FREDERICK, Md. - The Frederick Keys are pleased to announce their preliminary roster for the 2014 season. This year's group is headlined by 16 returning players, five of the Orioles top-30 prospects according to Baseball America, as well as a local star who played at Thomas Johnson High School. First-year manager Luis Pujols will captain this dynamic group when the Keys open their season on Thursday, April 3, at Lynchburg.
Frederick native, Branden Kline, highlights the Keys talented roster. Rated the Orioles number 20 prospect, Kline missed the majority of the 2013 season due to an ankle injury. Over 35.1 innings at Low-A Delmarva, the right-hander went 1-2 with a 5.86 ERA over seven games. He returned to action in October, pitching in 10 games with the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League.
The other Baseball America top 30 prospects on Frederick's roster include shortstop Adrian Marin (12), right-handed starting pitcher Parker Bridwell (19), right-handed reliever Mychal Givens (23), and outfielder Glynn Davis (29). Marin and Davis have each been recognized for possessing the "best-tools" among Baltimore prospects. For the last three seasons, Davis has been tabbed the organization's "fastest baserunner" while Marin was recognized for the second straight year as the "best defensive infielder."
Frederick's rotation contains a nice balance of youth and experience. In addition to Kline, Bridwell helps anchor the group after spending the last two full seasons at Delmarva. With the Shorebirds, the 22-year-old led all Baltimore farmhands with 144 strikeouts, while he finished 8-9 with 4.73 ERA. Brady Wager returns to Frederick, after making 15 Carolina League starts in 2013. Promoted to the Keys in early June, the Arizona native experienced both highs and lows in his first year at Advanced-A, going 3-10 with a 5.23 ERA.
Newcomers Matt Taylor and Joe Van Meter round things out. A fifth round pick of the Orioles in 2011, the left-handed Taylor posted the 12th-best ERA in the South Atlantic League (3.77) last season as a member of the Shorebirds rotation. Van Meter joins the Orioles farm system after spending the last four years with Texas and Tampa Bay affiliates. No stranger to the Carolina League, he went 3-4 with a 3.62 ERA as a member of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans last year.
Of the Keys eight bullpen-hands, seven have previously spent time in a Frederick uniform. Jesse Beal and Gene Escat pitched in 40 and 41 games respectively last year, while former first round pick Matt Hobgood returns after splitting last season between Low-A and Advanced-A. Promoted to the Keys last June, Miguel Chalas prepares for his first full season in the Carolina League, as does southpaw Lex Rutledge, who pitched nine games out of the bullpen in 2013. Matt Price completes the list of familiar faces. The former University of South Carolina standout closed out last season strong, allowing only one earned run over his final 10.2 innings.
Mychal Givens played one game with the Keys in 2010 as a position player, but returns to Frederick as a relief pitcher. Clocked in the mid-90s during his high school days, the right-hander went 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 28 games last season. The only reliever yet to wear a Keys jersey, right-hander Mark Blackmar joins the club after splitting last season between the rotation and bullpen at Delmarva.
On the infield, Marin joins the Keys after hitting .265 at Low-A last year. A player who developed at the plate as the season progressed, the shortstop hit .275 over his final 51 games. He will be joined up the middle by Sammie Starr. After making stops at three minor league outposts in 2012, Starr spent all of last season with the Keys batting .216 over 115 games. Jason Esposito returns after manning both corner infield spots a season ago, while Tucker Nathans provides plenty of flexibility, after seeing time at second, third, short, as well as time in the outfield in 2013. Joel Hutter, Creede Simpson and Michael Mosby complete the team's infield.
Last year's Delmarva catching tandem of Wynston Sawyer and Steel Russell move up to the Carolina League. The primary backstop with the Shorebirds the last two seasons, Sawyer has already worked with many of the pitchers on this year's staff. Russell serves as the backup, and is the son of current Orioles bench coach John Russell.
In the outfield, Davis gears up for his fourth season at Harry Grove Stadium. After a hamstring injury at the beginning of last season, the Keys outfielder never hit his stride, batting .234 over 97 games. Brenden Webb and Trent Mummey also try for rebound seasons, after being sidelined by injuries a year ago. Newcomers to the outfield include Torsten Boss and Michael Burgess. Boss moves up from Low-A Delmarva, while Burgess comes to the Baltimore system from the Astros. In 2013 with Double-A Corpus Christi he hit .203 in 98 games.
Keys players and coaches will be made available to the media for interviews and photographs during the Keys' Media Day on Tuesday, April 1, from 2-3 p.m.at Harry Grove Stadium. All credentialed media are invited to attend. To obtain a press pass, please contact Geoff Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening Day 2014 for the Frederick Keys is scheduled for Tuesday, April 8, when the Carolina Mudcats visit Harry Grove Stadium at 7:00 p.m. For ticket information, please call 301-815-9939 or visit frederickkeys.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.