54-108 (.333); 4th place in NL East
OF Juan Encarnacion, RHP Kris Wilson
3B Phil Nevin, RHP Masato Yoshii, C Mike Redmond, 1B Wally Joyner
The 2001 season found the Racine Heat in the first year of its rebuilding process.
Recognizing its need to retool for the future, the team did not commit itself to any major free agents prior to the season. Instead, Racine brought in less talented but lower priced players to fill out its roster. The result of this strategy was a disappointing 54-win season but also a bulging bank account.
Racine's top players in 2001 were 3B/DH Phil Nevin (.345, 30 HR, 82 RBI), 3B Joe Randa (.329, 16 HR, 73 RBI) and RHP Billy Koch (39 IP, 2.75 ERA, 22 SV).
For Racine fans, the off-season brought both good news and bad.
The bad news is that Racine's 2002 season will likely look quite similar to its 2001 campaign. Still short on major league talent, the Heat appear destined for another season of 90+ losses. Further compounding the problem will be the loss of the team's best player, Phil Nevin, to free agency.
The good news is that the team is beginning to invest its substantial savings in young, talented players. Specifically, the team has recently reached long-term agreements with 1B Doug Mientkiewicz and RHP Joe Mays (10-12, 6.42 ERA).
While neither player has yet to establish himself in the majors, Racine is confident both will develop very soon. Many experts compare Mientkiewicz to a young Mark Grace, while Mays showed flashes of promise in his rookie season.
Also new in 2002 will be enigmatic OF Juan Encarnacion (.261, 13 HR, 32 SB). Racine acquired Encarnacion and young RHP Kris Wilson from Ocala in exchange for the matching rights on restricted free agent Nevin.
If Encarnacion can finally turn his many skills into on-field performance, Racine's lineup will feature a flash it has missed in seasons past. Wilson is also talented and could develop into a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher for Racine in coming years.
The key word for Racine fans once again, then, is patience. If its young players develop as planned, the team could be poised for success by the 2004 season.
CF Chris Singleton
2B Mark Grudzielanek
3B Joe Randa
DH Al Martin/Marty Cordova
RF Jay Payton
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
LF Juan Encarnacion
C Brian Schneider
SS Royce Clayton