Sunday, April 27, 2014

HarbourCanucks Corner - April 27th edition

This is our latest installment of HarbourCanucks Corner, our semi-regular update on the Canadians signed to full-season contracts by the Victoria HarbourCats for the summer of 2014.

Brandon Feldman
While some of the recent updates on our Canadian players have been short on positive developments, we’re happy to report that both Brandon Feldman and Griffin Andreychuk have turned their seasons around in a big way over the last few weeks.

Brandon Feldman started the season in right field for Otero Junior College, but he has been used almost exclusively as a pitcher since late March -- the role he is expected to play with the HarbourCats this summer. Since our last update, the former Victoria Eagles star has thrown 12 innings on the hill without giving up an earned run and he now leads the Rattlers in ERA with an impressive 0.39 mark. In Feldman’s 23 innings pitched this season, he has only given up 14 hits and has posted a fabulous 0.96 WHIP. Otero Junior College’s regular season wraps up on Tuesday, so he won’t have any problems reporting to the HarbourCats in time for Opening Day.

Shortstop Griffin Andreychuk struggled both offensively and defensively in the early going, but that appears to have been nothing more than freshman nerves. Thanks to a much-needed eight-game hitting streak in mid-April, he has gone 13-for-31 since April 9th and has raised his batting average to the .318 mark. The Nanaimo native also has a solid .412 on-base percentage in 88 at-bats this season. Perhaps more importantly, Andreychuk’s fielding has settled down of late, as he has only committed a pair of errors in the last three weeks.

Kelly Norris-Jones hasn’t had much of a chance to show what he can do this season for the University of Illinois, thanks to a white-hot Jason Goldstein who seized the starting catcher’s job early on and has refused to let go. Norris-Jones has gone 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch and one run scored since April 5th and he now has a .167 batting average in 24 at-bats this year. 

  • The Washington Nationals promoted ex-HarbourCat Nick Pivetta to the Class A South Atlantic League this spring. The Victoria native has a 3-2 record and a 4.57 ERA in five starts for the Hagerstown Suns after posting a combined ERA of 2.91 at the Rookie League and Short Season A levels last season.
  • Will Dennis has started three games and made two appearances out of the pen since his epic eight-inning relief outing on April 5th. He has been lights out of late, giving up only three earned runs in 22 ⅔ innings pitched in that span. Dennis threw a complete-game, seven-hit shutout against the University of North Dakota on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Seattle U coaching staff let him throw a dangerously high 135 pitches, which isn't great for the long-term health of his throwing arm. The lefty sidearmer now sports a sparkling 2.20 ERA and 1.09 WHIP this season with the Redhawks.
  • Freshman Hunter Mercado-Hood continues to have difficulty finding playing time on a University of San Diego squad that is stacked offensively. Since April 8th, Mercado-Hood has gone 0-for-8, but he still has a .313 batting average and .410 on-base percentage in 67 at-bats this season. The former Oakland Athletics draft pick has a very high ceiling, so hopefully we’ll get plenty of chances to see his talents on display at the STD at RAP this summer. 
  • Bryce Greager is still slotted into a part-time role for the University of Nevada Wolf Pack. The versatile sophomore has been shifted between right field, second base and DH of late. Greager has gone 5-for-16 since April 8th and he hit his second home run of the season on April 19th. He has a .264 batting average and .371 OBP in 53 at-bats this spring.

Friday, April 25, 2014

HarbourCat Lobo's Update

It's been a couple weeks since we've had an update on our New Mexico boys. When last we checked in with our trio of upcoming  HarbourCats, OF Danny Collier and LHP Carson Schneider were in the midst of promising freshmen seasons, while Preston Ryan was getting some time on the mound to work down his early-season ERA...

