Little Rock - With seven days until opening the 2014 season, the Arkansas Travelers on Thursday announced their opening day roster in conjunction with the Los Angeles Angels. In his first season as the club's manager, Phillip Wellman brings the Travs to town with many of the top players in the Angels minor league system, including each of the organization's 2013 Minor League Award winners.
The club will arrive in Little Rock from Spring Training in Tempe, Arizona on Monday. A Tuesday afternoon practice is scheduled for 3:30 at Dickey-Stephens Park. The team travels to Midland on Wednesday by bus and opens the season April 3 against the Midland RockHounds. The home opener at Dickey-Stephens Park is scheduled for Thursday, April 10.
"We have an outstanding group of guys joining us to start the season," said Travs General Manager Paul Allen. "Five of the Angels' top ten prospects will start the season here. It looks like a great mix of young players and guys with more experience. I look forward to seeing these guys compete for the Texas League Championship."
Offensively the Travelers will have power sprinkled through the lineup with outfielder Zach Borenstein and first baseman Michael Snyder earning promotions to Double-A.
Borenstein, a left-handed hitting corner outfielder, was the most decorated player in the Angels farm system and put together one of the finest seasons in the Minor Leagues with a .337/.403/.631 slash line at Single-A Inland Empire. Drafted in the 23rd round by the Angels in 2011 out of Eastern Illinois, Borenstein ranked second amongst full-season minor league players in slugging percentage and OPS, while finishing fifth in batting average and 12th in home runs. With two-thirds of the California League's Triple Crown (.337 batting average, 28 home runs) Borenstein won the league's MVP and was named the Angels Minor League Player of the Year.
Snyder, who bats right-handed, hit 25 home runs and drove in 92 runs at Inland Empire and was voted to the California League's Postseason All-Star Team joining Borenstein and 2013 Travs second baseman Alex Yarbrough. Yarbrough, who got into five games with the 2012 Travs, batted .313 at Inland Empire with 32 doubles, ten triples and 11 home runs while leading the Minor Leagues with 182 base hits. Yarbrough's double play mate, shortstop Eric Stamets was named the Angels 2013 Minor League Defensive Player of the Year.
Third baseman Kaleb Cowart is one of ten players to return to the Travs from last year's Texas League runners-up. The switch-hitting 2010 first round pick of the Angels is still regarded as one of the best third base prospects in minor league baseball. MLB.com selected Cowart as the Angels' top prospect for the second year in a row. Jimmy Swift returns to the Travelers for his third season as a highly regarded utility infielder, while new free-agent signee Shawn O'Malley can also play all infield positions.
Drew Heid returns to the Travelers' outfield to begin the season after finishing last year at Salt Lake with a .331/.411/.532 slash line in 45 games. Andy Workman, who played centerfield for Inland Empire in 2011, and minor league free agent Kyle Hudson both come to the Travs with extensive experience in centerfield.
Behind the plate the Travs are led by 2013 Texas League Mid Season All-Star Jett Bandy with minor league free agent Anderson De La Rosa signed after a ten-year minor league career with Milwaukee.
The starting pitching rotation is bolstered by the return of left hander Michael Roth, who is the only 2014 Travelers to be a part of the Angels' 40-man roster. Roth pitched in 17 games with the 2013 Travs, mostly as a starter, going 6-3, 4.20 ERA. He also pitched in 15 games with the Angels, mostly in relief posting a 7.20 ERA and 1-1 record.
Mark Sappington is also back in his role as Travs starting pitcher after finishing the 2013 season at Double-A. The 2013 California League Postseason All-Star tied for the Angels organizational lead with 12 victories, while ranking third with 136 strikeouts and fifth with a 3.45 ERA in 27 starts for the Travs and Inland Empire.
Left hander Kramer Sneed joins the Travs in the rotation after working as one of Inland Empire's starting pitchers in 2013. Acquired from the Yankees in the 2013 Vernon Wells trade, Sneed missed most of the second half with shoulder tendonitis but bounced back in the California League postseason with a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings.
Orangel Arenas also returns to the Travs where he spent most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons going 14-21 with a 4.86 ERA in 52 appearances. Last year Arenas split time between Inland Empire and Triple-A Salt Lake making 24 starts. Minor league free agent Yeiper Castillo is expected to round out the Travs' pitching rotation.
The bullpen is led by Angels 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Mike Morin. The righty led the farm system with 23 saves between Inland Empire and the Travs. In 70 innings pitched over 56 relief appearances, the Angels' 2012 13th round out of North Carolina also posted a 1.93 ERA while issuing just 10 walks against 76 strikeouts in 70 innings.
Hard throwing righty R.J. Alvarez will be counted upon in late inning situations as well after holding California League hitters to a .191 batting average along with 79 strikeouts in 48.2 innings and a 2.96 ERA. Ryan Chaffee also rejoins the Travs' bullpen after completing his second season with a sub .200 batting average against and ERA under 3.00 at Double-A. Right hander Kevin Johnson, who owns 29 saves the previous two seasons with the Travs, also could see late-inning situations. Carmina Giardina and Brandon Sisk are left handed options out of the bullpen, while Drew Rucinski is also available as a right handed relief option.