 is amazing in itself.

That being said, they did have their good performances. Wade Davis' blip on the radar screen got ever the larger after a brilliant season, while Derek Feldkamp, and Jake McGee lead a loaded pitching staff in
the Valley that could have been even better had eighth overall pick Wade Townsend even pitched half-decent.

The problem was the offense, as only Garrett Groce was a notable performer. The 'Gades finished only three runs out of last placed in runs scored, and finished a convincing dead last in hits, RBI, OBP, and BA, which was an
astoundingly low .234. So with the exception of Groce, don't expect any top hitting prospects to come out of this crop, but the pitching looks bright.


TEAM: SS A- Princeton Devil Rays
LEAGUE: Appalachian (East)
RECORD: 34-31 (2/5; 12 GB)
SEASON IN REVIEW: The P-Rays were only the second DRO team to finish with a winning record, a respectable 34-31, and finished in second place in the Appy League's Eastern Division, albeit 12 games back of Danville. The P-Rays played a very consistent season, not really ever going on any major winning or losing streaks, just playing consistent
enough all season to finish three games over the .500 mark. In fact, about the most extreme streak they had this year came in the season's
final three games, which they lost.

Nonetheless, as the second-best DRO
team, Princeton had their share of standouts, but for the most part, production was evenly spread out. Matt Walker and Jermey Hellickson lead the pitching staff, while Mike McCormick, Chris Cunningham, and
Ryan Royster lead the offense. Princeton was a well-rounded team this year, nothing special, but very solid, and in what could be their final year under the Rays blanket, they went out with a bang.

SHORT SEASON MVP: Well, seeing as though we are combining the two teams, we will have one MVP and one POY to represent both. Obviously, both teams had their strong points this year-Hudson Valley had its mouthwatering pitching and a horrible offense, while the P-Rays were a little leaner on pitching, but had a good offense. Apparently, the P-Rays found the better combo, but I digress.

We are going to make these decisions in the following way. Each team will have a number of (or, in HV's case, one) candidate for MVP. I will decide the best candidate for each team, and then decide the winner between the two.

You could make an MVP case for most any P-Ray.  Without dragging this
out waaaaay too far by going into the stats, you could make a reasonable case for any one of the following, and you can see what I
mean by checking the stats. Ryan Bethel, Chris Cunningham, Matt Devins, Thomas Lagreid, Andrew Lopez, and John Matulia all deserve some props for good seasons, but there is really only one solid all around candidate with great numbers and a large number of ABs: Chris Cunningham.

Bethel, Lopez, and Matulia don't have a good AB size, while Devins and Lagreid's numbers don't match up. So we have our P-Rays candidate.

2005 P-RAYS MVP: Chris Cunningham

Now, let's be honest. The HV MVP decision is as easy as deciding whether to accept free money. Garret Groce, without a doubt, is the
only player on HV's offense that could ever be mentioned in connection with MVP. The rest of the lineup doesn't even deserve an 'M'. So that
was easy enough, we have our two candidates.

2005 HV RENEGADES MVP: Garret Groce

So how do we decide the MVP between these two players? Simple, right? Let's check the statlines.

Groce-.322/.404/.492-.896
Cunningham-.329/.433/.491-.921

The SLG and BA race is very close, with Groce having a one point lead in the SLG category, and Cunningham a seven point edge in BA. The real kicker is the OBP race, where Cunningham has a .29 edge. If you go by
IsoOBP, then Cunningham has a .22 edge. So let's be clear, Cunningham was the better player this year if you go by the stats. Further
advancing that hypothesis is Cunningham's .25 lead in OPS. So its a pretty simple decision, right? The 23 year old 12th rounder from last year takes the cake, right? Not so fast my friend.....

Normally, I would be a proponent of using the better performance as the MVP decision-maker. But this is not a normal senario, as we have to take into account what these teams would look like without their
respective players. We can somewhat measure this through statistics. Groce had 35 RBI for Hudson Valley and 49 runs scored. Now, if you subtract his home run total (9) from his RBI total and add in his runs scored, he accounted for 75 of Hudson Valley's runs. Using the same method with Cunningham (42-RS, 7-HR, 40-RBI) and we come to the
conclusion that he had a hand in 75 of the P-Rays' runs. The difference is, how much of 'the pie' they represented. Princeton scored 347 runs, while the awful HV offense, in more games, scored just 299 runs. Now,  expressing that in a pecentage....

