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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:25 pm 
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Miserable May Ends With Silver Lining, Draft Looms
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

June 7, 2028: Canton, Ohio - Historically May may be Aurora's best month, but in 2028, it wasn't very pretty, which no doubt must make the headline a bit counter-intuitive. The Silver Lining? Well, Aurora is 6-2 v. Bakersfield, 5-1 v. Crystal Lake, lost a very tough 2 of 3 against Shin Seiki, which could easily have been a sweep - either way, and Aurora ended May and began June splitting four-games with Great Lake leading Fargo at NLP, then taking the first two at Fargo as we sit on Draft Day. So despite how the Borealis have fared so far, against (today's) playoff hopefuls, they are playing some pretty good baseball. That's 16-7 against the playoff hopefuls, and 19-19 against the rest of the SL. What gives?

Aurora is 16-8 in 1-run games - pretty darn good, until you realize four of those are 1-0 loses, three of which are to the 'playoff' bunch; and they've been shut-out 7-times all told, and have scored just 1-run 6-times (with just a 1-0, John Turner 1-hitter win to show) - that's 1 in 5 games Aurora is doing nada. An offensive inconsistency has crippled this team at times. You might say, 'crippled?', and when you see their team .269 is leading the SL, you'd feel justified - and yet they've scored just the 5th most runs (246 - #1 Shin Seiki has 317) despite their average, their 355 K - second lowest in the SL, is on pace to be a top 3 all-time high for the Borealis. Last year they had 'just' 777. Likewise walks, where the 165 the team has drawn thus far are amongst the lowest in the League (9th), the 450 that it approximates for the year would be the all-time low for Aurora. The team's history during this 'Championship Era' (and, OK, it's been 4-years) has been Hi-walk, Low-K offensive efficiency, and that's not what this team has been thus far. When you consider that the older vets - Britt, Carlisle and Pope, may be losing a touch - all three are on pace to set personal high's in K's, coupled with taking on rookie sluggers - Ricardo Zamora is on pace for nearly 150 K on the season, and it's easy to see how an offense would get bogged down. On the bright side, the team has made the concentrated effort to increase it's pathetic homer totals from the past few years, and with Zamora and Torres added to the lineup this year, Aurora's up to 6th in the SL, with 62. That said, most of Zamora's numbers come from a hot April, and he's been cold since.

But as I said, Silver Linings... Paul Carlisle continues on a pace that could net him the Royal Raker Award. His .364 average has him well atop the SL, with the top OBP and SLG (just nipping Bothwell at this moment) and a 3.6 WAR (for those who care about that sort of thing), which is 0.7 better than Evil Eva Jerry Long (I think that's a lot?). He has already been SL PoW three times this year and was named the Player of the Month for May. And he's on pace for his best HR total of his career.

Speaking of the Draft and Silver Linings, also having a career year - though you'd be comparing it to minor league/college numbers is rookie 1B Jose Torres. Take a look at those rookie stats and you see a lot of Aurora Blue and Jose Torres. Aurora's top pick in 2024 (#27 overall), Torres has been on a hitting rampage for most of the season, and his current .322 is second best in the SL - for all qualified hitters, and his 11 HR and 31 RBI lead all rookies - putting him in line for the Rookie Triple Crown. Jose's minor league numbers were a mixed bag of nuts, but last season he seemed to put it all together (.278, 26 HR, 76 RBI), and he certainly seems to have grown upon that this year - looking more like the player Aurora drafted (and hoped they were getting) out of West Virginia. He was recently named the SL Rookie of the Month of May.

June shall be an interesting - and potentially significant, month for Aurora. Sandwiched between two series with the Dinosaurs was a series at Canton - always a house of horrors for Aurora - look no further for proof of that then game 1 when CL John Gray ruined 'Tugboat's 8-inning, 2-hit performance by allowing Noriyuki Sugahara to hit a 2-out walk-off homer. Aurora would win the series with a pair of 1-run wins, before taking the first two in this current series with Fargo - but Aurora will spend the bulk of June on the road - they have just two home series (Okinawa and Fargo - again). It's significant because Aurora is 14-11 on the road - including series losses at Okinawa, Shin Seiki and Kalamazoo. They split four at Palm Springs - oddly they won series at Bakersfield and Crystal Springs (there's that inconsistency again). The Japanese teams have become a kind of Achilles Heel for Aurora the past couple of seasons, and a trip to Toyama is on the agenda (and an end of June-start of July trip to Tokyo as well), to go along with the one home series with the Shisa. Aurora has road series with Reno, Yuma and the struggling Warriors, so you can see the significance of the month - and the risk of inconsistent play leading to a larger deficit - currently 4 back of Bakersfield and 7 back of The Evil Evas for the SL Top Spot. The Champs will visit Northern Lights to close out the first half before the All-Start Break.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 4:07 am 
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The Night The Lights Went Out In Asheville
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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."

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.

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 comparison's 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.

Aurora's international draft continued in the 5th round with Puerto Rican native Humberto Hernandez, a right-handed starting pitcher 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.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:52 am 
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Late 2028 Draft Notes
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

June 8, 2028: Asheville, North Carolina - As Hurricane John's winds died and the 2028 come to a close, most of the GMs of the PEBA walked out the door with a little hop to their steps. The guys at the top of the Draft Table are easy to get excited about - you know, the guys we now wait on to sign their lofty little bonuses so we can begin to evaluate them with our own eyes. But what of the rest of the crew? Guys who may not even be with an organization two seasons from now? Here's a brief pick at the back-end of Aurora's draft.

3B Jason Rice, Northwestern, 6th round: Jason's an interesting specimen. Excellent fielding 3B - powerful arm, good instincts and range, needing a little more fleshing out with the glove. His college numbers were not special, but coaches say he has the potential to be a solid contact hitter, and his ability to put the ball in play looks to be a potential asset. He doesn't grade out to be a power hitter, though he did have four this year.

SP Jesus Booth, Oxford, 7th round: Jesus was used originally as a reliever in high school and his first college season, but was used as a starter the past two seasons, going 7-3, with a 2.82 ERA, with 107 K, 31 BB in 98.2 IP. This year, he struggled with the long ball. The lefty has a strong fastball, that tends to straight, which doesn't help his lack of pinpoint control with the breaking balls. Oxford coach Ogai Kokawa has often praised Jesus for being one of his go to guys when he needs a 'subtle message' passed on to the guys.

SS Brandon Williams, Washington, 8th round: Williams is a strong fielding middle infielder, who prefers the left side. He brings great speed to the field. Williams, from Aurora... Illinois, has a flat swing, and has a tendency to beat the ball into the ground. If he can learn to get a little loft onto the ball, he may be able to up his average and perhaps add a few points to that SLG.

MR Chris Lowe, Horizon HS, 9th round: Aurora doesn't frequently draft high schoolers, but if Lowe grows to meet the potential scouts see, he could be making a splash on The Front Range in a few years. Not an overpowering thrower at this point, his best pitch is a change of speed, that coaches think will baffle hitters if he can find the consistency you need in the Majors. Over 94 IP, Chris had 98 K, 32 BB and a 2.01 ERA - 0.78 his senior season. His stats are a tad misleading: His freshmen year he had struggles with his control, and his sophomore year, he gave up as many homers as walks, perhaps as he worked on finding consistency in the strike zone.

