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A.J. Cole – A Top-Tier Pitching Prospect in Syracuse

Happy Fourth of July, Chiefs fans! As if a sold-out crowd, gorgeous weather and spectacular fireworks weren’t enough, the Nationals’ widely-regarded second-best prospect will make his second Chiefs start of the year today – right-hander A.J. Cole. Here’s our broadcast intern, Daniel Comisi, with a look at the 22-year-old out of Florida:

Labeled as the #2 prospect in the Washington Nationals organization and #69 overall on MLB.com’s Top 100 list earlier this year, A.J. Cole made his Syracuse Chiefs debut on Saturday against the Buffalo Bisons. In 5.2 innings, Cole allowed eight hits, six runs (only one earned), one walk and five strikeouts. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Washington, Cole was traded with Derek Norris, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock to the Oakland A’s for Gio Gonzalez in December 2011. In one full season with Class-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, Cole started in 27 games, sporting a 3.70 ERA with 133 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Cole was traded back to Washington along with Blake Treinen and Ian Krol in a three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland. In 2013, the 22 year-old was named to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game and promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where he started in seven games and was 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 45.1 innings.

According to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, Cole’s struggles in Oakland’s organization were not a worry and he was thrilled to reacquire Cole…

His developmental curve is on track, and we’re going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery and I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward.

While some scouts are comparing Cole to Matt Cain, a fly-ball pitcher who occasionally struggles to get lefties out, others have compared him to Justin Verlander, a tall, lanky pitcher with a high-velocity fastball. Cole is listed as 6’5” and 200 lbs, so his peak 95 mph fastball seems even faster to hitters with his long stride to home plate. Cole also has a power curveball and a decent changeup, but his fastball is his best pitch and he gets most of his strikeouts by throwing it past hitters. It appears that most scouts say that if Cole is able to develop his curveball, he has the possibility a major-league starter for many, many years.

Cole’s next start will be on Friday against Pawtucket after Thursday’s game versus Lehigh Valley was postponed.

Triple-A Trickledown: Norfolk

Chiefs fans will get to know the Norfolk Tides quite well over the next week. Syracuse and Norfolk play the second of eight straight games today, with the two teams heading to Virginia on Monday morning for a four-game set. Our own Daniel Comisi took a look at the Triple-A Orioles in our next edition of Triple-A Trickledown

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Catcher: Steve Clevenger, Brian Ward

29 year-old Clevenger is a major-league veteran after playing 107 games in four years with both the Cubs and the Orioles. His best year was in 2012, when he batting .201 with 13 extra base hits in 69 games with Chicago. 28 year-old Ward is the primary backstop and is in his first year with Norfolk. In 21 games this year, Ward has hit .284 with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts, which shows his plate discipline. Clevenger is on the 40-man roster and would only be called up if something would happen to Nick Hundley, who is only starting behind the plate because All-Star Matt Wieters is on the DL with a right elbow strain.

First Base: Chris Marrero, Brett Wallace

Chiefs fans will remember 25 year-old Marrero, who spent 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Syracuse after being drafted 15th overall in the 2006 draft by Washington. In his 275 games in Syracuse, Marrero batted .281 with 25 home runs and 34 doubles. Marrero has played 39 games in Washington, 31 in 2011 and eight in 2013. 27 year-old Wallace was the starting first baseman for the Houston Astros from 2010-2013, playing in 311 games. Two main reasons why Wallace continued to lose playing time each year after starting 115 games in 2011 are his high strikeout rates and a batting average that continued to plummet each year. Neither player is on the 40-man roster and even though Wallace is hitting well, (.278 BA, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 60 games at first), All-Star Chris Davis is occupying first base with the Orioles and Delmon Young at designated hitter, there is no room for him in Baltimore.

Second Base: Alexi Casilla, Steve Lombardozzi, Jemile Weeks

Casilla (29), Lombardozzi (25), and Weeks (27) all have spent time in the major leagues. Casilla spent seven years with the Twins before spending last year in Baltimore. After playing 577 games in the majors in eight years, Casilla owns a .302 OBP with 103 extra-base hits and 80 stolen bases in 91 attempts. 2011 Chiefs fans will remember Lombardozzi from when he played 69 games with Syracuse. He was fantastic in Central NY, batting .310 with 19 extra-base hits before being called up to Washington. Lombardozzi spent 257 games with Washington before being sent to Detroit this offseason in the Doug Fister deal, and finally landing in Baltimore after traded to the Orioles for Alex Gonzalez. He’s played 20 games in Baltimore this year and was hitting .288 before being sent down to Norfolk on May 1st.

