Vancouver made significant financial commitments during the off season by signing pitchers R.J Gardner and Lon Lee and right fielder Ricardo Seanez to long term contracts. The continued emphasis is to keep talented farm products. The strength of the team is pitching. The challenge is for Hitting Coach Chad Reese to get more offensive production. If they can find 50 more runs scored in season 21, they will be poised to go deep in the playoffs. If not, they will be scratching for a wild card birth in a very completive NL West.
The top four starters return, led by last year’s Cy Young candidate Jamie Bradley. His career record is 107-52. Gardner scored career bests in ERA and WHIP in season 20. Yorvit Molina had a rotation-best 1.13 WHIP. Lon Lee had 3.45 ERA as combination starter and reliever, expects to stay in the rotation. Lou O’Brien, the Über set up man, brings his .195 opponent average to the rotation.
This year’s pen is deep and filled with young talent. Rip Robinson recorded 36 saves in what statistically may not have been his best year, although still excellent in many ways.
Sammy Colon, Benji Santayana, Kevin Jeffries and Colby Pelfrey will be the set up men. Pelfrey’s rubber arm made 81 appearances for 114 innings last year. Santayana recorded a career best 1.14 WHIP. Jeffries had a 2.05 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Colon worked hard in the off season to improve his control.
Justin Post was acquired last season to improve pitch calling and to provide defense from behind the plate. He ably fit the bill, as Vancouver’s ERA was second best in the NL, a significant improvement from 10th in season 19! Spring training will decide if C/DH Tony Otanez is the backup catcher or if one of four AAA catchers is promoted.
Can Tony Unamuno regain his 100+ RBI stroke from 2 and 3 seasons ago? Let’s hope being in the last year of his contract will be a motivator.
Nate Cockrane and Max Guerrero both had over .377 OBP from the leadoff spot. Cockrane was nearly perfect on the base paths being caught only twice in 86 steal attempts. Guerrero’s bat kept him in the lineup, playing six positions.
Paul Crosby and Fernando Johnson will compete for this position. Johnson is an excellent fielder and a superb hitter with power from the right side. Crosby is likely to be see playing time against left handed pitching, also is an excellent fielder. He was a first round draft pick in season 15.
Russell Steinbach anchors the hot corner. Can he improve as a clutch hitter and cross the magic 100 RBI range? Journeyman Richard Gant will supply some days off.
Does a combination of Frank Valentine and Brian Winston turn left field into a position of strength? Right Fielder Ricardo Seanez is poised for a breakout year. Can he regain the stroke that produced a .900 OPS in his rookie year? Does Rule 5 acquisition Alvin Stewart’s blazing speed light a fire under center fielder Bart Whitaker? Improvement in range from the position would be most welcome.
The ML roster has an open slot. Will it be filled with a catcher in Emil Flores or recently acquired Albert Patel? Or does the bullpen get a sixth member? Veteran Jerome Branson is in camp for a look see. Does Jose Alou or Kazuhiro Kim stick as a long reliever? AA phenom Alex Seung is turning heads in spring training. Can he be ready by mid-season?