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March 18, 2008 March 18, 2008

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.

Interview Schedule: We’ve (hopefully) got Kevin Haverbusch and Randy McGarvey lined up for the week, and I’ll be giving Bridgeport’s Jay Caligiuri a call tomorrow. I’m going to try to get a few of the newest Patriots signings as well, so stay tuned.

Drew Brothers Complete Trifecta: J.D. Drew played for the St. Paul Saints, Stephen Drew played for the Riversharks, and now Tim has joined the Bluefish…here’s the release:

(PR) The Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball have announced the signing of three players for the 2008 campaign. Outfielder Shaun Boyd will return for his second stint with the Bluefish along with newly signed pitchers Tim Drew and Wes Wilkerson.

Boyd, 26, was a former 13th overall draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2000 draft. During the 2007 season Boyd finished with a .345 batting average, 24 RBIs, and 29 runs scored in 39 games in Bridgeport before being signed by the Philadelphia Phillies and ending his season is Ottawa (AAA).

Drew, 29, is another former first round pick in 1997 with the Cleveland Indians. His best year came in 2002 when he made 28 starts between AAA teams in Buffalo and Ottawa with a 14-7 record and 3.08 ERA. Drew has made 38 appearances in the major leagues with a 2-4 record and 40 strikeouts in 84 and 2/3 innings. He is also the brother of major leaguers J.D. and Stephen Drew.

Wilkerson, 31, was a non-drafted free agent signed by the Kansas City Royals in 2000, playing in their system for six seasons. In 2007 with the Cincinnatti Reds’ AAA team in Louisville, he made 28 relief appearances and posted a 2-1 record and a 3.93 ERA.

Ayala Back In Somerset: Elliott Ayala had a career year last year, far surpassing anyone’s expectations of him. The Patriots have brought him back for 2008, and here’s the release…

The Three-Time Atlantic League Champion Somerset Patriots have announced the re-signing of utility player Elliott Ayala.

Ayala had an All-Star 2007 season for Somerset, where he had a .305 batting average with 123 hits, 22 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 15 stolen bases, and 58 RBI in 105 games.

Last year Ayala also made his acting debut as Roy White in ESPN’s “The Bronx Is Burning,” a mini-series about the 1977 New York Yankees World Championship team that included Somerset Patriots Manager Sparky Lyle on the roster. Lyle won the Cy Young Award that season to be the first American League relief pitcher to win the award.

Ayala was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and spent five seasons in their organization.

Prior to joining the Somerset Patriots, Ayala had Atlantic League experience with the Pennsylvania Road Warriors during the 2003 season. Ayala began the 2006 season with Nashua, hitting .269 with 45 hits in 56 games.

He is a career .284 hitter with 598 hits, 115 doubles, 13 triples, and 196 RBI in the minor leagues.

“Elliott did a great job for us last season. He was a guy that played a lot of different positions for us, but always came through. We are glad to have him back for the 2008 season,” said Patrick McVerry, President/ General Manager of the Somerset Patriots Baseball Club.

Ashmore’s Triumphant Return: You know what’s a weird feeling? Having to check your own website to catch up on the news of the past couple days.

Thankfully, Scott did a great job tackling the breaking stories in the league over the past few days.

I was out in North and South Carolina taking in some hockey, and getting trapped in a Columbia, SC store during the worst storm I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was in the movie “Twister.” As scared as I’ve ever been in my adult life. Good times.

Want my takes on some Atlantic League stuff? Sure…

Looking At Each Team’s Rosters So Far: Waaaaaaaay too early to do this. Can’t emphasize this enough. But things have been pretty slow over the past few days, so I figured I’d take a look at what each team has so far and provide my take.

BRIDGEPORT – P Rafael Bergstrom, INF Jay Caligiuri

Ashmore’s Take: Come on, Bridgeport. Don’t do it, not again. It seems like every year, the Bluefish roster comes out in one giant clump, instead of trying to take advantage of the publicity you might get from stretching out your announcements…many teams do this, believe me when I tell you there are a lot more guys signed than teams have officially announced so far.

I do like the two signings they’ve made so far, and am particularly intrigued by Bergstrom. His numbers in Bridgeport last season weren’t all that great, and you could make a case that the signing was based more on publicity than it was anything else. But he did have a real strong year in the IBL, and I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch to see if there’s any substance behind the signing.

CAMDEN – OF L.J. Biernbaum, INF Brett Bonvechio, INF Rob Gandolfo, P Aric Leclair, P Jeremy Lewis, C Randy McGarvey, P Tony Peguero, P Robert Romero, C Erick San Pedro, P Judd Songster

Ashmore’s Take: Biernbaum, Leclair and McGarvey are the only three returning players signed so far. Is Dwight Maness coming? How about Denny Abreu? What’s Matt Demarco’s status?

