Syracuse July Review

Tuesday, August 02 2005 @ 02:30 PM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

Ho-Hum, Ho-hum, an average month for the Chiefs. To recap, April and May were disappointing and frustrating for the Chiefs, June was a big improvement and the team moved over .500, but July was just under average, two games under .500 as the Chiefs record was 54-55 at the end of July. The hitters took the brunt of the blame for the slow start to the year but it's the pitchers that pulled the Chiefs under .500 in July. Unless they can pull off a 13-2 run in August, Syracuse have to give up hopes of making the playoffs, they are seven games behind Buffalo, the division leader, but they are also seven games out of the wild card.

The Syracuse pitchers had been very good through the first three months, the team ERA was fourth in the IL at the end of June. By the end of July Syracuse had dropped to eighth in the league in ERA. In July the Chiefs pitchers allowed 160 runs in 28 games, or 5.7 runs per game, not a healthy number. Shawn Marcum and Jamie Vermilyea, promoted from New Hampshire, had July ERA's of 8.28 and 7.94 respectively. David Bush, down from the Jays had a July ERA of 6.16. Bush was promoted and pitches much better for the Jays than he did for the Chiefs, baseball is a funny game. Francisco Rosario came back from the DL mid way through the month and had a 5.87 ERA. Chris Baker was probably the Chiefs best starter, other than Chad Gaudin.

The bullpen really suffered in July, at one stage Matt Whiteside was on the suspended list; the Chiefs were using six starters due to rainouts; Justin Miller and Brandon League were called up to Toronto; Adrian Burnside had a nagging injury; and when the starters are getting pulled early it puts an extra load on the pen. Lee Gronkiewicz was a big help following his call-up from AA, a 0.93 ERA in nine games. Gronk has never been considered a prospect because he is short, approx. 5'9", and his fastball is below average; he relies on a superior curveball. Whether that works long term at AAA, or in the big leagues, is in question.

The Hitters

The Chiefs rank 12th in the IL, out of 14, in OBP and 9th in slugging. No Chiefs hitter ranks among the lead leaders except for John-Ford Griffin who ranks third in home runs, one behind the league leader. However Griffin ranks 27th in SLG due to a lower batting average and not so many doubles. Syracuse has a team of average hitters, of the top 9 hitters in AB's, only one is hitting over .281, that being Kevin Barker, and only Jason Alfaro is under .253. The Chiefs don't have big power, other than Griffin, only Mottola and Barker have double figures in home runs. In July Kevin Barker's numbers came down a bit from his amazing June. Barker had an OPS of 1.225 in June but a more mortal .797 in July. Justin Singleton had a productive July, hitting .288 with some pop in half playing time. Gabe Gross continued to move up his average, his OPS by month has been .691; .723; .882; .932; slow to start; better in June and July. John-Ford Griffin bounced back, his OPS by month is .835; .845; .728; .869; one of these things doesn't belong.

Prospect Watch

With four months, or just over 75%, of the season complete, how are the prospects doing?

Gabe Gross's line is .279; .364; .434. In 2004 at AAA Gross's line was .294; .381; 454; 2005 is almost 20 points less all around. However we saw above that June and July were much better for Gabe after a disastrous start to the year. 2005 was supposed to be a growth year for Gross, his second full season at AAA, and as he will be 26 later this year, this should be one of his prime years. The year-to-date numbers translate into a fourth outfielder at the major league level, the June and July numbers translate into a starter. Which will it be?

John Ford Griffin's line is .258; .347; .471. Griffin will also be 26 later this year and the power line is encouraging. Griffin could be a left handed DH or pinch hitter in the majors but likely will never hit for a high average. Griffin has battled injuries the last two years so this would qualify as a growth year for Griffin.

Guillermo Quiroz and John Hattig have missed too much time too injury. Quiroz will likely get a September call-up to get him more at-bats and more work on his defense. JP has to decide if Q can handle the defensive part of major league baseball. Both Quiroz and Hattig will probably be asked to play winter ball.

Francisco Rosario has a 4.05 ERA; 8.5 h/9; 11.5 WHIP; and 6.4 K/9. But the key word for Rosario in 2005 is inconsistent, at times he has been great, and at other times not so much. In Rosario's first three starts after coming off the DL in July he gave up 18 hits in 9.2 innings, and he still has a 8.5 h/9. Rosario has the stuff, but sometimes he just does not have "it", and when he loses his confidence things can fall apart quickly. I think Rosario has to trust his stuff more and I would suggest that Rosario is a good candidate for a bullpen spot next year. Get him innings in low leverage situations and build up his confidence. Rosario is still a premium prospect but he will be 25 later this year and needs to move up soon.

Brandon League's numbers are bad, really bad. But we have all seen him pitch and if he throws it where he wants to, he can be dynamite. Recently the Jays have been working on his arm angle and how quickly he can develop a consistent slot will influence his 2006 slotting. Still a premium prospect.

Chad Gaudin has dominated AAA, and struggled at the major league level. He doesn't have much left to prove at AAA and you have to believe that he has been somewhat unlucky, that he gets too stressed at the big league level and cannot hit his spots. Gaudin was 22 earlier this year and still has development time left.

Shaun Marcum has a 6.14 ERA, thanks to 11.2 h/9 and 10 home runs allowed in 58.2 innings. Marcum's K/9 rate is respectable at 8.3. Marcum is a finesse type pitcher and they need a little more time, they cannot afford to miss over the plate so they need to pinpoint their pitches and setup hitters. Don't count on seeing him in Toronto in 2006, but he still could be here in 2007.

Jamie Vermilyea is a lot like Marcum, a 12.7 h/9 but only a 5.8 K/9. Vermilyea has allowed 4 home run's in 17 innings. Vermilyea, like Marcum, is 23 and still has time to refine his stuff.

Jason Arnold has a 5.51 ERA with a good h/9 of 8.4, but he has allowed 11 home runs in 49 innings and his walk rate is over 4 per 9 innings. I would guess that Arnold will be off the 40 man roster at the end of the year. Arnold is 26 years old.

Kevin Barker is not a prospect, he is 30 years old, but he has had a very good few months in AAA. I am not sure if this will get him a call-up, there might be no room on the 40-man roster, but someone might give him a shot if his August is also good.


This is a pretty average team. Most of the imports, or free-agents, are having average seasons. Syracuse are not challenging for the division becuase some of the prospects are in Toronto (Hill, League); some are or have been injured (Quiroz, Hattig, Rosario); and some have not handled the AAA transition well (Marcum, Vermilyea, League, Arnold).