Lake County Captains 2012 Preview
By Stephanie Metzger
The Lake County Captains will kick off the 2012 season in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but on Tuesday, the team congregated at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio for practice and team media day.
Last year, the team ended the season with a 53-86 record, but the numbers don’t necessarily speak for the outcomes. The team was promising in terms of development and now that some core players have accumulated experience, things are looking up.
Here’s what to expect:
The Captains’ infield features a number of great players with great stories. Behind the dish is Cleveland’s own Alex Lavisky, who is a St. Ed’s graduate. Lavisky is coming off a rough season in Mahoning Valley and Lake County, but it is important to bear in mind he had to make the leap from high school ball to pro ball. Lavisky spent part of the offseason in the Dominican Republic playing in the instructional league and also put some work in down in Tampa, Florida.
When asked how he feels about playing so close to home, Lavisky responded with enthusiasm. “It feels awesome,” he said. “I had fun last year and I’m excited to get to it this year. I think having that first year under my belt definitely gives me a little more comfort.”
Also catching for the Captains is Alex Monsalve, who hit .264 with 5 homeruns and 44 RBIs last season. Monsalve is believed to possess the potential for a lot of offensive power, but his catching skills are limited, being that he is a converted third baseman.
Playing first will be Jerrud Sabourin, who signed with the organization in June 2011. Sabourin hit .225 in Mahoning Valley and lacks plate discipline, but had a successful college career with Indiana University.
At second will be Robel Garcia, the .284-hitting 19-year-old who gets on base and shows bits of power in his swing.
Francisco Lindor, the 2011 first-round pick shortstop, is undoubtedly the spotlight player of the season. Lindor is an 18-year-old from Puerto Rico who is best known for his defensive abilities. However, he is also rather advanced for a hitter his age with a good approach and decent bat speed. Last season, he hit .316 in five games with Mahoning Valley and this year will be his first full season. Lindor shows promise to become a premier shortstop, which he looks forward to.
“This offseason, I was ready,” Lindor said. “I couldn’t wait to start. I’m excited, I’m happy. My family supported me and so far, I think I made the right decision.”
Lindor played in an instructional league during September and October and worked with a personal trainer, but the biggest adjustment he made was his workout routine. “I can control how much work I do,” said Lindor. “It’s important to have quality, not quantity.”
Playing third will be Leonardo Castillo. Castillo played well in the Arizona rookie league last season, posting a .303 average, and he manages to limit his strikeout numbers. Nick Bartolone and Todd Hankins will also play the infield. Bartolone played in Lake County in 2011, posting low offensive numbers but a formidable defensive outlook, while Hankins played down in Mahoning.
Out in the grass, the Captains show a lot of promise. LeVon Washington is the highlight of the outfield, as he is one of the organization’s top prospects. Washington is a natural athlete with plate discipline and quick base runner. Last season, his numbers were not favorable, but he made several adjustments and constructed a new batting stance. Defensively, Washington is still a liability, because he still lacks experience in the outfield – he was formerly a shortstop until he suffered an injury that required surgery that weakened his throwing arm.
This year, the Captains will be armed with a number of promising pitchers. Six of the thirteen arms have pitched in Lake County previously, including starters Felix Sterling, Joe Colon and Kyle Blair. Sterling pitched well for Lake County last season and touts good velocity, though he must improve his mixing of pitches and game plans. Blair started out strong last season, but an injury to his knee impeded his remaining performances, resulting in a spike in his ERA and walks. Elvis Araujo spent the majority of the 2011 season in the Arizona league, where he pitched well, posting a 2.86 ERA there with limited walks (20) and a nice strikeout to walk ratio (8.3). Araujo has good movement on his fastball and is working to refine his change-up. Finally, Will Roberts also joins the starting rotation after three years with the University of Virginia. Roberts is a contact pitcher with good command who had a successful college career – he even tossed the 8th perfect game in NCAA history.
Cook was previously a starter for the organization, but is embracing his new role as a reliever. “I don’t want to do huge changes, but the mentality of a starter and reliever are different,” Cook noted. “You can show all your pitches sooner in a reliever role. You try to get outs and you won’t necessarily face the same batters three times. In a reliever role, you can try to maximize the outs as opposed to maximize the pitches. You have a different outlook out of the bullpen.”
Cook, however, is expected to move on to high-A Carolina fairly soon. “The old adage is, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Cook said. “So I’m trying to make the best of the experience, pitch well, and hope to move up fairly quickly.”
New to the Lake County bullpen will be Shawn Armstrong, Mason Radeke, Xavier De Los Santos, and Francisco Valera. Armstrong and Radeke both pitched in Mahoning Valley while De Los Santos and Valera played in Arizona.
Leading the Captains this season is manager David Wallace, a former catcher within the organization. He spent last season managing the Scrappers and replaces Ted Kubiak for his first season in Lake County.
“To kind of parallel it to a player, they’re learning what it takes to go through a full season and how long that season is,” Wallace said when asked of the adjustments he’ll be making as the new manager. “I’ve gone through that season as a player, but as a manager, I think there will be some natural adjustments in helping these guys understand what it takes to get through a full season.”
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot of speed,” Wallace said. “We’ve got a lot of guys up and down the line-up that can run. I really like how our pitching staff looks as far as new guys next to the guys that were here last year and the adjustments they’ve made.”
Overall, things are looking up for the Captains, though losing some players to Carolina later on in the season may hurt. All eyes will be on Francisco Lindor and the present pitching staff boasts some good-looking arms. Keep an eye on this group of prospects and continue to root for them – a few may be joining the Bullpen Mafia at The Jake someday and who knows – maybe one will finally fill the void in left field.