A PREVIOUS VERSION OF THIS STORY IDENTIFIED THE TEAM AS BATTLE CREEK ATTACK. THE TEAM HAS NOW MOVED TO LOUISVILLE, KY AND BECOME THE LOUISVILLE SLUGGERS.
Small market Battle Creek has trouble winning games, and the players have trouble getting noticed. This is nowhere more pronounced than in the 17th ranked prospect pool, which features a succession of first round picks no one has heard of.
But that might be changing if last season is any indication. The Attack ended 2017 with their best win percentage ever, .450, finishing in 3rd place for their second time after seeing a late-season rally that saw them go 19-15 in the last two months of the year.
The AA-level affiliate, the Nashville Misfits, had their second 1st place finishing season in a row, going 39-33 as they made use of the talents of top system prospects Jordan Martinez and Shawn Askew, two starting pitchers that could begin to shift the landscape for the west Michigan team once they break into the top level.
Last season, Martinez had only a short stint at AA-level, going 0-3 with a 4.44 ERA through 5 starts. He’s had long enough at A-level Grand Rapids, and is sure to start in Nashville again this season to get a clearer picture of his direction. He already throws 97 mph, and can paint corners with his slider and curveballs.
Martinez shares some similarities with Askew, a tall (6’5″), 22-year-old, hard-throwing right-hander with a 99 mph fastball. Both players were first round picks (Martinez – 2013, Askew – 2014) and both split time last year at A-level and AA-level. Askew keeps the pitches low in the zone a little more often, which could end up challenging the defensively weak Attack should he get the call up before the team improves in that respect.
But both pitchers would make valued additions to an anemic rotation currently headed by Ricardo Perez, who should slot in at a #4 at best, but has borne the weight of anchoring the Attack starters for the last two seasons.
The team will want to see Martinez and Askew break in sooner rather than later, as they are right now enjoying the benefits of having the top reliever in the Lake League in Everett Weisensel. Wisey is in his prime years, a fantastic shut-down closer who needs more support from the starting staff to help the team chalk up wins and continue to improve in the standings.
In terms of position prospects, the best that Battle Creek can muster is 100th ranked Ivan Aguilar, a Venezuelan international who finally cracked into the rookie level three years ago and has produced solid efforts every years since. But his blazing speed and incredible glove is off-set by concerns over a lack of power and contact which could pigeon hole him as a pinch runner or defensive depth player, rather than a regular infielder.