Tuesday, April 21, 2015

H-Cats introduce their new ownership group

Jim Swanson (L) and John Wilson (R)
sport the team's new road jerseys.
Photo courtesy @WCLBaseball Twitter account.
The Victoria HarbourCats announced today that Bhootan LLC / Matthew Stoudt has agreed to sell the club to a group of four local investors. The transfer is still subject to approval by the West Coast League, however.

The four members of the new ownership group are:
  • GM Jim Swanson.
  • John Wilson, C.E.O and owner of Wilson's Transportation.
  • Ken Swanson (Burnaby, BC), brother of Jim Swanson.
  • Rich Harder (New Westminster, BC), friend of the Swanson brothers.
For more information on this story, please see the following links:
All of us at the Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Blog would like to congratulate all of the parties involved in getting this ownership issue resolved prior to the start of the 2015 season. The deal goes a long way towards ensuring that the HarbourCats will remain in Victoria for many years to come.

HarbourCatNip
  • The HarbourCats also announced that four more players will not be suiting up for the team this summer (for a variety of reasons): LHP Henry Baker (University of Washington), IF Cam Santos (Chico State), RHP Seve Romo (University of San Diego) and OF Kacy Smith (University of San Diego). The current roster now contains 33 players, but don't be surprised to see more players added before Opening Day.

Monday, April 20, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - NWAC edition

It has been a couple of weeks since we last updated you on our HarbourCats in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), so let’s get you caught up on what our boys have been up to of late.

Not only has sophomore Jamie Umbinetti of Edmonds Community College been hitting the cover off of the ball, but he has also shown incredible plate discipline this season. Over his last seven games, he has gone 9-for-15 with eight walks, a home run, five runs batted in and ten runs scored. Umbinetti is hitting .381 with a slow-pitch-like .571 on-base percentage and a robust .556 slugging percentage in 63 at-bats this season. The left-handed slugger will share first base with Gabe Clark this summer, so you can be sure that there will be no shortage of firepower from that position.
Zander Clouse

Bellevue College’s Zander Clouse has returned to form after a rare bad outing on April 4th. Over the last couple of weeks, the sophomore has thrown a pair of quality starts, giving up only three earned runs on 14 hits over 14 ⅔ innings pitched. Clouse, who will play Division I baseball for Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) in the fall, now sports a 5-2 record with a sparkling 2.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 49 ⅔ innings on the hill this season.

First baseman John Naff has continued to swing a hot bat after breaking out of a lengthy slump on March 29th. Over his last 10 games, the Everett Community College sophomore has gone 12-for-34 with six walks, five RBI and four extra-base hits. Although he was only hitting .140 on March 29th, Naff now has a .260 average with one homer and nine RBI in 100 at-bats. He has also walked twice as often as he has struck out this season (18 walks versus only 9 strikeouts), and he’s 9-for-11 in stolen base attempts.

Everett CC’s Curtis Bafus continues to struggle to find some consistency in his freshman season. The 6-7, 230 lb. right hander only gave up three earned runs today against Bellevue College, but he was tagged for 10 hits and two walks in 4 ⅔ innings. A week earlier, Bafus threw 6 ⅔ shutout innings against Shoreline Community College, limiting the Dolphins to only five hits and two walks while striking out four. Bafus has an excellent 2.97 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 33 ⅓ innings on the hill this season in spite of a trio of poor outings.

Freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis has seen limited playing for Everett CC this month, especially on the mound. Francis has not pitched since April 2nd due to control problems (5.7 BB/9) and a nasty 1.61 WHIP, although he did get seven at-bats this weekend -- his first since March 29th. Over the weekend, Francis went three-for-seven with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. The offensive outburst raised his season numbers to a .244 batting average with no homers and five RBI in 41 at-bats.

Everett CC (12-4) and Edmonds CC (8-2) are currently first and second, respectively, in the the NWAC North Region standings. Although the two clubs have yet to meet this year, the Trojans and Tritons will square off four times to close out the regular season on May 9th-10th.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

T-C report: 'Cats sold to local owners

John Wilson
According to Mario Annicchiarico of the Victoria Times Colonist, the HarbourCats have been sold to a local ownership group that includes GM Jim Swanson and John Wilson, C.E.O and owner of Wilson's Transportation. It is worth noting that the members of the ownership group are still unconfirmed at this time.

The news comes a mere four months after it was revealed that former owner John McLean had lost control of the team to Bhootan LLC / Matthew Stoudt in a BC Supreme Court civil suit. The quick sale shouldn't come as a surprise, as Stoudt had shown little interest in owning a baseball team for any length of time. It's also no shock that local owners stepped forward immediately, especially considering the relatively healthy financial state of the franchise, the favourable West Coast League business model, and the strong support of fans in the league's largest market.

The deal must be approved on Monday at league meetings in Tacoma. Given the current scenario, I wouldn't expect Monday's vote to be anything but a formality (but anything is possible, especially in the sports world). Victoria is the crown jewel of West Coast League franchises and this deal goes a long way towards ensuring that the HarbourCats will remain in Victoria for many years to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - April 14th edition

Griffin Andreychuk
Three Vancouver Islanders have been signed by the HarbourCats to full-season contracts for the summer of 2015, so let’s get you caught up on what our local boys have been up to lately.

Griffin Andreychuk continues to hit the cover off of the baseball for Seattle University. The Nanaimo native, who homered for the HarbourCats in a June 24th game at Royal Athletic Park last summer, hit his first career home run for the Redhawks on Sunday to help complete a three-game sweep of the hapless New Mexico State Aggies.

In his last five games, Andreychuk has gone 9-for-23 at the plate with a homer, seven RBI and a pair of stolen bases. Not only has the sophomore pieced together a seven-game hitting streak, but he has also collected at least one hit in 15 of his last 17 games. Andreychuk’s impressive run has moved him into the team lead for batting average (.308) and runs batted in (27), and he has boosted his on-base percentage to a solid .390 mark. The surprising Seattle U squad sits in first place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 11-1 conference record, although Grand Canyon University trails the Redhawks by only ½ game.

Freshman Chris Fougner of Salt Lake Community College had his 10-game hitting streak snapped last Thursday, but the former Victoria Mariner continues to swing the bat with authority. The right fielder went 4-for-12 with five walks and two RBI in a four-game sweep of Western Nevada College last weekend. The sweep helped Salt Lake Community College (12-8) move to within one game of first place in the Scenic West Athletic Conference standings. Fougner, who has started 40 of the Bruins’ first 43 games, has a .315 batting average with two homers and 24 RBI in 130 at-bats. He also boasts an excellent .413 on-base percentage.

Trinidad State Junior College’s Alex Rogers had another good outing on April 10th. The sophomore from Nanaimo held Lamar Community College to two earned runs on six hits and no walks in 5 ⅓ innings pitched while striking out four batters. Incredibly, Rogers has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over seven-to-one and he has only issued five base on balls over the entire season. He currently sports a  3.99 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 47 ⅓ innings pitched.

Monday, April 13, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

Washington Huskies catcher Zach Bonneau
It's been a couple of weeks since we checked in with the future HarbourCats of the Pac-12, so I am happy to help quench your thirst for information on the boys of this western conference. It's now time for a lot of conference play as the teams get into the meat of their season.

