Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hemstitching: The DAP, Sonnanstine, and Rosters

Durham Athletic Park, 1940s

  • The Herald-Sun is reporting (thanks, Fritz) that the Bulls are going to take over management of the old Durham Athletic Park. What will that mean to Bulls fans? Other than tweaking our nostalgia bones, not much. What could it mean to Durham? Possibly quite a bit. As a non-Durham guy, I think that the DAP really adds a lot to that part of town. I know that there’s not too much going on in the neighborhood, but with the DAP in good shape that part of town just looks great. As I’ve mentioned before, the renovated DAP is a not all that great a place to watch a game, but sure looks to be a great place to play a game. So if the current arrangement with NCCU can be sustained (and Duke?) seems like a good idea for all. Note: it looks like the idea of a museum for minor league baseball is not going to happen. Tricky business model for that project, I’d guess.
  • Andy Sonnanstine, who’s spent a good bit of time with the Bulls over the years (56 innings in 2011) has signed with the Cubs. Seemed to me that for all of last year the Rays couldn’t decide just what it was that they wanted Sonnanstine to be able to do. Was he a starter? A long reliever? Did the Rays need a sixth starter? Or even a long reliever? He had decent stats as a Bull, but he also added to the starting pitcher roster confusion that plagued the Bulls all year. Not his fault, though. Here’s hoping he gets a chance to bloom up there in Chicago. The Cubs AAA franchise (Iowa) is in the Pacific Coast League so we’re not likely to see Andy here again.
  • Over at Rays Prospects they are starting to build their guesses at 2012 rosters with a look at starting pitching and catching. No arguments from me so far.
DAP Restored

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What Stars Are These?

Check out the link for Alan Taylor's astute descriptions of this and all the other images he assembled.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hemstitching: GIBBYS, Prospects, and Market Inefficiencies

  • Greatness in Baseball Yearly awards were announced a while back. Of interest to Bulls fans was the award for the “Must C Moment”, our Dan Johnson’s homer against the Yankees that set the stage for Even Longoria’s walkoff that put the Rays into the playoffs.
  • To fill up the time before Spring Training lots of folks are evaluating prospects within the Rays system. The best place to keep an eye on that is, of course, Rays Prospects. But, Baseball America has just come out with their list. We have seen several at the DBAP and are likely to see more next year.
  • And there’s always some geek stuff to look at. Over at Grantland, Ray Jazyerli thinks he has found the latest market inefficiency — overvaluing prospects. No direct effect on the Bulls unless the Rays pull off another big trade like they did last year for ... prospects. However, given the success of the players involved in the Garza trade, the Rays appear to be going against the trends identified by Jazyerli.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ode to Brasstown, North Carolina

This blog is, in general, monomaniacal regarding its subject — The Durham Bulls Baseball Club. However, on occasion there are matters of such deep and abiding concern that they cannot be ignored.

This morning’s News & Observer gave us one such instance. It would seem that the good people with PETA have taken umbrage at the annual Clay’s Corner New Year’s Eve Opossum Drop.

Well, just next door to Clay’s Corner out there in Brasstown, NC (just east of Murphy) is my favorite place in all of North Carolina, the John C. Campbell Folk School. Brasstown itself is a community of something like 200 souls and Clay’s Corner is just about the only business left. I like visiting Clay’s Corner and Brasstown whenever I’m at the Folk School.

As noted in the story, on New Year’s Eve an opossum is placed in a plexiglass box and hauled up into the air. At the stroke of midnight the 'possum is lowered to the ground and released.

Opossums of my acquaintance would consider it an honor to participate. Probably a good idea if them fellers up there in Washington, DC just leave the good folk (and 'possums) of Brasstown alone. Complaining about an opossum drop is sillier than the 'possum drop itself.

Update: Brasstown's 2012 Possum after the drop:

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Neil Solondz Departing

Talk about good news/bad news!

Neil Solondz is moving down to St. Petersburg to do pre- and post-game radio for the Rays. (Thanks for the heads up, DRR!)

Congratulations, Neil!

We Durham Bulls fans have been exceptionally fortunate to have Neil in the broadcast booth for the last several years. From time to time when the Bulls were on the road I checked in with the host team’s broadcast just to hear what they are saying about the Bulls. The contrast was startling. You’d think that you were hearing a different game. I think that it’s safe to say that Neil is the best play-by-play man in AAA baseball, certainly the best in the International League.

Neil never forgot the fundamental task of the play-by-play guy, keeping the listeners informed on just what is happening on the field and painting a picture of what that looks like. Through him we always had a very good idea of what was happening minute by minute in the game. I’m not sure if every slider he called was actually a slider, but it was in my imagination, and that’s what counted.

He also did a terrific job of keeping us informed, as best he could, on both on-field tactics and off-field strategy, the significance of roster changes and potential for further moves.

On a more personal note, whenever I managed to get way to far out on a limb here at WDBB, I could expect a kind note from Neil suggesting how I might be able to crawl back without making a complete fool of myself. Thanks, N!

So, we are going to miss Neil. We know that the Bulls aren’t going to be able to find as good a guy to replace him, but maybe they’ll find someone who can grow into the job.

In the meantime, good luck Neil. You already know almost every one of those guys you’ll be interviewing and they’ll know you. Should be fun.

Update: Stacy Long had a great comment over on his blog:
(One wonders if they had Durham manager Charlie Montoyo give him the news or at least called him into the manager's office for it.)

Hemstitching: Torra Signs, Picks All-Stars

  • MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that RHP Matt Torra has signed with the Rays. With no further information, we’ll just go ahead and speculate that it is a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. We like Torra. He showed up in Durham last year in July and put in quite a few innings (61⅓), 11 games started, 5-1, ERA of 3.67. Pretty good. At 27 you have to think that he’s a long shot with the Rays, but as we noted at the end of the season, we’d be happy to see him back in a Bulls uniform.
  • is reporting a “Rays Organization All-Star” list. Quite a few 2011 Bulls on the list including Steven Vogt, Russ Canzler, and Brandon Guyer whom we might see next year, along with a couple we’re very unlikely to see, Dan Johnson and Desmond Jennings, and several that we might see. Worth looking at for the comments of Rays minor league exec Mitch Lukevics.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hemstitiching: More on Mangini, Hayhurst Opines, and Dress Codes

In the weaver’s world the word hemstitching is used for two purposes: to tie up loose ends (literally, because an “end” is a thread in a warp) and for decoration.
  • As mentioned earlier, we think there’s a good chance Bulls fans will get to see Matt Mangini play for the Durham Bulls next year. Sure would be fun to see two local lads (Matt is from Holly Springs, RHP Chris Archer is from Clayton) on the field together. Certainly the Bulls front office would like to see that happen. Why is he available? That is not entirely clear. He was the Tacoma Rainiers’ (the Seattle AAA team) MVP in 2010, with very solid numbers. But looks like 2011 was a bit of a nightmare for Matt with quad injuries that must not have healed properly and then a concussion in July. As to why the Mariners released him, someone who knows the team better than I would have to guess at that. I’d speculate that they were happy with their 1B/3B situation and needed to make room on their 40-man. Played for Apex High School, NC State, and Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Mariners. Interesting mid-2010 interview here. I wish Matt well at Spring Training, but it sure would be nice for the Bulls to have a solid player at 3B for a change. For that matter, with Dan Johnson gone and (in my modest opinion) Leslie Anderson not working out, 1B would be interesting.
  • Former Bull Dirk Hayhurst is providing an insider’s view of the Ryan Braun situation and the Pujols and Matt Moore deals while he waits for his new book to hit the street and obsesses about the greyhound he rescued.
  • And then there’s the dress codes that have been established for baseball's sports writers. Who knew? Who cared? But it is interesting to learn that there’s not supposed to be any cheering in the press box.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Three More Potential Durham Bulls Signed

Image from Hubble Advent Calendar, Day 7

The Rays announced that they’ve signed four players to minor league contracts “with invitations to Spring Training.” They are infielder Matt Mangini, first baseman Juan Miranda, and pitchers Jhonny Nunez and Ricky Orta.

