'09 Preseason Preview: Chatham Anglers

by Dave B. in

Chatham AnglersWebsite:  www.chathamanglers.com Manager:  John Schiffner (17th year)

Statistical data is as of June 6th.

This is a year of change in Chatham. We expect to see a large turnover in a team's roster from one year to the next, but the changes in Chatham don't stop with the players. The newly-named Anglers will be playing at a facility that has also been given a makeover. Paid for in part by a grant from the Yawkey Foundation, Veterans Field has a newly renovated playing surface with new turf having been put down in the outfield. Also, a brick kneewall that stretches from the first base dugout to the third base dugout has been built. New poles that will help to provide added height to the safety netting have also been added. Now, if they could just find a way to keep the fog away.....

Andy Ruddock is the new General Manager. Ruddock replaces Charlie Thoms who held the position for the previous twelve years. There will be a new look to the coaching staff as well. Patrick McGee and George Barnes will not be back. In their place, Mark Pavao, Arlan Freeman, Jay Grenier will join returning pitching coach Tyler Kincaid to round out Schiffner's staff.

Chatham finished in fourth place in the Eastern division last year with a record of 19-25. One change Chatham wouldn't mind seeing is the end of their championship drought. They have not won the CCBL title since 1998.  

PITCHERS:  The staff should be anchored by North Carolina's Matt Harvey who is returning for his second summer in Chatham. The third round pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2007 is coming off a season in which he has gone 7-2 with a 5.35 ERA through last week's NCAA Regionals. Harvey struck out 78 in 70.2 innings. On the downside, opponents hit .301 off him. Last year in Chatham, Harvey was 1-1; 0.83 in 21.2 innings, mostly in relief.

Two other Tar Heels pitchers will join Harvey in Chatham. Patrick Johnson had a solid spring going 2-2; 2.91. He struck out an astounding 76 batters in just 55.2 innings and held opponents to a .217 avg. Johnson played for Harwich last year. Ryan Leach is the other member of the UNC staff coming to the Anglers. He only pitched 8.1 innings this spring.

Russell Brewer earned All League honors and won the Russ Ford Award as the league's top relief pitcher while playing for Hyannis last year. Brewer appeared in 18 games for the Mets and posted a win and 12 saves. He dealt with control problems on occasion as he struck out 17, but issued 14 walks and hit 3 batters in 23 innings. Brewer was 1-2 with a 2.96 ERA and 4 saves at Vanderbilt this year.

Parker Bangs (RHP; South Carolina) is listed as a pitcher on the roster but he often DH'd for the Gamecocks. After looking at what Bangs did this year, I'm thinking I should highlight his offensive accomplishments over his pitching performance. On the mound, Bangs was 3-2 with a 5.88 ERA. He struck out 39 in 33.2 IP. As a hitter, in 119 at-bats, Bangs batted .328 with 5 HR and 36 RBI. Playing in the Coastal Plain League last summer, Bangs was tabbed as the # 5 best prospect by Baseball America.

Mike Dennhardt, a freshman from Boston College, was a 17th round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in '08. He made 10 starts for the Eagles and was 5-2 with a 4.96 ERA.

Is Kaleb Fleck the first player from the Div. 2 University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown Mountain Cats to play in the Cape League? Scouting reports on Fleck show that his fastball has touched 96 mph and he consistently sits in the low 90's. He also has a slider and change-up in his arsenal and his coaches feel that he has a very good chance to be in the majors some day. Fleck played for Waynesboro in the Valley League last summer. He was 6-2; 2.61 in 10 starts for UP-J with a very good strikeout to walk ratio. He struck out 55 while only walking 12 in 48.1 innings. Opponents batted just .227 off him.

John Schiffner is already very familiar with Jesse Hahn (RHP; Virginia Tech). Schiffner coaches at Plainfield High School in Plainfield, CT. Hahn played for Ed Harvey (Matt's dad) at Fitch HS in Groton, CT. For the Hokies this spring, Hahn was 1-2 with an ERA of 6.00 while the opposition hit .318 off him.

