Right Field Fog’s 2013 Alumni Reports continue with a look at the group whose successors called themselves Cape League champs in 2013: the Cotuit Kettleers.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Second to None
Accolades have rolled after nearly every year of Jason Kipnis’s career. The former Cotuit Kettleer was one of the top prospects in the Cape League in 2008, the PAC 10 Player of the Year at Arizona State in 2009 and the Cleveland Indians’ Minor League Player of the Year. After a solid Major League debut in 2012 – but a brief hiatus in the honors – Kipnis was back to his old tricks in 2013. The Indians second baseman was named an American League All-Star, solidifying his place as one of the best young second basemen in the game.
Kipnis started hot, earning Player of the Week honors twice in a month of June that saw him hit .419. Later in the summer, he earned his All-Star nod and delivered an RBI double in the eighth inning.
He finished the season hitting .284 with 17 homers and 84 RBI, to go with 30 stolen bases. He helped the Indians to their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Kipnis hit .264 with two home runs in the 2008 CCBL season.
What a Relief
One of the longest tenured Kettleers alumni and a relative newcomer both made their presence felt in new bullpen roles in 2013.
After recording a total of seven saves in 10 Major League seasons, Jason Grilli became the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 and made himself right at home, saving 33 games and earning National League all-star honors. Grilli helped end a 20-year playoff drought for the Pirates. Grilli was a Cotuit Kettleer in 1995 and a Brewster Whitecap in 1996.
Luke Hochevar played for Cotuit in 2003 and was starting to pop on No. 1 pick bust lists as he failed to post an ERA lower than in 4.81 in his first six seasons with the Royals. In 2013, Hochevar moved to the bullpen and delivered, becoming a dominant setup man and a key part of a turnaround in KC. Hochevar finished with a 1.92 ERA in 58 appearances.
Yan Gomes (Cotuit ’07/Chatham ’08) joined Grilli in Cleveland and was a revelation, hitting .294 with 11 homers in 88 games. Reports indicate he may become Cleveland’s starting catching in 2014…Chase Headley (Cotuit ’04) came back to earth a bit after a breakout 2012, but still hit 13 homers for the Padres…Veteran Chris Capuano (Cotuit ’97 & ’98) remained a solid starter for the Dodgers…Chase Utley (Cotuit ’99), annually one of the Cape’s top alumni until an injury in 2012, bounced back with 18 homers in 2013…The Mariners are still waiting for former CCBL MVP Justin Smoak (Cotuit ’06) to become a bona fide star but he did hit a career-high 20 homers this year…
Brandon Cumpton (Cotuit ’08 & ’09) – Pittsburgh, June 15
Chris Dwyer (Cotuit ’09) – Kansas City, Sept. 24
Jeff Kobernus (Cotuit ’08) – Washington, May 25
Cameron Rupp (Cotuit ’09) – Philadelphia, Sept. 10
MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Under Mike Roberts, Cotuit has become known as the place on the Cape for base-stealers, and quite a few are still using their speed to power their climb through the minors.
Three Cotuit alumni were among the top 30 base stealers in the minor leagues. The group was led by White Sox farmhand Micah Johnson, who swiped a minors-best 87 bags in 2013. Johnson was a Kettleer in 2011. To go with his high speed thievery, Johnson hit .312.
Also on the leaderboard were Rico Noel (Cotuit ’09) and Jeff Kobernus (Cotuit ’08). Noel stole 59 bases and hit .266 for San Diego’s Double A affiliate. Kobernus stole 42 at Triple A and played 24 games in the bigs with the Nationals.
Cape League alums don’t show up on pitching prospect lists as much as they do on position player tallies, but Cotuit can lay claim to two of the best. Kyle Zimmer (Cotuit ’11) is the second-ranked prospect in the Royals system, according to Baseball America and his CCBL teammate Chris Beck (Cotuit ’11) is ranked 10th in the White Sox system. Nick Tropeano (Cotuit ’10) checks in at No. 9 in the Astros’ system.
Zimmer got off to a rough start in 2013, but settled in and finished with a 4.32 ERA and 140 strikeouts. He ended the season in Double A, where he had a 1.93 ERA in four starts. In the meantime, his brother Bradley won the 2013 Cape League championship with Cotuit.
Beck is on a similar trajectory, having spent time at both Class A and Double A in 2013. He finished the season with a 3.07 ERA and is the fourth-ranked pitcher in the Chicago system.
Tropeano, one of the heroes of Cotuit’s 2010 championship, spent the entire season at Double A Corpus Christi. Though his ERA was a little high at 4.11, he struck out a Texas League-best 130 in 133.2 innings.
Tony Kemp (Cotuit ’12) made his pro debut in the Houston organization and hit .273 at two levels, with 21 stolen bases…Kemp’s Vandy teammate Mike Yastrzemski (Cotuit ’10 & ’11) hit .273 in his first season in the Baltimore organization…Jordan Leyland (Cotuit ’10 & ’11) hit .341 in the Northwest League before a promotion to Class A in the Toronto organization…Kyle Finnegan (Cotuit ’12) made a splash for Oakland’s short-season affiliate, striking out 50 in 11 games…Victor Roache (Cotuit ’11), a star with the Kettleers, hit 22 homers for Class A Wisconsin of the Brewers organization…Deven Marrero (Cotuit ’10 & ’11) hit .252 between two levels but remains a top 10 Red Sox prospect, according to Baseball America…Alex Yarbrough (Cotuit ’11) hit .313 with 11 homers and was ranks 10th in BA’s top Angels prospects…Caleb Joseph (Cotuit ’07) had his best year as a pro, blasting 22 home runs for Double A Bowie in the Baltimore farm system…Reliever Ben Rowen (Cotuit ’09) continued to excel in the bullpen, posting a 0.69 ERA in 51 appearances between two levels for the Rangers farm system…Mike Ford (Cotuit ’13), who starred at the beginning of this past CCBL season before signing with the Yankees, hit .235 in the NY-Penn League