I’ve run out of things to say about this team. Any adjective is cliché and tacky, any question on performance is nitpicking.
With such a young team in Lansing, I tempered my enthusiasm through the first month of the season and waited for the losing streak. I wanted to see how the Lansing three handled adversity when faced with older hitters and line ups. I wanted to see how the offense adjusted after struggles. I wanted to see how the coaching staff would juggle guys when the slumps came. Fifty games into the season, I’m still waiting to see these things as Lansing is currently 21 games above .500 at 35-14. Their record at home and on the road is nearly identical as they are 19-7 in Lansing and 16-7 at the oppositions place.
Their message to the Midwest League seems clear. When you play us, we are going to defend better than you, run better than you, hit better than you and oh yeah, we’re going to outpitch you as well.
Obviously each player is working on their own individual qualities to improve, but one has to ask what the Lansing coaching staffs message is to these guys? As a collective whole, there isn’t a lot to complain about and this is a question that I recently posed to Lansing pitcher Anthony DeSclafani.
“There is competition within the team and there is competition when we are out in the field trying to beat the other team. I think that we are able to separate the two. The coaches I think know that we are working hard, so they keep preaching to us to keep staying with our same routine”, stated DeSclafani.
Another Lansing player that is enjoying the ride is outfielder Kenny Wilson. Wilson was a part of a 2009 team that was full of youth but struggled and at times looked overmatched with players of a similar age. It is the maturity of the players that Wilson see’s as the difference.
“I look at guys in this club house that are 19 and 20 years old and they are a lot more mature than I was when I was 19.”, stated Wilson. “I didn’t know how to handle certain situations and failures. I didn’t know how to get ready for a game, I didn’t know what to do after BP, I didn’t know any of those things. The guys here do a great job of preparing and getting themselves ready”.
With a 9.0 game lead, one would think with a team so young that there would be a potential for them to take their foot off the gas and relax. Nothing could be further from the truth so far this season as they have lost back to back games only once this season (5/7 and 5/8 against West Michigan), and have not lost three games in a row all season. Another message is clear, they don’t like to lose.
People high up in the Toronto organization have taken notice as well as Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has attended three games over a three week period so far this season. He has attended games thrown by the two headed monster nick named Sancholino twice and has seen DeSclafani and Syndergaard throw once. It is no secret what he is there to see. Once the four pitchers are done throwing he typically leaves. This leaves to question, what is Anthopoulos thinking about. With the youth of the pitching staff, one would assume the plan was to leave them in Lansing all season, but with the numbers these guys are putting up, he perhaps is rethinking that strategy. As a team, Lansing leads the league in ERA at 2.56, almost 0.6 runs better than the second best team in the Midwest League. Is he looking on who may be able to handle a promotion? Noah Syndergaard leads the team in strike outs with 43, Aaron Sanchez leads the team in ERA at 0.53 and Anthony DeSclafani has thrown well enough and would be age appropriate for the Florida State League. However, Justin Nicholino may be the guy that get’s the call as he is the most polished of the four. Sanchez has struggled with command at times and his BB/9 ratio is currently at 4.50, Syndergaard needs to continue to develop his secondary offerings and DeSclafani is still adjusting to a starting role.
We will have to see what will happen in Lansing as the season progresses, but one thing is for certain. Fans in Lansing will certainly enjoy the ride.