Continuing our look at the mid-season progress of the Vancouver Canadians, we shine the light on the pitching staff, who have a tough act to follow after the 2005 Canadians staff destroyed all before them. Thankfully, they're a talented bunch, and are helping keep the team in second place in the Northwest League Western Division.
Here's how the chuckers stack up:
THE ACE: Scott "Real" Deal, 5-0, 1.64, 33IP, 7BB, 17K
Scott Deal has been unstoppable on the mound this season for the C's, with his low to mid-90s fastball working wonders against rookie hitting. Deal's got a sub-1.00 WHIP, and has yet to give up a home run on the season. Expect him to move up a level as soon as there's a need.
THE ACE IN WAITING: Inoel Deaza, 2-1, 3.06, 35.1IP, 7BB, 16K
If Inoel Deaza's numbers look pretty similar to Scott Deal's (he has a WHIP of 1.02), that's because he's been pitching with the same level of ferocity in 2006, with just a few more hits against him and a little less run support for him. Deaza speaks little English, so he's got his own catcher in countryman Gustavo Rosendo, but he seems to have little trouble translating his fastball into success, and at times looks plain unhittable. His one possible complaint right now is that he tends to get nervy when runners are on base, but thankfully he's not letting many of them get that far.
THE PROJECT: James "Doogie" Heuser, 3-3, 4.30, 29.1IP, 8BB, 22K
James Heuser was a 27th rounder in 2003, and though he's reached the level of Kane County previously, that came after a 2003 in which he got pounded in rookie ball (0-1, 10.54 in 14 appearances), a 2004 in which he pitched well in the same league (3-2, 3.11), and a 2005 in which he served as passable middle relief. Converting to a starter in short-season ball, Heuser got off to a flyer before a dip in form brought him down to earth, giving up nine runs in nine innings pitched, before storming back into form with 6 innings of 1-hit ball against Boise on July 15th. Heuser has a wide range of pitches, with a 2-seamer, 4-seamer, slider, curve and change-up, though the slider is still a work in progress. If Heuser can get more of those 1-hit days happening, he might have the stuff to survive a few more years in the system, but at age 22, he needs to do it right now.
THE VETERAN: TJ Franco, 1-0, 3.33, 2 saves, 24.1IP 3BB, 15K
Starting the season as a closer, TJ Franco took full advantage of a rotation shakeup to push his way into the starting mix, and has done well since doing so. Walking only three batters in 24.1 innings of work, Franco has shown poise, both in the starting and closing roles, that you wouldn't expect from a 30th round draftee who came out of his senior year of college with a 4.29 ERA. He's 23 years old, so he really doesn't get any second chances at this level, and his demotion from Kane County earlier in the year wouldn't have pleased him, but to date Franco has shown a steady hand on the mound in Vancouver and is worth another season.
THE BONUS BABY: Chad "The General" Lee, 1-0, 4.02, 15.2IP, 4BB, 9K
Chad Lee came to Vancouver with high expectations, and to date he hasn't blow too many people away. He's started three games and pitched relief in a couple more, but has given up 2 dingers in that time and had a little trouble getting past the bat. Lee is working on a change-up, which might explain some early results, but has a rep for a 12-6 curve that has only made a couple of appearances this season, and a mid-90s fastball. Lee reportedly prefers to close, so a shift from the starting role may be in his future.
THE NEW KID: Andrew "Bam Bam" Bailey, 0-1, 2.25, 12.0IP, 0BB, 11K
This #1 rated prospect from the NEC is one that could make some serious noise this season, and the 6th round draftee is well on his way to doing that at present. Having got his first start of the year this week, Bailey chewed through the first nine hitters he faced in perfecto fashion, and though he got yanked after giving up two hits in the 5th, thus receiving no victory, he retains his rep for not giving up walks without a fight. At 6'3'' and 220lbs with a low to mid-90s fastball, there's no doubt he's an imposing presence on the mound, but it's his curveball that has NWL hitters whiffing.
Jason Fernandez: 0-0, 0.00, 3IP, 2BB, 2K
Derrick "The Commissioner" Gordon: 0-1, 5.40. 6.2IP, 3BB, 7K
Matt"The Battleship" Manship: 0-1, 4.09, 11IP, 2BB, 9K
Shane Presutti: 0-0, 4.50, 6IP, 3BB, 1K
"My Name Is" Earl Oakes: 1-1, 4.50, 8IP, 5BB, 4K
"Postman" Patrick Currin: 1-3, 7.15, 11.1IP, 6BB, 10K
Anthony "Moon" Rea: 2-0, 4.91, 11IP, 2BB, 9K
Keith Eusebio: 2-0, 4.26, 12.2IP, 8BB, 8K
The 'pen is not exactly looking lights out right now, but due to the small sample size in most cases, it's tough to read much into things. Pat Currin came in with two on base yesterday, then threw six straight balls followed by six straight strikes to get out of the jam, and that's been pretty much the story for most of the relief staff; moments of hell, followed by sheer blistering fury.
Scott "Say No" Moore: 0-0, 0.00, 3 saves, 7IP, 0BB, 12K
This 23rd rounder, the last remaining piece of the former closer-by-committee after Branden Dewing and Ben Jukich went up to Kane County and TJ Franco moved to the rotation, is pitching some crazy ball right now, walking nobody and striking out 12 in just 7 innings of ball. Moore has a filthy WHIP of just 0.57, and if he can keep up his present form, will surely be headed upstairs.
Chris Parry is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He runs the popular blog Notes from the Nat which covers the Vancouver Canadians and the Oakland A's minor league system.