The Night The Lights Went Out In Asheville

Updated: February 19, 2019

The Night The Lights Went Out In Asheville

by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

Asheville before the storm

June 8, 2028: Asheville, North Carolina – Hurricane winds greeted the collection of GMs that descended upon this mountain village and Home of the PEBA, and though Hurricane John’s Cat 4 status had been downgraded to simply a tropical storm by the morning of the 2028 Draft – the damage was done. The GMs found themselves in the dark – so to speak, power out, computers down and curtains pulled back as far as they could, allowing the dark skies light to filter through.

Hurricane John packed a wallop as it barreled into North Carolina

Newly appointed Commissioner, ‘Harry’ Castle held the draft up for a few hours as the hotel’s crew scrambled to get some generators to power the ballroom. It was during those moments that Aurora‘s Boy Wonder GM, Will Topham, concocted a scheme to draft by paper – in the old-fashion model, handing the commish hand written notes – like school kids, and with that, the draft began.

Wiggins heads to the K-zoo

Yuma, holders of the top selection (again), shocked the crowd by shying away from young SP Robby Wiggins, who will take his rehabilitating shoulder to Kalamazoo instead. Yuma selected 2B Vaughn Davidson, and a day of surprises began. By the slow and laborious time that the first round had worked it’s way through the gloom to Fargo‘s selection at #14, the power came back – blowing the circuitry of the League’s dedicated server. Thanks to the quick work of the IT team from Kalamazoo, the teams quickly returned to the ‘norm’.

Aurora views Armando much like Old School Luis Tiant
Batista comes in, adding to sudden SP Depth for Aurora

Aurora found themselves drafting at the tail-end of the Supplemental Round – picks courtesy of Clark Snow and Pedro Ferringo signing with London and Reno, while Aurora lost their own first round pick as result of the deal that brought John Turner to The Front Range. With that first supplemental selection Aurora went with a 6’1″, 185 lb Cuban pitcher, a pitcher who found himself developing his craft at Oxford (or all places) and is certain to remind folks of Luis Tiant of the old MLB days of the 60’s and 70’s. Armando Batista is not an over-powering pitcher – his fastball clocking in around 96, but it is his array of pitches – all of better than average quality, that will no doubt make up for the lack of a blazing fastball. Cutter, Curve, Slider, Fork, Splitter, Curve and a Change – each thrown equally well, and each with a fair amount of movement and better than average control. “When I looked over the draft pool and the pitchers available,” Topham said after the draft, “Armando was one of the arms I felt might still be available at #33.” The Borealis GM looks like he was spot on. To go along with his impressive repertoire, Batista is a bull own the mound and has one of the best pick-off moves of any pitcher in baseball. As a 4-year starter at Oxford, Armando was 21-11, with a 2.36 ERA in 45 starts. He struck out 295 batters in 256 IP, walking just 35. He was the runner-up for Pitcher of the Year after both his sophomore and junior years. Batista, once signed (not expected to be an issue), will likely make a few starts at Mokule’ia with the hope he is successful and ready to move up to SLRC at A Ball.

If Arundale follow’s Ferrigno’s path – Aurora got another Supp Steal
‘Jitterbug’s story may play out much like Ferringo’s

With their second supplemental selection – the last of that special round, Aurora was stunned that the name at the very top of their draft list was still available – RF Stewart ‘Litterbug’ Arundale. The tall (6’3″), muscular right-fielder swings a flat bat, spraying line-drives around the field. He may lack power, but he has an excellent eye, and scouts tell me that he reminds them a bit like River Pope. ‘Litterbug’ has blazing speed and has great instincts on the bases – though if you look at his college stolen base numbers, you might get the idea that he is a tad slow to recognize the moment to run. That trait follow’s him into the outfield where his great glove and powerful arm are hindered by his poor first step – limiting his ability to cover a lot of territory. That could be trouble at the spacious right-center territory at Northern Lights. Stewart, from London and Aurora’s second consecutive selection from a British school (Cambridge this time) was also a 4-year starter with a career .322 average over 769 AB. He managed 40-2B and 10-3B and stole 25 bases – reminding scouts of another former-Borealis who was known for his speed and penchant for triples – Mike Hale (now at Havana). Topham has stated that at this moment he’s unsure where to start Arundale, but in his statement invoked the name of another, more recent Aurora star. “You know, ”Bug’ reminds me a lot of Pedro Ferringo – size, build, fast as lightening, but just not quite there in the outfield. Supplemental pick… seemingly already polished and ready for the show…” Revisionist history: Ferringo began his first year of pro ball at SLRC and was at Gatineau before the end of the year. His second pro year he began at AAA Thornton and by mid-season he was slapping balls all over Northern Lights Park – and all the other SL parks, for that matter. That time-line may work out fine for Aurora – an aging Pope and the trade of ‘Fudd‘ may make the ‘Litterbug’s arrival fortuitous.

