What a year 2018 has been for the Long Island Ducks! From a record-setting 27-run performance in the Home Opener to Bethpage Ballpark hosting the Atlantic League All-Star Game for a third time ever, to a 13th postseason berth in team history and a third consecutive Liberty Division Championship, there were an unbelievable amount of memories created this past season. While the year did not have the storybook ending of an Atlantic League Championship as everyone had hoped, there was a lot to be proud of, both on and off the field, in 2018. The organization detailed many of those in its 2018 Season in Review, which can be read by CLICKING HERE.
With the league set to begin handing out its Post-Season Awards during the upcoming week, we also wanted to get in the spirit by unveiling our latest edition of the “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards. There were many players who had outstanding seasons on the field and were big contributors off it as well in 2018. From key returners to new faces, there were several members of the Flock that surely had seasons to remember in the black and orange. Here are our choices for the “Quack of the Bat” Team Awards:
Player of the Year – Jordany Valdespin
The unanimous selection for the 2018 Ducks Player of the Year was infielder Jordany Valdespin. He was voted by fans as the Delmonte-Smelson Team MVP and will surely be in the running for Atlantic League Player of the Year as well. The former Major Leaguer finished just .0007 points behind Somerset’s Craig Massey for the league batting title but played in 26 more games than him. Valdespin did lead the Atlantic League in hits (154), runs (94) and triples (7) while ranking second in total bases (222) and on-base percentage (.399), third in stolen base percentage (.857) and fifth in slugging percentage (.487). He did not slow down in the playoffs either, posting a .366 batting average while tying for the league-lead in runs (9) and hits (15). Valdespin was selected to play in the All-Star Game at Bethpage Ballpark in July and posted the league’s longest on-base streak of the 2018 season (32 games, June 4-July 14).
Starting Pitcher of the Year – Jake Fisher
The starting rotation saw its fair share of names come and go due to injuries, personal reasons and performance. The one constant though was Jake Fisher, and that is one of the reasons why this honor goes to him. Fisher’s eight wins on the year ranked second on the team to only John Brownell (9), and his 3.92 ERA was good for eighth in the Atlantic League. He totaled the fourth-most strikeouts (107) and fourth-most innings pitched (133.1) in the league this year while walking just 25 batters in his 21 games started. Fisher was especially dominant against the teams he would go on to face in the postseason, going 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two regular season starts against the Somerset Patriots and 3-1 with a 0.67 ERA in four regular season starts vs. the Sugar Land Skeeters. The southpaw stayed dominant in the postseason, going 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts, allowing three runs or less in all three, and striking out 13 batters in 18.2 innings. Though he took the loss in the decisive Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series, there is no denying Fisher’s first full season with the Flock was a successful one.
Relief Pitcher of the Year – Francisco Rodriguez
It is not often you see a player with 16 years of Major League experience, six MLB All-Star Game selections and a World Series championship pitching in the Atlantic League. However, Francisco Rodriguez brought his accolades to Long Island in April of 2018, as he sought an opportunity to get back to the big leagues. While that did not happen this season, “K-Rod” stuck with the Ducks all season long and turned in an impressive season out of the bullpen. The right-hander recorded the second-most saves in the Atlantic League this year with 27, second only to Sugar Land’s Felipe Paulino (33). His 44 appearances ranked third among Ducks in 2018, trailing only Dennis O’Grady (52) and Ashur Tolliver (49), and he compiled a 2-1 record with a 2.76 ERA and 42 strikeouts over 42.1 innings of work. Opponents batted just .196 this season against the pitcher with the fourth-most saves in MLB history. Rodriguez’s year was capped off by working around a leadoff double in the ninth inning of Game Five in the Liberty Division Championship Series at Somerset to force extra innings, a game the Ducks would go on to win 3-2 to claim their third consecutive Division Championship.
