Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Alphabet soup edition

More week two updates on our future HarbourCats, this time from the ACC, MW, WCC, and CCAA. Updates from the west, south and east in this one…

If the University of New Mexico Lobos baseball program is familiar to you, it’s because you’re remembering familiar names from the 2014 HarbourCats roster. Outfielder Danny Collier, and pitchers Carson Schneider and Preston Ryan were members of last year’s ‘Cats. Both Schneider and Ryan are returning this season.

Carl "Stud-uhar" off to a great start
Schneider, who set a freshman record last year by appearing in 24 games for the Lobos, is already working on besting that as a sophomore, taking the mound in 3 of UMN’s first 7 games. His numbers are slightly better than they were last year at this point, he holds a 3.00 ERA in 6 innings of work. Sadly, he’s already walked a batter this year – he went the first 18 trips to the mound last year before giving up his first free pass.

Ryan, who took a while to warm up last year for UNM has had only one appearance so far this season, going 2/3 of an inning, giving up 1 run on three hits.

Joining Schneider and Ryan on the cats this year, is freshman Lobo and 3B/1B Carl Stajduhar. He’s quickly earning the nickname of “Stud-uhar” here on the blog. He’s had a great start to the season, including going 5-9 in the opening 2-game set against OSU. He cooled off a bit this past weekend, but sits at a respectable .267 with 2HR and 9 RBI for the Lobos. He’s started all 7 games at the corners, and has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 77 opportunities. What – a 3B with hands? Could the Hot Corner become the “Not” Corner for opposing hitters this season? Lets wait and see…

Over on the west coast, another school returning players to the Cats this year is Pepperdine University. The waves – home of blog-favourite Aaron Barnett are sending us two players this year – infield freshman Chase Lambert, and early-season pitching star Ryan Wilson. 

While Lambert is still looking for his first hit of the season (0-7 in a limited pinch-hitter role), Wilson is working some early-season mound magic giving up only a single earner run on 11 hits over 2 starts and 13 innings of work. An interesting-stat kind of guy, he’s K’ed 11 batters, but thrown 4 wild pitches. Maybe it’s too early to be dishing out this many nicknames, but “Wild Thing Wilson” has a certain ring to it…

St. Mary’s College in Moraga California is sending us a complete battery this year – Pitcher Sean O’Toole and catcher Jackson Thoreson. 

O’Toole has come off the bench twice to pitch an inning, each time giving up a run, a walk, and a hit while registering a strike out. Thoreson is a second-string catcher at this point, starting two games and coming in defensively in the late innings in another two. He’s hitting 2-7 with an RBI. A freshman playing behind a 3rd year starting catcher, he may have to settle for minimal plate appearances until he can prove himself. The two have yet to work together in a game.

Across the country, Freshman lefty Josh Mitchell of the University of Pittsburgh made his collegiate debut earlier this month, pitching a scoreless 9th inning for the Panthers. 

And it’s not all about Div 1. Checking in on Chico State’s Cameron Santos (NCAA D2), he’s yet to get into a game for the 4-2 Wildcats. More on him as the season progresses.

Don't forget that many of the colleges and universities sending us players have live broadcasts of every game available on the web. If you're looking to watch some early baseball, it's great entertainment!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Pac-12 edition

Michael Gretler
Week Two of the NCAA baseball season is in the books, so it’s time for another update on a few of the players who’ll be suiting for the Victoria HarbourCats in 2015. In this edition, we’ll take a look at our guys in the Pac-12 Conference.

The mighty Oregon State University baseball program took a big hit last summer when seven of its players signed with MLB clubs, but the Beavers are blessed with an outstanding crop of freshmen players and are reloading in 2015 instead of rebuilding. OSU was ranked 26th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll at the beginning of this season, and they look to have a good shot at qualifying for their seventh consecutive NCAA tournament.

One of those impressive Oregon State freshmen, Michael Gretler, is a future HarbourCat. Gretler got his collegiate career off to a great start by getting a base hit in his first plate appearance, a single against the tough University of New Mexico Lobos on February 15th. He has started three of the Beaver’s first eight games at third base, going 4-for-10 at the dish with two RBI, a walk and three runs scored. Gretler should put up some very nice offensive numbers for the HarbourCats this summer.