Since then, both Collier and Schneider have continued to shine, and the two have reached Albuquerque celebrity status! The Albuquerque Journal did a recent story on the local lads and their contributions to the Lobos this year, and they are featured prominently in many of the game recaps and stories the Journal publishes. That's not hard to believe, given their numbers.
Collier tracks one down

Collier is still red-hot at the plate, hitting .342 in 116 plate appearances - he's second in team hitting, seven points ahead of ex-Cat Alex Real. Schneider is up to 17 appearances out of the pen, and holds a 2-0 record. The lefty boasts a modest 1.40 ERA, giving up only 3 earned runs all season.

Preston Ryan has had a couple more turns on the mound and continues to look over-matched, giving up 17 earned runs in 14 innings of work. His 10.93 ERA still needs a little work before he heads north if he expects to be much of a part of the HarbourCat picture.

Both Collier and Schneider were also mentioned in Baseball America's weekend preview - showing how important these two youngsters are to the Lobos' 31-11-1 winning record (14-4 Mountain West record). Currently ranked #24 in the country, the Lobos look like they are on their way to the Sweet 16 tournament in June - which isn't great for the HarbourCats, as it will delay the boys arrival in our fair city...


Like our Lobos, our Pepperdine Catcher Aaron Barnett is getting better as the season progresses, raising his average to .352 over 145 ABs. Devin Carter's playing time, which at last report was up, has dwindled seeing him start in only 2 of the team's last 10 games. He's still batting a respectable .283 in 46 at bats.

In team news, the HarbourCats are creeping closer to their desired roster size of around 40 players by signing four more players this week (3 regular, one 10 day). Included in this set is local boy and ex-Victoria Eagle pitcher Brett Hull. No relation to the most prolific right-winger in NHL history... Two more right-handers and a fourth catcher round out the additions. Have a read of the press release for a full report on the new meat.

Just over a month to go until opening day! Can't wait for my old saggy seat to be firmly planted in one of those new comfy seats at STD!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gaucho Marks - April 23rd edition

Andrew Calica utilizing his tractor beam in centre field
Future HarbourCat Andrew Calica continues to be a steady influence at the plate and a sparkling presence in the field (more on that later!). Over the last seven games, Calica's UCSB Gauchos are a pedestrian 4-3, taking two of three from Cal State Fullerton, dropping two of three to Long Beach State and winning a singleton against BYU. This stretch has seen the Gauchos fall out of the Top 25 for the first time in a while.

Calica has had some ups and downs at the plate, but overall remains pretty solid, hitting about .270 during this latest span. This puts his season average at .336 which is good enough for fourth on the team. Highlights include a three for three day against BYU (which included a bunt single) and a two for six day against Cal State Fullerton. He is second on the team in runs scored (24) and hits (41) and still maintains an OPS above .800. Net, the guy's got game and even during his team's mini-slump, he's still faring pretty well.

In the field though, Calica remains as slick as a dab of Brylcreem (look it up!). In the first victory over the Titans, the teams were tied at two in the seventh when, with one out, CSF smashed a frozen rope into AC's patch of land. Sure that it would drop, their runner on second started busting for home but Calica made a diving catch, doubling off the unsuspecting-but-now-believing runner to preserve the tie and allow the Gauchos to pull it out in the bottom of the ninth. His fielding percentage remains untarnished and although I have not yet seen him play, all accounts seem to indicate that he has a tractor beam around him, not only catching what comes to him, but catching balls that he has no business getting to.

Putting all this together, I'm seeing the HarbourCat's starting centre fielder who will maybe start batting deep in the order but eventually settle into the number two spot where he belongs. Whatever the case, I suspect he will be an everyday player for the 'Cats and should be fun to watch.

I know it is only April, but the days are getting longer and I can't help but dream of baseball days ahead. Only 44 more sleeps.

