Revs announce first three signings of 2012 season, lose Martinez to Skeeters
After months of waiting, in some ways baseball season finally arrived on this snowy Monday in York, with the Revs announcing their first three signings for the upcoming season. Returning vets Ramon Castro and Salvador Paniagua are familiar names to Revolution fans, while the third, relief pitcher Santo Luis, is a quite intriguing addition in his own right. The Revs also say goodbye to Octavio Martinez, whose rights were claimed by Sugar Land in the expansion draft.
With Castro, not many have been better in the history of the league as he carries a .341 lifetime batting average in parts of five Atlantic League seasons into this year. He’s been a hands-down All-Star in each of the four years that he’s spent enough time in this league to be considered for such a thing, and is consistently at the top of the league in batting average and on-base percentage. At a combined .332 in two years with York, he’ll enter this season as the Revs’ all-time career leader in batting, and has been a game-changer when he’s been in the lineup.
The big thing is whether or not he will begin the season in York, but this season, the Revs finally believe that he will, which is obvious considering they announced his return first. He started the last two years in Mexico, but left both times rather unhappy with how things turned out, and late last season vowed that he would be here on Opening Day to start the season rather than in another country.
The Revs envision moving him back to third base, filling the void left by Vince Harrison’s retirement. That obviously opens another spot in the infield that will need to be filled, but Castro was comfortable at third, and played quite well there in 2010.
Paniagua will be looked at as the starting catcher heading into 2012 with Martinez heading to Sugar Land. Paniagua took over that role late last season for the most part anyway, giving the team a dependable defensive catcher who called a very good game, and he also gave them some pop at the plate. He’s got such raw power and they’ll continue to work with him to try to make him a more complete hitter, but he came up with some big hits, most of all his tiebreaking homerun in Game 2 of the Division Series vs. Lancaster. His overall numbers were a .251 average with six homers in 57 games, not bad for a catcher especially taking into account what he did for the pitching staff. The pitchers liked working with him, posting a 4.12 ERA with Paniagua behind the plate (3.68 from May 29-on).
None of this is a knock on Martinez, who started most of the games for the most successful team in franchise history last season, and many of the same things could be said about “O”, for the way he handled a pitching staff, providing that veteran presence behind the plate and a strong defensive game. But Paniagua’s play improved as the year went on, moving into more of a platoon role, and eventually starting the majority of the team’s postseason games, and he earned himself the chance to start here this season.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff has to be salivating over the thought of adding Luis to a bullpen that’s been one of the best in the league the last two seasons. It will be interesting to see how he’ll fit in with all of the other late-inning options this team has had, if they’re able to keep that group intact, but he was rated as having maybe the best arm in all of independent baseball by Baseball America last season, sitting mid-90s we’re told, and at times rushing it up there even higher. The Revs bought his contract from Lincoln of the American Association where he posted a 0.83 ERA in 21 games (30 strikeouts in 21.2 innings) after being released by the Red Sox. The Dominican native will be 28 years old when the season begins, and is 23-16 with a 3.88 ERA, 38 saves, and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings over six minor league seasons, which included time in the Astros and White Sox organizations as well. Luis topped out at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2010. Reading some of the scouting reports from his time in affiliated ball, he’s got a deceptive 3/4 delivery and carries a pretty intimidating presence with him on the mound. Command had been an issue at times as he’s said to be a max-effort type with his delivery, but he can be dominating.
Not a bad start for the Revs, in my opinion.