Lentini, McClendon Latest to Sign
Two more roster spots were taken up this week, as outfielder Fehlandt Lentini and infielder Chris McClendon signed on for the 2014 season. These two players both have a TON of Independent baseball experience, and that is most certainly an understatement. Regardless of where both have spent the majority of their careers, one fact is simple: both have been extremely productive. Each has a couple parts of their stat sheet that jump out at you, and that is what we’ll highlight first in today’s post.
Lentini – .309 AVG/.356 OBP/.477 SLG
McClendon – .303 AVG/.408 OBP/.439 SLG
Both of these players offer a tremendous combination of the ability to hit for average, get on base and show some power. In eight of his 13 seasons, Lentini has posted a .300 or higher batting average. In two of the years he didn’t, his average was .295 and .299. The 36-year-old is not just an average hitter though, as his 106 career home runs points out. Two years ago in the Atlantic League, he launched 19 of them which was a career-high. Granted, he played most of his games at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania which has a notoriously short porch in right. Still, he has had five seasons with double digit home run totals throughout his career. As for McClendon, he too is able to get on base at a tremendous clip, mostly because of his outstanding eye at the plate. In 319 career games, he’s walked 177 times and struck out just 181. It’s rare to see a player with a nearly identical walk-to-strikeout ratio, but the 26-year-old has had great plate discipline since his career began. While his power is a bit lower (23 career homers), he has no problem producing runs (158 RBI/226 runs).
Lentini – 416 SB, 90 CS
McClendon – 61 SB, 9 CS
Out of all the players that have played in the Independent leagues, no one has stolen more bases than Lentini (338). He became the stolen base king with number 332 on July 28, 2013 while playing for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. That broke the record of Billy Hall, who spent four seasons with the Somerset Patriots among other Independent teams. Not to mention, he has an 82.2% stolen base rate for his career which is phenomenally good. McClendon set a career high with 33 stolen bases in 2010 and added 14 more a year ago. His success rate is even better at 87.1%, even if he doesn’t take off at the same rate as Lentini. If manager Kevin Baez is in need of a steal to put a runner in scoring position or at third with less than two outs, these two players will be the keys to success. Both can change the course of a game by utilizing their speed, and they certainly get on base enough to attempt steals.
Lentini – 2001, 2005 and 2009 champion
McClendon – 2010 champion
It always helps to have experience playing in the most pressure-packed situations, so adding two players with four combined championships is definitely a plus. Lentini has won three in his 13-year career, winning with Lexington of the South Atlantic League in 2001, Gary of the Northern League in 2005 and Calgary of the Golden Baseball League in 2009. In five years of McClendon’s career, he won a title with the River City Rascals of the Frontier League in 2010. They’ll be joining a roster that features two players who have won a pair of titles with the Ducks (Dan Lyons, Eric Niesen) and two more that were only on last year’s championship team (Adam Bailey, Ryan Strieby). There will be a lot of championship experience on this year’s Ducks roster, and both Lentini and McClendon bring a good helping to the table.
We had the chance to catch up with both players on Thursday to get their thoughts on a variety of topics:
On the decision to join the Ducks for 2014
Lentini: “Well a big reason was my aunt, Karen, lives in Huntington, and we talked about how cool it would be if I played for the Ducks and stayed with her. The opportunity this year just arose, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend a lot of time with my family and get to play in an awesome place. I think it will be fun to be close to New York City and explore a little. I know they’re going to put together a quality team, and I want to win.”
McClendon: “To be honest, it was a pretty easy decision as far as my end of things went. I know [President/GM] Mike [Pfaff] got in touch with me and told me he would like to give me an opportunity. Of course there were some other things that had to happen first with the team I was with the last two years in Gateway. I was just super excited for that opportunity since it’s the best Independent baseball there is, so I thought it was a great chance to step up, play in a great league and get with a great organization. It was a win-win situation for me, and I couldn’t pass it up.”
On the desire to win a championship with Long Island
Lentini: “Winning a championship is awesome! I’ve been lucky enough where every summer until last summer I had made the playoffs and had three championships. That’s what it’s all about, and to know that they’ve won the last two, I’m sure they’re going to put together a great product to try and win a third. I’m going to play out there with everything I’ve got. If I gotta go down and die out there, I’ll do it if that’s what it takes, but I’m all about winning.”
McClendon: “That’s impressive to say the least to win back-to-back championships. I’ve been a part of championship teams before, and I’m anxious to get a shot at another title. To be able to win one in the Atlantic League would be great!”
Thoughts about playing in the Atlantic League
Lentini: “The one thing I really like about the league is the level of experience and amount of older guys who know how to prepare themselves to play and what it takes. I’ve played in some other leagues where there were younger players, and sometimes other things were more important off the field. That can get frustrating when you really want to win. Everyone in the Atlantic League is there to win, and there have been a lot of great players that I’ve met. I’m glad to come back and compete against those guys.”
McClendon: “I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career that I’ve gotten to play in some great places. I played in a great place in college [University of Kentucky], and then my experience in the Frontier League was a great one for me that I now view as a stepping stone. Now I’m getting the chance to play at this level and on this stage. As a player coming to the Atlantic League I’m going to be a young guy, and there’s not much of a better opportunity for me to be around veteran guys with a lot more experience than me. I’m just really grateful and looking forward to the opportunity to just soak it all in and be around those guys that have obviously been at a higher level than me.”
On becoming the all-time Independent baseball stolen base king
Lentini: “It means I’ve been playing Indy ball for a long time! ::laughs:: I’ve always taken a lot of pride in every aspect of the game, and if I get on the bases, I’m just trying to think ‘How can I get to the next base?’ You’re always trying to score runs, and if I can steal a base, I’ve always had a knack for stealing. It’s exciting and creates opportunities out of nothing, so having that record means a lot.”
While nothing is set in stone just yet, it is likely that McClendon will occupy third base for Long Island while Lentini will cover one of the outfield spots. The two signings bring the roster to eight, with three outfielders (Lentini, Bailey, Jon Myers), three infielders (Strieby, Lyons, McClendon) and two pitchers (Niesen, Casey Barnes). What do you think of the roster so far? At this point, which position do you think the team should turn their focus to? Let us know your thoughts on the signings and on the transactions thus far in the comments section. Remember also to keep it here for all the latest information regarding player signings. With nine weeks left until the season begins on April 25, the hot stove is undoubtedly going to heat up even more.
Posted on February 20, 2014, in Player Signings and tagged 2014, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Championship, Chris McClendon, Fehlandt Lentini, Frontier League, Gateway Grizzlies, Hot Stove, Kevin Baez, Long Island Ducks, Michael Pfaff, River City Rascals, Winnipeg Goldeyes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.