Sky Sox season wrapup: Good year for player development

September 2, 2013 Updated: September 2, 2013 at 7:26 pm
photo - Sky Sox third baseman Nolan Arenado Sunday, April 21, 2013 at Security Service Field. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Sky Sox third baseman Nolan Arenado Sunday, April 21, 2013 at Security Service Field. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

The season may be over earlier than some hoped, but the Sky Sox campaign was a success for the franchise and its parent club.

The team accomplished its goal; develop players to fill holes in the Rockies' lineup. The most notable call-up was one of the first; third baseman Nolan Arenado, who left Colorado Springs on April 27 and never returned.

Including Arenado, seven of the 12 who played in the Sky Sox opener competed for the Rockies, including DJ LeMahieu (92 games), Charlie Blackmon (59), Corey Dickerson (46) and Charlie Culberson (28).

"This was a good season for player development," Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill said. "There was a lot of improvement in little things that may not be obvious but are important."

The Pacific Coast League's third-best hitting team (.285) had a number of individuals in the league top 10.

Dickerson led the PCL with 14 triples. He and Josh Rutledge batted a PCL-high .371, but played too few games to qualify for the batting title.

Ben Paulsen (18 home runs) was second in extra-base hits with 60 (32 doubles) and third in slugging percentage (.526).

Culberson finished fifth in slugging (.524) and ninth in batting (.310), while Ryan Wheeler was 10th (.306) and tied for second in RBIs (89).

Pitchers fwho moved up included Drew Pomeranz, whose eight wins led the Sky Sox. Tyler Chatwood spent time with the big club and on the disabled list.

Tyler Colvin, Rutledge, Wheeler and pitchers Jeff Francis, Jeff Manship and Josh Outman were call-ups.

But the promotions, a season-ending neck injury to slugger Matt McBride (15 home runs), and inconsistent pitching (PCL-worst 5.30 team ERA) dashed hopes for a winning record (67-76) and an end to the Triple-A worst 16-straight seasons without a playoff appearance.

The team went 16-31 since the July 15-17 All-Star break.

The downturn didn't affect ticket sales. The franchise averaged a record 5,181 fans (previous 4,915, 2012) despite some wild weather.

Overall, 326,374 fans came out despite five April postponements due to snow or cold, thick smoke from the Black Forest fire and 19 days in a row in late July and August when rain fell at Security Service Field, causing delays and five postponements.

"We have the hardiest fans in baseball," Sky Sox president Tony Ensor said. "That's a tribute to them."

Attendance did get a boost from rehab games for Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler, Juan Nicasio and Chatwood.

"We thought we had the promotions, the schedule, and the team to get between 350,000 and 360,000 but Mother Nature took that away from us," Ensor said. "Despite the challenges we faced, we had a really good season."

Attendance in 2014 could benefit from realignment.

The Sky Sox will be in the American Northern division and play 16 games against Iowa (Cubs), Oklahoma City (Astros) and Omaha (Royals), which have loyal, local fans.

"The fans here will have a chance to see different teams," Ensor said. "We will learn more as we start planning travel but there may be some advantages there too."

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