Revamping a Bullpen

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Updated: June 21, 2019

West Virginia’s management knew right after losing in 5 games to the Fargo Dinosaurs in the Championship, that the bullpen would need to be revamped.  During the 2028 the team lost some depth due to injuries throughout the year, but at the deadline the team did bring in 3 new arms they thought would shut things down: David Lopéz (#2), Geoff Lawson and Jonathan Francis.  Unfortunately, they weren’t the solution.

The guys that have left:

Jo Kichida – When Jo was acquired 4 years ago, he stepped right in as closer and did not disappoint.  He then was pushed into the setup man role until last season when he went back to closer and got 33 saves.  The problem with Jo is he usually had an ERA north of 3.00.  The one thing he had a hard time was keeping the ball in the park and that was in a park where the ball doesn’t fly out.  The team decided that while he still was good, he just wasn’t worth what he was asking for.  That being said, the organization will miss him.

David Lopéz (#1) – When David signed in 2027 it cost the team a first-round pick.  It was a calculated risk as David was coming off 4 seasons where he had a combined 120 saves and usually an ERA south of 3.00.  His first year was a disaster in ERA, but success in FIP.  Then in 2028 he came in and did an adequate job, but when the championship series rolled around, he choked.  David was responsible in a negative way in 3 of the losses. Added to that he become a 1 pitch pitcher as his slider has disappeared. With 1 more year left on his contract at 4.98 million the team needed to cut their losses and traded him to Toyama for a 5th round pick.

Jesús Antonio – Jesús was signed to a 2-year contract for 1.8 a year and then a 3rd year for the same amount via arbitration.  It looked like a loss of 3.6 million dollars after the first 2 seasons as he only played in WV for 2026 and in 2027, he was in the minors.  In 2028 the team kept him up and made him their swing man due to all the injuries they endured to the staff.  He had a respectable 3.43 ERA in 45 games with 5 starts and even got 3 saves.  In the playoffs while his numbers don’t look it, he stepped in when needed.  The team thought about re-signing him but went another direction.

Geoff Lawson – Geoff came over from Reno for a 4th round pick and did an ok job in the season.  When the preseason came the team, he did a decent job.  The problem was the manager didn’t have faith in him verse left hand pitching (with good reason).  This was going to be a problem going forward so the team ate half of his salary and sent him to Duluth for SS Dave Pacheco.

José Lozano – José is the stupidest guy in baseball.  Why? Well when he signed 3 years ago, he was given a 3rd year as a player option for 3.3 million dollars.  He declined it.  Well why is he stupid? On 7/5/2028 he tore his rotator cuff and is out 13 months.  While with the Alleghenies he never did much to impress.  While he had signs that he might break through in 2027, that all went out the window right before he got injured.  I don’t think he will get signed until he is healed and even then, I don’t think he gets out of the minors much.

Kyoji Uchiyama – Kyoji has been with the Alleghenies since 2024, but he was stuck in the minors since 2026.  While in the minors the last 3 years, he was one of the best relievers around.  Last season the only reason he made the playoff roster was due to the next guy getting injured during the playoffs. He has since been traded to Duluth for Takaki.

Jonathan Francis – Jonathan was acquired near the deadline from Yuma for a couple minor leaguers and a 5th round pick.   The team acquired him based on his past post season stats and had hoped he could duplicate them.  While his regular season wasn’t that great, he didn’t not disappoint in the games he appeared.  The problem is that he partially tore his labrum in the playoffs.  His contract was up, and the team decided not to renew it based on his injury and that like David Lopez, he has become a 1 pitch pitcher.  The team may keep him on radar for the trade deadline again though, you never know.

Javier Martínez – Javier has always been a GM favorite, but not the coaches favorite.  In his first 3 years in PEBA, Javier looked like he was just wasting everyone’s time, but then it clicked in 2024.  Since 2024 he has had ERA’s under 2.00 in every season except 2027 (2.85).  Though 2028 he spent half the year in the minors and then was called up due to may injuries.  Unlike the past, Javier lost complete control over his ability to throw strikes.  The team placed him on the postseason roster hoping he could help be the lefty specialist, but instead he was a complete disaster.  The team decided it was time to let him go via free agency, as while he had a great ERA, his FIP was bad.

 

The holdovers:

David Lopéz (#2): David stats aren’t too good while he has been with the Alleghenies, but most of that was due to 2 games that he lasted only 1 inning and gave up 10 BR and 9 runs.  Take away that and maybe he would have been on the final playoff roster, but he wasn’t.  During the off-season the team tried very hard to unload him due to his high salary, but after failing the team has decided that he will have an opportunity to have a key role in the pen.  If he does well in Spring Training, he may get upwards to 70 innings this year.

Fred Wilton – Fred had a fantastic first year for the Alleghenies finishing with a 1.52 ERA.  His playoffs weren’t as good unfortunately, but they weren’t disastrous either.  Fred like David isn’t a lock to make the team, but a good spring training will most likely solidify his spot in the pen.  If he somehow misses the opening day roster, he definitely will be called up at some point of the season.

 

The new guys:
Takahiro Takaki: He was just acquired in a deal that sent Kuji to Duluth.  Takahiro is going to be the teams closer until the return of Raul Cruz and then he will step into the setup man role.  Last season for SS in a hitter’s stadium, he was lights out.  While he only amassed 29.1 innings, he appeared in 53 games.  The team thinks that he can translate into being the closer, so much so when they knew they had the deal, they reduced the offer to Kichida knowing he had a higher offer.