Given the Rays’ concerns about first base, it’s probably fair to say that these guys will get some playing time in Spring Training, but end up with the Bulls. What we don’t know, and won’t for a long time, is who among these has an opt-out contract and could disappear mid-season. 

Mangini has a good bit of time in AAA, but only played in 68 games in 2011, 10 with Seattle (injured?). Almost all of his time has been at 3B, and the Bulls usually need a third baseman. Will have to dig and see what problem was in 2011.

Juan Miranda has plenty of time at 1B in  the majors and in AAA with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for most of 2008-2010. He got a fair amount of playing time with the Diamondbacks last year, but he’s about to age out (28). Major League stats, minor league stats.

Depending on their contracts, seems to me that J.J. Furmaniak and Leslie Anderson have the most to worry about with these two signings.

We’ve looked at Jhonny Nunez.

Ricky Orta is recovering from surgery in early 2010. Bet we see him in a Bulls uniform later in 2012 ... if the surgery worked.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hemstitching: Durham Bulls get a RHRP, and More

  • Reports are out there that the Rays have signed right-hander Jhonny Nunez to a minor league contract. We saw Nunez a couple of times last year when he was pitching for the Charlotte Knights. To be honest, can't say that I remember much about him other than the odd spelling of his name. He's 26 years old, has been in professional ball for a while, but only a few outings in the majors back in 2009. Stats Commentary. In all likelihood Nunez will spend spring training with the Rays and then become a reliever in waiting with the Durham Bulls.
  • For some insights into how the Rays approach minor league operations, check out the three-part interview with the boss, Chaim Bloom, over on Rays Prospects. Part I, Part II, Part III.
  • The Rays trade of former Bull catcher John Jaso for Seattle Mariners pitcher Josh Lueke has stirred quite a bit of controversy and philosophizing. See items here, here, and here. I suppose it's possible that Leuke to show up in Durham. We'll see.
  • Update on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I left out the part where major league teams can have 26, instead of 25, man rosters for double-header days. That will lead to a startling outbreak of honesty in the majors. Typically a bench position player gets "hurt" and goes on the DL to make room for one of Durham's starters, when a) the Bulls have a pitcher the Rays want to look at and/or 2) they don't want to screw up their rotation. The impact on the Bulls? Not much or, said another way, it won't screw around with the Bulls rotation any more than it usually does.
  • What about that Hubble photo up top? Nothing to do with baseball, I just thought it was pretty. Here's a link to a very cool Hubble Advent Calendar. New photo every day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The New Collective Bargaining Agreement

As regular readers know, I am no expert on the obscure and arcane of the business of baseball. Nevertheless, when all these gazillionaires get together and decide the future of our sport we should give the deal a small amount of attention.

The players and the owners did come to an agreement. For the obsessive, you can take a look at the summary of the agreement here. For commentary, try St. Pete Times, or Rays Index, or DRaysBay.

For the larger picture, a couple of key points seem to some experts to be really important to baseball and ultimately the Durham Bulls.

  • We'll have baseball without labor strife for a couple more years.
  • They are at least trying to get a grip on the human growth hormone issue.
  • How will the spending caps affect a young athlete's choice of sports? We'll see.
  • With the signing deadline moved up, drafted players will start playing sooner and show up in Durham as much as a year earlier.

But that's the big picture. What about the fine print? And what's up with that batting helmet?

I've written about baseball's helmet policy before. Basically, if you're a minor leaguer you have to wear the much more protective helmet shown above, but when you get to the big leagues you can wear something a bit prettier. The new agreement calls for the adoption of better helmets by 2013. I'm guessing that the delay has everything to do with studly looks. Can't find a photo of what the new helmet's supposed to look like. For National Leaguers going up against Aroldis Chapman next year, it may be a year too late.

Then there's this curious sentence:
The parties agreed that no new players will be permitted to use a low density maple bat during the term of the agreement.
Notice the words "new players". That would be players new to the major leagues. I'm guessing that means that maple bats will be taken out of the hands of minor leaguers immediately, but if you're a big leaguer you can keep on chunking pieces of your bat at the pitcher and the rest of the infield until you retire.

Lastly, to the detriment of the game, the players and owners conspired to slow down the game even more. I kind of like instant replay, but I hate 4-hour ball games. This change to the instant replay policy is going to delay the game.  The crotch-scratching batters and twitchy relievers are bad enough, now we'll wait for the umps to huddle around a TV set. Play Ball!!!
Instant Replay will be expanded to include fair/foul and “trapped” ball plays, subject to the Office of the Commissioner’s discussions with the World Umpires Association.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hemstitching: Stephen Vogt, Rule 5, Trade Values

In the weaver’s world hemstitching is used for two purposes: to tie up loose ends (literally, because an “end” is a thread in a warp) and for decoration. [For another connection between weaving and baseball, see a post from last winter]

  • Stephen Vogt, along with two pitchers we've never seen, was added to the Rays 40-man roster recently. At a guess, the primary motivation had more to do with the Rule 5 draft than anything else, but we really like Stephen and if he doesn't make it to the active roster out of Spring Training we'll be happy to see him as a Bull. Note that he's being reported as a catcher, but he is a much more versatile player than that. I don't think any other Bull is subject to Rule 5, but if someone knows better, jump in.
  • Over at Rays Index he's put up his Trade Value Index. That's a very interesting rank-ordering of players currently in the Rays' system ranked in accordance with their "trade value". Twelve Bulls from 2011 are on the list, many of them quite high.
  • We wrote about catchers a while back admiring the Cardinals' Yadier Molina. Looks like the Rays may have signed his brother, Jose. We won't likely see him in Durham, but the deal confirms that the Rays are on the hunt for catching talent.
Update: For more on the players involved in the 40-man roster and the Rule 5 draft, see T. Rancel's post at Rays Insider.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hemstitching: Fan Fest, Field of Dreams, & More

  • This Saturday you can have an excuse to visit the DBAP in the off-season and walk around on the turf. Fall Fan Fest.
  • Here's a fascinating interview with Billy Beane and Michael Lewis of Moneyball fame from the Financial Times.
  • Remember the beautiful final scene from Field of Dreams? Well, that farm (and the ball field) were just sold.
  • Jeremy Hellickson was picked for Rookie of the Year and Joe Maddon was picked as AL Manager of the year. |Tampa Bay Rays|
  • Ever wonder how the Rays compare to the rest of baseball when it comes to spending money? Rays Index had an interesting graphic a while back.
  • Flip Flop Fly Ball compares all the teams in everyone's system in his chart. The Bulls would be that little bar up in the Rays system display near the top.
  • The number crunchers over at DRaysBay take a look at the difference former Bull Desmond Jennings may have had when he went up to the Rays.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hemstitching: Free Agents, Friedman, Winter Ball

