Season Review: 2012 Hagerstown Suns

On the field, the Hagerstown Suns improved upon a successful 2011 campaign with an 82-55 overall record. They missed the first half by three games with a 42-27 mark, but won the second with slightly worse record of 40-28, only to get swept in the playoffs with a pair of 2-run losses (3-1, 7-5). Some may blame the late promotion of Matt Skole at the very late date of August 15 — two months too late, if you ask some folks — for the quick playoff exit, the more objective take is that the pitching just wasn’t there, much like Auburn.

Off the field, the Suns entered the 2012 season with the spectre of the team leaving for Winchester and the rumblings of a new stadium being built in Hagerstown, culminating in a rather bold move of the team opening the kimono by giving a tour of Municipal Stadium, ostensibly to demonstrate that renovation is a not an option. The move may have prevented the team from losing its PDC through 2014, but it’s hard not to infer that threat of the team leaving is to blame for the huge drop in attendance from 2011 to 2012 (1,931 per game to 1,366 — a 29.3% decrease).

Back to the review… Let’s take a look at how the Suns compared to the rest of the South Atlantic League:


Like 2011, the Suns were among the league leaders in runs and homers (2nd), hits and stolen bases (3rd), and walks (1st). I’ll go out on a limb and say this will probably be true for 2013, too. Unfortunately, some of the reason for this is that the team was among the oldest in the league, with multiple players repeating the level.

Pitching, which had been the organization’s strong suit for years, is now becoming one of its weaknesses. This the fourth of the seven affiliates, and all four levels have given up runs above the league average. This is not to say there weren’t bright spots in Hagerstown — obviously, a couple of examples stand, um, head & shoulders above the others — but it does seem like there was a Mr. Hyde for every Dr. Jekyll. When you can outslug your competition, it often goes unnoticed (well, at least until the playoffs), but this the last level where that’s the case.

Turning back to the bats, we now look at the Top 12 hitters in terms of plate appearances. As always, full statistics for the team can be found here, and the key for the asterisks is one * for the 2011 draft picks and two ** for the DSL graduates.
Like Auburn, there is really little to complain about in terms of overall offensive production. Just three of the top 12 produced below the league average, and three produced Nintendo-like numbers for both Gross Production Average and Isolated Power. The problem, of course, is that quite a few of these players were playing a level behind where they should have, as my Hagerstown guy put it in his review.

The only beacon of hope is that maybe, just maybe, one or two of the position players that were promoted from here to Potomac will be challenged with Harrisburg rather than resuming 2013 in Woodbridge. I know that sounds harsh, but perhaps an offseason “leapfrog” might serve as both an incentive to the Low-A guys and reminder to the High-A guys that moving up to the next level isn’t a foregone conclusion. The large number of six-year FA pitchers that were brought in at AA and AAA this year is an example of that line of thinking.

Speaking of pitchers…
For all the bitching and moaning discontent over the lack of promotions in the system, Hagerstown was interesting case when it came to pitchers. Four pitchers were promoted from Hagerstown to Potomac, and four pitchers were promoted to the Hub City — but two of those came not from Auburn but from the GCL. And three were 2012 picks.

It’s the skipping over that’s unusual. Ordinarily, one would expect a sequence like Blake Schwartz going from Viera to Auburn and Blake Monar going from Auburn to Hagerstown. Likewise for Leonard Hollins and, say, Travis Henke. It may be just be an anomaly, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

For the second straight year, eleven pitchers made at least five starts for the Suns. Ineffectiveness and promotions were more to blame than injuries this year, with one starter dropping down from Potomac and two moving up midseason and one very late. Five pitchers went up and back to Viera for fine-tuning (most notably, Turnbull and Estevez) and a sixth went out for the year and under the knife (Brian Dupra).

Once again, I’ll refer you to my eyes on the field for Hagerstown’s hurlers.

