Eastern League Division Series Preview

New Hampshire Fisher Cats (79-62) vs. Trenton Thunder (83-59)

The Double-A affiliates of the Yankees and Blue Jays will face off in their first-ever postseason meeting starting on Wednesday night at Waterfront Park.  Trenton captured the Eastern League’s Eastern Division by a 3 1/2 game margin over New Hampshire, but the Fisher Cats are still favored — in large part because of their dominance of the Thunder during the regular season. 

New Hampshire is 16-7 against Trenton in 23 contests this year.

Starting Pitchers:

Game #1 Wednesday 7:05 at Waterfront Park
TRN RHP Dellin Betances (0-0, 3.37) vs. NH RHP Kyle Drabek (left) (14-9, 2.94)

Game #2 Thursday 7:05 at Waterfront Park
TRN LHP Andy Pettitte (0-0,0.00) vs NH LHP Zach Stewart (8-3, 3.63)

Game #3  6:35 at New Hampshire
TRN LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.52) vs. NH RHP Randy Boone (5-10, 3.98)

Game #4 (if neccesary) 6:35 at New Hampshire
TRN RHP Andrew Brackman (5-7, 3.01) vs. NH RHP B.J. LaMura (5-6, 3.73)

Game #5 (if neccesary) 5:05 at Waterfront Park
TRN RHP Cory Arbiso (5-5, 4.38) vs. NH TBA

Kyle Drabek flat out isn’t getting beaten, so you can put a 1-0 Fisher Cats advantage in the books going into Thursday’s game.  Outside of that, there are a lot of question marks here.  The decision to have Adam Warren back up Andy Pettitte for Game 2 will be second-guessed for the next two days at the very least…and depending on how things go the rest of the way, it could be the turning point in the series.

To lose Warren as a starter — he’s really the only pitcher you can count on to go deep into a game — to use him for five innings and attempt to make Game 2 a slam dunk is a huge, huge risk.  Let me first guess it.  I don’t like it.  Let Warren start.  Manny Banuelos, who will start Game 3, would have been ideal in that role instead.

New Hampshire’s four listed starters have made a combined 15 starts against the Thunder this year and are 7-4, highlighted by Kyle Drabek’s 4-0 record with a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings of work.  Meanwhile, Trenton’s five listed starters — minus Pettitte — are 0-4.

Pettitte is, obviously, somewhat of a wild card.  But at four innings and 65 pitches, his role in this series is going to be greatly overblown.

EDGE: New Hampshire

Bullpens:

Trenton’s bullpen has been a question mark all season, and injuries to Grant Duff and Tim Norton combined with the recent promotions of George Kontos and John Van Benschoten did little to help that.  However, the Fisher Cats have got some question marks as well.  Outside of Alan Farina and Trystan Magnuson, New Hampshire has little in the way of a true shutdown middle reliever before they get to closer Danny Farquhar.

Thunder closer Ryan Pope has performed well out of the bullpen after being shifted there out of the rotation early in the season, but it’ll be a bit of hoping and praying until they get to him.  Recent addition Pat Venditte is likely to be used as a situational reliever during the series, and Adam Olbrychowski is still untested at this level.  That leaves Wilkins Arias, J.B. Cox, Wilkin De La Rosa and Josh Schmidt (right) to get the job done. 

If Arias and De La Rosa can form an effective lefty tandem and can be used on back-to-back days, they really could swing the advantage in Trenton’s favor.

All in all, both bullpens are pretty even.  The edge goes to Trenton, but just barely.

EDGE: Trenton

Lineup: Here are projected lineups for both teams…

NEW HAMPSHIRE

C – Brian Jeroloman .261/7/33
1B – David Cooper .257/20/78
2B – Callix Crabbe .225/4/27
SS – Adeiny Hechevarria .273/3/34
3B – Shawn Bowman .263/22/69
LF – Eric Thames .288/27/104
CF – Darin Mastroianni .301/4/46
RF – Adam Loewen .246/13/70
DH – Adam Calderone .266/9/42

TRENTON

C – Austin Romine .268/10/69
1B – Marcos Vechionacci .283/11/55
2B – Corban Joseph .216/0/13
SS – Luis Nunez .241/8/44
3B – Matt Cusick .234/3/26
LF – Damon Sublett .214/2/14
CF – Austin Krum .229/5/44
RF – Dan Brewer .270/10/84
DH – Rene Rivera .319/5/17

While what’s left of Trenton’s lineup isn’t anything to sneeze at, the Fisher Cats have three 20+ home run guys in their lineup — likely the result of an unwillingness by the parent organization to promote their deserving players.  Not only does New Hampshire have players who can change the game with one swing of the bat, they also have Mastroianni, who can change things up with his legs — he’s swiped 46 bags on the year.

