Barring an epic alignment of the stars, the Portland Sea Dogs will not be making the postseason this year. However, their below-.500 record cannot properly portray what a successful season 2010 has been thus far.
Earlier this month, when Baseball America announced its “Best Tools” list, the Sea Dogs had five position players and one manager earning top Eastern League Honors.
Defensively, center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin, third baseman Ray Chang, shortstop Jose Iglesias and first baseman Anthony Rizzo were named the “Best Defensive” players at their respective positions.
Second baseman Nate Spears was recognized as having the “Best Strike Zone Judgment” and was second in the league in walks (74) entering play Friday.
Skipper Arnie Beyeler was named the "Best Manager Prospect" in the Eastern League. Beyeler, who has led the Sea Dogs to the playoffs in two seasons (2007, 2008), has notched a franchise record 273 career wins in a record four seasons in a Sea Dogs uniform.
The 46-year-old Beyeler has watched three players who began the season on his opening day roster work their way to Boston. Felix Doubront (the Sea Dogs’ opening day starter), outfielder Ryan Kalish and infielder Yamaico Navarro have all made the jump from Double-A to the majors under Beyeler’s tutelage.
Now, Beyeler is managing some of the best young talent in the system, led by Rizzo. The 21-year-old Rizzo was named Eastern League Player of the Week for the week of Aug. 2-8 and continues to build upon his torrid first week in August.
On Monday night against the Harrisburg Senators, Rizzo came up with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and promptly cleared them with a double. The three RBIs gave the slugging lefty 29 RBIs for the month of August, breaking the previous high of 28, previously held by Aaron Bates (2009), Ross Gload (2000), Jon Still (2009) and Kevin Millar (1997).
A notable side note about Millar, a Portland Sea Dogs Hall of Famer, is that he accomplished the feat of 28 RBIs in three different months during his historic 1997 campaign.
As for Rizzo, the sky continues to be the limit in terms of his potential for power.
As the summer days grow shorter, and the crisp autumn breezes begin to creep in from the Casco Bay to Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine, we are reminded that another Double-A season is winding to an end.
Although the playoffs seem out of reach and the results in the win column haven’t shown as much as some would prefer, it is important to note the strides players such as Kalish and Doubront have made since April 8, and look forward to the potential emergence of prospects like Rizzo and Iglesias.