Time is marching toward the June 7 opening night at RAP, and once again we dust off the stat crawler to take a look at our new team. This week we focus of the pitching staff.
If you followed our previews the past couple of years, you already know that the pitching staff is the most volatile commodity in the organization. Never count a player as “here” until he’s tried on the jersey and stood in the dirt down on Pembroke. A lot goes on with college pitchers, and the best laid plans of player and team alike can change very quickly. Pitchers have these things called arms, and as arms get used, they take a lot of wear and tear. College coaches will have a detailed 4-year plan for their most prized possessions (those arms), and they dictate exactly when and how much their pitchers pitch – during both the college season, and the summers between.
What typically happens, is a young arm is expected to get minimal work in his college year and a plan is set to get him additional/different work over the summer, so he signs with a summer ball program like Victoria to do just that. Then through unforeseen situations and accelerated development at school, he pitches more during the year. Maybe he tires out his arm, maybe he gets more innings than he ever has before, and the summer plan changes from “more work needed” to “minimal or no work at all”. A solid example of this happened last year, when Pepperdine stud lefty Ryan Wilson, who looked to have a lock on a starting role in Victoria, was pulled at the last moment after throwing 97 innings in the Waves’ extended season.
HarbourCats coaching and management have learned a great deal from the past couple of years, and have a better idea who to target to help minimize the situation. Still, so far this spring eight previously signed arms are no longer on the roster – and don’t be surprised if at least a couple mentioned here never get the chance to try a Floyd’s burger.
Here’s a look at the current signed roster (note we lost OF Matt Lautz since last time as well)…
Go grab a comfy seat and a beverage – we have a lot of pitchers on the menu today. Here they are, in no particular order.
Austin Dondanville, Cal Poly Mustangs
Old friend Austin Dondanville will return to Victoria this year, after a slower spring with the Mustangs. He’s only pitched 11.2 innings of relief, and holds a 6.94 ERA averaging just over a strikeout an inning. Conversely with the Cats last season, he was a solid starter for us ending with a 2.80 ERA in 57.2 innings of work.
Creed Smith, Chico High Panthers
Creed is a multi-sport stud athlete for the Panthers, with football QB and basketball point guard also on his resume. On the mound, he’s having a pretty good senior year, sporting a 4-1 record with a 3.57 ERA. Creed is also hitting .368 in 21 games this season, so seeing him in a pinch-hit situation is not out of the question either. I’m assuming he really enjoying his final year of high school…
Dalton Erb, Chico State Wildcats
Dalton is a true starter for the Wildcats, leading the team with 14 starts, a 6-3 record, and a 3.68 ERA. His inning count is up there at 73.1, and he throws a bit of heat most games, with 65 K’s on the season. He’s a solid performer, but his use in the spring may limit his summer plans.
Mason Hilty, Dixie State Trailblazers
Mason is perhaps the definition of a stud Div 2 pitcher, leading Dixie State into next weekend’s NCAA Regionals. Hilty went 9-1 this season with a stingy 3.44 ERA, walking only 15 while striking out 69 in 70.2 innings. He will have one or maybe three more starts before his college year ends depending on how far the Trailblazers go. He could hit 90 innings, which makes him extremely volatile. What a huge addition he would be if he stays on the roster.
Mark Reece, Fresno State Bulldogs
Reece is putting up good numbers out of the bullpen for Fresno State this year. He’s running a 2.91 ERA in 21 innings of work over 15 games. Showing average power and control, he’s walked 12 and struck out 14 over his time on the mound.
Holden Lyons, Oklahoma City University Stars
Lyons is a bullpen powerhouse this year, sporting a measly 2.12 ERA in his 34 innings pitched for the Stars. He’s also registered 4 saves, so a closer role here would be a distinct possibility. He’s got perfect closer numbers: walking only 9 while striking out 30, and giving up only 2 home runs in the process. Those numbers point to some dominant velocity and control.
Casey Costello, Colin Ashworth, and Josh Walker, Orange Coast College Pirates
Might as well talk about all three of our Pirates at once. Ashworth and Costello have both shown promise as part-time starters this season, and both have similar numbers. Costello’s sporting a slightly lower 3.86 ERA over 30.1 innings of work, while Ashworth sits at 4.26 in 31.2 innings. Costello is showing more power with 33 Ks on the season. Josh Walker has had very limited work this year, throwing only 8 total innings. His 11.25 ERA might have had something to do with that, but in true Walker fashion, he was mowing batters down at a 1.5K/inning clip. The returning HarbourCat should see a great deal more action coming out of the pen come June.