The wild card in Trenton’s lineup — which will likely be a little different than what you see here, by the way — may very well be Rene Rivera.  The backup catcher has performed well for Trenton this season, and with regular playing time, his numbers would likely be more prolific.  The former major leaguer provides more of that veteran presence that New Hampshire seems to be littered with.

Edge: New Hampshire.  And it’s more than just an edge.  This is a scary lineup that’s stayed intact nearly all season long.

Bench:

The Thunder will likely have a bench of Justin Snyder, Ryan Baker and Taylor Grote.  Not ideal.  Snyder hit .245 as a utility player, while Grote and Baker have a combined three Double-A at-bats between them.

New Hampshire, meanwhile, will have Jonathan Jaspe, Matt Liuzza and Ricardo Nanita.  Jaspe and Liuzza both serve as backup catcher/DH types, while Nanita is a recently promoted outfielder who’s played in just six games at the Double-A level.

Edge: Push.  There’s really no standouts among the group here.

Result: New Hampshire in 4.  I was on the fence between four and five games, but who would win was never a question.  Trenton hasn’t been able to handle New Hampshire this year, and there’s no reason to think things will change once the playoffs start.

The loss of Justin Christian crushes the Thunder more than people realize, as his hot streak had really picked this team up when they needed it the most.  But Trenton was doomed to lose this series way before he got called up…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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14 Responses to “Eastern League Division Series Preview”

  1. JB Says:

    I think the only thing you can say works in Trenton’s favor is that, despite NH owning them all season, they still finished 3 1/2 games ahead. That’s not much though. I’m not sure if it’s just bad matchups or it’s mental. But Trenton just can’t beat NH to save its life.

  2. LS Says:

    Wow. Thanks for the positive series preview. :-( Let’s lift these Trenton players up instead of writing them off before they even start. Go get ‘em guys!!

  3. thunderbaseball Says:

    Do you want a blow smoke up your rear-end, “yay team” preview, or do you want my honest opinion?

  4. LS Says:

    Nice.

  5. Kyle Drabek to Thunder: Who’s your Daddy? « BareBones Says:

    [...] approximately 65 pitches or four innings. ** Another Note: Let me go on record as saying I am with Mike Ashmore in saying I don’t like the move to bring Warren in after Pettitte either. Banuelos, another [...]

  6. thunderbaseball Says:

    It’s the truth…I’m not going to write I think the team is going to win if I don’t think that’s the case. Why would I do that? I’m not a fan…it isn’t my job to cheer the guys on or give them a boost, etc. My job is to write stories and give honest opinions, etc. Thus, I have them losing in 4. I hope they prove me wrong, and I’m sure they’d take great joy in doing that…but were I asked who wins and in how many games…New Hampshire in 4.

  7. LS Says:

    I know. Sorry for letting my emotions get the best of me. It’s a Mom thing. Thanks for all your good work through the season.

  8. thunderbaseball Says:

    Ha. No worries. I also get on the testy side this time of year. It’s just…as I think you know…it would be a professional disservice to my readers if I just told people what they wanted to hear, you know?

    And hey, like I said…I hope they prove me wrong. This is a great group of guys this year…I don’t, but it’s hard not to pull for them.

  9. Art Vandelay Says:

    Mike,
    on paper this looks like a total mismatch…almost a Triple A team vs a Single A team since Toronto has basically not touched this team and the Thunder are now using players from Charleston and Staten Island. But there were many years when the Thunder went into the playoffs overwhelming favorites and lost in the first round…and I remember that in 2007 & 2008, everyone thought Akron would win. I see that Drabek has actually given up some hits, some runs and actually lost 9 games…I know it seems like they are getting his plaque ready in Cooperstown, but there were other pitchers who dominated this league more and still lost in the playoffs. So hopefully the Thunder can surprise a lot of people this week.

  10. David McD Says:

    Let’s remember that major leaguers on rehab isn’t always a good thing in the playoffs, as Mike points out…remember Matsui?

  11. thunderbaseball Says:

    It’s moreso based on what NH did vs. Trenton this year…I mean, it would be ridiculous otherwise to predict a team that finished 3 1/2 games up on the other to lose…

    But certainly, anything can happen. Just from a pyschological standpoint, beating Drabek would be HUGE.

  12. Peter Lacock Says:

    I too would not choose to minimize Warren but it could work out if Pettitte isn’t as rusty as one might expect him to be.
    Trenton can win. The pitchers simply have to dominate like never before.
    No one said it would be easy.

  13. Vinny Says:

    Rangers in seven,oh that was another show and another radio personality.

  14. YankeesVine » Blog Archive » Triple-A and Double-A playoffs begin tonight Says:

    [...] The Double-A pitching matchups: [...]

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