The current buzz around the Birmingham Barons is that they played the Regions Park finale on Monday. As the Barons prepare to move into the currently under construction Regions Field, let's take a look at the Barons' final year in Hoover before they move into the city of Birmingham.
The Barons had a down year, finishing 63-76 with a 30-39 first half record and a 33-37 second half mark. They had a middle of the pack offense and an uncharacteristically league-worst 4.22 team ERA. As with Kannapolis, once Birmingham fell out of the race and Charlotte continued its fantastic regular season, much of the Barons' talent departed with the prospect of playoff baseball elsewhere.
That's not to say there weren't bright spots. The Barons entered the season with a prospect loaded starting rotation, featuring four pitchers acquired in the offseason. Nestor Molina and Simon Castro were slotted right into the top tier of White Sox prospects and Pedro Hernandez looked like a solid arm as well. Naturally, the least heralded of the four, Jose Quintana, had by far the best season.
In his AA debut, Quintana made nine starts with the Barons, posting a 2.77 ERA with 41 K and 14 BB in 48.2 innings. That success earned him a surprise call up to the Sox and he pitched well enough to keep his spot in the rotation ever since.
Unfortunately the story wasn't as good for the other three. Other than a spot start with Charlotte, Molina pitched the whole season with Birmingham and opponents hit .317 off him. Castro had better results (3.70 ERA, 72 K, 21 BB in 90 IP with the Barons), but a late season injury limited his innings. Hernandez kept his ERA under 3 in 12 AA starts and earned a promotion to Charlotte, but a rugged spot start with the White Sox painted an ugly picture and he was later dealt in the Francisco Liriano trade.
Other pitching prospects Jake Petricka and Andre Rienzo joined mid-year with the hopes of boosting the staff. Rienzo did (3.75 ERA 72 K, 33 BB in 71.2 IP), Petricka didn't (5.46 ERA, 27 K, 35 BB in 57.2 IP).
Ryan Kussmaul, Dan Remenowsky, Santos Rodriguez and Brandon Kloess led a solid bullpen, but the instability in the rotation was the team's downfall.
The marquee name on the hitting side was Jared Mitchell. Scouting reports seemed to be more positive about Mitchell being back to full form and he showed much better numbers, but he still struck out 179 times in 2012. He posted an .808 OPS with 12 triples and 20 steals before joining Charlotte in late July so there is still hope for him.
Carlos Sanchez and Trayce Thompson impressed in limited time after being promoted from Winston-Salem to greatly improve their stocks. Lineup regulars Drew Garcia, Seth Loman and Corey Smith also came in with an OPS above .800. Meanwhile, prospects Tyler Saladino and Andy Wilkins struggled to overcome low contact rates.
2012 may have been a forgettable season, but with all of Winston-Salem's success the Barons should have a strong team to open the new park in 2013.