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April 15, 2006 at 7:32 PM

Greenville Season Preview: Bench and Bullpen

Hunter Jones has thehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif potential to be the best pitcher in the bullpen and may be the first option should one of the starters get injured or stumble out of the gates. He signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2005 draft out of Florida State. He has great potential, though also has a long injury history which is the main reason he wasn’t drafted. After signing, Hunter appeared in 12 games for Lowell (1 start) going 1-1 with 1 save in 28 IP with a 3.21ERA. He gave up 29 hits and 5 BB while striking out 30. I’m a big fan of Hunter, though he’s a significant injury risk.

Tim Cox is a LHP out of Australia who will turn 20 in July. He impressed in his first exposure to pro ball last year in the GCL where he pitched 49 innings on 5 starts and 11 games total. He ended up with a 2.19ERA while giving up only 37 hits and only 7 walks while striking out 56 batters. His 8:1 K:BB rate and 10.3K/9 were fantastic. I’m somewhat surprised he didn’t get a rotation spot based on those stats, however I’ve heard Tim is only about 5’9” 165#, so the Sox may think he’s better off as a reliever.

Kyle Fernandes (LHP, 20yo) will be interesting to watch. He was taken in the 12th round in 2005 out of Massasoitt JC in Massachusetts. He signed and went to the GCL where he pitched very well, totaling 43IP in 11G with a 3.60 ERA. He gave up 34 hits with 10 BB while striking out 47 batters. Of note, he had a 2.2 G/F ratio which was 2nd on the team in inducing ground ball outs. Kyle was roughed up a bit in his one and only appearance in Lowell at the end of the season. He went 2 innings and gave up 3 runs on 5 hits and a walk, though he did strike out 3. I’ve heard he hits 90mph with his fastball, though it’s his deception and breaking balls that get him his outs. We’ll see how he fares against more advanced hitters. I suspect there will be a period of adjustment, though I think he’ll succeed at this level. He’s one of the guys who will have to prove himself at each level. I’d like to see him get some starts, but I’m not sure it’s in the cards for Kyle.

Blake Maxwell (RHP) will pitch out of the bullpen for the Bombers. He was drafted in the 40th round in the 2005 draft out of Methodist College. He tied for the most appearances for Lowell last year with 26. He pitched 45.2IP with a 2.76ERA and gave up just 31 hits and 11 BB while striking out 29 and allowing only .505 OPS against. Blake was an extreme groundball pitcher, with a 3:1 ratio of GB:FB. We’ll see how he does this year against more advanced hitters. His K rate is low, but that’s not as important for groundballers. Still it’s something to keep an eye on. Blake will turn 22 on July 1.

Kevin Guyette (RHP) is returning to Greenville after a successful first professional season in 2005. Kevin was drafted in the 10th round out of the University of Arizona in the 2005 draft. He went to Lowell pitching in 6 games, going 2-1 with 2 saves in 11.2 shutout innings. He allowed just 3 hits and 1 BB while striking out 10 and allowing a .213OPS against. That’s not a misspring. Kevin was promoted to Greenville where he got into 12 games with 3 starts. His final line was 30.1IP 3.26ERA 30H 6BB 2HR 28K. It’s a little surprising to me that Kevin was not promoted to Wilmington to begin the season. If he pitches well he may be proomted. Kevin will be 23 for the full season.

JT Zink (RHP) was drafted in the 8th round out of Everett CC after his sophomore year and signed for $75K. He was sent to Lowell and started 14 games, pitching 48IP with a 2.63ERA, 46H, 18BB, 1HR, and 26Ks. The walk and stikeout ratios aren’t very good, but he got by. JT had a slightly above average G:F ratio at 1.6. If JT doesn’t pick up his K and K:BB rates he will likely run into trouble. JT will turn 21 in May.

Matt Hancock (LHP) was drafted in the 27th round out of Oral Roberts University. He was assigned to Lowell where he put up a 5.59 ERA in 37IP, alhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giflowing 45 hits and 11 BB with 34 K’s. He allowed a lot of power, especially for the NYP League, with a .510 SLG against. He throws a high 80s fastball and a slider. He’ll be 23 for the whole season.
Jay Johnson was taken in the 17th round out of Xavier University. After signing he went ot Lowell where he hit .273/.337/.386 in 252 PAs. He impressed this spring and won the backup OF job from Bubba Bell, , and Jason Twomley. Jay will be 23 for the entire season.

Chuck Jeroloman was taken in the 21st round as a all-glove-no-hit shorstop out of Auburn University in the 2004 draft. Sent to Lowell, he got 186 PAs and hit just .170/.285/.230 while striking out 61 times (for an amazing 32.8% K rate). He was kept around for his glove and last year actually showed something with the bat hitting .236/.386/.371 in 324 PA with 60BB and 91Ks at Greenville. He got out to a hot start, went on the DL, then came back to earth, ending up with the above line. This year he’ll back up at 2B, 3B, and SS. Chuck is 23.

Matt Mercurio will back up at the hot corner. Matt was taken in the 16th round out of Florida Southern University. Sent to Lowell he hit just .225/.341/.307 in 276 PA, though he did show good patience with 33 BB. Matt looks to improve on that mark this season. I haven’t seen a scouting report on Matt so hopefully I’ll see him in a few weeks. Matt will play the season at age 23.

Mark Wagner was drafted in the 9th round of the 2005 draft out of UC Irvine after his junior season and signed for $90K. His college career was very good, hitting .355/.398/.495 his junior year. His professional debut didn’t go at well as he would have liked as Mark hit just .203/.309/.261 in 81 PA in Lowell. It doesn’t look like the Sox think too much of him since 26 year old Leonard is starting over him. Mark will turn 22 in June.
EDIT: It appears that Mark had food poisoning and missed the first few games, but will be the primary catcher in Greenville.