Zach Bonneau
After missing the first five games of the season, Gabe Clark has picked up right where he left off last summer. In three games this weekend, Clark went 4-for-14 (.286) with a homer and five RBI as the team’s Designated Hitter. While this kind of production from the big slugger is pretty much what we’ve come to expect, his first at-bat of the year was a bit of a surprise -- a triple into right-centre field. Of course, we shouldn’t be too shocked that he legged out a triple, because the “sneaky-quick” Clark did go five-for-five in the stolen base department with the HarbourCats this past summer.

The University of Washington Huskies, a team with a pair of future HarbourCats, were ranked 44th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Catcher Zach Bonneau sat out the first six UW games, but the sophomore from Spokane, Washington was a late-inning replacement at catcher in each of the last two days. Bonneau walked in his only plate appearance on Saturday and then stroked a single in his sole at-bat on Sunday for the first NCAA hit of his career.

Sophomore Henry Baker has only made one appearance on the mound for the Huskies so far this season, a start that lasted only ⅓ of an inning on February 16th. Baker started the game by hitting a batter, inducing a flyball out and then issuing a pair of walks to load the bases, which led to a quick hook from UW head coach Lindsay Meggs. Thankfully all three inherited runners were stranded, so Baker still holds a 0.00 ERA. Hopefully the 6-2, 234 lb. southpaw sees some game action in the upcoming week.

  • Victoria native Chris Fougner is starting to heat up at the plate for Salt Lake Community College. Fougner, who is the Bruins’ starting right fielder, went four-for-eight with a walk, four RBI and a pair of steals in the last three games with available box scores (February 14-16). He is now hitting .320 with four RBI in 25 at-bats this season. Fougner also made the first mound appearance of his collegiate career on February 16th against Utah State University Eastern, throwing a scoreless inning of relief and surrendering only a single hit.
  • Nanaimo’s Alex Rogers made his third start of the season for Trinidad State Junior College on Thursday. Unfortunately, it was the second consecutive poor start for Rogers, as he gave up four hits and three earned runs in two innings against Luna Community College. He now has a 5.25 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 12 innings pitched this season.
  • Griffin Andreychuk went three-for-five with a run scored and a stolen base on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to snap Seattle U’s lengthy losing streak. Andreychuk, who has been moved from leadoff to the number two spot in the order, is hitting .250 with three RBI in 32 at-bats this season. The 1-8 Redhawks have only scored six runs in their last five games and sport an unsightly .212 team batting average. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

College baseballs modified to boost offense

Last year's NCAA ball (L) vs this year's (R)
Baseball fans of a certain age will remember NCAA baseball back in the 80’s and 90’s, when it seemed that just about any hitter could crush a mammoth home run using a super-charged aluminum bat. In 2011, the NCAA moved to a composite bat that greatly reduced the exit speed of a batted ball and offensive numbers fell off a cliff. For instance, homers dropped from 0.94 per NCAA game in 2010 to an all-time low of 0.39 per game last season. In the 2010 College World Series, 32 home runs were hit, but that figure dropped to a paltry three round-trippers in the entire eight-team tournament in each of the last two years. To help restore the delicate balance between offense and defense, the NCAA, NAIA and Northwest Athletic Conference have made a slight change to the baseball for the 2015 season, and other junior and community colleges will follow suit in 2016.

To an outsider, the change to the baseball doesn't sound all that significant. The seams on the ball have been lowered from 0.048 to 0.031 inches and they are now consistent with those used in the minor leagues. However, the core of the NCAA baseballs will remain the same, meaning that they'll still be less lively than minor league balls (which in turn are less lively than big league baseballs). Tests have shown that the new NCAA baseballs travel 20 feet further than the old ones when launched from a pitching machine, thanks to less air resistance from the lower seams. The change is expected to not only boost home runs, but also increase the number of batted balls that fall beyond retreating outfielders.