Gold Glove – Daniel Fields
Several Ducks players showcased strong defensive skills during the course of the season. However, we at “Quack of the Bat” are not sure any dazzled quite as often as outfielder Daniel Fields. The first-year Duck played 90 games in the outfield during the 2018 season and committed just three errors all season, good for a .986 fielding percentage. Additionally, his nine assists ranked fourth in the Atlantic League among outfielders, trailing only the Road Warriors Jorge Fernandez-Diaz (16), Lancaster’s Darian Sandford (11) and Sugar Land’s Anthony Giansanti (10). Fields showed outstanding range and a terrific break on the baseball, especially in center field after taking over in that spot every day following the departure of Emilio Bonifacio. While shoulder troubles limited the amount of games Fields could play defensively, he was unquestionably one of the top outfielders when he could take the field.
“Rookie” of the Year – Taylor Ard
This award recognizes a Ducks player that great excelled in his first season as a member of the Flock. Taylor Ard was certainly one of the Ducks top acquisitions during the 2018 campaign. Joining the team at the end of May, Long Island was looking for a boost in the lineup. Ard was able to provide that, launching 16 home runs and driving in 61 runs over 95 games played. He recorded a .271 batting average, 98 hits and 20 doubles as well, giving the Flock a big bat in the middle of the order. The 28-year-old then brought his impressive bat to the postseason, as he posted a .409 batting average during the Liberty Division Championship Series, collecting nine hits, two RBIs, four runs and four doubles to lead the Ducks past the Patriots. While he ultimately had to depart prior to the Atlantic League Championship Series for the birth of his child, Ard made a strong impression on the Ducks while with Long Island and was instrumental in their second half/postseason success.
Breakout Player of the Year – Bennett Parry
For this honor, we highlight which member of the Ducks opened eyes and impressed the most after joining the team. This year, the honor goes to pitcher Bennett Parry. The left-hander began the season as the sixth starter in Long Island’s rotation, and he got off to a somewhat shaky start by yielding four runs over five innings at Somerset in his first outing of the year. However, from that point on, Parry was stellar. The 27-year-old allowed three runs or less in 12 of his 13 starts from that point on and gave up one run or less in eight of those starts. He was also the true definition of a strikeout artist. Despite not boasting a high-velocity fastball, Parry struck out 116 batters in 85 innings of work with the Flock. To give you some perspective, that total still ranked second-most in the Atlantic League for 2018, despite the fact that Parry made only 14 starts and departed on August 2nd after his contract was purchased by the Chinatrust Brothers in Taiwan. Parry struck out 10 or more batters on six different occasions, including a franchise record-tying 14 on the road in Sugar Land May 30th. Parry was selected to start the Atlantic League All-Star Game for the Liberty Division, and he tossed a 1-2-3 first inning. He finished his inaugural season with the Ducks at 6-1 with a 2.85 ERA.
Community Award – Anthony Vega
Although everyone on the Ducks roster makes it a point to be active members in the Long Island community, Anthony Vega was selected for this honor by our blog staff. The Patchogue native returned to the Flock following the completion of his collegiate studies at the University of Arizona and made an immediate impact on young ballplayers in the area. Vega was consistently involved with events at the ballpark, including both sessions of the Ducks Kids Clinics, presented by Stop & Shop, and the Ducks Kids Club Day. He also frequently volunteered to sign autographs at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth prior to Ducks home games and stayed on the field near the dugout after many games to sign for young fans as well. Many youngsters commented during the course of the year how friendly and outgoing Vega was during their interaction with the 27-year-old.
Comeback Player of the Year – Lew Ford
New for 2018, we are debuting an award that highlights the player who rebounded best during the year, whether from a tough season the year prior or a difficult start to the current season. For this year’s selection, our blog staff has chosen outfielder and hitting coach Lew Ford. 2017 was a disappointing year for the six-year MLB veteran, as injuries limited him to just 76 games, a .269 batting average and 31 RBIs. Entering the season at the age of 41, his ability to stay healthy and be a big contributor to the lineup were certainly questions that needed to be answered. Boy did he answer them! In the year he turned 42, Ford played in 123 games for the Ducks, finishing second in the Atlantic League to only Lancaster’s Blake Gailen who appeared in all 126. Not only was he a consistent fixture in the lineup, but he also performed admirably. The ninth-year Duck led the league in doubles (33), ranked third in RBIs (73), fourth in extra-base hits (44) and at bats (468) and fifth in hits (137). His batting average increased to .293, and he swatted 10 home runs, scored 68 times and even legged out a triple for the first time since 2015. Ford’s success continued into the playoffs, as he tied Valdespin for the league lead with 15 hits and registered a .349 batting average with a homer, seven RBIs, four runs and four doubles in 10 games.
