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The Full Count: 5 Observations before Monday's opener

by Anthony Dabbundo
Monday, June 10, 2019

The Full Count: 5 Observations before Monday's opener

The Full Count is five weekly observations and analysis about the Chatham Anglers, published each Monday.

The Cape Cod Baseball League and the Chatham Anglers are back. 301 days ago, Chatham played in the CCBL championship series for the first time in 17 years, losing to Wareham in two games. Four players — Jack Conlin, Jorge Arenas, Ben Ramirez and Spencer Torkelson (not yet arrived) — return from the 2018 A’s. Chatham begins the 2019 season on 6 p.m. Monday night at Hyannis.

1. The whole team isn’t in yet, though, as the Anglers look to find success without its full confirmed 2019 roster in town. When the A’s had their first practice earlier in the week, they had just 15 players, hardly enough to field a full roster. Now, with players trickling in from across the country, that number has increased to 23.

Five 2019 Chatham players are still alive in the NCAA baseball tournament with their collegiate teams — Cooper Swanson (Florida State), Jack Owen (Auburn), Saul Garza (LSU), Cooper Davis (Vanderbilt) and Hugh Fisher (Vanderbilt).

West Virginia infielder Tyler Doanes flew in to Boston and had his car shipped to Logan Airport so he could make the drive out to Chatham. He didn’t arrive until 30 minutes before he took batting practice on Sunday afternoon. For many of the Anglers, it’s their first time ever on Cape Cod, and for Doanes, it’s a quick turnaround from traveling to baseball.

Here are the 23 players available for Monday’s game:

Jorge Arenas (Stetson)
Cole Ayers (Kentucky)
Luke Bartnicki (Georgia Tech)
Jack Conlon (San Jacinto)
Tyler Doanes (West Virginia)
Adan Fernandez (Florida International)
Colin Hall (Georgia Tech)
Mason Hazelwood (Kentucky)
Haydn King (UNLV)
Kolby Kubichek (Texas)
Ty Madden (Texas)
Dawson Merryman (Midland College)
Zack Miller (Delaware)
Jamal O’Guinn (USC)
Drenis Ozuna (Miami)
Kaden Polcovich (NW Florida State)
Ben Ramirez (USC)
Keaton Rice (Bradley)
Zarion Sharp (UNCW)
Austin Vernon (NC Central)
Paxton Wallace (Wichita State)
Charlie Welch (Pepperdine)
Jeremy Wu-Yelland (Hawaii)

2. If batting practice is any indication, the 2019 Chatham A’s might have much more power from the right side of the plate than the left. Right now, the Anglers have just three left-handed hitters on the available roster, leaving manager Tom Holliday with few options to mix up the batting order early in the season.

Last season, the majority of the Anglers best hitters hit from the left side of the plate. Michael Busch (North Carolina), Blake Sabol (USC), John Rave (Illinois State) and Colin Simpson (Oklahoma State) provided both a high average and high-slugging percentage from the left side. Those four combined for 22 home runs, balancing out fellow top-hitters Spencer Torkelson and Tristan English from the right.

For the 2019 season, Holliday highlighted Kaden Polcovich (Northwest Florida State), who is a switch hitter, as an early standout. Adan Fernandez (Florida International), Drenis Ozuna (Oklahoma Wesleyan) and Charlie Welch (Pepperdine) showcased pop with their right-handed bats, including Fernandez’s home run off the new scoreboard in batting practice Sunday.

3. The Anglers’ pitching staff has had limited work due to the hectic travel and last-minute preparations ahead of the opener on Monday. Most of the staff threw a bullpen earlier in the week, which Holliday said he was unimpressed by. However, on Saturday, Holliday sat behind the batting net and umpired as the team simulated situations with live at-bats and pitchers throwing off the mound.

Only once was a ball solidly hit in the air and out of the infield off the live pitching. Jeremy Wu-Yelland displayed strong command and kept hitters off balance with his curve on a few occasions. Righty Ty Madden impressed enough to secure his role as the starter on Monday.

Holliday said Madden will throw three innings before lefty Mason Hazelwood and his fast ball-knuckle curve combination takes over in the middle innings. Unlike last season, Holliday said he plans to keep rotating his pitchers three innings at a time (instead of four) early in the season until he has a defined starting rotation and clear bullpen roles.

4. When the A’s take the field for the first home game on Wednesday, Veterans Field will look quite different than it did in 2018. The field itself is the same, but two offseason projects have upgraded both the bleachers and scoreboard. The new scoreboard is 10 feet taller and six feet wider than the old one, and it’s been well-received by the fans who have stopped by the field to catch a glimpse of the early practices. The scoreboard was broken in during Sunday’s batting practice, receiving multiple balls hit at it.

To go with the new scoreboard are metal bleachers, which are replacing the old ones that president Steve West said were “dangerous.” Completed a few weeks before the season, the bleachers also have a paved section in between them and the backstop, replacing the old dirt and gravel.

5. Walk into the Veterans Field complex, and you’ll see numerous chairs lined up against the backstop and other spots reserved with padding on the new bleachers with padding. Chatham has plenty of longtime fans, and they want to make sure they’ve got their spots reserved for each of the Anglers’ 22 home games (plus potential playoffs).

Joe and Linda Ulian have the some of the best spots reserved, locking up their two blue lawn chairs against the netting and directly behind home plate. The Ulian’s make up two of the six chairs already placed. West also secured his location for him and his wife Susan down the third base line, and he’s not the only one with the bleachers covered on the home side in front of the press box.