The ever-diligent Rays Prospects site has brought to our attention the Baseball America listing of minor league free agents. Bulls fans know almost all of these guys from the Rays system, as might be expected. On the list are several who saw time with the Bulls in 2011, including:

  • Brian Baker
  • Joe Bateman
  • Lance Cormier
  • Richard de los Santos
  • Paul Phillips
  • Adam Russell
  • Matt Torra
Position Players
  • J.J. Furmaniak
  • Daniel Mayora
  • Ray Olmedo
  • John Matulia
Scrolling through the list we find a couple of other former Bulls including:
  • Chris Carter (Braves)
  • Rhyne Hughes (Orioles)
  • Fernando Perez (Mets)
  • Winston Abreu (Blue Jays)
Readers with sharper eyes (and better memories) than I should take a look and see if there’s someone important that I may have missed.

What does it mean for the Bulls? Probably not too much. These are guys whose agents will be looking to find them jobs beginning in the spring, assuming they haven’t decided to leave baseball. The Rays have been very, very smart about looking over the larger pool for possibilities and I would assume that the Bulls coaching staff would have some say on who from 2011 might fit with the Bulls in 2012.

* * * * *

On a different note, over at DRaysBay there’s an interesting interview with Rays VP Andrew Friedman. Several interesting comments regarding player development made.

* * * * *

Lastly, if you'd like to catch up on folks playing winter ball, here's a helpful link. Interesting are the two players with a fairly large age difference (Tim Beckham, 21, and Elliot Johnson, 27) both working so very hard (19 and 18 games, respectively).

Update: Not recent Bulls, but remembered with some fondness, pitcher Dale Thayer and outfielder Jason Pridie are leaving the Mets organization for minor league free-agency (Thanks, anon).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dan Johnson Won't Be Back

DJ at Bat, 2010
Dan Johnson won’t be coming back to the Durham Bulls next year. When the Rays "outrighted" him to the Bulls a few days ago, he turned it down. He is now a free agent with no ties to the Rays at all. 

All of the commentary is about his several shining moments with the Rays. The best of these columns is by Bradley Woodrum over at SB Nation.

My interest is in what he did as a Durham Bull. We are going to miss him, a lot. He made major contributions to the Bulls in all of the three seasons he played here (2008, 2010, and 2011) and he had a lot to do with the Bulls winning the South Division of the International League in each of those years.

DJ After Home Run, July 2010

Every year he was with us we expected him to be called up. Every year he was. Every year he did something heroic for the Rays. But as Bulls fans we were interested in day-to-day performance and we were rarely disappointed.

We saw him mostly at first base and in the DH position. But he put in 61 games at third base and always surprised me with the strength of his arm and the intelligence of his play. He was a good first baseman in a time when the Bulls were blessed with two very good hitters at first (Chris Richard being the other one).

His numbers were simply extraordinary. How does this sound? In his three seasons:

304 Games — 68 Home Runs — 230 RBI 

Looking back, here's what we said (in 2010) about his 2008 season:
But what Bulls fans remember about 2008 was his stellar year with us. He played in 113 games; hit 25 home runs, 83 RBIs, and a batting line of .307/.424/.980. Dan was our player of the year for 2008. For a really hard core Bulls fan, as much as we admire his heroics for the Rays that Fall, we have this wistful feeling that maybe the Governors’ Cup would have been ours if he’d stayed with the Bulls through all of the playoffs.
Dan Johnson, Joe Dillon, Jose Lobaton after Lobaton Home Run July 5, 2010

Of course, 2010 was DJ's great year as a Durham Bull. Here's what we said at the end of 2010:

Dan Johnson was our superstar this year. His home run and RBI pace was extraordinary and he collected a whole bunch of AAA awards even though he didn’t even play the last month of the season. It is a bit puzzling that the Rays did not notice that for the last two years he was mostly a third baseman, not a first baseman. This year he only made one error in 36 games at third. We were also more that a little surprised that he wasn’t traded off during the year, but that could easily just mean that we don’t really understand the business of baseball very well. We are having great fun watching him play for the Rays and have high hopes he will go to the postseason with them.
And if 2011 was a mild disappointment compared to 2010, surely Dan was even more disappointed. After all, he'd expected to spend the whole year with the Rays. Nevertheless, he did a pretty darned good job for the Bulls. Here's what we said at the end of the season.

Played in 93 games (395 PA). Starting very slowly, his numbers improved as the year went on — .273/.382/.459,wOBA .375. Low extra base production (for him) of 23 doubles and 13 home runs. 52 RBI. 59 games at 1B, 15 at 3B, and 21 as DH.
What I'd like to wrap up with is just a little bit of balance. I'm a Durham Bulls fan and Dan Johnson has been a great Durham Bulls baseball player. For three seasons I've gone to the park and Dan's been on the field and has given me a bunch of thrills and won a bunch of games for us.
Thank You!

Best of luck in 2012!

Dan Johnson, June, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This year's World Series will probably not be known for this, but it should be:

We are getting to watch two great catchers — The Card's Yadier Molina and the Ranger's Mike Napoli — at the very top of their games. Great arms, good at-bats, calling good games, just a lot of fun to watch.

Which in turn brings to mind that out of all the terrific ballplayers we've seen in a Bulls uniform over the years, I can't recall an outstanding catcher. We've had a couple of Crash Davis types, and I have really enjoyed watching them, but never a really promising youngster.

DRR's comment yesterday pointed out that many in the blogosphere are expecting (hoping?) that the Rays will be in the hunt for a catcher because although they have five catchers on the 40-man, none is very promising — Ashley, Shoppach, Jaso, Chirinos, and Lobaton. We've seen all except Shoppach in a Bulls uniform and we have to agree that the Rays should be shopping for a first string catcher.

But to come back to my original point, what I'd really love to see in a Bulls uniform is a young Molina or a young Napoli. Wouldn't that be fun? Wouldn't it be neat if the Rays, in addition to a first-stringer, also get their hands on a young catching prospect for us to watch here for a couple of years?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winter Ball

How do you measure real baseball fanaticism? Well, maybe take a look at Jim Donten’s work over at Rays Prospects He is diligently tracking down once and future Rays who are playing elsewhere this Fall and Winter. As each league opens up, he posts a list of players he's found on the rosters. Then he’s been doing daily updates. That's real dedication and we thank him for it.