Weeks, the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, has played 226 games in the majors, most of them with the Oakland Athletics. After a fantastic rookie year in 2011, batting .303 with 22 stolen bases and eight triples in 97 games, Weeks’ numbers have gone down. He’s now looking for a second chance in Baltimore. This year in Norfolk, Weeks is batting .288 with six steals and four triples in 31 games. It appears that Lombardozzi will be the first guy to called up to the majors because he has normally been used as a utility guy to give any of the middle infielders a day off and if someone got injured, I’d expect Lombardozzi to be called up again.

Third Base: Buck Britton, Cord Phelps

27-year-old Phelps was a third round pick in the 2008 draft by Cleveland after playing though Low-A, High-A, and Double-A in a year-and-a-half before being promoted to Columbus in 2010. Now in his fifth year in Triple-A, Phelps is with Baltimore after being claimed off waivers this offseason and is looking to make the jump to the majors again after playing 53 Major League games with Cleveland. Britton has been bouncing between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk each year since 2012 and has had trouble with Triple-A pitching. In Double-A, Britton is hitting well with a .296 BA, .350 OBP and 17 stolen bases in 271 games. But in Triple-A, Britton is only hitting .232 with a .282 OBP and only two steals in 98 games. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, and even though starter Manny Machado has struggled, Lombardozzi would likely be the next man up.

Shortstop: Ivan DeJesus

Once a second-round draft pick in 2005 by the Dodgers, DeJesus (27 years old) has been bouncing around teams the past couple years. He was a part of that massive Boston-Los Angeles trade in 2012 that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to LA for prospects and salary cap relief for Boston. Then, in the 2012 offseason, he was traded by Boston with Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel and Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt and spent 2013 with Triple-A Indianapolis. In Indy, DeJesus batted well in 103 games with a .319 BA, .380 OBP and 27 doubles. This year, he’s continued his contact hitting and extra base hits with Baltimore’s Triple-A squad, batting .308 with a .398 OBP and 13 doubles in 51 games. However, since DeJesus is behind All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy, it’s unlikely that he’d see time in Baltimore without a few injuries.

Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Julio Borbon, Xavier Paul, Francisco Peguero, Henry Urrutia

The only top-10 prospect in the Baltimore organization in Triple-A is roaming the Norfolk outfield. 27 year-old Urrutia (#7 prospect according to Baseball America) from Cuba made his major league debut on July 20, 2013 and played 24 games last year in Baltimore, batting .276 with a triple. Urrutia is in his second year of playing in American baseball after playing in Cuba from 2005-2009. In 2010, Urrutia tried to defect from Cuba but failed to do so and was suspended from Cuban baseball for the entire season. In September of 2011, he successfully defected to Haiti and attempted to get a work visa to come to America. After having trouble acquiring a visa for a year, Urrutia was in America and played his first game in April of 2013 with Double-A Bowie.

29-year-old Berry is in his ninth professional season and now with his seventh team as he bounces around the minor leagues. He has played 107 games in the majors, 94 of them in 2012 with the Tigers, where he batted .258 with 18 extra base hits and 21 steals. Borbon (28) was a first round pick by Texas in 2007 and has played 288 games with the Rangers and the Cubs. In 2010, Borbon played 137 games and batted .276 with 11 doubles and 15 stolen bases. 29-year-old Xavier Paul – a Chiefs outfielder in 2012 – is the oldest and most tenured outfielder with 335 games played with the Dodgers, Pirates and Reds. 26-year-old Peguero has been in the Giants organization since he was 18, but signed with Baltimore as a free agent this offseason. Peguero played 35 games between 2012-2013 and is currently rehabbing with Norfolk after being on the disabled list since March 21 with a strained right wrist.

The Orioles’ outfield currently holds Adam Jones, one of the majors’ best outfielders, MLB home run leader Nelson Cruz and .305-batting Nick Markakis. Reserve David Lough’s hitting below .200 this year, so a hot spurt from one of Norfolk’s outfielders could send a Tide to take his place.

Starting Pitchers: Nick Additon, Eddie Gamboa, Mike Wright, Suk-min Yoon

Despite yesterday’s start, 24-year-old Mike Wright has been a bright spot in the Oriole organization. Wright was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft and is in his first full season with Norfolk. In 12 starts this year, however, Wright has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 57.1 innings. 27 year-old Suk-min Yoon is in his first year in America after spending the first nine years in the Korean Baseball Organization. In 303 games (136 starts) in Korea, Yoon is 73-59 with a 3.19 ERA and a fantastic 1.20 WHIP. He’s also on the 40-man roster and most likely will be a September call-up. Gamboa, a converted knuckleballer, will start for the Tides tonight in his third Norfolk season. He’s a 29-year-old in his seventh season in the Orioles’ minor leagues.