The athletic Aussie has a lot of growth ahead of him if he’s to reach The Front Range

With Aurora’s second round pick (57th overall), Aurora went for a switch hitting CF, who may pair nicely in the future with Arundale – Nathaniel Vanrenen. Another athletically built player, the native of Adelaide, Australia made it 3-for-3 for Aurora on foreign-born draftees. Why the ‘Litterbug’ reference? Vanrenen is an equally speedy, excellent defensive outfielder, who may be able to cover the areas in right-center that Stewart may not get to. A line-drive hitter, with decent power – Nate hit 21 homers in his 4-year career as a starter at Pontifica University (formerly of Nihon University), Vanrenen is really a gamble for Aurora – his scouting grades exceed the performance he’s put onto the field. Checking in with a .207 career average and 223 K, this may not look like a smart call. Then again, a .638 OPS for a .207 hitter may not be so bad – and an indicator that if he can get the work and coaching, he may very well be a diamond in the rough. An indication that the potential is there? He was named an ICOL All-Star in 2027 – a year he hit a whopping .213. No shock here – he’ll begin his pro career at Mokule’ia. What did the GM have to say? Well, he scoffed, waved his hand and said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Ostrander may be a reach, but don’t count him out if the knuckle ball matures

With the 81st overall pick, in the 3rd round, Aurora turned their eye back on the States and selected a tall (6’5″), lanky (210) closer out of Southern Miss – right-handed James Ostrander. James throws a heavy fastball, that tends towards straight, but that he shows flashes of being able to hit his spot more often than not. He’s working on a knuckleball to complement the 96-MPH fastball. Coaches call his knuckler ‘devastating – when he gets it under control’. A starter in high school, Ostrander was used in relief in college, and as a closer his senior year. He has been described as being pretty strong on the mound, and there’s an outside chance Aurora may move him back into a starters role – he does throw a change, but that would need some work to really become an effective starter. For now, he relies on his fastball. Over his three-years of college ball – he has opted to examine going pro, but he’s keeping his options open, Ostrander made 41 appearances with a 3.68 ERA in 58.2 IP. He had 86 K, and walked 24. Not quite the gamble that Vanrenen is, but arguably a gamble, nonetheless. He’s slated for Short A.

Gary was disappointed the Claymores didn’t come calling.

In the 4th round, with the 108th pick, Aurora went back across the pond for a Scottish first basemen that reminds many of Aurora’s current rookie 1B. Gary Dyer, from Cumbernauld, is plodding. He’s slow. He’s not the kind of base runner fans of the Borealis are used to. Hello Jose Torres. He’s a pretty decent fielder – he won a Gold Glove at Waseda (Hello Mr. Torres), and with 40 homers in his 4-year career as a starter with a near .500 SLG, the comparisons continue. First base has been a black hole for Aurora over the years – both through a failure to draft effective players there and depending on more versatile players to cover the spot. Scouts feel that Dyer is far enough in his development for this career .286 hitter to begin at SLRC.

Gaining a grip on his control will be Humberto’s first task.

Aurora’s international draft continued in the 5th round with Puerto Rican native Humberto Hernandez, a right-handed starting pitcher out of Michigan who might look just in place on the basketball court, running a game as point guard. Not an overpowering pitcher, his fastball tops out at 94, and he uses a nifty curve and change, to keep hitters of balance, and a decent splitter to get ground ball after ground ball. Another pitcher with good stamina, what will continue to keep Humbie falling short of 5 IP time and again is his control. Averaging nearly 5 BB and a 1.33 WHIP, he may find it difficult to progress beyond A Ball. Then again, he did average nearly a strikeout per inning, so if he can master his control, his ability to keep the ball down may take him a long way.

So there is our first installment of Aurora’s 2028 Draft class – the top 6 of the class. It’s a mixture of guys who seem can’t miss (Batista and Arundale) and risk-reward. As always is the case, time will tell.