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EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK: Random thoughts from the first week of the Crosscutters' season

June 26, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
I spent the last week telling anyone who would listen how exciting this Williamsport Crosscutters team is going to be to watch for the next two-plus months. In all honesty, this might be the most interesting team in the Phillies season to watch this summer.

There's a caveat I always make with that statement, though. A big caveat.

You can't show up to Bowman Field 38 times this summer expecting to see the 1927 Yankees every night out. But, there's a chance you could see a team brimming with potential Major League talent put it all on full display.

You might see Roman Quinn run around the bases and swear there's a yellow lightning bolt in a white circle painted on his chest. You might see Chris Serritella or Larry Greene hit a baseball that won't land until Labor Day. Or you could see one of those Mitch Walding four-hit nights that make you question why in the world he's playing in Williamsport.

But ... The caveat.

You could also see the team that has committed 12 errors in eight games. Or the one that leads the New York-Penn League with 73 strikeouts.

It's going to give you everything you'd expect from a team averaging just under 21 years of age. It'll be glimpses of greatness followed by head-scratching moments.

But that's exactly why you should take a chance and come on out to watch this team. In all honesty, you can't tell at this stage with any amount of certainty other than a glimmer of hope if these players will ever get to see or throw a pitch in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia some day. On display, though, will be the tools that will carry those players there should they ever take that step.

Quinn's speed. Greene's power. Chace Numata's quick release and howitzer for a right arm behind the plate. Geoff Broussard's deadly slider. Ulises Joaquin's live right arm. Just take a seat, you'll see the individual tools eventually.

This is my fourth year covering the Crosscutters and I don't know that I've been as enthralled with a team as this one, and that includes the first team I covered which featured potential big leaguers like Sebastian Valle, Jonathan Pettibone, Leandro Castro, Austin Hyatt and Darin Ruf.

But ... The caveat.

This team is always going to be considered a work in progress. First-year manager Andy Tracy has said as much. There's going to be nights like the two nights Williamsport scored more than 10 runs. There's also going to be nights like the fourth night of the season when it was shut out by State College.

"They're going to struggle," Tracy said on media day. "Coming out of the struggles is the most important thing in baseball, and being able to handle those struggles. That's what we're going to deal with this year. Hopefully they're little valleys, but we're going to see how these guys react to situations and adversity under the lights."

Here's a closer look at the first week of the Crosscutters' season:

VETERAN TROUBLES: Tracy pointed out following Sunday's loss to Auburn that the Crosscutters had trouble with a couple college pitchers from the Doubledays. In the extra-inning loss, Williamsport left runners stranded on base against pitchers like Bryan Harper and Elliot Waterman, when one run would have made the difference in a sweep, or only taking two of three games.

The problem in scoring against college pitchers has reared its head on numerous occasions throughout the first week of the season. In fact, of the 12 pitchers who have thrown at least one scoreless inning against the Cutters this season, eight were pitchers that have been drafted out of college, one was on a rehabilitation assignment from Class A Hagerstown, and one was a fourth-year minor league player from the Dominican Republic.

It makes sense that Williamsport's daily lineup would struggle against college pitchers since it features just two players on a regular basis ä Serritella and Perkins ä who were drafted out of high school.

"We started facing some older guys that had a good breaking ball and we started guessing a bit," Tracy said of that one-run loss Sunday to Auburn. "It got us in trouble. We ended up taking some fastballs for strike three."

OFFENSIVE DEFENSE: I was asked during the Cutters' series with Auburn about Mitch Walding and his defense at third. The 19-year old is still adjusting to his new position, but has shown flashes of being a plus defender. When explaining that Walding was a high school shortstop playing his first season at third base, I was also asked if anybody else is switching positions.

Starting with Roman Quinn at shortstop, who was a high school outfielder, the list began to grow. Added to it was Tyler Greene who was learning to play second base after playing shortstop at Lakewood to start the year. There was Chace Numata at catcher who has moved to catcher after pitching and playing shortstop in high school in Hawaii. Larry Greene is playing left field after playing the infield in high school. Cameron Perkins was a third baseman at Purdue, but played his first game in the field at first base.

But other than those key pieces to the offense, there aren't any others. But it could go a long way in explaining why the Cutters have made 12 errors in the first eight days of the season. The 12 errors is tied for the fifth-most in the 14-team New York-Penn League.

Williamsport has made errors in 12 of the 74 innings its played going into Tuesday's game at Mahoning Valley. In seven of those innings, a run was the result of an error. Auburn led the league with 17 errors going into Tuesday's games. Aberdeen had made the fewest with just five.

THAT'S GEOFF WITH A 'K': Geoff Broussard has thrown just 5 1/3 innings in the first week-plus of the season for the Crosscutters, but he's made his presence known. The 23rd-round selection out of Cal-Poly Pomona has struck out 11 in his time on the mound. Broussard doesn't have enough innings pitched to qualify among the league leaders in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. But his 18.56 K/9 ratio would be third-best among those who have thrown at least one inning in the NYPL this year.

Broussard shows a plus breaking ball that could make him a solid bullpen piece, although he does struggle with command at times.

"There were some swings and misses and some guys who didn't even swing at it," Tracy said of Broussard's breaking ball following Saturday's win.

BACK TO BASICS: Before Sunday's series finale at Bowman field, Tracy and hitting coach Rafael DeLima worked with all the position players on proper baserunning. It less than 24 hours after a mess of a baserunning play ended Saturday night's extra-inning game against Auburn.

Tracy and DeLima were working with the players on the proper way to round the bases to cut down the distance traveled from base-to-base. At one point, on a drill running home, Roman Quinn missed touching home plate. Quinn was the one who had the rough baserunning moment Saturday night in extra innings when he was caught in no man's land and missed third base and had to go back to third and touch the base before scoring the winning run.

DeLima stood over the plate pointing at it as Quinn walked to the back of the line. Both were laughing at the situation.

Mitch Rupert covers the Williamsport Crosscutters for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.

 
 

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