Players of immediate interest to WDBB:

Arizona Fall League (Surprise Saguaros)
  • SS Tim Beckham
  • RHP Marquis Fleming
Venezuelan Winter League
  • C Robinson Chirinos (Navegantes del Magallanes) (Note: Robinson has reportedly broken a wrist)
  • C Jose Lobaton (Leones de Caracas)
  • IF Daniel Mayora (Leones de Caracas)
  • LHP Alex Torres (Aguilas de Zulia)
  • C Stephen Vogt (Leones de Caracas)
  • IF Ray Olmedo (Tiburones de la Guaira)
  • RHP Rob Delaney (Bravos de Margarita)
Dominican Winter League
  • RHP Richard De Los Santos (Estrellas de Oriente) (Happy to see him pitching after last year’s troubles)
  • IF Omar Luna (Aguilas Cibaenas)
  • C Nevin Ashley (Gigantes del Cibao)
  • IF Elliot Johnson (Gigantes de Cibao) (Note: Why would he he playing winter ball? Caribbean vacation?
Keep an eye on Rays Prospects (maybe add the RSS feed) to keep up).

Another ex-Bull to keep an eye on this winter:

Jon Weber is playing for Venados dos Mazatlan, as he has for several winters. Turns out that the 33-year old Weber returned to professional baseball with the Indy League Winnepeg Goldeyes last summer and had a decent year.

Update, 18 Oct: Rob Delaney in Venezuela (Thanks, Anon!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 Moonlight Graham Awards

WDBB's Moonlight Graham Award recognizes those players who had the least amount of time with the Durham Bulls during the season.

The award is named in honor of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham who achieved lasting fame as a character in the W.P. Kinsella novel, Shoeless Joe, and then became even more famous when he was played by Burt Lancaster (and Frank Whaley) in the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams. As a ballplayer he played two innings in the major leagues as a right fielder for the New York Giants in 1905. He never came to bat. You can look it up. He did, however, go on to a career as a well-loved physician in Chisholm, Minnesota.

Of interest to us is that he was a North Carolina native (born in Fayetteville, grew up in Charlotte); graduated from UNC (where he played baseball); and was the older brother to UNC President and US Senator Frank Porter Graham. If you find him an intriguing character, the Wikipedia article is a good start. Then there’s a nice NBC piece done on him a couple of years ago. And then there's a terrific book by Fayetteville writer (and Bulls fan) Brett Friedlander and Robert Reisling, Chasing Moonlight. Copies of the book are in the Wake County Library system, Amazon, and I found my copy at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.

We have a few modest criteria for selection: Not considered were players who came through on a rehab assignment, played only in postseason, and (for the pitcher) a position player thrown to the wolves at the end of a game.

The 2011 Winners

Outfielder John Shelby

Mr. Shelby came over from the Montgomery Biscuits to play one game for the Bulls on July 31, against Charlotte. Box Score. At 25, this was his sixth pro season and, although he didn't have a hit in his one game with the Bulls, he did OK, but not outstanding, with the Biscuits. Stats.

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher Marquis Fleming

Mr. Fleming came up to join the Bulls in Rochester, New York and made two appearances, July 20 and 21. In the first he had a rough time — five batters, one out, blown save — but in the second he did just fine. Overall for a 24 year-old in his fourth professional season he had a good year. Stats. The Rays must think well of him since they have him pitching with the Surprise Seguaros of the Arizona Fall League. That means we are very likely to see him in a Bulls uniform this next season.

Congratulations to John and Marquis! Good luck in 2012!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Something to Worry About

Scroll down to the end of this little end of season piece by Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times. He makes the perfectly logical speculation that if Rays bench coach Dave Martinez should get a manager job (Boston or Chicago), Charlie Montoyo would be in the running to move up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bulls/Rays Playoff Thread

Let's see if we can keep track of our Bulls as the Rays move forward. But first to backtrack a bit.

September 28, 2011
Tampa Bay Rays 8, New York Yankees 7 (12 innings)
Wrap, Box

This was, of course, the most important game of the season for the Rays that, combined with Boston's loss, earned them the wild card spot. Dan Johnson got the game-tying home run. Other recent Bulls who were in the game included Desmond Jennings, LF (0-6, 1 BB), Russ Canzler, PH (0-1); Justin Ruggiano, RF; Brandon Guyer, RF (1-1); Dane De La Rosa, 1⅓ innings.

Interesting links:
September 30
Tampa Bay Rays 9, Texas Rangers 0

For Bulls fansMatt Moorewas the story on Friday, pitching to a catcher he'd never pitched to before, Kelly Shoppach (who got two home runs). Other than Moore, none of recent Bulls call-ups except Desmond Jennings got into the game. Jennings batted an uncharacteristic 8th in the order and went 1-3. Another oddity was seeing Wade Davis in relief.

  • Not many of the recent call-ups made it into the playoff roster, although some are traveling with the team. Recent Bulls missing are Dan Johnson, Russ Canzler, Justin Ruggiano, Brandon Guyer, Matt Torres, Dane De La Rosa, and probably a couple of others I've missed.
  • Moore was very impressive, as noted in DRaysBay analysis.
October 1
Texas Rangers 8, Tampa Bay Rays 6

Desmond Jennings moved back to his leadoff position, but no other recent Bulls were in the lineup (mostly because few of them are on the playoff 25-man). James Shields pretty much single-handedly lost this game for the Rays hitting batters and throwing pitches away. Almost a heroic comeback later in the game.

Upcoming games in St Pete: October 3, 5:00 pm
  • Big day for the Tampa Bay region, sold out for both football and baseball |St Pete Times|
  • David Price scheduled to start. Lineup
Update, 4 Oct

Rangers 4, Rays 3
Wrap, Box

Jennings did his job, 2 home runs. Price has six good innings, needed seven. J.P. Howell, seen briefly in Durham this year, gave up the winning run(s).

Game 4, October 4, 2 pm
Rangers 4, Rays 3

Thus endeth the season.

Friday, September 23, 2011


No particular significance to this image. Just thought it was dramatic. Who knew that there was a connection between Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, and baseball? Besides there's an important Dali Museum near the Rays home.

Now that the player stats are wrapped up, a few odds and ends from the last couple of days before I hit the road for a week.

The Columbus Clippers picked up their second Triple-A Championship to go with their International League Governors’ Cup. |, The Columbus Dispatch|

Over on Rays Prospects, Bulls fans need to visit and vote on their “readers’ choice” hitter and pitcher of the Bulls. Have to do it within the next couple of days. Also at Rays Prospects are some great summaries of this year’s action in all of the Rays’ minor league teams. Check it out.

Every reader of this blog who attended a game at the DBAP this year has, of course, already bought a duck for the Great American Duck Race and support the kids who the real work putting the Bulls games on TV. In the very remote chance that you haven’t, or perhaps you watched on TV and didn’t make it to a game, here’s your chance to do it now. I checked out’s TV this season and the Bulls definitely outshine the rest of the IL. Much of the credit has to go to Explorer Post 50. So, Buy a Duck!

The 2012 schedule is out. It looks a bit better than 2011, but that’s not much of an endorsement. It starts the season at the DBAP (I guess the Dukies and the ACC are letting the Bulls have their ballpark back early). But wait! Right after the opening series the Bulls hit the road for two weeks!. Oh, well, weather can be really crummy in April anyhow.

Something I never got around to mentioning the end of the season is a very interesting project called Bull City Summer. So far it looks to be driven by some ideas from Sam Stephenson, who has some serious creds from the Center for Documentary Studies and the Jazz Loft Project. The test run at the end of the season had some terrific interviews, photographs, and Adam Sobsey’s Indy Week columns from the end of the year. Take a look. This could be something really interesting to watch next year.