SP Dan Dunn, UAB, 10th round: Dunn may also be one of those diamonds in the rough. The hard-throwing right-hander brings a heavy cutter and slider to the mound - as a matter of fact, Aurora's scouts feel as if his command of his pitches are probably as good as they're going to get, but that he still has a ways to go with his control of those pitches. HIs 213 K over his 4-year college career was nearly 10 K/9.

LF Antonio Pena, Horizon HS, 11th round: Aurora's 2nd high school kid is a skilled defensively, if not the most comfortable or smooth looking fielder. He's not particularly fast, and he does seem to have difficulties making contact - despite what coaches believe to be a pretty good eye. Like most HS players, there are nuggets of potential, buried under the inexperience of being 18 provides.

RP Scott Ferguson, California-Berkeley, 12th round: Ferguson joins Lowe and Dunn as a threesome of arms drafted in the late rounds whose upside is not all that bad. Ferguson graduate with his degree in Microbial Human Genetics and features pretty solid fastballs and sliders. They tend to pretty vanilla, too. But he did manage to average 12 K/9 and if he can master his control, this native of Stauton, Illinois might earn a cup or two of Joe - you never know.

SS Rhett Wellings, Seton Hall, 13th rund: A pretty decent defensive middle infielder - maybe better suited at 2B than short, Wellings looks to be a pretty pedestrian hitter - and his .197 average in his third college season doesn't lend to any faith. When asked what it was about Wellings that motivated him to draft the Seton Hall player, Aurora GM Will Topham said, "My dad's brother's (deceased-Aurora owner, Michael Topham) name was Rhet - just one 'T', and they did not get along at all, so I drafted Rhett - 'T-squared', just to get dad rolling about in his grave." as he smiled wryly...

SP Yoriie Suzuki, Cambridge, 13th round: Balancing out the 'British College' drafting, Suzuki, out of Cambridge makes it a 2-2 draw between Cambridge and Oxford. The left-handed Suzuki was a 2-time All-Star, was 3-0 this season with a 0.89 ERA, 40 K, 6 BB in 40.2 IP. Not bad for a pitcher whose stuff looks mediocre, but with the range of pitches that mimics that of #1 selection Armando Batista. It may be that Yoriie may raise some eyebrows.

RF Robert MacDougal, Houston, 14th round: MacDougal, the Scottish RF, can be described by one, small word: raw. Blazing fast, and a better than average fielder, coaches see sparks of an ability to put the ball in play and spray it around the diamond. Robert is the kind of prospect you look and with hope - with some hard work and luck, you might end up with a useful piece!!

C Will Jones, Stanford, 15th round: The lone catcher drafted by Aurora this year, Will grades out to be no better than an average hitter, and his college stats pretty much support that. But Jones does possess above average defensive skills, and that's something Aurora is always willing to let flow through the system. Expect Will Jones to float through the system for at least a few seasons.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:33 pm 
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Roster Moves, Trades Bring Help to 'Pen
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

June 12, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - When a season reaches about this time of year, there are certain givens that will happen. Injuries. Player failures. Call-ups and demotions. A lack of options. Teams seeking outside help to improve and position themselves for the post-season chase. Aurora has reached that spot on all accounts.

Injuries? Provost, Rivera and Imhoff have all suffered injuries of some magnitude, and with Provost out, and now Rivera's injury causing doubt about his return, Imhoff is in a sink or swim, baptism by fire position. Failures? The sort of 'low men on the totem pole' of the bullpen, Tomas Moya and Billy Taylor - both having been thrust into the lurch as starters as well as relievers, have not impressed enough for a team whose sights are still on chasing down the Evil Evas. Call-ups and demotions? Gotta say, often linked closely to a question of options - and this is where today's tale lies.

The Borealis announced today that they have struck a pair of deals that aim at bolstering the bullpen today, and in the future, while bringing in a nice little 2nd round pick in next years draft. Both deals have their origins in the 'no options left' tale.

First off, Aurora reached an agreement with Arlington, with swingman Billy Taylor heading to Virginia in exchange for left-handed set-up man Mike Monroe. Taylor was the Borealis' top pick (55th overall) in the 2021 draft - a year Aurora drafted five consecutive pitchers to begin their draft (the soon to be mentioned Tomas Moya being the 75th overall in that draft, in the 3rd round). Aurora had hopes for that collection of pitchers, and Taylor - who was at AAA by 2023 and making his major league debut in 2025, posted a hodge podge of results. In 21 appearances this year (including 6 starts) Taylor has a 4.17 ERA, with 40 K and 25 BB in 54 IP. His last four outings had been ineffective, allowing runs, and the teams need for flexibility with injuries - and Taylor's lack of options, but the team in a difficult position.

Monroe comes in as a left-hander who brings a little more balance to the Aurora 'pen, and is a groundball pitcher with 28 K and just 4 BB in 28 IP. Like Taylor, he's allowed 6 HR, but pitching in a little bit better hitters park at Arlington might explain it. Monroe seems the stronger arm, when compared to Taylor, so this would seem like a big improvement for Aurora, and his strongly dominant splits v. lefties should come in handy against Shin Seiki. Monroe does come with a cost - His $4.25M salary for 2028 is well above Taylor's League minimum, and Mike is arby eligible during the offseason - though early estimates suggest a minor raise. More importantly for Aurora's need for flexibility - he has two options.

The second deal of the day sent not one, but two Moya's across the pond to Scotland. Tomas Moya (2-2, 5.15 ERA in 2028) has a career path that mimics Taylor's - a mixed bag of success and failure, and allowing 14-runs in his last 10 IP over 6 appearances was no doubt a final straw. GM Will Topham has expressed in the past his pleasure over Moya's growth, and potential success, but Tomas has failed to leap that last hurdle - and like Taylor, had that dreaded condition know as 'out of options'. The other Moya, Orlando (an Int'l FA signee), has had a nicely successful career in the Aurora system, but the veteran-laden 'pen at the major league level - and the bouncy-trouncy Taylor-Moya pair, have kept him stuck - well, that and the coaches belief that he wasn't going to be quite as good at Aurora as he was at Thornton. Orlando will probably rejoice getting out of the dismal hole that has become the Thornton FasTrax (and join slightly better Aberdeen), as his 2.00 ERA has earned him nothing but a 0-3 record.

In return for the Brothers Moya, Aurora picks up 19-year old Tam Lochhead, whom the Claymores recently acquired in trade from Hartford, and the Scottish's 2nd round pick in next year's draft. Tam is a right-handed reliever with the strength and stamina of a bull and a solid fastball and excellent slider. He has a change that is best left in his golf bag. Scouts give him solid grades and believe the likelihood is high that he'll find himself in the Bigs in the not too distant future. If he could learn a new pitch and establish it, there could be the potential of his becoming a starter. His current task is to work on his control. He graduated from high school being a control guy - he struck out 57 and walked just 7 his freshmen year, but since being drafted by Hartford as the 14th overall selection last year (word out of Aurora's camp is that they had him rated #5 in that draft), he has struggled with the control - walking 54 and striking out 39 at Short A Waikiki. He had 16 BB and 9 K in 23 appearances at Cheyanne this year - but promisingly posted a 2.60 ERA. He has made just one appearance - a rough one, for the Claymores' A Ball club Govan.

