* OF Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) is the winner of the Randy Echlin Memorial award as the Canadian Baseball Network’s top Canadian offensive minor leaguer this season, hitting .317 with 22 doubles, nine triples, nine homers, 51 RBIs and 43 stolen bases. ….
Letters of Intent
By George Farelli
Every year players report to Arizona and Florida with dreams.
Some only need to climb one rung on the ladder to reach the majors.
Some have unrealistic goals.
“Only hit .242 last year at class-A my second season … they told me to cut down on my strikeouts … but if things go right … a couple of breaks … have a good year … who knows? Maybe a September call up.”
Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) went to Dunedin for spring training with the Blue Jays and stayed there, which was a promotion from class-A Lansing.
After opening day, all Pompey did in his dream season was:
Stay in the hunt for Florida State League MVP honours before being promoted to double-A New Hampshire.
After he struggled initially, he went on a roll in a month with the Fisher Cats.
Then, he spent roughly a week at triple-A Buffalo.
Finally, he was promoted to the Blue Jays taking the elevator from the right field clubhouse at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to the Rogers Centre.
And now Pompey beat Jamie Romak (London, Ont.), who made his major-league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers this summer, to win the Randy Echlin Memorial award as the Canadian Baseball Network’s top Canadian offensive minor leaguer this season.
The three other Canadian Baseball Network 2014 winners are:
— RHP Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC) of class-A Hagerstown in the Washington Nationals system as the CBN’s top pitcher in the minors. Pompey and Pivetta are the two best of the 100 Canadians on affiliated rosters this season.
The top independent league players of the 38 Canadians playing indy ball both played for the Quebec Capitales and were repeat winners.
— OF Sebastien Boucher (Gatineau, Que.), who won in 2012, was the top hitter, with a .366 average, 16 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 48 RBIs.
— RHPKarl Gelinas (Iberville, Que.), the top pitcher last year, was 8-6 with a 3.48 ERA striking out 123 in 137 innings.
Former CBN minor league pitchers of the year who made the majors are LHP Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.), RP John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), LHPAndrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) and RP James Henderson (Calgary, Alta.), a two-time winner.
* * *
Pompey was selected by the Blue Jays in the 16th round of the 2010 draft by Canadian scout Jamie Lehman from the Oakville Royals.
Although there were very high hopes in light of the abundance of his natural talents, it’s doubtful anyone in the organization could have foreseen such a rapid rise, one which included only 319 minor-league games, from rookie class in 2010 on to the majors in 2014.
Pompey began his remarkable season with Dunedin where he played 70 games, was moved to New Hampshire for 31 games and promoted to the Buffalo Bisons where he played 12 games.
His cumulative offensive totals read as follows: games-113, AB-441, runs-84, hits-140, AVG-.317, doubles-22, triples-nine, HRs-nine, RBIs-51 and SBs-43.
Pompey scored the most runs and had the most hits amongst Canadians, was third in average, tied for fifth in homers and was sixth in RBIs
Based on these numbers, and the fact that he actually showed improvement in his performance as he moved up the ladder, he earned a September call up by the Jays.
He made his major league debut at the tender age of 21 on Sept. 2, 2014 in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, and by season’s end, he had appeared in 17 big-league games.
* * *
Like Pompey, Romak achieved every minor leaguer’s ultimate dream — playing at the big league level. One significant difference between the two is that the path to the majors was substantially different for each.
Romak, 29, originally drafted in 2003 by the Atlanta Braves and scout Lonnie Goldberg from Mike Lumley’s London Badgers, has been in the minors for 12 seasons, appearing in a total of 1,129 games with five different organizations.
For that reason alone, you have to admire his tenacity and commitment to pro ball, proving once again that baseball is a game for survivors.
Prior to the 2014 season, Romak signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers — after the Blue Jays failed to sign him — and quickly proved that the deal would greatly benefit both parties.
Assigned to triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes in the Pacific Coast League, Romak delivered and put up some very impressive numbers. His offensive line for the season: games-108, AB-418, runs-65, hits-117, AVG-.280, doubles-30, triples-three, HRs-24 and RBIs-85.
A consistent and dependable performance with the Isotopes from day one led to his call up by the Dodgers, and on May 28 he made his debut against the Cincinnati Reds.
Although his stay in the majors lasted for only 15 games, the fact that he finally achieved his goal certainly made the 12-year journey well worthwhile.
Romak’s first hit was a two-run double off reliever Matt Belisle in a 6-1 Clayton Kershaw win over the Colorado Rockies. He also bounced out knocking in a run facing Bronson Arroyo in a 6-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Romak led all Canuck hitters in homers and RBIs, was second in runs, hits and was sixth in average.
* * *
Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC), 21, is a Washington Nationals pitching prospect who just completed his second year as a professional, and in the process put up some very impressive numbers with the Hagerstown Suns in the Single A South Atlantic League.
His pitching line reads as follows: Appearances-26, Wins-13, Losses-8, ERA-4.22, Earned runs-62, Innings pitched-132 2/3, Hits-142, BB-39 and strikeouts-98. The 13 wins placed him third in the league, and the Victoria, BC native was also named to the South Atlantic League (North Division) all star team.
