Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012 Cape Cod League Standouts: Harwich Mariners

The Harwich Mariners were a strong first seed in the playoffs from the Eastern Division, and for good reason. They had great pitching. They had historic hitting on top of that-they hit 60 home runs, topping the all-time team record of 59 set by Yarmouth-Dennis way back in 1981 (back when they used aluminum bats). All of that led to a 27-16-1 record, second-best in the CCBL behind Cotuit. However, the team was still swept by the Orleans Firebirds in the first round of the playoffs (one of three sweeps in the first round, along with Falmouth and Chatham). Now, it’s time to look back at the star Mariners from this summer.

Obviously, the team was loaded with good hitters. One of the team leaders was Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo (#16, pronounced “Juh-guy-low”). The sophomore finished the summer with 13 home runs to lead the team (which also placed him second both in the league and in league history since 1990, behind Tyler Horan). He also had 20 walks, 19 extra base hits, and a .291/.374/.589 batting line (average/OBP/slugging), which translates to about a 161 OPS+ (Harwich was just a slight hitters park, meaning that 161 mark is probably more or less accurate). That .963 OPS put him eighth in the CCBL, and all seven players ahead of him played first base or outfield. And he did all of that while leading the Mariners in at bats. That’s a good bat to have, especially at a more fielding-heavy position.

The team’s leading hitter was center fielder Phil Ervin (#12). The Samford center fielder jumped out to an early lead in homers before eventually settling for 11. His .323/.429/.631 line was third in the league, and about 88% better than league average. He also flashed some speed, going 10 for 12 in steal attempts. Ervin definitely made a name for himself in the 2013 draft.

Fellow natural center fielder Austin Wilson (#24) hit six home runs and just missed the team lead in OPS. The Stanford sophomore hit .312/.436/.623, leaving him with a 1.059 OPS that fell .001 behind Ervin. Again, that’s good for a 188 OPS+. He didn’t get into as many games-only 23 on the year, about half of the total. However, Keith Law did name him on his 2013 draft names to watch list.

Another name on that list was LSU Tiger Jacoby Jones (#10). The second baseman/outfielder did well enough, hitting .266/.315/.439 with five homers, ten walks, five doubles, and seven steals in eight attempts. It may not have been as good as some other players, but he flashed enough potential to show he earned a spot on that list.

Stanford first baseman Brian Ragira (#15) also did some mashing of his own. He knocked nine home runs and worked 26 walks. His batting line of .235/.374/.455 looks a little low, especially for a first baseman. However, he had some lousy luck on batted balls. On the 86 balls he put in play, Ragira only hit .256. A large part of that is probably just bad luck, meaning he could have, with the favor of the baseball gods, have made Harwich an even more overpowering offense than it already was. Even with the universe apparently somewhat against him, Ragira pulled a 126 OPS+. As a sophomore, he’ll have to shake off that bad luck and continue to improve his draft case for 2013.

Last among the position players is North Carolina State freshman Brett Austin (#23). Austin, a switch-hitting catcher, managed a .276/.368/.459 batting line with nine doubles, three dingers, and sixteen walks. In spite of playing the hardest position on the diamond AND being a year behind most Cape players developmentally, that made him 26% better than an average CCBL batter. Definitely keep him in mind for two years from now.

Not only could Harwich hit (as listing six batters may have told you), they also had quite an overpowering pitching staff. University of Kentucky left-hander Corey Littrell (#21) had a 5.06 ERA, which may sound a little high. However, like Ragira, part of that was bad luck on batted balls-opponents hit .425 on balls in play off of Littrell. The more impressive feat was his 45/11 strikeout-to-walk ratio (led the team in K’s) in 32 innings, which also came with only three home runs allowed. That performance was good for a 2.53 fielding independent pitching rate. Also, even with the balls falling in for hits at a higher rate, opponents only hit .238/.304/.381 off of him. Littrell will be going into his junior year.

Left-hander Eddie Campbell (#14), sophomore from Virginia Tech, posted similar (if less extreme) numbers. He was second on the team with 44 whiffs, posted in 36 innings against 12 walks. He was a little luckier on balls in play, seeing a .363 BABIP (which is still probably a little high), which helped contribute to a slightly lower 4.50 ERA. His one other problem was his five homers allowed. Even then, he was still good for a 3.46 FIP.

A.J. Reed (#18), Littrell’s freshman teammate at Kentucky, was the third stellar power arm the Mariners started during the course of the season. In 36.2 innings, Reed struck out 38 while limiting his walks to only seven. He also held opposing hitters to only two home runs all year, which helped keep his ERA at 2.21 and his FIP at 2.31. If he returns to Harwich next year, he has a very real chance to serve as their dominant ace. And, like the previous two, he is a southpaw.

Finally, there were two more strong arms out of the pen for Harwich. C.K. Irby (#30), a sophomore righty and Ervin’s teammate at Samford, managed an impressive 41/13 K/BB rate in 25.5 innings while allowing four round-trippers. His 3.51 ERA more or less matches his 3.45 FIP, and he held opponents to a .202/.301/.364 line. All in all, not too shabby of a performance.

Finally, Missouri State lefty Tyler Burgess (#2) was another freshman with promise. In 16.2 innings, he had a 2.16 ERA to go with a 1.200 WHIP and a 24/8 K/BB ratio. Batters hit .194/.282/.254 off of him with only one homer. That equals a 2.42 FIP as well. With Reed, he may form a formidable 1-2 punch in their rotation next season.

As of Tuesday night, the finals match-up is already set in the CCBL thanks to the large number of sweeps. We still have plenty of Cape League standouts to cover, though, so check in tomorrow.

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