WHITAKER BANK BALLPARK (Lexington, KY) - The 2016 Pioneer League Most Valuable Player and several highly regarded prospects in the Kansas City Royals' organization are on the Lexington Legends 2017 opening day roster.
The Legends will be led by new manager Scott Thorman, who had many of the current Legends on his teams at Burlington of the Appalachian League in 2014 and 2015. His staff will include bench coach Glenn Hubbard, pitching coach Mitch Stetter and hitting coach Jesus Azuaje. Hubbard is in his fourth year with the Legends. Stetter enters his second year with Lexington, and Azuaje is on the Legends' staff for the first time.
Catcher Meibrys Viloria, 20, the Pioneer League MVP with Idaho Falls, is coming off an outstanding 2016 season. He led the Pioneer League, which plays a 70-game schedule, in batting average at .376, doubles with 28 and runs batted in with 55. He had a league-best 20-game hitting streak from July 7-August 7, and earned MLB.com Pioneer League Player of the Month honors for July. He also led the league by throwing out 33 would-be base stealers. He was a Pioneer League mid-season and post-season All-Star, MLB.com Organization All-Star and Baseball America Rookie All-Star, and led all Royals minor leaguers in batting average. Viloria, a native of Colombia, is ranked 15th on the list of top 30 prospects in the Kansas City organization by MLB.com.
The Legends will also have outfielder Khalil Lee, a third round draft pick in 2016, ranked 14th in KC's top 30; right-handed pitcher Nolan Watson, a first-rounder in 2015, who is ranked 16th; left-handed pitcher Garrett Davila (18th), who was 7-0 with a 2.77 earned run average at Burlington in his first year of professional baseball. Marten Gasparini, the prospect from Italy who played shortstop for Lexington last year, is back and is expected to be in the outfield for the Legends this year. He is ranked 20th on the top 30 list. Shortstop Ricky Aracena is ranked 28th, and pitcher Gerson Garabito is ranked 29th.
In addition to Watson, Gasparini and Garabito, pitcher Julio Pinto, catcher Nick Dini and outfielder Amalani Fukofuka also were with the Legends for at least part of 2016. Fukofuka stole 27 bases for the Legends last season.
Others new to the Legends include pitchers Andre Davis, Travis Eckert, Grant Gavin, Ofreidy Gomez, David McKay, Walker Sheller, Vance Tatum, Jose Veras and Jace Vines, infielders Gabriel Cancel, Chris Devito, Manny Olloque and Emmanuel Rivera and outfielder Kort Peterson. Infielder Angelo Castellanos was with the Legends briefly in 2015.
Tatum pitched in college for Mississippi State and recorded his only complete game in a victory over Kentucky in Lexington March 22, 2015.
"It looks like we'll have an exciting combination of returning players and several good prospects that are new to the Legends," said Legends President/CEO Andy Shea. "We're ready to get started, and we look forward to seeing our fans at Whitaker Bank Ballpark starting April 13."
The Legends open the season Thursday, April 6 in Charleston, South Carolina. After four games there and three in Greenville, the home opener will be played at Whitaker Bank Ballpark Thursday, April 13 against the West Virginia Power, an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Opening night is also a Kentucky Ale Thirsty Thursday, with beer and Pepsi products selling for one dollar each. It's also a Pepsi Bark in the Park night, and fans are welcome to bring their dogs. A personalized WKYT schedule magnet will be given away, and a 3-D "Megablast" fireworks show, largest in ballpark history, will follow the game.
For ticket information, visit lexingtonlegends.com or call (859) 422-7867
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.