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Aces Over Brooklyn

Bats Need to Catch Fire

For Cyclones to Remain in First

 By Patrick Hickey Jr

One of the Cyclones most consistent hitters all season, Luis Rivera would thrive in the leadoff spot

After starting their season 0-7, the Brooklyn Cyclones, powered by phenomenal pitching and clutch hitting, have rocketed to first place in the McNamara division with a 32-22 record. Despite their position atop the division however, the Mets Single-A Affiliate has a few question marks on their team that may keep them out of the playoff picture once the All-Star break is over.


Getting outstanding pitching from their staff so far this season, the Cyclones have been a team that has dominated opposing teams thanks to phenomenal performances from starting pitchers Eric Brown [ 4-1, 1.51 ERA], Jake Ruckle [ 4-1, seven walks in 64.2 IP], Tobi Stoner [ 5-1, 49 K’s] and Nelson Portillo [3.30 ERA]. The Cyclones bullpen has also been a tour-de-force, with lefty strikeout artist Grady “Bulldog” Hinchman, Jeremy Mizell [0.38 ERA in 24 innings] and German Marte being a huge reason why Brooklyn is ten games over .500.


While there seem to be no questions about the teams pitching staff, there are plenty of potential problems surrounding the Cyclones streaky offense.


Joe Holden, the team’s lead-off hitter for the majority of the past two seasons, has morphed into something much more dangerous than a slap hitter with speed. Hitting .264 with 11 home runs and 46 runs batted in 83 games this season with Brooklyn and the Mets other Single-A Affiliate, the Hagerstown Suns, Holden has proven it’s time for him to move out of the lead off spot and into the two hole, giving another Cyclones speedster, Luis Rivera, a chance to ignite the team offensively every night.


Moving Holden to the two spot in the Cyclones batting order would give the team added punch atop their order, having three quality hitters with speed like Rivera, Holden and Dustin “Sunshine” Martin face opposing pitchers in the first inning. This would move the dependable Jon Schemmel into the nine spot in the line up, combining with solid hitters like “The Knack” Ivan Naccarata and Tim Grogan, giving Brooklyn a much more potent offensive attack from top to bottom.


However, despite how much better the Cyclones offense would be with Rivera leading off, the team would be able to hold it’s own with anyone in the NY-Penn League if right fielder  Jon Sanchez played up to his full potential. Hitting .200 with 45 strikeouts in 44 games, Sanchez has looked overmatched at the plate this season and faired even more miserably on defense, committing five errors so far this season. Things have gotten so bad that Cyclones manager George Greer acknowledged that Sanchez needs to work on his game.


“I’m always concerned when a person doesn’t play up to their potential,” said Greer of Sanchez. “He’s been working hard and has come everyday for extra work. I look for him to start helping us a little bit more than he has been.”


One reason why Sanchez is slumping may have something to do with the fact that he’s not accustomed to playing everyday. Missing all of last season with an ankle injury, Sanchez at times this year hasn’t run out balls in the outfield and has taken his time in situations where the team needed him to hustle.


The Cyclones do have suitable replacements for Sanchez in the outfield like Mark Wright and Elvis Cruz, but even at their best, they don’t have the raw talent, high ceiling and five tool potential that Sanchez has.


Sanchez’s ego and confidence may be hit hard by sharing time in the outfield as well. Cruz and Wright have proven to be effective role players for Brooklyn this season as well, making it almost impossible to take the starting job away from Sanchez.


In the end, Sanchez’s effectiveness in right field and how well the Cyclone bats support their pitching staff will play a pivotal role in whether this team makes the playoffs or not. If their resiliency and ability to climb back up the ladder after starting their season 0-7 is any indication, fans at Keyspan Park will have plenty of things to cheer about when the regular season comes to an end on September 7.

All Photographs for this article were taken by Conroy Walker

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