Relief Pitchers: Tim Alderson, Kelvin De La Cruz, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Evan Meek, Anthony Vasquez

As I look at this group of relievers, none of them are having a spectacular 2014 season. Norfolk’s team ERA is 4.77, which is third-worst in the International League, and every reliever has an ERA over 3.20. 26 year-old Guilmet leads the team in saves with four, and has been up in Baltimore for nine appearances, allowing six runs in 9.1 innings while striking out 11. Former Pittsburgh Pirate Meek (31) is second on the team with three saves in 13.2 innings. Heath Bell recently opted out of his minor-league contract, as well, taking away another possible arm for the Orioles. Guilmet and Meek are the only ones on the 40-man roster and will most likely continue to be called up and sent down based on how the bullpen is used and if a fresh arm is needed.

Gregory Polanco: A Future Star in Syracuse?

Indianapolis Indians star prospect Gregory Polanco takes the field once again against the Chiefs today in what could be Polanco’s final series in the minor leagues. Need a quick guide on who Polanco is and what you might see on him? Here’s a look from one of our interns here in the broadcast booth, Daniel Comisi:

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The 22 year-old Dominican came into the 2014 season listed as the 10th best prospect in all of major league baseball according to Baseball America. But if you take out the guys who are in the majors right now, (Bogaerts, Taveras, Tanaka), he is the seventh top prospect still in the minors and the second-best outfielder, behind the number one prospect, Byron Buxton. Even though Polanco is ranked the seventh prospect in all of the minors, only Archie Bradley with the Arizona Diamondbacks is in Triple-A and there has already been plenty of questioning of why Bradley was not called up in April. The other five are in Double-A or lower.

Polanco has shot up the Pittsburgh organization after being signed as an international free agent with the Pirates in 2009. In the year of 2013 alone, he went from High-A Bradenton, to Double-A Altoona, and spent the final two games of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis. If you only look at his Double-A and Triple-A stats: through 127 games, he is batting .303 with 12 home runs, 7 triples, 29 doubles, and 28 steals in 40 attempts (70% success rate). But the stat that I was drawn to was this: through 467 games and through 1944 plate appearances to date, Polanco has only struck out 303 times and has walked 184 times. That is a very low strikeout rate (15.5%, the MLB average is 23.1%) and a high contact rate (74.9%, the MLB average is 71.5%).  With his speed, he has the capability of turning a routine ground ball into a base hit – as he did last night – and would be great at the top of the Pirates lineup.

Polanco is the best prospect in the International League and has the capability of being the next Wil Myers or Yasiel Puig, who will make an immediate impact and be in the running for Rookie of the Year award even though he has spent the first 60 games in the minor leagues. Similar to Puig, if Polanco was born in the U.S. he would most likely be a star running back or linebacker in football with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound build. But since he was born in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the best way to get off the island, he was surrounded by baseball.

So why is he still in the minors if he is the next great prospect in Triple-A and the Pirates desperately need him in right field? Well, the most educated guess that I can make is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are using a strategy that most MLB teams use when dealing with the “Super Two” exception. While this is a very complicated rule, here is the simplest way I can put it. A “Super Two” player is a player who is the top 22 percent of the players with more than two years of service time but less than three. David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote a very good article about Polanco and why he is still in the minors. In Polanco’s case, the first professional game he played was with Low-A State College in 2011, which would make the 2014 season his third year in the Pirates organization. Since he is in the top 22% of prospects and is between two and three full seasons in the Pirates organization, Polanco would have the ability to file for arbitration a year earlier than the other 78% of players and receive drastically more salary because he projected to be a top player and is hitting the ball extremely well in the minors. But if the Pirates hold Polanco in the minors until mid-June, it will delay his arbitration clock and Polanco will have to wait an extra year to file for arbitration and get the big contract. Most small-market teams like Houston (George Springer this year) and Tampa Bay (Wil Myers last year) do this because they do not have the money to pay for their top prospects like the Los Angeles Angels can do with Mike Trout, who signed a six-year $144.5 million deal this offseason.

So if you can make it to the ballpark during the next three games, I highly encourage you to do it, because he will be one of the next big stars in the major leagues. But Chiefs tickets are much cheaper than the Pirates and you will be able to see two of the top teams in the International League playing each other. First pitch for every game of this series is at 7:00.

