The Lansing Lugnuts finished their season last Thursday night after losing to the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the first round of the Midwest League playoffs. Although the playoffs didn’t go as planned, there is no denying that the Lugnuts had a special season. The season began with high expectations as the defending Eastern Division Champions was focused on getting back to the Midwest League Championship Series with a chance of winning the franchise’s third title. The team featured a great young rotation, with some talented bats in the mix.
The Lugnuts came out swinging in the first half of the season, winning their first seven games and ending the first half with a 47-22 record. Seven Lugnuts were named to the Midwest League All-Star Game in June as well: Pitchers Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard and Ajay Meyer, second baseman Jon Berti, and outfielders Kevin Pillar and Chris Hawkins. The Lugnuts’ 47-22 record also won the Eastern Division first half title and gave the Lugnuts the top seed in the Midwest League playoffs.
In the second half of the season, the Lugnuts held a record of 35-33 and had several promotions along the way. Marcus Walden, Jesse Hernandez, Jon Berti, Kevin Pillar and Kenny Wilson all made the trip to the Florida State League to finish the year with the Dunedin Blue Jays.
The Lugnuts also welcomed many new faces. Pitcher Ian Kadish, outfielder Nick Baligod and second baseman Jason Leblebljian joined the team from the Vancouver Canadians, infielder/outfielder Chris Peters joined from the Bluefield Blue Jays, pitcher Tim Brechbuehler was promoted from the GCL Blue Jays and outfielder Kipp Schutz became a Lugnut after signing as a free agent after departing from the Baltimore Orioles organization. In the second half, the Lugnuts also welcomed back some familiar faces in pitcher Shawn Griffith and outfielder Michael Crouse from Dunedin, as well as pitcher Casey Beck, who was rehabbing his arm after Tommy John surgery.
“The season went well, really well,” Lugnuts manager John Tamargo Jr. said. “We’ve done a great job moving players up to Dunedin, which is what we’re ultimately here to do.”
Tamargo was also named Midwest League Manager of the Year for leading the Lugnuts to the league’s best overall record and to various club milestones.
“It feels good, really good,” he said. “It’s a credit to the coaches, players, and the organization for putting this team together. I just try to stay out of their way and let them play.”
After the season, Lansing Lugnuts hitting coach Kenny Graham talked to JaysProspects about how much talent he saw during the 2012 season. He spoke specifically to the progress of outfielder Kevin Pillar, who was named Midwest League MVP and was promoted to Dunedin midway through the season, finishing second in the league in batting average.
“I’m proud of Kevin, it’s an achievement he earned and deserved,” Graham said. “It couldn’t have happen to a better person. Pillar was a leader on this team. He showed up every day ready to work hard. He does things the right way.”
1) Aaron Sanchez – Sanchez was 8-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 25 games. In over 90 innings pitched, he struck out 97 batters while walking 57. Since joining the Blue Jays organization, Sanchez has pitched over 169 innings and allowed just eight home runs, three of which came this past season. Sanchez features a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His performance this year earned him the title of the Midwest League’s best pitching prospect according to Baseball America.
2) Justin Nicolino – Nicolino recorded a 10-4 record with a 2.46 ERA in 2012. He played in 28 games with the Lugnuts, starting in 22 of his appearances. He finished first in the Midwest League in ERA and was named team MVP in September. He also concluded his season with 119 strikeouts while only walking 21, giving him an incredible WHIP of 1.070. The 20-year-old presently has a career WHIP of 0.998 with a 5.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nicolino features a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider.
3) Noah Syndergaard – Syndergaard was 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA in his 27 games as a Lugnut. He pitched 103 2/3 innings, striking out 122 batters. Throughout the season he held a 10.6 strike out per nine innings pitched. (10.6 K/9). His strikeout total was the third most by any pitcher in the Midwest League this season.
4) Anthony DeSclafani – In his first season with the organization, DeSclafani was 11-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 28 games this season. His win total was the highest for any Lugnut in 2012. The 22-year-old pitched in 123 innings, striking out 92 while walking 25. Moving forward, DeSclafani will need to work on hits allowed, as the New Jersey native allowed 145 hits in 2012, for an average of 10.6 hits per nine innings pitched (10.6 H/9). That said, having only allowed 55 runs all season, this proves that DeSclafani is still poised and able to get runners out when runners on board and in scoring position. DeSclafani features a fastball, change-up, curveball, and slider. DeSclafani led all Lugnuts in wins.
5) Ajay Meyer – Meyer was 3-3 with a 3.67 ERA and 33 saves. His 33 saves in 2012, set set a new Lugnuts franchise record and was first in the Midwest League. The 25-year-old from Ohio appeared in 54 games, striking out 57 and walking 13. 50 of his 54 appearances came to finish the game. Meyer features a fastball, slider, and curveball.
Honorable mention – Brandon Berl, Tyler Ybarra, and Kramer Champlin
1) Kevin Pillar – Pillar batted .322 with 20 doubles, four triples, five home runs, and 57 RBI in 86 games with Lansing before being promoted to Dunedin in July and was named Midwest League MVP. He finished the year (Dunedin and Lansing combined) with a .332 average, 28 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 91 RBI and 51 stolen bases. In 128 total games, Pillar had 161 hits, 41 of them for extra bases.
2) K.C. Hobson – The Lugnuts’ first baseman batted .276 with 43 doubles, two triples, ten home runs, and 86 RBI in 2012. his 43 doubles was yet another franchise record set this season and was also first in the Midwest League. His 86 RBI were also second most, and his 135 hits was sixth most in the league. Being that the the 22-year-old just spent his third season with the Lugnuts (and found success), expect the California native to find a new home for 2013.
3) Jon Berti – After spending all of 2011 in Vancouver, Berti spent the first 60 games of his season in Lansing, where he batted .281 with eight doubles, two triples, two homeruns, and 27 RBIs. He was promoted to Dunedin in July where he spent 50 games as the team’s second baseman, hitting 33 hits, 17 of which were for extra bases (12 doubles and five triples).
4) Chris Hawkins – In his third season with the organization, Hawkins batted .269 with 17 doubles, four triples, two home runs, and 43 RBI as the Lugnuts’ primary right fielder in 2012. While Hawkins showed many strengths at the plate, his defensive was also impressive. The Georgia native spent 26 games in left field, and 94 in right, where he maintained a 9.84 fielding percentage and displayed a strong, accurate arm from both sides of the field.
5) Kevin Patterson – Patterson batted .245 with 22 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, and 79 RBI in 108 games as the Lugnuts’ first baseman / designated hitter in 2012. His 19 home runs was second-most in the Midwest League, while his 79 RBI were fourth-most overall.
Honorable Mention – Kenny Wilson, Gustavo Pierre, and Andy Burns
Overall in 2012, the Lansing Lugnuts was full of talent both at the plate and on the mound. Congratulations to all the players and staff involved. We at JaysProspects are already looking forward to meeting the Lansing Lugnuts’ 2013 roster!