Second wave of Signings, On-field season preview

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LaDale Hayes is anxiously waiting for the season to start..

Ladies and gentlemen, the baseball season is upon us, and boy do we ever have a lot to talk about in this season preview.

The Fat Cats have made a couple more signings since I last posted, which include a few returning players and also some new faces from the open tryout that the Fat Cats hosted this past Saturday. Also on the day of the open tryout was an exhibition game between the Fat Cats and the Gatineau Volant, a junior team who play in the LBEQ over in Quebec. The result from that game was somewhat surprising – I’ll get to that in a few moments.

Also, since this is a season preview post, we’ll have to discuss what the Fat Cats need to succeed this year.

With all this considered, let’s get things cookin’.

I don’t know who he or she is, but whoever is filling in the slot left by Duncan MacDonald has been one busy person for the past few weeks. Since my last post on here about a month ago, the FCs have signed a total of 10 players. Mombourquette, Barclay, Desclouds, Sebastian and Durward are the re-signings, while Major, Boisvert, Gagnon and Craig-St. Louis are new additions to the team from the open tryout and just yesterday the Fat Cats inked OF Wade Wilson.

Out of the re-signings, the only player of those 5 who hasn’t been on the team for it’s full 3-year existence is William Sebastian, and Sebastian is one of the bigger pieces on this roster to begin with. So, all of those re-signings are huge for Ottawa.

On to the new faces on this Ottawa roster, who got to showcase their talents in the open tryout and the exhibition game on the 28th. To say that they “showcased” their talents would be an understatement, as the Fat Cats walked all over the Volant by a score of 22-4. While the returning players played a huge role in the win (how about that inside the park GRAND SLAM from Kyle Barclay), the new guys really shined through.

Fat Cats fans and media were giddy with excitement after the game, talking about the outstanding performance of Phil Craig-St. Louis. “Craig-St. Louis had the best game of anyone on either team today” said Carlos Vert – Fat Cats play-by-play guy – on the FC facebook page after the game. I tend to agree with him. I wasn’t at the game, but from what I heard on the radio broadcast, Craig-St. Louis was stellar on the bases and even better at the plate, going 4 for 5 including a walk.

Now, I don’t expect him to be the Cats’ best player throughout the regular season, but if this game was any indication, he’s isn’t a bad pick-up for the team.

Of the new guys, the one with the most (and only) experience in this league is Marc-Andre Major. Major formerly played for the Brantford Red Sox from 2008-2011 and had stats that weren’t off the chart, but still fairly solid. Going by what I’ve heard from Brantford fans, he’s a good pitcher when he’s on his game, but is completely different when he’s off it.  It’ll be interesting to see how he turns out in Ottawa this season.

Another gap in the roster that the Fat Cats have appeared to fill is in behind the plate. Nicholas Laviolette joins the Fat Cats, while Chad Brisebois re-joins the team, as he played for the Fat Cats in their expansion season.

Laviolette was sharp behind the plate, picking off a Volant attempting to steal 2nd base with a powerful throw, and making some very good decisions with the ball, impressing me on many occasions.  Brisebois also took part in the Gatineau game. He definitely wasn’t bad, but to be honest I don’t really expect him to stay with the team going into the playoffs. He seems like more of a spare part than anything, but who knows? We’ve still got a whole season to play and anything can happen.

Moving on, the Fat Cats start their season in Guelph (welcome back, Royals) tomorrow evening.

If last weekend’s game is any indication, it’ll be a pretty successful season. However, the Fat Cats players say they’re not looking at this year any differently than last. “Our goals have not changed going into this season. People might be pressuring us to have some kind of run like last year, but once again, you can’t look ahead to August” said Chris Latimer. “We are just looking to win Baseball games and once again get into the playoffs.”

A very modest answer from Chris and with a team like the Fat Cats, you can’t really afford to not be modest. They’re a small ball team who works very well in their own park, but long road trips to parks that have their little quirks will be a test for this team. It’ll be interesting to see how things work out on the road and that could be the difference between having home field advantage in the playoffs.

Another key asset for any baseball team is the manager. It would appear that Tim Nelson will be returning as manager of Ottawa for next season, much to the delight of the Fat Cats.

“I knew Tim before this past year. He coached me for a year when I was 15. So I was extremely excited when I heard he was going to be coaching us [in 2011]” remarked 3rd year veteran Josh Soffer. “I had a pretty good feeling he would be able to get alot more out of players at this age. We just related to him much better. Aside from the managerial decisions he felt like one of us. “

Chris Latimer also had some positive things to say when asked about Nelson. “Nelly is a guy that you want to play for and he played a crucial role in our success last season. He knows the game very well and really knows how to get everything out of his players.”