UCLA is the most successful Pac-12 team, climbing to number three in the D1Baseball.com rankings which is up from number six a week ago. Scott Jarvis, the six foot two freshman third baseman, has yet to play a game so not much to report there, and neither has newly announced 'Cat Jake Pries. In Pries' case though, this is not a bad thing as he is still a senior at JSerra Catholic High School in California.

Jake is a towering six foot four outfielder who helped lead the Lions to a Trinity League championship in 2014 while being named to the Second Team All League. More recently, he and his companions have JSerra as a "Team to Watch" while just last week winning the Boras Classic tournament going away. Our boy Jake had a fine second game where he went three for four with a double, triple and four RBI's. It's always tough to know how these high school freshman will transition to ball at the next level, but we will be able to see for ourselves this summer as he patrols the open fields at the RAP.

Up in Washington, the Huskies have gone 6-4 over the past couple of weeks which includes a convincing 5-1 win and two extra innings losses to the number twelve ranked USC Trojans. One of Victoria's four left handed pitchers, Henry Baker, got a start against the Gonzaga Bulldogs a few days earlier, but unfortunately for him, it lasted only five pitches - a walk and then a hit by pitch - before he was sent to the showers. The Zags eventually loaded the bases without swinging at a pitch and marched a couple of runs across as well, but a seven run fourth inning saved Baker from the loss. He has had a couple of rough outings this year and has not pitched again since this game on March 24. With conference play underway, he might go a little longer before he sees any more action but here's to hoping he gets back on the horse and gets some solid innings under his belt to boost his confidence.

Backup Washington catcher Zach Bonneau has seen the odd inning but has not had an official at bat in his last four outings, mostly coming into games in the late innings as a pinch hitter or simply to catch. Bonneau did, however, drive in a run in a 13-1 thumping of Stanford, getting the Huskies their first series win in Palo Alto since 1997. Zach is one of four signed catchers for the HarbourCats for next season.

Moving on to Oregon State, fan favourite Gabe "the Babe" Clark has recently had a nice run for the Beavers, hitting safely in four of his last six games at a .375 clip in his starting role at DH. His best game in that stretch was a three for four effort in a losing cause to the mighty UCLA Bruins. As a team, the Beavers have fallen away from the national ranking sheet by stumbling to a 4-6 record in their last ten.

Clark is third on the team in strikeouts with 22 in 97 at bats, which is no surprise to HarbourCats fans as he does hold the season record for K's set last year at 42. But that, my friends, is the price you pay for his power. The Babe also holds the 'Cats record for most home runs in a season (with 8) and is third all time in slugging percentage at .494. He is also tied for the OSU team lead with seven round trippers. I, for one, am looking forward to having him shield the sun from his eyes at first base this year in HarbourCat blue and white!

Finally, Oregon State third baseman Michael Gretler has inched his average above the .200 mark and did have a nice two hit game in a losing cause against Oregon this past weekend in the series opener. The following day was not as kind as Gretler stranded five runners while going zero for five, but the Beavs' still managed to sneak away with a 4-2 win.

So overall, not a super-eventful past couple of weeks for our boys in the Pac-12, but lots more baseball to go. I'm hoping some of the lads get a few more innings so we can get a better feel for what they are made of and start to guess at how they will fit into Big Brother's lineup this summer.

HarbourCatNip
  • The HarbourCats announced earlier today that the University of New Mexico’s Carson Schneider will not be joining the team this summer due to an arm issue. Schneider went 1-1 with two saves and a 3.37 ERA in 17 appearances with the ‘Cats in 2014.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Big West edition

Let’s get you updated on the progress of the four (2015) HarbourCats who are playing in the Big West Conference.

Matt Blais
UC Davis freshman Matt Blais continues to chip away at an ERA that was inflated by a nightmarish collegiate debut on February 19th. Over the last two weeks, Blais has made three lengthy relief outings and he has only allowed two earned runs on 13 hits and two walks over 11 ⅓ innings. He now sports a 4.11 ERA and 1.63 WHIP for the season, but his lack of strikeouts is a bigger concern right now. After fanning 9.8 batters per nine innings in his senior year of high school and 10.2 batters per nine in the California Collegiate League last summer, Blais has only struck out three hitters in his 15 ⅓ innings on the mound this season.

The red-hot UC Irvine Anteaters came into this weekend’s Big West showdown with the Long Beach State Dirtbags on a 13-game winning streak. After winning the first two games of the three-game set, the Anteaters dropped the series finale on Sunday to snap their win streak at an impressive 15 games. UC Irvine may have come into the season with modest expectations, but head coach Mike Gillespie’s tactic of sharing the playing time at a number of positions until an obvious starter emerges appears to be playing dividends.

UC Irvine’s Adam (A.J.) Alcantara continues to start roughly half of the team’s games and split his time between the two corner outfield positions. Over the last two weeks, Alcantara has gone three-for-eight with an impressive six RBI, but it’s still not enough to earn a starting job with the team firing on all cylinders. Alcantara has put up a .286 / .375 / .306 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 49 at-bats this season.

Freshman right fielder Ben Polshuk of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) has only been given a pair of at-bats over the last couple of weeks. He’s 1-for-18 at the plate this season. The other current HarbourCat on the Cal Poly squad, freshman Austin Dondanville, has yet to make his college debut on the mound.

UC Irvine continues to hold down the top spot in the Big West Conference with an 8-1 record in conference play and they may even crack the Top 25 rankings this week. Cal Poly is tied for third place with a 4-2 conference record, while the UC Davis Aggies fall to 4-5.

HarbourCatNip
Mareno Rankin
aka Reno Rankin Jr.
  • Over the last 15 games, LA Mission’s Reno Rankin Jr. has gone 9-for-25 with three walks, eight runs scored and nine RBI. The speedy outfielder has clubbed three extra-base hits in his last 20 at-bats after only registering one in his first 38 at-bats, so it’s good to see his slugging percentage (.397) on the rise.  Although Rankin has been splitting time between left and right field, the freshman can also play in centre. For the season, he’s hitting .310 with no homers and nine RBI in 58 at-bats, and he boasts a team-leading .488 on-base percentage, so I would expect him to get more playing time moving forward if he can keep getting on base at that clip. Rankin has also walked more often than he has struck out this year (10 walks versus nine K’s).
  • Alex Fagalde of Cuesta College has settled into a groove after four rough outings to start the season. The sophomore right-hander has posted wins in three consecutive starts, limiting the opposition to only five earned runs on 21 hits and six walks in 24 innings on the hill. Fagalde walked six and struck out 17 over those three appearances, and he has now thrown five consecutive quality starts. He currently sports a 3.58 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 60 ⅓ innings pitched.
  • Sophomore centre fielder Kevin Amezquita of East LA College has gone 5-for-21 with three walks and an RBI since we last checked up on him a couple of weeks ago. Three of those five hits were for extra bases, a good sign considering that he only launched three extra-base hits in his first 94 at-bats of the year. Amezquita is hitting .261 with no homers and 13 RBI in 115 at-bats this season, but he has notched a solid .363 on-base percentage.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pivetta promoted to Advanced A ball

Victoria's Nick Pivetta
As I predicted last fall, the Washington Nationals announced recently that former HarbourCat Nick Pivetta was being promoted to the Carolina League for the start of the 2015 season. The Victoria native, who is ranked by Baseball America as the 10th-best prospect in the Nationals' system, was assigned to the Class A (Advanced) Potomac Nationals.