Triple-A Trickledown: Pawtucket

With 11 games to go between the Chiefs and PawSox this year, we figured we’d dust off Triple-A Trickledown once more to take a look at the Triple-A Red Sox. Here’s our intern Daniel Comisi with an oversight of Pawtucket’s roster…

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Catcher: Dan Butler, Ryan Lavarnway, Christian Vazquez

There’s good catching depth here between Lavarnway (26 years old), Butler (27), and Vazquez (23). All three have spent at least 10 games behind the plate, but only Lavarnway has worn the catcher’s mask in the major leagues, playing 88 games the past three years in Boston. Vazquez was drafted in the ninth round of the 2008 draft and has risen through the Boston organization. He’s in his first go-round at Triple-A after batting .289 with five home runs and 48 walks in 96 games with Double-A Portland last year, though his biggest strength has always been a tremendous arm and defensive presence. Butler, meanwhile, is in his second full year with Pawtucket after cameo appearances with the PawSox every year from 2010 to 2012. All three catchers are on the 40-man roster, but Lavarnway might be the next in line thanks to his previous major-league experience.

First Base: Brandon Snyder

Snyder splits first baseman duties with Lavarnway and has also spent some time roaming the outfield. The 27-year-old has played 83 games in four years between Baltimore, Texas, and Boston. Now in his fifth season with Pawtucket, Snyder will be used in a platoon with Lavarnway. Snyder’s path back to Boston is tough as he’s not on the 40-man roster and there are a multitude of first base-eligible players already in Boston.

Second Base: Ryan Roberts, Justin Henry

The platoon between Roberts (33) and Henry (29) is favoring Roberts this season by almost a two-to-one margin. Roberts has plenty of MLB experience, playing 518 games over nine seasons for Toronto, Texas, Arizona (where he played the majority of his games including 143 in 2011), Tampa Bay and Boston. In that 2011 season, he played 107 games at third base and only 28 at second base, but gradually has moved over to the right side of the infield. Henry has yet to reach the majors, but is currently in his second full season with Pawtucket after collecting 17 doubles in 102 games in 2013. The road to the majors is once again slim for both players barring an injury to All-Star Dustin Pedroia.

Third Base: Garin Cecchini, Carlos Rivero

In his first Triple-A year, Cecchini (23) has started every game for Pawtucket, leads the team in batting average and steals, and is in the top three in runs, walks, RBIs and doubles. Cecchini led all of minor league baseball in on-base percentage last season and could earn his way to his first career major-league call-up at some point this year, though it likely wouldn’t be until later in the year, as Brock Holt was recently recalled to replace the injured Will Middlebrooks. Rivero, a former Chief, was just promoted from Double-A Portland a few days ago and should serve in a utility role.

Shortstop: Mike McCoy

33 year-old McCoy has played 170 games in four seasons in the major leagues, making stops in Colorado and Toronto. He has struggled in the big leagues, batting .190 with three home runs in those games, but has hit well in Triple-A. Between 2008 through 2012 at Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, he batted well over .300 and had more walks than strikeouts each year. At age 33, however, and hitting sub-.200 on the year, McCoy will likely spend the season with the PawSox.

Outfield: Bryce Brentz, Corey Brown, Alex Hassan, Daniel Nava

Chiefs fans will recognize Brown from his time roaming the outfield from 2011 through 2013 for Syracuse, crushing 58 home runs in 357 games, including 25 in 2012. Brentz (25) is in his third year at Pawtucket and leads the Red Sox in both home runs and RBIs. Hassan (26) is now in his fourth season at Triple-A after tearing the cover off the ball last year with a .321 batting average in 55 games. Thanks to that performance last year, he is now an everyday player at either first base or in the outfield. Nava, a contributor to Boston’s World Series-winning team, was sent down from Boston on April 23rd after batting .149 in 17 games. Brentz, Hassan and Nava all are on the 40-man roster and there’s a very good chance that at least one of them will be called up. The current outfield for Boston includes three players with a sub-.700 OPS: Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Shane Victorino.

Starting Pitchers: Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman

Rubby De La Rosa

The Pawtucket rotation is full of young, powerful right-handed arms. It’s led by De La Rosa, a center piece of the 2012 blockbuster that sent Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers – a deal that also netted the Red Sox Webster. Both players made their major-league debuts last year with mixed results. Workman has the most experience in the majors of the young pitching rotation, having pitched in 23 games (three starts) with Boston. Barnes (4.35 ERA in six starts) and Ranaudo (3.27 in 10 starts) have also posted strong starts.

Boston’s rotation, meanwhile, is in a bit of flux. Felix Doubront was just placed on the Disabled List, and Clay Buchholz has been uncharacteristically awful (71 hits in 47.0 innings, 6.32 ERA). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or more of these young pitchers in the majors sooner rather than later.

