Wilmington, DE - With the 2014 season less than a week away, the Wilmington Blue Rocks are pleased to announce a young, talented and prospect-filled Opening Day roster. Nine of Baseball America's top 30 prospects in the Kansas City Royals organization, including six of the top 10, will begin the 2014 season on the Riverfront. Only four players return from last season, so this year's lineup and pitching staff will be filled with many fresh faces. They will play for new manager Darryl Kennedy, who begins his 17th season as a Minor League manager and eighth as a skipper in the Royals organization. Kennedy also managed the Blue Rocks in 2008 and returns to the First State after four seasons at the helm of the Arizona League's Surprise Royals. He led the 2008 version of the Blue Rocks to a second-half Northern Division wild card and an appearance in the Carolina League playoffs.
The Blue Rocks pitching staff is highlighted by a trio of talented hurlers. Royals No. 4 prospect Miguel Almonte, Royals No. 6 prospect Sean Manaea and Royals No. 10 prospect Christian Binford will all begin the 2014 season on the bump in Wilmington. Almonte posted a 6-9 record, a 3.10 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 25 starts at Low-A Lexington in 2013, while Binford made 23 starts for Low-A Lexington, compiling an 8-7 record, a 2.67 ERA and 130 strikeouts. Manaea, the 34th overall pick in the 2013 draft, did not pitch professionally last season as he recovered from a torn hip labrum. Joining them on the Riverfront will be Daniel Stumpf and Jonathan Dziedzic. Stumpf went 10-10 with a 3.07 ERA and 117 strikeouts in Low-A Lexington's rotation last season. He also pitched four complete games a year ago. Dziedzic posted a 2-0 record and a 2.68 ERA in 11 starts at Rookie-Level Idaho Falls in 2013.
Wilmington's bullpen will likely be anchored by Mark Peterson, who saved 18 games for Low-A Lexington last season. Peterson's sparkling 3.06 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched make him a prime candidate to also close out games for the Blue Crew. Peterson will be joined by fellow relievers Kyle Bartsch, John Walter and Glenn Sparkman. Bartsch made 21 relief appearances for Rookie-Level Idaho Falls last season and finished with a 2.45 ERA and 37 strikeouts. Walter spent most of the 2013 season at Low-A Lexington, pitching in 18 games out of the bullpen for the Legends and finishing with a 1.01 ERA. Sparkman produced a 1-0 record and a 1.72 ERA in 20 appearances for Rookie-Level Idaho Falls in 2013. The Blue Rocks' pitching staff will be rounded out by Matt Murray, Yender Caramo, Aroni Nina, Zeb Sneed and returning pitcher Ali Williams, who are all capable of pitching multiple innings and have started games in the past at the professional level.
A pair of top 10 Royals prospects will begin the year starting on the left side of the Blue Rocks infield. Royals No. 7 prospect and 2013 first round draft pick Hunter Dozier will likely anchor third base, while Royals No. 3 prospect Raul A. Mondesi, the son of former Major League Rookie of the Year and All-Star Raul Mondesi, is a highly regarded shortstop. Dozier played in 69 games professionally last season and hit .308 with seven home runs, 30 doubles and 52 RBIs, splitting time between Rookie-Level Idaho Falls and Low-A Lexington. Mondesi hit seven homers, 13 doubles and seven triples in 2013 while posting a .261 batting average. On May 27 last season, Mondesi hit for the cycle against the Kannapolis Intimidators, becoming just the second player in the past four seasons to hit for the cycle in the South Atlantic League. Cody Stubbs, Mark Donato, Kenny Diekroeger and Jack Lopez will round out the Wilmington infield. Both Diekroeger and Lopez spent time with the Blue Rocks last season.
Two of the Royals' top 30 prospects will open the 2014 campaign in the Blue Rocks outfield: No. 7 prospect Bubba Starling and No. 30 prospect Terrance Gore. Starling, the Royals' 2011 first round draft pick, is known for his combination of power and speed. He hit 13 homers and 21 doubles last season for Low-A Lexington while swiping 22 bags. Gore hit just .215 for Low-A Lexington in 2013, but stole 68 bases and is considered one of the fastest players in all of professional baseball. Daniel Rockett joins that duo. Rockett hit .310 last year with 11 home runs in 58 games for Rookie-Level Idaho Falls. That came after he posted a .328 average with 10 homers in the spring at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The final two Blue Rocks outfielders are Tyler Chism, who played 40 games in Wilmington last season, and Johermyn Chavez, who hit .315 with 32 homers at the Advanced-A level in 2010 for the California League's High Desert Mavericks. Chavez played in the Chicago Cubs organization last season and hit just .206 for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. The Cubs attempted to convert him into a pitcher in the second half of 2013; however, the Royals have once again listed him as an outfielder.
Royals No. 24 prospect Zane Evans, Royals No. 23 prospect Cam Gallagher and Beau Maggi are slated to be the Blue Rocks catching trio. Evans was drafted by the Royals in the fourth round last summer and is known for his offense and strong arm behind the plate. He hit .352 with four dingers and 18 doubles in 41 games for Rookie-Level Idaho Falls last season. Gallagher is a little rawer and hit just .212 with two homers and 15 doubles for Low-A Lexington. Maggi, an Arizona State alum, played in just 23 games last season. He posted a .177 batting average and spent time at both Rookie-Level Idaho Falls and Low-A Lexington.
The Blue Rocks begin their 2014 campaign on the road at Winston-Salem on Thursday, April 3. The 22nd season of Blue Rocks baseball at Frawley Stadium starts with the home opener on Tuesday, April 8. Individual tickets for the upcoming season and the California-Carolina League All-Star Game and Hitting Challenge, presented by Bank of America, are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 302-888-BLUE, by going to BlueRocks.com, or by visiting the Blue Rocks box office.
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