So with these two trades, Aurora cleared roster space by eliminating a pair of arms that were causing a log-jam, likely improved the bullpen some for the stretch drive and possible post-season match-ups, improved the pitching depth in the minors and picked up a valuable second round pick. Not a bad day's work. With the arms drafted over the past three seasons (Imhoff, Miguel Torres - 4-3, 3.32 ERA, 75 K, and Armand Batista this year) and this years acquisition of Henry Cluett (4-5, 2.51, 48 K, 10 BB since the trade) and Pedro Morales (awaiting opening day for Mokule'ia) a farm system that was once parched for viable arms, now has some hope down the pipeline.

Just for fun, let's revisit that 2021 draft - All five of those pitchers are officially gone. With Moya heading to Scotland and Taylor off to Arlington, they join Orlando Alacron, a Rule 5 pick for Reno, now pitching in Evansville (CL); Gustavo Cabrera, who was traded to Okinawa along with a bounty of picks and cash for the Shisa's 1st round pick in 2022 (a pick that became 'Fido' Castro) - and still is pitching for Okinawa; and Julio Martinez, who was traded to Palm Springs this winter in exchange for the 'Onion'. Aurora selected 10 pitchers in that 2021 draft - and only 8th round pick, reliever Xavier Diaz remains, continuing to toil at AAA - and, soon to be out of options...

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:44 pm 
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Aurora Inches Closer
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

June 19, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - The Borealis continued to inch their way closer to the top of the Desert Hills - at one point catching Bakersfield, before their current nemesis' - the remains of the 'League of the Rising Sun' bit them once again.

As a matter of fact, it is the four Japanese clubs that have become a thorn in the side of the Borealis. They have lost road series - all 2 of 3, to Okinawa, Toyama and Shin Seiki, as well as losing a home series to Toyama, also 2 out of 3. The only saving grace has been 2 of 3 series wins against Neo-Tokyo and Okinawa, giving Aurora a poor 8-10 mark. Conversely, the Bears have built their lead - not on their mastery of the Borealis (Aurora has a 6-2 mark against Bakersfield thus far), but on that of the Rising Sun - to the tune of 16-9 - and Okinawa coming to YUM! for four to start the week.

Aurora has a 10-day stretch where they don't see a Japanese team (Yay!), but will travel to Tokyo and then host the Evil Evas before the All-Star break - and then they have 6-games, each, remaining with Neo-Tokyo, Toyama and Okinawa; with just 6-games against Shin Seiki this season, the baseball scheduling gods seemed to have smiled a little on Aurora. Still, that's 23 more games against those pesky 'Rising Sunners'. To start that stretch, Aurora entertains (again) Fargo - the first place team in the Great Lakes, which begins the week with a 5-game bulge over Crystal Lake. Fargo comes to The Front Range struggling some, despite a 4-game win streak that included three taut wins over the Yumans. Aurora has won 5 of their 7 meetings with Fargo, and the clubs will play five more times in July up at Jurassic Park. Former-2022 12th overall selection Noboru Imai will open the series for Fargo, and with a 2.90 ERA, he's been the Dinos top starter on the year. His lone start against Aurora was a 3-0 loss to 'Tugboat', where he allowed just a single run on 3 hits in 6 IP. Rookie Rob Imhoff will make his 4th start for Aurora, looking t get past the 5th inning in this one and earn his first career win.

The exciting news of the week was the signing of four more of Aurora's draft choices, including their to pick (#33 overall), SP Armando Batista. The 21-year old leftie out of Oxford signed for a $750K bonus and (is the case for all four signees) was assigned to Mokule'ia. The Oceanic, who are off to an uncharacteristically bad (0-5) start, will have Batista starting today against the Swamp Dragons (Toyama). Aurora's second selection (#34 overall), RF Stewart Arundale, out of Cambridge, signed a $725K bonus deal and the coaches hope his stay on the Islands will be a short one. They are hopeful a successful start will translate to a quick promotion to SLRC. Some have even suggested Gatineau might not be out of the question by years end. Sure to spend all of 2028 in Hawaii is 2nd round pick (Aurora's third pick), Nate Vanrenen, who signed for $400K. Scouts see a very high upside this slick fielding, speedy CF's skills, but his college numbers suggest he's a lot of hard work ahead of him. Lastly, 1B Gary Dyer, Aurora's selection in the 4th round, signed for $200K and may or may not spend the year at Mokule'ia - it'll all depend o his development. Aurora's scouts and coaches feel like his threshold is near, but with a paucity of 1B in the system, he was a decent gamble for a 4th round pick.

14th round pick, Robert MacDougal, who wanted an exorbitant signing bonus, has elected to return to Houston for his senior year - which was't much of a shocker, but disappointing, nonetheless. Aurora was actually surprised this potentially talented RF was still available, but his $2.5M+ demand was surely to bitter for teams to swallow - especially by the time the 14th round came along.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:25 pm 
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Hmm. The Japanese team phenomenon is interesting ... wonder if those teams have something in common in how they're constructed that gives the Borealis trouble? Or maybe OOTP factors in jet lag?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:42 pm 
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Wheeling-Dealing Borealis, to What End?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

July 10, 2028: Fargo, North Dakota - The 2028 season is just past the mid-way point, and the Borealis sit at what feels a pedestrian 51-36. Sure, plenty of teams would trade places with Aurora - a game out of the division lead; a division Bakersfield had held since May 23, that Aurora had come back from the depths of 10-games back to take the lead on June 26, up it to 4-games, only to fall back behind the Bears in the days leading into the All-Star Game. In a race that looks to go to the wire, Aurora will travel to YUM! next Monday for the first of four games in the Desert portion, with the Bears traveling to The Front Range and the Hills portion - a final four-games of the season between bitter rivals near August's end.

Will any of that really make a difference, as for the Borealis, as the team that has struggled against the Rising Sun division has 6 remaining series with their Japanese Rivals, while the Bears - who've done very well against those same clubs, have 8-series left - including 2 with Okinawa and 2 with Toyama. Aurora's saving grace is the schedule did deal them a little solace - their two series thus far with Shin Seiki, are all they have, while the Bears, 2-4 in two series with the Evil Evas, have 6 more games to play with the SL leaders.

And those games with the Evas have been nothing but frustrating for Aurora as four of those games have been decided by 2-runs and the other two games by a single run; two have gone deep into extras (14- and 15-innings). Take this past week, for example. In losing the first two games of the final series of the first half, 4-2 and 3-1, before winning the finale, also 3-1, Aurora hit a painful .184 - not that the Evas .200 in the series was any more impressive, but what it did illustrate is the difference location makes. Playing at Aurora's Northern Lights Park, the Evas probably hit their lowest HR output in a series the year - 1, Chris Webb's 9th inning insurance run in the 9th of game 1.

With Aurora firmly (if only by 4-games in either direction) entrenched in a wildcard spot, they - as always, have their eyes on those Evil Evas, and the questions of how to catch up to 'The Jones' continue, as has been the case between the two since the Evas joined the PEBA in the 2021 Merger.

Which brings us to the title of today's entry. Wheeling and Dealing. The Borealis have been a rather busy lot - especially the past few weeks - and yet again last night. What has been their motivation behind these moves, and where do they leave Aurora for the second half and beyond?