Cody Ahlgrimm, Pacific University Boxers
Ahlgrimm is another solid bullpen performer, tossing 18 innings for the boxers over 9 games this spring. Is 3.50 ERA puts him in the middle of their relief core, with 13 Ks against 14 walks.
Nick Wojtysiak, Paradise Valley CC Pumas
Another of our returning players, Nick is hoping to rekindle the HarbourCat magic that saw him lead the team in ERA last year at 2.49. Except for starting his first game, the Pumas have used him out of the pen all season, where he continued his late-inning K dominance. He was rocked a couple of times ballooning his ERA to 6.46, but the majority of his 23.2 innings were solid.
Josh Mitchell, Pittsburgh Panthers
The ‘stash is returning for another season as well, and it couldn’t be timelier for Mitchell. With only 4 innings of work for the Panthers this season, he will be looking at regaining his regular turn in the HarbourCat bullpen. Those warm summer nights at RAP do wonders for facial hair too, so he’ll be in fine form come mid-June.
Will McAffer, South Dakota State Jackrabbits
McAffer is a starter on a poorly performing low-offence squad at SD State, which doesn’t help his numbers much. His 7.34 ERA on 30.2 innings worked is indicative of his slightly higher walk to K ratio (28 / 23). He started 7 games this season, registering a 1-0 record, meaning he left most games with his team still in the game. That could translate into a few more wins in Victoria…
James Kannenberg, University of San Francisco Dons
Kannenberg is the Dons best starter this season, posting a 6-4 record and a fine 3.48 ERA. His 75 innings pitched so far is up there, but he may have some arm left for summer. A control pitcher more than anything, he gave up only 29 walks while recording 30 Ks. He should make a solid starter for the HarbourCats.
Blake Hannah and Ryan Steindorf, UC Davis Aggies
The Aggies send us a pair of excellent bullpen resources in Hanna and Steindorf. Hanna has seen more action this year with 22.1 innings under his belt (a 5.64 ERA), while Steindorf has been used sparingly in 9 innings of work and a 3.00 ERA. These two freshmen will look to add some significant time to their resume here in Victoria.
Chris Vargas, UC Irvine Anteaters
Vargas is also a middle-relief kind of guy, but a solid power and control guy. In 24 innings this season, he’s racked up 25 Ks against only 12 walks. His 2.62 ERA puts him at the top of the Anteaters bullpen crew.
Brendan Hornung, University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Hornung has been the busiest potential HarbourCat this spring, tossing a whopping 83.1 innings in 13 starts for the ‘Bows. He’s had a much better year than his 3-7 record shows, going deep into almost all of his games, and holding a solid 3.24 ERA. He would be my bet for the guy most likely not to show – and if he does, I would predict minimal work on his summer schedule. Then again, pitching like he does on a team that produces runs and gets him wins would be an invaluable confidence boost for the lad. Stay tuned on this one…
Skyler Henderson, Vernon College Chaparrals
Henderson is another solid righty who would fit nicely in any HarbourCat rotation. He’s had a pretty good year for Vernon (Texas, that is), sporting a 5-2 record coming out of the pen – but pitching 63.2 innings so he’s no short relief guy. He’s fanned 59 while walking 43 – the high number of walks obviously not helping his 6.79 ERA. A bit more control and Skyler could be a key mid-inning guy for the Cats.
There are more, but no stats I could find in the few hours of research time I had, so apologies to Josh Burgmann (future Univ. of Washington and Nanaimo boy), Kyle Mora (future UCLA, currently Los Alamitos HS Griffins), and Brandon Lane (future Everett CC Trojans).
It seems like a lot of players, but it also seems like the proper mix of talent. You could pick 3-4 starters out of the mix, a couple with serious closer skills, and a bunch of solid middle relief. On paper, it looks better than last year, and coach Merritt will appreciate having extra arms in the bullpen that he didn’t have last year. Even with a couple of inevitable no-shows, we should still be good to go come June 4 and beyond.