I had the privilege of covering the Brevard County Manatees this season, and although they finished near the bottom of the standings in the Florida State League, many players had outstanding performances. Some earned promotions to Class AA Biloxi and Class AAA Colorado Springs, while others had solid seasons and remained at Advanced A all year for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Below are some of the team highlights (and low-lights) and top players.
The Manatees scored 3.37 runs/game, second-to-last in the league. They were middle of the pack in home runs and steals, but dead last in drawing bases on balls. Their 1,011 strikeouts were third-highest, but the team’s slash lines were all in the mid-section of the league’s rankings.
The pitching staff had some impressive numbers, centering on stamina and control (hmmm, that doesn’t sound right), as they led the league in complete games with 15 and fewest walks (323). The team allowed 4.06 runs/game, second-worst in the FSL, and the strikeout total of 828 ranked last as a staff.
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Players that earned promotions were: Garrett Cooper, 1B (Biloxi); Victor Roache, OF (Biloxi); Jorge Ortega, P (Colorado Springs); Trevor Seidenberger, P (Biloxi); Hiram Burgos, P (Colorado Springs); Wei-Chung Wang, P (Colorado Springs).
TEAM MVP: Garrett Cooper, 1B
As often happens in the minors, the top prospect doesn’t always post the best numbers at each level. This was the case with the ‘Tees, as top outfield prospect Clint Coulter was out-performed by Cooper, a sixth round pick in 2013.
The right-handed hitting Alabama native led the FSL in slugging (.436) and OPS (.792), while placing second with 32 two-base hits. Cooper led the team in slash lines, including a batting average of .294 and placed in the top three on the team in six other major categories.
Cooper was called up to AA Biloxi on August 28, and in nine games at the higher level went a softball-like 16-for-29 (.552/.639/.690) with two doubles, a triple, five ribbies, and three runs scored. My friends, that is how you impress during a late-season call-up!
A couple weeks ago, I raised the thought of Milwaukee cheering for another Cooper sometime in the near future. That could be sooner rather than later.
Outfielder Clint Coulter had an off-season, batting only .246, but tied for third with 13 homers in a league that historically has Home Run Baker-type numbers as league leaders. He also took a shine to right field, throwing out 16 runners in 117 games. His 11% walk rate is above-average and he doesn’t whiff that much, so if he can up his batting average to the .275-.280 range, he could be a solid big leaguer with 25 HR potential.
Second baseman Chris McFarland finished second in the FSL with 150 hits, including 41 multi-hit games. He had 25 extra-base hits, 46 RBI, and stole 20 bases.
Third baseman Taylor Smith-Brennan ranked third in the FSL with 62 walks and was tied for fourth with 68 runs scored. He also smacked 26 doubles and stole 13 bases.
Center fielder Omar Garcia ranked second in the league with 52 steals, easily the most among the teams in the Brewers organization.
Top prospect Victor Roache moved up to Biloxi after just 63 games, but still finished second on the team with his ten dingers. His whiff numbers dropped by a third at Biloxi, so maybe he learned something there. He remains a solid prospect, though.
MOST VALUABLE PITCHER: Jorge Ortega, RHP
Ortega led the league in ERA (2.41), complete games (6), shutouts (2), and WHIP (1.038). He was fourth in innings pitched and fifth in wins with nine. He earned a well-deserved promotion in early September and rewarded the Sky Sox with a six inning outing and his first Class AAA win. Ortega doesn’t strike out many (5.3 K/9 career), but doesn’t walk many, either (1.1 BB/9). In 147 innings this year, Ortega walked 12 batters. Greg Maddux, anyone?
Wei-Chung Wang rebounded from a miserable start to win ten games. The former Rule 5 draftee was promoted to Colorado Springs and earned a victory in his only start. I had been tough on Wang, but as the season progressed he became a much better pitcher. Maybe there is hope for him yet.
Cy Sneed made 11 starts at Brevard County after a bump up from A Wisconsin. Sneed had a WHIP of 1.129 and a K:BB ratio of 5 to 1. This 22-y-o could move up the ladder rapidly and might be a fixture in Brew Town in 2017.
Right-hander Preston Gainey finished 24 games and earned eight saves.
Lefty reliever Trevor Seidenberger had a superb early season and earned a move to Biloxi, but struggled and returned to Brevard County. He finished the year with five saves and whiffed 9.4 batters/nine.
The Manatees will have a new look next year, although some of the players from this season will return for an encore. This is a good training ground, as the Advanced A to Class AA jump is a big one. We look forward to seeing Manatees performing in Milwaukee in the near future.