On top of earning the promotion, Pivetta took to the mound Thursday night as Potomac’s Opening Day starter and he came through with an outstanding outing. The 6-5, 220 lb. right-hander held the Lynchburg Hillcats to only one earned run on three hits and two walks in a nifty five innings on the hill. Pivetta also struck out seven Hillcats on the night. Although the only run that he surrendered scored on a squibber than barely made it past the mound, he was still tagged with the hard-luck loss.

Pivetta was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, just a few hours after throwing the first pitch in HarbourCats history. He went a combined 1-1 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 34 innings split between Rookie and Short Season ‘A’ ball in 2013. Pivetta then spent the entire 2014 season in the South Atlantic League (Class A) with the Hagerstown (Maryland) Suns, going 13-8 with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 132 ⅓ innings pitched.

The other former HarbourCat in the minors, Alex Real, is currently serving a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test last November. The 22-year-old slugger tested positive for Methylhexaneamine, the same stimulant that Jays starter Marcus Stroman was caught using in 2012.

Real holds the single-season record for the highest slugging percentage in HarbourCats history (.518 in 2013). He was drafted as a junior out of the University of New Mexico by the Minnesota Twins in the 24th round of the 2014 draft, and he was assigned to the Elizabethon (Tenessee) Twins in the Appalachian (Rookie) League shortly after signing. Real posted a .284 batting average with one homer and 11 RBI in 88 at-bats for Elizabethon. The Twins don't have a Short Season A affiliate, so Real may start the 2015 season in Class A ball with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels when his suspension ends, although a brief return to Elizabethon is not out of the question.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Potential #1 MLB draft pick was almost a HarbourCat

Dillon Tate
Prior to their inaugural season, the Victoria HarbourCats signed four freshmen pitchers from the UCSB Gauchos, including an unheralded right-hander by the name of Dillon Tate. Fast forward two years and Tate now has a decent chance of being the first overall pick in this June’s MLB draft.

Unfortunately for Victoria baseball fans, Tate chose not to report to the HarbourCats for the summer of 2013 and we never had a chance to see him pitch. According to a very interesting article by Kendall Rogers on D1BASEBALL.com, UCSB coach Andrew Checketts wanted Tate to play summer baseball (in Victoria) and refine his repertoire after a rocky freshman season, but Tate decided to spend the time working out at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California instead. According to Rogers, Tate added 30-40 pounds of muscle over the summer and the rest is history.

Thanks to Checketts’ leadership over the last few years, the Gauchos have evolved into the 11th-ranked team in Division I baseball and they’re poised to make some noise in the upcoming NCAA Baseball Tournament. In a tournament that is usually full of surprises, the underdog story of Dillon Tate will be well worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

HarbourCat updates from the AAC, MW, WCC, and CCAA

It’s been a while since we meandered through the AAC, MW, WCC, and CCAA searching for future HarbourCats making news. Today’s update brings us a few gems (no not the potato kind).

The University of Pittsburgh Panthers are having a tough season. Sitting at 11-19 overall, and 4-11 in conference play is well below preseason expectations. Freshman reliever Josh Mitchell is getting minimal work out of the bullpen, pitching a total of 8.2 innings in 7 appearances so far. His 7.27 ERA is a team high, but it’s a fairly limited sample size at this point.  

Pepperdine sits at 17-16 at this point, 7-5 in West Coast play, leaving them a long-shot at making it into the sweet 16 this year – but it’s not because of starter Ryan Wilson. Wilson continues to impress, and has worked his way to a 5-1 record with a 3.10 ERA in 8 starts. His 1.30 WHIP (if you like that stat) makes him a solid #2 starter on the Waves, and should translate well onto the ‘Cats roster.
Pepperdine's Ryan Wilson, avec cheesy stash

Chase Lambert has been given a chance to start 11 games so far for the Waves and seems to have settled into starting at SS when he’s in the lineup. While playing well defensively, he seems a bit overmatched against D1 pitching, hitting a light .182 on 8 hits in 44 tries. 

St. Mary’s College is working on a fine season, posting a solid 19-13 record so far, 6-6 in conference play. Catcher Jackson Thoreson has been holding his own in a backup role for the Angels, getting the start in 12 games so far and hitting a very respectable .326 in 46 plate appearances. Pitcher Sean O’Toole continues to get an inning here and there in relief, and sits with a 5.40 ERA over the 7.1 innings he has pitched. As with Mitchell above, it’s tough to get a sense of these players with such limited experience.

The University of New Mexico Lobos are also performing well below expectations so far, sitting at 16-14 against Div 1 opponents, 8-7 within their conference. Last year’s division leader for most of the season, they find themselves in 4th behind the two powerhouses of Nevada and San Diego. Carl Stajduhar, who started the season on fire, has come back to earth a bit, sitting now at a modest .250, going 29-116 in 29 starts. He holds a hot glove though, sporting a .972 fielding percentage playing either 1B or 3B.

On the Lobo pitching side, Carson Schneider and Preston Ryan continue to get regular work. Ryan is exclusively coming in out of the pen, but has registered a 3-1 record doing so thanks to some strong late-inning Lobo comebacks. His 3.98 ERA keeps him in the heart of their reliever rotation. Schneider has been performing well in the starting rotation this season as part of the 4 or 5-man rotation the Lobos run with. He’s maintained last year’s exceptional control, giving up only 5 walks in 29.1 innings of work. He has been the victim of a couple big innings unfortunately, leaving his ERA at a lofty 5.40. Apart from a few innings like that, he’s a solid performer.

And speaking of the U of San Diego Toreros, let’s talk about two relatively new HarbourCats CF Kacy Smith and RHP Seve Romo.  Romo leads the team with a 0.00 ERA – ok, so he’s only pitched 2 innings and given up a hit, but it’s a start. Smith is also seeing very limited use, and is hitting .176 in 17 at bats. Odd for a junior to see so few AB at this point in the season, I’ll have to dig on that a bit…

Not forgetting one of our NCAA Div 2 HarbourCats down in Chico State, Cameron Santos is starting to get playing time as well. Starting 10 games so far, he’s hitting .132 in 38 tries, playing in the middle at either 2B or SS.

Don’t be overly concerned that our future 'Cats are riding more pine than they are swinging (creative licence - they use Aluminum bats in College). As the college season’s progress and teams start to realize their year-end positions, these freshmen and sophomores will see more playing time, seasoning them nicely for summer ball. The increased exposure to Div 1 pitching and hitting will be key in getting these players ready for a busy summer in Victoria.

Monday, April 6, 2015

HarbourCats heating up in the NWAC

Jamie Umbinetti
Photo by Kevin Clark
It has been a couple of weeks since we last updated you on the 2015 HarbourCats who play in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), so let’s get you caught up on what our boys have been up to lately.

Sophomore Jamie Umbinetti of Edmonds Community College finally ended his power outage and slammed his first two doubles of the season in a March 28th doubleheader against Bellevue College. In the last two weeks, Umbinetti has gone 4-for-10 with four walks and three RBI in Edmonds’ four games. He continues show incredible plate discipline with a team-leading 20 bases on balls, eight more walks than anyone else on the Tritons. All of those free passes have boosted Umbinetti’s on-base percentage to a spectacular .534 mark. He’s hitting .313 with one homer and 9 RBI in 48 at-bats this season.

