2010 Rebel Baseball Preview: Catcher & Infielders
Posted January 28, 2010
Despite having 9 different players play the catching position in 2009, the Rebels are realtively thin and inexperienced behind the plate. The Rebels saw, Jon Lehman, Bryan Toles, Curt Stensrud, Ryan Stauffer, Josh Lyons, Mat Starky, Shane Metrunec, Kevin Reinholt, and Ronnie Oslund all spend some time behind the plate in 2009.
If the Rebels were to start playing tomorrow, a platoon system of Bryan Toles, Jon Lehman, and Joel Graumann would more then likely be the route that Manager Kevin Reinholt would take, depending on who was available on game day.
Graumann, a new signing by the Rebels for 2010, would also factor in the Rebels pitching rotation and infield as he has played both positions with the Camrose Axemen of the North Central Alberta Baseball League. Graumann is young and has a tremendous upside to his game therefore Reinholt will have to find innings and at bats for Graumann, even if it is not at the catcher’s position.
In Bryan Toles, the Rebels have a veteran player who will be entering his second year with the Rebels, who are his fourth team during his Powerline Baseball League career (Tofield Lakers, Lamont Steelers, and Armena Axemen being the others). Although Toles’ 2009 campaign at the plate resulted in only 13 at bats for a .231 average, his ability to move runners into scoring position and take pitchers deep into counts is something the Rebels need more of in 2010.
Toles does hold a .330 batting average since 2004, so the ability to find hits is there and with more at bats in 2010, the Rebels hope to see that average climb closer to his career mark. Toles also has the experience to move to either second or third base should the situation call for it.
Young Jon Lehman is the freshest of the three catchers in the Rebels camp and will need to continue to develop his defensive game to help offset what Rebels management hopes was an off-year in 2009. Lehman batted a disappointing .148 in 27 at bats during the 2009 season before injurying his knee while sliding into second base.
Lehman may be one of the fastest players in the PBL and has the ability to turn walks and singles into doubles and triples with his base stealing speed, he just needs to find the pillow more often.
The Rebels catching corps will need to collectively work with the pitchers to ensure walks, and singles by the opponents, don’t turn into free bases, something that the Rebels saw happen far more in 2009 then the wanted. With a hard throwing pitching staff who like to work down in the strike zone, the Rebels catchers at times, struggled with the ability to block the ball which turned into passed balls and wild pitches, costing the Rebels valuable holds on the base paths. All three catchers will be given the off-season to fine tune there defensive skills in preparation for the 2010 campaign.
At first base, things are a little more simpler. Veteran Rebel Travis Bugge showed flashes of Gold Glove caliber defense and should Bugge be available, Reinholt would certainly use him at first. Bugge’s left handed bat also provided a .312 average with 11 runs and 8 RBI’s for the Rebels in 2009 and more should be expected from Bugge in 2010 as he looked to be getting the hitters groove back in the latter part of the 2009 season.
The Rebels do have support at first base in the form of Kevin Reinholt, Darcy Granberg and Ronnie Oslund, should Bugge be unavailable or have to move across the diamond to play third. Bugge, much like Kevin Youkilis, has the ability to play both corners, but is slightly more proficient at first.
The middle infield may be the Rebels strongest point of the defense come 2010. The combination of 2009 All-Star Dylan Solberg and Brian Tavaroli turned into a shut down duo when on the field together, especially during the 11 inning marathon against the Bardo Athletics in July of 2009. With only one strikeout by Curtis Stensrud against 45 Bardo batters, a lot of balls were put into play and for the game to end 1-1, the infield had to come up big. It is expected that the Rebels would have Tavaroli start at second base and Solberg at short with 2009 Offensive MVP Kyle Reinholt (.450/36 hits/ 24 RBI’s) taking some at bats as a designated hitter in 2010. Although Tavaroli’s bat has not yet come around, his off-season work and commitment has shown Rebels management that he wants to be more then a Rey Ordonez in the PBL.
The Rebels will also have some flexibility up the middle on days that Solberg is scheduled to take the mound. Kyle Reinholt can slide back to his familiar second base spot, Tavroli over to short, and have Solberg (.349/ 3HR/ 17 RBI’s) bat for himself.
Kevin Reinholt, Corey Epp, Josh Lyons, and Curt Stensrud also had innings at middle infield spots and would be suitable substitutes at second base or short stop should any of the big three (Tavaroli/Solberg/Kyle Reinholt) be unable to play up the middle.
The “hot corner” may be the infield’s biggest question mark for 2010 as there are multiple options for the Rebels. Travis Bugge, Dustin Solberg, Corey Epp, Kris Kushnerick, Shane Metrunec, Curt Stensrud, and Kevin Reinholt all had innings at third and the addition of Joel Graumann gives the Rebels yet another option. Although all are capable of playing the position, none of the above mentioned have really come forward and wowed the coaching staff with their defensive efforts.
Give that the third base position is generally manned by more of a power hitter then a slap hitter (except for Mariners’ Chone Figgins) the edge might be towards Reinholt, Stensrud, Kushnerick, and Solberg, especially with the abundance of outfielders on the team, and reserve the outfield for guys with more speed.
Like many teams, the Rebels will find themselves constantly juggling thier infield lineups in 2010, as players will more then likely be unavailable for every game. Given that fact, the Rebels have great utility players like Bryan Toles, Kevin Reinholt, and Joel Graumann that have the ability to play three or four different positions on the field, should the situation call for some changes.
Next week we look at the Rebels outfield in Part II of our Rebels 2010 Season Preview while an in-depth look at the re-tooled Rebels pitching staff will come in Part III.