  • OSU Beaver and future HarbourCat slugger Gabe Clark has had an up and down couple of weeks but is back in the line-up in his regular designated hitter/first base role. Clark went six for twelve (.500) last week as OSU took two of three from Washington State. This was highlighted by a four for five performance where he rocked the Casbah with four RBI's and two doubles. Last night Clark went hitless in four at bats in a 7-6 loss to Sacramento State, whom they are playing again this evening. I'm seeing Clark as a probable starter for the 'Cats, most likely as DH and playing the odd game at first base. I'm thinking he will hit five or six in the lineup.
  • Utah hurler Bret Helton has not had a start in the past couple of weeks and has only pitched two thirds of an inning in two appearances. In his total of 17 pitches, he gave up one hit, no runs and one free pass. Utah seems to be exercising all the arms in their possession, maybe trying to find some chemistry in what is turning out to be a losing campaign. Helton has not had an at bat in the last two weeks.
  • Fellow Ute and my prediction to be the 'Cats starting right fielder, Wyler Smith, is only one of three Utah players to start every game this year. While he is only hitting .238, no one on the Utes is hitting above .276, so his spot seems secure. In the past six games, Smith has gone a respectable .240 and is riding a 5 game hitting streak that includes two triples. In his last hitless game (almost two weeks ago), he laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 13th inning to advance what turned out to be the winning run in a rare Utah win.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 promotions announced

Fireworks at RAP are always a big draw
The Victoria HarbourCats have released their promotional schedule for the 2014 season and there’s something on the jam-packed baseball calendar for just about everyone.

On the baseball side of things it was revealed that the Cats will play a second exhibition game against the Langley Sr. Blaze. We were aware that the two teams would face off in Duncan on Sunday June 22nd, but we now know that they will also play each other the night before at RAP. The pair of games will be an excellent test for our young HarbourCats.

The big news on the promotional side is that there will indeed be a Harvey the HarbourCat Bobblehead Night. The first 1,500 fans through the gates on Friday July 18th will receive a free bobblehead of the best mascot in Victoria. You can expect a big lineup outside RAP well before the gates open on that night. As we reported earlier, the Kelly Norris-Jones bobblehead night is set for Tuesday June 17th, but only 1,000 of those collectors’ items will be available.

Other promotions that caught my eye include Baseball Card Giveaway Day on Friday July 25th, a $25,000 pitch contest on Sunday August 3rd and fireworks nights on June 30th and August 9th. Fan appreciation day on Sunday August 10th will also feature the grand prize of the season-long Getaway Day promotion -- a trip for two to Seattle to see the Mariners play the Jays the following day. This doozy of a prize includes transportation via the Clipper, two nights in a hotel and tickets for the August 11th game at Safeco Field.

Victoria baseball cards are back!
We’ll also see the return of the the Winning Wednesdays promotion that sees Spinnaker’s Beer (Mmmmmmmm, Kolsch) on sale for $5. This year there will be four of these events and due to the unbalanced schedule they will take place on the first four Wednesdays of the season (June 11th, June 18th, June 25th and July 2nd). This promotion wasn't a huge draw last season and I’m not expecting things to be much different this year -- Wednesday isn't exactly a big party night and the discount isn't significant enough to bring in hundreds of extra fans either. Personally, I’d much rather see a version of the wildly popular Thirsty Thursday promotion that targets the young party crowd with $3 or $4 beer, but we are in straight-laced Victoria after all. At least we are making baby steps in the right direction.

It was also announced that fans will be able to buy discounted General Admission tickets for the bleachers along the right field line at any 7-11 store in Greater Victoria. This is a great idea -- not only do fans on a tight budget get a chance to see the HarbourCats but it’s also great exposure for the team to have their tickets available in so many stores. And yes, the price for these seats is 7 dollars and 11 cents (although sticklers will point out that with the penny retired it’s technically $7.10).

Overall, the promotional schedule for 2014 is significantly better than it was in the HarbourCats’ inaugural season. Hats off to the marketing staff in the HarbourCats front office for a job well done. It should be a great season... and it starts in only 51 days!!

