Wichita Wingnuts Wire: March Update
After a 73-win season and an American Association championship no one can expect such lofty goals for this upcoming season, however, the Wichita Wingnuts have made a lot of moves this off-season that have gutted the last year’s team. Gone are such stars as Jake Kahaulelio, Ryan Khoury, Carlo Testa, Jake Luce, and Brent Clevlen. This is a team in flux still looking to compete, and it is going to take a lot to rebuild this team to give them another shot at winning it all. Fortunately, the Wingnuts have one of the better general managers in all of minor league baseball in Josh Robertson. No doubt, with him and manager Kevin Hooper working together, Wichita will be right back in the thick of things.
On February 7, the Wingnuts re-signed infielder Taylor Oldham. Oldham played all over the field for Wichita, including closing out the team’s final game of the season to earn his first professional save. The utility player hit .285 last season, with three home runs and 25 RBI in 54 games. Oldham was the team’s primary utility player last season, and his return gives the Wingnuts’ manager a lot of flexibility, as well as an outstanding guy coming off the bench who can get a big hit and play outstanding defense.
On the same day, RHP Brad Mincey was also signed. The right-hander sat out the 2013 season with an injury and returned to play for Jupiter, the Miami Marlins’ High-A team. Mincey struggled to regain his form, going 0-4 with a 6.87 ERA in 23 appearances. The righty is healthy and with another off-season to strengthen his arm he should be a quality addition to the team’s staff.
Three days later the Wingnuts re-signed LHP Anthony Capra. The lefty will be starting his fourth season with the team in 2015, a franchise record for longevity. Capra battled an arm injury last season, but returned to be a key element to the championship run. For the season he was 7-2 with an impressive 3.02 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts). If he can remain healthy this year he could easily step into the No. 2 spot in this rotation and make this one of the most formidable starting staffs in the American Association.
On February 19, the Wingnuts surprisingly released catcher Chris McMurray. The catcher was one of the best backstops in the league, hitting .261 with 7 homeruns and 60 RBI, while also playing outstanding defense. It’s likely he won’t be on the market for long.
A week later, Wichita signed RHP Jake Negrete. The right-hander is another player returning from injury. He sat out the entire 2014 season after pitching in just two games for San Angelo of the United League in 2013. Injuries have plagued much of his professional career, but he showed in 2011 that he has good stuff, and really knows how to pitch. In his first season pitching professionally (2011) for the Angels rookie team he was 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA and 2 saves.
On the 28th of February, Wichita signed LHP Jhonathan Ramos, who pitched last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA and AAA teams. He was 5-7 overall with a 4.26 ERA in 38 appearances, but looked really good at the AAA level. In seven appearances there he was 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA, and showed great command of his pitches, walking just two in 12.1 innings pitched. No doubt he will be another huge asset to the team’s bullpen, if he is not in the rotation.
With McMurray gone, the team re-signed catcher Brent Dean on March 5. Dean would have started for many clubs in the league, and now he will likely be the starter for the American Association champs. He played in 21 games last season, hitting .317 with 3 homeruns and 11 RBI. He is an outstanding defensive catcher as well, who calls a good game.
Despite the loss of several key players, the Wingnuts are rebuilding a team that will be right in the thick of things. It is not like they have not had to do this before. The team has played in the title series the last three seasons, lost key players in the off-season, yet still returned to the championship. Until proven otherwise, no one should think that they cannot do this again.
By Robert Pannier