Zander Clouse continues to pitch extremely well for Bellevue College. In a March 28th game against Edmonds CC, he posted his second consecutive outstanding outing, giving up only one earned run on three hits in seven innings pitched. Clouse came back to earth on Saturday against Shoreline Community College, however, as the sophomore had his first bad outing of the year and was lit up for seven earned runs on eight hits in 5 ⅔ innings on the hill. As was the case with his March 28th start, Clouse struck out seven and only walked two batters. Even after his hard-luck outing this weekend, Clouse still has excellent season stats: a 4-1 record in five starts with a 2.31 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 35 innings pitched. He has also notched a save this year.

John Naff is back on track
We knew it was just a matter of time, but Everett’s John Naff has finally broken out of his lengthy slump. The sophomore first baseman, who will play in the outfield this summer for the HarbourCats, went 7-for-20 with four walks, three RBI and six runs scored over the last two weeks. The outburst helped Naff raise his batting average by 60 points, and he is now hitting .212 with one homer and four RBI in 66 at-bats this season. Has also leads the Trojans with 12 walks, giving him a very respectable .333 on-base percentage. Now that he is on a roll, look for Naff’s batting average to rise back over its usual .300 level.

Curtis Bafus of Everett Community College followed up his first career collegiate start with another dominant outing, this time a gem against Skagit Valley College on March 29th. Bafus only allowed three men to reach base in eight scoreless innings and he limited Skagit Valley to one hit and no walks while striking out five batters. His third career collegiate start was yesterday, but unfortunately Bafus ran into some difficulty against the tough Canadian hitters in the Douglas College (New Westminster, BC) lineup. The freshman only lasted 2 ⅔ innings against the slugging Canucks, giving up five earned runs on six hits and three walks with no strikeouts. Bafus is still having a great season in spite of yesterday’s setback, as he now sports a 2-2 record with a 3.27 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 22 innings pitched. The fact that he has only walked six batters and struck out 19 makes it pretty clear that the strong start to his collegiate pitching career is no fluke.

Freshman pitcher/outfielder Kyle Francis’ playing time is starting to dry up. He made only one appearance on the mound for Everett CC in the last two weeks, an April 2nd start against Skagit Valley College in which his control issues continued to surface. Francis lasted only 3 ⅓ innings in that outing, giving up three earned runs on six hits and three walks without striking out a single batter. He now has a (flattering) 3.04 ERA in spite of an ugly 1.61 WHIP in 23 ⅔ innings on the mound. He has also walked more batters than he has struck out (15 walks versus 11 K’s). Francis made only one start in right field and and one at DH over the last seven games, going 1-for-7 with an RBI over that span. For the season, he has posted an anemic .206 / .250 / .206 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 34 at-bats.

Entering today’s action, Everett CC and Douglas College were tied for first place in the NWAC North Region standings with identical 4-2 records in conference play. The defending NWAC champions, Edmonds Community College, is tied for third place with a 2-2 mark.

HarbourCatNip
  • The HarbourCats announced on social media earlier this week that left-handed pitcher Matt Fish of Pierce College will not pitch for them this summer due to academic reasons.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - WAC showdown edition

The mighty Sacramento State Hornets travelled to Bellevue, Washington this weekend to take on Seattle University in a showdown for first place in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Although the Hornets were the pre-season favourites to repeat as WAC champions, the Redhawks pulled off a surprising three-game sweep of Sacramento State, thanks largely to a Seattle U pitching staff that only allowed five runs (four earned) in the entire series.

Griffin Andreychuk was inconsistent on the weekend, but he still played a pivotal role in the series for Seattle U. In Friday’s thrilling 11-inning victory, the Nanaimo native turned an outstanding double play in the top of the 11th to shutdown a Sacramento State rally. With a runner on first and one out, the base runner took off on a 3-2 pitch and Andreychuk went to his left and dove for a ground ball up the middle. After snaring the ball, Andreychuk tagged second and then got to his feet to throw out the the batter at first to end the inning.

Andreychuk’s week, which also included a mid-week matchup against the Oregon Ducks, was less than perfect though. Not only did he snap his eight-game hitting streak on Wednesday, but he went a mere 3-for-15 with two RBI over the four games. Andreychuk also committed three errors this week to lower his fielding percentage to a sub-par .905. For the season, he’s hitting .291 with a .375 on-base percentage in 110 at-bats, and he is second on the team with 20 RBI in spite of hitting at the top of the order for nearly the entire year. Andreychuk has also chipped in with five stolen bases in six attempts this spring.

Sacramento State’s PJ Floyd has encountered defensive troubles of his own of late and it’s starting to eat away at his playing time. Floyd committed three more errors at third base this week to lower his fielding percentage to a dreadful .806 mark. Head coach Reggie Christiansen has even resorted to using the infielder in left field and at DH to get his bat in the lineup, but Floyd went 0-for-7 at the plate over the last four games and the freshman now sports an unimpressive .258 / .324 / .323 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 62 at-bats this season.

The other (2015) HarbourCat who plays for the Hornets is Dane Fujinaka. The 5-foot-8-inch Hawaiian has continued to see regular playing time with Sacramento State as their DH, with the occasional start behind the plate. In four games this week, Fujinaka went 5-for-15 at the dish with a pair of walks. He now sports a .357 batting average with 11 RBI in 42 at-bats this season.

Seattle U now sits atop the WAC standings with an 8-1 record in conference play, while Sacramento State’s record falls to 6-3.

HarbourCatNip
Chris Fougner
  • Victoria native Chris Fougner has been hitting the cover off the ball for Salt Lake Community College. The left-handed slugger has gone 9-for-19 with four RBI, four extra-base hits, four walks and a pair of steals over the last couple of weeks and he currently has a 10-game hitting streak going. Fougner has also been brilliant defensively for the Bruins, as the former Victoria Mariner has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 54 total chances, including three outfield assists. His outfield defence has been so good, in fact, that he has been moved to centre field from his usual position in right field for the last couple of games. Fougner is hitting an impressive .313 with two homers and 21 RBI in 112 at-bats in his freshman campaign.
  • Trinidad State Junior College’s Alex Rogers has been wildly inconsistent recently. He had his best outing of the year on March 28th against Western Nebraska Community College, a three-hit, complete-game shutout.  Rogers then gave up eight earned runs in 3 ⅓ innings pitched against Northeastern Junior College on April 2nd, which was easily his worst outing of 2015. On the season, the Nanaimo native is 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 42 innings pitched. His underlying numbers are outstanding (32 strikeouts and only 5 walks), so his ERA should improve as the season goes on.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - WAC / Big West edition

Sacramento State's Dane Fujinaka
We have three current HarbourCats playing in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and four in the Big West Conference, so let’s get you updated on what they have been up to lately.

After only getting six at-bats in Sacramento State’s first 19 games, junior Dane Fujinaka has finally begun to see some regular playing time. Former HarbourCat Gunner Pollman continues to hold down the starting catcher’s job, but Fujinaka has started four of the last seven games at Designated Hitter and two others behind the plate. In those seven games, Fujinaka is 8-for-21 at the dish with 9 RBI. He is now hitting .370 on the season with no homers and 11 RBI in 27 at-bats, so I would expect head coach Reggie Christiansen to find a way to get Fujinaka’s bat into the lineup as we move into the meaty part of the schedule.

Freshman PJ Floyd seems to be entrenched as Sacramento State’s starting third baseman after mainly riding the pine for the first 10 games of the season. Over the last eight games, Floyd has gone 6-for-21 with two RBI and a stolen base, and he is now hitting .291 with no homers and seven 7 RBI in 55 at-bats this season. He is also five-for-six in stolen base attempts.