  • Single-game tickets go on sale on April 19th at 10 a.m.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Conant, DeGoti and Lombana returning to H-Cats

Bryan Conant. Photo by Bubba.
The HarbourCats announced earlier today that three players from last year’s roster will be returning to Victoria this summer. Bryan Conant, Alex DeGoti and Logan Lombana will all be paying a return visit to the Garden City in 2014.

As far as improving the team goes, “Conant the Barbarian” is the most important signing of the three. The big lefty was the ace of Victoria’s pitching staff last year, compiling a record of 4-1 with an outstanding 1.81 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. While the 2014 roster has been loaded with offensive talent for some time, Conant’s return will go a long way towards shoring up the team’s starting rotation. He is eligible for this June’s MLB draft, so there is a chance that he could turn pro instead of returning to the HarbourCats.

DeGoti hit .286 with three homers and 21 RBI last summer and he played a key offensive role at the top of the batting order. His on-base percentage of .370 ranked fourth on the team, behind only Ty Russell (.485), Alex Real (.402) and Austin Russell (.376). DeGoti has struggled with the Long Beach State Dirtbags this spring, hitting only .200 with no homers and four RBI in 45 at-bats.

Lombana, a teammate of DeGoti's at Long Beach State, went 2-2 last summer with a 6.00 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He has a 4.72 ERA and 1.28 WHIP pitching out of the Dirtbags bullpen this spring.

Charlie Strandlund. Photo by Gus.
  • Chris Lindmark and Victoria’s Charlie Strandlund were named assistant coaches on Friday and they’ll join Ben Jackson on Bob Miller’s staff. 
  • Local baseball fans will remember Strandlund from his 2010 season with the Victoria Seals, especially the day he played all nine positions in a GBL game. Strandlund is also a former collegiate player and he has also been hugely successful in senior men’s baseball at the national level. He’s currently scheduled to suit up for all home games. 
  • Lindmark used to play for Bob Miller at Cuesta College before transferring to Grand Canyon University. In an unlikely coincidence, he is a former teammate of current HarbourCat Kelly Norris-Jones. Lindmark will be coaching both home and away games.
  • Both Conant and DeGoti were named All-WCL Second Team last summer (Alex Real earned All-WCL First Team and Ty Provencher received All-WCL Honourable Mention).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Seat selection day is this Saturday at RAP

The Victoria HarbourCats have released further ticket details for the 2014 season.

Bucket seats at RAP!
The team also announced that they will be holding a seat selection day this Saturday for season ticket and flex pack holders. This will be the first-ever true SEAT (not bench) selection day at RAP, since the City of Victoria has recently finished installing over 1,500 bucket seats. Only the silver General Admission (upper) benches now lack seat backs.

Season tickets and 10-game flex packs are on sale now, but there is also a new Fireworks Four-Pack that is available starting on Saturday (for one week only). The four-pack includes the first three home games of the year and the first fireworks night (June 30th).

Single-game tickets will go on sale on April 19th at 10 a.m. Ticket prices are in line with last year’s pricing, but there are only two price levels -- reserved seats for $14.50 (all have seat backs) and the cheaper GA option for $9.50 (only sections 6 and 7 have seat backs). Children and seniors also get a $1 discount. Considering the high quality of West Coast League baseball, HarbourCats fans will be getting great value for their money.

  • The HarbourCats released Mike Gershman on Monday. The current roster sits at 32 players: 13 pitchers, 3 catchers, 7 infielders and 9 outfielders.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gaucho Marks - April 9th edition

Baseball America Top 25 as of April 7
After a brief stint hitting leadoff, UCSB's Andrew Calica has settled back into hitting in the number six spot. Lately though, he has been struggling a bit going three for 25 over his last seven games with eight strikeouts and four walks. He is still hitting a very respectable .354 (well above the .307 team batting average) and has a .867 OPS, so it's not like the guy isn't contributing offensively. In fact, the Gauchos have gone 3-4 over that stretch and dropped to #22 in the Baseball America rankings so he is not alone in his struggles.