It’s ridiculous that Randy McGarvey wasn’t signed this off-season. I know I’ve been a little rough on the guy at times, but he really proved himself last season. With catching at such a premium in affiliated baseball, and McGarvey having finished second in the batting race, what else does he need to do?

Bonvechio’s signing might make Demarco’s move to second base last year a permanent one, although I liked him better at third than I did up the middle. One person familiar with Gandolfo told me he’s somebody to keep an eye on, saying he’s a gamer that hits line drives like they’re going out of style. I could see David Keller bringing in a third catcher, as while San Pedro has an outstanding reputation as a defensive specialist, that’s also a nice way of saying the guy can’t hit.

Romero’s also a bit of a concern in the bullpen…I think Keller put it best when he said he’s got good stuff, but just needs to harness it. I just don’t know if this is the place he’s going to do it.

LANCASTER – P Erik Ackerman, OF Dominick Ambrosini, C Lance Burkhart, P Derek Forbes, P Ricardo Gomez, OF Jutt Hileman, P Tim McClaskey, C Manny Mejia, P Franklin Mendible, P Mike Nannini, P Zach Parker, P Ross Peeples, UTIL Lloyd Turner, OF Michael Woods

Ashmore’s Take: Unless Zach Parker plans on throwing 140 complete games, this could be a disaster. Lancaster needs to bring in some more relievers, because what they’ve got right now could either be the makings of the biggest surprise in the Atlantic League, or the shakiest bullpen in the league.

Despite the fact they’re doing exactly what they did last year and bringing back too many guys from the previous season’s team, I think their lineup is among the best in the league when everything’s going for them. If they can plug in the holes with some new blood and maybe get some impact infielders, then perhaps the lineup can carry them past their shaky pitching.

I’ll be curious to see what McClaskey and Nannini bring to the table, especially Nannini. Unless the guy’s played in the Eastern League, it’s rare when I’ve actually heard of someone new to the league without big league experience. But Nannini was a big prospect at one time, and this could be a great opportunity for him.

LONG ISLAND – INF Dennis Donovan, P Ben Grezlovski, OF Estee Harris, OF Kevin Haverbusch, P Randy Leek, INF Ray Navarrete, C Jamie Pogue, INF Pete Rose, Jr.*, P John Searles

Ashmore’s Take: Where are the big leaguers, Long Island? One of the most enjoyable parts of the off-season for me is seeing who the Ducks are able to get. Everyone knows that the biggest names are usually signed once big league teams make their final cuts, but Long Island usually has that one big name guy signed by now who builds anticipation for the rest of the group. A few years back, it was Erick Almonte. Last year? Richard Hidalgo.

This year, the biggest name they’ve got so far is Pete Rose, Jr. And that’s still nothing to sneeze at, as Pete put together a career AL year last season, and he and Navarrete are a pretty fierce duo in that Ducks lineup.

Of all the teams I have to look at this early in the season, Long Island is easily the most difficult, because you just know they’ve got some big news in the horizon.

NEWARK – INF Ramon Castro*, P Jose Garcia, INF Vic Gutierrez, INF Bobby Hill*, C Scott Knazek, C John Pachot, P Patrick Stanley, INF Tim Sweeney

Ashmore’s Take: Of the eight names on here, I think you realistically need to look at about six. It’s a nice story that the Bears agreed to terms with three local guys, just as it was when they signed their groundskeeper last year. But realistically, I don’t know if all three guys make the roster, although I will say they’ll be given as good of a chance as anyone else come spring training.

Bobby Hill is probably the biggest name in this league so far, and that’s a great job by the Bears to get him. Getting Castro back is a nice addition as well, and they’ve got another ace up their sleeve in a former big leaguer who will fill another hole left by a departing player.

Right now, the Bears biggest question is pitching. Garcia had a decent year last season, but he wasn’t the star of that rotation. He isn’t a #1 guy in the Atlantic League, probably not a #2, either.

Jason DiAngelo had some very interesting outings last year, and I’m not sure Edwin Almonte’s coming back either. They’ll need something in their bullpen, and they don’t have it yet.

SOMERSET – C Travis Anderson, C Jason Belcher, P Casey Cahill, INF Vito Chiaravalloti, INF David Housel, P David Humen, P Steve Kelly, P Brandon Knight*, P Bret Prinz*, P Jason Richardson, OF Michael Ryan*, P Scott Wiggins*

Ashmore’s Take: On paper, Somerset looks like one of the two strongest teams so far. Two problems with that. One, they play baseball on grass, not paper. Two, it’s March 18th, not April 25th.