Speaking of Adam Sobsey, he had a very interesting sort of end-of-year piece over in Baseball Prospectus. Features a close look at Russ Canzler and others in the final days of the season.

And speaking of Russ Canzler, the box score from Thursday night’s game in Yankee Stadium highlights a bunch of September call-ups including Matt Moore, Dane De La Rosa, Alex Torres, Russ Canzler, Brandon Guyer, and Dan Johnson. Some did great (Moore), some were awful (De La Rosa and Torres), one got his first major league at bats and hits (Canzler), and Johnson and Guyer drew walks and scored runs.

I'm working on my annual lists of Well Dones and Areas To Work On for the Bulls/DBAP fan experience. See last year's list and comments here. Please lend me your voices in the comments section and I'll write it up when I get back in town.

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Pitchers: Part II

Matt Moore (22), LHP, 9 games, 9 starts, 52⅔ innings, 4-0, ERA-1.37, 5 pro seasons, 1st season in AAA.

  • I was surprised to see how many innings Matt Moore was able to pitch since his first game with the Bulls on July 22nd. Added to his 18 games and 122 innings he had with the Montgomery Biscuits, his year was busy even before going up to finish it out with the Rays. Very, very impressive young pitcher. If we're lucky, we will be watching him a lot as a Bull in 2012.
  • Stats

Lance Cormier (31), RHP, 20 games, 4 starts, 47⅓ innings, 4-3, ERA-5.51. 8 pro seasons, 7 in AAA, 1st w/Bulls, most of 2008-2010 in majors (ML stats).

  • Released by the LA Dodgers, Cormier was signed by the Rays to a minor league contract in early June and spent the rest of the season with the Bulls. Nothing about his stats as a Bull is particularly impressive although he did take several for the team in spot starts as the season went along. At a guess, the Rays were buying insurance for their relief cadre and stashing him in Durham. Not likely to return next year.
  • Stats

Jay Buente (27), RHP, 24 games, 4 starts, 42⅔ innings, 1-3, 1 save, ERA-5.70, 6 pro seasons, 3 in AAA, 1/Bulls.

  • The Rays outsmarted themselves when they claimed Mr. Buente off waivers as the Marlins were trying to send him back to their AAA team in New Orleans this May. As a Bull he had a rough beginning losing three out of four starts. In relief from early July to the end of the season he did OK, but not good enough to avoid being released at the end of the season to make room on the 40-man of the Rays.
  • Stats

Cory Wade (28), RHP, 22 games, all in relief, 36⅔ innings, 3-1, ERA-1.17, 8 pro seasons, 3 in AAA, 1 w/Bulls.

  • Cory Wade did a brilliant job for the Bulls in the first two months of the season. As with others on the Bulls this year, he had an opt-out contract and he pitched his last game in early June. Unfortunately for the Rays, Mr. Wade is now pitching in relief for the New York Yankees where he has an impressive 6-1 record and 1.98 ERA (ML Stats).
  • Stats

R.J. Swindle (28), LHP, 39 games, all in relief, 34⅔ innings, 2-0, 1 save, ERA-4.15, 8 pro seasons, 5 in AAA, 2 w/Bulls.

  • Yet another Bull with an opt-out contract. In Swindle's case the Rays were obviously taking a look at him as a left-handed relief specialist. Eighteen of his appearances were for less than an inning, often for just one out. R.J. is famous for his unique slow curve and in 2010 he was great fun to watch. But the slow curve wasn't working this year and he really wasn't helping the Bulls. After his opt-out, no report of him catching on with another team.
  • Stats

Jake McGee (25), LHP, 24 games, relief, 33⅓ innings, 4-2, 9 saves, ERA-2.70, 8 pro seasons, parts of 2 in AAA, all w/Bulls.

  • Jake McGee was with the Bulls at the very end of 2010 and up until essentially the All-Star break in 2011. Then he was off to the Rays where he's doing OK, but not as well as I would have expected (ML Stats). His superb work in the bullpen was very helpful in keeping the Bulls in the South Division race for the first half of the season.
  • Stats

Brandon Gomes (27), RHP, 20 games, relief, 25⅓ innings, 0-1, 7 saves, ERA-1.07, 5 pro seasons, 1 AAA w/Bulls.

  • Bradon Gomes' Triple-A career was very short. He left the Bulls just before the 4th of July with his stellar 1.07 ERA and 7 saves. He appears to be doing just fine with the Rays (ML stats). We probably won't see him back. With McGee, he kept the Bulls in the race in May and June.
  • Stats

Joe Bateman (31), RHP, 15 games, relief, 21 innings, 1-3, ERA-4.71, 9 pro seasons, 3 in AAA, 2 w/Bulls.

  • We really like sidewinding Joe Bateman. We liked him in 2009. We liked him in 2010. And we could not have been happier to see the Rays sign him out of the Oakland system in late July. That said, he wasn't quite the same Joe we knew from the last two years. Used mainly in short relief, he wasn't as sharp, especially against righties. Charlie Montoyo apparently likes him. So do we. And he was better than a couple others the Bulls had this year. He may not make it back in 2012.
  • Stats

Jeremy Hall (28), RHP, 5 games, 4 starts, 17 innings, 0-2, ERA-8.47, 5 pro seasons, 1 AAA, w/Bulls.

  • Jeremy Hall started the year with the Montgomery Biscuits and came up to Durham at the end of April when Dirk Hayhurst went on the disabled list. He wasn't very successful and he decided to retire.
  • Stats

Adam Russell (28), RHP, 15 games, relief, 17 innings, 0-1, 1 save, ERA-4.24, 8 seasons, 4 in AAA, 1 w/Bulls.

  • Adam Russell started the season with the Rays (36 games) and did not come to the Bulls until the end of July. His numbers with the Bulls are skewed by a truly awful ⅔ of a inning when he let 4 runs score. With this small sample we really don't know much about him as a AAA ballplayer. I don't think I understand enough about his status to speculate on his future with the Bulls. He looks better that a couple of the guys we saw this year, though.
  • Stats


Jeff Neimann and J.P. Howell of the Tampa Bay Rays put in some time with the Bulls on rehab assignments this year. Neimann started 2 games and put in 9⅓ innings, allowed 4 earned runs, and put up a win and a loss. Nice to see Jeff again. J.P. Howell coming off a long layoff appeared in 4 games for 3⅔ innings. He didn't allow any earned runs.

Short Visits

Chris Archer (22), RHP, 2 games, 17 innings, 1-0, ERA-0.69. Chris put in an impressive two game (plus one in playoffs) appearance with the Bulls at the end of the season. We hope for him to be back for 2012. Stats.

Paul Phillips (27), RHP, 6 games, 11⅓ innings, 1-1, ERA-12.71. Paul came up from Montgomery to lend a hand when Richard De Los Santos went on the DL at the very beginning of the season. Spent the rest of the year in Montgomery. Stats.

Jim Paduch (28), RHP, 1 game, 7 innings, 1-0, ERA-3.86. Jim Paduch was signed out of the independent leagues to Montgomery in June, had a one-game call-up to the Bulls when they were on the road, then went back to Montgomery. Part of the July turmoil. Would like to see him pitch some day. Stats.