While the change is being welcomed by hitters throughout the collegiate ranks, the same can’t be said for the pitchers. Not only will fly balls carry further, but the reduction in drag lessens the break of a curve ball. The news is not all bad on the pitching side, because two-seam / sinking fastballs have greater sinking action with the lower seams and sliders have a slight increase in velocity. Pitchers should also suffer from fewer blisters than was the case with the high-seamed balls.

The 2014 WCL baseball
Some observers have speculated that since the new baseballs are more difficult to grip (especially in cold weather) that we might see more foreign substances used by pitchers. It remains to be seen if this will be the case, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a few pine tar incidents at the college level like last spring’s Michael Pineda drama.
So far, the results of the change have been encouraging. In the first weekend of the NCAA Division I season, scoring was up by over a run per game compared to last year. According to, the average number of runs scored in a game went from 10.40 to 11.52 (it was 13.82 runs per game in the last season with aluminum bats). While that’s not a massive jump, it’s a nice step towards correcting the imbalance.

The West Coast League continues to use the Baden baseball, which is produced according to NCAA specifications. This means that we should see an increase in offense this summer and a few more balls landing on Pembroke Street than in the last two seasons. That extra 10 to 20 feet of carry can only help sluggers like Gabe Clark and Carl Stajduhar, so don’t be surprised to see the modest WCL single-season home run record fall in 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

HarbourCats player updates - Big West / WAC edition

Griffin Andreychuk
The NCAA Division I baseball season got underway on Friday and a number of players on this summer’s HarbourCats roster were in the thick of the action. In this player update, we’ll get you up to speed on the 2015 HarbourCats who play in the Big West and Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

Seattle University’s Griffin Andreychuk batted leadoff and played shortstop in all four games against St. Mary’s College this weekend. The Nanaimo native went 4-for-16 (.250) with two runs scored and a pair of RBI, but Seattle U dropped three of four to the Gaels. As was the case last season, Andreychuk has struggled with his defense out of the gate; he committed three errors in the Saturday doubleheader and currently sports an .833 fielding percentage. It’s still early, so Andreychuk has plenty of time to turn things around in the field.

The Sacramento State Hornets are hosting the Utah Utes in a four-game set that wraps up on Monday. Although Dane Fujinaka was the starting catcher last season for the Hornets, former HarbourCat Gunner Pollman started behind the plate in the first three games against the Utes. It’s expected that Fujinaka will get the start tomorrow, but it’s clear that he has a battle on his hands to reclaim his starting job. The 5-foot-8-inch Hawaiian is solid offensively, but our sources tell us that Pollman has the edge defensively, especially when it comes to throwing out baserunners. This will be an interesting situation to watch. The other current HarbourCat who plays for Sacramento State, freshman PJ Floyd, only saw action as a pinch runner on Sunday.

AJ Alcantara
Sophomore Adam (AJ) Alcantara started two of the three opening games in right field for the UC Irvine Anteaters. Alcantara went one-for-seven at the plate and scored a run after being hit by a pitch on Saturday. The Anteaters, who were ranked 33rd by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, will likely drop out of the rankings after losing all three games to the unranked Fresno State Bulldogs this weekend.

Freshman Ryan Anderson of UC Davis registered his first collegiate hit on Friday night with a pinch-hit single against Texas State. Although he is normally a shortstop, Anderson got the start at DH on Sunday and went 0-for-2 with a run scored and a stolen base. Freshman Matt Blais did not make an appearance on the mound for the Aggies this weekend. In an odd twist, UC Davis and Texas State played to a rare 7-7 tie on Sunday, as the game was called after ten innings due to a travel curfew.

  • Former Victoria Mariner Chris Fougner continues to get plenty of playing time for Salt Lake Community College. Fougner has started five of the Bruins’ first six games in right field and he has gone 4-for-15 (.267) with four runs scored. As of Friday, he was still waiting to make his collegiate debut on the mound (the box scores from this weekend’s action are not yet available).
  • Nanaimo’s Alex Rogers got knocked around on Friday by Nick Pivetta’s old school, New Mexico Junior College. Rogers gave up six runs (four earned) on nine hits and no walks in five innings pitched. He is now 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 1.40 WHIP after his first two starts of the 2015 season.
  • Alex Fagalde pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning in relief for Cuesta College on Tuesday, but his start on Saturday didn’t go quite so well. Fagalde held Saddleback College to an unearned run through the first five innings and then yielded three hits and walk to start the sixth frame. As was the case in his Opening Day start, Fagalde was pulled with the bases loaded and all three inherited runners came around to score. He now has an 0-3 record with a 7.53 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in four appearances -- very surprising numbers for the ace of the Cuesta pitching staff.

