Scout X Previews the 2023 Canton Longshoremen

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Updated: February 16, 2016

Posted by Stevedores_Fan_Bob, April 2, 2023 at 1:35 a.m.

As it has sometimes done in the past, StevedoresFan.com, the preeminent fan blog of your Canton Longshoremen has consulted with an anonymous scout for his take on the Longshoremen’s roster spot battles in spring training.  It’s been a tough two years for the franchise since we last asked Scout X for his take – the Longshoremen have lost 83 and 99 games, respectively.  This year, that same well-known PEBA scout spoke with us on the condition of anonymity about who won the position battles and the outlook for the Longshoremen’s 2023 season. Here are his takes:

OVERALL

Scout X: It’s hard to see a path to contention for a playoff spot, or even a winning record, for the Longshoremen, even though they improved significantly in the offseason. If you had to craft a path to a winning season in 2023, it would involve an efficient, methodical offense that platoons at 6 or 7 spots in the order, has above-average performers at eight of the nine spots in the lineup, and is capable of outscoring opponents 7-6 and 10-8, and overcoming a starting rotation that won’t dominate anyone. The offense is deeper than it has been in recent memory.  The bullpen looks like a real strength.  The re-acquisition of Closer Julian Olivares, coupled with Pat Miller and the emergence of Su-Shun Yu could give the Longshoremen a back end of the bullpen that rivals the best in PEBA. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that trio making the game a 6-inning affair for opposing offenses.  The rotation’s upside is mere adequacy, and even that would take some projection. The defense could be the best in franchise history, with 2B Alfredo Vega being the only true weak link.  

OUTFIELD

The Longshoremen’s outfield appears to have more depth than at any time in the recent past, with returning All-Star Gabriel Martinez holding down left, Michael Demers patrolling center, and three left-handed hitting corner outfielders with various skill sets splitting right field and the designated hitter role. Scout X: You may not find an outfield in the division with more outfielders capable of putting up a 3 to 4 WAR season over 150 games’ worth of at bats.  I’m not sure, however, how they will all fit together.  There’s no one behind Demers who can play even an adequate defensive center field, and four of the five best hitters hit left-handed.

Gabriel Martinez: Last season’s 5 WAR campaign was no fluke; at just 25, G-Mart is the unquestionable star on this team, and should be manning the third spot in the order for the next ten seasons in Canton.  The team friendly deal that he signed to give the Longshoremen control of his first three years of free agency was one of the least talked about, yet brilliant, moves of the winter.  He has a pronounced platoon split, but he’s young enough that the Longshoremen should give him at least another year to figure out how to hit lefties.  He may or may not deserve the two straight All-Leather Awards he has won, but he is no worse than a solid left fielder, particularly in the friendly confines of Svab Memorial.

Michael Demers: The 32 year old shows no signs of slowing down.  Indeed, last season was the first in which he has played in more than 150 games since 2018. His injury history is concerning for a team that has no Plan B at the position.  As the sole right-handed hitting option in the outfield, it’s a good thing that he has no platoon split.  He still delivers All-Leather quality defense in center, All-Leather voters be damned.

Juan Marquez: It was a nice debut for the former two-way hopeful, but I can’t help but wonder whether the Longshoremen’s odd fascination with his low pitching ceiling stunted or delayed his development. Anyway, his left-handed power should play very well with Svab Memorial’s short right field porch. Given enough playing time, he could provide 30 or 40 home runs.  He hit lefties well last season, but I suspect that with enough game tape, the league’s lefties will render Mr. Marquez in need of a platoon mate in short order. He’s a plus defensively in right field, too, but is overmatched in center and painfully uncomfortable in left.

Ramon Gomez: I like Gomez just fine, although I admit to being puzzled as to why the Longshoremen signed him in the offseason – he’s essentially an older version of Juan Marquez, with a bit more defensive versatility in the other corner, a bit less offensive upside, and a bit more defense in right. Those concerns aside, redundant left-handed power is nice to have, and there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract.

Peyton Bishop: If Gomez’s signing confused me, Bishop’s confounded me.  Another left-handed hitter seems like gilding the lily to me, particularly a left-handed hitter who is essentially position-less, and whose fall from a .921 OPS Royal Raker season to 267/337/370 campaign spanned only three seasons.  I guess he’s your DH against RHP, and he’s a fan favorite.  There are worse $4.2M bets to make on reclamation projects, I suppose, but I think he’ll never return to the days of .330ish averages and 60ish bags.

Artie Thompson/Bob Robertson/Jose Perez: There’s only one roster spot for these three right-handed hitting corner outfielders, and Peyton Bishop’s signing, by all rights, perhaps should mean that there are no roster spots left. Thompson’s better glove and consistent lefty mashing over the past two seasons (145 and 111 OPS+’s) make him a worthy incumbent, and indeed, he has made the Opening Day roster.  Robertson’s brilliant 2021 (1.132 vs. LHP) was followed by a slow-starting 2022 (.692 OPS in 46 PAs vs. LHP) that saw him relegated to AAA Allentown where he continued to struggle against lefties (211/294/487). Perez has the most raw power (60 HR in his last 716 AAA at bats), but may never hit for enough power to be a consistent performer at the PEBA level. He proved to be just a camp bat, but with Robertson will provide organizational depth at AAA Allentown.

