Wichita Wingnuts Wire: May Update
It is now just two weeks until the Wichita Wingnuts take to the field to defend their American Association title. This club is built to repeat despite losing some major pieces from the lineup that led the league in many offensive categories last season. Manager Kevin Hooper and GM Josh Robertson have restocked the roster, and with the depth of this bullpen they were able to make some moves that put this team right back at the top in terms of talent.
Just 14 days until class begins at Wingnuts University again, and there is no doubt that Chancellor Hooper will have his team ready. These Wingnuts are experts in the art of playing baseball. Count on a lot of great lessons being taught this summer.
The Wichita Wingnuts did not make a lot of moves in April, but when they did they went big. On April 14, the club re-signed Tim Brown and added right-handers Daniel Carela and Scott Shuman. Brown had an absolutely awesome season last year, and really stepped up his game after Jon Link signed with the Miami Marlins organization. Brown went 10-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 2014. He made 22 appearances, 20 as a starter. The righty won both of his playoff starts, including seven shutout innings against Lincoln in the American Association championship series.
Carela is entering his seventh season of professional baseball. He split time last season between the Atlanta Braves High-A team at Lynchburg and Windy City in the Frontier League. He made 28 total appearances, and posted an outstanding 2.12 ERA. He was 1-2 with 7 saves. The right-hander knows how to bring the heat as well, striking out 41 in 29.2 innings pitched.
Shuman is returning to the mound after being out of all of last season. This will be his sixth season in professional baseball. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 and played for their affiliates until 2012 when he moved to the Giants. In 2013 he made 28 appearances and really struggled. He has an outstanding arm, and if he can recapture his stuff he will be a monster addition to their bullpen.
One week later the Wingnuts signed INF Alberto Gonzalez and C John Nester, plus they dealt RHP Chase Johnson to Sioux Falls. Nester will join Brent Dean behind the plate as the catchers for the defending league champions. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2010, and played last season for three affiliates of the San Diego Padres; their rookie league team, Mid-A Fort Wayne, and High-A Lake Elsinore. Combined he played in 56 games, hitting .236 with a homer and 14 RBI. He is an outstanding defensive catcher.
Gonzalez is entering his eighth season of professional baseball. He has a great deal of experience at the Major League level, playing over 426 games for the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres. Last season he played 52 games combined for El Paso, the San Diego Padres AAA-affiliate, and Reynosa of the Mexican League. He hit .268 with 2 homers and 19 RBI.
Johnson was a key piece to the Wichita Wingnuts championship run last season, filling a major role in the bullpen. The right-hander had been pitching for Fort Worth where he had a ridiculous 0.59 ERA in 26 appearances with 9 saves. In Wichita he was 1-0 with a 1.12 ERA in 8 appearances. During the playoffs he did not allow a run in five appearances.
The trade of Johnson was necessitated by the incredibly deep bullpen the Wingnuts have assembled, and the big right-hander found that he was not the only player dealt. On April 26, RHPs Mike Zouzalik and Chris Peacock were traded to St. Paul for the rights to RHP Matt Nevarez. While the loss of Zouzalik, in particular, will be a tough blow to the Wichita bullpen, if Nevarez returns that blow will turn into a trumpet blast of joy.
Nevarez, known as “Dr. K,” was 4-0 with 23 saves in 35 appearances for Wichita. He had a ridiculous 1.59 ERA and struck out 42 in 34 innings pitched. His success caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He was signed to a contract in August and played for the Pirates AA-Altoona club, where he was 1-1 with a save and a 1.35 ERA.
By Robert Pannier