State of the Expansion Franchise: Satellite Beach

Part III of a five-part series reflecting on our 2012 expansion.

The Satellite Beach Brawlers were the fastest expansion team out of the chute in 2012, with 69 wins, but have hit a big-time speed bump in their third season.

With a lineup that ranks last in the league in offense and first in the league in errors, Satellite Beach is a non-factor in this year’s pennant race, but still sees promise on the horizon.

Justin Upton

Justin Upton

Satellite Beach Brawlers Roster Evolution

Players acquired pre-2012: 34
Players dealt away: 6
Players cut: 22
Still Brawlers: 6  — IF Marco Scutaro, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, P Brandon Beachy, IF Brett Lawrie, C Wilson Ramos, OF Justin Upton.

2014 record: 45-75 (.375)
2013 record: 67-93 (.419)
2012 record: 69-91 (.431)

Face of the franchise: Justin Upton

GM Style: Draft and Develop — The Brawlers make deliberate draft selections, prefer to trust their judgment and wait for them to pan out.

The Brawlers have been the least active expansion franchise in the trade market, dealing away just six players of their original 34 (compared to 18 for Iowa and 17 for English/Destin, as examples). But Brawlers manager Steve Nieroda freely admits some of the drafting strategy that he has used successfully in other leagues has not paid immediate dividends in the I-75 League.

Steve plays in four other Strat leagues, the smallest of which has 24 teams, nine more than our league.

One item I did not factor in was that decent lefty starters in most other leagues are virtually useless in a 15-team league,” Steve said. “Even second-level righty starters will struggle in this league, as many teams can platoon left/right at several positions.”

The Brawlers’ four most-used starters all sport ERAs over 5.00 this year, through 120 games.

And that initial moderate success in 2012, Steve feels, actually stunted his club’s growth potential because the Brawlers didn’t play badly enough to earn a high draft pick.

That shouldn’t be a problem in the 2015 draft, as Satellite Beach has an odds-on shot at a top 3 pick to add to a core of young stars, including Justin Upton and Christian Yelich in the outfield, Anthony Rendon at third, Jose Altuve at second and Wilson Ramos behind the plate. Edwin Encarnacion and Lucas Duda will provide returning thunder, with 28 and 26 homers through August.  Altuve is having a breakout year (majors-leading .336 with 49 steals) and Upton is picking up MVP support. If Brett Lawrie ever lives up to his potential, the Brawlers have the makings of a pretty good lineup.

Steve cites Altuve as one of his best acquisitions, as he flipped Omar Infante to South Grand Prairie for Altuve just one day after acquiring Infante from Iowa in December of 2013.  (South Grand Prairie has no regrets though; Infante is second in the league in hitting at .343, boosting the Warriors to a first-place tie in the North Division.)

But pitching is a different story for the Brawlers. Satellite Beach may have to patch together a rotation for 2015, as Alfredo Simon, Ian Kennedy, Jose Quintana and John Lackey are having decent, but not spectacular, years for their major league clubs. Top prospect Taijuan Walker, chosen No. 35 by the Brawlers, suffered an injury in spring training and earned a September call-up to pitch in the bullpen, but can’t be counted on for SB’s 2015 rotation. Jarrod Parker has missed the entire season as well after Tommy John surgery.

“I still like to build with youth and will be patient while waiting and hoping for that talent to blossom,” Steve said.

And a potent offense can help cover up some pitching shortcomings. “Satellite Beach took a step back this year as far as on the record on the field,” Steve said, “but I think we have some guys with breakout years that are still young — Altuve, Duda, Rendon, Yelich — so maybe we are not far away if I can get in the top 3 picks!”

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