People will look to the bigger names like Bret Prinz or Michael Ryan, but I think bringing back Brandon Knight is the best move they’ve made so far. I still insist that his ticket back to affiliated ball would be as a closer, but he can be a dominant starter in this league, too. However, he relies quite a bit on his power pitches, and if he isn’t striking guys out, he isn’t as effective as he needs to be.

Anderson and Belcher may be the best catching tandem you see in this league all season, at least with the bat, and Chiaravalloti could be an underdog for a player affiliated teams might be interested in.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND – INF Ian Bladergroen, P Bradley Beck, P Ryan Bicondoa, INF Chad Ehrnsberger, OF Rich Giannotti, LHP Beau Hintz, P Adam Johnson*, C Brandon Ketron, OF Terrence McClain, 1B/DH Kyle Nichols, P Jason Pearson*, OF John Ramistella, INF George Sandel, P Matt Schweitzer, C Adam Shorsher, P Travis Wade

Ashmore’s Take: The Blue Crabs could be one of the best expansion teams the Atlantic League has ever seen. They also could be one of the worst. Perhaps more so than any other team, it’s the signings they make over the next month that will mean the most.

It seems like Butch Hobson is trying to put together an independent league All-Star team. Bicondoa had one hell of a year last season, Ehrnsberger’s been successful in the past, and Sandel was one of the best players in the Northern League last year.

Adam Johnson, who I’d still like to talk to, was successful in the GBL as well.

But can these guys do it in the Atlantic League? That is the question that will follow this team this off-season, and if the answer is no, then the options and the depth that they’re going to need to recover for the second half is going to have to come from the guys they bring in over the next four weeks.

But, if the answer is yes, you could see an interesting trend in how teams are built in the future.

YORK – C Sandy Aracena, OF Jason Aspito, INF Keoni De Renne, INF Matt Dryer, OF Matt Esquivel, OF Travis Ezi, P Wayne Franklin*, C Kevin Kotch, P Pete Munro*, P Aaron Myette*, INF Kenny Perez, P Reid Price, OF Kaz Tanaka, C Luis Taveras, P Corey Thurman*, P Dave Veres*

Ashmore’s Take: Along with Somerset, the Revolution have one of the two strongest teams in the Atlantic League to this point.

There’s a lot of potential on this roster, and they could have the nastiest lineup in the league come opening day. Aspito, Dryer, Esquivel? Yikes. You’ve got to give Adam Gladstone some credit, he’s done a real nice job of mixing top returning talent with some solid players new to the league.

And five pitchers on the staff with big league time? Even if that’s where that number stays when the season starts, that’s impressive. But big league time does not a successful Atlantic League team make. But the story to watch on this team, at least so far, will be one of those big leaguers: Dave Veres.

He’s over 40, and is pitching on a prosthetic hip. Sure, it’s hard not to root for a guy like that, but when you combine that with recent elbow problems, you’ve got to wonder what’s left in the tank.

Late Takes: The most bizarre series of events to date this off-season was Lancaster losing hitting coach Sam Snider to York, then seeing him get replaced by Boots Day. What’s up with that? Maybe it was a parting shot by the spirit of BASA, who certainly moved their fair share of players back and forth last season.

Just to tackle something that was in the comments…people had asked about Brandon Larson, Jason Romano, and Teuris Olivares and about their possible return to Somerset. I think you might see two of those guys back this year, not sure about the third. – Mike Ashmore


1. Kevin - March 18, 2008

Wow this is some great stuff, especially considering the season’s a month away.

2. Anonymous - March 18, 2008

a preview of the league, before the preview. great job guys.

3. Anonymous - March 18, 2008

Great stuff? Its way too early for all this …

4. Roadwarriorfan - March 18, 2008

Bridgeport added a few players today, according to the league site.


5. Dave - March 18, 2008

Elliott Ayala has been re-signed by the Patriots.

6. AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com - March 18, 2008

“Waaaaaaaay too early to do this. Can’t emphasize this enough.”

Even I acknowledged it’s too early for this. But there’s nothing wrong with breaking down what each team has so far.

It’s not like I’m not going to do a preview in a few weeks, so this is just a pre-preview of sorts…

7. IslanderFan77 - March 18, 2008

I’m glad to hear that Elliott Ayala will be back with the Patriots!

8. Anonymous - March 19, 2008

Barnstormers – Parker’s first name is spelled Zack not Zach. It is often mispelled and is even mispelled on his baseball cards!

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