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    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    2012 Cape Cod League Standouts: Wareham Gatemen, 2012 Champions

    And, at long last, we have the 2012 Cape Cod League Champions, the Wareham Gatemen. After finishing second in the Western Division with a 21-23 record (tied with Falmouth, but with the advantage in the tiebreaker), they proceeded to sweep the Falmouth Commodores in the first round and the Bourne Braves in the second. The finals pitted them against the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. The Gatemen took games one and three, both comeback victories. The winning run in game one came in the top of the ninth, while game three saw Wareham score three runs in the top of the tenth. It marked Wareham’s first title since 2002.

    The biggest star of the season for the Gatemen was outfielder/designated hitter Tyler Horan (#29), who tied the CCBL record for home runs with a wood bat. Not only did he hit sixteen home runs, he added seven doubles and a triple, giving him an incredible, league-leading .717 slugging percentage. He also finished fifth in batting average (.342), tenth in on-base percentage (.410), and first in OPS (1.127). That equates to an astounding 204 OPS+ without accounting for park.

    Wareham’s park is right there with Bourne’s for the title of biggest pitchers’ park on the Cape, and this year, it was the biggest run suppresser. It’s actually close to Petco Park in how big of a pitchers’ park it is. Just a rough approximation would put his park-adjusted OPS+ somewhere near 220. Which is pretty crazy. As a sophomore at Virginia Tech, he’ll be eligible for the draft next year. I’m not sure how his hamstring injury (which he suffered before the start of the year) will play into his draft status, but I would still expect him to go fairly high next year.

    Indiana university freshman Kyle Schwarber (#5) provided the second half of the Gatemen’s one-two punch. On half of the other teams in the league, he would have been the top hitter; he finished third in the league in batting average (.343), fourth in on-base percentage (.432), seventh in slugging percentage (.564), six in overall OPS (.996), tenth in doubles (10), seventh in home runs (8), fourth in triples (2), and fourth in walks (24). And again, this is as a freshman. He was primarily a left fielder for the Gatemen, but back at Indiana, he’s a catcher. Without looking at park, that’s a 171 OPS+. All together, that’s a batter hitting something like 80 to 85% better than a league average hitter who can also play catcher while playing a year younger than most of the other players in the league. He may be a very early favorite for the 2014 draft-check back in a year.

    Daniel Palka (#32) is one of the two sophomores who hail from Georgia Tech. The first baseman was a superlative follow-up to Horan and Schwarber, hitting eleven home runs and carrying a .267/.356/.527 slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). That’s a 139 OPS+, which is probably closer to a 140/145 in practice. Although that doesn’t quite compare to the other two, that’s more a factor of how unbelievable Horan and Schwarber were; Palka was a very good hitter in his own right.

    His teammate a Georgia Tech, sophomore Mott Hyde (#3), served as second baseman (and occasional shortstop). Like the other three, he had exceptional pop for his position-Hyde hit nine doubles, six home runs, and .281/.366/.450. On top of that, he led the team in steals (eight, with only two caught stealing). Without park, he’s at a 123 OPS+. When you factor in his home and his defense-intensive position, he looks just as useful as everyone else covered.

    Louisville center fielder Cole Sturgeon (#2) was the final Wareham hitter of note. He spent 10.2 innings as a pitcher, but his bat was the more valuable asset. He had eight doubles, two triples, five home runs, six steals, and a .291/.369/.445 line. And if a 122 OPS+ (in reality, closer to 132) isn’t enough from a center fielder, he can always fall back on his pitching (eleven strikeouts, four walks, 1.69 ERA).

    As for the pitchers, LSU righty and sophomore Nicholas Rumbelow (#8) didn’t start, but he led the team in strikeouts, with 43 in only 25.2 innings. That helped him keep a 3.51 ERA, a 1.210 WHIP, and a 3.18 Fielding Independent Pitching mark. He was certainly an invaluable piece in the Gatemen’s title run.

    Brad Kuntz (#14), Baylor sophomore and left-hander, was one of the more overpowering starters on the staff. In 37.1 innings, he kept a 3.86 ERA and a 42/13 K/BB ratio. His seven home runs allowed were definitely the biggest problem at work, and even then, that number seems so high that it may be more of a fluke of bad luck. Even with that, he held a 4.33 FIP. With some better luck and control, he should have a dominant fall.

    Another promising starter was right-handed freshman Jared Ruxer (#40). Sturgeon’s teammate at Louisville, Ruxer struck out almost one batter an inning (34 in 36.2) while holding a 2.95 ERA. He was highly wild (fifteen walks, five hit batters), but did a better job of limiting home runs (three this season), which helped lead to his 4.35 FIP. Overall, it wasn’t a bad showing for a freshman; next year, he should be even better for when Wareham tries to repeat.

    Another solid freshman on the pitching staff was Mississippit State righty Jonathan Holder (#35). As a reliever, he did a much better job of limiting baserunners, with a 33/11 K/BB ratio in 22.2 innings. His three homers might have been a little on the high side for someone with his number of innings pitched, but it still didn’t stop him from keeping a 1.99 ERA, or a 3.36 FIP. Again, he may be part of a solid returning one-two in the rotation next year for Wareham.

    University of Arkansas right-handed sophomore Colby Suggs (#34) also provided a strong arm out of the Gatemen bullpen. With a 1.37 ERA, 30 whiffs in only 19.2 innings, and only eight walks allowed, he showed great control. He also had a .860 WHIP, an opponent batting line of .138/.250/.182, only one home run allowed, and a 1.93 FIP. In any case, the Gatemen’s de facto closer at year’s end should be an interesting draft option in 2013.

    Lastly, although he’s a junior, Mississippi State righty Kendall Graveman (#6) proved to be an invaluable part of the Gatemen. He showed great control, walking only four batters in 24.1 innings against 26 strikeouts, helping him to a 2.22 ERA. His 2.52 FIP shows that his peripherals were also good. There’s a good chance that he’ll go higher than the 36th round next year (which was the round that he was picked by the Marlins this year).

    And with that, we can officially bring the Cape Cod 2012 season to a close. Congratulations to the champion Gatemen for winning what has been a very memorable summer.

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