Relief Pitchers: Drake Britton, Chris Hernandez, Dailer Hinojosa, Tommy Layne, Chris Resop, Rich Hill, Alex Wilson

This is a good bullpen with a bunch of decent hurlers. There is no definitive closer on the team, with six different Red Sox tallying one save. However, 26 year-old Alex Wilson leads the team with five saves and 24 year-old Drake Britton is right behind him with four saves in five chances. Both Wilson and Britton spent part of last year throwing at Fenway at the end of the year and seem to be stepping up their game with hopes to head up to Boston for good. 29 year-old Tommy Layne leads all relievers with four wins in 14 appearances with a sparkling 1.61 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in 22.1 innings. He also spent some time in the majors but with San Diego, pitching in 40 games for the Padres. Only Britton and Wilson are on the 40-man roster and after strong showings so far in Triple-A, their numbers might be called back to the majors any day.

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(An editor’s note: Wilson was literally just recalled to Boston as I typed those dashes above, so it appears Daniel was on to something.)

Triple-A Trickledown: Columbus

Hello from overcast and drizzly Columbus. The Chiefs started a four-game series with the Clippers – the Triple-A Cleveland Indians – yesterday, and they’ll play all eight of their games vs. Columbus in this month. With that in mind, we decided to dust off Triple-A Trickledown, where we examine a team’s roster and see why these particular playres are here – and where they might go.

Today’s version comes from Daniel Comisi, one of our broadcast interns, and examines the Triple-A Indians…

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Catcher: Roberto Perez, Luke Carlin

There’s good catching depth in Columbus with 25-year-old Perez and 33-year-old veteran Carlin. Perez is the everyday catcher, starting in 21 of the team’s 31 games. A 33rd-rounder from the 2008 draft, Perez has found his stroke, hitting five home runs this season after zero with Columbus last year. Carlin owns more experience here, having played 56 games over four years in the majors. The Indians just designated backup catcher George Kottaras for assignment, meaning converted third baseman Carlos Santana will have to give regular starter Yan Gomes a rest every now and then. Neither Perez nor Carlin are on the 40-man roster otherwise.

First Base: Jesus Aguilar, David Cooper

 

The 23 year-old Aguilar has started all of Columbus’s games this year. He leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, and walks. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Aguilar is seeing Triple-A pitching for the first time in his career after spending the previous two years at Double-A Akron. The backup first baseman, 27 year-old David Cooper, has played 72 games in two years with the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s highly unlikely the Indians will send up Aguilar due to his young age and Nick Swisher holding down first base. However, if anything were to happen to Swisher, Aguilar is on the 40-man roster and can easily be called up to Cleveland. Here’s Terry Francona, on Aguilar, from a few days ago:

He’s doing a really good job. I guess the way he plays would probably [influence a promotion]. I mean, we’re not going to put [first baseman Nick Swisher] on the bench, but you don’t ever know what’s going to happen health-wise. If he ends up being a possibility here, we’d be thrilled, because that means he’s doing really well.

Second Base: Audy Ciriaco, Ryan Rohlinger

30 year-old Rohlinger signed with the Indians in 2013 and has been a starter in the Clippers infield for 27 of the team’s 32 games at either second or third base. With 46 games in four seasons in the majors, he’s the veteran of a young infield for Columbus. Ciriaco is a new addition to the Indians organization after spending his first nine years in the Detroit and Miami farm systems. The path to the majors as a second baseman is slim for both of these players, with Jose Ramirez currently up in Cleveland while All-Star Jason Kipnis is on the disabled list with an abdominal strain.

Third Base: Giovanny Urshela

At age 22, Urshela was called up to Columbus on May 3rd, and he’s started at third base ever since. He’s continued to crush the ball after hitting .300 with 5 home runs and 19 RBIs in 24 games at Akron. He’s 10 for 25 with three home runs so far with Columbus. Urshela may very well spend a year or two with Columbus for seasoning with the large number of corner infielders in Cleveland, including Santana, a former All-Star, and Lonnie Chisenhall, a former top prospect batting .338 through 24 games.

Shortstop: Justin Sellers

Sellers, a 28-year-old, is the everyday shortstop for the Clippers, having played 21 of his 26 games this year at short. He has some major-league experience, having played 82 games in three years with the L.A. Dodgers. With Asdrubal Cabrera currently struggling in the majors last year and to start off this year, a good stretch of productive hitting and good defense from Sellers could propel him back to the big leagues.

