March 1, 2016
HarbourCats anticipating first major league alumni
By Jonathan Hodgson
Canadian Baseball Network
As major league organizations open spring training across Arizona and Florida, the Victoria HarbourCats are primed for a 2016 that could turn out to be an historic year on a number of fronts.
For one, when the team opens the season in Walla Walla, WA on June 3, they will become the first Victoria-based baseball team to play a fourth season since the Victoria Athletics/Tyees played in the B.C. capital from 1946 to 1952. Secondly, after increasing win totals in each of the first three seasons, narrowly missing the playoffs by two games in 2015, the HarbourCats will look to become the first Victoria baseball team to reach the playoffs since the 1952 Tyees won the Western International League pennant. Finally, after three seasons of elite collegiate baseball talent putting on the HarbourCats uniform, several alumni find themselves in major league organizations as spring begins, and the HarbourCats are preparing to see their first alumni reach the majors.
In just three seasons of West Coast League baseball, Royal Athletic Park in downtown Victoria has been the summer home to a grand total of 24 players who have been drafted by 18 different Major League organizations. That number is expected to rise when the 2016 draft takes place this June, and this year’s edition of the HarbourCats already includes the likes of 2015 Cincinnati Reds 32nd round pick, Will McAffer, who is expected to play a major role on the team’s pitching staff. McAffer, a former standout of the North Shore Twins of the BCPBL, is one of five Canadians currently signed.
Eight HarbourCats alumni are currently in spring training with their respective organizations:
NICK PIVETTA, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Perhaps the closest attention should be paid to Nick Pivetta. A native of Victoria, Pivetta was the first player inked to a contract for the HarbourCats inaugural 2013 season. At the time, the 6’5’’ right-handed pitcher was a highly touted prospect pitching his sophomore season at New Mexico Junior College.
Amidst much speculation with the draft approaching, Pivetta started the first game in HarbourCats’ history on June 5, 2013, an 8-6 win at Royal Athletic Park over the Kelowna Falcons. Pivetta earned the win, collecting six strikeouts over eight innings of work. He pitched the team to one more win seven days later, before beginning his professional career with the Washington Nationals organization.
Washington selected Pivetta in the 4th round making Pivetta one of the highest drafted Canadians in major league history, and still the highest-drafted HarbourCat to this day. He quickly rose through ‘Rookie’ and ‘A-ball’ within two years, and was in double-A by 2015. The Nationals traded the former Victoria Eagle to the Philadelphia Phillies at the deadline in return for closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Now preparing for his first full season with the Phillies, Pivetta figures to begin the season at double-A, and with another strong season may have a legitimate chance to reach the Major Leagues with the rebuilding Phillies.
NATHAN LUKES, OF, Cleveland Indians
A native of Portland, OR, Lukes joined the HarbourCats following his sophomore year with at Sacramento State. A team leader with the Hornets of Sacramento State, the lefty-hitting outfielder excited fans in Victoria as well throughout the 2014 season as a multi-dimensional talent. Offensively, Lukes batted .343, which was second-best on the club, with two home runs, 24 RBIs and seven stolen bases. His nine doubles were third on the team.
After a stellar junior year, the Cleveland Indians selected Lukes in the seventh round of the 2015 draft. Lukes is preparing to make an impression in the Indians organization after limited action at single-A last year due to injury.
ALEX REAL, C, Minnesota Twins
Alex Real was the HarbourCats top hitter across the board in their first season in 2013. Reporting to Victoria following his sophomore year at the University of New Mexico, the native of Anthem, AZ proceeded to lead the team in average (.339), home runs (6) and RBIs (27). He was tied for the most runs scored (26) with Alex DeGoti, and was second with 10 doubles.
The Minnesota Twins selected Real in the 24th round of the 2014 draft, as a junior out of New Mexico. Real spent that season in rookie-ball, and then played exclusively in the single-A Midwest League in 2015. He looks to continue climbing the ranks with a strong 2016.
LOGAN LOMBANA, RHP, Minnesota Twins
HarbourCat turned Twin, Logan Lombana was a fixture in Victoria for two seasons, making 21 appearances including 15 starts in 2013-2014. The Long Beach State product worked hard and developed noticably during the 2013 season when he made 11 appearance, 5 starts, and logged 48 innings. By the following season Lombana, who is regarded as one of the best ambassadors for the HarbourCats organization to date, was a vital component of the HarbourCats pitching staff, leading the team with 10 starts, and placing second in innings (57.2) and wins with three.
The Twins selected Lombana in the 25th round in 2015 following his junior year at Long Beach State. He excelled in the back end of the bullpen in rookie-ball last season, and coming into 2016, has a real opportunity to rise in the Twins system.
GABE CLARK, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Gabe Clark holds the HarbourCats single season home run record, after swatting eight during a tremendous 2014 season where the Oregon State product, and native of Riverside, CA hit .291 with 31 RBIs. He was taken in the 26th round by the Blue Jays last year, and following a year in rookie-ball, looks to make his mark in 2016.
QUINTIN TORRES-COSTA, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Torres-Costa was an important contributor in Victoria during the 2014 after making his way up from the University of Hawaii. Just off of his freshman year, Quintin racked up an impressive 33 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, working to a strong 3.19 ERA in 10 appearances, three starts.
The Milwaukee Brewers made the Hilo, Hawaii native their 35th round pick in 2015, and he proceeded to pitch well at rookie-ball in his first professional season, and now looks to begin his ascent up the system in 2016.
ROBERT NESOVIC, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Nesovic was a two-way player for the HarbourCats in 2013, as a freshman from UC Santa Barbara. The native of San Diego, CA posted a 4.15 ERA and a 1-1 record in 4 starts, with 15 strikeouts in 26 innings on the mound. He also played the infield and hit .174 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 16 games.
The Atlanta Braves took Nesovic in the 27th round in 2015, and he spent the season at rookie-ball. A strong 2016 would help him begin to climb the ranks.
HarbourCats fans now have exciting things to watch both on the field at ‘RAP’, and in the professional ranks, as former HarbourCats begin to populate rosters across affiliated baseball.
We will almost certainly see a HarbourCat in the Major Leagues in the near future. That will be a landmark day for the organization, but will represent just the beginnings of what is sure to become a lineage of Major League talent to call Victoria home on their journey to the Majors.