Pivetta led in wins, was second in innings pitched amongst Canadians, third in strikeouts and was ninth in ERA, tied for 10th in appearances.
Lefty Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) reached double-A Reading with the Phillies after returning to the mound from the batter’s box for the first time since injuring his elbow at the end of the 2008 season.
Loewen made two starts at class-A Clearwater and 17 at double-A Reading to finish third amongst Canucks in ERA, fifth in strikeouts, sixth in innings pitched and tied for eighth in wins.
Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 19th round of draft in 2013, Dylan Rheault (Garson, Ont.) had a very solid second season in their Minor League organization, playing at the class-A level.
Rheault, 22 pitched for both Delmarva Shorebirds in the South Atlantic League, and Frederick Keys in the Carolina League. His cumulative pitching stats for 2014: Appearances-38, Wins-8, Losses-7, Saves-3, ERA-2.86, Earned runs-23, Innings pitched-72.1, hits-65, BB-30 and Ks-52.
Rheault was second in wins, ERA and appearances and tied for second in saves.
Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.) led in pitching appearances and saves, was fourth in strikeouts, tied for eighth in wins and was 10th in innings pitched.
Any of these pitching prospects deserve to be considered as the CBN’s 2014 Canadian Pitcher of the Year, and would be worthy recipients.
* * *
Sebastien Boucher (Gatineau, Que.) of the Quebec Capitales was one logical choice for 2014 Indy League offensive player of the year.
In his sixth season with the Capitales, and a major contributor to the team’s five league championships in that span, he continues to be a model of consistency, in that his annual offensive production never seems to waver.
Every season, like clockwork, he can be counted on to generate 60 runs scored, 94 Base Hits, a .319 Average, 25 extra-base hits and 55 RBIs.
The 2014 season was no different, and his stat line reads as follows: Games-84, ABs-314, Runs-67, Hita-115, AVG-.366, Doubles-16, Triples-three, HRs-eight and RBIs-48. His .366 batting average led the Can Am League, and he was also named as an Outfielder on the 2014 All Star Team.
As the Indy Leagues offensive player of the year, this is the second time he won the honour since he gained the distinction in 2012.
Boucher led all Canucks in average, was second in hits and runs scored, and was tied for second in homers and third in RBIs,
Rene Tosoni (Coquitlam, BC) spent time with two teams: the Sugar Land Express and the Sioux City Explorers. He led in hits, RBIs and runs scored, was tied for second in homers, tied for fourth in average,
Several other Canadians playing in Indy Leagues had relatively good seasons in 2014, namely Brock Kjeldgaard (London, Ont.), Carter Bell (Courtenay, BC) andJonathan Malo (Laval, Que.) but none are comparable to Boucher’s outstanding performance.
* * *
Karl Gelinas has been a top of the rotation starter for the Capitales ever since he first signed with the team as a minor league free agent in 2007. Much like his teammate Boucher, he has been a key contributor to Quebec’s success for all of his eight seasons, including five Can Am League Championships.
Active in the minors for 12 years, Gelinas, 31, veteran continues to put up impressive numbers each year, and his 2014 stat line reads as follows: APP-21, Wins-8, Losses-6, ERA-.3.48, Earned runs-53, Innings pitched-137, Hits-141, BB-16 and strikeouts-123. His 137 innings and 123 strikeouts led the Can-Am League, and he placed among the leaders in ERA as well.
Among Canucks Gelinas led in wins and innings, was second in ERA and seventh in appearances,
Gelinas won the CBN’s Indy League Pitcher of the Year in 2013.
Finishing second was reliever Chris Kissock (Fruitvale, BC) of the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the Independent American Association, Kissock has been an absolute workhorse out of the bullpen.
In the past two seasons, he’s made a total of 97 relief appearances, won two games and saved 20, while pitching to a 2.93 ERA.
Kissock, 29, was drafted and signed in 2007 by the Philadelphia Phillies, and he just completed his eighth minor league season, but only the second with an Indy League team. His stat line for 2014 reads as follows: APP-47, Wins-zero, Losses-5, Saves-17, ERA-3.18, Earned runs-16, Innings pitched-45.1, Hits-49, BB-11 and Ks-45. His 47 relief appearances and 17 saves placed him amongst the league leaders for relievers in the American Association.
Kissock led appearances, saves and strikeouts amongst Canadians, was sixth in innings pitched and tied for sixth in strikeouts.
* * *
The voting …
Three members of the CBN crack staff voted along with Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell, Mike Wilner of The Fan 590, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca and Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame voted with points award on a 5-3-1 basis.
Pompey won the Echlin with 33 points (six first-place votes), Romak was next with 21 points (one first-place vote) andRowan Wick was third with five points.
Pivetta took top pitching honours with 28 points (five), Loewen (Surrey, BC) (one) eight, Rheault (Garson, Ont.) seven, Molleken (Regina, Sask.) (one) six.
Boucher sat on top with 29 points (five), Tosoni 23 (two) and Kjeldgaard (London, Ont.) nine.
Gelinas had the most points with 35 (six), with Kissock 17 (one) andMatt Cook (Dresden, Ont.) 10.