Seattle U's Griffin Andreychuk
Seattle University swept the University of Texas–Pan American in a three-game set this weekend, thanks in part to a red-hot Griffin Andreychuk. The Nanaimo native went 5-for-11 with three walks, a hit-by-pitch and four RBI on the weekend and he is now on an eight-game hitting streak. For the season, Andreychuk is hitting .305 with no homers and 18 RBI in 95 at-bats and he has raised his on-base percentage back closer to its normal, lofty level (.398).

The Sacramento State Hornets currently sit atop the WAC standings with a 6-0 record in conference play, while Seattle U is in second place with a 5-1 mark.

Over in the Big West Conference, UC Davis freshman Matt Blais finally got to take to the mound after a disastrous collegiate debut back on February 19th. Blais held UC Riverside to only one hit and a walk in a scoreless two-inning relief outing on Sunday. He still has some work to do to make up for that tough initial outing, however, as the right-hander still sports an 11.25 ERA and 2.50 WHIP after four innings on the hill this season.

Adam (A.J.) Alcantara has only received eight at-bats for UC Irvine over the last couple of weeks. Although he was used in left field for a couple of games two weeks ago, Alcantar has moved back to his usual position in right field. The sophomore currently has a .268 / .375 / .293 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) in 41 at-bats for the Anteaters this season.

Freshman right fielder Ben Polshuk continues to receive minimal playing time with the powerful Cal Poly Mustangs. Polshuk has a mere seven at-bats since the HarbourCats announced his signing on March 10th, and he is 1-for-16 at the plate this year. The other current HarbourCat on the Cal Poly squad, freshman Austin Dondanville, has yet to make his college debut on the mound.

Both UC Davis and UC Irvine swept their series this past weekend and they sit atop the Big West standings with an unblemished 3-0 record in conference play. The Cal Poly Mustangs, who are expected to battle Cal State Fullerton for the Big West title, start their conference schedule on Thursday.

Monday, March 30, 2015

‘Cats sign three players with LA ties

Kevin Amezquita
The HarbourCats announced today that they have signed three more players for the 2015 season, boosting their current roster to a total of 38 players. The new recruits are outfielders Kevin Amezquita and Jake Pries, along with utility infielder Scott Jarvis.

Kevin Amezquita is in his sophomore season with East Los Angeles College (ELAC). The 6-1, 185 lb. centre fielder attended Gladstone High School in Covina, California, where he captained both the baseball and football teams for three years. Amezquita has been successful at getting on base for ELAC, although he has been mainly a singles hitter up to this point in his collegiate career. In his freshman season, Amezquita hit .282 with no homers and 21 RBI and he posted a solid .383 on-base percentage. He is hitting .266 with no homers and 12 RBI in 94 at-bats this spring, in addition to reaching base at a .367 clip. Over the last two seasons, Amezquita has also swiped 9 bases in 17 attempts.

Jake Pries
Photo by Martin Henderson
Jake Pries is a senior at Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, California and a UCLA commit for the fall of 2015. The 6-4, 205 lb. outfielder put up a modest .275 / .353 / .374 slash line in his junior year of high school, but he has started his senior year with a bang by registering a robust 1.171 OPS in his first six games this spring. His father Jeff pitched for UCLA, was drafted in the first round of the 1984 draft by the New York Yankees and played professionally as high as AAA.

Third baseman Scott Jarvis is a freshman at UCLA and a former teammate of (2015 HarbourCat) Jackson Thoreson at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. Jarvis, who is strong defensively and can also play second base or shortstop, hit .241 with no homers and seven RBI in his senior year of high school. He has yet to make his college debut with UCLA, but the Bruins are ranked seventh in the NCAA, so it’s a pretty tough lineup to crack.

The team also announced that shortstop Ryan Anderson of UC Davis will not be able to play for the HarbourCats this summer due to a knee injury. The loss of Anderson means that Griffin Andreychuk is the only player on the roster with collegiate experience at that position. With Andreychuk being a better fit at second base, don’t be surprised if the ‘Cats sign an experienced shortstop before Opening Day. Hmmmm… I wonder what Mr. HarbourCat has planned for the summer...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - March 25th edition

It’s time once again to check in on the three Vancouver Islanders who will be suiting up for the HarbourCats this summer. Here’s what our local boys have been up to over the past week...

Griffin Andreychuk helped Seattle U take two of three conference games from Utah Valley University over the weekend. Andreychuk got on base in all five plate appearances on Sunday to raise his on-base percentage to a respectable .367 mark, although it’s still below his usual .400+ clip. The Nanaimo native went 5-for-12 with three walks, five RBI and a pair of stolen bases in the three games against Utah Valley and he is now hitting .286 with no homers and 14 RBI in 84 at-bats this season. On the down side, Andreychuk continues to struggle defensively on the new artificial turf at Bannerwood Park, as he committed four more errors on the weekend. He now sports a ghastly .898 fielding percentage.

Former Victoria Mariner Chris Fougner is heating up again at the plate, as he picked up at least one hit in all four games last week between Salt Lake Community College and Colorado Northwestern CC. Fougner went 5-for-14 with a pair of doubles, three walks, four RBI and a pair of stolen bases on the week. He is now hitting .280 with two homers and an impressive 17 RBI in 93 at-bats. Fougner also took to the mound on Saturday for his second outing of the season and the lanky right-hander gave up a single in ⅓ of an inning pitched. He has given up two hits and no earned runs in 1 ⅓ innings on the hill this year.

Alex Rogers posted another great start for Trinidad State Junior College on Saturday, a seven-inning complete-game shutout against Northeastern Junior College. The Nanaimo native only gave up seven hits and did not walk any batters while striking out three. Rogers is 3-3 on the year with a 3.13 ERA and a slick 1.29 WHIP in 31 ⅔ innings pitched. He has also shown pinpoint control by walking only four batters all season. Trinidad State leads the Region IX standings with a 9-4 conference record.

HarbourCatNip
  • The Toronto Blue Jays will host another baseball camp at Royal Athletic Park this summer with support from the the Greater Victoria Baseball Association and the Victoria HarbourCats. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats will be on the road when the camp comes to town (July 12th-13th), so HarbourCats players will be unable to participate this time around. Unlike last year, Nanaimo doesn't appear on the list of Canadian cities that the Jays will visit. Details on the Victoria event can be found on the HarbourCats’ website. Our write-up on the 2014 camps can be found here.
  • The Victoria Eagles will host the B.C. Premier Baseball League provincial championship on the August long weekend (July 30th-August 3rd) at Royal Athletic Park with support from the HarbourCats organization. Details are on the HarbourCats' website.  
  • The Victoria Mariners and Eagles will play a BCPBL regular-season game at RAP on June 4th, the night before the HarbourCats’ home opener. Tickets for that game are only $5.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

Teams these days seem to change conferences as fast as the Kardashians change husbands. It wasn't too long ago that the Pac-12 was the Pac-10, and before that the Pac-8, then the Big Six, then the Big Five, then the Cro-Magnon Four...but I digress. Today, I will be focusing on the future 'Cats that have made their NCAA home the Pac-12 (est. 2011) this spring.

Gus did a nice job introducing the players in this division back a few weeks ago, so I will try to build on that and give a quick summary of how the lads are faring now that the season is in full swing and is staring to get into conference play.