Richard De Los Santos (27), RHP, 2 games started, 6 innings, 0-1, ERA-6.00. De Los Santos was a stalwart of the 2010 Bulls. But this year he had four not very good innings in his first game, 2 innings in his second start, and was on the disabled list for the rest of the year. We like him, but have no idea when or if he will return. Stats.

Cesar Ramos (28), LHP, 4 games, relief, 4 innings, 2-0, ERA-4.50. Ramos came down from the Rays in late July (with Adam Russell), appeared in 4 games, and went back to St. Petersburg the first week of August. Was nice to have a lefty in the bullpen for a while. A left-handed specialist for the Rays (57 appearances, 41 innings pitched). Stats

Marquis Fleming (24), RHP, 2 games, relief, 2⅓ innings, 0-0, ERA-0.00. Marquis Fleming joined the Bulls from Montgomery for a couple of games while they were on the road in late July. Then he went back to Montgomery where he had a decent year (41 games, 80 innings). Stats.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Pitchers: Part I

Thirty-three ballplayers pitched in a Durham Bulls uniform in 2011, six more than in 2010. We'll take three of those off the list since they were position players thrown to the wolves in losing games (Craig Albernaz, Omar Luna, and J.J. Furmaniak). That leaves 30 to talk about. For those who were with the Bulls at the end of the season, we've charted their performance. Turmoil in July is mentioned several times. See the post from July 22 for more about what that was like.

Players listed in order of number of innings pitched.

Alexander Torres (23), LHP, 27 games, all starts, 146⅓ innings, 9-7, ERA-3.08, 6th year in pro ball, 1st in AAA.
  • Alex Torres was the only Bulls starter who was with the team the entire year (how's that for trivia?). He had a few innings with the Bulls in last year's playoffs, but otherwise he's had two years with the Biscuits and now a year with the Bulls. He led the International League in strikeouts with 156. Unfortunately, he also lead the league in walks with 83. That pretty much tells you what kind a pitcher he is. Nevertheless, he seemed to be getting a little bit better as the season progressed. He was called up to the Rays at the end of the Bulls' season but at this writing has pitched only 1 inning in relief. Very likely to be back with the Bulls next season to be part of a very strong starting rotation.
  • Stats
Brian Baker (28), RHP, 25 games, 20 starts, 104⅔ innings, 7-9, ERA-6.62, 7th year in pro ball, 2nd year in AAA.
  • Brian Baker was supposed to be the Bulls' long reliever this season. Instead he ended up spending most of the year in the starting rotation. He appeared to run out of steam at the end of August and his numbers really soared in his last few games. Not sure that he is physically up to the task of pitching in AAA.
  • Stats
Dane De La Rosa (28), RHP, 52 games, all in relief, 70⅓ innings, 6-5, 6 saves, ERA-3.20, 8 seasons, 1st in AAA.
  • A break-through year for Mr. De La Rosa after a long time working his way up. First came to my attention with his 1-pitch appearance at the DAP in early May. He was ejected and had a four-game suspension. Before and after that event, he did a terrific job for the Bulls, a real stalwart in the bullpen in a year where starting pitching was in confusion. Had a one-inning, mid-season call-up in July and is back up for September with the Rays (three brief appearances so far). One of the good guys. Hope the Bulls get him back next year, if he doesn't stick with the Rays.
  • Stats
Mike Ekstrom (27), RHP, 46 games, 1 start, 68⅓ innings, 6-4, 5 saves, ERA-4.35, 8 seasons, 3rd with AAA time.
  • Mike Ekstrom did a pretty good job for the Bulls this year, if not nearly as good as last year (ERA-2.79 over 58 innings in 2010). Last year he had a lot of back-and-forth with the Rays. This year he pretty much stuck with the Bulls. At the end of the season there was some roster shuffling going on with the end result that he was off the 40-man of the Rays. He was not claimed, but hard to tell if he will be back for 2012.
  • Stats
Rob Delaney (26), RHP, 51 games, all in relief, 67⅔ innings, 4-2, 13 saves, ERA-1.86, 6 seasons, 3rd in AAA (1st w/Bulls).
  • A terrific ball-player that really helped the Bulls this year. He had a brief visit with the Rays, but was taken off the 40-man in September. Hard to tell if he will be back next year. I hope so. Sort of this year's Winston Abreu, and that's a compliment to Mr. Delaney.
  • Stats
Alex Cobb (23), RHP, 12 games, all starts, 67⅓ innings, 5-1, ERA-1.87, 6 seasons, 1st in AAA.
  • Cobb is a brilliant young pitcher. He was called up to the Rays in mid-April for one game, in late May as a substitute for the injured Jeff Niemann, and finally in July until he went on the Rays DL in early August. All reports are that surgery was successful and he will be back in form for 2012. That's good news because, unless the Rays do some trading in the off-season, he could start with the Bulls.
  • Stats
Matt Torra (27), RHP, 11 games, all starts, 61⅓ innings, 5-1, ERA-3.67, 7 seasons, 3 in AAA, 1st w/Bulls.
  • In some ways, Matt Torra was the complement to Alex Cobb for the second half of the season. Signed out of the Diamondbacks system, his first start was in early July. He began slow, but finished very strong with his numbers improving game by game. Not particularly flashy, he looks very competent and durable. He'd be an asset to the 2012 Bulls.
  • Stats
Dirk Hayhurst (30), RHP, 11 games, all starts, 59 innings, 4-2, ERA-4.12, 8 seasons, 3 in AAA, 1 w/Bulls, missed 2010 while recovering from surgery.
  • Dirk had a decent start to his season but an elbow problem cropped up in April. He was back in June for 7 starts before going back on the DL. In a bit of what sounded like contractual finagling, he was pronounced fit to play and then released at the end of August. As a fellow blogger (albeit Dirk is much more famous and certainly much better), I can only wish him the best. His new book is due out sometime "soon".
  • Stats
Chris Bootcheck (32), RHP, 16 games, 7 starts, 58 innings, 3-2, 1 save, ERA-3.57. 10 pro seasons, parts of 8 seasons in AAA, 1 w/Bulls.
  • It probably isn't fair to blame the players for opt-out contracts, but Bootcheck was yet another who opted out this year, at the end of June. I've heard, but haven't confirmed, that he is pitching in Korea. He was helpful while here.
  • Stats.
Andy Sonnanstine (28), RHP, 10 games, 9 starts, 56 innings, 3-6, ERA-4.82. 7 pro seasons, parts of 3 seasons in AAA, all with Durham. Much of five seasons with the Rays (stats).
  • It seemed odd for Sonnanstine to be sent down to the Bulls in mid-July, but that was a confusing month for everyone in Rays baseball. As a practical matter, the Rays don't seem to know what they want from Mr. Sonnanstine (ML Stats). He had a couple of good moments for the Bulls and filled in when they needed a starter. But is he a starter, long reliever, or what? Doubt that he will be sticking in the Rays system next year.
  • Stats.
Ryan Reid (26), RHP, 26 games, 5 starts, 55⅓ innings, 1-1, ERA-4.55, 6 pro seasons, 1st in AAA.
  • Ryan Reid did a decent job for the Bulls this year in his first AAA season. He came up from Montgomery in the beginning of May, went back for a couple of weeks in early July, and didn't pitch at all after August 15. Since the Bulls are not particularly forthcoming about their ballplayers we don't know if there was an issue or if he was just the victim of minor league roster shuffling. I'd worry some about his fitness, but he did put in 16 more innings at Montgomery. Next year? Probably. But on the disabled list at the end of the season.
  • Stats
Edgar Gonzalez (28), RHP, 11 games, 11 starts, 53⅓ innings, 3-3, ERA-4.56, 8 pro seasons, parts of 7 in AAA, parts of all seasons in ML.
  • Veteran Gonzalez started the season with the Bulls and did OK at first. However, he rarely went more than five innings and seemed to have persistent back problems. He was released in June and caught on with the Rockies system. He put in another 80 innings with their AAA team in Colorado Springs.
  • Stats

