With Major League Baseball slicing the number of affiliated farm teams this year, a number of quality young arms suddenly became available.
New York Boulders’ first-year manager T.J. Stanton’s task over this past winter was to sift through this large pile of pitchers to build a staff that can be a winner in his team’s initial Frontier League season.
When Boulders’ pre-season camp begins in Pomona on May 17, seven pitchers – three southpaws and four righthanders – will be battling to fill five spots in the starting rotation.
“The theme here is affiliated experience and explosive stuff,” Stanton said.
The southpaws are John Cain, Matt Valin and Danny Wirchansky and, besides being lefties, this threesome all hail from New York state – Cain from Pine Bush in Orange County, Wirchansky from Stony Point in Rockland County and Valin from LaFargeville in upstate Jefferson County.
Cain may be the most intriguing to watch this spring. The 6’10” lefty is 25 years old and healthy for the first time in several years. After spending three years at Lafayette College (2015-2018), Cain transferred to Manhattan College for his senior season in 2019. He signed with the Los Angeles Angels’ organization in the summer of 2019 and was assigned to their Arizona Rookie League team.
“(Cain has) a Randy Johnson-type build,” Stanton said. “He will transition back to a starter now that he is finally healthy.”
Cain also pitched for the Rockland Boulders in this past summer’s All-American Baseball Challenge.
Valin also participated in the All-American Baseball Challenge in 2020, throwing for the New York Brave. After leaving SUNY-Cortland in the summer of 2019, Valin signed with the Ottawa Champions of the Can-Am League, appearing in 15 games in relief and posting a 3.78 ERA.
“He was very impressive as a dominant starter for SUNY-Cortland before having a very impressive rookie season with Ottawa,” Stanton said. “He has very explosive stuff that factors into low hits and high strikeouts.”
The lefthanded Wirchansky, 23, graduated from nearby North Rockland High School in 2015. After a year at Rockland Community College, he transferred to Pace, where he pitched from 2017-2019. In the 2019 season, he went 6-2 with a 1.38 ERA for Pace. He has not pitched since that season.
Drafted in 2019 by the Milwaukee Brewers, Wirchansky, who resides in Stony Point, has also been the property of the Texas Rangers, but was released by both teams late that year with an arm injury and underwent Tommy John surgery.
“Danny was an absolute legend for Pace,” Stanton said. “He has been all over MLB radars, including drafted. He is finally fully healthy following TJ surgery. He has shown extremely good stuff.”
The four righthanders seeking to earn a spot in the rotation are Austin Hutchison, Ben Strahm, Mike Pascoe and Brian Rapp. The quartet each have spent time in MLB organizations.
Stanton views Hutchison as the Boulders’ “rotation anchor.”
“He has the most experience on the staff and has been a starter in the Seattle organization up to (Class) AAA and features a very classic repertoire and approach,” Stanton said.
Hutchison, 26, was selected in the 26th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners out of Mount Olive University (NC). He got as high as the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers (Pacific Coast League) in 2018 and spent the 2019 season with the Modesto Nuts of the Class A California League.
Pascoe, 23, a local product from Arlington High School in Dutchess County, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of San Jacinto College (Houston, TX) in the 24th round in 2018 and assigned to the Bluefield Blue Jays of the rookie Appalachian League. In 2019, he split time between the Lansing Lugnuts of the Class A Midwest League and the Vancouver Canadians of the Class A Northwest League.
“(Mike) is most likely the hardest thrower in the entire league, maybe Indy Ball, capable of velos north of 96,” Stanton said. “Improving consistency of his breaking stuff will be pivotal.”
Pascoe is another All-American Baseball Challenge product, suiting up for the New York Brave last summer.
Strahm, 24, was a 23rd round choice of the San Francisco Giants in 2018 out of Northeastern State University (OK). He spent that summer with the Giants’ Arizona Rookie League team before splitting the 2019 season between San Francisco’s Arizona Rookie League team and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Class a Northwest League.
“(Ben) was a reliever in the San Francisco organization and will attempt to return to starting where he was great in college,” Stanton said.
Meanwhile, Rapp, 25 and a native of Mendham, NJ, was a 26th round selection by the Minnesota Twins out of Boston College, and spent the 2019 campaign with the Class a Midwest League’s Cedar Rapids Kernels.
“(Brian) is a very experienced starter for Boston College in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and in affiliated (ball),” Stanton said. “He is a very hard worker that, once in a certain role, should develop quickly.”
After an exhibition game on May 22 against the NYPD – game time is set for 6:30 p.m., the New York Boulders’ much anticipated Frontier League debut will arrive on May 27 when they host the New Jersey Jackals at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona.
Game time for Opening Day is 7 p.m.
The Boulders will conclude their two-game opening series with New Jersey the following day. That game is also a 7 p.m. start.
A complete New York Boulders’ 2021 schedule, as well as information regarding season tickets and packages for the 2021 season are available by calling 845-364-0009 or sliding to www.NYBoulders.com. Individual game tickets are on sale now.
Meanwhile, tickets for the NYPD exhibition game on May 22 are on-sale now.
Attendance at all home games at PCU Park is subject to New York State Department of Health guidelines and protocol.
Debuting in 1993, the Frontier League is the largest and longest-running of the modern independent leagues and features teams stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway. In September of 2020, the Frontier League reached an agreement to become a “Partner League” with Major League Baseball.
As a “Partner League,” the Frontier League and its teams will meet on a regular basis with MLB representatives to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities, as well as collaborate on initiatives to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the United States and Canada.
More information can be found at www.frontierleague.com.
About the New York Boulders and NYB, LLC
The New York Boulders are entering their 10th season of Professional Baseball as part of the newly-formed Frontier League and are in pursuit of a post-season appearance for the seventh straight season. Founded as the Rockland Boulders in 2011, the franchise rebranded as the New York Boulders in advance of the 2020 season. In 2014, the Boulders won the Can-Am League Championship and hosted the Frontier vs. Can-Am All-Star Game in 2019. Proud to be part of the rich history of professional baseball in the New York City region, during the 2017 season the team welcomed its 1,000,000th fan to Palisades Credit Union Park located in Rockland County, NY. In 2012 and 2014, Rockland was named the Can-Am’s “Organization of the Year.” The Boulders are owned and operated by NYB, LLC, a sports and entertainment company comprised of former executives from all levels of major and minor league sports. NYB is committed to providing superior customer service and quality, affordable family entertainment experiences for the New York Metropolitan area, Lower Hudson Valley and northeast New Jersey. Slide to www.nyboulders.com for more information.