To put it in perspective though, the last three games (they went 1-2) were against Cal Poly who is currently ranked fourth in the country, so it's not like the games aren't tough either. It seems like the whole team is trying to find their groove again after their sizzling hot streak earlier in the year. Things don't get much easier as they head into a three game set this weekend with #18 Cal State Fullerton.

While Calica may still be finding his way at the plate a bit, he remains a stalwart in the field. In 78 total chances, he has still not made an error and showcased this talent late in a tight game last week against Hawaii. Clinging to a one run lead in the eighth, Hawaii loaded the bases with one out and then smacked a liner to our boy AC. Calica snagged it and then gunned out the foolish Rainbow Warrior who was trying to tag up from third. Double play, inning over.

He is also stealing bases at a steady rate when he does get on, putting constant pressure on opposing pitchers. So far this year, Calica has stolen nine bases in eleven attempts which is not bad at all. He's no Billy Hamilton (can you tell I'm a Reds fan??) or even Luis Jimenez (heh heh!) but still makes hurlers pay attention to him when he is on the pads.

  • Our boy Gabe Clark of the sixth ranked Oregon State Beavers is also having a down cycle and has started only two of the past seven games, going two for six. He has been used a couple of times as a pinch hitter but has yet to collect a hit in three at bats. The Beavers have gone 6-1 over this stretch and Clark's average has dropped to just below .300, but here's to hoping he is back in the lineup as a regular soon.
  • With a lot of future 'Cats on these highly-ranked teams, I suspect we will not be seeing a full roster until after the College World Series has concluded. All of our lads will stay with these teams until they are eliminated, which does, however, open the door for some of the 10-day contract dudes to strut their stuff.
  • One of those teams who will not be making a run into the College World Series is the Utah Utes, who have only won two of their last 15 games and are 11-19 overall. Pitcher Bret Helton has pitched twice since we last checked in on him and been chased early both times. In an 8-7 loss to Cal, Helton only went two and two thirds giving up seven hits and four runs (all earned) and most recently went four innings, again giving up seven hits and four runs (only two earned) while striking out one and walking four in those two starts. He has only had one recent plate appearance (as a pinch hitter) and did not register a hit.
  • Fellow Ute Wyler Smith has moved around in right and centre field and continues to get regular starts batting in the number four, five or six spot. Over the last seven games, he has hit only .185 (five for 27) but the good news is that after three hitless games, Smith has now hit safely in his last three games so appears to be headed in a positive direction.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

HarbourCanucks Corner - 10-day contract edition

Normally our HarbourCanucks Corner blog post features the Canadians who have been signed to full-season contracts, but this update focuses on the five Canucks who have been signed to 10-day contracts. While it’s unclear how long these guys will spend with the HarbourCats this summer, they will likely play an important role in the early going.

Darren Honeysett has been the regular centre fielder for Monterey Peninsula College, but the versatile Canadian has also seen time in left field, first base and even the second sack. The sophomore from Port Coquitlam is hitting .279 with no homers and 15 RBI in 104 at-bats for the Lobos (not to be confused with the University of New Mexico Lobos). Honeysett has shown good strike-zone judgement and he sports a tidy .389 on-base percentage. Perhaps his most impressive statistic so far is his team-leading 10 stolen bases in only 11 attempts.

Nanaimo’s Alex Rogers has been the top starter in the Trinidad State Junior College (Colorado) rotation so far this season. The freshman pitcher has reeled off four good starts in a row and now holds a 2.78 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 45 ⅓ innings pitched. Rogers hasn't struck out very many guys (5.0 K/9), but he has shown excellent control (2.0 BB/9) for the Trojans.