Outfield: Matt Carson, Tim Fedroff, Carlos Moncrief

There are only three outfielders on the Clippers roster this year, with 25-year-old Moncrief the only newcomer to the gang. Moncrief spent last year with Double-A Akron, batting .284 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs. Carson and Fedroff both spent their 2013 season with a Columbus jersey on their backs. Carson, age 32, played 92 major league games in four seasons with Oakland, Minnesota, and Cleveland. Fedroff, meanwhile, spent last season on the 40-man-roster, but he’s yet to make his major-league debut and was removed from the 40-man in September. If the injury bug strikes in Cleveland, only Moncrief is on the 40-man roster, meaning he’d be most likely to have his number called.

Starting Pitchers: Travis Banwart, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Cloyd, Kyle Davies, T.J. House

Top prospect Trevor Bauer is the big name here of this bunch. The 23 year-old right-hander has been long-heralded as one of the top prospects in the Cleveland organization. However, he’s bounced between the Clippers and Indians as he works to get better command of his pitches. Entering the 2014 season, Bauer had started nine games for the Indians with an ERA above 5.50. But this year he seems to be turning a corner at Columbus, throwing 40.1 innings with a sparkling ERA of 1.12 and 40 strikeouts.

Taking a look at the rest of the Clippers rotation: 28 year-old Banwart is now in his sixth year at AAA and his first with Columbus after spending the first seven years of career with Oakland. 26 year-old Cloyd has started 17 games in the majors with the Phillies, sporting an ERA of 4.76 in the bigs.  24 year-old House is in his second year with Columbus after starting 24 games last year, owning a 4.17 ERA in 164 innings. And Davies, a former Royal and Brave starter recovering from injury, threw seven innings of two-run ball in his first Columbus start. House owns a 1.77 ERA in six starts and is on the 40-man roster, but Bauer’s likely the first man up in Cleveland’s future.

Relief Pitchers: Austin Adams, Scott Barnes, Brett Brach, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, Mark Lowe, Vinnie Pestano, Blake Wood, Mike Zagurski

This is a terrific Triple-A bullpen with a bunch of live arms. Does it translate to the majors? Maybe not, as the Indians’ bullpen has been outstanding this year. Both Pestano (13.50 ERA in three games) and Wood (7.11 in seven games) have been up to Cleveland this year, with Adams, Hagadone and Barnes also on the 40-man roster. Those three, however, all sport ERAs in between 4.91 and 5.17 with Columbus, so there’s no clear front-runner out of that pack if the Indians need a reliever.

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The Chiefs and Clippers take the field at Huntington Park tonight at 7:05. Our pregame coverage begins on The Score 1260 at 6:50 PM.

KB

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 25

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Less than a week away. And these next six days are going to be crazy. There are phone lines to test, media credentials to complete, interviews to moderate, interns to train, game notes to prepare…oh, and on top of all of that, there’s also the whole “broadcaster” part of the job to prepare for. How much do I know about the players on the 2014 Chiefs? And how much can I learn in the next six days?

For the rest of the office here at NBT Bank Stadium, the specific responsibilities are different, but the workload is the same. There are suites to prepare, tickets to sell and snow to shovel. And in some ways, this is the down time. Starting next Thursday, the Syracuse Chiefs will play 144 baseball games in 152 days. In other words, the Syracuse Chiefs will have eight scheduled days off in 152 days – an average of one day off every 19 days.

Here’s a block-by-block look at the Chiefs’ 2014 schedule:

April 3-29: 27 consecutive days with a game

April 30: Day off

May 1-20: 20 consecutive games. That’s 47 scheduled games in 48 days to begin the season.

May 21: Day off

May 22-June 10: 20 consecutive games

June 11: Day off

June 12-July 13: 30 consecutive games

July 14-16: The three greatest days on a baseball calendar: the All-Star break.

July 17-28: 12 consecutive games

July 29: Day off

July 30-August 5: 7 consecutive games

August 6: Day off

August 7-September 1: 26 consecutive games

September 2: Scheduled date of offseason beginning, unless you’re called up to Washington, in which case, you’ve got at least another a month of games. (*Unless, of course, the Chiefs make the playoffs this season, go on to win the Governor’s Cup and defeat the P.C.L. in the Triple-A National Championship, which will happen.)

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It’s an absolute grind like no other sport, baseball. (The Washington Post‘s Barry Svrluga wrote an incredible piece on that very subject today, profiling the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman.) The glamour and glitz that seemingly come with playing a professional sport for a living don’t apply quite as much as the casual fan might think. Sure, playing in the major leagues means you’ll likely make millions of dollars and be financially set for the rest of your life by your 30s – but the vast majority of professional baseball players don’t get all that close to that level.