INFIELD

Five infielders came into camp with guaranteed roster spots, and relatively well-defined roles – Rich Wheeler will play 1B against RHP, with 2B Alfredo Vega likely to shift to 1B against LHP. Gonzalo Gonzalez will play starter time, although his ability to play plus defense at 2B, 3B, and SS may mean that he plays two days per week at each position.  There’s no obvious candidate to be the sixth infielder on the roster, and no guarantee that there will be a spot for a sixth infielder on the roster. Scout X: This is a pretty good mix of players, although the possibility of Peyton Bishop’s signing means that the Longshoremen can carry only 5 infielders, which is concerning.

Gonzalo Gonzalez: How good will this guy be? At 24, and with less than 1000 minor league at bats, he’s been rushed, but he excelled at every level of the minors, and held his own in last season’s cup of coffee in Canton. If he can come close to approximating his offensive production in the minors as he rocketed through the organization, the Longshoremen will have the best middle infielder in franchise history.  I know the organization plans to play him starter time all around the diamond to paper over other infielders with platoon problems, but he deserves to be the starting SS.

Rich Wheeler: I keep thinking that Wheeler has one big offensive season in him where the prodigious power combines with a decent average and an ability to get on base.  At 31, time’s running out for him to find it.

Gordon Fuller: This guy is the key to the Longshoremen being able to take their offense to the next level. Is he the 827 OPS guy of the last half of 2021 or the 663 OPS hitter of 2022 who mashed lefties, but is helpless against righties? The first guy gives the Longshoremen a formidable 6/7 hitter and permits Gonzalo Gonzalez to become the everyday SS.  The second guy is a short side of a platoon.  That’s a nice bench piece to have, but it doesn’t really move the needle on the team’s offense.

John Barker: The lefty-hitting SS has quietly turned into an adequate hitter against lefties.  His defense, while solid, is probably a tick or two below what a worm-killing staff would like as its primary defensive infielder. Barker will likely start the season as a platoon starter at SS, but may end it on the bench.

Alfredo Vega: Vega’s bounceback season was a huge help to a Longshoremen offense that needed an extra bat in the form of an everyday player. The drop in power production and range at 2B, however, were troubling. Expect him to start at 2B against righties and 1B against lefties.  Barring a return to his 15-20 HR days of yore, and a return to adequate defensive range at the keystone, Vega’s spot on the roster and in the lineup is the most likely place for Canton to improve via an in-season trade.

Orlando Lopez/Mike Beasley: If the Longshoremen continue to carry a 6th infielder to fill a utility role, it will be one of these guys. As a former starter for Aurora, Lopez has more PEBA experience, but bats left-handed.  Three of the five roster-certain infielders do too, giving the right-handed hitting Beasley a puncher’s chance to beat out Lopez for the final spot on the roster, and indeed he has. Neither should play anywhere but 2B except in case of an emergency.

Jesus Lopez: The former supplemental round pick was merely a camp bat.  He projects to be a fringy PEBA player when fully-developed, despite a solid offensive resume as he has plodded his way through the system – moderate power, a solid glove at the hot corner, an ability to get on base.  He could crack the roster as a bench player as a year or two.

CATCHER

The Longshoremen were able to cobble together a 2.2 WAR season out of their catchers last season without enjoying any platoon advantage. 1.4 WAR of that value meal combo left the building with Jesus Tellez.  Jeff Summers will take the big half of the platoon this season, with Roger Bruce facing tough lefties. Scout X: I don’t like this plan at all.  I don’t know why the organization continues to fart around with Summers.  He’s a decent catch-and-throw guy, but nothing more.  Roger Bruce appears done to me.  He could always mash lefties, but even that skill deteriorated last season.  Pass.

STARTING PITCHERS

The Longshoremen enter the season with seven pitchers on the roster who started more than 11 games for them last season.  For a team that had the second worst ERA in the Sovereign League (5.04), that’s probably not good. Scout X: If you squint, you can kind of see how the Longshoremen’s rotation could become at least a middling asset, even with a similar mix of personnel.  The three young guys could all improve, and if Armando Gallegos can remain the steady veteran presence that he was last year, this staff has the makings of one that could improve to league average or better.  Of course, it could all implode, too – it’s not like any of the young guys have the ceilings of true number one starters.

Kokei Yamashita: Yamashita is a guy who will break the sabremetricians’ models.  He’s always going to walk too many and strikeout too few for their tastes.  For a young guy, though, he induces more weak contact than anyone I’ve ever seen – fifty-hoppers, infield pop ups, nibbers off the end of the bat. He has no-hit stuff, but if ever gets one, it will be the 4 strikeout, 5 walk, 2 double play, 17 groundout, 2 pop up, 2 fly ball variety. 