We are three weeks out from the Trade Deadline - let's dissect what Aurora has achieved with their deals thus far:

April 17:
Aurora dealt minor league 1B Jimmy 'Dr. Evil' Peterson to Scotland for their 13th round pick. This deal looks to have no major strategic purpose, aside from clearing up roster space for the upcoming June draft. With the Scottish pick in the 13th round, Aurora selected light hitting, speedy SS Rhett Wellings, who plays a pretty slick second and short. After 8 games and 28 AB, Wellings has done little.
Reaction:
Not much was really expected.

April 24th:
Perhaps still the biggest deal of the season (at least for Aurora), the Borealis dealt Roberto Martinez to Toyama for (ostensibly) a pair of young minor league starting pitching prospects: Henry Cluett and Pedro Morales. The deal also exchanged a pair of outfielders - Lawrence Justice for the younger Howard Joyce. For Aurora, two things were apparent. 'Fudd' Martinez did not appear able or willing to hit for them. Whatever it was - altitude, the park, the color blue, and the team expected much more from their former #1 pick. Now, after a period of adjustment, he's thriving with the Wind-E's. At first, Aurora seemed unconcerned, as rookie Ricardo Zamora was scorching out of the gate, but has since cooled to a glacial pace. The key, though was the second apparent item: the need to get more serious depth in the minor league starting pitching corps. With an eye towards the future, Aurora gave up a bit of the promise of the present - or a lack of. Morales has had 4 starts at Mokule'ia, and despite giving up hits (and 3 HR), he has struck out 27 (with 8 BB) in 24 IP and is posting a 3.38 ERA. Cluett, meanwhile, has made 14 starts for SLRC, posted a 2.45 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, and 70 K in 106 IP. It's a possibility that he may see an August promotion, but it seems Aurora is willing to let him play out the year at A Ball. Justice for Joyce was just a roster procedural move for Aurora - Justice was older and out of options - otherwise, the players seem to be an even swap. Joyce struggled early with the trade - finding himself back at AAA, but of late he's settled in and has his average up to .262.
Reaction:
All in all, 'Fudd' could be an MVP for Toyama, but if Cluett and Morales continue to develop and contribute on The Front Range, Aurora would likely be happy with the acquired depth.

June 12:
The trading got fast and furious when Aurora began looking for a home for swing-man Billy Taylor and came across the new regime in Arlington looking to clean house and begin with a cleaner slate. That brought west reliever Mike Monroe. Taylor struggled off and on for Aurora, never settling into either a starters or reliable relievers role - and had bounced around enough that he was out of options (now there's a trend beginning). Aside from needing flexibility within their roster, the major league level needed a stronger 'pen, and Monroe was acquired with the hope of just that. The 31-year old lefty has a pair of options left - but don't expect those to be used anytime soon. Despite having to spend a turn on the DL (his back seized up and the team took the road of caution), his 9 IP since joining the team have been solid: 6 H, 1 BB, 7 K. Meanwhile, Taylor finds himself back at AAA - again, and pitching like he's not all that excited about it.
Reaction:
Aurora needed more depth in the 'pen to compete at the level they expect. Monroe threw 5 innings this past week against Shin Seiki, and gave up 3 hits and Webb's solo homer (in his third inning of that appearance), with no walks and 3 K. 9 innings may not be a sample size worth discussing, but this looks like a positive move for the present.

June 12:
Aurora weren't just focused on Arlington; or the present, on this day - as they went knocking on the Scottish door, and haggis wasn't what they were in hopes of finding. Looking for a home for the 'similar to Billy Taylor' situation Tomas Moya, Aurora found another team with new management that had turned fortune on it's ear, yet found the injury bug looking to strike fortune square in the nose. The Borealis would sent two Moya's to Scotland - AAA reliever Orlando Moya joining Tomas, and in exchange the Borealis would receive another young arm - Tam Lochhead -used as a reliever, but with starters potential, and Scotland's 2nd round pick. Tomas Moya, like Taylor before him, had bounced up and down the Interstate and in and out of the bullpen, neither showing the potential dominance the team had hoped for in either location. All the while consuming his options - and when Monroe was acquired, the roster spot that the Taylor deal freed up, was filled. So off went Tomas and Orlando - who pitched well for Thornton, but never got more than a 'maybe' from the Aurora management team. Lochhead show's a lot of potential, but is pretty green. Drafted 14th overall by Hartford in 2027, this was the second time he was traded this season. It would seem likely he'll stay with Aurora (for now), and at Mokule'ia - despite the success he had at A Ball Cheyenne last year. At just 19, like Pedro Morales, not need to rush this one.
Reaction:
A move for the future. Moya & Moya may sound like a law firm, but in time, they should help the Claymores more than they would have the Borealis. A young arm, full of potential, and a 2nd round pick sound like a positive move with an eye on the future.

June 26:
Aurora had really, really hoped Rob Imhoff would shed his injury bug and stay healthy, and pitch to the potential they see in him. The pitching part, 2.91 in 5 starts, 16 K, 4 BB in 21.2 IP - only 5 HRs kind of ruining the effect. But... pitching well - Check. Injury bug - not so fast Willis. When a biceps strain took him down again, and landed him on the DL, Aurora came to the realization that they needed a back-up plan. Enter Amsterdam and their own 'cleaning house' new GM. A 4th round pick - and eating the remainder of a contract, was all it took to get long-time, coveted, Alleghanie Arturo Velasquez into the fold. Clearly a move for the present - and with a cheap contract (for now), the possibility that he stays on for 2029 is a distinct one. Arturo has been used both in the 'pen and as a starter for Amsterdam this year, and had posted a 2.87 ERA in those roles, with 50 K and 19 BB in 60 IP. For Aurora he made a relief appearance against Neo-Tokyo (3-hitless innings, with 3 K) and then he got the starting nod against the Evil Evas, and gave up a run on 5-hits over 6-innings for the win.
Reaction:
An inexpensive move for the present that is more likely to pay more benefits than it's cost.

June 26:
Aurora's back and forth activity in this whirlwind of trading continued, as for the second time they struck multiple trades on a single day. This time they cut loose a pair of relievers - Pedro Vega (who had spent time at both ends of the I-70/I-25 corridor) and Robert Thomas in a deal with Arlington for the younger RP Theo Holder. Vega, who never quite gave Aurora what they had hoped when they acquired him from Kentucky, just played himself out of the organization depth chart - and the moves made by the team over the past couple of years didn't help. Thomas, like so many Aurora minor leaguers, just reached that AAA dead-end, despite winning the Organizations Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Holder was an International Free Agent find by the Bureaucrats in 2024, and over the past two seasons had shown the Arlington folks some promise. His biggest challenge will be harnessing his control - otherwise his stuff is dynamite.
Reaction:
Like all trades that are for the future, it's a tough call on this one, but Holder has promise and adds depth to the organizations pitching corps.

June 26:
This time around Aurora turned to a long established GM to deal with - and New Orlean's GM Reg LeBlanc was listening. The Trendies, who started hot, were found floundering, yet still with hopes for a wildcard spot. They took infielder Freddy Brooks, another guy stuck in the minors, but whose defensive skills alone make him worth a look. In exchange, Aurora picked up New Orleans' 2nd round pick.
Reaction:
A straight forward deal with an eye looking ahead. Brooks had served his time with Aurora, and it was time for him to get a shot for significant playing time.

