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Minor League Season Wrapups; AAA Durham (9/19)

With the conclusion of the 2005 minor league season, I will now begin 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 o do it on a week by week basis. So without further adieu, here is the Durham Bulls 2005 season wrapup.

Team: AAA Durham Bulls
League: International (South)
2005 record: 65-79 (2nd place; 14 GB of first place)


TEAM MVP: Without a doubt, it was B.J Upton. In the minor leagues, it is rare to have a top prospect such as Upton with a team for an entire season, and because of the frequency of player departures, it is very hard to give weight to the number of at bats a player has compared to a lesser performer with more at bats. There was no question of that here. Upton played an entire season with the Bulls, and struck fear into IL pitching by finishing with a .303/.392/.490 clip. Delmon Young you ask? Not as good a line in fewer at bats. Certainly one must give weight to Jonny Gomes and his time with the Bulls, but that wasn't very long and Upton performed at about the same level. Certainly at this point, B.J did not want to be the MVP of a Triple A club, he wanted to be a stud performer in the major leagues. Also, being the MVP of a 65-79 team simply means that the team would've sucked worse if they didn't have you. Now despite Bossman Junior's heavily covered defensive mishaps, he has shown at times the ability to be a great defender. He has the athleticism, and there have been several plays this year where he has shown as much. But, there have been at least 53 times, 53 times, you heard right, in which he has not. Hopefully a second straight offseason working with glove legend Ozzie Smith will help him. That is the only thing tripping up Bossman from the majors. But back to the positive side, it is clear that Upton has the potential to be a five tool player. He helped his team without even swinging a bat 44 times, that is, stolen bases, while being caught only 13 times. There is just no trouble sign you can possibly find in any of his offensive statstics, and that is what an MVP is.


PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Determining Durham's Pitcher of the Year is like trying to decide what to eat at Taco Bell. You know it's going to be bad, but you must stomach it and do it anyways. So, of the people who took the mound for Durham this year, who sucked the least? That, my friends, is Jeff Deardorff, and the Bulls outfielder doesn't count because he pitched only one scoreless inning. We basicly have five choices for this, only one of whom is a real prospect. We have John Webb, who has pitched the most innings but has the highest ERA, Jason Hammel, who has pitched the third most innings but has the second worst ERA, Tim Corcoran, who has pitched the second most innings for the lowest ERA, Joe Beimel, who has pitched the second fewest innings for the third best ERA, and Lee Gardner, who has pitched the fewest innings for the second lowest ERA. Pitching your games in Durham Bulls Athletic Park does not help you, but I just can't give the award to a pitcher whose ERA is 4.85, I just can't do it, so Webb is out. Joe Beimel has been scoreless in the majors, but is middle of the pack in this comparison, so Hasta Luego. Also, bid goodbye to Jason Hammel, who has not pitched that many innings but has a 4+ ERA. So you've got Corcoran and Gardner. Corcoran has the best ERA and the most innings, but they are bunched together in IP, and one must not forget the job Gardner has done in the ninth inning for Durham, so that makes it close. It's time to go deeper into the comparison.

Ouch, this one is gonna go down to the wire. In a bigger sample size, Corcoran has a K:BB only .10 points higher. Time to go to the last resort (because of the effort it causes me).
Corcoran-3.46 (+.57 over ERA)
Gardner-4.46 (+1.19 over ERA)

Well, that settles it, in a big way. Both have higher DIPS than ERA, but the difference is much greater for Gardner, as is his actual DIPS. The difference is clearly in home runs. Gardner had a HR/9 of 1.38, while Corcoran's was only 0.48, less than half a HR per inning. So while there is nothing more to note on our pitcher of the year, that has already been exhausted, he comes out on top this year.

SEASON IN REVIEW: The Bulls finished 65-79, making 2005 their first non-playoff season since 2001, and giving them their first losing record since entering the International League in the 1998 season. For the Bulls, it was clear that a lack of pitching dooomed them. On offense, the Bulls finished second in the IL in slugging percentage, second in stolen bases, third in walks, third in RBI, first in home runs, and third in runs scored. With players like Jonny Gomes, Delmon Young, and B.J Upton playing for them for all or some of the season, along with contributions from veterans like Earl Snyder and Eric Munson, that was no surprise. The problem, however, was the Bulls' patchwork pitching staff, which was loaded with poor veterans on minor league contracts left over from spring training. The only two prospects on the staff for an extended period of time that could really be Top Prospects were Jason Hammel and Chris Seddon, and Seddon struggled for the balance of the year. The Bulls pitching staff was very wild, finisjhing first in the IL in Wild Pitches, and it wasn't even close. They gave up the second most walks, fourth most home runs, and thee most earned runs and runs in general. Durham gave up the most hits, had the second fewest saves, had the highest ERA, and lost the third most games. Any questions as to why the Bulls finished 65-79? The bottom line is, the Bulls' use of mediocre veterans in the rotation finally caught up to them and really brought them down a notch. With Hammel, Seddon, and Jamie Shields almost sure to be in the rotation next year, and with Dewon Brazelton and Lance Carter possibilities, the Bulls pitchers should be a bit better next year, and with Elijah Dukes and Wes Bankston in the lineup, the offense won't miss a beat, but if there is a team catch phrase that should be slapped on the 2005 Bulls, it most surely is...IT'S THE PITCHING, STUPID.

