A Step Forward, Or Sophmore Jinx?
Posted October 3, 2009
When three baby faced youngsters showed up to Spring Training last year, management really did not know what to expect. They all looked like ball players, but time would tell if they would be difference makers or if they would just add some depth. By the end of the year however they would all be instrumental in helping the Milleteers to their first ever PBL Championship, and they did it in different ways.
They all had their ups and downs, and there is definitely room for improvement, but they also possess the tools to impact this league. Murray Doyle was steady at the dish all year and ate up some innings on the mound early before elbow troubles shelved him. Greg Zilkie used his legs to steal bases at will and patrol the spacious Leduc outfield, and Ryan Walker became one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. The question is will they fill out and be even stronger next year, or will they put on the freshman fifteen at college and come back slower and lazier?
Last year on the mound Ryan Walker was the real deal, and he will need to be again this year as Peterson and Pahl will be another year older. He pitched high leverage innings in all situations and succeeded every time. Even when teams had seen him for the second and third time, they still had trouble squaring up the baseball.
As a position player though, he has something to prove and the Milleteers will be counting on him to continue to develop at third base. Early in the year he got the chance to be the starting shortstop due to injuries, but the results were mixed as he was inconsistent in the field.
He started off hitting well last year, then got in a little slump and then slid down the depth chart and was primarily used on the mound. He is a hard worker in practice however and continued to show improvement defensively, enough so that he got some innings in at third base in the All-Star Game, and if his bat catches up he will be a fixture on the left side of the infield for years to come.
Murray Doyle came into the year with a lot of hype by virtue of his bloodlines as his brother Kevin was the team MVP the year before. He was consistent at the plate all year and turned it up in the playoffs as he started to drive the ball with some authority and show some patience at the plate.
Defensively he was steady at first base and his considerable wingspan definitely helped out the rest of the infielders. He also started real well on the mound but hitters soon figured him out and started to launch some bombs off of hangers, then an elbow injury ended his pitching season prematurely. If he wants to have a successful future on the mound at this level he is going to have to learn how to avoid the big mistakes and how to put hitters away.
Greg Zilkie was very raw at the start of last year, but his blinding speed gave him a chance play. After some boneheaded base running mistakes early and a horrible slump, the speedster started to figure out his strengths and shortened his swing to just put the ball in play. He even added the drag bunt to his arsenal. Once on base he put his speed to good use as he stole at will.
If he could raise his on base percentage, there is no telling how many bags he could swipe in this league. On the mound he is still a work in progress, but since he is left handed and throws fairly hard he is a rare commodity in the PBL that should continue to improve as he gets experience and better command. His true value is in his legs however and if he wants to be a true impact player he needs to maintain his speed and figure out how to get on base more.
With the defense of their title on the line the Milleteers can ill afford for any of these youngsters to take a step back next season. With the veteran core aging another year and the small ball offense that the Milleteers used successfully last season, speed, pitching, and defense will again be they keys to their success. It is a great luxury to have potential filled prospects, but to sustain success you need that potential to be realized.
Posted on October 3, 2009 by Steve Pahl