After his high school season last year, Logan Verrett (RHP; Baylor) earned Max Preps All American and E.A. Sports All American honors. He was 18-0 with a 0.67 ERA as a senior. In his freshman season at Baylor, Verrett was 7-1 while striking out 64 in 54.1 IP. Verrett has been invited to the Team USA trials.

Verrett's Baylor teammate, Shawn Tolleson, makes the short trek down Route 28 after playing for Y-D last summer. Tolleson had Tommy John surgery in March, 2006 and did not play competitively until the spring of 2008. He has come back strong. For Y-D, he went 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA while striking out 53 in 37 innings. He was tabbed as the 15th best prospect in the Cape League by Baseball America. As a draft-eligible sophomore, coming into this season that same publication had Tolleson picked as the 23rd best major league draft prospect among college players. He split time between starting and coming out of the bullpen for the Bears and went 1-2; 4.50.

Tyler Lyons and Thomas Keeling, a couple of lefties from Oklahoma State are expected to join the Anglers. In Lyons case, that may depend on where he is selected in the MLB draft.  Lyons is a junior who's 12 wins in 2008 tied him for fourth in the nation. He was the workhorse of the staff this year, making 15 starts and throwing 97.1 innings. He compiled a 7-6 record to go with a 4.07 ERA. Keeling was 5-1; 4.41 for the Cowboys. He had a very impressive 73 strikeouts in 51 IP and held batters to a .225 avg.

Taylor Hill (RHP; Vanderbilt) was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee in 2007. The 6'4"; 225 lb sophomore was rated the number two high school prospect in the state by Baseball America prior to the '07 draft. He was 2-1; 5.05 for the Commodores this year, but batters hit him around to the tune of a .320 avg.

The Anglers staff will be rounded out by two returning players. Jake Thompson (Long Beach State) started 13 games as a freshman. This year, he started 14 games but struggled to a 4-7 record and a 5.61 ERA while allowing a .302 opponent batting average. Thompson was 2-3; 4.91 in 6 starts for Chatham last year. Kevin Scanlan (Maine) was a temp. player last year. He only pitched 9 innings over three games. As a freshman at Maine, he led the team in ERA (3.74) , innings pitched (67.1) and strikeouts (72). Scanlan went 6-3; 3.96 for the Black Bears this year.

CATCHERS:  Junior Mike Murray (Wake Forest) will battle it out with freshmen Phillip Pohl (Clemson) and Jacob Stallings (North Carolina) for playing time. Murray had a very brief stay in the league last year, playing one game for Bourne and two games for Hyannis before hooking on with the Sanford Mainers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He hit .306 and added 6 HR and 37 RBI this spring. Stallings only appeared in 21 games, and batted .229 with no homeruns and 7 RBI. Pohl was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school senior in Cooperstown, NY. While starting 20 of the 40 games he played in for Clemson, Pohl batted just .194 with one homerun and 3 RBI.

INFIELDERS:  When scanning the roster for potential power hitters, I did not find many possibilities. One power source may be Rick Oropesa. He is listed on Chatham's roster as an infielder, outfielder and pitcher. Oropesa was the 24th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in last year's draft. A measure of his versatility is that in high school, Oropesa was rated as the # 2 third baseman and the # 18 first baseman in the nation by Perfect Game. Oropesa only pitched 3 innings this spring but the freshman made his mark as a hitter. While mostly playing first base and batting cleanup for the Trojans, he batted .314 and led the team with 13 HR, 48 RBI and a .578 slugging pct. Oropesa was recently named as a Freshman All American by Collegiate Baseball.

Dean Green was Oklahoma State's DH for much of his freshman year. This year, as the Cowboys first baseman, Green batted .242 with 5 HR and 24 RBI.

