Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quad Cities River Bandits 2014 Season Preview

Over the last few days I've posted season previews for Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi and Lancaster.  The last one up is the Low A Quad Cities River Bandits team. Let me just say this. If pitching and defense really does win games, this Quad Cities bunch is going to win a ton!

The pitching depth on this team is ridiculous. Let's look at the tandems first, taking note of their 2013 stats. Michael Feliz (1.96 ERA, 0.957 WHIP, 10.2 SO/9, 6.00 SO/BB) debuted on a lot of Astros Top 10 prospect lists this off-season. He teams up with Evan Grills, a 21-year old lefty from Canada who made great strides in his development in 2013. He had a 3.34 ERA and a 1.258 WHIP. They both pitched for Tri-City last season.

The second tandem is Adrian Houser (3.42 ERA, 1.340 WHIP) and Gonzalo Sanudo (1.16 ERA, 0.621 WHIP, 11.9 SO/9, 12.75 SO/BB). Pitching for Tri-City in 2013, Houser halved his walk rate from the prior season. Sanudo pitched out of the 'pen for Greeneville and Tri-City in 2013 and is being converted to a starter this season. He walked only four batters in 38+ innings pitched.

Next up is the duo of Andrew Thurman (3.86 ERA, 1.361 WHIP, 9.8 SO/9) and Chris Lee (3.10 ERA, 10.95 WHIP, 9.9 SO/9).  Thurman spent his first professional season in Tri-City and Lee pitched in Greeneville in 2013.

Last but certainly not least is the tandem of Kent Emanuel and Jandel Gustave. Emanuel didn't see much professional action in 2013 after having pitched a full season and on into the College World Series for the University of North Carolina. In four starts with the Gulf Coast League Astros, Emanuel had a 0.00 ERA and a 0.889 WHIP. Jandel Gustave pitched in Greeneville in 2013 and has started getting some attention from prospect followers due to his high octane fastball. He had a 2.68 ERA, a 1.397 WHIP and struck out 10.1 batters per nine innings. He will, however, need to get his walks under control.

Jandel Gustave - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

And let me assure you, the bullpen is equally impressive:

Tyler Brunnemann - 3.38 ERA, 0.955 WHIP, 12.0 SO/9, 6.50 SO/BB
Patrick Christensen - 2.57 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 12.2 SO/9, 7.33 SO/BB
Chris Cotton - 1.74 ERA, 1.097 WHIP, 2 BB in 31 IP
Albert Minnis - 2.57 ERA, 1.143 WHIP
Zach Morton - 1.75 ERA, 0.877 WHIP
Andrew Walter - 1.66 ERA, 0.711 WHIP, 7.20 SO/BB (5 BB in 38 IP)

Since Morton and Cotton both had a few starts in 2013, they should be available for that role in the event anyone stumbles. Christensen, Minnis and Morton had the highest rates of groundball outs in 2013 and I could see any of those three getting the call to Lancaster if needed.

The 2013 Quad Cities pitchers had a cumulative 3.62 ERA, 1.316 WHIP, 8.0 SO/9 and a 2.76 SO/BB rate. If the 2014 staff performs anywhere close to what they did last season, look for them to improve in all of those categories.

As a team, I think this 2014 staff is extremely strong defensively. Outfielders James Ramsay and Brett Phillips were both cited recently by Baseball America for their defensive abilities. The entire infield and catching staff are strong as well.

The cumulative batting line for the 2013 team was .247/.338/.362. Conrad Gregor and Tyler White beat all three of those marks handily in their 2013 campaigns. Brett Booth, Chase McDonald and James Ramsay also had very strong seasons at the plate. Brian Holberton didn't hit particularly well for average, but was among the best in on-base and slugging. Tanner Mathis had the best on-base percentage of the group and one of the highest batting averages. Austin Elkins and Brett Phillips should also beat the team's on-base mark from last season.

Jobduan Morales had a tough season in 2013, hitting far below his career marks so I look for improvements from him. Hopefully, Jack Mayfield and Jon Kemmer will make the necessary adjustments to improve on their first season numbers. Chan Moon's .263/.327/.335 batting line from 2013 is probably about what you can expect from him in 2014 as well.

Overall, I think this team will have a batting average similar to 2013 and a slightly lower slugging percentage, but will get on base at a substantially higher pace.

Last season's team finished with a record of 81-57. I think this team is going to outperform that number on the strength of pitching and defense. I'm going to go with a 85-55 record and once again playoff bound. Back-to-back Midwest League Championships are not out of the question. Make it happen, Omar!

This is the opening day roster. The season schedule can be found here, game video is available hereand the radio feed is available here with Marco LaNave calling the action. 

PITCHERS
Tyler Brunnemann
Patrick Christensen
Chris Cotton*
Kent Emanuel*
Michael Feliz
Evan Grills*
Jandel Gustave
Adrian Houser
Chris Lee*
Albert Minnis* - not on opening day roster
Zach Morton
Gonzalo Sanudo
Andrew Thurman
Andrew Walter

CATCHERS
Brett Booth - not on opening day roster
Brian Holberton*
Jobduan Morales#

INFIELDERS
Austin Elkins#
Conrad Gregor*
Jack Mayfield
Chase McDonald
Chan Moon*
Tyler White

OUTFIELDERS
Jon Kemmer*
Tanner Mathis*
Brett Phillips*
James Ramsay

*Left-handed
#Switch hitter

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