TROY, NY- It has been over eight months since the Tri-City ValleyCats last took the field at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. After a long off-season, the start of a new campaign is right around the corner, and its newest players have finally arrived.
On Friday, the ValleyCats held their annual Media Day at "The Joe", as members of the local media got a chance to acquaint themselves with the 2013 ValleyCats. As currently comprised, the roster contains 13 pitchers, 2 catchers, 8 infielders, and 5 outfielders.
There are a number of notable names and high-draft picks on the current roster for Tri-City. One player in particular has strong local ties. Christian Garcia (RHP, 6'2", 175), a pitcher for the 'Cats, hails from Gansevoort, NY, and is a graduate of Saratoga Central Catholic High School. Drafted in the 29th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Garcia pitched in the Astros organization with Greeneville last year. The right-hander is expected to come out of the bullpen for the 'Cats.
The pitching staff contains three high draft picks from previous years' drafts. Kevin Comer (RHP, 6'3", 205) was originally a 1st round (57th overall) selection of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. He was dealt to the Astros organization in a May 2012 trade. Comer started in 8 of his 12 appearances between his two stints with the rookie league affiliates for both Toronto and Houston last season. Another ValleyCats pitcher taken towards the top of that 2011 draft is Adrian Houser (RHP, 6'4", 200). The Astros selected Houser with their second-round pick (69th overall), and since he made his professional debut, has appeared in 23 games, all but one coming as a starter. Houser, who hails from Locust Grove, OK, was named the 16th best prospect in the Astros minor league system by Baseball America this year. The third hurler to be an early draft choice is Tanner Bushue, 2009's 2nd round pick for the Astros. Bushue is entering his 5th season with the Houston organization, and could prove versatile, having both started and relieved in his career so far.
There are five pitchers on the current roster that were taken in the MLB Draft just barely a week ago. Pat Christensen (La Salle, 27th round), Randall Fant (Arkansas, 29th round), Albert Minnis (Wichita State, 25th round), Zach Morton (Northwestern, 32nd round), and Kyle Westwood (University of North Florida, 13th round) will all be making their professional debuts this season in Tri-City.
Offensively, the ValleyCats in 2013 appear to be blessed with a great amount of speed. Two players in particular, Tony Kemp, a 2B from Vanderbilt taken in the 5th round, and James Ramsay, an OF selected in the 7th round from University of South Florida, were both amongst the NCAA leaders in stolen bases this season, and the scouting reports list for both as possessing outstanding speed. Kemp was the SEC Player of the Year in 2013 after hitting .391 with 34 stolen bases, and will be joined in Troy by the other half of Vanderbilt's right side of the infield, 1B Conrad Gregor. Gregor was Houston's 4th round selection, and was one of the nation's top on-base men this past year, drawing 54 walks en route to a .440 OBP. Gregor himself stole 21 bases, giving the right portion of the Commodores infield 55 steals. Thomas Lindauer, an All-Big Ten shortstop for the University of Illinois, stole 15 bases in addition to hitting 9 home runs, giving the ValleyCats a solid combination of power and speed in the hole.
The only two returning players to Tri-City this season from last year are IF Ryan Dineen and OF Dan Gulbransen. Both Dineen and Gulbransen were starters for the 2012 'Cats that captured the organizations 4th Stedler Division Championship. Gulbransen hit .218 with 6 HR and 37 RBI for the team last year, while Dineen hit at a .217 clip with 2 HR and 23 RBI. Both players are entering their second year in professional baseball.
The 2013 ValleyCats will be led under an entirely new coaching staff, led by manager Ed Romero. Romero was a Major League infielder for 12 seasons and 4 different teams from 1977 to 1990. Since 1992, Romero has been involved in coaching at all different levels, ranging from the Gulf Coast League to the MLB. He will be the sixth manager in Tri-City history, starting his 21st season in professional baseball. He is joined on the bench by pitching coach Doug White and hitting coach Russ Steinhorn.
The ValleyCats kick off their 2013 season Monday, June 17th against the Vermont Lake Monsters. It is the first of a three-game homestand against their Stedler Division rivals. This year will be the 12th for the 'Cats here in Troy. Tickets available for purchase at the stadium box office or by calling 518-629-2287.