Victoria Eagles product Eric Hegadoren has been hampered by injuries this spring with the College of the Canyons (Santa Clarita, California). The 6’ 10” freshman got into his second game of the season this week, and he has walked three and struck out three in 1 ⅓ scoreless innings on the hill.

Former Victoria Mariner Matt Bryan has been the regular left fielder at Treasure Valley Community College (Ontario, Oregon) this spring. The sophomore is hitting .209 with no homers and 7 RBI in 43 at-bats, but Bryan has shown a keen batting eye and has an excellent .407 on-base percentage. He has also played error-free baseball in the 16 games in which he has appeared.

Mike Gershman has posted a 5.40 ERA in 25 innings pitched as a junior at Valley City State University. Gershman has been hit relatively hard, but he has shown excellent control. The versatile Manitoban has also hit .260 with two homers and 14 RBI in 73 at-bats.

Jordan Smith
  • Jordan Smith has been hired as the new voice of the Victoria HarbourCats. Smith has been the play-by-play man for the Victoria Cougars junior hockey team for the past four years and he was also the PA announcer for UVic basketball games this season. You can follow him on Twitter at @VicPlayByPlay.
  • Griffin Andreychuk registered a four-hit game on March 29th and has managed to raise his batting average from .160 to .263 over the last couple of weeks. Andreychuk is back to being the team’s starting shortstop, but unfortunately his fielding remains inconsistent (.881 fielding percentage in 20 games).
  • Former Victoria Eagle Brandon Feldman made his first two starts of the season in late March and only gave up one earned run in 9 innings pitched. He now has a sparkling 0.82 ERA with 10 strikeouts and 5 walks in 11 innings on the hill this season. Feldman, who can also play in the outfield and both corner infield positions, hasn't made any plate appearances since March 16th and is hitting .167 in 24 at-bats.
  • Kelly Norris Jones has been limited to one at-bat since March 22nd, a double on Friday. He’s hitting .190 in only 21 at-bats this season. The Fighting Illini’s starting catcher (Jason Goldstein) is leading the team in hitting, so it has been tough for Norris-Jones to get any playing time.
  • Seattle U’s Will Dennis had an outing for the ages on Saturday afternoon, especially considering the fact that he has been used exclusively as a short reliever this year. The lefty sidearmer entered the game with a couple of runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Redhawks knotted in a 3-3 tie with Sacramento State. Not only did he induce an inning-ending double play, but Dennis went on to pitch EIGHT outstanding innings of relief. Unfortunately, he eventually gave up a run in the bottom of the 15th to take the loss. His line for the day? A slick 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Remarkably, Dennis only needed 64 pitches to get through those eight innings. Opponents are hitting a feeble .215 against him this season.
  • In spite of hitting .356 on the season, freshman Hunter Mercado-Hood hasn't been able to claim much playing time of late. In the last two weeks, Mercado-Hood has been relegated to pinch-hit and DH duties and has gone two-for-six with an RBI. His on-base percentage is .457 in 59 at-bats this season.
  • Sophomore infielder Bryce Greager has received four starts at DH over the last couple of weeks for the University of Nevada, going 3-for-14 in that span. He is now hitting .243 in 37 at-bats, but he has a respectable .333 on-base percentage.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Teen Wolf III : RAP Summer

With an obligatory shout-out to BC native Michael J. Fox (and a catchy idea for a sequel), the latest player announcement includes a third member of the University of New Mexico Lobos coming to Victoria this year.

Pitcher Preston Ryan will join OF Danny Collier, and fellow mound-master Carson Schneider on the journey to Victoria this summer. The three young wolves should feel right at home with some built-in camaraderie by the time they get here...

Danny Collier continues to produce excellent offensive and defensive numbers. He's hitting .341 through 24 games, slugging .400. Just as impressive, he's still sporting a 1.000 fielding percentage. Collier also has an incredible consistency streak going, reaching base safely in 22 straight games.

