FEATURE
Building the Perfect Beast
An Exercise in Madness (Part 6)
by RORY NOBLE

Another season comes and goes in the TBNL, and with it, some surprises here and there. The always heavily favored Cloud City Sky Pilots fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round of the playoffs. St. Louis then crept past favored Vinson to face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2039 Thunderdome. The Cinderella season came to an end after Pittsburg took the series to a deciding game 7 and won 3-2. Congratulations to all the playoff teams for making it an interesting post-season for us losing GM’s to watch.

After the early surprise of playing .500 ball into early May, the Trail Blazers sank back into their less-than-stellar ways and finished with a 62-99 record. While this was +16 wins over the 2038 season, the team will once again select early each round of the draft (not that it is necessarily a bad thing).

The 2039 draft seemed especially deep as there were solid contributors being selected far past the 5th and 6th rounds. Indianapolis held the #2 overall pick in each round and ended up with their first eight selections being SP Nelson Valdovinos, CF Tomohiro Yoshihara, SP Julio Salinas, SP Alfredo Guzman, CL Juan Trevizo, SP Johan Kirkeby, 2B Matt Brooks, and CF Roar Maj.

Valdovinos and Salinas both look to be able to develop into solid starters in the future, with Valdovinos looking like the “ace” of the squad. Guzman is more of an emergency or spot starter but should be able to provide some strong innings out of the pen in long relief. Kirkeby in the sixth round felt like a steal to me and he proved himself early on moving directly to short-season A where he posted a 5-0 record in 21 games with an ERA of 2.25. He moved up to A-ball for 26 games after that and managed a 1-2 record with 2 saves while posting a 3.16 ERA. Trevizo went directly to short-season A as well and posted an ERA of 2.45 with 4 saves in 24 appearances.

On the offensive side, Yoshihara hit .314 in 50 starts at short-season A before a call-up to the A level. Brooks only managed a .250 average in short-season A before his late season call up but he had solid production otherwise hitting 21 doubles, 5 triples, and 13 home runs. He also had 23 SB’s and was only caught stealing 3 times. Nice! May remained on the rookie league squad all season where he hit .280. While he’s not likely to make it as a full-time starter, he will be a valuable addition to the ML bench when he is ready.

International signees this year included 1B Djerrkura Faletoese who scouts project as an above-average first baseman in the future, speedy 3B Sam Lee who projects well in extra-base hits and OBP, an RF Fa-Tang Chen projects as an overall solid offensive weapon. With a few younger pieces already in place, this coming season will likely see Genzo Miura move up to the ML bullpen. A second round pick in the 2037 draft, Miura posted a 6-3 record with 20 saves last season for triple-A Independence. His ERA was just 2.14 and he held opposing hitters to a .181 average. He’ll join sophomore Nalle Hilhorst whose rookie campaign included 1 win, 1 save, and an ERA of 3.50 in 56 appearances. 26-year-old Kenji Hasegawa, picked up on waivers in May or this season, will definitely be in the starting rotation once again after posting an 8-9 record with an ERA of 3.78. If the offense can play a bit better, several of the younger starters should see an increase in wins and a decrease in losses. To that end, 1B slugger Andres Gomez will definitely be getting a look during Spring Training next season.

The process continues, and while it is slow at times, the end result can easily balance the long wait. There were some signs of life early in 2039 and despite the poor ending to the season, there is still reason to feel optimistic about a lot of these younger players coming into the Indianapolis system. And who knows...maybe one season very soon, Indianapolis might be making that Cinderella run in the playoffs.