Stay tuned all offseason on “Quack of the Bat” for many other updates from Long Island’s hometown team. We’ll have some feature articles on members of the Flock, news updates, interactive posts and much more as we gear up for the 20th Anniversary Season of Ducks baseball on Long Island!
It’s officially awards season in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball! Now that the 2017 season has come to a close, the league has begun handing out its post-season awards to celebrate individual and team achievements from this past season. Among the Ducks to have been honored thus far are outfielder Marc Krauss, who has been selected to the league’s Post-Season All-Star Team, and infielder Elmer Reyes, who was named to the Red, White and Blue All-Defensive Team. The Atlantic League will unveil its club awards on Wednesday to round out its awards announcements.
We also decided to get into the spirit of handing out accolades by announcing our annual “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards. Long Island’s hometown team saw its share of outstanding performances this past year en route to a fifth Liberty Division championship in the past seven seasons and a second consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series appearance. Although the team fell just short of its ultimate goal in bringing home the Atlantic League title, there were plenty of individual achievements to be proud of. Here are our choices for the “Quack of the Bat” Team Awards:
Player of the Year – Marc Krauss
He was voted by the fans as the Delmonte-Smelson Team MVP, and we at “Quack of the Bat” could not have agreed with the selection more. Krauss’ first season with the Ducks was an all-around success, especially at the plate. He led all Ducks players and ranked in the top five of the Atlantic League in runs batted in (84), runs scored (75), walks (83), extra-base hits (53), on-base percentage (.400) and slugging percentage (.508). In addition, the former big leaguer led the team in doubles (30), ranked second in home runs (21) and sat third in games played (126). Krauss’ season was fueled by a tremendous second half that helped the Ducks clinch the Second Half Liberty Division title and a spot in the postseason for the 12th time in the past 14 seasons.
Starting Pitcher of the Year – Matt Larkins
Long Island saw its share of tremendous starting pitching this season. Two hurlers had their contracts purchased by Major League organizations (Tim Melville, Henderson Alvarez), and both of them eventually returned to the game’s highest level. However, our choice for Starting Pitcher of the Year was Matt Larkins. In his first full season with the Flock, the right-hander impressed across the board. He led the Ducks and ranked second in the league with 139 strikeouts, trailing only the league’s Pitcher of the Year Gaby Hernandez (150). He was also the league leader in shutouts (3) and the team leader in both innings pitched (156.0) and complete games (4). Both totals ranked in the league’s top five. Finally, the Idaho resident posted the league’s fourth-best ERA at 3.69, trailing only John Brownell for the team lead (3.44). Larkins’ season was highlighted by several historic performances. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning on June 15 at Somerset, tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Barnstormers on July 5 and struck out a career-high 12 batters in a complete game win over Somerset on August 16.
Relief Pitcher of the Year – Amalio Diaz
In his third season with the Ducks, Amalio Diaz once again proved to be a dominant force at the back end of the bullpen. The right-hander led all Ducks relief pitchers (minimum 25 games) with a 2.25 earned run average. He was also second among relievers with 66 strikeouts and 56 innings pitched, trailing only Zac Treece. The Venezuela native ranked third on the team in appearances (57) and allowed just 14 earned runs and 22 walks all season. He took over the closer’s role after injuries to David Aardsma and posted 15 saves during the regular season. Diaz began the season with 11 consecutive scoreless appearances and allowed an earned run in just one of his first 26 games and two of his final 13 (playoffs included).
