The 2007 Season Preview – Daily Baseball Returns!

Uncategorized

Thursday, 2007 April 1 –  After a long and cold winter hiatus, baseball and the famed Daly City Montis return again.  After a record fourth consecutive championship and a league-leading record in 2006, things would appear to be going well for the young club.

But quietly, fear and uncertainty have started to permeate through the clubhouse during the early spring training months.  Despite their unrivaled success, the team has been on a decline ever since its inaugural season, dropping from ___ in 2003 to ____ in 2004 (125-37, .772) and finally to their 119-32 mark last season.  A number of contracts – most of the players who have been with the team for three or four years – also expired after the 2006 season, and the resulting contracts and arbitrated salaries have ballooned the payroll to an immense $51 million – this for a team that brought in just $5.8 million in ticket sales in all of 2006.

A number of key players over the past couple of years have also hit the farm: designated hitter Rudy Puzon, who has compiled a steady .315-.397-.533 line over the past two seasons and has led the team with 245.11 runs created; RF prodigy Jason Liu, who slugged his way onto the scene way back in 2004 (he put up a .323-.422-.702 line as a rookie!) but has somewhat fizzled since then; and the somewhat inconsistent RP Helen Yamamoto (who puts up a 7.36 career CERA).

But the April brings smells of fresh-cut grass, light showers, and new hope.  Despite the loss of key players and a history of decline, the Montis have restocked and reloaded in a way that hasn’t been seen since… well, the inaugural 2003 season.  The 2007 roster brings in 6 new players – 4 batters scouted and recruited from the Montis’ Daily Cal affiliate in the Berkeley Independent League, and 2 new pitcher draftees.  For the first time ever, there appears – on paper – to be a net increase in talent; could this be the year Daly City finally sees a season-over-season improvement on their record?

Tina “Experimental Error” Quach, Catcher: Quach enters in her second season as full-time catcher for the Montis – a role she didn’t particularly thrive in last season when she dipped to a .286-.363.-380 line and had a number of defensive miscues.  Quach has been performing decently in batting practice, however, and despite the rigors of being a full-time starter at the game’s toughest position for the first time last season, was able to maintain a decent OBP.  She’s currently projected to bat 2nd in the order, so it’ll be up to her to set the table for the power hitters in the 3-4 slots.

Marco Paz, Backup Catcher: Paz made a huge experience leap from AA ball to the majors last season. Most scouts didn’t believe he was ready to face major-league pitching yet – Paz had batted just .250-.317-.515 in AA, and an abysmal .167-.163-.310 in a short AAA stint during the 2005 season. But with the suddent departure of long-time catcher Sam Lau, the Montis were desperate and needed a catcher, fast.  The results were terrible – Paz racked up a .139-.160-.228 line in the worst individual season hitting performance on record, producing just 0.98 RC/27 outs.  The spring training reports from Paz haven’t been good either – he’s been flailing all over the place, and on top of this his vaunted power seems to have faded a little.  For now, the backup catcher job, and what few plate appearances that brings, is Paz’s by default, but his continued poor performance might mean a long summer behind the plate for Quach.

Derek Lew, First Baseman: Team captain Derek Lew will once again anchor the team.  He’s the Montis’ longest-tenured hitter (602 games over four seasons), and made his mark last season with a .304-.338-.593 line en-route to his (admittedly undeserving) Batter of the Year award.  Helped by his #4 slot hitting behind OBP machines like Puzon, Nghe, and Chee, Lew was a monster run-producer last year, putting up 162 RBIs (second most in team history).  This year he’s projected to bat 5th, behind new LF recruit Ted Kwong – whether Kwong adds more runners on base or simply sweeps the RBIs up for himself remains to be seen.

Cristian Ortiz, Second Baseman: The speedy Ortiz, who obliterated the stolen base record with 91 steals last season, will have his sights on the grand prize this year: at 151 career bags, he’s just 19 steals away from overtaking Aubrey Cubilo as the Montis all-time steals leader.  Ortiz also brings his enigmatic power to the plate – though he’s got all the speed in the world, he rarely ever pulls in the doubles (just 21 all last year, in 662 plate appearances) but somehow manages to hammer in the dingers at the most opportune times (22 HR in 2006, and 59 career HR total to 56 doubles).  Ortiz is projected to bat leadoff most games, once again forming a double-steal tandem with the classically slow Monti #2 hitters (Tina Quach this year).