Cunningham: 75/347=21.6%
Groce: 75/299=25%

So there are two ways in which to decide the MVP, and you are well  within your rights to disagree as this was a very tough decision for
me, but in this case, I'm going to give my award to the 22 year old out of Gerogia Tech. Regardless, both look very good right now, with Groce probably going to Battle Creek next year. Cunningham might, but he may get another shot at this award next year in HV. Groce probably has the btter future, as he is younger and farther up the ladder, but both deserve props for great seasons.

SHORT SEASON PITCHER OF THE YEAR: As hard as it may seem, this very well may be an even harder choice than the previous one. There was loads of pitching talent in the lowest rungs of the system this year. Hudson Valley had many a pitcher deserving of a mention, but to make this easier, I'm only going to count the ones you and I know should
get serious consideration. For the 'Gades, Wade Davis and Jake McGee are in the running. Props should also go out to Mike Woldarczyk, Derek Feldkamp, and Chris Mason for good seasons, and jeers for Wade Townsend for his poor attitude and poor performance, which we will not see on a baseball field until at least 2007. So let's compare our two amigos, in terms of ERA, K:BB, and WHIP, in that order.

Davis-2.72, 4.2, 1.14
McGee-3.64, 3.87, 1.13

Okay, so let's not kid ourselves, we knew that Davis would take the cake here, I just wanted to show you that, on pretty much any other
DRO team this year, McGee's numbers would have been POY-worthy. Still, it is interesting that Davis' WHIP is higher, albeit by .01.

2005 HV RENEGADES POY: Wade Davis.

Now on to the Princeton side of things. The P-Rays were less pitching satuated and more well-rounded of a team overall. Surprisingly, no one name jumps out at you. Most of the pitchers that are 'big names' went through quick or went and ddid badly. There were many good performances from players that aren't houehold names, but the best
performance, in my opinion, from any of the players is by Mike Woldarczyk.

2005 P-RAYS POY: Mike Woldarczyk

This year, Woldarczyk made ten starts for Princeton, pitching 49.7 innings. His 3-2 record does not do his 2.54 ERA justice. He had a curious problem with hitting batters, as five of his opponents left an at bat against him with a bump somewhere. Compare that to only seven walks. Nonetheless, he did strike out sixty, over one per inning, and struck out over seven batters for every one he walked. He had an excellent 1.38 G:F ratio, and yielded an opponents batting line of .241/.285/.364.

And that doesn't even count his five starts and 1.90 ERA in Hudson Valley. The bottom line is, while Davis had a great year and by all accounts has a better chance to succeed, you just cannot ignore Woldy's great year. He had the better stats, and he gets the 2005 Short Season Pitcher of the Year Award. For as much hype as Lake Wales-native Davis gets, he just wasn't as good as Mike W this year, and both might be dueling for this award again next year in Battle Creek.

PLAYER NOTES: This section is dedicated to notable players and the year they had.

Matt Spring-Last year's fourth round draft pick was a primary leader of HV's craptacular offense, turning in a very disappointing season with a .188 average and .622 OPS. This comes after a similarly disappointing 2004 season of .220 and .709. The Phoenix native has clearly had a problem getting on base, as his SLG numbers are right in line with his average. Spring's inability to get past the Short Season level and his lackluster play in instructs are very disturbing. You don't want to call a second year player a bust, but you've got to question a guy's future after a second straight bad year in the NY-Penn League.

John Matulia-Matulia was not even 19 when he was drafted by the Devil Rays this year out of Eustis (FL) High School, but he sure stared down older Appy League competition. The 10th round pick hit to a line of .362/.437/.514 for Princeton. He showed very good plate paitence, walking 16 times (2 intentional) to 18 strikeouts, while driving in 15 runs and hitting 2 home runs in his short time with the P-Rays. He did have a bit of a baserunning problem, getting caught trying to steal 10 times, and pilfering successfully only eight times. He hit to a much less successful line in Hudson Valley, .189/.268/.189, albeit in 37 ABs. While it is very unlikely that Matulia will keep up his Princeton statline, it is also very doubtful that he will put up stats as bad as those in Hudson Valley. Nonetheless, his struggles against NY-Penn League pitching will probably result in his retainment in the Valley next season.

Michael McCormick-Drafted in the fifth round out of high school this year, McCormick showed some signs of success for the optimists out there. In 111 ABs for Princeton, McCormick hit .252/.324/.441. The SLG number is particularly intriguing, and the OBP is right on line with what someone of that batting average should have. Clearly McCormick is a work in progress, and it is too early to come to any conclusions about his future. He will be retained in a short season league next year, you can be sure of that. But which one is anyone's guess.

