Baseball in Batavia has lasted the test of time. It has remained through a World War and the Vietnam war as well as three other major United States affiliated conflicts. It has stood strong through two stock market crashes and the Great Depression. It has marked the times through 20 different US presidents. And although the team has lost a lot in recent years including its latest ownership group as well as the better condition of its stadium and playing field, Minor League Baseball, who will manage the team this season, refuses to let that history die. This year in the Batavia Muckdogs’ 79th season, they will welcome an impressive young crop of first and second year pro talent including Demetrius Sims, Sean Reynolds, Michael Donadio, Jeral Encarnacion, Sean Reynolds and Alberto Guerrero.
Returning as the Muckdogs head coach is second year manager Mike Jacobs. Yes, that Mike Jacobs. The same one that hit .258/.314/.483 with 69 homers from 2006-2008 with Miami. His 32 homer season in ‘08 ranks among the top ten in franchise history (9th). His .483 SLG as a Marlin ranks eighth 8th all time in team history. Fresh off his participation in the Marlins’ 25th Anniversary festivities, Jacobs heads back up north to assist in building the next quarter decade of Miami talent. That talent includes fellow first baseman Sean Reynolds who says due to his .253/.313/473 seven-year pro career, his 13-year .279/.353/.486 Minor League career and his five seasons spent in the Mexican leagues that allowed him to see a different type of discipline and playing style along with the fact that Jacobs isn’t very far removed from sitting on the other side of the bench makes him a perfect mentor and leader for players at such an early level of development.
“Mike is still a player in a lot of ways, even though he’s not out on the field with us during the games, he still thinks the game and is very easily able to stay in touch with what we are thinking as players. He likes to keep a loose clubhouse and let guys learn on their own, for the most part, how to conduct themselves in a professional way. He’s always very open if anyone has anything they want to talk about, and he’s always willing to help anybody get better who wants to put in the time and effort. Overall, having him as my manager for my first two years has been really great for me, and I think a lot of the other guys who have played for him would say the same thing.”
Rounding out Jacobs’ staff is hitting coach Jesus Merchan, pitching coach Jason Erickson and defensive coach Ronnie Richardson.
Merchan is a former infielder who spent time with the Twins, Blue Jays and Marlins organizations before ending his North American playing career with the Padres organization in 2013. He played five games in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2014 before hitting .270/.345/.345 in a single Indy ball season. Prior to that, Merchan hung ‘em up. This will be Merchan’s first season as a member of a coaching staff. A for-average bat who once hit over .330 in AAA and held down a .296/.349/.386 career Minor League slash line despite never getting an MLB call, Merchan is a guy with knowledge of success at every minor league level and akin to life in them. That coupled with his mechanically sound offensive background makes him a welcome contributor to the Muckdogs’ young offense.
Returning as pitching coach is Jason Erickson. Erickson was drafted by the Padres in 2009 out of the University Of Washington. He had a 3.94 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.65 K/BB stat line in 254 Minor League innings before retiring in 2011. According to RJ Peace who played under Erickson’s tutelage last season, Erickson is an extremely attentive coach who spends time one-on-one with his staff regarding their development.
“He sits down with me and watch video after every time I pitch to talk about what i can improve on and what I did well,” Peace said. “He’s a coach that really cares and tries to get his players better every day. He’s a high energy coach that brings it day in and day out no matter what, always trying to get his players better.”
Richardson, a Florida native and UCF graduate, played 1,514.2 innings in MiLB and independent ball outfields posting a .980 fielding percentage and 1.96 range factor. He also contributed 15 outfield assists while committing just 11 errors. He also held down an MiLB BA over .260 and OBP over .400 during three seasons between A and A+.
SS Demetrius Sims
CF Ricardo Cespedes
RF Jerar Encarnacion
1B Sean Reynolds
2B Michael Donadio
LF Albert Guaiarmo
3B Denis Karas
C JD Osborne
DH Matt Brooks
Sims is a 6’2”, 200 pound righty hitter out of Bethune Cookman in Daytona Beach where he hit .299/.375/.390 over a three-year collegiate career. Sims takes great pride in his time spent at the mostly-black college and is looking forward to making an impact on the game as a Bethune-Cookman alum and in doing so, putting the school which prides itself on its African-American heritage more significantly on the athletic landscape.
“You know, a lot of guys get over looked because they attend an HBCU. Being one of those guys, I’ve always had to play with a chip on my shoulder knowing that I have to make the best out of every single opportunity I get because you only get so many,” Sims said. “Just being able to represent Bethune Cookman University in pro ball is an honor in itself. There’s not too many African American baseball players so I’m glad I can be a sense of hope or determination to other young African American players all around.”
After tearing a labrum during his initial junior campaign, Sims his red-shirted in 2017. That season, he placed third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in hits with 72 and led the conference in runs scored 52, triples with 7 and total bases with 96. Sims says his red-shirt junior season was made possible by his time spent sidelined. According to Sims, he views the usually negative experience of extended time on the shelf as a positive because it aided in his development as a player, making him view baseball in a completely different regard and teaching him how to respect it.
