It’s too early to predict if the Vancouver Canadians have what it takes to win a fourth consecutive Northwest League title or who might knock them off the throne.
But a week into the season, the NWL has already produced quite a few memorable moments. Here’s a quick team-by-team rundown of the first eight games.
Tri-City Dust Devils (3-5): Skipper Drew Saylor believes the cohesiveness of this team could be a true strength, but the Dust Devils do have a few others.
They boast the top starter in the league in Helmis Rodriguez (1-0, 0.79 ERA) and have remained the top running team, averaging 2.9 steals. In an 11-1 home win over Everett, Tri-City stole eight bases.
David Bergin (.409) and Marcos Derkes (.400) rank Nos. 6 and 7 in the league in hitting.
Everett AquaSox (2-6): The AquaSox have a new skipper — former Seattle Mariners catcher Dave Valle — but that couldn’t prevent a slow start, including a six-game losing streak.
Everett also scored a league-low 25 runs, but the AquaSox are hoping the influx of draft talent can turn things around at the dish. The pitching staff is led by Leoncio Munoz (0-0, 1.35 ERA) and Ricardo Pereira (0-1, 1.35 ERA), who both rank among the NWL ERA leaders.
Spokane Indians (6-1): The Indians looked pretty tough winning their first six games before taking their first loss Friday at Vancouver.
Spokane boasts two of the top three hitters in the league in Seth Spivey (.524) and Eduard Pinto (.480), and the Indians lead the NWL in batting at .273. Their pitching is tops in ERA at 2.40.
Vancouver Canadians (4-4): The three-time defending NWL champs have shown they can excel in all three phases: defense, hitting and pitching. The C’s have proven they can get on base and run, averaging more than six runs in winning their first three games.
A four-game losing streak took them off the pace in the North Division, but a team ERA under 3.00 shows a strong pitching staff.
Boise Hawks (4-4): Kyle Schwarber was the talk of the NWL for the first five games. Sadly for Hawks fans, that was the extent of his career at Memorial Stadium.
The Chicago Cubs’ first-round pick (fourth overall) went 12-for-20 with four home runs and 10 RBIs before a promotion to the Midwest League. Boise, which started 4-1 at home, promptly dropped a three-game series in Eugene.
The Hawks still have one of the NWL’s most dangerous hitters in Justin Marra, who is tied for the league lead with 10 RBIs, tied for second in home runs (3) and is second in slugging (.846).
Eugene Emeralds (3-4): With Schwarber’s promotion, the Ems have the highest remaining draft pick (13th overall) in the league in second baseman Trea Turner.
Eugene lost four straight in Spokane, but then swept Boise at home to gain some confidence. The Emeralds have some power — they’re second behind Boise with seven homers and a .397 slugging percentage.
Ems pitchers have kept walks and wild pitches to a minimum but still have an unsightly 4.57 ERA.
Hillsboro Hops (6-2): After losing the opener in Everett, the Hops won six of their next seven to take control in the South Division.
They’ve done it with balance, good hitting and good pitching. Adding OFTodd Glaesmann, the Tampa Bay Rays 2012 minor league player of the year, hasn’t hurt either. Glaesmann is fifth in the league in hitting (.441), fourth in RBIs (9) and tied for first with 15 hits.
Hillsboro also has a strong stable of pitchers, who have combined for a 2.66 team ERA and allowed just one home run between them. Anderson Placido (1-0, 0.87 ERA) is their top starter.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (3-5): The Volcanoes lost their first three at home to Vancouver, then reeled off three wins in a row.
S-K is dead last in the NWL in hitting at .231, and a league-high 18 wild pitches is a scary prospect.
Among the fan favorites so far is outfielder Fargas Joneshwy, a second-year pro out of Puerto Rico who is eighth in the league in hitting (.381) and third in on-base percentage (.552).
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org