Carson Schneider also continues to shine out of the pen. Schneider was finally tagged with his first earned run of the season this week to move his ERA off the 0.00 mark. It was the first time he had been asked to work an extended stint, going 2.1 innings. He ended up being credited with his first win of the season though, so he'll probably take the blemish! His next outing saw him go 2.2 innings, once again giving up no earned runs. He leads Lobos pitchers who have tossed more than 10 innings, with a stingy 0.82 ERA.

Leading Lobos: Danny Collier / Carson Schneider in action
These two are really impressing Lobos staff and fans alike. Both freshmen, both from the same local high school, and both having a fantastic year. Here's hoping they both have a great summer as well...

Another freshman pitcher, Preston Ryan is off to a slower start - he's started 3 games so far, but has yet to make it out of the early innings. His 11.58 ERA is actually on the decline though - his last start saw him go 4.1 innings with 4 strikeouts, giving up 5 runs.

The Lobos will have a tough weekend of ball, with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks bringing their mostly senior-filled roster to Lobo field. Should be some great ball - don't forget you can watch their games live on the interweb here.  Pretty sure "Gamecocks" was left off the list of potential team names when we chose HarbourCats. Just as well, I can't imagine what our mascot would have looked like...


Pepperdine 'Cats Aaron Barnett and Devin Carter had strong weeks as well. Barnett came out of a mini-slump to raise his average back to .346, while Carter has been moved off the bench and into the DH and LF roles. Starting the last five games, his extra playing time has helped at the plate - he's raised his average to a respectable .294.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jimenez no more

April disappointment - Luis Jimenez shuns 'Cats for the "pong"
The amazing case of Luis Jimenez has taken yet another remarkable turn. Just days after his interest in signing with the HarbourCats was confirmed, Jimenez has decided to give up baseball all together and throw himself into his second love - competitive ping pong. Word has it that this was a tough decision, and he was helped through it by a close family friend - Sidd Finch - who now resides in Iceland in a remote suburb of Reykjavik. 
This could also be confirmed by taking the first letter from every paragraph of Tuesday's post to unveil this hidden message (!).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HarbourCats roster comes into focus

Andrew Nelson
The Victoria HarbourCats announced today that they have signed another six players for the 2014 season, boosting their roster count to 33. The latest roster additions are:

2013-14 School
Jacob Hill
Orange Coast College
Andrew Nelson
University of Kentucky
Preston Ryan
University of New Mexico
Thomas Bernal
RS Junior
University of Kentucky
Ted Boeke
Loyola Marymount University
Nathan Lukes
Sacramento State

Perhaps the most significant signing in this group is starter Andrew Nelson, who has posted a sparkling 1.09
WHIP for the 22nd-ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats so far this spring. Nelson has excellent control to go along with good movement on his fast ball, and he is a potential staff ace on the HarbourCats.

Southpaw Jacob Hill has been dominant this season with Orange Coast College, posting a spectacular 0.98 WHIP and a perfect 8-0 record. He looks like a solid number two or three starter on the 2014 version of the HarbourCats, and along with Nelson and the University of Utah’s Bret Helton gives the team three very good starters.
Nathan Lukes

Sacramento State’s Nathan Lukes is a dynamic player who just may be our starting right fielder this summer. He’s an on-base machine, posting a .427 OBP in his first 104 at-bats with the Hornets this spring, so he would fit in nicely at the top of the HarbourCats batting order. Lukes led Sacramento State with seven outfield assists in his freshman season and he has three more so far this year.

In the grand scheme of things, the Victoria HarbourCats roster is really starting to round into shape. The team boasts an impressive amount of hitting, so they shouldn't have too much trouble scoring runs this summer. In fact, the Cats roster is overflowing with talented outfielders -- no less than six of our players would be a starting outfielder on most West Coast League teams (Hunter Mercado-Hood, Lukes, Andrew Calica, Danny Collier, Devin Carter and Wyler Smith). 

