IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – The Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) are set to begin their 2012 campaign in just over a week. While we still wait for a roster to come in from the major league club, let's review a little bit from last season and look forward to this year.
The 2011 season opened with a disappointing 20-0 loss to Ogden at Mealeuca Field, putting a damp taste in the fans' mouths to open the year. The Chukars never really recovered, staggering to a third-place finish in the Pioneer League's South Division.
Idaho Falls finished with a 33-43 overall record, 13 games back of Orem (LAA). The pitching staff struggled, completing the season with a 5.52 ERA. That was second to last in the Pioneer League. This could quite possibly be why the Royals took pitchers with six of their first 11 picks in the 2012 draft. Hopefully the Chukars will see a couple of good arms come to Idaho Falls to improve the pitching staff.
One of those arms could be 2012 first-round pick Kyle Zimmer (5th overall). Zimmer signed his contract this week, earning a $3 million signing bonus. According to the Chukars' front office, Zimmer is set to begin the year in Arizona with the extended spring training program. Another arm Idaho Falls could see is Gem State native Zeb Sneed from Twin Falls. The Royals took Sneed with the 343rd selection.
On a positive note, the Chukars finished second in the league in batting average at 287. Look for the success at the plate to continue this season because Omar Ramirez, the team's hitting coach in 2011, returns to Idaho Falls as the team's new manager.
A big bat the Chukars could see is Fred Ford, the Royals' seventh selection in the draft. Ford dominated the JUCO World Series this past season, hitting .400 with three home runs and 10 RBI in Grand Junction.
The Pioneer League also sees a change in clubs for the coming 2012 season. The Casper Ghosts are now defunct, leaving Wyoming for Grand Junction, CO. The Rockies' affiliate will remain in the south division with I.F.
While travel remains relatively the same with the switch, The Chukars have two road trips through the south division that last six games or longer. The first comes at the start of the season in July while the second comes in late August and early September. That final stretch could either make or break the Chukars' post-season hopes.
Look for a roster to come to Idaho Falls late Friday night or Saturday afternoon.