It was an up-and-down season for manager Vance Wilson in his first season in High-A Wilmington and second season overall as a manager. The Blue Rocks relied very heavily on their pitching staff, but the offense came together enough for them to win the Northern Division in the Carolina League’s second half. It was their first playoff appearance since 2009. However, they lost in the Divisional Series to the eventual champion (Lynchburg).
Overall, the Blue Rocks were 66-74.Wilson is a fiery manager (he has had his share of ejections) and truly loves and supports his players. His one rule is to hustle and play hard and a few players found themselves on the bench after games in which they showed a lack of effort.
Steve Luebber returns as the Blue Rocks pitching coach, a job he has held since the 2007 season. Prior to joining the coaching ranks, he was drafted in the 13th round of the 1967 draft by the Minnesota Twins and made his big league debut in June of 1971. He pitched in the big leagues for the last time in 1981 with Baltimore.
I already mentioned that the Blue Rocks relied heavily on its pitching staff (mainly its rotation). Luebber mentored the Blue Rocks only two All-Stars, Yordano Ventura and Sugar Ray Marimon, who both were promoted to Double-A following the All-Star game. Overall, the staff had a 3.74 ERA, but a league-low of just 29 saves. Despite playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark, the Blue Rocks allowed 94 homeruns. They walked 399 in 1204.1 innings, but only struck out 1072 (which was fourth in the eight team league). Their WHIP was tied for first in the league (1.29).
The Blue Rocks welcome in a new hitting coach, Julio Bruno, who replaces Damon Hollins (who is now in his first season as hitting coach for rookie level Idaho Falls). He spent last season as the hitting coach for Low-A Kane County.
The Cougars were known more for their offense in 2012, as they hit .250 as a team. However, they lost Lane Adams (.298 in KC) around mid-season to Wilmington, which may have lowered their average a bit. They were more of a speed team than a power team, as they were third in the Midwest League in triples with 47, but just 14th in doubles (225) and 11th in homeruns (80) in the 16 team lead. Despite all the triples, the team stole just 99 bases and were caught 45 times. The Cougars were also not a patient bunch, as they walked a league-low of 368 times, but struck out 1005 times.
Bruno’s promotion is probably a good one considering a few of his pupils from Kane County will make the promotion to Wilmington in 2013. It will be interesting to see if he can turn the Blue Rocks offense around from 2012, as many of the position players should be expected to return.