July 10:
Most recently, the Borealis turned to an odd trading companion - the Crystal Lake Sandgnats. The 'Gnats GM, RJ Ermola, has been combating financial troubles all season as a result of the Miguel Cantu contract snafu, and has tried to make shedding salary and competing for the Rodriguez Cup co-existent activities. Despite not being far off, the Organization had made the call to move into a slight reboot - and with that, a need for Aurora came about. 2B Derrick Dwyer became available, and Aurora saw that as maybe the best fit option to beef up the offense on the infield. Aurora sent their 2nd and 3rd round picks to the 'Gnats, with West Virginia's 3rd round pick (acquired in an earlier deal involving Manny Pacheco and 'Moondog') coming west. The ever impatient Borealis were not satisfied with the .262 they got from Pablo Medrano or the .250 from Teddy Loetzsch or the .246 from Gabe McIntyre or the really hideous .213 from Carlos Saenz (who quickly found his way onto the DFA - after rumors suggest Crystal Lake balked in the end at having Saenz included in the deal). The combined OPS averaging .623 was not cutting it for a team with it's sights on high places - and that's not even talking defense. Medrano's 8 errors at second (compared to Dwyer's 2) have been costly, as a team wth a once proud defense has sunk to 7th in the League.
Reaction:
This deal isn't the end-all of Aurora's offensive struggles, but a bump in the offense and improved defense on the infield could go a long way. At the basic cost of a second round pick - and still having two picks in that round (the switch of 3rd round picks is really looking to be just a few places and is mostly a wash), this is a deal for the present that seems more of a financial debate (Dwyer is owed $2.4M on his contract for the year) than a high risk acquisition.

So as we analyze Aurora's motivations, we see a thread that has been a common one for the past 5-seasons now since they won their last PEC. That is, this is a club that knows it's window is closing, and yet they keep looking to keep it open. But we have also noticed over the past couple of seasons - and this slew of trades accentuate it, that they recognize that their historical success has come from the mound - and with the futures of Provost and 'Tugboat' cloaked in uncertainty, the team is striving to improve the pitching depth in the minors - kind of the 'Win & Build' model that got the Borealis to the top though the mid-20-teens. To summarize the seven trades (discounting the Peterson for a 13th round pick) the Borealis have struck in the seasons's first half:

In:
Present: SP Arturo Velasquez, Mike Monroe RP, 2B Derrick Dwyer
Future: SP Henry Cluett (A), SP Pedro Morales (SA), RP Tam Lochhead (A), RP Theo Holder (AA), RF Howard Joyce
New Orleans 2nd round pick, Scotland's 2nd round pick, WV's 3rd Round Pick

Out:
LF Roberto 'Fudd' Martinez, LF Lawrence Justice, SP/RP Billy Taylor, SP/RP Tomás Moya, 3B Freddy Brooks, RP Orlando Moya, RP Pedro Vega, RP Robert Thomas
Aurora's 2nd round, 3rd round and 4th round picks

Aside from the picks, 'Fudd' is likely the one piece the team may regret. Despite his inability to get rolling at Aurora, his upside was high. The others all have their potential and are in dire need of continuity and a chance - something that was not going to happen at Aurora.

The draft looks better, as the exchange of picks actually ends up with the Borealis moving up - barring an utter and complete disaster in the second half. Add Cluett and Morales to the recent drafting of Miguel Torres, Armando Batista, and the young Roberto Rodriguez - fresh out of the International Complex and ready to make his professional debut tonight, and the Borealis look to have the makings of an extremely solid rotation. Now the Aurora brass need to do something they seldom have been able to do in their 'Win Now, at all cost' mentality - show patience.

Meanwhile, as for the present - the team has taken on more salary then they perhaps should have - and Monroe and Dwyer are arbitration eligible and Velasquez will be a free agent. These players seemingly can't hurt in this years hunt for the PEC - but will they make the difference? That's hard to say. Argue if you like, that Dwyer is redundant - but if he plays good D, he's a difference maker. Monroe certainly looks like he'll make the bullpen stronger - and with 'Onion' Castro looking like he's hit the wall, that'll be needed more so than thought. And Arturo? Well, with the medical team now stating that they are unsure about Imhoff's return from a biceps issue, and Carlos Rivera's sketchy injury history, if nothing else, Velasquez provides a proven veteran presence in the rotation, complementing 'Tugboat' and Turner.

A bigger question may be - are the Borealis through with this years trading, or is their more yet to come?

One eye on the present, one eye on the future. Has each eye focused and narrowed down on viable pieces? It's funny how time is - be it long or short, it's always time that tells.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:03 pm 
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I've been saddened to see Rivera's injury woes this season and the latest one makes me wonder if he's just done. I'm guessing the team option won't be picked up.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:17 pm 
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Badgers wrote:
I've been saddened to see Rivera's injury woes this season and the latest one makes me wonder if he's just done. I'm guessing the team option won't be picked up.

It's highly unlikely that it will... that $14M+ has already been spent - and with Aurora foundering and attendance down dramatically, cash will be hard to find - which may be the deciding factor with Provost...

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:37 am 
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Wheeling-Dealing Borealis, to What End?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

July 24, 2028: Duluth, Minnesota - The bizarre and the sublime continue for the Borealis as Aurora prepares to play game 100 this afternoon in Duluth with a 56-43 record, 2 games back f the Bears in the division, 3 games back of Fargo for the #2 seed in the SL, 7 games back of Neo-Tokyo for the top wild card and a full - shocking, 16 games behind The Evil Evas for the top mark in the SL - and the PEBA. Once again, Aurora had a week of close encounters - maybe not of the Third Kind, but 4 more 1-run games (lost three of those), 2, 2-run games (won both) and a 3-run victory that opened the week.

The week opened with another 4-game set with Bakersfield, and a chance to gain ground and regain the division, but instead, a frustrating 2-2 split with the Bears. Randy Smith pitch a solid 6 innings in that opening win, allowing just an earned run, but it took a 5-run inning against a fatiguing Erik Watson and a not very good Steve Hott to achieve that goal. Games 2 & 3 were both 2-1 scores, the Bears winning the first behind a typically stellar Declan Little worth (7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R) while Aurora emergency starter, Hugh 'Mister' Jones was near his equal with 6.1 innings of 5-hit, 2-run ball. Unfortunately, not only were the two the Bears would get - but that it was all they needed.

'Chief' Nieves and Fred Womak were long gone by the time game 3 finished, as once Nieves left the game (7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 7 K), they would still play 6 more innings. Aurora's 'pen out give up just 1 hit in it's 6.1 IP - with newbie Mike Monroe throwing the final 3 in hitless fashion, to continue to look like a more than solid pick-up. The hitting stars for Aurora on this day were newly acquired 2B Derrick Dwyer (3-6) and 'Fido' Castro, who's 3rd hit on a 3-7 day would be a lead-off homer in the to of the 14th, and the day's winner. The Bears would get their turn at late heroics after Aurora had spotted 'Terror' Diaz a 3-run lead against Neil Maes, only to see him cough it up, and the game ending up in extras - again. John Gray would blow the game (again) with a lead-off, walk-off homer by Old Man Lonnie Cole - hit well over the bleachers down the left field line - a massive 432 foot blast, giving Bakersfield a 4-3 win, and a 2-2 split on the series.