And that’s why baseball in Syracuse is so special. Most of the Chiefs players either have or will make the major leagues. A grand total of 35 players who appeared in at least one game for Syracuse last year have played in Major League Baseball at some point. 35! We’re talking about the best of the best players in the entire world here, and we’re privileged enough here in this city to see them practically every other night from April 1st to September 1st.

Walters post HR

So, a quick thought, without trying to sound too holier-than-thou – the next time you’re at a game, and a player strikes out or makes an error, consider the fact that he might be playing in his 20th consecutive game without a game off. And maybe he didn’t get much sleep last night, because he didn’t get home from the ballpark until 11:30, and he returned to take extra batting practice for a noon game the next day. Does it beat plenty of other ways to make a living? Sure, it does. But that doesn’t mean baseball’s all flowers and roses and giant checks falling from the sky. Heck, they’re humans, too.

And the fact that we get to see it on a daily basis for a wildly affordable price? There’s no better deal on Earth.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 24

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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One week. Baseball in Syracuse will be happening in one week. That seems utterly preposterous, and yet, here we are, seven days away from George Lonergan throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the new-look Chiefs take the field.

And “taking the field” finally seems like something plausible. There’s snow and ice behind the backstop and in short right field, but other than that, it’s all a beautiful shade of green. In fact, as we speak, head groundskeeper John Stewart and his grounds crew are chipping away at that ice right behind second base. There’s also some sort of rolling heating machine being used on the warning track. (I imagine there’s a more technical term for this, but since I don’t have it, we’ll go with “rolling heating machine”.

As I sit from my bird’s-eye view in the press box, I can also see new signs being put up on the outfield wall. The fence may look like a wiry work in progress now – but just wait until next Thursday. It’ll be packed like never before.

We’re also preparing our in-game presentation for this year. We’ll have new on-field contests and in-game promotions to enhance the ballpark for a fan-friendly experience.

It’s funny…we’ve talked so much about baseball and the roster on this blog that you might almost forget everything else that goes into a game. And this office is buzzing with excitement for Opening Day. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of a ballpark before the season starts. I want to take a snapshot of today and compare it to seven days from now. The difference will seem almost impossible.

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Mike Gonzalez

Baseball-wise, the Nationals re-signed left-hander Mike Gonzalez – whom they cut just a few days ago – to a minor-league contract. That makes Syracuse a logical destination for Gonzalez, a veteran of 509 major-league games. We’ll see how the trickle-down effect changes the rest of the Chiefs’ bullpen, if at all.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 23

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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OK, new game plan…completely ignore yesterday’s blog post. (Yes, the one I’m linking to right now. Why do you ask?)

We here at the blog theorized that either Jamey Carroll or Tyler Moore would get the Nationals’ final bench spot. And, true to form – Carroll was cut yesterday while Moore was optioned to Syracuse. Oops.

It’s not entirely our fault, however. While we began to speculate that either Jeff Kobernus or Sandy Leon would be Washington’s 25th man, news trickled out that the Nationals were interested in infielder Kevin Frandsen. Today, that news is unofficially official: Frandsen joins the Nats on a one-year contract, coming over from their division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.

What does that mean for Syracuse? That means Kobernus, as we’ve speculated all along, likely returns to the Chiefs for the start of 2014. As we speculated yesterday, there could be a slight chance the Nationals aren’t sold on Scott Hairston after a difficult spring, so it’s possible Kobernus could take his spot. However, Hairston is a generally proven veteran due to make $2.5 million this year, so his spot is probably good to go.

Jeff Kobernus

Jeff Kobernus

The Nationals also finalized their bullpen yesterday, informing right-hander Aaron Barrett that he’s made the team. When Barrett enters a Washington game this season, he’ll throw his first inning ever about Double-A, let alone Triple-A. That news meant Xavier Cedeno and Ryan Mattheus were both officially optioned to Syracuse, giving the Chiefs a pair of reliable relievers in the back end of their bullpen.

We now officially know that Syracuse will start the year with Cedeno, Mattheus and Christian Garcia in the bullpen. As previously speculated on the blog, we also expect Tyler Robertson, Josh Roenicke and Manny Delcarmen to join them.

Ryan Mattheus

Ryan Mattheus

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 22

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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We’re in the final days of spring training for the Nationals, with decisions still to be made. Let’s outline what the big-league club’s looking at, and how that trickles down to Syracuse…

#5 Starter

The Candidates: Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Chris Young

Roark WAS

The Skinny: This is all but officially a two-man race at this point, with Jordan and Roark duking it out, though Matt Williams has continued to bring up the veteran Young’s name. Roark – baseball’s “reigning king of the called strike” – emerged from a red-hot Chiefs season to sport a 1.51 ERA in 14 games (five starts) at season’s end. Jordan was no slouch himself, putting up a 3.66 ERA in nine starts with Washington in his rookie campaign. Young’s best shot? The fact that he’s healthy again and has an opt-out in his contract, meaning the Nationals likely can’t send him to Syracuse without losing him.

