Burlington, VT - Last season was, by all accounts, a season of rebuilding for the Burlington Bison. Making few offseason moves, the Bison were poised for a season of rebuilding. Holding steady at last place at the All-Star break and looking to unload aging talent but finding no takers, the Bison played on... and actually turned the season around to clinch the second NL Wild Spot on the last day of the season by tying with the Norfolk Tars. Management has given no clear indication of which route the team is taking for S16, but with the core of the team returning, this team could be the first half losers of S15 or the second half contenders. GM Raul Padilla is convinced that his team is an improvement, but is still a few pieces away from being a legit contender and not a fluke. "Last season, we had several guys who put up career years. We think we can compete, and have brought in some new talent both from the free agency market and from the minors, but we will be looking to tweak the team midseason depending on how things go", Padilla said.
Once again, the Bison put together an anemic offensive team with good defense and good pitching, but don't expect the Bison to finish any better than last in a tough division.
Departing... Gone are 1B Jayson Penny (.285 AVG, 8HR), 3B Eddie ingram (.231, 9HR and a huge disappointment), C Aaron Schrenk, P Bud Lankford, P Elvis Forest and RP Walt Robinson .
Robinson, who departed as a free agent to sign with the Buffalo Blizzard, will likely be the biggest loss to the Bison.
Patrick McCurry, 2B - signed by the Bison to a ridiculous contract for an aging player, it is not clear where he will play or how frequently, but the Bison were attracted by his mixture of contact, speed and defense at the top of the lineup.
Greg Smith, C - The Bison have repeatedly tried to acquire Smith over the years and are convinced that he will be the backup catcher they have sorely missed, but others believe Smith is simply holding a spot until the arrival of one of the Bison catching prospects.
Clay Malone, P - Malone signed as a free agent for the Bison, and could be a huge mistake if he doesn't stay healthy... which is a HUGE unknown factor. He will battle for the 5th starting spot with Geronimo Martinez and Juan Pena, both of whom played swing roles between starting and relief last season.
Torey Mercado, LH RP - Mercado was a reliable lefthanded specialist for the Bison several seasons ago. AFter lingering in minor relief roles and swinging between AAA and the Majors, the Bison reclaimed him as a Rule 5 pickup from Seattle and are looking for him to return to top reliever form.
Expect the last position spot to be filled after a Spring training battle between Dustin Nunnally, Alberto Santayana and Rodrigo Vargas, one of which will likely earn the at bats that Ingram had last season. Pitcher Fernando Baez, who had a cup of coffee with the team after the September callups, has an outisde shot at earning a bullpen role after an impressive spring, but will likely compete with fellow prospects Del Butler, Glenn Hall and Joshua Davenport. However, the Bison's top prospects are all catchers, with Nick Vitiello apparently ready for the ML team, but likely to spend another year in the minors. Other minor league catching prospects may become trade bait if a mid-season move needs to happen or if injuries deplete the ML roster.
The Bison's lineup (and last seasons totals) projects to be:
Aaron Bailey, CF - (.254 AVG, .317 OBP, 4 HRs, 60+ SBs)
Patrick McCurry, LF (.302 AVG, .373 OBP, 11 HRs, 50+ SBs)
Norberto Fernandez, 1B (.273 AVG, .345 OBP, 18 HRs)
Tyler Merrick, 3B (.273 AVG, .345 OBP, 21 HRs)
Anthony Christensen, RF (.257, .334 OBP , 21 HRs)
Dustin Nunally, 2B (.294 AVG, .380 OBP, 20 HR in AAA)
Brandon Raines, C (.242, .304 obp, 16 HRs)
Tony Tatis, SS (vs R) (.249 AVG, .298 OBP, 6 HRs)
Steve Karl, SS (vs L) (.221 AVG, .271 OBP, 9 HRs)
Gerald Sanders, IF (.255, .308 OBP, 8 HRs)
Greg Smith, C (.238 AVG, .287 OBP, 9 HRs)
Tony Lamb, 1B/LF (.256 AVG, .327 OBP, 10 HRS)
Cookie Ramirez, RH SP (18-7, 2.31 ERA)
Ismael Alvarado, RH SP (6010, 3.19 ERA)
Rick Cobb, RH SP (15-10, 3.21 ERA)
OT Ferrara, LH SP (8-10, 3.40 ERA)
Clay Malone, RH SP (6-5, 4.28 ERA)
Juan Pena, RH SP (7-5, 3.69 ERA)
Geronimo Martinez, RHP (7-1, 1.69 ERA)
Norm Holdridge, RHP (5-2, 3.65 ERA)
Woody Brosius, RHP (4-4, 3.40 ERA, 8 SV)
Edwards Ransom, RHP (4-6, 4.59 ERA)
Torey Mercado, LH RP (4 IP, 3.86 ERA)
Robert Owens, RH RP (14 SV, 3.14 ERA)
Fernando Baez, RH RP (2 IP, 0.00 ERA)