Despite missing the playoffs, the Isotopes had plenty of positives to reflect upon after the conclusion of this season.
Albuquerque is used to seeing some pretty big offensive numbers from the Isotopes but this team was not one to fire up the launching pad. Outfielder Alex Castellanos ended up leading the team with 19 home runs.
The two biggest themes instead were the versatility of the lineup and how Bundy had to juggle getting enough at-bats among all of his players to keep them happy, especially with multiple 40-man roster players.
“You looked at our roster and whether you’re on the 40-man or not, all these guys deserved to play,” Bundy said. “At one time or another all of them had a really big contribution to our ballclub. Realistically I picked a number to start the year and I said if I can get each of these guys 350 at-bats (that would be ideal). And I think we’re going to surpass that, I think most of our guys will be over 400.”
The only position where Albuquerque did not have a 400-at-bat player was catcher, where 10 different Isotopes suited up this season. Jesus Flores hit .164 in 22 games and was released. Matt Wallach (.245) and Dashenko Ricardo (0-for-7) were both demoted to Double-A. J.R. Towles played in just four games before injuring his thumb and undergoing season-ending surgery. Tim Federowicz hit an eye-popping .418 with eight homers in 21 games before the Dodgers finally kept him in Los Angeles.
By the end of the year, there were John Baker (.203), Drew Butera (.135), Damaso Espino (.333), Eliezer Alfonzo (.284) and Steve Cilladi, who was technically the bullpen catcher and only played in one game.
Scott Van Slyke hit .348 with 12 home runs in 61 games, mainly at first base, while also seeing time in the outfield and playing a lot for the Dodgers. The other 40-man players were shortstop-second baseman Dee Gordon (.297, 49 stolen bases), second baseman-third baseman-outfielder Elian Herrera (.282, 7 HR, 43 RBI) and second baseman-shortstop-third baseman Justin Sellers (.270, 6 HR, 65 RBI).
“Up and down, but it’s been good,” Gordon said of his season. “I’ve progressed well. The last time I played here I didn’t progress. I was just … out-athleting everybody, but not progressing.”
The non-40-man infielders still got their chances. Barden (.277, 5 HR, 56 RBI) was solid at third, first and second base, while Ryal (.267, 4 HR, 50 RBI) saw time at those positions as well before being traded the Angels organization this weekend.
“We want to be the best on the team, we want more at-bats, we’re never satisfied,” Barden said. “Thats just the human race, we’re never satisfied with our position. Especially at the end of the year when we’re struggling you’d best hide your displeasure, knowing that you’re not doing well. We’re professionals. Go out there and act like a professional and do your job.”
The outfield was a five-man jigsaw of Castellanos (.257, 61 RBI, 19 stolen bases), Buss (.303, 17 HR, 100 RBI, 21 stolen bases), Gwynn (.300, 27 RBI), Matt Angle (.283, 8 HR, 62 RBI, 22 stolen bases) and Jeremy Moore (.220, 17 RBI), who finished the year at Double-A.
Buss was named the team MVP and fan favorite while also cracking both the midseason PCL All-Star team and the postseason all-PCL squad.
“Honestly I didn’t know where I was on the depth chart coming in,” Buss said. “But like anyone else you’re just trying to get off to a good start and I was very happy I was able to. Even over the past three years I’ve honestly gotten off to very poor starts. This was the first year where I had a strong April. I was very happy and I think that was probably a necessity in my case because I was that fourth or fifth guy so I needed to be able to put up decent numbers to show I could play here.”
At the end of the year only Butera, Van Slyke and Gordon were called up by the Dodgers.