The Pac-12 is a very strong baseball conference with five teams in the latest Baseball America top 25 - Oregon is ranked #22, Cal #21, Arizona State #11, UCLA #9 and USC #8. You will notice only eleven teams in the supposed Pac-12 and that is simply because Colorado does not have team as they must all be busy enjoying their Rocky Mountain High (cue the John Denver).

Recognize this guy? Hint: Gabe Clark

Victoria will have two members of the Oregon State (OSU) Beavers gracing Sports Traders Diamond this summer in Gabe Clark (1B/DH) and Michael Gretler (3B). Gabe "the Babe" is a consistent starter and is getting quite a bit of playing time, mostly at DH. He has backed this up with a respectable .270 average, tallying six home runs and a .619 slugging percentage in his 18 games played, both of which are good for second on the team. This past weekend was not a stellar one for Gabe as he went a combined zero for eight with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. I expect that this is a simply a blip on the radar which will be corrected in the upcoming series against San Jose State and Cal Poly, both of which are at home in the friendly confines of Corvallis, Oregon. We here in Victoria all know what Mr. Clark is capable of and I look forward to following him and the Beavers in their quest to qualify again for the College World Series. The Beavers continue to flirt with the Top 25 despite having to retool quite significantly from last year.

Michael Gretler plays a little less that Clark but has still appeared in over half the games so far this season, checking in with a .182 average over that span. In the recent series against Washington State, Gretler only played in the Saturday game but that let him contribute to something very special. At the plate, he was one for three with an RBI which was special because that is all the offense that freshman pitcher Drew Rasmussen needed in spinning a perfect game! That's right, 27 up and 27 down, striking out 10 in the process. It was the first perfect game ever for OSU and the first in the Pac-12 since 1973. And our boy chipped in with one of the three runs on the day. Well done Michael!

In Seattle, catcher Zach Bonneau saw a bit of action as he got into two of the three games for his Washington Huskies. He had the difficult task of pinch hitting with two out in the ninth in a one run game with a runner in scoring position, but couldn't pull the rabbit out of the hat as he struck out and the Huskies fell 3-2 to a much stronger Cal team. When the Sunday game got out of hand, he got a brief stint behind the plate going zero for one in his only at bat. The other Washington player, left-handed hurler Henry Baker, has not seen any action since starting back on March 10th against Seattle University where he went two innings, giving up no earned runs, walking two and striking out one. It will be nice having another big (six foot two inches, 235 pounds) lefty on the 'Cat mound.

Other than our known quality in Gabe Clark, it's hard yet to determine how these Pac-12 pieces will fit into the HarbourCat puzzle this summer. Hopefully the boys will see a few more innings as we get into the heart of the season so we can get some sort of indication of their mettle.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - NWAC edition

Jamie Umbinetti
Week Four of Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) action has just wrapped up, so let’s get you caught up on the 2015 HarbourCats who play at that level.  

Third baseman Jamie Umbinetti has continued to get on base for Edmonds Community College at an incredible pace. Over the last couple of weeks, Umbinetti has gone 5-for-19 at the plate with a homer, three RBI and three runs scored. He also drew six more walks to give him an impressive .509 on-base percentage. For the season, he is hitting .289 with one home run and six RBI, although he’s still looking for his first double of the year. We’re expecting Umbinetti’s power numbers to return to their normal level in the coming weeks.

Zander Clouse
After two outstanding relief appearances to open the season, Zander Clouse was moved into the Bellevue College starting rotation on March 10th and he has seized the opportunity. Clouse posted a pair of solid starts last week and then followed those up with a dominant outing on Saturday against Treasure Valley Community College. The sophomore from Everett, Washington only gave up two hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings, striking out an impressive nine batters en route to his third consecutive win. Clouse now sports a miniscule 0.40 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 22 ⅓ innings on the hill this season and he has held opponents to a .130 batting average. While his 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings is in line with his past numbers, we’re pleased to see that Clouse has reduced his walk rate to a solid 2.8 batters per nine. The Bulldogs, who currently have a 13-5 record, will play their first conference games next weekend when they take on Jamie Umbinetti and the Edmonds CC Tritons in a four-game series.

Freshman Curtis Bafus of Everett CC had the first starting assignment of his college career on Sunday and it was a stellar performance. Bafus allowed only one unearned run on four hits in a six-inning outing against Clark College. The 6-7 right-hander struck out seven and walked only one batter. He now has a solid 2.38 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 11 ⅓ innings pitched.

Kyle Francis continues to battle control issues in his freshman season with Everett Community College, much like he did in high school. Francis gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks in a six-inning start against Pierce College today. Although he sports a tidy 2.21 ERA in his three starts this season, his generous walk rate has inflated his WHIP to a worrisome 1.45. Unless Francis can improve upon his 5.3 walks per nine innings, look for that flattering ERA to start climbing.

After a slow start with the bat, Francis has seen fewer plate appearances over the last couple of weeks. That might change soon, however, as Francis has gone 5-for-11 with three RBI of late to raise his batting average to .226 on the season. Although he has been used in the DH role for most of his 31 at-bats, Francis has also seen a bit of playing time in right field.  

First baseman John Naff continues to struggle at the plate for the Everett CC Trojans, as the sophomore went 2-for-13 over the last couple of weeks to extend his lengthy slump. Naff is hitting .152 with one homer and an RBI in 46 at-bats this season. I have said it before and I'll say it again: I'm expecting the perennial .300 hitter to break out in a big way sometime soon.

Pierce College’s Matt Fish was scheduled to get the start against Clark College today, but the box score from that game is not currently available. In the previous week, Fish started twice and gave up 11 hits and four earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings pitched. The sophomore has been a shadow of himself in the first three weeks of this season, and he entered this weekend with an ugly 5.29 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. Look for Fish to rebound in a big way in the near future.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Record book amended to include batting Game Scores

Hunter Mercado-Hood's July 1st performance
got lost in the shuffle last year
A few months ago, we unveiled the Victoria HarbourCats Record Book, an extensive listing of pitching and batting records that were set in the first two years of franchise history. One of the interesting features included in the individual single-game pitching records was a category for the best pitching performances, based on a simple Game Score metric created by Bill James many years ago. To satisfy our (sometimes morbid) curiosity, we also used this metric to identify to worst pitching achievements in franchise history. However, I recently realized that we had no reliable way to objectively identify the best and worst single-game batting performances in franchise history, so I set out this week to fix that issue.

The pitching Game Score metric that was developed by James has gradually achieved mainstream acceptance. Today, we can even look up MLB Game Score leaderboards on popular websites like ESPN’s. Although James also developed a batting Game Score metric, the offensive version of this statistic has never been embraced by the baseball community. I have resurrected this long-lost sabermetric tool and used it to identify the best and worst offensive games in HarbourCats history. It’s worth noting that I made some slight modifications to James’ original formula so that only stats that are readily available in the West Coast League are used, but I’ll spare readers the gory details. If you are interested, a description of how I calculated batting Game Scores can be found at the very bottom of the Individual Batting Records (Game) page.

