The Rough Riders are coming off their third straight playoff appearance with Season 8 ending in a hard fought but disappointing 3-2 series defeat at the hands of Rochester in the divisional round.
With future Hall of Famer and team ace Antoine Day turning 35 and a strong lineup (3rd in the NL in runs scored) filled with hitters in their prime the Rough Riders believe their title window is now. Ottawa gave up their Season 8 first round pick to sign Type A free agent and season seven AL MVP Terry Pratt in an attempt to get over the hump and have also scaled back their international scouting efforts to free up more money for payroll.
Given this win now focus and the graduation of starting pitchers Charles Suzuki and Rookie of the Year Alberto Oliva, the Rough Rider system is a little thin at this point with a handful of future major leaguers but holes in the system in terms of impact bats and both starting and relief pitching. Here are the top ten
Dennis was acquired in a Season 8 trade centered around former number 1 draft pick Luke Lincoln. Duffy shows excellent command with four pitches including an excellent sinker and slider that can generate K's and ground balls and will be especially tough on righties. Questions remain about his ability to get lefties out consistently and his ability to go consistently deep into games. He projects as a number 2 starter with an ETA of season 11
An international bonus baby from Season 6, Belliard projects as an above average gap hitter, especially against lefties, with the ability to take a walk. He's a solid catch-and-throw guy and shows the ability to call a strong game. He's a gamer who will play day-in-day-out although injuries are a bit of a concern. He will start this season in AA, with an ETA of season 11 which is the final year of Terry Pratt's deal
LaRocca was acquired from St Louis in the Garrett Fox deal. LaRocca has elite plate discipline and should be a strong 15 HR/.850 OPS hitter with speed at the big league level. Defense is a bit of a concern, but it looks like he'll be able to play an adequate second base which preserves his value. Health is a concern, and he'll probably need a quasi-platoon. LaRocca will play in AAA this year and could take over at 2B in Season 10 if Norberto Manzanillo leaves as a FA
A first round draft pick, Cepicky does not have elite stuff but throws four pitches including a very good sinker and slider that generates ground balls. Command is average at best, but Kevin shows the ability to attack hitters on both sides of the plate. Cepicky projects as a back-end starter and will likely be the first man called up in case on an injury in the starting rotation.
A fourth round steal, Tejera's throws five pitches including a plus-plus 4-seamer with late rise that makes up for only OK velocity and a curveball and forkball that both generate lots of ground balls. Command is only OK and righties can hit his breaking pitches, but he started to put it togehter in Season 8 with a 9+ K/9 rate in Lo-A. Projects as a mid rotation starter with an ETA of Season 12
A solid third round pick, Powell is a solid defensive backstop comparable to Belliard defensively with a better game sense compensating for a weaker arm. Powell has put up consistent .800 OPS seasons at every level, and will likely hit adequately at the big league level. Already 25 he could hold down a big league starting spot, but is blocked in Ottawa and is potential trade bait and injury insurance
A 9th round steal, started to show results with a good year at High-A after a disasterous year at AA in Season 7. Shows most of the attributes of a top reliever with 3 pitches including a great fastball and slider, decent command and, although he is death on lefties, the ability to get out hitters from both sides of the plate. Pitches to contact and fly balls more than ideally for a closer and doesnt have a rubber arm, but will definitely make it as a lefty specialist with some upside. ETA Season 11.
This supplemental first rounder is a poor man's LaRocca, will play an above average second base with plus range but doesnt come with the batting eye or make square contact as much as LaRocca. A little bit of a safer bet than LaRocca given durability and makeup, but less potential to be an above average starter. Could see big league time this year.
This first round pick is a horse who can eat innings and attacks righties well with three plus pitches, but will be hindered by his stubbornness at throwing his below average fastball and slider. Was an all-star at Hi-A in Season 8 and will start season 9 at AA. He's already fairly polished and could see time in the back of the rotation as early as season 10
A first round pick, Jennings is limited defensively to LF and 1B and does not have the power to be an elite player at these positions, but his elite batting eye, ability to hit lefties, and makeup means he will likely have value as a 4th OF/bat off the bench or a platoon player. Injury susceptibility is a concern. Could see time by Season 11
Best of the rest
Miguel Gardel-Saw some time late last year as an added bench bat for the playoffs, likely will see the same role next year
Chad Richardson-Last year's first selection (2nd round), his bat will likely prevent him getting a starting job but will see the big leagues as a utility man due to his elite glove that plays anywhere
Jeremy Anderson-Best power bat in a weak system, wont hit for enough average to start but a potentially valuable bat off the bench
Ted Franklin-DITR, dominated A ball (albeit at 23), could be a Setup B guy
Paul Velarde-Lack of pure stuff hurts, but should be an AAAA guy