Last season, the Can-Am League played out their season with four permanent teams in their league, with all four teams playing inter-league games against the American Association. This season, the league has taken a huge step forward, adding two permanent teams into the mix while also throwing in two travel teams to not only add games to the schedule, but to also increase the league’s competitive edge.
Before we break down each individual team, here are a few things that you should know about the Can-Am League:
- The six teams in the Can-Am League will play out a 97-game schedule.
- This season, four teams will qualify for the league playoffs.
- Teams are located within the United States and Canada. Three teams play within the tri-state area (New Jersey, Sussex, and Rockland), while the other three play their home games in Canada (Ottawa, Quebec, and Trois-Rivieres)
- Within the league schedule, the teams not only play games within the Can-Am League, but also games against American Association teams (which is the Can-Am League’s “inter-league” play) along with games against the two travel teams.
- Within the 97-game schedule, each Can-Am League team will face as many as 13 opponents this season.
With regards to the “travel teams” that will play in the Can-Am League this season, they both have a shortened schedule in which they will compete with teams in the league. Neither team will be able to qualify for the playoffs, as their games will count separately towards the league standings, but their statistics will become part of the league records.
The first travel team the league has added is from the Shikoku Island League, which is Japan’s top independent baseball league. Throughout the month of June, the Shikoku Island League took a pause in its regular season so that a team comprised of their brightest stars could play one series against each Can-Am League team, adding up to 17 total games. With two games against the Ottawa Champions left on their schedule, Shikoku currently stands at 5-10, but has shown a unique style of play in their limited time in the league.
When Shikoku finishes up their schedule, the Garden State Grays will begin their 64-game schedule that takes them through September 7. Manager Eric Pierzchala will lead a roster comprised of some of the top talent that was not selected in this year’s MLB Draft, along with some former major and minor league veterans. They will open their season on June 29, as they begin a 5-game series with the New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium.
As of June 27, 2015, here are the current Can-Am Standings:
At the top of the pack stands the Rockland Boulders, the defending league champions. The Boulders got off to an extremely hot start this season, as they are winners of four in a row and eight of their last 10 games.
Although the team lost their first four hitters from their championship team, this offense has not missed a beat. Their .293 batting average and 29 home runs are by far a league best, and their ability to hit for both power and average has been very impressive thus far.
A major reason for the team’s success is the productivity from two returning players from last season. Stephen Cardullo (.368 average) and Joe Maloney (.363 average) have been the spark-plugs of the Boulders offense, as they currently are first and second in the league in batting average respectively. Newcomer Jared McDonald has also been a nice addition to the club, hitting .357 out of the lead-off spot for the club.
Right behind the Boulders sit the Quebec Capitales, a team that had won five straight championships from 2009-2013. Although the club’s championship run ended in 2014, the team had the league’s Most Valuable Player in Balbino Fuenmayor, who currently is with the Kansas City Royals’ organization.
Along with a revamped offense that has been producing nicely so far, the Capitales have been relying on the strength of their pitching staff to help carry them. Behind veteran Karl Gelinas, the Capitales have one of, if not the strongest, rotation in the Can-Am League. All five of their starters are currently in the top-10 in the league for earned run average.
The streaky New Jersey Jackals currently are in third place in the league. After an 1-6 start to the season, the Jackals went on a 10-game winning streak, putting them right back into the mix.
With an entire roster full of new names and faces, you must give manager Joe Calfapietra credit for getting this team back on the right track. Consistency has been an issue for this team overall, as their streakiness is definitely a cause of concern moving forward.
As far as individual players, the offense is led by third baseman Mark Threlkeld. The former Royals prospect is currently hitting .337 with four home runs out of the clean-up spot and has been a rally starter for this Jackals lineup all season.
With regards to the Jackals, the strength of the team lies within the back-end of the bullpen. The team has gotten outstanding contributions from relievers Alex Powers, Donnie Joseph, Brandon Sisk, and closer Hector Nelo, and they definitely hope they can keep it going throughout the season.
Towards the bottom half of the league, you have three teams that have struggled early on this season. The Trois-Rivieres Aigles (13-17) reached the .500 mark for the first time in team history earlier this season, but haven’t been able to keep it up as of late. The team has benefited from the hot start offensively from outfielder Steve Brown (.358, 4 home runs, 20 RBIs) and second baseman Jose Cuevas (.282 average).
The Ottawa Champions and the Sussex County Miners, the league’s two new expansion teams currently sit at the bottom of the standings.
Pitching has been the Champions’ biggest issue thus far, as their 4.92 team ERA is a league worst. The team has also struggled offensively, posting a league-worst .251 batting average. Along with former big-league player and manager Hal Lanier leading the way, the team has benefitted from having Sebastian Boucher as a player/coach. Boucher is hitting .303 with one home run, 18 RBIs, and league-best 28 walks in 30 games.
Sussex County, who play their home games at Skylands Stadium, the former home of the New Jersey Cardinals and the Sussex Skyhawks, have struggled early in their inaugural season. Even so, it has gotten nice contributions from Johnny Bladel (.348, 2 home runs, 15 RBIs) and Devin Thaut (.323 average).
There is still a lot of baseball to be played, and in a very competitive league, it should be a very tough battle between all of these teams to earn one of the four playoff spots. Every team who can qualify for the playoffs is still in the mix, so it will be very interesting to see how the next few weeks play out within the Can-Am League.