On the pitching side, the team’s late-inning relief looks good. Will Dennis, Quintin Torres-Costa and Carson Schneider are a fine trio of shutdown lefties. Hopefully a right-hander will emerge from the bullpen to give us a solid option from that side as well. Like just about every team in baseball, the HarbourCats could use another reliable starter or two, especially since Nelson will probably be on a playoff run with the Wildcats and arrive late for the WCL season. However, additional player signings will be announced between now and Opening Day, so there is still a decent chance that our pitching staff will be beefed up further. Put it all together, and it’s clear that the HarbourCats will improve upon the 22-32 record that they posted in their inaugural season.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The bizarre world of HarbourCat prospect Luis Jimenez

Glove of Luis "the Igniter" Jimenez after it made an error
As I was Googling batting stats over the weekend, I happened upon what I am calling a Pembroke Street miracle. It seems the HarbourCats are on the verge of signing (but not yet announcing) a relatively unknown Div III player with an astounding - hold your breath here - .734 (!) batting average. Granted, it's only in 55 at bats but over that span he has ten home runs, 15 walks and a slugging percentage over 2.000.

Panamanian by birth, Luis Bartolo Jimenez (LBJ anyone??) does not come without a downside. After doing a bit of sleuthing, it seems that Mr. Jimenez has some, shall we say, quirks. Although I cannot find a picture of him online, he supposedly has a face tattoo that makes Mike Tyson's look like a minor facial blemish. He wears bright pink batting gloves and cleats, and has a braided ponytail that hangs just above waist-level. I know this is all aesthetic, but still, come on. You know anyone else like that?

Ranked very low in the MLB scouting reports, Jimenez does not seem interested at all in changing his strange ways. He has moved between a few (two that I know of) other colleges and junior colleges always with the same result - great stats and a short tenure.

In a matter of three years, this 20 year old phenom has put up some ungodly numbers at the plate but has ultimately driven his coaches over the edge. In trading a few emails with a couple of these poor souls, it seems that he barely speaks unless asked a direct question and even then, only in Spanish. What is even more puzzling though, is the fact that if you TEXT him (number unknown or believe me, I would have tried!) he will answer immediately and in flawless English. Go figure.

Luis also has some baseball "issues" that need to be either accepted, or dealt with in a swift manner. Example...the one time he struck out in his 55 at bats (looking), he walked away from the plate and sat with his bat for the remainder of the game. Afterwards, he made his way to a local cemetery and buried it next to several others that have let him down over the years. Being 6'6" and 245 pounds of blue, twisted steel, no one has yet been able to stand in the way of this bizarre behavior.

Fielding brings with it a similar ritual. Any glove that causes him an error - he plays shortstop/2B - receives a similar fate in that it is set aside (mid-inning, if need be) and unceremoniously burned right after the game (see attached photo). Numerous team/league suspensions and warnings have had little effect on this over the years.

On the basepaths, look out, because this guy puts Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton to shame. Running like a gazelle on speed, Jimenez has 45, count 'em 45, stolen bases so far this year. As long as there is an open base ahead of him (including home), he's going. Even though catchers have the book on him, he has only been caught once all year and in true character, he calmly detached the base from the playing field and walked it back to the dugout. Too cool!

On top of all this, he continues to lobby the league to let him wear a catcher's mitt while he is playing the middle infield. It seems he did this all through his early minor baseball career but once he hit serious baseball, the rules got in the way.

Lastly, information is very scarce for such a "colourful" individual. The couple of coaches I have emailed, say he is still worth a shot. He has been described as a "loyal teammate" and an "incredible talent". But come on, like him or not, believe in him or not, how EXCELLENT would it be to have a guy like this in a conservative city like Victoria (for the one week until he gets the boot!)?

Some dilemma, eh? Well, I for one say that he is worth the risk, so box up this Tasmanian Devil and send him to the RAP! Meanwhile, we will try and get some more specifics on any official announcement and post back soon.