Ottawa Champions Courier: Off-Season Report
With the American Association playing a large number of games against Can-Am League teams, it makes sense to see what it going on in this independent league as well, so the Minor League Sports Report will do a monthly look at each of the off-season moves of the six teams in this league. When the season begins there will be a weekly recap for each team.
The Ottawa Champions will be taking to the field for their inaugural season in the Can-Am League in 2015, joining fellow newcomer the Sussex County Miners. The addition of these two clubs moves the league from four to six teams, and will make this one of the most exciting seasons in the league.
Ottawa has been very active building a club this off-season, which has included the hiring of Hal Lanier to be the club’s first manager. Lanier has a long history as a manager, including three seasons as the skipper of the Houston Astros. He posted a 254-232 record, including a first place finish in 1986. He was named the NL Manager of the Year that season. For most of the last decade he has been a manager in the independent leagues, including stints in Winnipeg, Quebec, and Sussex. Now he takes over the Champions looking to build the club and make them a contender.
With the team formerly being named as a member of the league in November, it was time to get down to business, and that is what Ottawa has done. On November 11 the first players were acquired. OF Tim Alberts, INF Ryan Lashley and RHP Derrick Miramontes came from Fort Worth of the United League for cash. Alberts split time between Fargo-Moorhead of the American Association and Fort Worth last season, hitting a combined .214 in 58 games with 3 home runs and 22 RBI.
Lashley played in 53 games last season, hitting an impressive .369 with 6 homers and 45 RBI. He also proved to be quite versatile, playing short, second, third and left field.
Miramontes looked to be the big catch in the trade. He made 42 appearances last season for Southern Illinois of the Frontier League, where he saved 20 games, posted a 4-1 record, and finished with a 1.57 ERA. The righty allowed just 29 hits in 51.2 innings pitched while striking out 62.
The closer’s stay in Ottawa was short-lived, as one week later he was traded to Quebec for OF Sebastien Boucher and INF Mike Provencher. Boucher had been with Quebec for six seasons, posting a very impressive career there. He finished last season hitting .366 in 84 games, with 8 home runs and 48 RBI. He has hit at least .300 in the last five seasons.
Provencher played well for the Capitales, hitting .282 last season in 83 games. The infielder plays second base most often, and has some pop in his bat. He clubbed 9 homers, drove in 47 and scored 89 runs.
On November 26, the Ottawa Champions acquired RHP Nick Purdy from Trois-Rivieres. The right-hander was a solid setup man last season, appearing in 39 games, posting a 4-6 record with a 4.67 ERA. On the same day RHP Brad Orosey came from Rio Grande of the United League. He was 6-4 in 11 starts with an outstanding 2.06 ERA. The right-hander allowed just 52 hits in 70 innings pitched, while fanning 67.
The Champions remained silent into the New Year, but on January 16 they swung a deal with Quebec that brought RHP Leondy Perez for a player to be named later. Perez made 18 starts last season, going 6-7 with a 3.95 ERA.
Five days later Ottawa made a trade with Sioux Falls of the American Association that brought RHP Alan DeRatt and 1B Chris Duffy for cash. DeRatt pitched quite well out of the Canaries bullpen last season, going 3-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 40 appearances. He also saved 14 games. Duffy had a solid season for Sioux Falls last year. In 99 games he hit .242 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI.
On February 3, Bryce Massanari was signed by Ottawa. The C/1B last played in 2012, and was a prospect of the Colorado Rockies. Massanari hit .232 at Modesto that year with 2 home runs and 15 RBI in 26 games.
Two days later came a series of trades. The first send OF Tim Alberts to Laredo of the American Association in exchange INF Kyle Brandenburg. 2014 was Brandenburg’s first professional season. In 24 games he hit .242 with seven runs scored and 2 RBI. He can play short, second or third.
Perez’s stay in Ottawa was short-lived as he and Brad Orosey were dealt to Normal of the Frontier League for 1B Mike Schwartz and RHP Ethan Elias. Schwartz split time between Normal and South Maryland of the Atlantic League. Combined in played in 109 games, hitting an impressive .325 with 17 home runs and 77 RBI. He also stole 11 bases and had an outstanding on-base percentage of .415.
Elias played his first two seasons of professional ball with the Chicago Cubs organization before landing with Normal last season. In 19 appearances he was 1-2 with a save and a 4.47 ERA. He has a live arm, striking out 66 in 58.1 innings pitched. Elias was later sold to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On February 6, the Champions signed three players to the roster. This included RHP Casey Cannon, LHP Dan Meyer, and INF Matt Tenaglia. Meyer was with Rockford of the Frontier League the last two seasons. He has made just 9 total appearances, posting a 3-2 record and a 3.75 ERA.
On March 2, RHP Jack Wagoner was signed by the club. The righty split time between Normal, Laredo and Gary Southshore last season. Combined he made 11 total appearances with a 6.30 ERA. His best numbers were with Laredo, where he had a 2.08 ERA in five appearances.
On March 6, Corey Caswell was acquired from the Pecos League for future considerations. The catcher played in 51 games in his first professional season, hitting an impressive .324 with 23 runs scored and 24 RBI. He also threw out an outstanding 38 percent of attempted base-stealers.
On March 9, 3B Willie Carmona was signed by Ottawa. He spent his first three professional seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, reaching High-A Clearwater last season. He struggled in 2014, hitting just .129 in 25 games, but in 2013 he had an outstanding season at Mid-A Lakewood, hitting .303 in 121 games. Carmona is also an outstanding defensive player.
Eight days later the Champions signed RHP Christopher Cox. Cox had been with Quebec his first three professional seasons, appearing solely out of the bullpen. Last season he struggled in 30 appearances, posting a 2-2 record with a 7-36 ERA, but in 2013 he was awesome. The righty posted a 2.81 ERA, saved 23 games, and struck out 41 batters in 41.2 innings pitched.
March 20 saw Ottawa sign OF Francisco Sosa. The outfielder had been a Colorado Rockies prospect the last seven seasons, posting a .267 career average. He played very well at Low-A Tri-City last season, hitting .324 in 20 games, but after he moved to High-A Modesto he struggled, batting only .223 in 65 games.
By Robert Pannier