Eitoku Tamura: Is WV moving to the LRS again?  Acquiring another Japanese pitcher and one that GM Abcarian has previous knowledge of as he acquired while he was the GM of Fushi Yugi.   When he first signed, the team hadn’t had Takahiro on the radar and he was insurance if Kichida left.  Well now he is going to be their setup man now and for the rest of the season.  While he didn’t have a good first half with Scotland, when he went to Duluth, he found his old self.  The team gave him a 2-year deal and thinks that he will be very successful over the life of the short contract.

Gideon Byrd: Gideon was London’s closer last year but was never acquired for that role in WV.  He is going to step into a middle relief role and if anyone gets hurt, he can step in at closer or setup man.  The team is very confident he can do that with no problems.  Being arbitration eligible next season, Gideon is going to have to put up good numbers if he plans on staying in WV.

 

Eduardo Herrera – Eduardo was one of the Alleghenies first signings this off-season.  He was signed to be a direct replacement for Jesús Antonio who over the last 3 years was used as a swing man.  While he is 2 years older than Antonio, the team thinks it is an upgrade over him.  He will be used as long relief and emergency starter for the team and if anyone gets hurt in the rotation, he can easily slide in and do well.  The team gave him a 2-year deal with the 2nd year as a team option.  The team expects bringing him back with only a breakout from a minor league guy that could keep him off the 2030 roster.

Jeffrey Brown – Jeffrey was acquired from Yuma for a higher pick and the trade has been criticized instantly.  It has been said that he will start in AAA with no chance of making the opening day roster.  While he may not be happy about that, management still likes him a bunch and wants him to develop just a bit more control this year.  He is in the team’s long-term pen plans.

Ron Wells – Ron is a product of the minor league and is ready for the majors.  Unless he has a disastrous spring, he is penned in being the teams #1 middle relief man.  While 2028 in AAA wasn’t his best, over his career he has shown that he just keeps getting people out.  He usually depends on the fastball, but when he wants to fool hitters, he unloads his forkball.  The team is hoping to have him in the pen for many years as his contract is very cheap.

Sergio Portillo – Sergio has an interesting history.  In 2020 he was drafted in the 3rd round by GM Abcarian in FY and they couldn’t come to terms.  Then in 2023, GM Abcarian now in West Virginia saw Sergio name in the draft and with the 25 pick in the 1st round the team took him and gave him $1.3 million to sign.  Soon after he signed his contract, the glow on him disappeared.  He only stayed in the origination because he was a first-round pick.  In 2024 he only pitched in 14 games and in the following year while he was excellent, it was mostly in mop-up duty.  In 2026 he wasn’t good when given a more important role and was only promoted due to age requirements.  2027 he appeared in 13 games and gave up zero runs.  From that moment on it has been game on.  He has increasingly gotten better with his pitches and last season in 52 games showed that he is finally becoming the guy they expected when they drafted him.  This season he is chasing down Fred Wilton for his spot. If he doesn’t win it out of spring training the team will be keeping a close eye on Sergio.

Jin-hyun Chon – Chon is a player who throws the ball very hard.  Sometimes very accurate and others well not so accurate.  Chon has an option year, which 100% guarantees where he will start the year. He did get a small chance last year and didn’t do too good.  He gave up 4 HR in 16 innings and walked 10 guys, though he did K 19.

Who will win the 13th spot on the staff?

 

Non-roster signees:

 

Victor Latham – Victor isn’t the same guy he was in 2026 and he will be the first to admit that.  The Alleghenies signed him to a non-guaranteed contract to see if he can come out of the pen vs lefties and help in long relief in blowouts.  He isn’t a bad choice but will cost the team 1.3 if they keep him.

Phil Burns – Phil like Victor isn’t what he once was, but after being lit up when he was in Duluth, he showed signs of his former self in Canton.  Burns has always been dependable and isn’t far removed from being a key piece in SS championship run.

Luis Puente – Why does this name look familiar?  Well in the contraction he was selected by WV and pitched 3 great seasons and 1 average season for the Alleghenies.  Last year he went to San Antonio and had his worst year since 2017 in AA.  Luis major problem last year was he walked 7 guys per 9 and that is not going to cut it in WV either.  If he can get his control back, he may be the fan favorite for the spot.

Jose Moreno – Jose Moreno is a guy ho has done well in his 3 short appearances in the PEBA over the last 3 years.  He also has been dominating the minors since 2023, so when the team saw the 27-year-old, they decided to take a risk.  Jose has a slight chance to even push Wilton to the minors, but he would have to exceptional to do that.  The team likes him and would love him to stay in the minors, but he has an option to opt out and the team thinks he will.

Ron Latour – Ron being a free agent and signing on a minor league option might be the coup of the off-season.  Since 2024 Ron has been a key part in the Borealis pen in keeping guys from scoring.  His only problem is control at times, but if he can get that under control a bit more than he pretty much has his spot in the Alleghenies pen cemented.

 

 

Don’t Forget me:

Raúl Cruz – Raúl got hurt in his 7th appearance last year and had to have radial nerve decompression surgery.  It was supposed to keep him out 8 months, but half way through his injury he had a setback and it required 9 more months of rehab.  This means around mid-August he should be coming back from his rehab stint and slotting back in as closer.  The one thing that no one currently knows is if he will come back at full strength or not, but if the scouting report is any indication all things look good.

 

It won’t matter who wins the final spot in the pen, the one thing that is certain, the pen has been revamped.  Will it be better or worse, only time will tell, but management seems to think they are in better shape now than they were last year.