GENEVA, Ill. - The Kane County Cougars, in conjunction with the Arizona Diamondbacks, have announced the organization's Opening Day roster. The incoming group of 25 players arrived from the D-backs spring training complex in Arizona yesterday afternoon and will take the field for Opening Night this Thursday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. against Cedar Rapids at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
Cougars manager Mark Grudzielanek begins his first season as a minor league skipper and the former Major Leaguer will be accompanied in the dugout by pitching coach Doug Bochtler, hitting coach Vince Harrison, coach Audo Vicente, athletic trainer Rafael Freitas and strength and conditioning coach Sean Light
A total of 11 players on the Cougars' roster spent all or a portion of last season with the Short-A Hillsboro team that compiled a short-season best 48-28 regular season record while winning the Northwest League Championship. Further, the Cougars' roster includes 11 players who spent a portion of last season at Class-A South Bend, which went 83-56 in 2014 - the best record in the Eastern Division and the second-best mark in the Midwest League behind Kane County's historic 91-49 record.
Arizona's 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th round selections from the 2014 draft are on the roster including right-handed pitcher Brent Jones (4th round, 2014), who split last season between Class-A South Bend (5-2, 2.80 ERA in 8 starts) and Hillsboro (2-1, 3.90 ERA in 6 starts) for an overall 7-3 record and 3.29 ERA. Jones attended Cornell University and was named All-Ivy League Honorable Mention in 2014. Reliever Zac Curtis (6th round, 2014) led the Northwest League with 14 saves last season and was a mid-season All-Star. Six-foot-seven right-handed pitcher Jeferson Mejia was acquired by the D-backs in an off-season trade with the Cubs that sent a '14 Cougar, Zack Godley, to the Arizona organization in exchange for catcher Miguel Montero. Mejia posted a 2.48 ERA in 12 games with the rookie-level Arizona Cubs in 2014.
Offensively, outfielder Grant Heyman (8th round, 2014) was 7th in the Northwest League with a .315 batting average for Hillsboro while driving in a team-high 37 runs. Catcher Stryker Trahan (1st round, 2012) hit 13 home runs with 52 RBI at South Bend last season. Trahan spent a majority of last season in the Midwest League before being transferred to Hillsboro, where he added another six home runs to his 2014 total of 19. Trahan is rated the 17th-best prospect in the D-backs farm system by MLB.com. A pair of infielders who played 80 or more games with South Bend last season return to the Midwest League. Marty Herum (non-drafted free agent, 2013) batted .273 with 4 home runs and 38 RBI and was named a Midwest League All-Star while another South Bend infielder, Joe Munoz (2nd round, 2012) hit 9 home runs while driving in 44 runs last season. Outfielder Chuck Taylor (4th round, 2012) played in 109 games with South Bend last season and batted .285 with 50 RBI. Eighteen-year old switch-hitting shortstop Sergio Alcantara (non-drafted free agent, 2012) played in 70 games at Rookie-Advanced Missoula last season and recorded an on-base percentage of .361. Alcantara is rated the 15th-best prospect in the D-backs farm system by MLB.com.
Short Hops: Baseball America lists four players in the publication's top 30 D-backs prospects: Sergio Alcantara (#20), Stryker Trahan (#21), Jeferson Mejia (#23) and Brent Jones (#25). Right-handed pitcher Mason McCullough (5th round, 2014) participated in the 2014 NCAA Division II College World Series with Lander University and the 2013 NCAA Division I College World Series with the University of North Carolina. Another right-handed pitcher, Markus Solbach (minor league free agent, 2014) was born in Dormagen, Germany and threw a pair of complete games with South Bend last season, including a nine-inning, three-hit shutout on July 20 against Peoria. Left-handed pitcher Jared Miller (11th round, 2014) pitched in last season's College World Series with Vanderbilt.
The Cougars will have two days of team workouts before opening the franchise's 25th anniversary season with Opening Night this Thursday at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark against Cedar Rapids. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. The first 1,500 fans entering the ballpark that evening will receive an Opening Day cap, courtesy of Fifth Third Bank. It's also a Thirsty Thursday, presented by Miller Lite, with $1 select beers and sodas. Fans can participate in a pre-game autograph session and run the bases following the game. Tickets are available by calling (630) 232-8811 or ordering online at kccougars.com.
For more information on the Kane County Cougars and the organization's upcoming 25th anniversary season which begins on April 9, fans can visit kccougars.com. Fans are also encouraged to 'like' the Cougars on Facebook while following the team via Twitter and Instagram at kccougars.
Opening Day Roster (as of 4/6/15)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.