Gold Glove – Marc Krauss
Although Reyes was chosen to the league’s Red, White and Blue All-Defensive Team, we at “Quack of the Bat” are going to recognize Marc Krauss for his defensive efforts this year. The Ohio native split time and first base and both corner outfield spots during 2017. He made just one error in 63 games at first base, posting a .998 fielding percentage. He also played 49 games in the outfield during the regular season and committed just two errors while adding five assists and accruing a .978 fielding percentage. Krauss was splendid with the leather no matter which position he played, and his versatility was a big help for manager Kevin Baez.
“Rookie” of the Year – Giovanny Alfonzo
This award recognizes which Ducks player excelled the most in his first season as a member of the Flock. The unanimous choice for this year’s honor goes to infielder Giovanny Alfonzo. Playing just his third season of professional baseball, he finished the year as the team leader in batting with a .309 average, ranking him sixth in the Atlantic League. After initially being signed as the team’s utility infielder, he took over the starting third base job following Cody Puckett’s injury and ran with it. The 24-year-old surpassed his career-highs in nearly every offensive category, ending the year with four homers, 45 RBI, 39 runs, 112 hits, 17 doubles and 10 stolen bases in 106 games played. Alfonzo then went on to post five RBI in the playoffs, tying Lew Ford for the team lead, and added seven hits.
Breakout Player of the Year – Jake Fisher
For this honor, we highlight which member of the Ducks opened eyes and surprised the most after joining the team. Though his time with the Ducks was short in 2017, Jake Fisher made a quick impression on the coaching staff and front office. The starting pitcher joined Long Island in September via a trade from the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League. He made two regular season starts and combined to allow just four runs on 11 hits and three walks in 13 innings of work. The southpaw was then handed the ball in Game Three of the Liberty Division Championship Series at Somerset. In front of an Atlantic League postseason record crowd of 8,131, Fisher fired a complete game, yielding only one run on six hits and two walks while striking out nine. The performance gave the Ducks a 2-1 series lead en route to their second straight Liberty Division championship. He then pitched into the eighth inning of Game Two in the Atlantic League Championship Series against York, and although he took the loss, he struck out six without walking a batter and had given up just three runs over his first seven innings.
Unsung Hero Award – Alex Burg and Rob Rogers
While many players seemed to gravitate towards the spotlight, there were several others this year who did yeoman’s work under-the-radar. Their accomplishments were certainly integral to the team, and thus, we have decided to recognize their efforts with the Unsung Hero Award. The honor this year will be shared by catcher Alex Burg and relief pitcher Rob Rogers.
One of Burg’s biggest contributions this season was how he managed the Ducks’ pitching staff. The catcher developed a strong relationship with his starters and relievers and turned in well-called games on a nightly basis. Not to mention, his 98 games behind the plate this season were 73 more than he had ever caught in a single season previously. Burg then excelled offensively in the playoffs, leading the team with a .348 batting average and two home runs.
Rogers came to the Flock as a spring training invitee and proceeded to become a vital piece in the back end of the bullpen. The right-hander appeared in 58 games this season, the second-most among Ducks pitchers and a career-high. He turned in a 6-1 record with a 3.93 ERA, two saves and 40 strikeouts in 66 and one-third innings. The Islip resident filled various roles throughout the season, from closer to set-up man to long man out of the bullpen, and he was willing to do anything needed all year. Rogers was also terrific in the playoffs, tossing three and one-third scoreless innings over five games and getting some crucial outs along the way.
Community Award – Angelo Songco
Although everyone on the Ducks roster makes it a point to be active members in the Long Island community, Angelo Songco certainly stood out to our blog staff in 2017. He was a frequent presence at various team functions during the course of the season, assisting with the team’s annual Youth Baseball Camps and Kids Club Day. When he wasn’t in the starting lineup, Songco could often be found at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth greeting fans and signing autographs. The infielder was also often one of the first players down on the field to sign autographs prior to Sunday home games.