Before blasting me for not listing Karns, remember that he pitched more innings for Potomac and I’m trying to avoid double-listing guys, which gets more difficult as we hit the upper levels. There isn’t a set number of spots to fill for the watchlist, after all. If it means fewer guys and shorter lists at the upper levels, so be it.

Position Players
1. Brian Goodwin
2. Matt Skole
3. Billy Burns
4. Jason Martinson
5. Steve Souza
HM: Caleb Ramsey

1. Alex Meyer
2. Christian Meza
3. Aaron Barrett
4. Brian Rauh
5. Blake Schwartz
HM: Ben Hawkins

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

7 thoughts on “Season Review: 2012 Hagerstown Suns”

  1. Goodwin needs a lot of work on playing the outfield in addition tp learning how to hit consistently at a higher level. He should spend most if not all of the year at AA Harrisburg. I’m not sure if he will ever be an upper division cf.

  2. Luke, your friend at Hagerstown sure is thorough and that helps a lot for most of the non-stars.
    You always get the feeling after reading his writeups that the team was a whole lot worse than it actually was.

    The most interesting story was Billy Burns. Pretty seamlessly transitioned to switch hitting, something that usually is much harder. The good news is he’ll be at Potomac next year for extensive scouting opportunities.

  3. Being a season ticket holder for the suns I would like to address this post.
    #1 Mark was correct, Billy Burns was an interesting story and exciting to watch. The on-field product provided got offense but this team was seasoned. Souza, Martinson, Dykstra where all experienced bats for this league thus providing great offensive numbers. Skole was great and obviously the MVP but he had some experienced support. Pitching, well it was what you expect a bunch of new guys learning their trade, good outing mixed with bad outings..
    Off the field……..The stadium thing is dragging on and everyone is fighting for their polical life it seems. Noone but the mayor wants to put it all out there and risk their political futures. Stay tuned…
    Ownership and attendance. (the truth) Quinns organization is run very badly from a managment aspect. Last years increased attendance, (quinns first as owner) was a product of great prospects Harper, and Strasberg. Those there on a daily basis seen this, which is translating to this years numbers and worries me about their ability to run an organization if given a new ballpark.
    Concesstions were a joke, decreased offering over Mandalay and club house store had little or no variety of anything but Harper and strasburg shirts.
    Kids activities, nada!!!!! Took away playground, boucy, house, speed pitch and wonder wheel. When I asked Quin directly at a game he said it was insurance related. (so I guess everyother minor league ballpark can have them though, we are the only one that pays insurance?) Ticket prices and plans went up dramatically!!!!!! Lack of family plans and feed your face options that packed the place on weekends under Mandalay without harper. Promotions were lame. (they had 2 bryce harper giveaway days that went well but cheaped out on everything else the rest of the year. No tee-shirt tuesdays, etc…
    It seemed to me their focus was on corporate picnics which is fine but the operation this year was horrible. Sorry to Ramble

    1. Someone else brought up Harper/Strasburg on Twitter, but I looked it up… attendance actually fell 6% from 2010 to 2011. It’s in line with a common myth that affiliation and players are what drives attendance, but look at what’s brought up in this comment: lack of things to do for the kids, bad or discontinued promotions, etc.

      The reality is it’s these mundane things — food, concessions, parking — that more directly contribute to the ballpark experience and repeat business. Don’t believe me? How about the New Britain Rock Cats setting an attendance records for eight straight years (2004-2011, broken up this year, and not coincidentally after the team had been sold) despite having neither a Yankees, Mets, nor Red Sox affiliation? I’ve been to New Britain Stadium — similar design to Bowie, but not quite as nice in terms of location and parking — and yet it was packed to the gills on midweek summer night when I went last year in late Aguust.

  4. If your logic is true then alex meyer and aaron barrett should not be on potomac list because karns dominated in hagerstown and should be number one there and potomac!!

  5. The pitching was really disappointing at Low A this year. Several of the 2011 draft guys really struggled. With a decent group of Auburn starting pitchers, it will be interesting to see which guys are moved to the pen.

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