So who had the best single-game batting performance in franchise history? Even casual HarbourCat fans will remember Gabe Clark’s three-homer game on July 18th last year, so perhaps we’re not breaking new ground on that front. Next to Clark’s monster day, we identified Hunter Mercado Hood’s 2014 Canada Day Massacre as the second-best batting feat in team history. HMH went an impressive four-for-four with a home run, four runs scored and six RBI on the afternoon. I was also surprised that Griffin Andreychuk posted two of the top nine performances, but then again I really need to stop being surprised by the production from our local players. Here is a list of the top batting achievements in team history:

Clark, Gabe           26.5  (4 AB, 3 H, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R; Klamath Falls at Victoria, W 14-8, July 18 2014)
Mercado-Hood, Hunter  24.0  (4 AB, 4 H, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R; Kitsap at Victoria, W 19-2, July 1 2014)
Schuknecht, John      22.0  (3 AB, 3 H, 2 HR, 1 BB, 5 RBI, 2 R; Klamath Falls at Victoria, L 11-6, August 1 2013)
Schuknecht, David     18.5  (4 AB, 3 H, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R; Victoria at Wenatchee, L 8-4, August 7 2013)
Boeke, Ted            18.3  (4 AB, 3 H, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 SO, 4 RBI, 2 R; Victoria at Walla Walla, W 9-1, August 6 2014)
Clark, Gabe           17.3  (3 AB, 2 H, 2 HR, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 HBP, 2 RBI, 2 R; Corvallis at Victoria, L 8-5, July 26 2014)
Andreychuk, Griffin   17.0  (4 AB, 2 H, 2 3B, 2 BB, 3 RBI, 3 R; Kitsap at Victoria, L 13-12, August 8 2014)
Lukes, Nathan         17.0  (4 AB, 4 H, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R; Medford at Victoria, W 9-8, July 11 2014)
Andreychuk, Griffin   16.0  (2 AB, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 RBI, 4 R; Bend at Victoria, L 13-7, June 24 2014)
Clark, Gabe           16.0  (5 AB, 3 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB; Medford at Victoria, W 9-8, July 11 2014)
Smith, Wyler          16.0  (4 AB, 4 H, 4 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB; Kitsap at Victoria, W 17-3, July 2 2014)

Now it’s time for the juicy stuff: Who had the worst day at the plate in team history? Wyler Smith has that distinction, based on a July 7, 2014 game in Yakima Valley in which he went oh-for-seven with a strikeout in a heartbreaking 14-inning loss. On the plus side, Smith did contribute a key outfield assist on that day to extend the match, but his defensive play doesn’t help him in this particular statistical category. Second on the list is Gabe Clark’s zero-for-six with two strikeouts in a home game on the final weekend of last season. Alan Baldwin, Gunner Pollman and Clark all share the third spot on the list with a zero-for-five performance that included three strikeouts. Ouch. Here is a list of the other dubious offensive feats:

Smith, Wyler          -3.7  (7 AB, 0 H, 1 SO; Victoria at Yakima Valley, L 6-5, July 7 2014)
Clark, Gabe           -3.4  (6 AB, 0 H, 2 SO; Kitsap at Victoria, L 13-12, August 8 2014)
Baldwin, Alan         -3.1  (5 AB, 0 H, 3 SO; Victoria at Cowlitz, L 9-5, June 27 2014)
Clark, Gabe           -3.1  (5 AB, 0 H, 3 SO; Victoria at Wenatchee, W 5-0, July 30 2014)
Pollman, Gunner       -3.1  (5 AB, 0 H, 3 SO; Victoria at Kelowna, W 7-6, June 6 2014)
Lesinski, Jake        -3.0  (6 AB, 0 H; Victoria at Cowlitz, W 9-8, June 29 2014)
Carter, Devin         -2.9  (5 AB, 0 H, 2 SO; Bend at Victoria, L 13-7, June 24 2014)
Collier, Danny        -2.9  (5 AB, 0 H, 2 SO; Victoria at Wenatchee, W 5-0, July 30 2014)
Greager, Bryce        -2.9  (5 AB, 0 H, 2 SO; Cowlitz at Victoria, W 6-5, June 10 2014)

Since we’re only two years into franchise history, I’m expecting that many of the top Game Scores will be surpassed in the next couple of years. However, with the team clearly on the upswing, poor Wyler Smith might retain his unwelcome crown for a while yet. Baseball can be a cruel game sometimes.

Monday, March 16, 2015

HarbourCanucks Corner - March 16th edition

We’ll be posting updates on our players in the Mountain West, WCC and Pac-12 conferences in the coming days, but let’s get you updated right now on the progress of the local ballplayers who will be suiting up for the HarbourCats this summer.

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers had another good start for Trinidad State Junior College on Saturday, but he took the loss against McCook Community College due to a lack of defensive support. Rogers allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk in 6 ⅔ innings pitched while striking out six. The Nanaimo native has a 2-3 record on the season with a 4.01 ERA and 1.38 WHIP and he has shown excellent control, walking only 4 batters in his 24 ⅔ innings pitched. The Trojans are 13-9 on the season and 7-3 in conference play in spite of their nasty 6.70 team ERA.

Good news -- we can finally give you a full update on Chris Fougner, as Salt Lake Community College appears to have finally solved their technical issues posting box scores. Although he hit his second homer of the year on March 6th, Fougner has cooled off a bit at the plate over the last few days. In his last seven games, the former Victoria Mariner has gone 4-for-27 with a home run and five RBI to go along with three walks and three stolen bases. Fougner is hitting .266 on the season with two homers and 13 RBI in 79 at-bats and he has started 24 of 27 games in the Bruins’ outfield.

After a brief stint batting ninth, Griffin Andreychuk was moved back into the leadoff spot for Seattle University this week. Andreychuk went 4-for-17 with three RBI and two runs scored in four recent games and he also registered his first triple of the season, a long fly ball off the right-field wall against the University of Washington on March 10th. Hardcore HarbourCats fans will recall that Andreychuk is the only player in franchise history to slug a pair of triples in a game, a feat he accomplished on August 8, 2014. He’s hitting .264 on the season with no homers and nine RBI in 72 at-bats, although his on-base percentage is a disappointing .333 so far. Seattle U has a 7-13 record in non-conference games, but they start conference play on the weekend with a three-game series against the Utah Valley Wolverines.

HarbourCatNip
  • PJ Floyd’s season has taken a dramatic turnaround of late. After only getting three at-bats in Sacramento State’s first 10 games, Floyd has started the last four games at third base and he has seized the opportunity, going 6-for-19 with two RBI and four stolen bases. The highlight of his week was swiping three bases against (NAIA opponent) William Jessup University on Tuesday, including two steals of third base. Although he is normally a shortstop, Floyd has played three innings at second base this season on top of his four games at third base and he has not committed an error. He is hitting .294 with no homers and five RBI in 34 at-bats, but his on-base percentage is an identical .294 mark. He's still looking for the first walk of his collegiate career.
  • On March 10th, Cuesta College’s Alex Fagalde had his second-consecutive solid start after four rough ones to begin the season. Fagalde held Oxnard College to two earned runs on seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out four, but he took the hard-luck loss in a tight 2-1 ballgame. He has a 1-5 record with a 4.71 ERA and 1.29 WHIP on the season. Given his decent WHIP and close to a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, you can expect that inflated ERA to continue to fall.
  • Adam (AJ) Alcantara started all three weekend games for UC Irvine and went one-for-seven with two walks. Although he has been used almost exclusively in right field, Alcantara moved over to left field for a pair of the weekend games against San Jose State. He sports a .273 batting average and a tidy .400 on-base percentage with no homers and one RBI in 33 at-bats this season.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

HarbourCats roster built to win

At the conclusion of the (disappointing) 2014 season, we compared the HarbourCats roster to the ones fielded by Bellingham and Corvallis, the two participants in last year’s West Coast League Championship Series. As we highlighted in that post, last summer’s group of HarbourCats was significantly younger than the Bells and Knights, and we suggested that veteran rosters have a greater chance of success in the tough West Coast League. That really shouldn't have come as a surprise, because that fact is self-evident in every college baseball conference each spring.