“I tore the labrum in my left shoulder during summer ball that sidelined me for awhile,” Sims said. “During the recovery process, it really allowed me to see the game from a different perspective. It helped me appreciate the game a lot more and I was able to grow mentally.”
Playing just under three hours south of his collegiate coaches last season allowed Sims to stay in close contact with them which attributed to a fantastic rookie pro season for Sims who hit .290/.417/.304 for the GCL Marlins. According to Sims, he holds his relationship as a Bethune-Cookman alum in high regard and says it was a major catalyst in his initial success as a Marlin.
“The coaches/staff/faculty are always so welcoming to the guys who want to come back and get their work in,” Sims said. “I’m so glad to be apart of the Wildcat family.”
Sims returns to Batavia this year after hitting .186/.262/.237 in 17 games as a Muckdog last year. While those stats may not look impressive from the outset, Sims enters 2017 with a blueprint for improvement.
“Just slowing the game down. Controlling the things that I can control and not trying to do too much.”
A .323 hitter with a .412 OBP in his collegiate career, Sims, the younger brother of pro football standout Dion Sims, is a still growing 6’2”, 200 pound 20-year-old heralded for his blazing bat speed and even better foot speed proven by his seven doubles and triples and 72% success rate while stealing 13 bags in his final season and 49% success rate in his final two at HBCU. Rounding out his skill set with astonishing range and a flashy glove in the infield, Sims, although raw, has the makeup of a top of the order catalyst with improving plate presence that can handle multiple infield positions but at 22, he will need to take some big strides to reach that ceiling. Still, Sims has the type of big league talent to earn him a roster spot as a utility infielder and for-average bat off the bench.
RF Jerar Encarnacion
2017 – GCL: .266/.323/.448, 5 HR, 15 XBH, 26 RBI, 51/10 K/BB
Yeral “Jerar” Encarnacion is a Marlins’ international signee from 2016 out of the Dominican Republic. Already 6’4”, 219 and still building muscle mass, the impressive physical specimen cut his teeth in the Dominican Summer League in his signing season before breaking out last season in the GCL where he hit 266/.328/.446 with five homers, seven doubles and three triples in 42 games. His SLG ranked 12th in the league, his .182 ISO ranked eight and his .771 OPS was good for 23rd best in the GCL. All of this occurred in his first season of stateside ball.
So far this year, all Jerar has accomplished in 11 games is to post league-leading stats in all four slash categories: BA (.479), OBP (.500), SLG (.646) and OPS (1.146) by recording multihit efforts in nine of those appearances. A guy who has advantageously grown with his body and who is nurturing an elite level power tool, Encarnacion is THE guy to watch in Batavia this year.
Reynolds spent most of his time in high school playing ball for the Redondo Union Seahawks in central California. But his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player began way before that.
“When he was a six years old, I literally had to beg him to come inside from playing catch with his friends,” Sean’s mother explained to us during Minor League camp this season. “Since then, somehow I always knew this is what he wanted to do.”
Sean confirms his mother’s suspicions.
“To be honest I always looked at playing professional baseball as the best job in the world my whole life leading up to actually being drafted, so I would say I guess I always knew I wanted to do this.”
A right handed thrower, Reynolds rode his size and power arm to 11 wins with a 1.08 ERA in his senior year of high school. As impressive as that output was, the Marlins opted to sign him based on the output of his nine homers, 34 RBI and .366 BA as a lefty hitter at the plate.
“Yeah, they like me more as a hitter,” Reynolds said at the time. “I’ll play right field or wherever they need me. I like to hit, so it’s something I’m ready to do.”
Reynolds joined the Marlins as just the 40th overall player to be drafted out of the central California institution. Of the previous 39, only one has cracked the major leagues (pitcher Scott Davison). Should Reynolds realize his dream, he will be the first positional player in school history to do so. No matter what, Reynolds, who won two regional titles, has been a major catalyst in starting to put the RUHS baseball program on the map, turning a small-town local school into the beginnings of an athletic destination.
“Coming into Redondo my freshman year, you could that the program was looked at as just another Southern California school with a baseball team. I definitely left that place better than I found it, and I can already see how the results and impact that winning two championships my junior and senior year is making,” Reynolds said. “Kids from surrounding areas want to come and play for Redondo by choice, even if it’s not their closest school.”
In pursuing his dream as a professional, Reynolds hopes to continue to do his alma matter proud and to continue to contribute to the future of it’s program.
“All I want is to continue having a positive influence on the school and the players that come after me,” Reynolds said.
