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2014 Fisher Cats Preview - Infield03/12/2014 10:51 AM ET
By New Hampshire Fisher Cats / New Hampshire Fisher Cats
We continue our 2014 Roster Preview this week with a look at the men on the infield. When Opening Day comes around in less than a month, there may be quite a few familiar names pounding the clay.
Nashua's very own could return to Double-A for a second straight season. He has a lot to build upon from 2013 when he became the first Granite Stater to suit up in a Fisher Cats uniform. He was among the top 5 in most Fisher Cats offensive categories and earned a spot on the Eastern League All-Star Game. That was a byproduct of his healthiest season as a pro, which saw him play 120 games, the most he's ever played. In addition to his playing resume, he was a star in the community and became the first Fisher Cats player to earn the Blue Jays minor league Community Service Award after the season. Nolan earned an invite to major league spring training.
Burns was a late arrival in New Hampshire last year, and, after a slow start, proved to be one of the team's best hitters down the stretch. Playing primarily third base, he hit .253 for the Fisher Cats, but had 28 extra-base hits in just 64 games. Throw in a .327 average with Advanced-A Dunedin, and Burns played 128 games with a .288 average and 34 doubles, 7 triples, and 15 home runs. After a stellar run in the Arizona Fall League, Burns is in major league camp with the Blue Jays.
The Californian had a 'what if' type of season in 2013. The primary 'what if' was his health. He played in just 78 games between Dunedin and New Hampshire, but when he was healthy, boy, did he swing that stick. He began the year in Florida, but missed most of May with injuries. After a healthy June, he was promoted to New Hampshire, the place where he ended the 2012 season. With the Fisher Cats, he homered and had three hits in his first game, and had six hits at the end of his first series. In August, he had an eight-game hitting streak interrupted by a sore hamstring. After a week-long layoff, he pushed the streak to ten games before a knee injury ended his season. In all with New Hampshire, he hit .366 with eight doubles and 15 homers in just 123 at-bats.
The Fisher Cats home run champion in 2013, Schimpf spent the entire season at the Double-A level. A left-handed hitter, he hit just .210, but produced a .338 on-base percentage thanks to 79 walks, fourth-most in the Eastern League. Schimpf was an everyday option for Gary Allenson, leading the team with 126 games played. He began the year primarily at third, but played second base and left field as well. Schimpf's overall power numbers were solid, considering his high number of strikeouts (138). He had 23 homers and added 21 doubles on the season. In 159 career games as a Fisher Cat, Schimpf has belted 31 home runs.
One of the likely newcomers to the infield, Berti may challenge a Fisher Cats record in 2014. Playing second base for manager Bobby Meacham last year in Dunedin, Berti hit .250, but compiled 56 stolen bases, far and away the most in the Florida State League. The post-season FSL All-Star showed a good eye, drawing 57 walks, and a desire to take one for the team, being hit by 11 pitches. But Berti's calling card is his speed, with 113 career stolen bases at a success rate of better than 75%. He could challenge Anthony Gose's Fisher Cats record of 70 steals set in 2011. A three-time Minor League All-Star, Berti had a short offseason after playing with Jack Murphy in the Australian Baseball League. He hit .309 for the Canberra Cavalry while using his showcase speed to steal 31 bases in 46 games.
The son of former Red Sox skipper and major league player Butch Hobson, Kristopher Clell (K.C.) is no stranger to the Granite State. While his dad was resurrecting his managing career in the mid-2000s, Hobson lived in Nashua and attended Nashua South High School as a freshman. His family moved to California for the remainder of his high school career, and he was taken by the Blue Jays in the sixth round in 2009. He has climbed the ladder through the system, playing three years in Lansing before a full season in Dunedin in 2013. He grew into his power last season, belting 19 home runs in a league notoriously hard on home run hitters. For a power hitter, he doesn't strike out a lot and made just seven errors at first base