Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Fisher Cats on the move
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, preparing for their 10th season, have won two championships and helped develop 58 players on their way to the big leagues. And you never know who is watching from other organizations.
Many of the all-time best Fisher Cats never played for their parent club in Toronto. Some had a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays and were traded. Others died on the vine in Toronto's farm system and were acquired by another team.
While the Red Sox have attempted to revamp their lineup with free-agent signings, the Blue Jays have relied on trading prospects this off-season.
Ex-Fisher Cats on the move:
-- C Travis d'Arnaud - The former Eastern League Most Valuable Player was the key bargaining chip for Toronto, which landed Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in a seven-player deal this week. d'Arnaud spent the entire 2011 season with New Hampshire for a year of seasoning, and New Hampshire baseball should be thankful for the memories. The kid batted .311 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs, batting in the heart of the order during an EL championship season. Despite some minor setbacks from injury, he was ranked as Toronto's No. 1 prospect entering the off-season.
We always wondered if d'Arnaud or ex-Fisher Cat J.P. Arencibia would become Toronto's long-term catcher. Most pro scouts project d'Arnaud as the better everyday player - and now he'll have a chance to earn the starting job with the Mets. The homer-happy Arencibia, an average defender and fan favorite in Toronto, has plenty of job security in Toronto.
-- SS Adeiny Hechavarria - The slick-fielding Cuban defector was the most intriguing and best middle infielder (defensively) in Fisher Cats history. He helped win games with marvelous defense and became a productive hitter after moving on to Triple-A Las Vegas. Hechavarria reached the majors last August, batting .254 for the Blue Jays, but was traded to the Marlins in a blockbuster 12-player deal that sent Jose Reyes and pitcher Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays. The 23-year-old will likely open the 2013 season as Miami's starting shortstop.
-- OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Henderson Alvarez - The massive trade between Toronto and Miami, perceived as a salary dump for the Marlins, also sent two ex-Fisher Cats to the Marlins. The toolsy Marisnick, entering his age 22 season, played at Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire in 2012 and finished the year as Toronto's No. 2 prospect. Alvarez became an established starter with the Jays, posting a 10-17 record and 4.52 ERA over the past two seasons.
-- 1B Mike McDade - An Eastern League All-Star and Home Run Derby champion, McDade spent six seasons in Toronto's farm system before landing with Cleveland. The Indians claimed McDade off outright waivers after the Blue Jays left the switch-hitter unprotected and off the 40-man roster. McDade was another player in the center of the action for New Hampshire in 2011. He provided power from both sides of the plate and easily ranks as the top defensive first baseman in Fisher Cats history. McDade will compete with Lars Anderson, among others, for a starting job with Cleveland.
-- C Yan Gomes - Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos began overhauling the team by trading manager John Farrell to the Red Sox in exchange for Mike Aviles. The infielder, along with Gomes, was then traded to Cleveland for reliever Esmil Rogers. Gomes is yet another success story from 2011. Drafted as a catcher by Toronto, he fell behind d'Arnaud on the depth chart and worked to stay in the starting lineup by playing at third base, first base or designated hitter. He got his big break last season, called up by Toronto after Arencibia suffered a fractured right hand. He appeared in 43 games and played four positions for Toronto, including left field. Gomes will play for Brazil in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which begins in early March.
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Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com. Twitter: @graymatter11.