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2005 was going to be a big year for the Syracuse Chiefs. Coming into 2005 the Jays brought in several free-agents who looked like they would help the Chiefs challenge for a division title, Chad Mottola, Bryant Nelson, Jason Alfaro and Matt Whiteside were signed to complement Jays prospects like Aaron Hill, Gabe Gross, John-Ford Griffin, Guillermo Quiroz, John Hattig, Brandon League, and Francisco Rosario. However the best laid plans of mice, men and Dick Scott came to naught as the Chiefs never really got hot in 2005 and finished eleven games back of Buffalo. The Chiefs 2006 lineup will feature many returnees and more prospects, especially pitchers, and once again the Chiefs expect to contend in 2006.

The Chiefs lineup in 2006 will look like this:
C    Mike Mahoney and maybe Jason Phillips
1B  Kevin Barker
2B  Ryan Roberts
SS  Sergio Santos
3B  Rob Cosby
LF  John Ford Griffin
CF  Wayne Lydon
RF  Chad Mottola
DH  John Hattig

SP  Francisco Rosario
SP  Josh Banks
SP  Casey Janssen
SP  David Purcey
SP Ty Taubenheim

RP  Lee Gronkiewicz
RP  Brandon League
RP  Shaun Marcum
RP  Dustin McGowan
RP  Adrian Burnside
RP  James Baldwin
RP  Ben Weber

The offense is a mix of players with solid AAA experience and younger guys who are working their way through the system. Mottola, Barker and Griffin return to Syracuse where they hit 74 home runs between them last year. Cosby and Roberts move up from AA where they had very good results for a Fisher Cats team that had a weak offense. Hattig and Santos are trying to bounce back from injury and a poor season respectively, Mahoney represents another veteran presence, while Lydon will try and show that spring training is no fluke and that he belongs at AAA.

With the veterans and prospects expected to perform up to their normal levels, the key to the Syracuse offense should be the play of Santos, Hattig and Lydon. Santos struggled in AAA in the Arizona organization last season, the Jays hope he can be more selective in 2006 and show better offense. Coming into 2005 Santos had hit well at every level but 2005 started slowly for him and he could never recover. Hattig was injured for most of 2005, he needs a full healthy season to show he deserves a shot at the big leagues. Lydon spent the last two years in AA in the Mets system. Lydon has a lot of speed and will play an excellent center field but last season his batting average slipped to .244. He will want to get that average up close to .300 this season. Time will tell if his good play in spring training will carry over into the regular season.

Cosby and Roberts are lower level prospects, #17 and #26 respectively according to BA, and possible sleepers. Both have a solid track record for hitting at every level. Roberts needs to cut down on the K’s (more than a K per game in AA) and fine tune his defense at second a little bit. Remember he was a third baseman until a couple of years ago. Cosby missed virtually all of the 2004 season but bounced back to hit over .300 with 17 taters last season. Griffin, Mottola and Barker combined to strike out 329 times in 351 AAA games last season, big sluggers with big swings. The Chiefs might be prone to the K this season.

The starting rotation is very inexperienced for AAA. Janssen, Purcey and Taubenheim were in A ball through the middle of last season and combined have made 28 AA starts and zero AAA starts. Banks has pitched a full season in AA but nothing in AAA. Rosario is the only one with AAA experience. The Blue Jays have said they like to challenge their players, this is a good example of that. The four starters, other than Taubenheim could have expected to be here, they are four of the Jays top eight prospects. Taubenheim was not listed as a prospect by BA mainly because his “stuff” is fringier; Ty likely earned his AAA spot with a strong spring training but is the most likely to struggle with the jump.

Banks spent all of 2005 at AA and is ready for the AAA hitters. Janssen is a year older than Banks but was drafted a year later, Janssen was drafted in his age 23 year while Banks was drafted in his age 21 year. Janssen caught up to Banks on the depth chart last season and earned his AAA spot with a strong spring training. Both pitchers work four pitches into the mix to keep the hitters off balance. AAA could be a roller coaster experience for the first month or so as they learn how to work the veteran hitters.

Purcey makes a big jump to AAA. In 2005 Purcey held AA hitters to a .205 average in 43 innings, his problem was he walked too many of them. After the season Purcey went to instructional league to work on his control and so far in 2006 he appears to have resolved his issues. Rosario returns to the rotation after a half year hiatus. Rosario made 18 starts for Syracuse in the first half of last season before moving to the pen. I am not sure if this move is just to find a fifth starter or do the Jays want Rosario to be a starter again. Rosario needs to work on his secondary pitches if he is to succeed as a starter.

The bullpen is another mix of prospects and veterans. Marcum, League and McGowan are each close to major league ready. A strong showing would get them to the big leagues when the first call goes out for bullpen help. Marcum and McGowan make their first trips to the bullpen in the minors having been starters until gaining bullpen experience in the major leagues last season. The Jays had always expected Marcum to move to the bullpen eventually so his move is not unexpected, McGowan’s move however is a big one. McGowan was always expected to be a stud starter until he pitched better in the bullpen for the Jays last season. His value would be much higher as a starter which is why this move by the Jays surprises me. It could just be a comfort on McGowan’s part. League returns to AAA in search of a consistent delivery that will have him fooling the hitters again, although his heater can hit the high nineties League was not missing many bats.

Baldwin, Weber and Burnside provide the veteran support while Gronkiewicz is in between, passed over as a prospect by the Indians but still young enough to avoid the veteran label. A young pitching staff in AAA can take a while to get its bearings, figuring out how to pitch to the more experienced hitters.

The Chiefs offense should be league average or better. The pitching could struggle initially as the rookies get acclimated to AAA. If the team can stay around .500 through the first six to eight weeks they should be positioned for a push to a title in the second half.

