The Columbia Fireflies may have their most talented Opening Day roster ever. Four of New York's top-ten prospects headline the Fireflies 2019 Opening Day roster, as released by the Mets. Talented infielders Ronny Mauricio (No. 3) and Mark Vientos (No. 4) and impressive pitchers Simeon Woods-Richardson (No. 8) and Thomas Szapucki (No. 10) all find themselves among the ten highest-rated Mets prospects entering this season, as ranked by Baseball America.
Vientos (2017) and Woods-Richardson (2018) are the Mets two most-recent 2nd-round selections. Both performed brilliantly at the rookie-ball level in 2018. Vientos hit .287 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI in 60 games for the Kingsport Mets while Woods-Richardson finished the 2018 season with a 1.56 ERA in seven outings split between Kingsport and the Gulf Coast League Mets. The teenagers were both drafted out of high school (Vientos: American Heritage High-FL, Woods-Richardson: Kemper High-TX).
Pitchers Chris Viall - a 2018 Firefly - and Christian James are the remaining two Mets prospects on the roster. The six prospects tie the most for a Fireflies opening-day roster.
Joining Viall are five other former Fireflies: pitchers Luc Rennie - who set the Fireflies single-game strikeout record on July 22, 2018 - Darwin Ramos (2018) and Szapucki (2017), along with position players Jose Miguel Medina (2017) and Walter Rasquin (2018). The prospect Szapucki returns after missing the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
In a city that's home to its own successful Southeastern Conference baseball program, Columbia's 2019 roster features two former SEC players. Pitcher Andrew Mitchell and infielder Brian Sharp starred at Auburn and Missouri respectively. Sharp played in the Palmetto State's capital less than a year ago - the 26th-round draft pick smashed a home run against the University of South Carolina in a series from May 11-13, 2018. The former Tiger finished that three-game set with five hits and three RBI.
Second-year Fireflies skipper Pedro Lopez - a two-time Eastern League (double-A) Manager of the Year - will be joined in the Fireflies dugout this season by pitching coach Royce Ring, hitting coach Luis Rivera and bench coach Gilbert Gomez . Athletic Trainer Daichi Arima, Strength and Conditioning Coach Sam Nickelson, Assistant Athletic Trainer Nicole Collins and Mental Skills Coach Dave Williams round out the coaching staff.
The Fireflies open the 2019 season on Thursday, April 4 against the Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees). The four-game series continues through April 7 before Columbia welcomes the Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves) to town for a three-game set from April 8-10.
2019 Roster Breakdown
Pitchers (13): Jose Butto, Christian James, Andrew Mitchell, Dedniel Nunez, Billy Oxford, Darwin Ramos, Luc Rennie, Thomas Szapucki, Willy Taveras, Chris Viall, Jaison Vilera, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Ezequiel Zabaleta
Catchers (2): Hayden Senger, Juan Uriarte
Infielders (6): Chase Chambers, Ronny Mauricio, Walter Rasquin, Yoel Romero, Brian Sharp, Mark Vientos
Outfielders (4): Ranfy Adon, Anthony Dirocie, Wagner Lagrange, Jose Miguel Medina
Top-30 Mets Prospects (6):
3. Ronny Mauricio, SS
4. Mark Vientos, 3B
8. Simeon Woods-Richardson, RHP
10. Thomas Szapucki, LHP
26. Chris Viall, RHP
27. Christian James, RHP
Sterling Award Winners (5):
Ronny Mauricio, SS (2018, Gulf Coast League Mets)
Jaison Vilera, RHP (2017, Gulf Coast League Mets)
Thomas Szapucki, LHP (2016, Kingsport Mets)
Wagner Lagrange, OF (2015, Dominican Summer League Mets)
Walter Rasquin, OF (2014, Dominican Summer League Mets)
*Award given annually to most outstanding player at each Mets minor-league level
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.