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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

6/11/23 : Winning Ways

The Clearwater Threshers clinched the Florida State League (FSL) first half western division title on Saturday night with their 8-4 victory over the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. Their 40-15 record represents the best winning percentage in all of professional baseball (.727), they are the first minor league team this year to clinch a post season playoff berth.  This year’s playoff spot marks the first time the Threshers have won a FSL half season title since 2018 when that year’s team won the second half of the season crown.

While winning ways doesn’t  necessarily correlate to higher rankings in the prospect rankings for those who partake and/or rely on such things it certainly does create an upbeat atmosphere.  It also draws folks to the yard, while the Threshers have historically maintained a solid fan base core this year’s attendance thru thirty home dates (75,644) is over 20,000 more than the next highest total (Fort Myers) in the Florida State League.  The team is an incredible 25-5 (.833 winning percentage) at home.

The team has truly played as a cohesive unit with some players putting up standout numbers however receiving contributions from all. They champion each other and project a spirit emblematic of the “Protect the Standard” mantra of the Player Development Department.  The team consists primarily of the players selected in the 2022 draft or signed as amateur free agents last summer, their camaraderie has enabled them to play in an opportunistic fashion as they pounce on their opponents mistakes and take advantage often, they win as a unit and have fun doing so.

During the first half of this season the team pitching has been outstanding, leading the league or near the top in multiple categories.  Offensively they are collectively at the league top in runs, hits, RBIs, batting average, on base percentage and far in the lead in stolen bases.  Here’s a deeper dive into the makeup of the first half champions.

Pitching :

On April 8th in just the second game of the season five pitchers combined for a no-hitter setting the tone early.  The staff has thrown three shutouts thus far and was key in the thirteen game winning streak the club had from April 23rd thru May 8th.

Alex McFarlane and Sam Aldegheri lead the club in starts and innings pitched, both have shown dominant stuff at times.  Aldegheri was the starter in the no hitter, he’s a lefty who generally pitches to contact however has posted a 12.08 strikeout per nine inning ratio, his mix of pitches have produced quite a few swings and misses. McFarlane has a big time arm, upper nineties heat, also has a sinker and cutter that have great life, very promising future.

Estibenzon Jimenez, Jean Cabrera and Jonathan Petit have become rotation regulars and each has had their own successes.  Cabrera is also a power pitcher who continues to develop offsetting deliveries to maintain a balance.  Both Jimenez and Petit generally pitch to contact, are fun to watch as they are battlers.  Lefty Gabriel Cotto transferred from Jersey Shore and has been very good in his four appearances (three starts), he also features a pitch to contact approach.

The bullpen has been stellar whether it be in the form of bulk relievers which are fellas who generally go two to three innings or more per appearance (notably Wen Hui Pan and Jonh Henriquez), multi inning relievers (often times two inning stints) or back end finishers.  Both Pan and Henriquez have excelled in their roles, Pan is a power arm with upper nineties fastballs but also features a fall off the table splitter, both are put away pitches.  Henriquez has used a mix albeit he can also crank up the heater, it’s been the cutter that’s used most frequently, gets a lot of spin with it as well as his other off speed deliveries.  Jack Dallas has appeared in more games than anyone in the league to date and has put up stellar numbers, he often comes in to get out of jams and then extends his efforts with other innings however he’s also closed out games (leads team in saves), sort of like a Ron Reed throwback role.  Andrew Walling is a power arm lefty while Wesley Moore is a lefty who relies on a sinker and very deceptive change up, Moore has great numbers while Walling’s are pretty darn good as well.  To date the team has had nine pitchers who’ve appeared in three or more games with ERA’s under 3.00 with Pan and Cotto under 2.00 and Dallas and Moore under 1.00 😳.  Can’t forget the presence that Orion Kerkering had in his nine appearances before being promoted to Jersey Shore, he had a 0.00 ERA in ten and one third innings with 18 K’s and only one walk.

Catchers :

Caleb Ricketts had a huge impact at Clearwater in the 20 games he played before being promoted to Jersey Shore on May 9th posting a .402 OBP and .379 BA in 92 PA’s.  Jordan Dissin has stepped in as the primary catcher since and hasn’t missed a beat, he’s posted a .438 OBP in 122 PA’s and a .299 batting average and by many accounts has the best throwing arm at the position in the system.  Ryan Leitch moved into Dissin’s previous role and another outstanding thrower Gus Sosa is not far away from returning to the active roster.

Infielders :

The middle infield triumvirate of Bryan Rincon, Erick Brito and Otto Kemp have all had shining moments including walk off hits, home runs, on base streaks and solid defense.  All three hover around or exceed the respectable .350 OBP mark, Rincon has been the primary shortstop at just nineteen years of age, he’s continued to show the pop in the bat we saw last summer on the backfields.  Recently eighteen year old William Bergolla was added to the mix, he’s a heady and very talented player who has a sweet and quick short swing to couple with solid fielding skills, we are sure that he too will have his moments of excellence, in this, his first stateside season.

First base has been manned mostly by Chad Castillo who’s battled thru some nagging injuries that have hampered his numbers, we know he can hit though and he’s shown us glimpses of doing so.  We’ve always been a fan of Felix Reyes (plays SS,3B & OF too), he joined the club on May 3rd and has played very well.  Cole Moore is perhaps the best fielding first baseman in the system, he’s also a power bat.

Kemp has made half of his starts at third base sharing time there with Freylin Minyety before Minyety was promoted on May 30th.  Freylin hit .310 with a .374 OBP in his 28 games with the Threshers.  Reyes now sees time at third base as well.

Outfielders :

Definitely a team and for that matter a system strength is the outfield contingent. Speed all around both on the base paths and defensively, this group has truly excelled.  Nineteen year old Justin Crawford is amongst the league leaders in multiple categories including batting average (.336) and stolen bases (24), he’s super fast and has played outstanding defensive center field, a great start to his first full season as a pro.  Another nineteen year old possesses the same type of blazing speed, Emaarion Boyd leads the league in stolen bases with 33 including posting six in one game, he’s shown us outstanding defense and a plus throwing arm and has posted a strong .377 OBP to date, he too is in his first full pro season.  Gabriel Rincones Jr has posted 13 doubles and 24 stolen bases to go along with a .390 OBP, the pre draft critique on him from the “experts” was that he wasn’t a good defender however we’ve witnessed some very good catches, he’s athletic and gets after it, a left handed power bat who can hit to all fields, also in his first full season.  Cade Fergus has put up his own solid numbers and has shown us the capability to deliver in the clutch along with plus speed, he’s an excellent defender in his own right.  Jordan Viars (19 years old) and Ricardo Rosario (20 years old) don’t have the numbers the others do but have shown their capabilities in flashes, both had two hits in the division title clinching game, Viars is a power hitter who’s hit into some tough luck, seems every time we’ve watched him in person the line drives off the bat are caught by a fielder, Rosario is another speedster with good defensive skills and a plus arm.  It’s a very good group.

So congrats to the team, manager Marty Malloy, the coaching staff and the entire Player Development crew and leadership. Winning a league title whether it be a division or an overall crown is quite an accomplishment.  Winning ways in the minor leagues bring smiles all around and builds upon the organizational spirit that feeds the ultimate goal of supporting the big club in their pursuit of the Major League championship.  It’s indeed the realm of Happy Days and Happy Baseball ⚾️.

Photos by Rebecca Alexander, Casey Burns and Cheryl Pursell

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