PLAYER NOTES: In this section, we dedicate space to the individual players who were of interest during the 2005 season.

LH Chris Seddon-After making just 10 starts for Montgomery, the righty was promoted to Triple A and has been, for the most part, pretty bad in 19 starts for the Bulls. Seddon has racked up an ERA of 5.46, which begs the question why was he promoted? A 4.82 ERA in the SL doesn't exactly scream out "promotion", neither does a 1.5 WHIP. At Durham, Seddon's WHIP got even worse, falling to 1.65 to go along with a lower K:BB. Seddon needs more work with the Bulls. He has potential, but Triple A is a big hurdle for him, and he needs more time to jump past it.

RH Rob Bell-It has been a pretty bad year for Rob Bell, and I'm not even talking about his stats. Bell came out of spring training on a high note. He had the lowest ERA of any Rays starter in 2004, and was looking like a great waiver wire pickup. But then, it all went south. Bell went 1-1 8.28 ERA in eight games, two starts, for the Rays, walking just one less than he struck out, and finishing with a 2.12 WHIP. He aslo struggled mightily with the long ball, ending up with a HR/9 of 2.52. Then things got worse. Bell took an extended leave after several anxiety attacks, and when he did return, he had to work his way back from the Naimoli complex. After that, Ball was assigned to Durham, and he immediatly started pitching poorly, even worse than he had done with the Rays. For a lot of his time with the Bulls, Bell's ERA was over 10. Rob rebounded, however, with several good recent outings, but still finished with an ERA of 7.71. He continued to struggle with command; his K:BB was just 26:20, and DBAP contributed to another high HR/9, which ended up being 2.45. His WHIP improved somewhat down to 1.90, but that is still not acceptable. In the end, I and many other Rays fans are pulling for him. Bell is one of the nicer guys around the organization, and we wish him the best in his road to recovery. Unfortunatly, it might not come in the DRO next season.

C Kevin Cash-Well, the Gaudin trade is  starting to look more and more like Stocker-Abreu, Young-Kelly. Gaudin is  one of the top  pitching prospects for the Blue Jays at  AAA Syracuse, while the Devil  Rays have a catcher who  couldn't hit past Triple-A, and might not be back next season. Pete LaForest has stuck as a  call up, and with Shawn  Riggans likely to roll into Durham next year,  Cash's  days  might be numbered. That  being said,  the catcher has had little trouble hitting IL pitching. This year Cash put up a clip of .293/.354/.544.But he jut was awful in Spring Training before getting injured,  and in  two call ups to the majors, hit just as bad. Cash has no future with the team and is unlikely to be back next year.

1B/ DH Josh Phelps-Phelps was with the Devil  Rays  for half a season until being sent down in a questionable move as Reggie Taylor was brought up. Phelps hadn't done horrible with the Rays,and he's been even better in Durham.  Phelps' .270 average and .329 OBP are average, but they key  has been his slugging. Phelps, who joined the USA World Cup team near season's end, missing some time, put up an eye-popping .550 SLG.  This is consistent with Phelps' career numbers, and his high strikeout rate continues to lie in line with the view that  he is a home run or strikeout-type of hitter. Again, one must consider DBAP when evaluating his performance, but nonetheless, the numbers should help Phelps as he will likely be out again on the free agent market come this offseason.

IF Earl Snyder-The reigning IL MVP was brought onto the Bulls' roster this year t, essentially fill space  and help the team win.  He had no future with the team, and still does not, but there were times during the year when we thought he may have been a call up. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, fill a veteran hole and mash. Snyder finished with a line of .257/.320/.501, and was  just  one homer short of 30. Like Phelps,  he had a  high strikeout rate, and had a slightly lower AVG/OBP, but he displayed a great SLG. He might be brought back next year as a  DH, but with Wes Bankston movin' on up, he is unlikely to play as big of a roll.

IF Fernando Cortez-What is to make of Cortez's season. After a great start to the year  in Montgomery, Cortez was promoted to Durham, where he, again, started well. Then he was promoted to the majors. That  is  where things started to go wrong. Seldom used, he was  an awful hitter over a brief call up  and was so  bad he was promptly sent down shortly after the beginning of the second half. He apparently packed that same suckiness on the shuttle to Durham, as his previously good stats turned to dirt. His final line? .227/.266/.303 That is pretty bad. I had him on my top 25 propsect list at midseason, but certainly, the ninth round pick four years ago will be lucky to find work after this disaster.

Other players that were not mentioned I  felt were either covered sufficiently in MVP/POY discussions, or will be covered in other wrapups. For example, Jim Magrane and Pete LaForest counted towards their other teams this year.

POLL VOTING: So what do you think of my MVP and POY selections? We always invite you to share your comments below any of our posts, and I want to see who YOU think should win the awards. So drop us a line and share your thoughts on the 2005 Durham Bulls!

SERIES: This week  was the first of a six part series examing the 2005 Rays minor leagues. Next up is the Double A Montgomery Biscuits, and that is coming up next Monday. So stay tuned every Monday for the next five weeks as I present my season wrapups leading into the AFL season.

NEXT WEEK: AA Montgomery
Oct. 3rd-A+ Visalia
Oct. 10th-A- Southwest Michigan
Oct. 17th-Short Season Teams
Oct. 24th- Awards Show