Joanna Maung, Saung-gah-basewoman: Maung, Daly City’s pinch-hitter extraordinaire, is back for a second season trying to fill the enormous shoes of the legendary Joey Wong. Maung’s attempts fell flat her first year – while Maung was known for pulling through in the clutch (she indeed posted an outstanding .344-.432-.422 in close/late situations), she fell flat on a day-to-day basis, hitting just .281-.351-.379.  She’ll face some stiff competition from new rookie Salgu Wissmath this season – with Ortiz and Nghe set as 162-game warriors at the middle infield positions, 3B is perhaps the only open and contestable spot.  Maung is currently projected as the #9 hitter.

Henry Nghe, Shortstop: Following his outstanding rookie campaign in 2005, Nghe went through a bit of a sophomore slump, hitting a disappointing but decent .305-.386-.429.  Despite seemingly losing his power and contact ability (the latter of which may have been caused by his stratospheric .409 BABiP regressing to a more typical .343), Nghe made great strides in his on-base ability, drawing 55% more walks per plate appearance over last year.  It’s been a quiet spring for Nghe, who’s currently projected to hit at #3 despite the bottoming-out of his power levels.

Salgu “Swissmath” Wissmath, Utility Infielder: A new recruit from Berkeley Independent League (BIL), Wissmath is an agile native 2nd basewoman who will serve as the Montis’ utility infielder.  Wissmath was a star in the BIL, hitting .361-.440-.483 for the Daily Cal Office Team in 2006.  In addition to her stellar defense, Wissmath brings an average offensive skillset to the table – league-average on-base ability and power, but with the potential for plus contact ability (she’s currently rated as 74/100).  While Maung is still the incumbent at third, Wissmath looks to mount  a strong challenge for playing time, especially as a defensive replacement in late-game situations.

Ted Kwong, Leftfielder: Another of Daly City’s BIL recruits, Kwong is perhaps the highest-rated batting prospect the Montis have had since Norman Ho.  Though he hasn’t played a game in the majors yet, Kwong is already rated with the 4th highest power potential in the league, behind Microsoft’s Jabba Desilijic-Ture, Daly City’s own inconsistent Francis Chen, and the demigod Gates Skywalker.  Kwong brings perrenial Batter of the Year credentials to a team that really hasn’t seen that kind of production since third baseman Joey Wong retired after 2005.  Currently he’s projected to bat in the cleanup spot, bumping longtime power hitter Derek Lew to 5th, mostly on account of Kwong’s far superior on-base skills.

Skyler Reid, Platoon Centerfielder: Another BIL recruit, Reid, at just 19, is a seasoned baseball veteran who’s currently the frontrunner for the starting centerfielder job in what looks to be a three-way platoon at the position.  Reid brings decent, if inconsistent, power to a position that has clasically been devoid of any power whatsoever.

Tiffany Ho, Platoon Centerfielder: Daly City’s own Eckstein-type sparkplug, Ho returns from her first full year in the majors to face serious competition and some shaky job security at her starting centerfield roaming grounds.  With Wissmath backing up the infield positions, Ho may be hard-pressed to find at bats at other positions, though she should still see plenty of defensive replacement action as the team’s top overall fielding outfielder.

Jessica Kuo, Platoon Centerfielder: The feisty young walk-on recruit from BIL, Kuo is currently projected as the third centerfielder in Daly City’s outfield platoon. While Kuo’s batting skills are rated fairly low, she’s been a human highlight reel in tryouts and spring training so far – she’s got one of the fastest pair of wheels on the team, and bests even Ho in centerfield range, though her raw inexperience leaves her a bit more error prone and shaky on the basepaths.

Francis Chen, Rightfielder: If there’s one thing to be said about Chen, it’s that he’s consistent… ly inconsistent.  After a couple of seasons as a spot starter in rightfield, Chen finally got his chance to start in 2006.  He got just that – to the tune of 130 games and 539 plate appearances – allowing him to display his trademark flashes of prodiguous power (translating to career-high 31 homers).  Despite that, Chen’s rate stats weren’t encouraging – though his batting line increased over 2005 across the board, Chen saw severe declines in both walk rates and isolated power.  Perhaps with a full year of starts under his belt, 2007 will finally be the year.

Jonathan “The Cheet” Chee, Designated Hitter: With the departure of the rock-steady Puzon, the defense-challenged Chee takes over the designated hitter position.  Chee won’t rake in the extra base hits like Puzon did, but has served in the past couple of seasons as an isntrumental component of the Monti’s offensive machine, getting on-base and setting the plate to the tune of a .390 career OBP.