Green's OSU teammate, Tom Belza, played at Y-D last summer and batted .239 in 35 games for the Red Sox. Belza struck out 30 times in 88 at-bats so he will definitely be looking for improvement. Based on what he did at Oklahoma State this year, he may well show that improvement. Belza started all 58 games and led the team with a .346 avg. He added 6 HR, 52 RBI and produced a .407 OBP while batting in the fifth spot in the order. He is listed as a second baseman on the Anglers roster but mostly played shortstop at OSU.

Matt Duffy, shortstop from Vermont, was named the America East Player of the Year. His .388 avg. with 13 homeruns, 57 RBI and .713 slugging pct. helped to place him at, or near, the top of the conference in many offensive categories. Vermont has dropped their baseball program and Duffy is expected to play at Tennessee next year.

Matt Perry, a third baseman from Holy Cross, was the Patriot League Player of the Year. He started all 49 games and posted a .423 avg., 7 HR and 37 RBI. Even more impressive was his .491 OBP and .626 slugging pct.

Considered the most versatile infielder at Vanderbilt, Brian Harris batted .299 with 9 HR and 45 RBI. You won't need a program to know who Harris is. Just look for the player with the most black and blue marks. He was hit by a pitch 21 times this spring which contributed to his .439 OBP. Harris played for Sanford in the NECBL last year. Freshman shortstop Tyler Rahmatulla batted .222 in a part-time role at UCLA. Joey Terdoslavich, listed as a first baseman/third baseman, sat out this spring after transferring from Miami to Long Beach State. As a freshman for the Hurricanes in '08, he batted .293 with 5 homeruns and 25 RBI. Terdoslavich is the nephew of Mike Greenwell who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1985-1996. Fondly remembered by Red Sox fans, Greenwell was an A.L. All Star in 1988 and 1989 and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2008.

OUTFIELDERS:  Addison Johnson was one of the more exciting players in the league when he played in Chatham in 2007. His expected return to Chatham was delayed by a year after a hamstring injury, followed by a hand injury, caused Johnson to miss all of the 2008 season. He struggled to a .214 avg. with just 2 homeruns and 14 RBI.

Johnson's Tiger teammate, Jeff Schaus, stepped right into the lineup as a freshman in 2008, started 58 games, and batted .315. This year, the leftfielder hit .326 and his 12 homeruns showed a marked improvement in power. While playing 31 games for Cotuit last year, Schaus hit .255 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. 

Playing centerfield and batting lead-off for Wake Forest, Steven Brooks hit .313 with 5 homeruns. He also stole 11 bases.

Another player moving from Y-D to Chatham is Whit Merrifield, an infielder/outfielder from South Carolina. While playing for the Red Sox last year, he batted just .222 with no homeruns and 6 RBI. Merrifield has started 125 of 126 games over the last two years for S.C. and he will be looking to carry over the success he had this spring. A centerfielder and lead-off hitter for the Gamecocks, Merrifield batted .340 to go along with 11 HR, 49 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a .401 OBP. There was a notable increase in his production from '08 when he hit 3 just homeruns and drove in 26 runs. Merrifield could also see time at second base or third base.

NOTES:  There are seven players coming to Chatham who played for other Cape League teams last year:  Tolleson, Belza, Merrifield (Y-D); Johnson (Harwich), Murray (Bourne/Hyannis), Brewer (Hyannis) and Schaus (Cotuit).

Scanlan and Perry are from Sudbury, MA.

Perry's dad, Ron, was elected to the CCBL Hall of Fame in 2003 in recognition of his accomplishments for Hyannis in 1978-'79. The Perry name is well-known throughout the area. Ron was a basketball All American at Holy Cross and he was drafted by the Boston Celtics and Chicago White Sox. Matt's grandfather, Ron S. Perry, won national championships in baseball and basketball while with the Crusaders.

Potential returnees:  Matt Harvey, Jake Thompson, Kevin Scanlan and Addison Johnson ('07).

Team USA invitee:  Logan Verrett.

First game:  Chatham takes the field for the first time as the "Anglers" when they host Wareham this Friday, June 12, at 7:00.