2006 Syracuse Skychiefs Preview | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Maldoff - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 09:01 AM EDT (#144177) #
I have to say, I'm quite disappointed about McGowan being put in the bullpen to start the year.  He dominated in the rotation last year in the minors, and even though he had a rough going of it in the majors, it's probably still beneficial to him (and the Jays) to try develop him as a starter.  Weak call!
Brian B. - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 10:24 AM EDT (#144187) #

I thought when I first heard about McGowan moving to the bullpen, that it's sounds like the Jays management is only trying to bolster his confidence level and when that's been upbuilt he could be put back into the rotation.

Time will tell.

timpinder - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 10:39 AM EDT (#144191) #


I couldn't agree more. I just don't understand the logic in moving McGowan to the bullpen, especially after J.P. spent the offseason saying he was untouchable. McGowan's stuff is great, and as a starter he was a top prospect with the potential to be an ace or a #2 starter.  Out of the bullpen, McGowan has the potential to be a good set-up man for B.J. Ryan.   In my opinion, that's a terrible waste of a great talent.

I'm hoping this is just a temporary move for him to get his confidence and control back before moving him back to the rotation.

Anders - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#144217) #
The Jays have lots of starting pitching in the high minors, but at the same time it's clear that McGowan is probably the best of them,  potential wise at least. There has to be some reason why they would have McGowan in the pen instead of Rosario. McGowan just turned 24, so it seems likely any setbacks here would  be temporary. I have to imagine (hope?) JP knows what hes doing, because McGowan should be starting, and I think most of us think that.
Leigh - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:42 PM EDT (#144222) #

I have been playing some Diamond Mind using BTF's ZiPS, and I have a couple of questions for people who know the minors - particularly Syracuse - more than I do (I'm looking at you, Mike Green). 

1. It seems as though Barker and Griffin can be as effective against right-handed pitching as Rios and Hillenbrand.  Is this accurate?  

2. Luis Figueroa can do everything that John MacDonald can do, only better.  Is this accurate?

If these suppositions are inaccurate, did I form them because ZiPS is nuts, because DMB is flawed, or because I've only played one season?

Mike Green - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#144228) #


It wouldn't surprise me if Griffin would be as effective as Rios against right-handed pitching.  There would be a huge difference in defence in right-field though.  Rios is probably the second-best defensive rightfielder in the league, whereas Griffin is at his limit in left field and would supply at best replacement level defence in right. 

I am pretty sure that Barker would not hit as well against righties as Hillenbrand.  It's hard to make the age adjustment for a triple A hitter at age 30. I am pretty sure that he would have some power, but my guess is that he would hit closer to .240 than to .270, even in a platoon role.   

The issue with Figueroa/McDonald is defence.  McDonald supplies above-average defence at short.  I have no idea about Figueroa's defence, as he is new to the organization.


Leigh - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#144231) #

Mike,  that is about what I thought.  For what it is worth - perhaps nothing  because it could be arbitrary - ZiPS has Figueroa as a better defender than MacDonald (at each position).   Not that I think that that warrants much credence.

How do you think a Hillenbrand/Griffin DH platoon would work out?    And since I am asking questions and you mentioned Rios' defence:  isn't it inefficient for him to be on the Jays, given that he may be more valuable as a CF and Wells clearly has that covered? 


Mike Green - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 01:26 PM EDT (#144236) #

Personally, I think that Rios would be significantly better than Wells out in centerfield, notwithstanding Wells' Gold Glove.  There is not a snowball's chance in hell that that is going to happen, barring trade or injury. Does that mean that Rios has more trade value than his value to the Jays?  Perhaps, depending on how one assesses his medium term offensive prospects.

As for Griffin/Hillenbrand,  there might be a very small offensive gain, but it wouldn't be an efficient use of the roster spot.  Carlos Pena is a better hitter than Griffin...






jabonoso - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 07:12 PM EDT (#144293) #

I really hope the Skychiefs can make the post season. It is a learning experience for the young and talented that cannot be replaced anywhere else.

Personally I do not like the experienced bunch in this team. But will be cheering the young prospects.

Cosby is a fan fav in Puerto Rico. A long time friend with Alexis Rios. He plays hard and has solid contact skills.

I've seen Figueroa playing in winter baseball: excellent second baseman and very good about doing the small things.

Is he in the Syracuse bench?

Mike Green - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:09 AM EDT (#144338) #
Yes, he is, Jabonoso.  Between Sergio Santos at short and Ryan Roberts at second, Figueroa will probably see a fair bit of time.  I noticed that you said "excellent second baseman".  Does he play shortstop well, too?
robertdudek - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 01:14 AM EDT (#144351) #
Great set-up men are the linchpin of a quality major league bullpen. The 7th and 8th innings are very often when the games are won. To me, it makes no sense to say that "as a reliever, his potential is a great setup man", implying that he isn't capable of becoming quality closers.

Great set-up men are closers in waiting, and the best of them rival the best closers in terms of quality. BJ Ryan emerged as a "great set up man" before becoming a closer; Huston Street started out last year as a one of several set-up men to Octavio Dotel. There's little doubt that there are currently over a dozen major league setup men who are as good or better than the average closer (in some cases they are better than their own teams' closer.

Mike Green - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 09:30 AM EDT (#144377) #
...and Mariano Rivera, after his TJ surgery, started out his major league career as a set-up man for John Wetteland.  He may have been more valuable in his great year as a set-up man than in any of his years as a closer, because he pitched quite a few more innings with  fairly comparable leverage. 
jabonoso - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:11 AM EDT (#144392) #

Does he play shortstop well, too?

His double play partner was Alex Cintron a senior to Luis. As in little league short is for the big guy!


2006 Syracuse Skychiefs Preview | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.