Monday, February 9, 2015

HarbourCats take to the field in early-season collegiate action

Bad weather has forced the cancellation of a significant number of early-season junior college and community college baseball games, but a number of HarbourCats have managed to see action over the last week.

Chris Fougner
Alex Rogers, a sophomore at Trinidad State (Colorado) Junior College, got the Opening Day start for the Trojans against Colorado State University (CSU) this weekend. The Nanaimo product picked up the win by pitching a five-inning complete game in Saturday’s double header. Rogers limited CSU to only one unearned run on three hits and two walks, while striking out four batters. The Trojans play a four-game series this weekend against Nick Pivetta’s alma mater, New Mexico Junior College.

Former Victoria Mariners star Chris Fougner made his collegiate debut for Salt Lake Community College, which has one of the premier junior college baseball programs in the United States. The freshman obviously impressed head coach David Nelson during the fall, because the Victoria native was penciled in as the Bruins’ Opening Day right fielder and cleanup hitter. Fougner has played three of the first four games in right field, going 2-for-10 with a run scored. He’s not the only hitter to get off to a slow start though, as Yavapai College limited the Bruins to a .241 batting average in their four-game set. Fougner, who is expected to be primarily used by the HarbourCats as a pitcher this summer, has yet to make an appearance on the mound for Salt Lake CC.

On Thursday, Alex Fagalde made his second start of the season for Cuesta College. The big right-hander had a shorter outing than his arduous 113-pitch Opening Day start, but unfortunately it was a little too short this time, as Fagalde was knocked out after only an inning and two-thirds. He gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk to bring his record to 0-2 on the season with an 8.31 ERA. I expect Fagalde to return to his usual form in his start this week. 

  • Mikey Wright has transferred from San Jose State to Cosumnes River (Community) College in Sacramento. Wright has not made any appearances for his new team in their first four games.
  • The regular season starts on Friday for all NCAA Division I baseball teams. We’ll be posting regular updates on HarbourCat players between now and the start of the WCL season, so stay tuned to the blog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

'Cats sign seven NCAA freshmen

The HarbourCats announced today that they have signed seven more collegians for the 2015 season, bringing the roster up to a total of 30 players. The new 'Cats are all freshmen, with six of the seven coming from NCAA Division I schools. In addition to inking a pair of players from Pepperdine, UC Davis and St. Mary’s College, the HarbourCat also signed a Division II player from (head coach) Graig Merritt and (pitching coach) Alec Adame’s alma mater, Chico State.
Ryan Wilson. Photo by Don Boomer.

One of our favourite signings in the new crop of players is Ryan Wilson, a left-handed starting pitcher who’ll be throwing to ex-HarbourCat Aaron Barnett at Pepperdine University this spring. Wilson was named to USA Baseball’s U17 National Team Development Program in 2013 and he graduated from Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, California last year. In March of 2014, Wilson tossed a perfect game, needing only 73 pitches to complete his 7-inning gem against Del Norte High School. Not only did he strike out nine batters on the day, but he only issued three balls to a batter on one occasion.

In his senior year of high school, Wilson posted an impressive 1.51 ERA and 0.97 WHIP as a starter, while limiting opponents to a feeble .182 batting average. He also notched a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (75 strikeouts and 25 walks) in 74 innings on the hill.

Wilson will be joined in Victoria this summer by his Pepperdine teammate, Chase Lambert. Lambert is a slightly built third baseman with a surprising amount of pop in his bat given his size. He put up a gaudy .444 / .511 / .641 slash line in his senior year at Malibu High School, a short 12 kilometre drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Pepperdine University. Lambert is clearly an excellent base runner, as he stole 26 bases in 23 games last season and was thrown out only once in his entire high school career. He also has a knack for controlling the strike zone -- in fact, he walked more often than he struck out in each of his last three high school seasons.
Chase Lambert.
Photo by Dick Dornan.

