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Vancouver Notebook: First Month Report Card
The Vancouver Canadians are having a great season, yet their chances of winning the NWL West would seem, even at this early stage, to be marginal.
With a 13-10 record, which would be good for first place and a four-game lead in the NWL East where the division leaders are just 9-14, Vancouver sits six games behind a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes squad that has only lost four times all season.
With only the division leaders slated to go through to the playoffs, and with Vancouver losing handily to those same leaders on each of the last two nights, it would appear that playing for stats might be the order of the day going forward, which might be a good thing as several C's players are in need of a significant statistical boost, with the team batting average of .215 good for last in the league.
With that in mind, and with a month of the season gone, Chris Parry takes a look at the hitting side of the C's squad and charts the pros and cons of the bulk of Oakland's 2007 offensive draft class.
1. Michael Richard - 2B/SS – .286/.318/.310 – 0HR, 11SB, 1BB, 10K
Upside: Runway Richard has quickly gained a reputation as not just one of the fastest base-stealers in the league, but perhaps even the fastest in the A's system. He has prodigious speed and isn't afraid to steal third if the situation calls for it, having been thrown out only once thus far in the year.
Downside: Being quick on the bases is one thing, but a 1:10 BB:K ratio is not the sort of plate patience that will get you there often. A solitary extra base hit in 42 at bats asks the question if Runway can find the gaps.
Prospect status: If he can figure out how to get on base more often, this kid is Rickey Henderson all over.
2. J.D. Pruitt - LF - .161/.495/.214 – 1HR, 2SB, 23BB, 24K
Upside: If you could combine Pruitt's ability to get on base with Richard's talent in moving along them, you'd have a first round, first pick player on your hands.
Downside: Unfortunately, despite being in-line to break the NWL HBP record (by the halfway point of the season) and showing great knowledge of his strike zone (his OBP was hovering around .620 a week ago), Pruitt's ability to put bat on ball is in serious question right now, and his lack of steals (twice attempted, twice caught) is similarly worrying.
Prospect status: Pruitt knows how to get beaned, but unless he can prove he's a bat swinger and base runner as well, he could find himself cast aside as a situational hitter.
3. Matt Sulentic - RF - .257/.360/.392 – 1HR, 11BB, 16K
Upside: Excellentic has finally started to click now that he's back among the confines of Nat Bailey Stadium's substantial outfield, and his stats are duly inching up every time he goes out to play. Sulentic has improved in every area over earlier this season in Kane County, especially in the areas of base-running, defense and situational awareness. He's shown occasional power, a lot more muscle, and the results are coming.
Downside: Even with improved defense, he's still a below average outfielder, but he has a ton of growing left to do.
Prospect status: Anyone who writes Sulentic off after his poor start to the season is quick on the trigger – he's coming up.
4. Danny Hamblin – 1B/3B/DH - .256/.355/.487 – 3HR, 11BB, 28K
Upside: He is as advertised – a genuine power threat. The team leader in RBIs, Amblin' Danny Hamblin has shown good defense (an injury moved him from 3B during his college career), solid contact, and the sort of plate presence that has pitchers nibbling at the corners.
Downside: He. Wants. Dinger. Don't expect Hamblin to be laying down bunts or spraying the shallow bloop singles – whenever he goes to the plate, he swings hard and he swings for the fences. That's why, of the 20 base hits he's cranked out, 9 of them have been doubles.
Prospect status: In the words of Holly Hunter, "he's bona fide."
5. Corey Brown – CF - .243/.372/.543 – 3HR, 2SB, 13BB, 24K
Upside: There's a reason he's referred to as ‘Uptown' Corey Brown, and that is he's headed up the system fast. With decent defensive ability, a touch of speed, and genuine home run power (3 dingers when you play half your games at Nat Bailey Stadium is notable), Brown is the meat in Vancouver's sandwich, and gives a ton of protection to Hamblin in the lineup. Oh, and 12 of his 17 base hits have been for extra bases.
Downside: He strikes out a little, but what power hitter doesn't?
Prospect status: If he's not in Kane County in two weeks, send out a search party.
6. Josh Horton – SS - .154/.267/.154 – 2BB, 4K
Upside: Way too early to judge. Horton came to the C's later after signing his deal and is only just getting a feel for things. If pressed, he's been great defensively.
Downside: Struggling early with his stats in an admittedly small sample size, Horton's numbers haven't shown much of anything just yet. Check back in another few weeks.
Prospect status: Well, he looks the part. And the club has plenty invested in him.
7. Walter Correa – 3B - .191/.250/.235 – 1SB, 3BB/17K
Upside: Um… He's managed 10 RBIs?
Downside: Eight errors leads the team by a long way. Struggling to beat the Mendoza Line, despite having more at bats than all but three of his teammates. Caught stealing more times than he's succeeded.
Prospect status: One can only hope this is some sort of unholy slump, because if it isn't, he won't be around next season.
8. Julio Rivera – C - .235/.297/.353 – 3BB, 15K
Upside: Decent enough behind the plate and has better wheels than you expect for a catcher.
Downside: See stats. A 1:5 BB:K ratio is harsh, and though his average is decent, isn't showing enough power which has lead to that poor OBP.
Prospect status: Not so much a Kurt Suzuki - more a David Castillo. He might get there, but it'll take a lot of hard work and patience to do so.
9. Shane Keough – CF/RF - .160/.232/.200 – 4SB, 5BB, 22K
Upside: Great defense and solid speed on the base paths. Substantial arm.
Downside: Has really struggled with the bat, though if he manages to get on base, he's a threat to take two.
Prospect status: He's young, so there's no rush on moving him up the system, but right now you'd have to put him in the struggler category.
Catcher: Dante Love and Dusty Napoleon have been fighting for playing time with Julio Rivera, but Love's numbers are dire (.121/.256/.121), with just four hits out of 33 ABs. Napoleon, on the other hand, has taken all his chances and is pushing his way into the lineup, recently getting starts at DH and 1B, and throwing a .269 average with a .424 OBP into the bargain.
Middle Infield: A sometime #2 hitter, despite an anemic batting average, Matt ‘The Manta' Ray has been given every chance to show what he's got, but both offensively and defensively, he's looked nervy and ill at ease at the plate. Behind him, Carlos Arrieche's poor form showed why Walt Correa was still getting starts. After just four hits in 28 at bats, (and three errors), Peachy was sent down to Rookie Ball.
Corner Infield: Justin ‘The Frashmaker' Frash has at times shown brilliance at the hot corner for Vancouver this season, but has also found it tough to maintain consistency with scattered starts and situational at bats. His three errors are a bit worrying and his confidence hasn't always looked sky high, but like Isaac Omura a few seasons back, Frash often looks like the kind of guy who is one great week from turning it all around and going on a tear.
Outfielders: Angel Sierra can really run. But with one hit in 21 at bats, and one walk to 10 K's, he eventually was asked to use that talent by running back to Arizona for some instruction.
Author Note: Chris Parry runs the popular Vancouver Canadians' blog Notes From The Nat.
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