Top prospects Christian Arroyo and Tyler Beede highlight an interesting mix of old and new faces en route to Richmond, Va. for the 2016 season. The pair make up two of the Giants' three most recent first-round selections, with Arroyo coming from high school in 2013 and Beede leaving Vanderbilt fresh off a NCAA championship in 2014.
After grinding through a tough 2014 campaign in Augusta, the 20-year-old shortstop from Florida was the offensive star of the San Jose Giants last year and received a well-earned bump to Double-A to begin his third full season. Beede will be making his return to the Eastern League after getting the call-up from San Jose in early June.
Thirteen of the 30 listed players have spent at least one full season with the Flying Squirrels already. Names like Kyle Crick, Mike Kickham, Adalberto Mejia, Angel Villalona, Ricky Oropesa, and Myles Schroder should be very familiar to the fans in RVA, including Oropesa who has 1,149 career plate appearances spanning three seasons for Richmond.
Ten players are currently in MLB's Top-30 prospect list, including seven who will be beginning in Richmond for their first time. Let's take a look at the possible starting rotation:
- RHP Tyler Beede
- LHP Adalberto Mejia
- RHP Chase Johnson
- LHP Matthew Gage
- LHP Mike Kickham
- RHP Joan Gregorio
Considering Crick has not made a start since June 25 of 2015, making 25 consecutive relief appearances following a two-hit, four-walk outing that lasted just 0.2 innings, it's safe to guess he won't be back in the starting rotation. But you never know.
Beede, feeling fresh since re-introducing the four-seam fastball to his arsenal, should have last year's end-of-year struggles out of his mind to focus on a potential breakout season. With his continual addition of weight since his final year at Vanderbilt, Beede has built a potent mix of pitches that includes three types of fastballs, two types of changeups, and a power curve/slider.
Mejia and Gage make up two-thirds of the lefties in the rotation, welcoming back former prospect Kickham, who spent 2015 playing in the Pacific Coast League for two different major league affiliates — Round Rock (Texas) and Tacoma (Seattle). He made 12 appearances (5 starts) and logged a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings before being released by Texas in June. Now he'll be back in the Giants' organization after a minor league deal was agreed upon back in January.
The bullpen for the Flying Squirrels will be:
- RHP Kyle Crick
- RHP Jose Casilla
- RHP Dan Slania
- RHP Ray Black
- RHP Tyler Mizenko
- LHP Christian Jones
- RHP Nestor Molina
- RHP Jake Smith
- RHP Tyler Rogers
- RHP Pedro Rodriguez
Not a lot of lefties in that pen, with former starter Christian Jones being the only representative. Look for heavy innings between the seventh and ninth innings from Black, Mizenko, Smith, and Slania, who have all had impressive numbers in late game situations going back through the last two years. Three of the four were crucial for San Jose a year ago, with Black, Smith, and Slania all averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings and combining for a 3.11 ERA. Black blew away the California League, striking out 18.4 batters per nine and continued the dominance into the Arizona Fall League, punching out 16 in nine innings of work for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
The sinkerbaler Mizenko (video here) is a surprise return to Richmond considering his 50-inning, 1.98 ERA performance out of the pen last season. A deserved call-up to Sacramento sometime this year could be in order.
On April 7 at Hartford, the opening-day lineup should look pretty close to this:
- C Jeff Arnold
- 1B Ricky Oropesa
- 2B Austin Slater
- SS Christian Arroyo
- 3B Ryder Jones
- LF Hunter Cole
- CF Myles Schroder
- RF Tyler Horan
The outfield is a precarious dilemma in Richmond, as it seems the roster is missing a true centerfielder. The four listed outfielders combine to 163 innings of experience in center, which amounts to about 18 games. Strangely enough, Schroder (listed as an infielder) has the most time under his belt in center field, logging 103 innings last season. Based on the recent workload of Slater at second base (96 games in 2015 split between San Jose and Richmond), I say he mans second base while Schroder moves to the outfield alongside Cole and Horan.
The group will have little trouble mixing it up though, as Slater, Cole, and Schroder all project as utility players moving forward. As a pro, Slater has played every non-catcher position except first and third while Cole has played everything but shortstop and center field. Schroder is the ultimate swiss army knife. The 28-year-old has played every position, including catcher, in his five pro seasons.
The bench is made up of catchers Eliezer Zambrano and Matt Winn, infielders Ali Castillo, Rando Moreno, and Angel Villalona, as well as veteran outfielder Carlos Moncrief.
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