Another season has come to a close for the Long Island Ducks and the Atlantic League. While the Flock had their season end in heartbreak, losing to the Somerset Patriots in a hard-fought, five-game Liberty Division Championship Series, they had many highlights throughout the course of the year. From leading the league in attendance to breakout seasons from several players to 11 players being signed by outside organizations, there were many reasons to be proud about what the Ducks accomplished in 2015. Check out our season review, which highlights several important achievements, by CLICKING HERE.
If that’s not enough for you, check out our 2015 Highlight Video:
Baseball in the Atlantic League for 2015 ended on Monday night when the Somerset Patriots defeated the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 3-1 in Game Four of the Atlantic League Championship Series. The victory gave the Pats a 3-1 series win and their league-record sixth championship. It marked the first time since 2009 that the team with the best record during the regular season won it all. That year, the Patriots went 86-54, won both halves and eventually bested Southern Maryland in four games to win the championship. We guess history can, in fact, repeat itself. Congratulations to the Patriots on a marvelous season and an outstanding playoff run, and a tip of the cap to the Blue Crabs as well on winning the Freedom Division championship and giving Somerset a great battle for the title.
With the 2015 season complete, it is time once again to hand out our annual “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards. The Ducks saw their fair share of strong seasons throughout the lineup this year. While there was a decent amount of roster turnover prior to and during the season, many of the familiar faces proved to be the backbone to the team’s 80-win season in 2015. Here are our choices for the “Quack of the Bat” Team Awards:
Entering 2015, Lyons already had four full seasons of baseball with the Ducks under his belt. With Ray Navarrete having retired after 2013, the hard-working shortstop has joined Lew Ford as two of the most beloved faces of the franchise. After Ford easily won the honor in 2014, Lyons takes home the title this year. After compiling very respectable numbers in his first four seasons with the Ducks, the 31-year-old posted career-best totals in batting average (.301), home runs (11), RBI (73), hit (140), triples (7) and games played (131). He ranked second in the Atlantic League in slugging percentage (.462), third in runs (74), total bases (215) and on-base percentage (.368) and fourth in RBI, triples, extra-base hits (46) and batting average. Not to mention, he was selected to his second Atlantic League All-Star Game and was voted by the fans as the team’s MVP at the end of the season. Long Island’s offense was the best in the Atlantic League in 2015, and Lyons was a big part of that success.
Honorable Mention: Delta Cleary, Jr.
John Brownell has been an outstanding pitcher in the Atlantic League since his arrival in the 2012 playoffs. However, he has yet to win the league’s Pitcher of the Year honor. That might change this season, and although we have not yet found out if that’s the case, he’s our vote for the team’s Pitcher of the Year. The right-hander posted his best season in a Ducks uniform, going 12-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 26 starts. He set a franchise record and led the league with 146 strikeouts, breaking his previous team record of 133 set in 2013 and coming within 13 of the league record of 159 set by Julian Heredia in 2002. Brownell also led or was tied for the league lead in wins, innings pitched (175.2), complete games (4) and shutouts (2). He ranked second in start and fifth in ERA. Brownell remained the only piece from Long Island’s original starting rotation this year that remained in that role all year long.
Honorable Mention: Amalio Diaz
Bruce Kern was a fan favorite from the get-go because he is a Long Island native. However, he was also a feel-good story for the Flock. He came to Spring Training as an invitee after going 0-5 with a 5.46 ERA in 30 games of relief combined between High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa in the Colorado Rockies organization. However, he immediately showed positive signs in camp and earned a roster spot on Opening Night. Kern immediately pitched well out of the bullpen, becoming one of Kevin Baez’s most reliable relievers. Then, after making several spot starts in the first half, he became a full-time starter at the end of July. By season’s end, Kern was 9-6 with a 3.51 ERA in 40 games (13 starts) and posted career-highs in strikeouts (102) and innings pitched (107.2). He also earned the start in Game Four of the playoffs, where he threw six innings of three-run ball.