In his sophomore year of high school, Lambert played shortstop and was dominant as the team’s closer. In 26 ⅔ innings pitched that season, Lambert struck out an incredible 50 batters -- a ridiculous average of 16.9 K’s per nine innings. Unfortunately, Lambert blew out his arm that spring and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on July 3, 2013. This young man obviously has a lot of determination, because he returned in time for the 2014 season and repeated as the MVP of the Frontier League in his senior year. To help reduce the strain on his surgically repaired elbow, Lambert moved over to second base and gave up pitching last season.

Matt Blais and his
unorthodox delivery.
As we enter year three for HarbourCats baseball, we're starting to notice some interesting patterns in our recruits. One such insight is that Serra High School in San Mateo, California is turning out to be a factory for Victoria HarbourCat players. Not only did it produce former HarbourCat standouts Chris Lewis (2013) and Sean Watkins (2014), but now Victoria has signed Serra product Matt Blais, a right-handed pitcher who is currently a freshman at UC Davis. Blais and Watkins obviously know each other well, because the two Padres both graduated from Serra High School in 2014 (let's hope that Blais has the same fire that Watkins displayed so often last summer). In his senior year, Blais posted a miserly 1.25 ERA and 0.86 WHIP as a starting pitcher. His underlying numbers are equally impressive, as he struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings and only walked 2.1 batters per nine.

Blais played summer ball in 2014 for the Menlo Park Legends of the California Collegiate League (CCL), where he notched a 1.93 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 46 ⅔ innings pitched. He continued to show good control (2.5 BB/9) and an ability to strike out more than a batter per inning (10.2 K/9). Blais also pitched a hitless inning of relief in the CCL All-Star Game.

The second UC Davis player signed is Ryan Anderson, a 6-1, 195 lb. shortstop from Pleasanton, California. The right-handed slugger recorded an excellent .386 / .436 / .659 slash line in his senior year at Foothill High School, and he only struck out four times in 101 plate appearances. Anderson played for the Danville (California) Hoots last summer, a team comprised of the best U18 players from the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only did the Hoots qualify for the Connie Mack World Series this past August, but Anderson helped the team advance to the semi-finals of this prestigious tournament.
Cameron Santos

Cameron Santos is a freshman second baseman from California State University, Chico. Santos swings a powerful bat for an undersized player; he registered a robust .412 / .500 / .611 slash line in his senior year at (the unimaginatively named) California High School in San Ramon. The former shortstop displays excellent strike zone judgement, as he drew 14 walks and only went down on strikes 12 times in 85 at-bats. Santos, who went 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts in his senior year, is also a capable basestealer. Based on his high school numbers, it would appear that one of the factors that kept him from playing Division I baseball is that he is only 5-9 and 160 lbs. Thankfully the HarbourCats (and Chico State) are looking for ballplayers, not Fabio.

Jackson Thoreson
St. Mary’s College is a Division I school that plays in the West Coast Conference (WCC) along with Pepperdine and the University of San Diego. One of the two players signed from the St. Mary’s Gaels is Jackson Thoreson, a freshman catcher from San Jose. The left-handed hitting Thoreson hit a combined .290 in his high school career with three homers and 47 RBI. He appears to be a good defensive catcher and in 2014 he earned Bellarmine College Prep’s Billy Schmidt Award for positive attitude. Thoreson plans to study Kinesiology at Saint Mary's.

The HarbourCats also signed Thoreson’s new teammate at St. Mary’s, right-handed pitcher Sean O'Toole. At first glance, O'Toole put up good numbers in his senior year at Huntington Beach High School: a 4-0 record with a 2.40 ERA. However, a closer look at the underlying numbers is cause for a bit of concern, as O'Toole also posted a 1.40 WHIP, 3.9 walks per nine innings and only 6.4 strikeouts per nine.

The HarbourCats will be announcing roughly 10 more player signings, so stay tuned to the blog for further updates.