LAWRENCEVILLE, GA - The Gwinnett Braves, in conjunction with the Atlanta Braves, have announced their Opening Day roster for 2017. Damon Berryhill, named the sixth manager in Gwinnett history on December 12, 2016, will lead a club that includes five members of the MLB.com Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects list: second baseman Ozzie Albies (No. 1), left-handed pitcher Sean Newcomb (No. 5), right-handed pitcher Lucas Sims (No. 18), third baseman Rio Ruiz (No. 22) and right-handed pitcher Luke Jackson (No. 26).
The G-Braves are led by Berryhill, pitching coach Reid Cornelius (first season), hitting coach John Moses (third season), coach Jose Mota (second full season), coach Billy Nicholson (eighth season), certified athletic trainer Nick Flynn (first season) and strength and conditioning coach Jason Curry (fourth season).
Gwinnett Braves Opening Day Roster (As of April 4, 2017):
RH Pitchers (10): Aaron Blair, Rhiner Cruz, Joel De La Cruz, Caleb Dirks, David Hernandez, Jason Hursh, Luke Jackson, David Peterson, Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler
LH Pitchers (3): Kevin Chapman, Sam Freeman, Sean Newcomb
Catchers (2): David Freitas, Blake Lalli
Infielders (6): Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Sean Kazmar Jr., Kyle Kubitza, Rio Ruiz, Matt Tuiasosopo
Outfielders (4): Lane Adams, Xavier Avery, Mel Rojas Jr., Adam Walker
Albies, rated No. 9 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on MLB.com's Top 10 Second Base Prospects list, headlines the G-Braves' roster. The 20-year-old switch-hitter batted .292 with 33 doubles, 10 triples, six home runs, 53 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 138 games between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett in 2016. He won the Southern League Batting Title after hitting .321 in 83 games with the M-Braves.
Newcomb, rated No. 77 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 9 on MLB.com's Top 10 Left-handed Pitching Prospects list, is set to make his Triple-A debut with Gwinnett. Acquired by Atlanta from the Los Angeles Angels on November 12, 2015, the 23-year-old went 8-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 27 starts with Mississippi in 2016.
Sims rejoins the Gwinnett rotation after becoming the first Lawrenceville-born player to suit up for the G-Braves in team history in 2016. Atlanta's first-round pick in 2012 out of Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., the 22-year-old right-hander went 7-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 28 games between Mississippi and Gwinnett last season. Sims led the Atlanta Braves organization and ranked tied for fifth in Minor League Baseball in strikeouts with 159.
Ruiz returns to Gwinnett after making both his Triple-A and Major League debuts in 2016. The 22-year-old third baseman batted .271 with 24 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs and a team-high 62 RBIs in 133 games with the G-Braves last season, earning Gwinnett's 2016 Player of the Year award from Atlanta. He was rewarded with a September call-up, and he hit .286 with a triple and two RBIs in five games with the Braves.
Jackson, acquired by Atlanta via trade with the Texas Rangers on December 8, 2016, enters his first season in the Braves organization. The 25-year-old right-hander combined to go 1-1 with a 3.69 ERA and three saves in 36 games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock last year, and also logged eight appearances with the Rangers.
Including Albies, Sims and Ruiz, 13 members of the Opening Day roster played with Gwinnett in 2016. The list includes pitchers Aaron Blair (5-4, 4.65 ERA in 13 starts), Joel De La Cruz (1-3, 4.68 ERA in 21 games, 5 starts), Jason Hursh (0-0, 1.69 ERA in 8 games), David Peterson (0-2, 9.17 ERA, 3 saves in 15 games) and Matt Wisler (2-1, 3.71 ERA in 4 starts), catcher Blake Lalli (.256, 1 HR, 36 RBIs in 109 games), infielders Sean Kazmar Jr. (.263, 5 HR, 37 RBIs in 93 games), Kyle Kubitza (.157 in 20 games) and Matt Tuiasosopo (.246, 11 HR, 28 RBIs in 64 games), and outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. (.270, 10 HR, 34 RBIs in 64 games). Eight members of that group (Blair, Hursh, Kazmar Jr., Kubitza, Lalli, Rojas Jr., Ruiz, Tuiasosopo) were on the G-Braves' 2016 Governors' Cup Playoff roster.
Newcomb and Jackson are two of the seven pitchers on the roster that are set to make their Gwinnett debuts in 2017. The list includes Kevin Chapman (3-4, 4.87 ERA in 51 games with Triple-A Fresno in 2016), Rhiner Cruz (0-2, 9.00 ERA, 3 saves in 8 games in the Mexican League in 2016), Caleb Dirks (2-1, 0.91 ERA, 2 saves in 21 games with Mississippi in 2016), Sam Freeman (2-1, 5.20 ERA, 2 saves in 30 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2016) and David Hernandez (3-4, 3.84 ERA, 1 save in 70 games with Philadelphia in 2016).
Five position players will also make their debuts with Gwinnett this year, including catcher David Freitas (.321, 2 HR, 15 RBIs in 25 games with Triple-A Iowa in 2016), infielder Johan Camargo (.267, 4 HR, 43 RBIs in 126 games with Mississippi in 2016) and outfielders Lane Adams (.266, 10 HR, 56 RBIs, 44 SB in 121 MiLB games in 2016), Xavier Avery (.248, 6 HR, 19 RBIs, 18 SB in 101 games with Triple-A Norfolk in 2016) and Adam Walker (.243, 27 HR, 75 RBIs in 132 games with Triple-A Rochester in 2016).
The Gwinnett Braves open the 2017 season at Coolray Field on Thursday, April 6 with a 7:05 p.m. game against the Durham Bulls. Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 6:35 p.m. For tickets, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.