FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 4, 2016) - The Fort Myers Miracle are pleased to announce the preliminary Opening Day roster for the 2016 season. Led by Naples native Jeff Smith as the manager, the Miracle roster is comprised of 13 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.
The highlight of this year's Opening Day roster is the inclusion of the past three first round selections by the Minnesota Twins: starters Kohl Stewart and Tyler Jay as well as shortstop Nick Gordon. Stewart and Jay make up two of the six-man Miracle rotation that features four of the top 30 prospects in the Twins organization according to MLB Pipeline. Stewart, the fourth overall selection in 2013, returns for his second season in Fort Myers and is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Twins system. Jay, the sixth overall pick in 2015, is rated at No. 4 and is making the move from the bullpen to the rotation.
Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves is the No. 7 prospect in the Twins organization and will start the year on the mound for the Miracle after splitting the 2015 season between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. Gonsalves combined to win 13 games and post a 2.01 ERA over 134.1 innings with 132 strikeouts. Fellow lefty Randy Rosario will make his Florida State League debut this season after being added to the Twins' 40-man roster last November. Rosario spent time with Minnesota in big league camp during Spring Training after making 13 starts between the GCL and Cedar Rapids last year.
Right-handers Felix Jorge and Keaton Steele round out Smith's rotation to open the season. Jorge is the No. 26 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline and went 6-7 with 114 strikeouts as well as a 2.67 ERA in 142 innings with Cedar Rapids in 2015. Steele begins his third professional season after being drafted in the 8th round out of the University of Missouri in 2014. Steele was 7-4 with the Kernels in the Midwest League last year.
In the bullpen, the Miracle bring back last year's team leader in saves and appearances, Todd Van Steensel. An international free agent signing in 2014 for a second time by the Twins, Van Steensel struck out 81 in 66 innings out of the pen and nailed down 13 saves while being named a Florida State League All-Star.
Familiar right-handers Brian Gilbert and Trevor Hildenberger return to the Miracle along with lefty Luke Westphal. Luke Bard has one inning of Florida State League experience with Fort Myers. A former 42nd overall pick out of Georgia Tech, Bard experienced his first fully healthy season in 2015 and went 7-1 with 47 strikeouts in 51.1 innings in 28 games with Cedar Rapids last year. Rounding out the reliever corps. are right-handers Yorman Landa and Raul Fernandez. Landa is on the Twins 40-man roster and made a few Spring Training appearances. Fernandez was a minor league free agent signing after originally being inked by the Colorado Rockies organization.
Behind the plate, the Miracle welcome back 2015 Florida State League All-Star Alex Swim. Despite an injury cutting his season short, Swim finished last year as the top hitter on the Miracle with a .311 average. Joining Swim at backstop is Brian Navaretto. In 86 games with Cedar Rapids in 2015, Navaretto hit .217 with two homers and 28 RBI.
The only position player of the three first round picks on the roster, Gordon will patrol shortstop for the Miracle on the infield. Gordon is the No. 5 prospect for the Twins on MLB Pipeline and has baseball bloodlines. Nick's father was longtime MLB reliever Tom Gordon and his brother is current Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. A lefty in the box, Gordon hit .277 in his first full season of professional baseball in 2015 with the Kernels in the Midwest League. Over 120 games, Gordon had 31 extra-base hits and 58 RBI with 25 stolen bases.
Gordon's double play partner at second base will be Ryan Walker. After an appendectomy delayed the start of his 2015 season, Walker joined the Miracle mid-summer and appeared in 83 games to hit .269. Logan Wade will play all over the diamond in his return to Fort Myers. Last season, Wade played first, second and third base as well as left and right field. After a slow start, Wade hit .345 in August to boost his overall batting average to .258 with 29 extra-base hits.
T.J. White will see time at third base after a 20-game stint with the Miracle and Trey Vavra will play the infield corners. Vavra is the brother of Tanner, who played with the Miracle last year. Trey was injured last summer, but hit .346 in 42 games with Cedar Rapids before going down. Alex Real will also play on the infield. Real played in 64 games for the Kernels a year ago and totaled a .261 average with 30 RBI.
In the outfield, Chad Christensen returns after hitting .257 in 114 games in Fort Myers last season. Christensen drove in 39 runs, scored 47 and stole 22 bases. Chad will be joined by Tanner English, Edgar Corcino and Austin Diemer. English is a former South Carolina Gamecock with excellent speed. Tanner stole 37 bases for the Kernels while posting a .359 on-base percentage for Cedar Rapids. Corcino has been playing baseball in North America since 2009 as a former international signing of the Detroit Tigers. The Twins picked up Corcino after his 2014 season with independent Rockford. With Cedar Rapids, Corcino hit .273 with four homers and 41 RBI in 2015. Diemer is a 28th round selection out of Cal State-Fullerton from the 2014 draft and split last year between Cedar Rapids and Elizabethton.
The Miracle begin the season on Thursday, April 7 at Hammond Stadium at 7:05 p.m. against the Bradenton Marauders. The first 500 fans through the gates will receive a pair of sunglasses courtesy of Snead Eye Group. On April 8, the Miracle will host Opening Friday Fireworks after a 7:05 p.m. matchup with the Marauders. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. at fans can pick up complimentary general admission tickets at Wendy's and MetroPCS locations in Lee and Collier Counties. The Miracle will host a postgame fireworks show after the game is completed. For $2, fans can upgrade the complimentary tickets to box seats at the Hammond Stadium ticket office this week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, call the Miracle offices at (239) 768-4210.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.