For the first time since I started this blog, the Mat-Su Miners have published their roster prior to the start of the season. I never thought it would happen; I thought GM Pete Christopher would hold his cards close to his chest as usual, but I was pleasantly surprised when he dropped it on us a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I became preoccupied at exactly that point in time with getting all the draft work done, so I had to push this off onto the back burner for too long. But now that we’re all done with that, and it’s time to gear up for the upcoming season, I am excited to present to you my preview of the 2012 Mat-Su Miners.
One benefit to pushing this back so close to the start of the season is that what you see here is more or less what you’re going to get. We know who’s been drafted, most teams are done for the season so injury risks are minimal, and so it’s a safe gamble to me to talk up any players on this roster. That being said, this is still a pre-season roster, and even if it weren’t, these are subject to change at any time. So let’s start with the pitchers.
The Miners this season are bringing up some durable arms to hold down their starting rotation. One of those players is right-hander Tyler Davis, a freshman out of the University of Washington. Beginning his first collegiate season out of the bullpen, Davis quickly established himself as a starting pitcher and ended up throwing 70.2 innings. Another workhorse starter for the Green and Gold will be Middle Georgia College’s Sam Angew-Wieland, also a rightie, who has experience in the Valley League in 2011. Pitching for Luray there, he struck out 41 batters in 40.1 innings pitched. Back to school this fall, he continued his strikeout-artist ways and logged team-best stats in both innings pitched (84) and strikeouts (96).
There’s a few known hard-throwers in the team; among them are Peter Kaplan and Tanner Anderson. Kaplan — a sophomore right-hander out of Harvard — has seen limited play at the collegiate level thus far but was ranked Top 1000 by Perfect Game in 2010 and pitched for Riverhead in the Hamptons League in 2011. Anderson, another RHP, brings 90+ mph zip on his fastball. He’s made 7 starts, also for Harvard, in 2011, and he has versatility as he is also experienced at third base.
There’s also a good mix of lefties on this club, and a few of them with summer ball experience. Andrew McGee, out of Monmouth, was named Freshman All-American in 2011 before going on to make 8 starts in the Cal Ripken League. Ross Mitchell, who has logged 38 innings as a reliever for Mississippi State with a 1.18 ERA this year, appeared for Nashville in the Prospect League last season.
Southpaw Nick Laroy is an interesting pitcher, who was a serious draft prospect as a high-school player before blowing out his elbow his senior year. He’s been rehabbing from surgery and went on to a bullpen roll with Washington State this past season, on a strict pitch limit and trying to knock off the rust. I would expect much of the same; he may be cautious about throwing too many pitches and he is still fighting to get back to the dominant state he was in as a prep star. At one point he was absolutely filthy, throwing a seven-inning mercy-rule no-hitter with 27 strikeouts (that’s every out), but whether or not we see a strong performance in Alaska is all up in the air. It’ll be interesting to have a look at Laroy and see how he’s coming along.
Finally, on the hill, keep an eye out for Jay Calhoun. The Dallas Baptist right-hander was previously drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 43rd round, in 2011. He’s broken into the starting rotation at DBU and logged 9 starts.
Not only do the Miners seem to have a variety of arms on hand for their pitching staff, but their lineup should have all the bases covered (pun intended) as well. One guy who brings a lot of pluses in a single package is Central Florida jack-of-all-trades Chris Taladay. In 2009 PG ranked Taladay #441 nationally, and a person can see why. He’s a pretty well-rounded player. He hits for high average, he’s got some pop in his bat, and he can play the infield & outfield corners plus catcher. In 2010 Taladay played in the Ripken league where he hit .292. Last season he ended the collegiate year with an injury and spent the summer rehabbing, but came back to be one of UCF’s most productive hitters in their run to the NCAA regionals. He might have been delayed in his arrival in AK had it not been for the surging Stony Brook team that knocked UCF out of the tournament, but with that event in the books, he’ll likely be here on opening day.
The outfield on this Miners team will be full of guys with significant speed. Another well-rounded guy, with plus speed, would be Justin Maffei of U. San Francisco, who had an All-Conference season in 2012. The transfer from College of San Mateo, where he was a teammate of former Glacier Pilot O’Koyea Dickson, played for the Bend Elks in the West Coast League in 2011 where he stole 21 bases. Joining him will be Ian Miller of Wagner College, who has 47 career steals at the junior college level, including 34 this past season; and Bill Cullen, a high-average hitter from Virginia Commonwealth who hit .299 in the Ripken League in 2011.
Also worth keeping an eye on would be Will Jamison, Mississippi outfielder who was drafted in the 45th round by Cleveland in 2011, and the team’s two local players — Josh Boring and J.D. Mayo, both of Palmer, who are hoping to establish themselves with some of the top amateur players in the nation.
Overall, I think this is a very well-rounded team. They’ve got a good mix of lefties and righties, both as far as pitchers and batters are concerned. They have several durable arms who can be relied on to eat up innings. They’ve got some power pitchers and some guys who are known for their breaking balls. As far as batters go, they’ve got a lot of high-average guys with some power hitters and speedsters thrown in the mix. And one thing I noticed is that many, perhaps most, of them have summer ball experience. Collectively, I think this team has it all. The question that remains to be answered is whether they can put it all on the field at once and operate as a cohesive unit. They will face some serious talent in the league this season but if they can put it all together and get rolling they might just bring the ABL crown back to the valley.