The Bradenton Marauders have a lot of offensive talent. They feature Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco, the two biggest breakout players from last season. They’ve got Jose Osuna and Willy Garcia, guys who have just as much talent as Hanson and Polanco, but didn’t put up the ridiculous numbers. Dan Gamache was a sixth round pick who hits for average and gets on base.
The offense is there. The defense? So far it has been offensive.
That was shown last night when the Marauders committed six errors. It could have easily been nine, but three plays were ruled hits. One of those plays led to the only three runs allowed by Matt Benedict.
With two outs in the second, Alen Hanson mis-played a ground ball. Hanson tried to glove the ball, dropped it, and as a result of the bobble he missed the play at first. That loaded the bases for T.J. Rivera, who doubled to deep center field to bring in all three runs. Benedict ended up throwing 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, with a walk and five strikeouts. The sinkerball pitcher had two hits that should have been errors, both grounders to Hanson. One of those led to the earned runs. The other prevented him from getting out of the sixth inning.
Zack Von Rosenberg, who has recently added a two-seam fastball with a lot of late sink, came on to relieve Benedict. Von Rosenberg only gave up one run, but again that run was on the defense. Travis Taijeron led off with a fly ball to the right-center gap. Willy Garcia ranged over and had the ball in his glove, but dropped it while avoiding Gregory Polanco. The play went for a hit, and was ruled a triple. Taijeron scored on the next play after a fielding error at third base by Chris Lashmet.
Von Rosenberg added an error of his own on a wild pickoff attempt, which advanced the runner to second. He ended up getting the three outs needed to escape the inning, which means he pretty much recorded five outs in the inning.
The ninth inning is when things got ugly. The game was tied 4-4 heading into the inning. With one out, Cam Maron reached on a second error by Chris Lashmet. Joan Montero threw a wild pitch, allowing the runner to advance to second. After a strikeout, Montero was one out away from stranding the runner. He induced a pop up to second, but the ball was dropped by Dan Gamache. That allowed Maron to score the go ahead run. To make matters worse, the Marauders caught Aderlin Rodriguez in a rundown, but Alen Hanson dropped the ball when making the tag. Rodriguez had given up on the play, but made it to second after the ball got away from Hanson. A third error on the night by Chris Lashmet on the next play put runners at first and third. Montero eventually got out of the jam, ironically on a nice diving stop by Gamache.
Bradenton managed to score a run in the bottom half of the inning, but lost it in extra innings. St. Lucie scored six runs on the night, but shouldn’t have scored any. The three given up by Benedict were only given up because Hanson couldn’t make the play at short in the second. Von Rosenberg’s run was given up because Willy Garcia dropped a fly ball. The run in the ninth inning was a result of Gamache dropping a pop up. And the extra innings run doesn’t score if Bradenton wins the game in regular innings.
There’s a difference between having a bad night on defense, and bad defense overall. Bradenton’s poor defense can’t be chalked up to one night. They have 22 errors on the year in eight games, which is almost three per game. That’s not counting all of the plays that should have been ruled errors. The main culprits have been the guys who had trouble last night.
Alen Hanson – I talked about his defense earlier this week. He’s shown some good tools at times, but he’s very raw and has been missing some routine plays. Hanson has six errors on the year, and that number could easily be eight after last night.
Chris Lashmet/Eric Avila – Lashmet was playing third base last night, but he and Avila both have three errors each. The plays last night were all a case of Lashmet getting eaten up by ground balls at the hot corner. That was also his first game at third this year. He played third a lot in Spring Training, and looked good at times, but didn’t look like a guy who could stick at the position for the long-term.
Dan Gamache – Gamache was drafted as a strong defensive third baseman. The Pirates moved him to second base, but the strong defense hasn’t carried over. He has five errors on the year, after having 21 last year in West Virginia. He does make some good plays, but also misses some very routine plays. Aside from the missed pop up last night, I’ve also seen him throw wide at second base on a pretty standard 4-6 put out attempt. You could chalk the poor defense up to learning a new position, but Gamache has now been playing at second since he was drafted in 2011, and typically the move from left to right on the field is supposed to be easier.
Willy Garcia – Garcia didn’t get an error for his dropped triple, but does have one on the year. He’s not a bad fielder, and has some good range for a right fielder. He also has a cannon for an arm, which he showed off last night. This is a case where I think it was more one bad night/one bad play.
In the long-term, these guys are still developing. There’s a chance they could improve, since that’s what the minors are for. I don’t see Hanson improving to become a positive-valued defender, but I could see him improving to the point where his offensive value at shortstop would off-set the negative impact on the field. I don’t have as much faith in Gamache, since he’s older than Hanson, and should have handled the move to second well considering he was good defensively at third.
In the short-term, that poor defense up the middle is going to kill the numbers of certain pitchers on this team. Matt Benedict and Robby Rowland are both extreme ground ball pitchers. Rowland had a 53% ground ball ratio last year, and has the same so far this year. Benedict was 54% last year and this year in his time in high-A.
Then there’s the guys who are above-average. Nick Kingham’s downward fastball gets a lot of ground balls, to the tune of 47% last year. Zack Von Rosenberg’s new two-seam fastball is also getting a lot of ground balls early this year.
After last night’s game the Marauders had a closed door meeting. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they also receive a visit from infield coordinator Gary Green in the near future.