Armando Gallegos: Father Time is catching up to Gallegos, and this spring, his radar gun readings showed it.  That’s an ominous sign.  I’ve always thought Gallegos was the kind of pitcher who could get hitters out with guile and spit and character.  We’ll see if I’m right this season, I suspect.

Carlos Perez: Another worm killer, Perez needs a very good infield defense to be successful.  He walks too many and doesn’t strike enough guys out, but he can induce ground balls and double plays like a boss.

Jorge Jimenez: Jimenez is miscast in Canton.  He could be an on-again/off-again All-Star if he pitched in a big park. Expect the Longshoremen to game the rotation a bit to attempt to get Jimenez some more road starts in pitcher-friendly stadia.

Alfonso Romero: I thought Romero was a major stretch at #3 overall when the Longshoremen called his name early in the 2019 draft.  He’s still just 25, and has never pitched poorly at any minor league level. After an uneven rookie season in which his ability to induce ground balls disappeared, the Longshoremen hope that he can flash some of the promise that had the Longshoremen pick him so high.

Hirohisa Narita: Narita was an interesting flyer to take. The 30-year old had a solid record in the old LRS for Neo-Tokyo, and held his own in Neo-Tokyo’s 1st  year in PEBA. Last year, however, his second in PEBA, Hirohisa appeared to deteriorate in his ability to control the ball in and out of the strike zone, with his walk and home run rates skyrocketing.  Svab Memorial is a hitters’ park, but one that is easier for southpaws to pitch in than righties. If 2022 was a blip instead of the beginning of a trend, Narita will prove to have been a shrewd, if low ceiling, pickup. He will start the season in the bullpen.

Jose Perasa: It was expected, but Perasa’s exercise of his $10 million player option was the lowlight of the Longshoremen’s offseason. His 2022 FIP would suggest that he had something left in the tank; his 2023 spring training would suggest otherwise.  Barring a rash of injuries in the starting rotation, he may have seen his last action in Longshoremen slate blue and gray.

BULLPEN

Julian Olivares:  If there is a face of the moribund Longshoremen franchise, Olivares is it.  Despite having made only 22 career starts, and appearing in relief 414 times, he is a permanent fixture on, and mostly atop, the Longshoremen career pitching leaderboards. I loved the Longshoremen bringing him back. I expect him to bounce back from an injury-marred 2022 and to again be counted among PEBA’s elite closers.  My eyes tell me that he has come back from his elbow troubles stronger than ever.  If the Longshoremen can get him enough leads to protect, he could enjoy his first 40 save season.

Pat Miller: He filled in admirably for Olivares last season, while Mr. Longshoreman was rehabbing and then after he was dealt. For me, he’s better suited for the set-up role.  He’s a little too homer prone and a little too wild to pitch the ninth for my tastes. Granted, many teams are employing worse pitchers as closers.

Su Shun-Yu: Still just 23, I expect Yu to take a big step forward this season. His fastball has plenty of movement, and his curve has improved to a true out pitch.  He may be the best 7th inning man in PEBA this season.

Benoit Faucher: It took a while, but if spring training performance is any indication, Faucher is finally ready to contribute in Canton, in his third season as a professional after signing  as an international free agent out of Canada. The righty fastball-slider pitcher seems to have finally found control of his slider, and will now throw it at any count.

Antonio Murillo: I like Murillo better than Romero. The lefty has yet to turn his modest AAA success into PEBA success. His three-pitch arsenal and ability to get ground balls should play well in Svab Memorial in front of what should be a solid defensive team.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH: The Longshoremen tumbled in the minor league system rankings from middle of the pack to 22nd after graduating their top 3 prospects to the big league club during the 2022 season.  SCOUT X: The Longshoremen have some potential game changers in their organization, particularly in the bullpen, but none of them are particularly close to PEBA.  Having graduated Gonzalo Gonzalez and Juan Marquez to the bigs during the 2022 season leaves a doughnut hole for 2023 and possibly 2024. The next wave of top prospects will probably involve 1B Nicholas Carr and LF Bill Carter, each of whom will be making their AAA debut in 2023. Here are the minor leaguers that could contribute at the major league level in 2023:

Matt Allison: The big prize picked up from Duluth in the Julian Olivares trade, Allison went to winter ball to rework his arsenal of pitches and appears poised to be a September call-up.  I think he’d be better served by spending the whole season in AAA Allentown. I like his new cutter/curve/scroogie repertoire and think his ceiling is that of a good 2/3 starter.

Kevin Hamilton: Hamilton was supposed to make the team out of spring training. A 15+ ERA has him taking an Uber ride back to Allentown where he will likely be the first bullpen arm called up during the season.

Earl O’Quinn: With Allison, the other half of the Olivares trade booty, O’Quinn is an adequate defensive shortstop with plus power who has hit 20-plus home runs in the minors. He may not make enough contact at the PEBA level to contribute, but if he can, he’s a potential 270/320/480 hitter.