This much is clear … The Tennessee Smokies could punish some baseballs in 2022. Before May was over, Chris Morel and Nelson Veazquez were in Chicago. Matt Mervis and Alexander Canario came for brief stays mid summer. By the end of the year, they Smokies cranked out 189 HRs, 28 more than second place Birmingham. They had a .797 OPS as a team and they also lead the league in runs, RBI, and slugging. In fact, Jake Slaughter, Alexander Canario, Yonathan Perlaza, and Chase Strumpf all cranked more than 20 HRs. That’s impressive!
When it came to wins and losses, the Smokies finished second in both halves to first place Rocket City. When the playoffs came, they squared off against Rocket City and took the series in three games after losing the first one. In the Championship Series, they did the opposite. They won the first and lost the last two with bullpen issues.
For Manager Michael Ryan, he and pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea were constantly jugging a changing rotation and bullpen. 37 different pitchers went through Tennessee along with 4 position players on the mound. Yikes! In spite off that, the Smokies got into the playoffs and came close to winning it all.
Starters Ben Brown and Riley Thompson showed promise and Walker Powell was a very pleasant surprise. If Ryan Jensen gets things figured out along with Chris Clarke, they could find their way up to Iowa to start 2023.
Record: 71-66 (37-32 and 34-34)
Hitting (200 ABs)
Avg – Darius Hill had enough plate appearances to qualify and he put up a .308 average, Next up were Andy Weber and Matt Mervis at .300.
HR – Alexander Canario hit 24 HRs in Double-A followed by Yonathan Perlaza with 23. Surprisingly, Mervis only hit 14 here.
RBI – Bryce Ball is the winner here with 76 followed by Yonathan Perlaza with 73 and Jake Slaughter with 68.
OPS – Mervis was amazing with .966 followed by Slaughter with .922 and Canario at .880 and then Yonathan Perlaza at .850.
wRC+ – This is an impressive group here with Mervis at 148, Slaughter at 142, Strumpf at 125, Canario at 124, Hill at 123, and Perlaza at 122. Bryce Ball clocked in at 105 and Weber at 103. Wow!
Starting Pitching (30 IP)
IP – Chris Clarke led the club with 96.2 IP.
Ks – Peyton Remy, who did a mixture of piggybacking and starting, had 114 Ks on the year.
K/9 – This belonged to Ben Brown at 12.77. In six weeks, he threw 31 frames for Tennessee and whiffed 44 guys.
ERA – Walker Powell came up from South Bend and was magnificent with a 1.96 ERA in 10 games as a long reliever and starter. Coming in second was Javier Assad at 2.51
Batting Average Against – Hitters only batted .181 off Walker Powell which helps explain why he put up a 1.96 ERA.
Relievers (20 innings minimum)
ERA – Blake Whitney’s 2.80 gets him the nod here followed Nicholas Padilla at 2.82 and Danis Correa at 2.93.
Ks – Samuel Reyes led all relievers with 64 Ks.
K/9* – Bailey Horn topped this category at 12.53.
Batting Average Against* – Danis Correa had the lowest BAA at .185 followed by Nicholas Padilla at .193.
*Zac Leigh only threw 11.2 IP for Tennessee – He had a 16.20 K/9 Rate and a .151 BAA,
2023 Sneak Peek
If you think the 2022 Smokies were good, the 2023 Smokies are set to be out of this world.
Ben Brown, DJ Herz, and Jordan Wicks should return to be in the rotation and Zac Leigh will probably start the year as the closer but he’s not going to be there by mid June.
The Smokies rotation will add Daniel Palencia and Luis Devers to the rotation. Palencia can throw triple digits with ease and has a 90 mile an hour slider to go with it. He’s going to be primed and ready when April comes.
The bullpen next year should be much better with the additions of Michael McAvene, Jake Reindl, Riley Martin, and later in the year Sheldon Reed and Adam Laskey.
As for the hitting side of things most of the 2022 squad should head up to Iowa which is some thing we haven’t seen in a while. I’m not expecting too many players to return. With Pinango, PCA, Casey, Nwogu, Luis Verdugo, BJ Murray, Pablo Aliendo, and Casey Opitz ready for AA, there is going to be a lot of turnover on the position side of things.