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Hitters: Part II

The new guys, the rehabbers, and the visitors

John Matulia (24) has been playing professional baseball since he was 18 years old. When he came to the Bulls in July, it was his first time in AAA. He was up and down a couple of times in July as the Bulls' roster seemed to turn over almost every day. Eventually he stuck in Durham by early August.
  • Played in 36 games (134 PA). Mostly he took over for Desmond Jennings/Brandon Guyer/Justin Ruggiano in center field (29 starts there). Not strong numbers — .238/.278/.429, wOBA .290, and they were about the same as he was showing in Montgomery. He hit 5 home runs and got 16 RBI. His speed got him 2 triples.
  • At the end of the season John was one of the few Durham Bulls showing any speed in the field or on the bases, so he was needed. But even as a youngster, he needs a really good year to keep moving up. Not sure he will be back next year.
  • Stats
Nevin Ashley (26) also came up from Montgomery in mid-July after Bulls catcher Jose Lobaton got called up, got hurt, then Bulls catcher Robinson Chirinos got called up to St. Pete. This was his sixth year as a pro. He had a couple of games with the Bulls in 2010 and is on the Rays 40-man.
  • Played in 32 games (112 PA) mostly as a catcher (1 DH appearance). One of six different catchers who played for Durham this year, he had almost as many games as Jose Lobaton (38) by end of the season. Not very good offensive stats — .218/.273/.307, wOBA .256. However, 10 of the 21 guys who tried to steal on him got caught.
  • A fan really can't judge a catcher's game-calling skills from the stands, but it looks like Ashley has a home in the Rays' system if he can get his hitting stats up.
  • Stats
Stephen Vogt (26) came up from the Biscuits at the end of July and a more versatile player I haven't seen in a very long while. This was his fifth year in pro ball and first time in AAA.
  • Played in 31 games (131 PA) at catcher (5 games), 1B (5 games), outfield (10), and DH (11). Good, strong, left handed bat — .290/.305/.516, wOBA .351.
  • Seems like the Bulls have always had at least one strong left-handed bat in the line-up. Vogt may be that guy for 2012.
  • Stats
Tim Beckham (21) joined the Bulls in early August, the last of the Biscuit call-ups on the year. In his fourth year as a pro. It was his first time at AAA.
  • Played in 24 games (111 PA) all at shortstop and, I think, all as the leadoff batter in the lineup. Stats were OK — .255/.282/.462, wOBA .310, but they will need to improve as he moves up.
  • Does he look like a superstar? No. Does he look like a good, solid middle infielder? Yes.
  • Stats
Matt Carson (29) was signed out of the Oakland system at the beginning of August to fill in some big holes in the Bulls' outfield. Although he was briefly injured he helped keep the Bulls on track to win the South Division title.
  • Played in 22 games (95 PA) all in the outfield. Good power — .250/.337/.512, wOBA .354.
  • A long-time AAA ballplayer, hard to tell if he will be back. At a guess, probably more a matter of clubhouse "fit" than anything else. Heck of an arm.
  • Stats
* * * * * 

The Bulls had a few players down from the Rays on rehab assignments. Shortstop Reid Brignac was in town for 11 games, catcher John Jaso for 6 games, Elliot Johnson was back for just 2 (both on the road), and Justin Ruggiano put in 6 of his games while on rehab.

* * * * *

Lastly, three players that don't really fit into any category.

Craig Albernaz (28) was present with the Bulls almost the entire season, not going down to the Montgomery Biscuits until the end of July when Nevin Ashley came up. But he rarely got into a game as he was mostly confined to a bullpen role. From the stands he appeared to be a vital part of the team, his good spirits infectious even at a distance.
  • Played in 8 games (25 PA). Pitched in 4 innings in 3 games. Back in Montgomery at the end of the season he got in 29 games catching, an inning pitching, and a game at 2B (!).
  • Obviously, we like Craig. Would be happy to see him in a Bulls uniform again.
  • Stats
Casey Kotchman (28), the Tampa Bay Rays' first baseman, actually started the year on a minor league contract with the Durham Bulls. That's going to be a trivia question some day. However, the Bulls' season started a week after the Rays' season, which allowed enough time for the Manny Ramirez fiasco to start playing out. Played in 1 game (5 PA), single and a walk, and was called up to the Rays.

John Shelby (25), got in one game (3 PA) with the Bulls in late July and then went back to the Biscuits. We might see him next year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Hitters: Part I

Twenty-five different ballplayers came to bat in a Durham Bulls uniform this year. Some quite a few times (Russ Canzler, 549). Some not so often (John Shelby, 3 ). That compares to 27 in 2010 and 25 in 2009, so 2011 was about normal. Players are listed in order of games played. The "slash line" is Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging.

The Top 14 (40+ Games)

Russ Canzler (25) was in his first season with the Bulls and had a brilliant year. He was the International League MVP.

  • Played in the most games of any Durham Bull (131) and had the most plate appearances (549). He led the Bulls in batting average (.314), was second in OBP (.401) and was first in SLG and OPS (.530 and .930), and led the team in wOBA (.399). His 83 RBI were way ahead of #2, Leslie Anderson, who had 65. He also led in home runs (18), doubles (40), second in triples (5). He was the team leader in walks (67) and strikeouts (129). The all-around offensive star of the year.
  • His great year was rewarded by a call-up (and placement on the Rays 40-man) as soon as the Bulls season was over in early September. As of this writing he has had one ML plate appearance where he drew a walk. Defensively, the Bulls never quite figured out where to play him, although by the end of the year you could consider him a regular corner outfielder. He had 40 starts at 3B, 17 at 1B, and 68 games in the outfield. He also had 6 games at DH. He certainly is not the Rays' future third baseman, but no reason why he couldn't spend more time at 1B and see how it goes. As we'll see, however, it looks like 1B could be crowded in 2012. Really was fun watching him play.
  • Stats

Ray Olmedo (30) came back to the Bulls after a year with Nashville, the AAA team of the Brewers that plays in the PCL.

  • Played in 124 games (500 PA). Ray had 95 games at SS and 29 games at 2B. For a guy who usually batted at the end of the order, he had very good numbers — .260/.303/.322, wOBA .306. 27 RBI, 22 doubles, 3 triples.
  • I like watching Ray Olmedo play baseball. I especially like the way he moved over to second base when young Tim Beckham came up and how well he covered that position. Here's hoping the Rays find room for him next year.
  • Stats

Leslie Anderson (29) joined the Bulls late in 2010. He had defected from Cuba earlier in the year and quickly moved up through the Rays minor league system as an outfielder and first baseman. This season was a decent, but not breakout, year.