Ryan Royster-In his second year with the P-Rays, last year's sixth round pick took a step back-unless you look beyond the batting average. In 11 more ABs, it is true that his average decreased by 27 points to .246. BUT....his OBP increased to .300, still not too hot but an increase nonetheless. The key increase was his SLG, which went up .43 points, an amazing increase which brought his OPS to .781, a .46 increase from the previous year. Overall, Royster hit 12 home runs and drove in 37. While his average and OBP need work, Royster took a step FORWARD this season, and should get the call to Hudson Valley next season. He is never going to be a .300 average type of guy, but his raw power is promising, and the Rays shouldn't mess with that and try to Adam Dunn him every season-that is, try futily to raise his average.

Derek Feldkamp-The ninth round pick of the Rays this year out of the University of Michigan thrived in the closer's role, putting up a 4.05 ERA while saving 15 games, that's a little less than half of Hudson Valley's 31 wins. After the Blue Jays took Feldkamp in the 41st round last year out of Michigan, Feldkamp decided to stay in Ann Arbor for another year. His 4.05 college ERA does not sound too impressive, but you have to consider the impact of aluminum at bats in college. That very same 4.05 ERA does seem a bit high to be considered a short season success, but the peripherals back it up, as he carries a K:BB of over 3:1, and a WHIP of 1.18. Feldkamp has borderline chances of being promoted to Battle Creek next season, but he has promise for the future, nonetheless.

Wade Townsend-The Rays' eighth round pick this year flat out bombed in the Valley. After sitting out a year after being selected by Baltimore and not signing, the Rays snatched him up with the eighth overall pick in this year's draft, and after struggling with a injury, Townsend pitched terribly for the 'Gades. In 12 games (10 starts). Townsend put up an ERA of 5.49 and his K:BB wasn't even 1.4. He also allowed a 1.73 WHIP, and even was terrible at the things that can't be measured by stats. According to a reliable Hudson Valley fan, Townsend emitted an aura of arrogance and feeling that he was better than the NY-Penn League, and was entitled to a higher level in the organiztaion. Regardless, Townsend hit a major bump in the road when he blew out his elbow in the Arizona Fall League, and will not see game action until 2007.

Jeremy Hellickson-Hellickson is young. How Young? Just two months before he was drafted, he was 17. It may be early, but if the Rays' fourth round pick this year out of Des Moines, Iowa keeps pitching like he has so far, he might make the mjors without being able to drink. But don't take that with a lot of weight. He has only pitched four games professionally. But if you ignore that 6 ERA and stare at his other peripherals, you can't help but be impressed. He has struck out 11 so far, to only one walk. That is incredible. For you mathg-challenged folks, that is an average of 16.5 K/9. Of course that won't last, but based on the talent I saw in instructs and that short sample, Hellickson's profile should get ever larger in the coming years, including next year, likely in one of the short season leagues.

Matt Walker-Well, for as much as I keep going on about how young these prospects are, you've got to take into account the fact that these teams are the bottom rung, I should expect this. But some of these guys I could have gone to elementary school with. That includes Baton Rouge native Walker, last year's 10th round draft pick who made his pro debut this year for the P-Rays. He does have age on his side, but walker was underwhelming in his debut. He went 2-3 with a 5.31 ERA against Appy competition, and al;so saved a game in one outing of relief. His WHIP of 1.47 was pretty bad, but on the bright side, he did have a K:BB of over three. So his numbers are not that exiciting, but Walker is a good young pitcher with promise, much like the rest of these guys, and should find himself in Hudson Valley or Princeton next season.

One has to be excited about this crop of prospects, a rarity Devil Ray  rarity in that it is more stocked with pitcher than hitters. Hurry guys, pitching help is sorely needed.

SERIES: This week was the fIfth of a six part series examining the 2005 Rays minor leagues. Next up is the Awards Show, where we dole out the hardware to deserving minor leaguers, and that will come later today. You won't want to miss the finale of my six parts series, where REAL experts weigh in on the Rays farmhands.

Sept. 19th: AAA Durham
Sept. 26th: AA Montgomery
Oct. 3rd: A+ Visalia
LAST WEEK: A- Southwest Michigan
THIS WEEK: Short Season Teams
TOMORROW: Awards Show