The Denver Danger, which have been essentially abandoned by their last GM, Troy Olsen, have a frighteningly bare prospect cupboard going into 2018, a probably sign that the team is not ready for the postseason for some time to come.
Their system is ranked dead last – 20th out of 20 teams – due mainly to having no Top 50 prospects at all.
The top guy in their system is Jason Jankovic, who was once a supplemental pick for the former Hamilton Crusaders before he was traded to Denver, rising eventually to #33 prospect. But so far he has failed to impress, with a career minor league record of 22-19, and ERA of 4.23. His power fastball has managed to send down 366 batters in 331.2 innings, a decent ratio, and he will finally get a chance at the bigs as he has been placed (currently at least) on the Danger’s active roster.
But pitching is just one of the Danger’s many worries, and they lacked offense, especially on the road last season. Other than topping the AEL in steals, they were just about middling in every other hitting category.
Their next best man, Bill Heimberg, a 24-year-old shortstop from Little Rock, had some promise when he was at A-level, and hit up a storm at AA and AAA-level last year, averaging a batting average of .375 over the season, including 5 solid games with Germany in the World Cup of Baseball. Heimberg is also tentatively going to appear at the top level in 2018.
But overall, the minor level teams for the Danger have failed to produce in a meaningful way, since 2014, when Glen Reese was drafted and then came up through the system.
Tony Mariscal is a 21-year-old shortstop at A-level Saskatoon who hit .308 last year. But when the team tried to promote him to AA-level, it was too much for him to handle and his average tanked to .182. The defense was too strong for his baserunning, and he was caught stealing more than he stole, getting out 7 times to 5 successful stolen bags.
Add to this that Denver has no quality starters in their prospect system and the problem becomes even more profound. Denver occupies a place in the AEL East, where St. Petersburg Admirals (formerly Anchorage Aces) and Norfolk Sharks hitting will tear apart the Denver rotation, who only have Rich Ojeda Ojeda as a winning pitching in the mix. The other 4 starters all finished 2017 with losing records – three lost 10 games, and a fourth lost 9.
Their closer is 40-year-old Nick MacLellan, who turned in a respectable 18 saves last season, but is a 40-year-old closer. Although he relies on his breaking pitches and not his power, there is only so much you can get out of a 40-year-old closer, and when the team isn’t winning many games to begin with, he won’t get a lot of use.
Denver unfortunately will pick 11th in the opening round of the draft in June, and so are hoping for a very high caliber rounds 1 & 2 in order to restock. They have slashed their scouting budget as they’ve dealt with declining revenues and increasing salary costs to their aging veterans, and may have to move some of their existing talent to get more prospects into the fold.
But who? Ojeda is 37, MacLellan is 40, and both have limited value on the trade market. Ojeda’s contract has him making $14.2M this year, and he is probably worth it. But is runs for 3 more years, although 3 are at least team options. Javier Chavarria could be worth something on the trade market, but could be perceived as too inconsistent for his $27.6M contract, guaranteed for another 3 years plus a player option after that. Chavarria his .339 with 26 homers last year. But a year before that, was .255 with “just” 18. While 18 home runs is still a great contribution, it’s not worth nearly $30M a year.
The only other trade value they have are Glen Reese, a decent and consistent power hitter who is still under team control for two more seasons after this year, and power-hitting third baseman Roberto Lozano. Either of those could net the team a handful of top prospects in a trade. But will Denver’s new GM – whoever it is – pull the trigger?