The Barnstormers/Revolution comparison

To be clear, I am still a proponent of melting down the vaunted Community Cup and turning it into a Christmas ornament. But the Lancaster/York rivalry does have its moments.

So with the spring training rosters for both teams close to completion, let’s compare the teams that share the Susquehanna River as their dividing boundary. In case you forgot — and how could you? — the Barnstormers won last year’s War of the Roses series 10-8 and helped both clubs avoid an embarrassing situation in the event of a tie.

Last time I checked though, I don’t remember York mayor John Brenner planting a Red Rose garden as promised. Maybe someone should check up on this.

Anyway, on to the comparison. Lancaster’s roster and the projected roles for its players are borrowed from colleague Jason Guarente of Barnstormin and the New Era.

PITCHING

Lancaster (12): Rotation: Zack Parker, Mike Nannini, Eric Ackerman, Tim McClaskey, Derek Forbes. Bullpen: Jose Cabrera, Ryan Cullen, Patrick Cassa, Ricardo Gomez, Franklin Mendible, Ross Peeples, Sendy Rleal.

York (10): Rotation: Wayne Franklin, Pete Munro, Aaron Myette, Corey Thurman, Landon Jacobsen. Bullpen: Dave Veres, Jason Olson, Aaron Rakers, Nick McCurdy, Reid Price.

The verdict: For starters, Lancaster and York both have many projects in these groups — but hey, that’s the Atlantic League. The Barnstormers are trying to make Ackerman a starter this year after two serviceable years in the bullpen, Mendible hasn’t pitched with a big league organization since 2000 and Cassa’s only experience came in the Pioneer League. On the flip side for York, Myette didn’t pitch professionally at all last year, Thurman is coming off extensive shoulder surgery in ’04 that robbed him of velocity and Price pitched in the now-defunct South Coast League last season.

But when you get to the proven guys on both teams, the Revs have the serious edge. Parker could put up the best numbers of any of the 22 players here, but York has two impressive front-of-the-rotation starters in Franklin and Munro. Thurman and Myette also have big league experience and incredible track records in the minors, which doesn’t necessarily give them the edge over McClaskey and Nannini, but could be used as an indicator of future performance.

In the bullpen, Rleal could put together the best season of all these players, but again, overall I have to side with the Revolution. Rakers should be solid, McCurdy put together an excellent season at Double-A last year and Veres could be a wild card. If York manages to sign closer Franklin Nunez again, that would give the Revs a distinct advantage in the pen.

LINEUP

Lancaster (10): Matt LeCroy (1B/C), Lance Burkhart (C), Mike Woods (2B/OF), Dominick Ambrosini (OF), Ian Bladergroen (1B), Juan Francia (INF), Jutt Hileman (OF), Manny Mejia (C), Brian Stavisky (OF), Lloyd Turner (Util).

York (13): Kevin Kotch (C), Luis Taveras (C), Sandy Aracena (C), Matt Dryer (1B), Matt Padgett (OF/1B), Tyler Von Schell (1B/3B/OF), Jason Aspito (3B/OF), Keoni De Renne (INF), Kaz Tanaka (OF), Travis Ezi (CF), Matt Esquivel (OF), Jose Enrique Cruz (INF), Kenny Perez (INF).

The verdict: While York appears to have some players with potential power, the Barnstormers’ lineup dwarfs what the Revs have been able to put together so far. LeCroy is the biggest name here — and probably throughout the entire league — and the addition of Stavisky to Lancaster’s roster gives the club a potential No. 3 hitter. This is something York still doesn’t have.

With the current lineup the way it is, the Revs appear to be on their way to a ton of strikeouts. The club finished last in the league in home runs last season and they should improve on that placement this summer. But that upgrade appears to be at the expense of batting average and suitable on-base production.

Lancaster holds the advantage in just about every position in the lineup. Woods will be a better leadoff man than Ezi, Ambrosini could hit second and is a better average hitter than anyone York has and I’ve already gone over Stavisky and LeCroy. Imagine this: Bladergroen, Burkhart and Hileman will probably hit fifth, sixth and seventh in this lineup. That resembles the robust lineup Lancaster put together in its championship season in 2006.

DEFENSE

Wait, you mean there’s defense played in the Atlantic League?

I couldn’t resist saying it and I won’t bore you with much detail in this category. Right now, Lancaster is without a shortstop — the most crucial defensive position — but I’m still willing to bet the Barnstormers’ defense will have a slight edge at the beginning of the year.

