Bradenton Marauders Season In Review

The Marauders were, by any reasonable measure, one of the best teams in the Florida State League. They led the league in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, and they also finished fifth (out of twelve teams) in runs allowed and fourth in ERA. They also finished third in the league in overall winning percentage. They also made the FSL playoffs, although they were quickly eliminated by the Charlotte Stone Crabs. And they did it with a team that was loaded with prospects.

And yet the season was not an unambiguously positive one, as many of the team's best players missed significant chunks of time. Among them were catcher Tony Sanchez and outfielder Starling Marte, who suffered freak injuries - Sanchez had his jaw broken by a pitch, and Marte had surgery on his hand after also being hit. Also, infielder Brock Holt didn't play after early June.

It's too bad, because those three were the team's best hitting prospects. Sanchez and Holt both posted OBPs over .400, and Marte hit .315/.386/.432. Lesser prospects were also affected: third baseman Jeremy Farrell posted a .301/.373/.475 line for the year, but missed time when he hit himself in the shin with a foul ball and the injury became infected. And Sanchez's backup, Eric Fryer, also missed time when he got hit in the face with a pitch.

The Marauders' leader in at-bats, then, was Quincy Latimore, an outfielder who got off to a great start and has good power but struggles to control the strike zone and finished the season with a solid-but-unspectacular .266/.323/.444 line.

Behind him was Robbie Grossman, another young outfielder who hit for a low average, but actually made a fair amount of progress, reducing his strikeout total from 164 in 2009 to 118 this year. Grossman, too, started the year brilliantly and tailed off quickly, finishing with a .688 OPS, but I think his season has to be considered a success for a 20-year-old - the strikeouts were the single most important thing between him and a major-league career.

After that, the at-bat leaders were marginal prospects or non-prospects like hulking, strikeout-prone first baseman Calvin Anderson, light-hitting outfielder Austin McClune, and defensive specialist Greg Picart. The Marauders also gave significant numbers of at-bats to free-talent non-prospects like Jamie Skelton and Adam Davis. And so whereas in late April the Marauders looked like the best minor-league offense in the history of the planet, they were something far less than that by the time the season ended.

Fortunately, the pitchers weren't bitten by the injury bug. Bryan Morris dominated the Florida State League so thoroughly for eight starts that his promotion to Altoona must have answered opposing hitters' prayers. Jeff Locke lasted 17 starts before being promoted, posting an outstanding 6:1 K:BB ratio and striking out a batter an inning. Given that he'd had 27 career Class A+ starts even before the season, it was surprising that the Pirates waited so long to promote him, particularly after he continued to post great numbers at Altoona. Locke seems all but certain to be added to the 40-man roster this winter.

Nathan Adcock might be a trickier case. If I were in charge, I'd add him, but I also would have promoted him to Class AA at some point, and the Pirates didn't. By leaving him off the roster, the Bucs could gamble that no one else will think his upside is worth hiding him on the 25-man roster all year. In any case, Adcock had a good season, with a 3:1 K:BB ratio, and he should be ready for Altoona next year.

Nate Baker also made nine starts at the end of the season, and pitched well. After that, the Marauders' rotation was a mix of suspects and organizational players. Tim Alderson started the year at Altoona, pitched badly, and continued to pitch badly upon being demoted. I'm not sure if he's hurt, or what (that might be one explanation for his mysterious vanishing velocity), but at this point, the offseason should feel like a blessing for him. He'll try to get his velocity back next year.

Aaron Pribanic and Brian Leach rounded out the rotation. I suppose you could call Pribanic a prospect, but I don't see him that way - he was a bit old for the level, and he only struck out about four batters per nine innings. That won't fly at the higher levels. Even a guy like Zach Duke, who never strikes out anyone in the big leagues, struck out more than a batter an inning at Class A+, and came close to that threshold at the other levels at which he pitched. Leach posted middling numbers in Class A+ as a 24-year-old; nothing to get excited about there, although his stuff is good.

The Marauders bullpen consisted mostly of older non-prospects like Casey Erickson, Noah Krol and Tyler Cox. Michael Colla put up good numbers as a 23-year-old, but his stuff, with a fastball that hovers around 90 and a slider he doesn't command well, doesn't sound like it will play well at the higher levels. The team's best reliever by far was Diego Moreno, who put up ridiculous numbers. He throws from a 3/4 arm angle as a righty, which might lead one to believe that he'd be vulnerable against lefties in the bigs, but neither righties nor lefties could figure him out this year. He pitched a few innings at Altoona at the end of the year, then ended up on the DL with a rotator cuff strain. Let's hope that doesn't turn out to be anything too serious.

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