While the Isotopes did struggle on the mound, their lineup was at times quite impressive. The problem was the best lineup was only on the field late in the year and by then it was too late.
Albuquerque never had a true leadoff hitter throughout the year, leaving the middle of the order up without anyone on base far too often. Meanwhile, the struggles against left-handed pitching continued throughout the year.
There were some positive individual performances. Catcher Tim Federowicz (.328/.383/.555, 14 HR, 48 RBI) hit well on the road and threw out nearly 50 percent of baserunners.
First baseman Clint Robinson (.312/.401/.534, 18 HR, 80 RBI) and third baseman Jamie Romak (.280/.335/.538, 24 HR, 85 RBI) both played well enough to earn brief call-ups to Los Angeles. The late-season addition of first baseman-outfielder Brock Peterson (.387/.457/.671, 9 HR, 36 RBI) also provided an offensive boost.
Outfield prospect Joc Pederson (.303/.435/.582, 33 HR, 78 RBI, 30 stolen bases) lived up to expectations in winning PCL MVP honors. Though he could be a little temperamental at times and his throws from center field were not always accurate, Pederson was a force both offensively and defensively.
He did strike out a lot (149 times in 445 at-bats) but he also set an Isotopes record with 100 walks. Pederson’s 30-30 campaign was the first in the modern era of the PCL and the first in the league since Frank Demaree in 1934.
“I realized how many years 80 really is, how it’s the only one in the modern era, it’s crazy,” Pederson said. “I guess it’s a huge accomplishment and Iim humbled to be able to do something like that during the year.”
As for the other outfielders, Mike Baxter (.289/.365/.439, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 12 stolen bases) quietly had a good year. Trayvon Robinson (.235/.298/.348, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 11 stolen bases) struggled in his return to Albuquerque, where he last played in 2011.
The middle infield was a mishmash of players due to injuries and Dodgers call-ups. Carlos Triunfel (.223/.256/.330, 4 HR, 40 RBI) scuffled while Walter Ibarra (.269/.301/.346, 5 HR, 32 RBI) was at least solid in the field.
Cuban defector Alex Guerrero (.329/.364/.613, 15 HR, 49 RBI) got off to an amazing start offensively before he was involved in the year’s strangest and scariest incident. During a game in Salt Lake in June, Guerrero was attacked by then-teammate Miguel Olivo, who bit off part of Guerrero’s left ear and sent him to the disabled list for nearly two months.
The other Cuban defector, Erisbel Arruebarrena (.333/.400/.452) hit surprisingly well in a short stint with Albuquerque and played good defense, but was also the instigator in the second darkest incident of the year. During a game at Reno, Arruebarrena started an ugly benches-clearing brawl that led to multiple Isotopes being suspended.
“That weighs on a team when you try to get some momentum going and as soon as somebody plays well they’re gone,” Clint Robinson said. “The injuries and the ear biting threw a wrench in there. That’s just baseball. You have good years and you have bad years. You’ve got to just do your job the best you can.”
By the end of the year, even that story was overshadowed as the news broke from an Oklahoma newspaper that the Dodgers were planning to end their affiliation with Albuquerque and link up with the Oklahoma City RedHawks for 2015 and beyond. For now, it remains just a series of rumors and unnamed sources, but if the Dodgers do leave it will mark the end of an era.
“I love it here and I know the players love it here,” Berryhill said. “As far as minor-league organizations go, they treat you really well and everything’s top-notch. They do things right here, there’s no question about it.”
The Isotopes will next take the field on April 9, 2015, at home against Reno. What organization will be supplying their players remains to be seen.