The Mobile BayBears were fifth in the Southern League in runs lat year despite a league-worst 53 home runs. Manager Hector de la Cruz was aggressive on the bases, manufacturing runs via 134 stolen bases, the second most in the league. With newcomers Ollie Linton (28 SB in '09 ), Jake Elmore (13 SB), Taylor Harbin (12 SB), the steals should keep on coming. Harbin, Collin Cowgill, and a full season of Sean Coughlin should provide the team with more power this time around.
With Jarrod Parker out for the season, the rest of the pitching staff are more finesse types than strikeout guys. This will make defense paramount. While the team will miss the defense provided by shortstop Pedro Ciriaco and Chris Rahl, the newcomers are no defensive slouches themselves.
Behind the plate for the BayBears this season will be Southern League All-Star
Sean Coughlin. Coughlin returns from a broken right hand which he suffered in
last year's All-Star Game. Also catching for the BayBears will be former
Mississippi State backstop Ed Easley and Konrad Schmidt, who hit .304 at Visalia
a year ago.
Along the infield for the BayBears are returnees Bryan Byrne and Ricardo Sosa at the corners. Sosa, the team's third baseman, paced the BayBears in home runs (12) and RBI (71) in 2009. Joining them in the middle of the infield will be newcomers Taylor Harbin, Jake Elmore, and Jake Wald. Wald is new to the D-backs' system after spending several years with San Francisco.
Returning BayBear Pete Clifford will begin the campaign on the disabled list. When he returns, he'll be joined in the BayBears' outfield by Evan Frey, who stole 31 bases last season, and Cyle Hankerd, who knocked in 67 runs. New to the BayBears' outfield are Ollie Linton and Collin Cowgill. Linton won the FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year Award for Visalia last year. Cowgill is coming off an injury, but still ranked as the organization's 10th best prospect this winter.
Barry Enright and Matt Torra, who each won 10 games for the BayBears last year, head the rotation. Enright was the BayBears Pitcher of the Year in 2009 while Torra led the Southern League in innings pitched (180), complete games (4), and shutouts (2), but also hits allowed (192) and home runs allowed (24). Wes Roemer, who joined the BayBears last May, is also back, as is lefty Tom Layne, a late addition to last year's ballclub. Newcomer Bryan Shaw, who pitched for Visalia last year, rounds out the rotation.
All but one member of the BayBears' bullpen is back this season. The only newbie is right-hander Bryan Henry, who posted a 3.15 ERA in 2009 for the Rawhide. Right-handers Reid Mahon, Kyler Newby, Abe Woody, Jeff Dietz, and Roque Mercedes are all back as is left-hander Leyson Septimo. Both Mercedes and Septimo are on Arizona's 40-man roster.
We still don't understand why Torra hasn't earned a place in the Aces rotation. The D-backs don't hesitate to call up players directly from Double-A, but Torra has nothing left to learn facing Southern League hitters and would be better served trying to adapt to the poor pitching conditions of Aces Ballpark. Reid Mahon has had success at Triple-A but also finds himself back in Mobile for some reason.
Jake Elmore had a strong second half at Low-A last season, but it is a little surprising that he skipped over Hi-A. He could really struggle with Double-A pitching in the early going. Ed Easley had trouble hitting in the California League, so it's hard to see him having much success at Double-A, and he will be taking playing time away from top catching prospects Sean Coughlin and Konrad Schmidt.
Candidates for a Big Season
Sean Coughlin was the hottest hitter in the organization when he broke his hand last year and went 10-for 26 with just three strikeouts in big league camp this spring. Expect him to crush Double-A pitching and perform even better in Reno, where he will be promoted once Chris Snyder is traded. Evan Frey batted .300 after the All-Star Break last year and should be able to carry that over to a full season of excellence in 2010.
Barry Enright, who was the D-backs' seventh-best prospect coming into the season, figures to do very well in Mobile in his second full season there. Roque Mercedes fanned 25 batters in just 19 innings at Mobile last year. If he improves his command, he could be lights out in the late innings.
The BayBears have a lot more experience on their 2010 opening day squad than they did a year ago. It will nevertheless be difficult to replace the bat of Gerardo Parra, the glove of Pedro Ciriaco, and the arms of Jarrod Parker, Daniel Schlereth, and Bryan Augenstein from last year. Mobile may improve a few games in the overall standings, but they are by no means a sure bet for the postseason.
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