When I heard that he was returning, I let out a sigh of relief. Like Josh Soffer said earlier, the Fat Cats seemed to connect with Nelson. He’s a pretty young guy, it seems, and that always helps when you’ve got a team in their 20s for the most part. He also knows what his team can do, and adjusted their playing style accordingly.

If the Fat Cats can find a way to pull everything together at the right time, much like last year, this could be a very successful season. Hold on to your hats, because the 2012 year is most definitely going to be a good one.

  1. “It’s with CFRA’s Elliott Finkelman, CTV’s Terry Marcotte, and Ottawa Fat Cats’ Assistant General Manager Jonathan Trottier and Center Fielder Kevin Dietrich.”

    [audio src="http://proxy.autopod.ca/podcasts/chum/38/6853/LB-12.05.04.mp3" /]

    • Pierre
    • May 8th, 2012

    The GM position is being filled by Brian Carolan and being assisted by Jonathan Trottier.

    I don’t see Craig-St.Louis on the roster. I know he was supposedly signed. He also does not show up in any of the two games so far.

    Only two games so far but some good, some bad.

    Bad: 16 strike outs by hitters. Way too high. Early in the season and likely to be expected I guess but they didn’t strike out quite this much last year.

    Good: 10 walks but 8 of those in two innings against Guelph’s starter which means just two walks in last 16 innings. Not good although they happened in first three innings in Toronto and put their starter on the ropes.

    Good: 8 stolen bases, no caught stealing.Three by Mombo, two by Hayes at the top of the order. We should see lots of baserunning activity this year, especially by those two.

    Bad: one reason for running is that again, this team has no power. Just two extra base hits in 18 hits. Hard to score runs this way.

    Bad: having to pinch hit a pitcher, Sabourin, for your ninth hitter. I think someone was missing in action.

    Bad: five errors. Last year, the team was the best fielding team after being the worst the previous year. The three errors in Guelph did not lead to unearned runs but could have and cost the game.

    Good: Huffman’s pitching. Need someone to take up slack until McGovern returns to rotation, if he does.

    • Yeah, I figured that it would be either Carolan, Balloch or Trottier as the GM.. didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. Thanks for letting me know.

      Craig-St. Louis probably just couldn’t make the road trip. I would be surprised if he wasn’t with the team in Barrie and Kitchener.

      You’re right, the fact that this team has limited power is concerning, but the stolen bases and the speed on the base pads helps with that. Nelson recognizes the lack of power and tries to work around it. Sometimes it effective and other times not so much.

      About the errors, I’m disappointed with the fielding from this team so far. In 2010 the fielding was putrid, but as you said they really picked it up last season. Hoping that progress isn’t thrown down the drain. Don’t think it will be.. that would be weird if the fielding just imploded in one season, especially after all the progress.

      Huffman was unbelievable. A bit of a rocky start in the 1st inning, but he was absolutely lights out after that. TOR had no-one on base for a span of 5 innings.

      I’m keeping a positive attitude. We’re still early in the season, so some kinks are obviously going to have to be worked out. Even then, we came very close to going 2-0 against 2 of the best teams in the league. That’s not too shabby. Once the kinks are worked out, this team could be scary.

      Thanks weighing in, Pierre. Your insight is always appreciated.

    • Pierre
    • May 11th, 2012

    >> Craig-St. Louis probably just couldn’t make the road trip.

    Probably but he’s still not listed on the roster. What this team needs is guys that are prepared and can make road trips. Can’t have pitchers hitting for themselves or use them as pinch-hitters or pinch-runners because only 11 players made the trip. And Charrette is back when I had heard he wouldn’t be able to.

    I checked the first two games last year. They had 15 hits and 3 doubles, all in the first game as they only had three hits against Toronto in their second game. That doubles to hits ratio was more in line with what you’d expect although you shouldn’t put much weight on just a couple of games.

    But the team slugging last year actually went down compared to 2010 and worse, it went down as the league’s went up. Even worse, is that this ratio of team slugging vs league were two of the worst since 2001. The problem is that you have to work with what’s available, local amateur players. The region never really produced high quality baseball players. The last local major league hitter was Doug Frobel and he doesn’t compare to a Rob Ducey or Adam Stern.

    The power is going to come from somewhere else unless we find a local gem. I’m not saying hit them out, just hit them for doubles and occasional triples or inside the parkers when someone misjudges a ball. By the way, you know who got the last home run at home last year? Charrette on opening night. Mathis had one earlier that game, his only one of the season.

    Coker is supposed to fill the power gap. Has yet to show it but traditionally, power hitters get off to slow starts. He did go 3/6 and a stolen base.

    • Yeah, the power is obviously lacking with this team, but there are ways to get around it. I mean, the fact that we made the finals last year as the worst slugging team says something right?

      Not saying we shouldn’t try to get some power, because 9 homers in one season isn’t gonna do it, and I think we’re on the right track with Coker. We’ll see how he evolves as the season progresses.

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