Another IBL season is set to get under way on this coming Saturday with Barrie facing Brantford and Burlington taking their talents to Hastings Stadium in Guelph. However, even though the Fat Cats have been forced out of Ottawa Stadium for what will hopefully be just one year, there will be some former Cats in action on Saturday.
Indeed, there have been a couple signings around the IBL as teams look to improve their staff before the first pitch of the season. These signings include some former Fat Cats, of whom we’ll highlight in today’s post.
Josh Soffer – Barrie Baycats
Barrie’s stock has definitely gone up this off-season, acquiring the rights of some of the Fat Cats’ best players. Soffer was 2nd in the IBL in saves last year, only trailing IBL veteran Stefan Strecker. “I’ve been told that I’m in the mix for closer. At very least being a late inning guy” said Soffer in an interview over Facebook. “Honestly though, I’m going to do the same thing whether I’m starting closing long relief. That gets outs.”
If Angus Roy and the Baycats brass want the best from their pitching staff, I suggest they place Soffer in the closing role. After a bit of a rocky start last year, he came back to show why he’s one of the best pitchers in this league, posting a 3.57 ERA which was the best out of the top 5 closers in the IBL last season.
James Amelotte – Barrie Baycats
This sensational young pitcher will most likely get a shot at pitching for an affiliated club in the future, but for now he joins Soffer in Barrie.
I was very impressed with Amelotte in the games that we saw him pitch in, where on one occasion he held the perennial powerhouse Brantford Red Sox to just 3 runs in a complete game effort. He seems very strong mentally and is only going to get better. He’ll be another solid addition for Barrie.
Jason Coker – Barrie Baycats
As one of Ottawa’s imports, it looks as though Jason Coker enjoyed last year’s experience in Ottawa enough to make a return to the Great White North this season. This was confirmed when I asked him about it; “Let me start by saying that I love Canada. I had a blast last summer stepping out of my comfort zone.”
Not only does Coker want to be in Canada this year, but his will to be the best is also still there and he’s clearly looking forward to this coming season. “I still have the drive to compete on the field. I have a genuine passion for the game. It’s something I would never give up if I didn’t have to.”
“The Barrie Baycats organization extended me another chance to live out my dream. They have a solid fan base and it presents a great atmosphere for us on the field.”
Brandon Huffman – Brantford Red Sox
The Red Sox are already a club that could most definitely compete with the best of the Can-Am indy pro league. This Huffman acquisition only bolsters the accuracy of that statement.
“[Huffman’s] success last year in the IBL spoke for itself but after we were able to touch base with Brandon his desire to continue to get better and personality made us feel he would be a perfect fit in Brantford” said Brantford GM Mike Bonnano. “The staff in Ottawa did a great job finding Brandon and we are hopeful by seasons end he will have a chance to play affiliated baseball”.
Huffman not only led the league in strikeouts last year, he blew away the competition, posting 94 Ks in 12 appearances. His closest competition in that category was Marek Deska of Toronto, who was still 16 behind Huffman.
As GM Bonnano said, hopefully we’ll see Huffman get the chance to play in an MLB system by the end of the year. The intensity of his game and his ability to throw heat should get him there sooner than later, but until then, the 5-time defending champions just got quite a bit better.
Bryce MacDonald-Wilson – Guelph Royals
I guess Guelph Royals GM Dave teBoekhorst did some scouting during last year’s IBL Quarterfinal. Bryce MacDonald-Wilson has had his playing rights acquired by the Guelph Royals.
MacDonald-Wilson was never used to the extent that he could’ve been – for whatever reason that may be – however from what I’ve seen from him, he’s a capable swing man and can definitely contribute to the Royals.
He’ll definitely play a part in the Royals’ bolstered pitching staff, as they also added former Barrie Baycat Scott Price who has thrown for an ERA of under 2 in his past 2 seasons. Look for Guelph to be even better this season.
Brett Sabourin – London Majors
Another team looking to add some playoff performers in an attempt to move on is the London Majors.
Sabourin played a key role in the Cats’ run to the IBL Final in 2011, posting a 3.99 ERA in the starting rotation alongside Matt McGovern and William Sebastian (ah yes, the good ol’ days).
It’s no secret that London has looked to improve in any way possible and a playoff performer like Sabourin will no doubt be a positive addition to their starting rotation – assuming that’s where manager Roop Chanderdat puts him.
Matt McGovern – Kitchener Panthers
It took about a week, but Matt McGovern has signed on to play with the Kitchener Panthers. Last season seemed like a rehab season for Gov, where he didn’t see much action on the mound but manned first base for Tim Nelson. We’ll see what the plan is for McGovern in the coming year, as he has now had a two years to recuperate from his beaten and battered 2011 playoff season.
Currently, Kitchener has him in their DH slot under “other” on their roster. He shares that category solely with Jeff Pietraszko.
If I had to guess, that will likely change. Gov did hit as the DH a few times in Ottawa, but it’s pretty absurd to have a set DH from the beginning of the year, so he’ll probably move around in the lineup. Whether that is to the mound or not is still to be seen.
Cody Mombourquette – Toronto Maple Leafs
The IBL wasn’t Cody Mombourquette‘s first choice when it came to league play earlier this year. It was brought to my attention a little while ago that this happened:
Frontier League Transactions May 10, 2013
FRONTIER GREYS: Released RHP Dakota Laufenberg, RHP Jeff Lyons, INF Cody Mombourquette, OF Austin Newell, RHP D.J. Stinsman, and RHP Brandon Thielk.
It appears that Mombourquette attended a tryout for the Frontier League road team this year and even may have been signed originally. The Greys eventually ruled against keeping him around, for whatever reason.
Regardless, Mombo should have another good year in the IBL, this time wearing a Leafs jersey. He’s notorious for being a tough out for pitchers and could bring some youthful energy that Toronto has been missing for the past few years now.
I’ll be following these guys around throughout the summer – if anything notable comes up, I’ll be sure to post it here.
I wish all former Fat Cats the best of luck in the future. Hopefully we’ll be seeing them in a Fat Cats jersey once again in 2014.