Just five days after being selected by the Marlins, Reynolds made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League. In that game, Reynolds went 2-5. Overall, Reynolds’ rookie season and much of his sophomore season in Batavia were very much a learning experience as he shifted his focus toward being a full-time offensive player at the pro level with a wood bat but his versatility and ability to positively adjust began to show through at the end of last year when he recorded hits in 10 of his last 19 games. Over that span, Reynolds hit () with four homers.
After an impressive camp, Reynolds has returned to Batavia breathing fire. On the young season so far this year, he is one of the best hitters in the New York Penn League, slashing .242/.360/.452 with an .812 OPS, 27th on the circuit. The biggest catalyst for Reynolds has been and will continue to be balancing his load, getting his lower half more involved in his approach and executing better swing paths making him more of a heady hitter and less of a guy who goes for the fences every pitch. While he is still a bit of a question mark at this point, with youth on his side as well as the likelihood to add more muscle to his power-first offensive skillset, Reynolds has a great opportunity to reach MLB slugger status by 2020. Place Reynolds’ potential ceiling somewhere around Lucas Duda, a career .242/.338/.453 hitter.
Like his teammate Demetrius Sims, Donadio is another guy who comes from a bloodline rooted in athletic stardom. While his twin brother Mark was a .290/.370/.374 career hitter Fordham University, his father Jos was a football standout at quarterback 20 years earlier. According to Michael, he inherits his raw athletic skill from his father and the backing he gets from the rest of the Donadio clan.
“I believe I get my talent from my dad being a prestigious athlete,” Donadio said. “My family has always been very supportive through the ups and downs of my career.”
Mike hit .323/.433/.463 in a four year career with the St. John’s Red Storm. All the while, Donadio was able to maintain great academic standing and graduate with honors from the prestigious university. According to Michael, his time spent at St John’s didn’t only make him a better ballplayer but it made him a more valuable human being, all around.
“Balancing school and work and playing baseball was tough at times. It forced me to develop time management skills, be be resilient and stay focused at all times,” Donadio said. “Fortunately I graduated with a degree in business management. If I wasn’t playing baseball I’d be pursuing a career in the financial industry or as a sales rep, perhaps in the medical or technology business. The lessons I learned at St. John’s carry over into my baseball career.”
Last season, the Marlins selected Donadio in the 30th round of the draft. As fate would have it and as Michael recalls, he was actually with his brother Mark when the pair of twins found out Michael’s name was being called by Miami.
“I was in the car with Mark when I got the call and my phone was ringing off the hook from family and friends congratulating me,” Michael said. “It was a great moment for me and my family.”
Following his selection, Michael got off to a .282/.407/.392 start to his pro career with the GCL Marlins. By way of his 13.6% walk rate, Donadio’s OBP ranked 15th in the Gulf Coast League. So far this year with the Muckdogs, Donadio is showing a similar for-average pace, hitting .282.
A dynamic fielder with eligibility at three infield spots as well as two outfield spots, Donadio, who had a standout camp showing both well-timed swings and good range, enters 2018 for the first time with his focus solely on improving his athletic abilities. Should he reach his ceiling, the 23-year-old stands out as a flexible defender with a solid line drive swing and for-average capabilities with the growing potential for above average power.
Given his pedigree and drive, Donadio is plenty worth keeping an eye on as an under-the-radar prospect on the rise.
- Alberto Guerrero
- RJ Peace
- Dakota Bennett
- Humberto Mejia
- Chris Valiamont
SP Alberto Guerrero
2017 – Rk-A: 48.2 IP, 2.59 ERA, 1.192 WHIP. 39/18 K/BB
Guerrero is a Marlins 2015 international signee out of the nation of Panama. In his first pro season at the ripe age of 17, Guerrero participated in both the GCL and Dominican Summer League, holding down an impressive combined 3.70 ERA in 41.1 IP with a 1.234 WHIP and 33/17 K/BB. Guerrero spent all of 2016 in the GCL where he managed a lowly 2.63 ERA as an 18-year-old. His accompanying stats were a 1.22 WHIP and 1.78 K/BB. Last year, Guerrero threw 40 more innings of 3.10 ERA, 1.05 WHIP ball in the GCL before getting a cup of coffee in Batavia.
Though that tryout in upstate New York didn’t go as planned (7 ER in 8 IP), Guerrero, who is still a year and a half younger than his average competition, has already started to reap his revenge on NYPL hitters this season. In his first three starts, Guerrero has held down a 2.81 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with a 14/7 K/BB. A zone pounding righty who will frequently touch 95 and can also pitch off an above average high 80s change, Guerrero, who has gone through some trials and tribulations in his young career, is a consistent release point away (on his high 80s power slide piece) away from completing a solid three pitch repertoire at age 20 with plenty of time to develop another offspeed pitch at the full season level. There’s also the probability for even more velo as he fills out. Guerrero should be given a good amount of credence and attention this season as he starts back in Batavia but should be a pretty quick mover up to Greensboro.
.237/.322/.401, 39 HR, 172 XBH, 4.2 R/G
652 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.260 WHIP, 712/201 K/BB