Nathan Yan, #1 Starting Pitcher: The most dominating pitcher in league history, Yan has gotten better and better every season and looks to follow up his most gaudy season to date: 30-1, 284 innings, 568 K’s, 0.79 ERA, 18.0 K/9, and a scale-breaking -0.01 DIPS ERA.  It’s hard to imagine the Daly City flamethrower soaring any higher, but then again the same was thought after Yan’s then mind-blowing 2005 season.

Whitney Esguerra, #2 Starting Pitcher: The runner-up rookie of the year Esguerra had all kinds of bad luck her freshman season, losing 11 games and winding up with a 13-11 record, despite putting up some of the best performances in the league (3.15 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 6 CG and 2 shutouts).  With Zhao’s mini-slump over the previous year, Esguerra moves up to the #2 slot, where she’ll have to rise up to the challenge of even stiffer opposition.  Hopefully, she’ll be facing it with something better than her team-low 4.3 run support/game last season.

Terrence Zhao, #3 Starting Pitcher: After an other-worldly 2005, Zhao experienced a regression of sorts in 2006, and after a somewhat rough spring relative to the upstart Esguerra, sees himself once again out-of-luck and stuck at the #3 slot, where he’s pitched at or lower throughout his career, despite easily being Daly City’s second most consistent starter throughout its history (he’s 2nd in career wins, innings, K’s, CG’s, shutouts, and QS).

Samantha Chin, #4 Starting Pitcher: Entering her third season, the catty Chin looks poised for a breakout season.  She’s been firing lightning bolts all spring, and improved by leaps and bounds last year over her rookie season, improving her consistency (quality start rate jumped to 82.76% over 53.85% the season before) and allowing hitters to make far less good contact (opponent batting averaged declined .234 to .209 and slugging from .402 to an absurdly low .339 – only Zhao and Yan did better among Daly City starting pitchers in 2006).  Projections are wildly optimistic for Chin, but first she’ll have to learn to manage her control issues – she walked far more batters in 2006, and as a result her opponent OBP remained static despite a drop in the hitting categories.

Sean Wade, #5 Starting Pitcher: After an extensive sophomore slump, Wade returns as a big question mark for 2007, finding struggled to find his trademark consistency through the past season as well as spring training.  Dropping down to the #5 slot, Wade stands at great risk for dropping down even further if he doesn’t perform well early on – all five other returning starters ended 2006 on a hot streak, and pitched markedly better than Wade.

Alfred Vong, #6 Starting Pitcher: After two seasons toiling away in long-relief/spot-starter purgatory, Vong finally moves into the #6 starter spot with the retirement of longtime spot starter Miguel Pardo.  Vong certainly proved himself capable of taking the starting reins in 2006, when he delivered a 3-0, 2.70 ERA and 0.72 WHIP performance in four substitute starts for the injured Pardo.

Kelley Cox, Long/Middle Reliever: A newcomer from the Berkeley Independent League, Cox slots into Vong’s old long relief role, and will likely see a large amount of work in day-to-day relief as well, in Daly City’s minimized bullpen (Cox will be just one of four bullpen pitchers).  Cox is more developed than most recruits, possessing a wide variety of breaking ptiches, throwing a curveball, sinker, slider, and a surprisingly effective screwball.

Bernadette Dugtong, Middle Reliever: Another newcomer to the remade bullpen, Dugtong is a movement pitcher in a similar mold to Cox.  Dugtong has a huge upside, with one of the best curveballs in the league for a player her age and precision control, but her skills are still in the developmental stage.  With Cox’s longer durability fitting her into the long relief role, the rookie Dugtong will be thrown into the fire right away as the primary middle reliever.

Alvina Chu, Setup Reliever: Chu resumes her setup role, as the most experienced member of the bullpen. Though she was shaky last season, she did end up blowing only one save, and that veteran consistency will be needed to shore up the largely green relief corps.

Josiah Leong, Closer: No one delivers a roller coaster ride as well as Leong, who’s overpowering stuff and horrid lack of control means you’re as likely to see a 3-K perfect inning save as you are a 4-walk blown save.  Nonetheless, with few relievers to choose from, the team has chosen the wild brilliance of Leong over the consistency of Chu, which should make for many interesting 9th inning leads this season.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>