Familiar Faces Join the Fold
Another week, another pair of players have signed on for the 2014 season. The Ducks announced earlier today that outfielder Adam Bailey and infielder Ryan Strieby will be coming back to help the Flock defend their 2013 Atlantic League title. Both players were part of last year’s championship squad, and both certainly made impacts along the way. Whether it was Bailey’s power and constant presence in the lineup or Strieby’s outstanding offensive performance in the playoffs, the two were certainly strong candidates for contracts this year. The roster now stands at six, with four players (Dan Lyons and Eric Niesen as well) returning from last year’s group.
“Last year we won the championship, and this year, we have a couple guys coming back,” Bailey noted on Wednesday. “That just made me want to come back and improve my season since I didn’t have as good of a year as I wanted from a personal standpoint.”
Bailey was the team’s “iron man” in 2013, and fans will often remember him for catching the final out of the Atlantic League Championship Series against Somerset. “It was a little nervewracking because I just kept going back,” he recalled. “I just told myself to take a deep breath, and if I worry about dropping it, I probably will so don’t worry about that.”
He led the team in games played with 133, meaning he was left off the lineup card just seven times. 118 of those starts came in right field, 12 in center and three in left. Part of that certainly has to do with being one of the youngest on the team at 25 years old. Compared to some of the former big leaguers and other veterans who are above 30 and more injury-prone, Bailey was able to avoid any major issues and play the field nearly every day for manager Kevin Baez.
Another part of that has to do with his defense. The University of Nebraska alum has good speed in the field, is able to judge fly balls well and has a fairly strong arm. Bailey committed just six errors last year in 133 games and added in 10 assists from the outfield. While other guys needed days off or half-days as the designated hitter, Bailey’s strong defense and health allowed him to maintain a steady spot on Baez’s lineup card.
“It was awesome,” Bailey reminisced about last year’s championship victory. “The whole season wasn’t looking good for us as well as it could have. We ended really well though, as strong as you can, and it was great to be a part of that.”
Fans can expect much of the same from him in 2014. Bailey will likely be one of the younger players still on the Ducks roster, but he will now have the experience of facing pitchers in the Atlantic League and playing in the league’s eight ballparks. Surely he is slated to be the starting right fielder on Opening Day, and Baez will have no problem putting him in center field and potentially left field should the need arise. Versatile players have been important for Baez during his tenure as manager (see: Lew Ford, Shawn Williams, PJ Phillips, etc.). While Bailey will primarily occupy right field, he has the ability to play all over the outfield.
Offensively, fans can expect similar power numbers from him. Each of the last three seasons has seen him put up double digit home run totals and over 20 doubles. While he did set a career-high with 112 strikeouts in 2013, Bailey’s longball potential, solid defense and lineup versatility are the main attributes in his overall game. He started at least one game in every spot of the batting order except ninth, showing that his game is much bigger than just his ability to drive the ball over the fence.
“For one, I could strike out less which would be awesome,” he said. “Secondly, my on-base percentage and batting average should go up. I’m hoping to have someone in the stands or have my teammates look at my swing and talk more about it off the field rather than on the field.”
Unlike Bailey, Strieby was bit by the injury bug last year. He signed on with the Ducks in time for opening night at Bethpage Ballpark (April 26) and batted .359 during his first 11 games. However, his season came to a crashing halt on May 7 at Lancaster when he slid awkwardly upon stealing second base and tore a ligament in his wrist. Strieby would miss nearly three months with the injury, and although it looked like he might be lost for the season, he returned on August 2 to play the final two months of the year. His presence back in the lineup during the second half was a big reason the Ducks won the division to earn a playoff spot and ultimately won the championship.
Strieby only played 53 regular season games due to the injury, and his average dipped upon coming back as he got comfortable once again at home plate. In fact, he had multiple hits in just six games after his return. However, come postseason, the University of Kentucky alum would have won the Liberty Division Championship Series MVP had there been such an honor given out. Strieby was 7-for-12 in the three-game sweep of the Blue Crabs, including a 4-for-4 performance in Game One. That made him only the second Duck ever to record four hits in a playoff game, joining George Lombard, who did so in Game Four of the 2009 Liberty Division Championship Series against Southern Maryland. In eight playoff games overall, Strieby batted .387 (12-for-31) with four RBI, three runs, two doubles and three walks.
Going into 2014, the now-healthy 28-year-old is slated to be the starting first baseman for the Flock. Strieby had played in at least 112 games in four of his previous six seasons prior to his wrist injury, so the hope is that 2013 was just a blip on the radar. In addition, he has posted double digit home run totals in all six of those years along with at least 15 doubles. Should he be able to play a full season, there is no question that Strieby’s history of pop at the plate should continue.
One thing we haven’t mentioned about his game that definitely stands out is his defensive prowess at first base. In eight seasons of baseball, including 688 games played in the field, Strieby has a .992 fielding percentage. 603 games have come at first base, and he has committed just 37 errors at the position. Last year, he made just one fielding gaffe in 38 games at first base and one in 13 games in left field. Baez has been a huge fan of Strieby’s defense, making him a likely candidate to play the field rather than serve as a DH as often as possible.
We’re just over 10 weeks away from the start of the 2014 season. Six players are already in the fold with at least 19 more still to come. Which other Ducks from last year’s squad do you think will be returning for this year, if any? Which do you want to see back in the black and orange? Let us know by leaving a comment on this story. We’ll be sure to keep you updated throughout the remainder of the offseason whenever new contracts are signed.
Posted on February 12, 2014, in Player Signings and tagged 2014, Adam Bailey, Atlantic League, Championship, Hot Stove, Kevin Baez, Long Island Ducks, Roster, Ryan Strieby. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.