Honorable Mention: Reegie Corona
This “Quack of the Bat” Blog award is given to the player who put together the most impressive season while in his first year with the Ducks. There were many guys who fit that “rookie” status in 2015 with the Flock, but we’re going to give the honor to Delta Cleary, Jr. After joining the team in May, Cleary, Jr. got off to a quiet start in his first week with the club. However, come June, he caught fire. He went 4-for-4 during the month’s first game and proceeded to bat .345 during the month overall. Upon the end of the regular season, the outfielder finished with the league’s third-highest batting average at .308 and was tied for second in the league with 34 stolen bases. In addition, the 26-year-old collected 41 RBI, 62 runs, 18 doubles and four triples. He was one of four nominees for Team MVP honors.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Vega
It seemed as though the Ducks had solved their late-inning bullpen problems from 2014 when Ryan Kussmaul led the Atlantic League in saves during the first half of the season. However, when he began to struggle, the Ducks were in need of a dominant arm to fill the closer role, and Amalio Diaz proved to be that guy. After starting the year as a seventh inning arm, then moving to the set-up role after Hector Ambriz was signed by the Nationals, Diaz was one of the most consistent pitchers out of the bullpen. The right-hander struck out 69 batters in 58 and one-third innings this season while walking only 17. He earned 14 saves on the year and pitched to a 2.77 ERA that might have been under 2.00 if not for a couple of late season hiccups. His best stretch came when he went 15 straight games from May 30 to July 1 without surrendering a run or a walk.
Honorable Mentions: Nick Struck
The award for best defensive player on the Ducks was difficult to decide for a second straight year. There were once again several standouts on this team in 2015. Cody Puckett, who started almost exclusively at second base last year, shifted to third base and made several great plays during the season. Delta Cleary, Jr. made just three errors in the outfield and was frequently seen sprawling out for marvelous diving catches. However, our vote will go to Lyons in the end. After making 23 errors in 2014 and posting one of the lowest fielding percentages in his career, Lyons shaved 10 errors off his total in 2015. From his range to both the left and right to his strong arm to his quick hands, the shortstop was frequently referred to as the best at his position in the league. In addition, he helped turn the most double plays of his entire career. Lyons has always been a defensive stalwart, and this year was one of his best in the field.
Honorable Mention: Delta Cleary, Jr.
While he may not have been here all season long, there is no question that Mickey Jannis opened some eyes while with the Ducks. The right-hander brought his knuckleball to Long Island after developing some success with it in Southern Maryland during the 2014 season. He was put into the starting rotation at the beginning of the year, but was at the back end and could easily be shifted into the bullpen. Baez was unable to make that happen after Jannis’ early results. During his time with the Ducks, the 27-year-old went 6-2 with a league-best 1.18 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 83 and two-thirds innings. He came within four outs of a no-hitter on June 2 against York and came within two outs of a two-hit shutout on June 29 against Lancaster. Ultimately, his success yielded a contract with the New York Mets organization on July 1. Back in affiliated baseball for the first time since 2011 Jannis posted a 2-1 record with a 2.98 ERA in eight games (seven starts) with High-A St. Lucie before earning a promotion to Double-A Binghamton. In addition, he was selected to represent the Mets in the Arizona Fall League.
Honorable Mention: Frank DeJiulio, Jr.
The Long Island Ducks continue to be an integral part of the community, and many players and coaches take part in various events to support organizations throughout Long Island. In the opinion of our blog staff, Nick Struck deserves recognition for the amount of community involvement he had this season. Struck was frequently present at many community events that the Ducks took part in, including youth clinics at the ballpark, the annual Kids Club Day and the team’s annual “Bowl with the Ducks” event. Struck was also a frequent sight at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth on the concourse at the ballpark, signing autographs for fans prior to many home games.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Kern
Let us know your thoughts on our awards selections by posting in the comments section at the end of this post. We always enjoy hearing the feedback from our fan base. In addition, stay tuned to AtlanticLeague.com this offseason to see who the Atlantic League chooses for its annual honors. Surely, we hope to see some Ducks on that list. Thank you all once again for your continued support, and we appreciate you following along here on “Quack of the Bat!”