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2007 Asheville Tourists Season Preview:

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It's still early to know for sure where everybody is headed, so I'll probably have to change some things as the Spring develops, but after focusing so much of my attention all off-season on the big league club, I thought it might be helpful to take a look again at what's going on down on the farm.

Let's start with the Tourists, who it looks like will have a solid, underappreciated team.

Rotation (with K/9 and BB/9 in 2006):

  1. Josh Sullivan 9.56/2.71
  2. Brandon Hynick 10.01/1.14
  3. Keith Weiser 8.37/1.26
  4. Aneury Rodriguez 8.17/3.55
  5. Andrew Graham 8.58/3.28
  6. Andrew Kreidermacher 5.74/2.25

[editor's note, by Rox Girl] From the comments, it seems likely that Sullivan will be in Asheville to at least start the season.

With Shane Lindsay being out for the season, it makes sense that somebody gets bumped up to Modesto. I'm assuming it will either be Kreidermacher (who started last season in the Nuts' pen) or Sullivan. It could also be Hynick.  Or Weiser. Or possibly even Craig Baker. I'm really not sure, so if anybody has some inside info, please share. One other possibility is that Jacob Postlewait re-enters the rotation for the Nuts until one of these guys proves ready for the leap to the Cal League.

For the moment, at any rate, I'm assuming it will be Sullivan that gets a slightly premature promotion. With both Sullivan and Hynick, this season's rotation in Asheville would be one of the top three in the South Atlantic League, with just one of them it will still has a chance to crack that threshold. Hynick and Weiser were excellent in their debuts, and Aneury Rodriguez is slowly growing into his own.

The bottom two slots might seem like weaknesses due to infamiliarity, but that's only because we don't have enough space to properly hype the play of Graham with the pitching that's in front of him right now. In August and September last season he went 38 2/3 innings, giving up just 26 hits with a 41/11 K/BB ratio. Every season I try to make a list I label "PROSPECT?" of players who I hadn't thought of as part of the Rockies future, but who entered my periphery the year before. Graham definitely qualifies, and I'll be giving him closer scrutiny this season.

Kreidermacher is a little bit of a different story, I really don't think he'll make it all the way up as a starter, but he's an efficient machine when it comes to pitching. Working with fairly strict pitch counts, he had two complete games in his last five starts, and in all five he went at least seven innings. That's a valuable asset to have in the system if nothing else.

Bullpen:

William Harris
Ethan Katz
Sean Jarrett
Pedro Strop
Tommy Baumgardner

These are the noteworthy ones. If Pedro Strop and Simon Ferrer are held over from late season call-ups last year, they'd obviously be in that noteworthy class too. It should be a decent pen, anyway, and very good with Ferrer and Strop.

Lineup:

1B: Jeff Kindel
2B: Daniel Mayora
SS: Hector Gomez
3B: Matt Repec?
C: Michael McKenry / Brian Aguailar
RF: Victor Ferrante
CF: Anthony Jackson
LF: Jay Cox?

Bench:
Josh Banda
Ramon Rodriguez
Bret Berglund
Geoff Strickland
Spence Nagy
Steve Boggs

The weakness of our lower minors at the corners manifests itself here, as Repec should be a shortstop. Mayora's got the bat to do well at third, but his natural position is second, and he and Gomez would make a dynamite keystone combo. I'm kind of expecting some sort of fill in from the Indy leagues or something, as the answer I have above for Asheville's hot corner isn't very satisfying right now. The outfield is a bit below average, although don't expect numbers as low as these guys put up at pitcher friendly Tri-City. Both Ferrante and Banda seem more like Sean Barker types, but Ferrante's got the better chance of becoming something more. Berglund and Strickland have been disappointing thus far in their minor league careers, but should either break out in Spring, they could be the answer we're looking for at third base at this level.

Kindel and Jackson haven't been around long enough to get the same disappointing label, but their debuts last season in Tri-City were less than hyped. Kindel's secondary numbers were solid, however, and given that he's a left handed pull hitter with power going into a park with this thing, I expect much better results this year.

The catchers are another part of my favorite aspects of this team. I think Aguailar was overlooked (he went undrafted), and McKenry -who's got a bit more upside- makes a solid platoon with him. Aguailar's left handed bat won't be able to take as much advantage of McCormick Field as Kindel's because Brian lacks the power, but he showed in Tri-City that gets solid wood on the ball and can take pitches to either field. I expect McKenry to show a bit more of the pop that he had in college, as he plays a little closer to his hometown of Knoxville, TN.

Summary:

Overall, I expect the Tourists to be better this season than last thanks to the deeper, more mature  pitching. Defensively, this is a more solid bunch as well, and the offense should hold its own as long as Kindel steps up. If Sullivan and Hynick are both here to front the rotation, with Weiser and Graham backing them, then I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Tourists went to the South Atlantic League playoffs in 2007. It should be an exciting season in Asheville.