Lakewood finished the first half of their season on a six-game winning streak only to finish .003 percentage points back of the Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox’s single-A affiliate, for the South Atlantic League Northern divisional crown.
In the second half of the season the BlueClaws struggled on their way to a 33-36 record and a 5th place finish in the SAL Northern division. Overall they went 73-66, good for 3rd in the North and 6th-best overall.
There were quite a few players who spent the entire or a large majority of their season with Lakewood. Mickey Moniak, Daniel Brito, Darick Hall, Luke Williams, Arquimedes Gamboa, Henri Lartigue, Luke Williams, Nick Fanti, Adonis Medina, and Bailey Falter, among quite a few others, all played much or all of their season with the BlueClaws. Many of these guys are quite young and were in their first year of full season ball, so it is understandable why they struggled as the season carried on.
This category was a near-no brainer for me. I did consider Hall as the winner of this category, but I felt as though another BlueClaw had a better year at the plate.
My hitter of the year for Lakewood is Arquimedes Gamboa. The now-20-year old was just 19 throughout the entirety of the season and impressed quite a bit. He went down with injury in mid-April and did not return until late May yet still was able to turn some heads this season.
Gamboa played in 79 games and slashed .261/.328/.378 to go with six home runs, 12 doubles, three triples, 33 walks (9.4% BB%), 52 strikeouts (14.9% K%), and eight steals in eight attempts. The BB% and K% were both career bests and improves greatly from a season ago. All three slash numbers were also the highest of his career by a fair amount. All-in-all, Gamboa flashed some nice potential with Lakewood this season. Don’t be surprised if you see him shoot up some prospect rankings.
I couldn’t choose from the three, so I decided to make them co-winners: Sixto Sanchez, JoJo Romero, and Ranger Suarez.
Sixto was 18 for all but one of his starts in Lakewood — he turned 19 before his final start in a BlueClaws uniform before being promoted to Clearwater. He started 13 games, logged 67.1 innings, and finished with a 2.54 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 64 strikeouts (8.6 K/9), and nine walks (1.2 BB/9). He did all this while improving some of his offspeed stuff and continuing to work on controlling and commanding his mid-to-high 90s fastball.
Romero was 20 for the entire season and just recently turned 21. He also started 13 games for Lakewood before being promoted to Clearwater where he made 10 starts. Romero pitched 76.2 innings in his 13 starts, finishing with a 2.11 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 79 strikeouts (9.3 K/9), and 21 walks (2.5 BB/9). His ERA and K/9 were the best of his career. Romero still doesn’t look to have front end stuff but with improvement in his pitches and possibly an uptick in his fastball velocity, it’s possible he can turn into a nice mid-rotation type in the future.
Suarez had a magnificent age 21 season with Lakewood before also being promoted to Clearwater to make his final eight starts of the season. He started 14 games with the BlueClaws and threw 85 innings. He put up an ERA of 1.59 to go along with a 0.90 WHIP, 90 strikeouts (9.5 K/9), and 24 walks (2.5 BB/9). Suarez rounds out the trio of prospects who averaged a solid amount of strikeouts per nine innings while not walking many hitters. Suarez, like Romero, does not project as a high end starting pitcher but can certainly work his way up prospect lists with another good year in 2018.
Most of the big promotional news around Lakewood involved players being sent down south to high-A Clearwater. There was one big name who made his way to Lakewood. It was a little later than expected, but he still made it there. We’re talking about the Phillies’ 2017 1st round selection Adam Haseley.
Haseley began his time in the Phillies organization in the GCL only to work his way out and up to Williamsport after three tuneup games. He then played in 37 games for the Crosscutters and impressed, so the Phils bumped him up to Lakewood for his final 18 games of 2017. With the BlueClaws, Haseley hit .258/.315/.379 with one home run, three doubles, one triple, six walks (8.1% BB%), and 13 strikeouts (17.6% K%). He was caught stealing on his only attempt.
Haseley’s tenure with Williamsport and Lakewood wasn’t much more than getting acclimated to the Phillies organization. Sure, you want to see your top pick in the draft succeed to start his pro career, but you want him to be comfortable around your coaches and other prospects more than anything. Next season will be Haseley’s time to shine in the minors, specifically Clearwater and potentially even Reading.
This category was, sadly, the easiest to determine. 2016 1st overall pick Mickey Moniak struggled for a lot of the season after starting out well, so that’s why he is my biggest disappointment.
Let me go on the record for saying that I am absolutely not giving up on Moniak. That would just be silly to throw in the towel on a 19-year old after his first year in full season ball. I firmly believe Moniak just wore down and could not handle the wear and tear of a full season of baseball.
Moniak hit .236/.284/.341 this season with the BlueClaws. He also had five home runs, 22 doubles, six triples, 28 walks (5.5% BB%), 109 strikeouts (21.4% K%), and 11 steals in 18 attempts. The beginning of the season looked promising for Moniak, but then as summer hit his production began to decline. We’ll have to take this season as negative overall, but that’s no reason to give up hope for the young outfielder.
There were two no-hitters thrown for the BlueClaws this season and Nick Fanti was apart of both.
Fanti threw 8.2 hitless innings on May 6 against Columbia. He struck out nine and walked three while throwing 113 pitches, 72 of which were strikes. Trevor Bettencourt struck out the final hitter to complete the first no-no for Lakewood.
Fanti was back at it again on July 17 when he threw the second Lakewood no-hitter of the season, this time all by himself. He struck out 12 hitters, walked one, and tied his career high with 113 pitches - the same amount he threw in the first combined no-hitter.