Aurora returned home after a 3-6 post-All-Star road trip to face Reno at Northern Lights. Arturo Velasquez would open the series up, and wasn't too sharp, allowing the Zephyrs solo runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings - that gave Reno a 3-0 lead, but veteran Ricardo Aguilar, who gave up a league-leading 37 homers(!) for Reno last year, gave up #17 to Dwyer in the 5th (a 2run shot) and another 2-run shot in the 6th to Paul Carlisle, and Aurora was able to overcome the deficit. Dan Feld continued his solid work with 3-hitless innings for his first save of the year. Game 2 was all about John Turner. JT would go 8-innings and allow just 4-hits and strike out 9, only a Reggie Meyers 2-out run scoring single blemishing his record. Gabe Macintyre's solo homer in the 4th would make the game a 1-1 affair - that would be McIntyre's 4th homer of the season - a career best! Thankfully, this game would not head into extras as another 1-1 game, as rookie Jose Torres lined a walk-off, 2-run homer - his 16th of the year, and Aurora had a 3-1 win.

'Tugboat' would get no love in the 3rd game of the series with Reno - as his 6 IP, 6-hiit, 2-run outing (and 8 K) would go unrewarded as his mates could do nothing against Jose Martinez. Jose allowed just 4-hits - 3 of which were doubles (Britt, Dwyer and McIntyre), but that was all they'd get. Former-Borealis farm hand John Lawson would bring home a run in the first and Rowan Stuart would blast his 16th homer of the season in Reno's 2-1 win to end a frustrating 4-3 week for Aurora.

Derrick Dwyer bounced back after a rough first week with Aurora, going 7-14, with a double and homer. He also stole two bases. Castro was just 4-11, in two starts, also with a double and homer. River Pope continues to mystify, with a 3-25 week, that might explain the bit of rumor coming up. Flores (4-27), Torres (4-25) and a suddenly ice cold Carlisle (5-27) failed to spark Aurora's engine.

On the mound, let's hear it for the bullpen. 23-innings, 1-run on 13-hits, 4 BB and 13 K. The starters weren't bad, either - the worst they gave up was 3-runs (Diaz and Velasquez), but when the offense hits a pathetic .228 with an OPS of .588, your pitchers better be just about perfect!

The big new around the League as the week closed, was the word that Don 'Jasper' Mercer was shipped out of Duluth (along with his $33M a year contract that has a possible 4-more years) to Scotland to become a Claymore. The big rumor on The Front Range is that Aurora was purportedly a player in the trade negotiations and that they were dangling long-time Borealis, 3-time All-Star, 2-time SL Batting Champ, and one of the members of Aurora's 3-peat teams, River Pope as bait. What is not clear is why that wasn't enticing enough for Duluth. The two teams have a long history as trade partners, and this could have just upped the ante on the trade history.

Down on the Farm:
The real big news has been the progress of top pick in this years draft, Armando Batista. after a 2-0 start, with a 2.84 ERA in 3 GS, with 18 K and 6 BB (and 6 HR), he was promoted to A Ball SLRC, and in 3 starts there he is 1-0, with a 0.81 ERA, 22 K, 5 BB and just 2 HR - in 3.1 more IP! Aurora was thrilled to have Batista drop as he did - he was very high on their pitcher board, and he's showing why.

Also earning a promotion to SLRC will be this years second selection, 'Litterbug' Arundale. in 27 starts at Mokule'ia he is hitting .283 with 5-2B and 2-3B. He also has walked 15 times, while striking out 9. Aurora's scouts feel extremely positive about Arundale, who was the top player on their board, and his development. A solid showing over the next two weeks might earn him a second promotion, to Gatineau, before the season is over.

Pitchers of note in the minors, Pedro Morales, acquired in the 'Fudd' trade, in 6 starts is 2-1, with a 2.83 ERA. He's struck out 42 and walked 11 in 35 IP. Jesus Booth, Aurora's 7th round selection, also in 6 GS, has a 2.65 with 39 K and 16 BB, while 13th rounder Yoriie Suzuki has a 4-1 record and a 1.78 ERA, 32 K in 35 IP - but 23 BB marring his record thus far.

At SLRC, Henry Cluett, also part of the 'Fudd' deal, has continued to grow, with the typical peaks and valley's a 20-year old might be expected to have. he has 4-games in which he's given up 4-or more runs, but he has 9 with 2-or fewer - including 3-complete game shut outs. His 2.67 over 16 GS for the Rapidos Blancos, with 80 K and 21 BB still looks impressive! Flying under the radar at SLRC is Andres Canales, who has posted a 1.78 ERA in 111 IP. His 75 K is strong, though his 45 BB takes the edge off. But, he's only allowed 2 homers.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:19 am 
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The two teams have a long history as trade partners, and this could have just upped the ante on the trade history.


Was very tempted by Pope! Best of luck in the upcoming series.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:04 am 
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Late July Surge Leads to Deadline Deal
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

July 31, 2028: Palm Springs, California - The 2028 season is beginning to have the ring of a good ol' fashion Desert Hills hoedown, Borealis-Bears, down to the wire where Crystal Lake and Yuma (for Aurora) and Toyama and K-zoo (for Bakersfield) lie in wait for the season's final week. But after a week in which Aurora went 5-1 against Duluth and Great Lakes leader, Fargo - including a 3-game sweep of the Dinos that have put the teams in a flat-footed tie for the race for #2 (who wants to be #1 - that's so passé, Anyone can be #1), Aurora is rethinking the course of the season - and as I've suggested in a previous post, the future.

The roads trip began in Duluth, and Aurora would spot 'Chief' with a 5-0 lead after 2-innings - 4-singles and two walks in the first for 3-runs and a Jose Torres 2-run shot in the second, but Duluth would get back into the game slowly - in part due to a pair of Torres errors at first. But this was a week for the bullpen, and Mike Monroe and John Gray would start things off with 2.2-innings of 1-hit, 5 K work - Nieves getting his 11th win and Gray his 30th save. Game 2 would have 'Terror' Diaz net his 11th win in a similar fashion - Aurora jumping to a 4-0 lead (Mike Britt hitting his 19th homer), with Ron Latour earning a save (2) with 1.2 IP with just a hit allowed. Diaz' 7.1 inning, 2-hit effort marred only by his 4 walks and a Charon HR. Crafty old Bryan Bedell, in his second stint at Duluth, would befuddle Aurora in Game 3, as only Dwyer and Gutierrez would manage a hit in Aurora's 2-0 loss in the finale. Arturo Velasquez (who's role with the team is about to get foggy) struggled with his control - walking 6 batters - on top of 3 hits, but with some luck, those walks played no part in the game.

