I’ll get back to the position-by-position previews later this weekend, but the discussion for this week will center around which of the Wingnuts’ five starting pitchers will be starting on opening day, May 14 against Lincoln.
As you may have seen in my season preview (sort of) a couple weeks ago, the projected rotation features two right-handers and three southpaws. Not everything is set in stone regarding the rotation, but the breakdown looks like this:
Lefties: Brad Davis, Richard Salazar
Righties: Gabe Medina, Derek Blacksher, Will Savage (newcomer)
So which one is the No. 1 starter? In my opinion, three guys can make a case to start the opening game — Davis, Salazar and Medina. Let’s check the qualifications for each pitcher:
Brad Davis — Davis reached Triple A in the Oakland Athletics organization in 2007, and in his only start with Triple-A Sacramento, he pitched seven scoreless innings. He was released that offseason, though, and when the Wingnuts picked him up he was the obvious choice to lead last year’s starting staff. And that he did, starting Wichita’s inaugural American Association game and picking up the first win in team history.
That was the first ‘up’ in a season full of ups and downs for Davis, who earned points with me by getting me into his warmup song, “Country Man” by Luke Bryan. But Davis was a primary culprit on a mostly inconsistent staff. Still, his final numbers were respectable — 8-8 with a 3.89 ERA and a team-best 70 strikeouts in 111 innings. Davis struggled with finding a rhythm last season — he’d follow his great outings with so-so or poor ones.
Richard Salazar — Probably the MVP of the Wingnuts’ pitching staff last season. So good, in fact, that then-manager Kash Beauchamp moved him from the bullpen to the rotation around mid-season even though that move left the Wingnuts without a left-handed reliever.
Salazar, a former Triple-A player in the Orioles’ organization, was strong in the bullpen and even stronger as a starter, stringing together several solid starts in a row after he made the switch. He ran out of gas a little bit at the end of the season but held hitters to a .240 averaged and walked a little more than three batters per nine innings while notching a 5-7 record with a 3.57 ERA, best on the team among those who made double-digit starts.
Gabe Medina — This is the great unknown. To hear Josh Robertson speak of this guy, he’s the second-coming of Three Finger Brown or something. In truth, Medina was organizational filler in the Yankees organization before being released at age 25 without ever getting out of Class A.
Now, Class A can be a lot different from independent ball. But it’s not THAT different. And Medina was 5-3 in 56 career minor league games – nine starts – with a 4.14 ERA. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 15th round of the 2006 draft after three seasons at Emporia State, where he was 19-7, including 13-2 his final year with an outstanding 1.04 WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched). He was the Division II pitcher of the year in 2006.
Medina has good strikeout numbers in the minors — 8.2 K’s per nine-innings. Accoring to a post-draft article on Medina, he possesses a 92-MPH fastball, which he complements with a curveball and a cut fastball. It should be interesting to see how his stuff translates to this level.
So who should be the ace? Not Medina, who I think will be slotted at No. 2 to break up the left-handers. That leaves lefties Salazar and Davis. Honestly, before I wrote this I would have said Salazar. But Davis’ numbers last season were a little better than I thought they were. Not far from Salazar’s numbers, and I think he has the slightly higher ceiling. So I’m going with Davis, who would remain the only opening day starter in Wingnuts history.
I think I once again made Kevin Hooper’s job a little easier.