The 2016 season was a year of transition and prosperity for the Staten Island Yankees. Under veteran manager Dave Bialas, the Baby Bombers qualified for postseason play for the second consecutive season as the New York-Penn League’s wild-card finishing 3.5 games behind the Hudson Valley Renegades with a 44-31 record. Off the field, the club prepared to retire the Yankees team nickname and develop an identity of their own to attract a new legion of fans.
With a blend of recent draft picks and returning contributors, Staten Island set a franchise record with an 11-2 start and added to the history books during the first months of the season. Following a 20-inning marathon victory in Brooklyn in the season opener, pitchers Drew Finley and Josh Roeder combined for a ten-inning no-hitter in their first game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. The no-hitter was the club’s first since Jason Arnold blanked the Vermont Expos in June 2001.
“It was an honor,” Roeder told Pinstriped Prospects. “It feels to a be a part of this organization and its history and to do this with one of my buddies Drew Finley, it’s a good feeling too. We went out there and did our job. We were successful in getting a no-hitter and now we are a part of history.”
Dominant pitching set the tone for Staten Island throughout the season, thanks to a rotation where 13 pitchers recorded at least one start. Kolton Mahoney, a key member of the pitching staff in 2015, emerged as the club’s ace with a 2.92 ERA in 61.2 innings and pitched a complete game shutout on July 31 against the Auburn Doubledays.
The rotation also received a boost in late June as former 3rd round draft pick and Foxboro native Austin DeCarr made a successful return from Tommy John Surgery. DeCarr took a few starts to regain his form but allowed just three runs in 19.2 innings between July 28 and August 18 showing marked improvement.
Other notable pitchers included Freicer Perez, a 6’8” righthander who stood tall making the jump from the Dominican Summer League and emerged as one of the organization’s top 30 prospects and Delaware alum Chad Martin, who went 4-0 in five late-season starts. Staten Island finished third in the NYPL with a 2.82 ERA and finished tied for first in the circuit with ten shutouts.
At the plate, Staten island took an opportunistic approach throughout the season and displayed a propensity to capitalize with runners in scoring position and support the strong efforts on the mound. First baseman Dalton Blaser opened the year with 7 hits in his first 11 at-bats and Mandy Alvarez batted .364 in his first 13 games to earn a quick promotion to Charleston.
Catcher Luis Torrens would also join Alvarez in Charleston in mid-July after a triumphant return from shoulder surgery. Torrens, who missed the entire 2015 season returned to form as the best catching prospect in the Yankees’ organization after Gary Sanchez, showing no ill-effects from the injury. In 12 games in Staten Island, Torrens threw out 39 percent of potential base stealers and recorded a .760 OPS at the plate.
“Luis can hit. He has a short stroke to the ball and his arm is healthy now. He is a future major league ballplayer without a doubt,” Bialas said prior to Torrens’ promotion to Charleston.
Throughout the summer, the Baby Bombers established a variety of offensive contributors despite a constantly shifting roster. Outfielder Timmy Robinson, a 21st round draft pick out of USC, led the New York-Penn League with 52 RBIs and paced Staten Island in five offensive categories, including home runs (8), triples (4), and total bases (111). Robinson broke out on July 21 against the Tri-City Valley Cats with a 2 HR, 5 RBI performance and was a potent offensive force throughout the season.
Third baseman Drew Bridges, a returning member of the club in 2016, had the finest season of his professional career, batting .258/.321/.377 with 5 HR and 32 RBIs in a team-high 67 games. The Carthage, Missouri native was one of three Staten Island players to receive a NYPL All-Star selection and sustained his impressive play into the postseason with an extra inning home run to stave off elimination against the State College Spikes.
Lauded for his consistency and makeup, second baseman Nick Solak made the biggest impression on most observers. A 2nd round draft pick out of Louisville last June, Solak led Staten Island with a .412 on-base percentage in 64 games and exceeded expectations defensively recording a .975 fielding percentage. Solak was also adept at hitting to all fields and finished fourth in the NYPL with a .321 average.
On September 3, Staten Island clinched the wild card spot in the NYPL postseason with a victory in Tri-City. The Baby Bombers would face top-seeded State College in the semifinals and lost to the eventual league champions in three games, falling one game short of pursuing their seventh NYPL title. Although Staten Island did not return to the championship series, there was a sense of accomplishment for their postseason journey.
“I know it meant a lot to me and a lot to these kids,” Bialas said. “These kids have battled every day and worked hard, putting in extra work when they needed to and busted their tails playing to him. These kids deserved to be in the playoffs and that chance to compete for a championship.”
Staten Island became the 5th team in the Yankees’ organization to qualify for postseason play after clinching the NYPL wild card. With the 2016 season in the books, Staten Island will officially retire the Yankees moniker after 18 seasons and embark on the next chapter of their history. By year’s end, the club will officially have a new name and rebrand with an eye towards the future and generate local interest for their product on the field, while remaining a Yankee’s affiliate.