At the start: York’s infield at the start of the year had Chris Nowak at first base, Andres Perez at second, Danny Gonzalez at short stop and Ramon Castro at third with depth coming from back-ups in utlity man Joe Spiers and player-coach Liu Rodriguez.
With so many infielders, York soon shipped Spiers to Lincoln (American Association) on May 21 for a player to be named later – opting to give him an opportunity to play more often with the Salt Dogs instead of sitting on the bench in York. Spiers, who York acquired from Lancaster in an off-season trade for a player to be named later, played in just three games for the Revs, batting 2-for-7 at the plate (.286) with a double, RBI and one run scored. He went on to bat a collective .305 with two homers, 29 RBIs 53 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 86 games split between Lincoln St. Paul (American Association).
In the middle: York took a big blow to its lineup when Nowak got picked up June 22 by the Mexican League’s Mexico City club. Outfielder Michael Hernandez would end up playing first during Nowak’s brief absence. The Revs also signed Kyle Haines to provide some depth in the infield. However, Nowak soon returned July 2 after being cut by Mexico City – the team apparently needed to trim its roster for the playoffs and decided between Nowak and Johan Limonta (more on him later).
York released Haines a couple weeks later. He held a .217 average with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored in the eight games he played for the Revs. Haines soon found work with Lancaster and finished the year batting .239 with a homer, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored 42 games for the Barnstormers. He also had two at-bats in the Freedom Division Championship Series against York.
Anyway, the Revs ended up making a huge upgrade at short stop (and no, I’m not talking about the size of the players involved) by signing Joe Thurston and trading away Danny Gonzalez to Lancaster.
Gonzalez hit a disappointing .249 in 75 games for York. For what it’s worth, he also had three homers, 20 RBIs and 39 runs scored. He didn’t have a great glove, either. Perhaps that’s why Thurston looked so good at short. Or perhaps it’s because he’s arguably the best short stop York has had at the position. Outside of four games at Class AA Reading in 2007, Thurston hasn’t played below the Class AAA level since 2001. The former big leaguer – mainly with the St. Louis Cardinals - owns a career .291 average in more than 1,100 games at the Class AAA level. He went on to collect a .314 average, eight homers, 28 RBIs and 46 runs scored in 58 games for the Revs. In addition, consider that he put up those numbers after sitting out the previous couple months since the Minnesota Twins released him from Class AAA Rochester in mid-May.
The Revs also added infielder Johan Limonta (remember him?) in early August. He came up from the Mexican League’s Mexico City ballclub, where he batted an astounding .384 in 27 games. The Cuban defector wound up .277 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 39 games for the Revs.
Saying goodbye: Ramon Castro entered the 2012 season on thin ice with Andy Etchebarren. Sure, the infielder had put up good numbers since coming to York in 2010 and helping the ball club win back-to-back league titles. But at times during those two seasons, Etch’ would have appreciated a little more hustle from Castro. So, Castro was already on a short leash when he did something Etch’ didn’t approve of during a game Aug. 29 at Southern Maryland. Etch’ soon suspended Castro for what he called an “on-the-field incident.” The team would cut release him just a few days later. There could have been other factors into his release as well, like his 10 errors at third base or his .288 average in 105 games (a good average, but off from the .323 average he had in 2011 and .339 average he had in 2010).
In the end: By the of the end of the year, York’s infield consisted of Thurston at short stop and Perez at second base. With the departure of Castro, Limonta moved to first base while Nowak moved from first to third.
Nowak and Perez clearly had the the best seasons of any Revs players in 2012. Nowak became the club’s all-time leader in homers (59) and set York’s single-season home run mark with 34 dingers, which led the league. A clear candidate for the league’s MVP honor, Nowak was also the league’s highest home run total since 2005. His 107 RBIs were also tops in the league and the most since 2005. Twenty-one of his 34 homers came at Sovereign Bank Stadium, which set a club record for homers hit by a Revs’ player at home in a single season. He also holds the all-time stadium record (30). Though Nowak fnished with a .285 average, he did bat an impressive .320 in the final 67 games.
Perez, meanwhile, just had career-highs in homers (23) and RBIs (85). He ranked fourth in the league in homers and fifth in RBIs. He scored 86 times. In addition, Perez made quite an improvement moving from the outfield, a position he had played most of his career, to second base. Player-coach Liu Rodriguez can be credited with a nice job teaching Perez the tricks of the trade at second base.
Who should stay/go: I guess I should always preface this by saying if the team can afford the player then he should return. It’s recommended Atlantic League clubs pay out a maximum to a player of $3,000 a month. And after the years Nowak and Perez had, one can imagine they’ll be asking for raises.
With that being said, Nowak and Perez should be brought back. As should Thurston. Nowak and Perez and still young enough to draw interest from major league clubs in the future (remember, that’s what the Atlantic League is here for, to send guys to the bigs). I hesitated on Thurston a little bit considering his age (32). I get the fact that he’s put up good numbers and consistently made dazzling plays at short. But there comes a point when Atlantic League clubs should cut ties with a player when he becomes older and not just keep him around because he puts up good numbers while scouts have very little interest of him because of his age. However, Thurston was last in the majors in 2011 at the age of 31. And he’s put up good numbers everywhere he’s been. So, I imagine there are still some scouts out there who are still interested in his services.
Limonta, meanwhile, is a different story. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. He seemed like he is good for the clubhouse and he was always respectful with the media. This is moreso because of the defense. Should Nowak return, I’d rather see him back at his normal position at first base. As much as Nowak improved through the season at third, he did end the year with a team-high 18 errors, which tied for seventh in the league. So, put Nowak at first and find a solid defender at third who can match or do better than Limonta’s .277 average.Read More