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1997 East: | Fort Wayne | Lansing | Michigan | South Bend | West Michigan |

Midwest League 1997

Michigan Battle Cats


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This page is a profile of the 1997 Michigan Battle Cats, a Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and a member of the Midwest League. The profile was first published in early April and was revised periodically; this final revision was completed in early September.

All statistics quoted on this page are through the end of the season.


Battle Creek, Michigan; affiliated with the Boston Red Sox.
Manager: Billy Gardner (#42)
Coaches: Dan Gakeler (#44) (Pitching), Gerald Perry (#28)

High Attendance: 5,633 (June 8)
Low Attendance: 789 (May 12)
Average Attendance: 2,116
1996 Season Average: 2,375


Post-Season Wrapup

Had the Red Sox left the original pitching staff with this team, they might have given West Michigan a respectable chase; instead, the Sox kept moving the best pitchers up. This was a very good hitting team--perhaps the league's best, overall--but the pitching, while not awful, wasn't dependable.

Any team which sends outfielders John Barnes and Dernell Stenson, second baseman Jim Chamblee, and third baseman Wilton Veras to the plate four or five times a game is likely to score some runs. Outfielder Rontrez Johnson usually set the plate for these guys. No hitter starting in this lineup was weak.

The Cats started the season with some exceptional pitching arms, most of whom were promoted. They were replaced with other good arms, and some of those were promoted. Many of the remaining pitchers showed promise, but they're young, or erratic, or injured. Closer Raffy Betancourt's darn near impossible to hit. Germaine Hunter and Curt Romboli worked middle relief effectively. Starter Matt Kinney pitched well. But the other starters had good games, then bad games.


MWL Fan's Guide

Team Leaders


  • Best Player on the Team: Second Baseman Jim Chamblee

  • Pitching: 70-67 (.511), 4.11, 11 CG, 5 Shutouts, 28 saves, 1018 Ks
  • Hitting: .264, 725 runs, 103 HR, 103 SB
  • First Half: 38-31 (.551), 2nd, 11.0 behind
  • Second Half: 32-36 (.471), 4th, 14.0 behind
  • After August 1: 12-16 (.429)
  • Lost to Lansing in the first playoff round, 2-1 (Wild Card)

  • Best Starting Pitcher: Robb Welch (4.22, 13-10, 154 IP, 158 Ks)
  • Bullpen Stopper: Rafael Betancourt (1.95, 0-3, 11 saves, 32 IP, 52 Ks)
  • Best Strikeout Pitcher: Rafael Betancourt (52 Ks in 32 innings!)
  • Best Control Pitcher: Rafael Betancourt (52 Ks, 2 BB in 32 innings)
  • Best Hitter: Jim Chamblee (.300, 112 runs, 29 doubles, 22 homers, 73 RBI, 18 steals) or John Barnes (.304, 80 runs, 6 HR, 73 RBI, 19 steals)
  • Highest BA: John Barnes (.304)
  • Home Run Leader: Jim Chamblee (22)
  • Best Baserunner: Rontrez Johnson (29 steals, 6 triples)

July Evaluation

This team's pitching has been weakened considerably by callups; they've gotten some value in return, particularly in the middle infield. The team hits well, with outfielder John Barnes and second baseman Jim Chamblee standing out; outfielder Corey Jenkins has real power. The best pitchers are probably Chuck Beale, now moved to the starting rotation, and Rafael Betancourt, a converted infielder who's taken over Beale's closer role in the pen. The remaining pitching mainly has good skills but no single pitcher stands out.


June Evaluation

The Battle Cats are now hitting pretty well, but the pitching's been crippled by promotions. Second baseman Jim Chamblee had a spectacular month, although John Barnes remains the team's best hitter and would-be MVP. None of the pitching staff is both proven and healthy; the team's best pitchers have been either promoted or injured.


May Evaluation

Strong pitching and decent hitting; though the hitting's concentrated too much in three or four batters. The Red Sox are clearly recruiting arms, these days; these guys throw really hard. Outfielders John Barnes and Dernell Stenson would be standouts on a team with good hitting; in this context, though, they're pretty much the entire offense.


April Evaluation

The Cats have decent, but unexceptional, pitching; the hitting is best described as unbalanced. They are the MWL's least aggressive team on the basepaths.




Where they played last season

Most of these players spent last summer in Lowell, with some assistance from the GCL Sox. This is a young team; the pitching has real potential, but I'm inclined to call the hitting suspect.

