Thursday, April 9, 2015

Quad Cities River Bandits Season Preview

The River Bandits ended their 2014 campaign with a 70-69 record, in 5th place in an 8-team division. With many of the Astros top prospects rising up to the higher levels of the organization, Quad Cities won't see any Top 10 prospects this season, but they will see two players ranked in the Top 20: OF Derek Fisher and RHP Joe Musgrove.

Joe Musgrove - July 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

But with that said, I really like this squad. Kevin Comer, Chris Lee, Albert Minnis and Keegan Yuhl all bring Midwest League experience to the table. Comer and Lee, along with Musgrove, will likely anchor this rotation; with a good start to their seasons, any one of those three could merit a promotion to Lancaster long before the end of the season. They will be joined by a 2014 Tri-City trio who all had very good seasons: Austin Chrismon, Bryan Radziewski and Ryan Thompson (my book which is linked below contains some excellent information on these three that I gleaned from Tri-City Pitching Coach Chris Holt).

Several pitchers will be leap-frogging Tri-City. Eric Peterson, Jose Montero and Josh James all had really strong seasons at Greeneville in 2014. Brock Dykxhoorn struggled early with the Greeneville squad, but ended the season with an excellent final month. Daniel Mengden spent limited time with the GCL in 2014 as he was recovering from a stress fracture in his back. Had it not been for the that stress fracture, he likely would have played for Tri-City last season. By all accounts, although Mengden isn't on the current top prospect lists, the former Texas A&M product is expected to breach those lists by season's end. [UPDATE: I totally forgot that Mengden played in 2 games at Tri-City at the end of the season and in the postseason.]

Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski will have three extremely capable catchers on hand to help him get the most out of the pitching staff. Jacob Nottingham, Jamie Ritchie and Alfredo Gonzalez each bring a great deal to the table. I am an unapologetic fan of all three.

Defensively, this infield is going to be very, very solid. I particularly like the middle infield defense of SS Mott Hyde and 2B Alex Hernandez. The offense, however, will be a bit more of a question mark. SS Thomas Lindauer is a solid defender, but he struggled to find consistency with his bat in 2014; he is the only infielder with prior Midwest League experience. Nick Tanielu, who will likely continue his transition to third base, had a great 2014 season at Tri-City and will likely be the offensive star of the infield. Hyde was solid last season as well, but Hernandez struggled. 1B Bryan Muniz was coming on strong at the end of the season for Greeneville, but the start to his career was a little rough. Kristian Trompiz, who has played all over the infield, had an excellent season with the GCL, Greeneville and Tri-City in 2014, but he is only 19. However well he transitions to the level, Trompiz is undoubtedly an exciting player to watch and will likely become a fan favorite.

The outfield, on the other hand, looks to be much stronger offensively. Ryan Bottger and Bobby Boyd both had good overall seasons with the bat and both got their feet wet in the Midwest League. Fisher had a great season in 2014 with Tri-City, although his power has been somewhat slow to develop. Sean McMullen's bat cooled off in 2014 after a very fast start at Greeneville. However, Jorge Martinez looks to offer more from a defensive standpoint than an offensive standpoint at this particular juncture.

The Low A Quad Cities team has the Beloit Snappers (A's), Burlington Bees (Angels), Cedar Rapid Kernels (Twins), Clinton Lumberkings (Mariners), Kane County Cougars (Diamondbacks), Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals), and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers) as division rivals. Kane County changed affiliations from the Cubs in 2014 to Arizona in 2015. Baseball America has organizational talent rankings for these eight teams as Twins (#4), Diamondbacks (#6), Astros (#14), Cardinals (#16), Brewers (#19), A's (#23), Mariners (#25) and Angels (#28).

Despite the absence of a lot of big name "stars" on this team, I actually have higher hopes for them than I have had since the Astros became affiliated with the River Bandits. The team has a good mix of experience and potential. If pitching and defense really does win games, I think the Quad Cities crew will remain very competitive. If they can catch up to the league offensively sooner rather than later, I think they will be a very solid and well-rounded team. The River Bandits will have a secret weapon this year with new Manager Josh Bonifay. I have watched Bonifay do some incredible things with the Greeneville team the last two seasons, getting the absolute most out of rosters that had a lot of holes in them. I can't wait to see what he can accomplish with this roster.

The River Bandits will start their season on the road against Peoria at 7:00 p.m. tonight. Their home opener will be on Sunday the 12th at 1:15 vs. Clinton.

You will find more detailed information on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook. Purchase your copy today!

PRELIMINARY RIVER BANDITS ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

PITCHERS

RHP Austin Chrismon

RHP Kevin Comer
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn
RHP Josh James
LHP Chris Lee
RHP Dan Mengden
LHP Albert Minnis
RHP Jose Montero
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP Eric Peterson
LHP Bryan Radziewski
RHP Ryan Thompson
RHP Keegan Yuhl

CATCHERS

Alfredo Gonzalez
Jake Nottingham
Jamie Ritchie

INFIELDERS

Alex Hernandez

Mott Hyde
Thomas Lindauer
Bryan Muniz
Nick Tanielu
Kristian Trompiz

OUTFIELDERS

#Ryan Bottger
*Bobby Boyd
*Derek Fisher
#Jorge Martinez
*Sean McMullen

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch hitter

For more information on where these players came from, see Dustin's post from last week.

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AAA Fresno Grizzlies Season Preview
AA Corpus Christi Hooks Preview
High A Lancaster JetHawks Season Preview

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