  • Played in 121 games with 494 plate appearances. He had 63 games at 1B and 42 in the outfield, mostly in LF. The rest of the games he was the designated hitter. Decent numbers of .277/.314/.413 with a wOBA of .323. His 65 RBI was second-best on the team; his 24 doubles were third-best; and his 13 home runs was third best as well.
  • I'm not sure Mr. Anderson is going to make it beyond AAA. He isn't very fast. He's something of a streaky hitter and only a so-so first baseman. Plus he's beginning to age out.
  • Stats

J.J. Furmaniak (31) was with the Bulls with most of 2010 and we were really pleased to see him back in 2011. He did not have a good year at the plate, but he had a bunch of timely hits and sacrifices, and was vital to keeping the infield sorted out.

  • Played in 116 games (433 PA). In the field he played 2B (52 games), SS (15), 3B (43), outfield (11), dh'd a game, and pitched a shutout inning(!). Most of the year his numbers were off, but they got much better near the end. Numbers — .215/.267/.308 with a wOBA of .258. J.J. led the Bulls on successful sacrifice bunts with 15.
  • I really like J.J. I think he adds a lot to the team. He did not have a good year at bat, but until the Rays start bringing up some infielders, the Bulls really need someone like J.J. on the roster — an experienced, mature, quick-handed infielder.
  • Stats

Brandon Guyer (25) came to the Bulls as part of the big Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago Cubs deal over the winter. A lot to like about this young ballplayer. He would have played in more games if a back injury had not taken him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks in the middle of the year.

  • Played in 107 games (443 PA). All of his games were as an outfielder, mostly in right and center field. Very good numbers — .314/.401/.530, wOBA .387. Hit 18 home runs (second on team), had 61 RBI, and led team in getting hit by pitches (12). Very fast, but needs to work on base running a bit (16 stolen bases, but caught 6 times).
  • Brandon was on the 40-man all year and was called up once, before going up in the September callups. As of this writing he's been in 10 games for the Rays. Expect him back next year and looking forward to it.
  • Stats

Dan Johnson (31) started the year with the Rays and came to the Bulls in late May. Something must have gone awry over the winter, since the 2010 Bulls superstar was having serious troubles in St. Petersburg. He passed through waivers and accepted an assignment to the Bulls.

  • Played in 93 games (395 PA). Starting very slowly, his numbers improved as the year went on — .273/.382/.459,wOBA .375. Low extra base production (for him) of 23 doubles and 13 home runs. 52 RBI. 59 games at 1B, 15 at 3B, and 21 as DH.
  • Dan was called back up to the Rays at the end of the season, but he's got to be thinking about his future as a ballplayer. I'm guessing that he will not be back with the Rays in 2012.
  • Stats

Desmond Jennings (24) began his year with the Bulls and, to our surprise, stayed with the team until mid-July.

  • Played in 89 games (397 PA). The big difference between this year and 2010 was that he stayed healthy and he had some big improvements in his power. Numbers — .275/.374/.456, wOBA .362. A leadoff batter is going to be a bit low in the RBI column, and he was with only 39. But he scored 68 runs and stole 17 bases. Mostly a center fielder this year, with a few starts in right field and a couple as the DH.
  • He's had 52 games in the majors as of this writing, and he's tearing things up with a .292/.386/.510, 9 homers, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Don't expect to see him back with the Bulls next year.
  • Stats

Robinson Chirinos (27) is another of the players from the Cubs/Rays deal. He had a spectacular spring training and came to the Bulls with very high expectations. He had a good, not exceptional, year. And was able to get in 20 games with the Rays.

  • Played in 78 games (319 PA). He had a terrible start, so his final numbers actually represent a big improvement on the year — .259/.343/.376, wOBA .324. Because of his terrific spring training, most thought Chirinos was going to have a real breakout year and, at 27, he needed it. Not quite, though. He got the most starts at catcher (63) of anyone on the Bulls' roster and did pretty well.
  • His main counterpart, Jose Lobaton, had a much better year as a catcher and a hitter. When Lobaton got a call-up he was almost immediately injured and Chirinos followed him to St. Pete within a couple of days, then came back in August.
  • Stats

Omar Luna (24) started the season with the Bulls and then was essentially swapped out for infielder Daniel Mayora in late June.

  • Played in 56 games (182 PA). Not very good numbers — .203/.229/.227, wOBA .229. Pretty much the worst numbers of anyone who had any serious amount of time with the Bulls this year. Mostly played 2B (47), but had a game at 3B, a game at shortstop, and 3 games in the outfield. He also made two appearances as a pitcher.
  • Pretty good second baseman, but Furmaniak better, with a better bat. Luna went to Port Charlotte in the Rays system where he did OK. Hard to tell if he will be coming back.
  • Stats

Jose Lobaton (26) had a breakout year and he was fun to watch as long as he stayed with the Bulls.

  • Played in 54 games (224 PA). Terrific numbers — .293/.410/.489, wOBA .382. His OBP was the team best. Most of his ABs were as a catcher, but 18 games as DH. Above average catching skill as a catcher.
  • His third best OPS (.899) and skills behind the plate earned him a call-up in early July. Unfortunately, he was immediately injured and did not return to the Rays lineup until September. Expect him to stick with the Rays next year.
  • Stats

Chris Carter (28) started the year with the Bulls.

  • Played 54 games (233 PA) for the Bulls before exercising an opt-out clause in mid-June, 26 games as DH and 28 games in a corner outfield position. Pretty good, but not stellar, numbers for his time with the team — .270/.309/.460, wOBA .323. He brought some power to the team, 10 HR and 11 doubles.
  • He signed with the Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta) and was having a great run (OPS of .974) for 23 games before he was injured and went out for the rest of the season.
  • Stats

Daniel Mayora (25) came up to Durham from the Montgomery Biscuits in late June.

  • Played in 51 games (205 PA), almost exclusively at third base. Of the six different third basemen the Bulls used this year, he was tied for the most games (40) with Russ Canzler. Numbers are OK — .262/.317/.353, wOBA .306.
  • Not a standout third baseman and doesn't seem like he will get past AAA level. And yet the Bulls needed him for the second half of the season and may need him again next year.
  • Stats

Felipe Lopez (31), a veteran infielder, started the season with Durham, went back and forth to the Rays a couple of times and then moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers system.

  • Played in 48 games (207 PA) and had excellent numbers — .305/.357/.474, wOBA .374 with 37 RBI and 7 home runs. 25 games at 2B, 12 at 3B, and a few as DH.
  • Lopez was with the Bulls primarily because the Rays' infield situation was unsettled at the time. Once that was sorted out, he left the system. I would have preferred to see more young players under development.
  • Stats

Justin Ruggiano (29) has a five year history with the Durham Bulls and holds a number of hitting records. He started this year with the Bulls, but went up to Tampa in May and stayed there, with the exception of a brief rehab visit in August.

  • Played in a total of 43 games (190 PA) and had excellent numbers — .304/.378/.518, wOBA .398. Almost an RBI per game (34), 7 HR and 11 doubles.
  • Unlikely that we will see him in Durham next year.
  • Stats

Next: New guys, rehabbers and visitors.