Aurora then traveled to Fargo to face the team that had recently took both games of a 2-games series in Fargo, by 2-1 scores, on walk-off homers. Though the pitching in that series was hopeful, the offense was woeful. This time the offense would show more signs of life, and the pitching would be even stronger. In picking up his 9th win, John Turner would go 6-innings and allow just a solo homer (Santiago Salazar's 10th in the 3rd). Fargo would have to make that last, as once again, the 'pen was dynamite - Feld, 2-hitless innings and Gray a hitless 9th. Ernesto Molina did his best, allowing just 5 hits in 7 IP (and 9 K), but a pair of single runs (including Paul Carlisle's 18th homer) were just enough to beat Molina, 3-1. In Game 2, Knowing that 'Tugboat' would leave after 7.1 IP and no runs allowed, you'd chalk up Aurora's Ace's 7th win on the year - and with an offense highlighted by Britt's 20th and Carlisle's 19th homers, you'd be correct - final score 4-0. Fargo's woes would continue in the series finale, as Aurora's pitching would make it 24-consecutive scoreless innings for Fargo bats, as Nieves would look dominant in 8-innings of shut out ball, and Gray picking up save 32, despite a pair of walks. For the third straight game, Paul Carlisle would homer - matching Britt's 20 for the team high.

So Aurora's 5-1 week, coupled with Bakersfield's 1-5 jaunt through Shin Seiki and Okinawa, has the Borealis back on top of the division by 2 games. And with the final two months of the season upon us, we can look forward and see the pitfalls ahead - and for Aurora, it is their division to win, as their combined opponent win % (at the moment) is .475 - the lowest of any team in either league. It's a deceptive stat - August includes 6-games with Okinawa, and all the Japanese teams have been murder on Aurora, and in the middle is the final 4-games with the Bears at Northern Lights. The Bears still have a series with the Evil Evas and two series with Fargo, while the Dinosaurs still have two series with the Evil Evas - while Aurora hope to see Shin Seiki at some point towards the latter part of October.

With the successful week, and the hopes it's the start of wind in their sails, the super busy Borealis front office was at it again, this time taking advantage of relationships developed with the new Duluth management team while discussing a potential Mercer deal to strike a deal this time around - one that hopefully helps both teams. Aurora sent Duluth RP Felix Pena, minor league starting pitcher Kelsey Buck (AA), 3B Carlos Torres (AAA) and CF Joe Harris (AAA), and in return Aurora acquires SP Bartolo Esquivel - the big (6'5", 245 lb), 32-year old right-hander who was the 4th pick in the 2017 Draft by Reno. The Zephyrs would whiff on agreeing on a contract and back to college he went, where the following year, he'd drop to 8th overall in the draft and land in Connecticut. A year later he was traded to Tempe and 2-years later he was pitching a no-hitter against the Bears.

For a pitcher of his quality, you'd think that would be the end of his travels - but you'd be wrong. After the end of the 2023 season, the League made the bold move to contract - for a better financial future, and Tempe was one of the teams that was shipped out of the League, and Bartolo was the 7th player selected in the Contraction draft - by Yuma. In 2026, he was traded by the Yumans to Duluth and here we are, two-years later and he is on the move again - this time to The Front Range.

In Esquivel, Aurora picks up a pitcher who throws extremely hard and down, his fastball topping out at 101-mph, with devastating curves and forkballs to complement his fastball. There times he has topped 200 strikeouts. He was rumored to be unhappy about the clubhouse atmosphere at Duluth, which suggests he may find things much more palatable at Aurora. In 2028 he has started 22 games for the Warriors and is 7-8 with a 3.46 ERA, He's struck out 117 batters and walked 47. Leaving the worst defensive team in the SL and a hitters park, and joining a much better defense in a pitchers park - in a division with two other pitcher's parks, should be a great match for the Johnstown, Colorado native, who will now be able to pitch before family and friends who live just an hour north of Northern Lights Park.

The Borealis plan for Esquivel will be intriguing to see. His contract calls for $12M next season, followed by two-years of $20M salary. After the 2031 season, both sides can opt-out of the deal, which then chimes in at $23M. By the time Bartolo reaches the twin options, he'll be 35. For starters, It's fair to say that the team options Aurora holds on Mike Provost ($35M) and Carlos Rivera ($15M) will be declined. It will be a sad day in Aurora when 'Train Arollin'' says adieu, but the recently turned 36-year old was show signs of ruggedness around the edges last year, and that torn flexor tendon won't do him any favors. It'll cost the team $8.5M for the buyout of the contract. Esquivel will slide into the rotation after Turner (2.24 ERA) and 'Tugboat' (2.40) and in front of Nieves (3.29). Which creates an interesting dilemma - 'Terror' Diaz is 11-4 with a 3.69 ERA. He has three starts against Bakersfield - nothing to write home about, and one against Shin Seiki - a tough 3-1 loss, in which he gave up 2-hits and a run. Then there is recently acquired Arturo Velasquez. In 29 IP, which span 4 starts, he has posted a 2.48 ERA and has 25 K and 10 BB - compared to Diaz' 20/18. Both will be free agents and where rumors put the 32-year old Velasquez' demands around $6M, the 29-year old Diaz is expected to ask $9M. For now, no one is getting anything - the doors to the bank are closed.

Perhaps the big plus to this is Esquivel is cheap next year. He's tied up for three more years. Provost is gone. Face the facts fans. Rivera is gone. Smith has a vesting option this year (and next) at 28 GS - it looks like that'll happen, but next year at 36...? And Nieves has team options over the next two years, so there is room for a lot of different scenarios with the Aurora rotation - and we aren't even revisiting the Rob Imhoff question - who is at AAA until the season's end, I've been told.

So, as big a question the arrival of Bartolo may raise, there is one solid answer he presents - a guaranteed body in the rotation for the next three seasons.

Not to ignore the four bodies headed to Minnesota, but in a nutshell, it'll be Buck the team will miss the most. The second round pick from two years ago has put together an impressive minor league record, despite Aurora's scouts souring some since that draft. With a career 52-27 mark and a 2.46 ERA, spanning Short A, A and AA, Buck has 619 K and 169 BB in 665 IP. He already has posted a combined 4.5 WAR (for those who follow that stat) - and was at 4.5 last year. Pena, just a few years ago, was the darling of the bullpen, then in 2026 struggled, and the past two-seasons injuries have slowed him down, and coaches soured on his efforts to get ready. Felix is to be a free agent after the season, so he certainly is on tryout with his new team. Some would tell you that Aurora would never trade Joe Harris - a somewhat distant cousin of the Topham clan (on the former, deceased-owner Michael Topham's mother's side). Drafted in the third round as a speedy defensive whiz, his minor league offensive stats never shouted loud enough to coaches to bench Pope or Carlisle - nor prevent the trade (also with Duluth) for Tomas Flores. 3B Carlos Torres was a 10th round pick in 2022, drafted as a guy who had all the intangibles - smart, hard working, guys listened to him - even though he wasn't necessarily the best guy on the team. And he had the promise of pop - he hit 16 HR in '26 and 18 in '27 at Gatineau, but like so many draftees over the past ten years - the path to The Front Range is a difficult one with very large road blocks.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:28 am 
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Great write-up, Mike. Enjoyed it as always.

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He was rumored to be unhappy about the clubhouse atmosphere at Duluth, which suggests he may find things much more palatable at Aurora.


An understatement to be sure! I will be following Bartolo closely in the coming seasons and happy to see him in a (potentially) happier atmosphere this year.

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nor prevent the trade (also with Duluth) for Tomas Flores.


Boy, was I keen for Flores! Now it is all making sense.

