The see-saw has swung back to the Nevada Speeders, who once again find themselves on top of the Weekly Team Power Rankings for Week #13 in the Bull League.
The Speeders took 2 of three from Arizona to open their road trip, before crossing the country to fly to St. Petersburg where they are so far split in the first two games of a four-game set. They started the week off with a rubber-match win against Calgary, to close out a week-long home stand.
The Speeders are the first team to reach 50 wins, an important milestone that means they are now mathematically barred from having a losing season. They are 7-3 to open the month of August.
Nevada has been here before, but it’s been a long time. Their last playoff appearance was 2011, and their only Bull Cup win was 2001. They had been a dominant team through the early 2000s, but since 2011 they missed the playoffs in every season, despite two 2nd place division finishes, as the other division’s stronger teams pushed them out of the wildcard spots.
Now they almost certain to finish as division winners, with a 7 game lead of Seattle, and depending on how th East division’s Miami does during the home stretch, Nevada may end up as the only west division team in the playoffs.
A large factor has been GM Scott Dummler’s astute and steady management of the team, and smallball manager Loren Stevens on-field handling of the roster. The rotation is led by Al Mota, who is tied for the AEL lead in wins at 10, as well as ERA, at 3.21. Mota has quietly posted potential Sandy Koufax Award stats, including an opponent average of just .183 and a WHIP of 1.04. Jose Soto is having another hot year, and may keep Mota from winning, but it’s almost certain that Mota will place among the top three in end of year voting.
Mota is backed by Shi-min Chaim, and former Montreal Metros arm Danny Tirado, both of whom have put in tireless effort in their starts. The bullpen features Jonas Reyes, and Jorge Morales, who was switched out of the rotation to a more suitable long relief role. Both have ERA’s below league average, contributing to making the team’s pitching among the top in the AEL.
Powering the offense is the big-ticket international free agent, Chitoji Yamada, signed last November and patrolling left field for the Speeders. He is already at 30 home runs, and 73 RBIs, and with an average of .301 has managed an OPS of 1.107, putting him on several leaderboards. Dummler then worked out a miracle deal that brought in Jim Lahey from California. The elite first baseman was languishing on a roster that wasn’t supporting him, on a team that is perhaps year away from a playoff appearance. Lahey came on in a late June trade and so far has impressed, putting up 10 homers and 33 RBIs since the trade, and posting a.302 season average.
Adding insurance and depth are third baseman Jose Torres, second baseman Mickey Pepin, shortstop Dave Lopez, and center fielder Hugo Gonzales all of whom are hitting at or above .300 except for Torres (.261), as well as double-digit RBIs.
COVEY, GARZA NAMED PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
The AEL Player of the Week was named as Seattle Salts right fielder Bill Covey, a first-time winner of the accolade. The league’s #10 prospect at the start of 2018, Covey hit .478 last week, with a blistering 4 home runs, including two in a 9-2 win over California on the 10th. The 24-year-old, who was named to his first all-star game this year as well, appears to be on an upward track and could become one of the league’s premier power hitters, with 20 taters so far this season.
Over in the LL, the top star this past week was Orlando Garza, surprisingly his first time getting the nod as well. The Bull Cup champ and former Platinum Glove winner at center field also showed he can hit as well, going .704 in 6 games last week, with a 19-for-27 stand at the plate, including 3 doubles and 2 triples. He managed 4 steals and 4 walks, while only striking out once the whole week.
Garza, the 23-year-old Montreal Metros phenom is already in his fifth season at the top level, after originally being signed by Toronto as an amateur out of Colombia in 2011, before being traded a year later in a deal that brought the Ravens’ Alex Saldana to the Nomads (then the Ducks).
“Cha Cha” Garza has been solid all season, and is currently hitting .347 on the year, with 25 stolen bases and an OPS of .874.