Four of the Tampa Bay Rays' Top 30 prospects will feature on the Montgomery Biscuits 2018 Opening Day Roster, which was announced by the Rays on Monday afternoon. Of the talented, young group, the Rays number 12 prospect, Nick Solak, and number 15 prospect, Brandon Lowe-both second basemen-highlight the club.
Solak, 23, spent all of last season in the New York Yankees organization, splitting time with High Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton where he hit a combined .297 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 26 doubles, and five triples. A former second round pick out of the University of Louisville by the Yankees in 2016, Solak was traded to the Rays back on February 20 in a three-team trade involving New York, Tampa Bay, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rays received Solak, LHP Anthony Banda, and a Player To Be Named Later as part of the deal, while the Yankees received 3B Brandon Drury, and the Diamondbacks OF Steven Souza Jr., and RHP Taylor Widener.
Lowe, 23, will start his campaign in the Capital City for the first time after playing for High Class-A Charlotte and Montgomery last season. The second baseman put together a year for the ages with Charlotte in 2017, becoming the first Stone Crab to ever win the Florida State League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .311 with nine home runs, and 46 RBI in 90 games for the club before earning a promotion to the Biscuits on August 2. He owned a .403 OBP and added 34 doubles, three triples and six steals with the Stone Crabs. The second baseman was Tampa Bay's third-round pick in the 2015 Draft out of the University of Maryland and is a career .275 hitter in 215 Minor League games.
Joining Solak and Lowe in the infield will be three returners: Jake Cronenworth, Dalton, Kelly, and Andrew Velazquez. Cronenworth put together the Biscuits' longest hitting streak in 2017, hitting safely in 15 consecutive games after his promotion up from Charlotte on July 18. Kelly took Double-A by storm after the first baseman was promoted from Charlotte on June 27, hitting .302 with seven home runs and 35 RBI in just 53 games for the Butter and Blue. Velazquez began last season at shortstop, but shifted to the outfield after Cronenworth's promotion, and finished second on the team with nine home runs, tying a career high. Joining the three returners in the infield will be newcomers Michael Brosseau and Jermaine Palacios.
The outfield will look a bit different from 2017, with Justin Williams and Joe McCarthy moving on to AAA Durham, but Nathan Lukes will return and try to improve upon a solid Double-A debut season. Lukes played in 98 games for the Biscuits last year and hit .270 with three home runs and 35 RBI to go along with a multi-hit streak of seven games from July 4 to July 11. The Biscuits will also get a look at their 2016 second round pick and number 25 prospect, Ryan Boldt, who will make his Double-A debut along with Monroe, Connecticut native Tommy Milone. Brett Sullivan and Mac James will round out the positional players as the Biscuits' catchers.
The pitching staff is made up of just five returners and eight newcomers. Right-handers Mike Franco and Benton Moss are returning to the Biscuits, along with left-handers Kyle Bird, Genesis Cabrera, and Jordan Harrison. Cabrera enters 2017 as the number 22 prospect in the Rays organization, while Bird and Harrison each made 53 appearances out of the bullpen last year-the most in the Southern League. The newcomers include right-handers R.J. Alaniz, Zach Lee, Eduar Lopez, J.D. Martin, and left-handers Matt Krook, Dalton Moats, Travis Ott, and Austin Wright.
Right-handed pitchers Edwin Fierro and Greg Harris, as well as left-handed pitcher Chris Kirsch and third baseman Grant Kay are on the Biscuits disabled list.
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The Biscuits 2018 Opening Day squad will be introduced to the public on Tuesday night, April 3, at 6:00 PM at the Meet the Team event at Alley Bar. The event is free and open to the public.
The Biscuits open their 15th season on Thursday, April 5 at Riverwalk Stadium against the Biloxi Shuckers. For the full 2018 promotional schedule or to purchase tickets visit biscuitsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.