Rooting for Aurora to avenge our Codgers embarrassment in your coming week, and happy we were able to make some deals.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:53 am 
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This is the third (for sure, maybe fourth) blockbuster, Big Name deal between Aurora and Duluth... there was the trade for 'Zoom Zoom' Barker, an arm injury ending his career, the Flores deal, and now this one... hopefully Bartolo brings Aurora more than 'Zoom' did...

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:38 am 
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Have Borealis Gone All In?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

July 31, 2028: Palm Springs, California - Just when you thought Aurora couldn't possibly make another trade this season, their Boy Wonder GM strode to the podium to address the press for the second time today - this time a mere few hours before the mid-day trade deadline and nary an hour after his previous trip.

After having announced a deal that brought veteran right-hander Bartolo Esquivel to The Front Range, Will Topham addressed the crowd, informing them that Aurora wasn't quite done preping for the stretch drive.

"Contrary to the way things may seem from many of the trades we have consummated over the past two months, we have not viewed this season as a lost cause - even if we are 16-games behind the Evas." Topham began, callously ignoring their closer, more intimate rivals, Bakersfield, "It isn't how you get to the finish line, it's what you do when you get there. Our goal, as it always has, is the Rodriguez Cup." The soft murmur through the crowd sat in anticipation of what exactly the GM was about to announce.

"To that means," he continued, "I'd like to formally announce that the Borealis have struck a deal with the Calzones - a deal our old pal 'Trader' Matt would have been proud of." referring to the long-time GM of the San Antonio Calzones of Laredo, with whom Will Topham had struck many an intriguing - and sometimes controversial, deal "We have agreed to send 'Onion', Miguel Torres, Roberto Rodriguez and Teruo Ine to Laredo, in exchange for Bob Burns." A buzz radiated through the room "We've also traded between us draft picks - our first, their second, which will simply be a matter of trading places around the Supplemental round."

The collection of reporters got loud. No one expected another deal from Aurora - much less for another pitcher. Hitting is what the team needed. The press wanted answers. "We would have preferred Mercer - and may have stood pat if we had landed him. When we lost out, it was simply the case of nothing on the market, hitter-wise, that interested us; that was the right fit." numerous heads shook in understanding of the truth behind this message. Aurora did seem to go all out on Mercer, but leaks from the Duluth press suggest that Aurora's ask, in addition to 'Jasper' was too much. "We won four titles in five years with the fundamentals - pitching and defense. We believe we can do that again - no matter how many home runs other teams may hit on that journey." I'd suggest that that was, perhaps, a not-so-subtle jab at their rivals in the Far East.

Defensively, Aurora can do only so much. The acquisition of Derrick Dwyer should help some - and based on the 'eye test', it already has. In 13 games at second since his arrival, Dwyer has committed no errors and been involved in 10 DP. Pablo Medrano has 8 errors on the year at second. Britt isn't playing defense as well as he did when he was younger, and Torres could be better, but hopefully Dwyers range improvement over Medrano will help take some pressure off Torres.

No, it's the pitching that this deal - and the previous one this morning, has brought to the table. "Burns, like Esquivel, has a friendly contract situation - he is going into his second arbitration year, so we maintain a semblance of control beyond this year." Translation: neither are stretch drive rentals. As, I might add, is Dwyer, who has one last arbitration year. This is a point not worth overlooking. We can conclusively state that the team options on Provost and Rivera are officially off the table, and the $50M they'll save - less the $8.5M buyout on Provost's contract, will hopefully cover these arbitration deals, maybe some extensions, and perhaps a free agent that hits the ball deeper than the warning track.

Burns will be an interesting addition to the club. Up until last season, he had been used as a starter by the Calzones. After a mid-season call-up in 2024, Bob made 84 starts and was just 28-27 with a 2.76 ERA, for a mostly struggling San Antonio team. The last season and thus far this one, Burns has pitched in the 'pen - often in the closer role and is 8-7, with a 2.11 ERA. He had 19 saves last year and 19 already this year. So... he's the consummate swingman. He has 3 blown saves last year in 62 appearances and is perfect thus far. One will assume that his immediate future with the Borealis will be back to the 'pen, where his devastating 100-mph fastball just adds more power to the Borealis staff. He's never been a very long-winded guy, so that looks to be a good fit. With 'Onion' Castro and Felix Pena shipped out with today's trades, the two weak-links, statistically this year, are gone. And if you ask the coaching staff, it was good riddance with Pena, who they would say - sometimes not so subtly, was a bit of an... an... this is a family blog.

Burns will depend mostly on his fastball, and mix in an above average change to keep hitters honest. Where he tends to get in trouble is with his slider - which at times looks outstanding, until he leaves it too far out in front of the plate. After the press conference, in the clubhouse, there was a distinct buzz over the arrival of both Esquivel and Burns. 'Terror' and Velasquez may have looked a little apprehensive - both knowing that their roles may change, but acknowledging that the teams pitching staff just went from strong (both the Starters and the bullpen are 3rd in ERA in the SL) to stronger. Mike Britt, the longest tenured member of the teams told me, "I remember, sometime before he died, Mike Topham had said to me as we sat in the dugout before a game, 'That old adage, you can't have enough quality pitching? I believe in my heart that there is not truer concept in baseball than that.' For as long as I've been here, that has been the case."

I evaluated the numerous trades this season and a major theme was building towards the future - well, this deal gave some of that future promise away for the now. 18-year old Guatemalan Roberto Rodriguez was an international find, just this year, and had thrown three starts at Mokule'ia and... poof, gone - despite the high promise John Donohue's staff had for him. Miguel Torres was last years top pick, 32nd overall, and in 14 starts last year in Hawaii, he posted a 2.06 ERA, an 8-3 record and 108 K and 40 BB. This year he was moved straight to Gatineau, where he's 6-6 with a 3.45 ERA, 125 K and 64 BB. Despite what seem to be backwards numbers, scouts attribute that to the jump in level and he was, as Donohue put it, 'on course for 2030-31.' We'll have to keep an eye on San Antonio to see how that pans out. Teruo Ine is a speedy outfielder with above average defensive skills, whose bat may be best serve as a 4th or 5th outfielder - except he has shown some pretty good pop. In 2026 he hit 12 HRs at AA, and last year, split between AA and AAA, he hit 17, and this year he already has 14. The 57th overall pick in 2023 could be a sleeper in this trade.

Juan Castro came to Aurora in a trade with Palm Springs at the Winter Meetings and started the year like gang-busters! After missing virtually all of last season and a good portion of the offseason with a torn elbow ligament, there were grumblings that he had just reached his conditioning level, and that he'd be stronger next year. Well, in a pennant race, sometimes, there is no next year. It's plain to see that for Aurora, not only were they bringing in a fresher, younger arm (Burns is 29 by the time the PEC comes along), but it also becomes a salary trade that is almost a wash - if not just slightly helping out Aurora's bulging payroll.

Will this be enough to tip the scales? Will good pitching beat good hitting - as it historically has? Aurora better hope so. They've invested a lot of time, energy and resources into improving the one part of the team that, arguably, didn't need improving. As they say, 'there's more then one way to skin a cat'. Let us hope that this skinned cat doesn't end up like Huck Finn's -

'Whatcha got in the bag, Huck?'

'Dead cat'.

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