The Favorite: It’s a true coin flip between the first two. I’ll guess that Jordan gets the nod based on his youth and a slightly higher ceiling. Plus, Roark pitched well in relief last year, meaning the Nationals could keep both Jordan and Roark on the roster in this scenario. Hey, speaking of…

#7 Reliever

The Candidates: Tanner Roark (if not starting), Aaron Barrett, Xavier Cedeno

Cedeno

The Skinny: I would have put left-hander Mike Gonzalez in here, but he was released five minutes ago, so the race is down to three. Barrett, who closed for Harrisburg last year, hasn’t allowed an run or walked a batter in nine games in his first ever spring training. Cedeno’s sported a 3.68 ERA in nine spring games after a 1.50 mark in 11 games (but only six innings) for the Nationals last season.

The Favorite: Roark will probably be on the Nationals one way or another, and if Jordan ends up starting, this should be Tanner’s spot to lose. If not? I’d say Barrett has a 51-49 edge because of his impressive spring. Don’t discount the possibility of the Nationals keeping a third left-hander, though, with nine of the team’s first 12 games against the lefty-heavy Braves and Mets.

Last Two Bench Spots

The Candidates: Scott Hairston, Jamey Carroll, Tyler Moore

Moore

The Skinny: This assumes that Jose Lobaton, Nate McLouth and Danny Espinosa will all make the Nationals, and there’s no reason to suggest otherwise. Hairston should also be close to a lock, as he’s guaranteed to make $2.5 million this year, but Matt Williams wasn’t entirely committal when talking about his potential fifth outfielder recently. After a season in which he posted just a .191/.237/.414 slash line, Hairston’s at .194/.256/.333 this spring. Carroll, a 40-year-old super-utilityman, is also hitting just .194 in spring, but provides leadership and versatility. Moore’s .607 spring OPS matches his mark from last regular season in 63 games with Washington, though he improved toward year’s end.

The Favorites: Hairston will probably get a bit of a longer leash because of his contract and the fact that he’s on the 40-man roster. He’ll likely start with the club. The decision then comes down to Carroll – plays every position, not on the 40-man roster – and Moore – plays 1B and corner OF, on the 40-man roster. The Nats would have to clear some space to make way for Carroll, but it’s highly doubtful he’d go to Syracuse, and Moore still has an option. Washington may go the conservative route and keep Carroll – in order to keep both.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 21

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Some Monday morning musings on our final full week without baseball…

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So, um, the MLB season started this weekend. Did you know that? No, not spring training – the actual major-league regular season started. At 4:30 in the morning in Australia.

Dodgers Australia

Seriously! The Dodgers and Diamondbacks kicked off 2014 with a pair of games in the Sydney Cricket Ground…before flying back stateside and continuing spring training. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, either, but it’s all part of MLB trying to expand its game and its brand worldwide. So, in case you were asleep (you probabl were) or didn’t notice because of the NCAA Tournament (you probably didn’t), here are some highlights of the official start of professional baseball games that mean something in 2014:

- The Dodgers won both games, 3-1 and 7-5.

- A Diamondbacks team bus got a flat tire while a half-mile from the ballpark. Some players walked the remainder of the way.

- A two-foot long hot dog sold for $36.

- The game-time temperatures were 70 and 80 degrees, respectively.

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Speaking of weather, by the way, we’re almost in range for the 10-day forecast giving us the lowdown on Opening Day. And despite some snow flurries outside at the moment, the news is fairly bright:

10 Day

 

Look at those temperatures! That’s practically summer weather for the beginning of April in Syracuse. So unless there’s a massive and random plummet on the thermostat, April 3rd should be well into the 50s for an Opening Day spectacular. You won’t even need that fleece blanket that you’ll get on Saturday, April 5th. (That’s our giveaway, presented by Coca-Cola, on our first Giveaway Saturday.)

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And we’re a bit closer to learning the Chiefs’ Opening Day roster today, with the Nationals sending right-hander Blake Treinen to minor-league camp. Treinen, who dazzled as a non-roster invitee in his first big-league camp, sported a 3.64 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) with Harrisburg last year, but will likely be used as a reliever this season after impressing out of the bullpen in camp.

Treinen

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

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