Team           League         W/L   Place(Teams)  Hitters Pitchers
Sarasota       Florida State  67-69     9(14)       0       2
Michigan       Midwest        60-78    13(14)       2       2
Lowell         New York-Penn  33-41     9(14)       8       5
Red Sox        Gulf Coast     24-36    14(16)       6       2

Some of these players played for two teams last summer and are counted twice in this chart. One player was not playing professionally last summer; another played for a team in an independent league; a third was with another organization.


  • Oldest Player:
    • Chris Festa (P), born 9/7/72 (24)
  • Youngest Player:
    • Dernell Stenson (OF), born 6/17/78 (19)
  • Average Team Age:
    This information is based on early-season rosters.
    • Pitchers: 21.6
    • Position Players: 20.5
    • Team Average: 21.0

  • First Round Draftees:
    • Josh Garrett (P), 1996
    • Corey Jenkins (OF), 1995 supplemental
    • Chris Reitsma (P), 1996 supplemental

  • Baseball America Top 100 Minor League Prospects
    • Chris Reitsma (#88)
  • Baseball Weekly Minor League Prospect Report
    • Dernell Stenson (#4 corner outfield prospect)
  • Baseball America Red Sox Prospects (Post-Season)
    • Chris Reitsma (#3)
    • Dernell Stenson (#8, best power hitter)
    • Matt Kinney (#9)
    • Jim Chamblee (#10)
    • Rafael Betancourt (#12)
    • John Garrett (#13)
    • Steve Lomasney (#14, best defensive catcher)
  • Baseball America Minor League All-Star/Top Prospects Teams
    • Dernell Stenson (MWL Prospects #10)
  • Baseball America Organization Wrapups
    • Rafael Betancourt (Keep an eye on)
  • USA Today Baseball Weekly Minor League All-Star Team
    • Jim Chamblee (second base "worth watching")
  • Howe SportsData Post Season Wrapup
    • Dernell Stenson (outfield honorable mention, All Teenager Team)
  • 1997 Midwest League All Star
    • Jim Chamblee (second base)
  • Baseball America Mid-Season Highlights
    • Jim Chamblee (biggest leap forward [Red Sox farmhands])
  • All-Star Game, June 17, Lansing
    • John Barnes (OF starter)
    • Chuck Beale (P)
    • Matt Kinney (P)
    • Steve Lomasney (C)
    • Dernell Stenson (OF starter)
  • Howe SportsData Top Prospect
    • John Barnes (OF)
    • Dernell Stenson (OF)
  • "Five-Tool" Prospect (Baseball Weekly; 13 May 97)
    • John Barnes (OF)
    • Corey Jenkins (OF)

  • John Barnes
    • April 26: 5 for 5
  • Chuck Beale
    • July 24: complete game
  • Jim Chamblee
    • Red Sox system's Battle Cat Player of the Year for 1997
    • April 30: double, homer, 5 RBI
    • June 6: 6 RBIs
    • June 11: 4 for 5, 3 doubles
    • July 30: 4 RBI
    • July 31: 4 for 4, double, homer
    • August 31: 2 home runs (G1)
  • Josh Garrett
    • May 27: complete game
  • Shea Hillenbrand
    • June 12: 4 for 5
    • June 15: 4 for 5
    • June 21: 5 hits
  • Corey Jenkins
    • April 26: triple, home run
    • June 28: double, homer
    • July 2: 6 runs batted in
    • August 6: triple, homer
  • Matt Kinney
    • May 4: 10 strikeouts
    • June 6: shutout complete game with 4 hits, 13 strikeouts
  • Gary LoCurto
    • April 24: 4 for 5
    • May 1: double, homer
    • July 10: 4 for 5, 4 RBI
  • Jose Olmeda
    • April 9: 4 RBI
    • June 5: 4 for 5
  • Asbel Ortiz
    • July 10: 4 runs
  • Jason Sekany
    • May 18: complete game, 3 hits
    • May 28: complete game, 10 strikeouts
    • June 22: 10 strikeouts
  • Dernell Stenson
    • April 23: 5 for 6
    • June 22: double, triple, 5 RBI
  • Wilton Veras
    • April 24: 4 RBIs
    • May 26: 4 hits
    • July 31: double, homer
  • Robb Welch
    • Red Sox system's Battle Cats Pitcher of the Year for 1997
    • May 5: 11 strikeouts
    • May 20: 6 hit complete game (7 innings), 12 strikeouts
    • July 15: 5 hit shutout, 11 strikeouts


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The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

Disclaimers:
This website is a private project and has no official relation with or sanction from the Midwest League or Minor League Baseball.
The opinions expressed on this page are mine, and are worth about that.


Copyright © 1996-2010 Joel Dinda
Some Rights Reserved.