Saturday, March 1, 2008

Toledo Zephyrs- Year in Review/Preview

The Zephyrs had to be disappointed with their performance in season 7. The team consistently found ways to lose all season long. Sometimes the starters wouldn't show up and the Zephyrs would post their opponents to a 5 or 6 run lead. When the starters did make quality starts, the bullpen would fail them. And when both the starters and bullpen would perform, they'd forget where they left their bats. This led to the Zephyrs missing the playoffs after three straight appearances. Additionally, the under performing was a problem franchise wide as only the Rookie League team made the playoffs.

The Zephyrs brought up three players to start the season and each recorded 446ABs or more. However, only Nate Henderson(22) showed his potential, hitting .290 with 27HR, 83RBI, 94R and 10SB in 511AB (also46BB) Henderson played most of the season in CF, but is headed back to 2B for season 8. Red Wagner(23) got off to a bad start and was inconsistent; however, he did show signs of his potential and was handicapped by not having a regular spot in the field or the line-up. He did accumulate 500AB and hit .262 with 24HR, 75RBI, 83R, and 17SB (only 34BB). However, next season will see Wagner settle in as the full time CF. Finally, the most dsappointing was LF Darryl Sosa(23) who collected 21HR and 75RBIwhile hitting a meager .238. The youngster will probably be afforded another opportunity in season 8, but is being pushed hard by Bill Gibbons(21) a 2B who might be moved into LF because he can't push Henderson or Wagner out of their jobs. The Zephyrs MVP was second year C Pascual Torrealba who hit .298 with 30HR and 98RBI.
Things were no better amongst the pitchers. Only Chris Stuart(29) and last year's NL RoY Stevie Buckley(23) performed well throughout the season. Stuart was coming back from a late season injury which kept him out of the playoffs in season 6. He posted a team best 15W, 3.93ERA and 1.23WHIP in 204IP Buckley followed close behind with 11W, 3.99ERA, and 1.25WHIP in only 178IP. Tim Baker(26), who lost almost his entire season 6 to a catastrophic injury, struggled and was finally demoted to the bullpen. There are concerns that he will not recover enough from the injury to be effective. Zeus Corino(27) continued to be inconsistent.Team officials have all but given up on him producing as a #1 or #2; however, he remains a solid pitcher who will be given the ball every 5 games.
The bullpen was a disaster, any stats used would generally be misleading. Basically, the bullen pitched well when the starters got blown out, but pitched just bad enough to blow leads when they had them.


The Zephyrs will be bidding farewell to a number of players following season 7. Johnny Hermanson is leaving after three seasons to make room for Wagner. Matthew Long will be departing after almost 6 productive and successful seasons. Also, Ivan Ortiz, who was so instrumental in the Zephyrs run for the playoffs in season 6, will not be resigned following a disappointing season 7 which saw him sent to the bullpen at the end as well.

The Zephyrs are pinning a lot of their offensive hopes on 1B Sean Larkin(24). Larkin played 20 games in the majors at the end of season 7 where he hit .329 with 3HR, 13RBI, 18R, and 6SB (plus 11BB) in just 73AB. Larkin's minor league numbers have been out of this world has he brings both power and speed with a great eye.
The pitching is a different matter. Unless the Zephyrs sign a FA, the starting staff will be similar to the one from season 7. Tex Ramirex(24) is slated to begin season 8 in AAA, whether he'll play the whole season there or not remains to be seen; however, he is already penciled into the rotation for season 9. The Zephyrs have some other prospects in the system, but all remain several seasons away from the bigs at this point.
The bullpen is a work in progress. Several veterans are being allowed to leave and another was recently demoted back the minors. The farm system is short on quality relievers, at least any who will be ready in the next season or two. Therefore, the Zephyrs will keep a close eye on the market for both trades and free agents. "The situation is fluid and we are not going to panic," was the only statement GM Lansteen had on the subject.
It is clear the Zephyrs have been through some significant changes, especially their lineup, over the past couple of seasons. Larkin will be the 5th new starter since the beginning of season 6 and all are 25 years old or younger. Additionally, Kevlin Black(28) was added via trade in season 6. It may be that the team needs time to come together. While the team is being patient, it is also keeping its options open. The team may or may not be able to offered a top free agent in season 8; however, they will be able to should they choose to go after someone in season 9. However, this is a patient organization which has used the free agent market strategically. Only time will tell.