Now that the overwhelming majority of Victoria's 2015 roster has been announced, we thought that it would be a good idea to compare it to the rosters used in our previous analysis. As you can see from the bar chart below, the 2015 HarbourCats will feature a lower percentage of high school seniors and college freshmen than was the case last season. The team has also signed a significantly higher proportion of sophomores than it did last season (39% versus 25%). So far so good. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats have signed a slightly lower percentage of juniors than they did last summer (8% versus 11%) and the 8% figure for juniors pales in comparison to last summer’s veteran Corvallis (45%) and Bellingham (21%) rosters.
Another way to compare the experience levels of the four rosters in question is to combine the high school seniors and college freshmen into one group and the upperclassmen (sophomores and juniors) into another. Here’s what the bar chart looks like when we do that:
It's clear that HarbourCats GM Jim Swanson and his new coaching staff (Graig Merritt and Alec Adame) have done a pretty darn good job of recruiting an older, more experienced group than last season. Is the roster makeup perfect? Not quite. Roughly 47% of the 2015 roster is comprised of upperclassmen, and although that figure is up from 36% last summer, it still trails last year’s veteran rosters in Corvallis (65%) and Bellingham (59%) by a fair bit. The main thing is that the numbers are headed in the right direction and the tradition of bringing players back for multiple seasons is starting to take hold. This summer we’ll have seven returning players (Gabe Clark, Mikey Wright, Alex Fagalde, Alex Rogers, Griffin Andreychuk, Carson Schneider and Preston Ryan) and the 14 sophomores currently on our roster can't hurt our chances of increasing the percentage of juniors on the team in 2016.

Another change in the composition of the roster is a slightly reduced reliance on NCAA Division I players. Last year’s team was comprised of approximately 88% Division I players, but that number has been scaled back to a more moderate 67% this season. The infusion of capable players from community/city colleges, junior colleges and Division II baseball should make for a more diverse and motivated team. Although I’d still prefer to see one or two more fired-up British Columbians on the team, I give the organization a solid “A” grade in putting together this year’s roster.

The franchise may have an all-time winning percentage of only .435, but the HarbourCats roster wasn't short on skill in the past two seasons -- and it certainly isn't this year either. While we’ll save our detailed season outlook for another day, let's just say that the 2015 version of the ‘Cats will easily be the best that we have ever seen. I’m confident that we’ll see our first bona fide pennant race in franchise history this summer and possibly much more than that. Only 84 more days until Opening Day... now bring on the Bells!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

HarbourCats sign seven; outfield beefed up

Kevin Collard
The HarbourCats announced today that they have signed seven more players for the 2015 season, including four outfielders, two pitchers and a catcher. Three of the signees are freshmen, two are high school seniors, one is a sophomore and the other is a junior.

Kevin Collard is a speedy centre fielder from Vista, California who is generating a significant amount of buzz for the upcoming MLB draft. The left-handed hitting slugger is a senior at Rancho Buena Vista High School, the same school that former HarbourCat Wyler Smith attended. Assuming Collard doesn’t sign with an MLB club this summer, he’ll be suiting up for the University of San Diego in the fall. Although his numbers as a high school junior aren't available, Collard put up an excellent .417 / .430 / .527 slash line in his sophomore year. He’s a potential impact player in the West Coast League despite his tender age.
Kacy Smith

Kacy Smith is a 5-10, 190 lb. outfielder from the University of San Diego (USD) who played the previous two seasons at Grossmont College in El Cajon, California. Smith is only two-for-seven in limited playing time with the Toreros this season, but he was named to the All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference (PCAC) Baseball Team in both of his years at Grossmont. He has shown outstanding strike-zone judgment -- not only did he lead the league with 23 walks last season, but he only struck out 10 times in 145 at-bats. Smith also hit .324 with one homer and 24 RBI and was 10-for-14 in stolen base attempts. The left-handed hitter has a reputation for playing baseball with a hard-nosed attitude, but that isn’t really a surprise considering that he was a star linebacker at Helix High School in La Mesa, California. I mean no disrespect to other HarbourCats, but any West Coast League team with playoff aspirations needs to have guys like this on its roster.
Reno Rankin

Kevin Collard isn't the only speedy centre fielder in the group of newcomers. The HarbourCats have also signed Mareno Rankin aka Reno Rankin Jr., a freshman from Los Angeles Mission College with a smooth swing. Rankin is hitting .273 with a team-leading .467 on-base percentage in 33 at-bats this season. He has yet to hit a homer or drive in a run, but he has scored five times and is three-for-three in stolen base attempts. The 6-0, 180 lb. switch-hitter is a graduate of Cleveland High School, a public school in Reseda, California that produced former MLB great Bret Saberhagen. Rankin is a dynamic player who will be a lot of fun to watch at Royal Athletic Park this summer. Incidentally, Rankin's father is a big-time manager in the music industry and an actor. Oh, and his uncle is some guy named Jamie Foxx. Seriously.
Austin Dondanville

Austin Dondanville is a right-handed pitcher from California Polytechnic State University ("Cal Poly") in San Luis Obispo. The 6-0, 195 lb. freshman has yet to make his college debut, but we can expect him to feature excellent control on the mound based on past performance. Dondanville put up very good numbers in his senior year at De La Salle High School in Concord, California: a 1.53 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 23 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts and only five walks. He is also a former high school teammate of ex-HarbourCat Hunter Mercado-Hood.

Seve Romo
Nicholas Severiano Romo is named after both Jack Nicklaus and Severiano Ballesteros, but his friends just call him Seve Romo. The right-handed reliever is a sophomore at the University of San Diego and a native of Fullerton, California. Romo, who has battled control issues from time to time, has only made two appearances for the Toreros so far this season, giving up a hit and two walks in two scoreless innings on the hill. In his freshman season at USD, Romo posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 10 appearances. Although he held opponents to a .224 batting average, he issued a generous 5.7 walks per nine innings. Romo played for the Matsu Miners in the Alaska Baseball League last summer and recorded a 5.85 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 27 ⅔ innings pitched.

Ben Polshuk
Like Austin Dondanville, Ben Polshuk is making the jump from De La Salle High School to the Cal Poly Mustangs this season. Polshuk is a right fielder and a right-handed contact hitter with gap power. He has seen limited action so far in his freshman year, going one-for-nine at the dish. In his senior year of high school, Polshuk hit .333 with zero homers and 16 RBI in 81 at-bats. The 6-4, 195 lb. native of Clayton, California has the physical tools that make scouts drool.

Catcher Nick Meyer is a senior at Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, and he’ll join Dondanville and Polshuk at Cal Poly in the fall. Meyer hit .330 with no homers and 12 RBI in 88 at-bats in his junior year of high school and he showed good strike-zone judgement, walking more often than he struck out (11 walks versus eight strikeouts). Meyer helped lead Santa Margarita to their first-ever CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship at Dodger Stadium in 2014.

The team also announced that Evan Cassolato will not be playing with the HarbourCats this summer due to other commitments. The current roster, which can be found here, now contains a total of 36 players.