York will have numerous players playing out of position — assuming Dryer has to DH to start the year. You have to like York’s potential outfield defensively (Ezi in center, Tanaka in left and Esquivel in right), but we have to wonder how often Tanaka will crack the lineup. The Revs will need Padgett’s bat in the No. 3 or No. 4 hole and if he doesn’t play first, that leaves left field as the likely spot for him.

DIRECTOR OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS

Lancaster: Keith Lupton/Von Hayes.

York: Adam Gladstone.

The verdict: I must say I went into the offseason thinking Gladstone (right) would dominate in this area, but other than a pitching staff filled with former major leaguers, Lupton and Hayes have held their own. They wrestled Rleal away despite York’s penchant for always picking up former Orioles and also added the biggest offensive name in the league in LeCroy.

What will be interesting to see is how these teams deal with replacing players. Putting together a roster to take to spring training is nice, but dealing with injuries and affiliated signings adequately is the most crucial aspect of this job. With Gladstone’s extensive experience in the Atlantic League and the fact that he’s finding players for only one team, I have to think he will have the edge here. But considering I was wrong before, the team of Lupton/Hayes could definitely hold their own.

COACHING STAFF

Lancaster: Von Hayes (manager), Boots Day (hitting coach), Rick Wise (pitching coach).

York: Chris Hoiles (manager), Tippy Martinez (pitching coach), Sam Snider (bench coach).

The verdict: I’m of the opinion that managers don’t really make much difference in the Atlantic League. There are fewer in-game decisions and skippers are more apt to give players an extended opportunity to succeed. (Extreme Example: Hoiles leaving Chris Steinborn in for 148 1/3 innings last year despite a 6.13 ERA)

What would be interesting to see is how these men would fare in a steel cage match against each other. My guess is Hoiles could probably take Wise and Day simultaneously. I think I smell an on-field promotion for this year’s War of the Roses.

BALLPARK AND FINAL VERDICT

So who has the better ballpark? Both stadiums have their distinct characteristics (the Arch Nemesis at Sovereign Bank Stadium and the short right-field porch at the Clip), but I’m willing to let the fans voice their opinions in the comment section of this blog to settle the debate.

As for the final verdict, I’d like to point out an axiom that I’ve heard since I started covering this league: In the Atlantic League, you have mostly Triple-A type hitters mixed with Double-A type pitchers. So if this is true, Lancaster should have the better team this year. The Barnstormers have assembled a better lineup and Triple-A hitters will continue to feast on Double-A pitchers in this league.  

*Community Cup photo by Steve Russ; Gladstone photo by Dispatch photo editor Randy Flaum; Cylo/Downtown photo by John Boal.

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7 Responses

  1. Two days ago I might have still given the edge to York, but signing LeCroy and Stavisky really tips things in Lancaster’s favor. As a York fan, the only consolation is that I have a feeling that Stavisky won’t last too long. I would imagine that he’d be at the top of the “who to call” list if a “moneyball” style team like Boston or Toronto is in need of a AA or AAA outfielder.

  2. Using that same outlook, if any of York’s pitchers perform well with their backgrounds, they shouldn’t be around long either. Pitching is always needed somewhere.

  3. That raises an interesting debate for Atlantic League roster building strategy:

    Should you always be looking for the best possible players or is there some merit in signing guys who are just a notch below with the idea in mind that they are more likely to play a full season for you?

    For the sake of the argument- If Lancaster was giving York an outfielder for “past considerations” and they said that you could choose between Jutt Hileman and Brian Stavisky for the Revs, who do you go with (ignoring positional need)?

    Do you go with Stavisky who, from his career numbers, could contend for the batting title until he signs elsewhere at some point?

    Or do you go with Hileman who will be an above average AL player, but probably not quite as good Stavisky, and stick around all year?

  4. My theory is you always go after the best player because you can’t predict the future. The Barnstormers signed Reggie Taylor in 2006 and everyone figured he’d be gone in a month. He played the whole season in Lancaster. You just never know,

  5. I agree with what Jason is saying. That happened with Franklin Nunez just last year.

    He was being scouted from the moment he got to spring training and almost spent the entire season with the Revs. Injuries played a part in that of course, but you don’t know. Sometimes affiliated organizations want to see a player perform for an extended period of time before taking the risk.

  6. Thanks for a great article comparing the two teams. I look forward to reading more of your insights.

  7. For the record, York’s ballpark has a lot more going for it then Lancaster.

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