Jeff Smith talks to the
media with high hopes for a successful season.
NEW BRITAIN, CT
- With the Minnesota Twins making moves in
the off-season to fill their roster, several players were bumped down a
As a result, the Rock Cats will open the 2012 season with an
and a dash of youthful talent. That could lead to another contending
2012 Opening Day roster are five players who
have Major League experience as well as a duo of highly touted
former first round draft picks - pitcher Alex
Wimmers and outfielder Aaron Hicks.
This year's squad will
also boast three of Baseball America's Top 15 and five of the Top 30
Manager Jeff Smith,
a former catcher for the Rock Cats, returns for his third season at the
Smith put a difficult Eastern League debut managerial season behind him
which the Rock Cats finished in last place in 2010 - to bring the team
among the top teams in the Eastern Division. In 2011, the Rock Cats
72-70 and just two games shy of the playoffs. This season, a
portion of his roster returns. Smith will be assisted by veteran
Stu Cliburn and hitting coach Rudy Hernandez, who coached in the
Hardware City in 2010.
Andrew Albers (L)- The University
product made a stop in independent ball in the Quebec Can-Am League in
before signing as a free agent with the Twins prior to the 2011 season.
southpaw turned in an impressive debut season in the organization,
combined 8-2 record with a 2.16 ERA and 80-strikeout-to-14-walk ratio
games between Ft. Myers and New Britain.
(L)- The 23-year-old
southpaw rapidly climbed through the system since
being selected by the Twins in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. In 2010, he appeared in 11 games for
Elizabethton in the Appalachian League, posting a 2.08 ERA with 32
in 34 2/3 innings. Last season, he started six games for Beloit (2-2,
15 for Ft. Myers (803, 4.17) before earning a promotion to New Britain.
1-1 with a 5.58 ERA but posted an impressive 20K/4BB ratio in 30 2/3
(L)- The 26-year-old has
plenty of experience under his belt - French
was originally an eighth round draft pick by Detroit in 2004 and came
the Eastern League in 2008 as a member of the Erie Sea Wolves. He
2012 season with eight pro seasons on his resume, including 23 Major
appeared in seven
games for the Detroit tigers and also pitched 16 games (13 starts) for
Seattle Mariners in 2010. He compiled nine MLB wins and a 4.99 ERA.
season, he went 9-9 with a 6.27 ERA for Triple-A Tacoma. French will
ball on Opening Night on Thursday, April 5 at New Britain Stadium.
Hirschfeld (R)- The 26-year-old
provides the Rock Cats with yet another veteran arm
with experience both out of the bullpen and as a starter.
Hirschfeld, who was originally drafted by Montreal (2004) and
Colorado (2005) but opted not to sign with either team, was eventually
by the Twins in the ninth round of the 2007 Draft. He made his Rock
in 2010, but was eventually limited to 22 innings -32 total innings on
season - after suffering a shoulder injury and then a lower leg injury
resulted in the removal of a non-cancerous tumor. In 2011, he came back
to turn in a solid first full season in New Britain, posting an 8-8
a 3.73 ERA in 30 games.
Alex Wimmers (R) - The Rock Cats'
starting rotation is rounded out by the 23-year-old
Wimmers (pictured at right). The 2010 first round draft pick (21st
overall) arrives in
New Britain with a career 3.14 ERA with 34 hits allowed and a
63-strikeout-to-28-walk ratio in 57 1/3 career innings. Wimmers made
professional debut in 2010 with High Class-A Ft. Myers and went 2-0
with a 0.57
ERA and 23K/5BB ratio in 15 2/3 innings. Last season, he hit a bump in
after walking six-straight batters to open the 2011 season in Ft.
Wimmers was pulled from the game in the first inning and eventually
extended Spring Training to work on mechanics. He returned to finish
a 2-3 record and 4.20 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 22 walks in 40 2.3
with the Miracle. The highlight of his season came in September, when
a seven inning no-hitter. It was his first no-hitter since completing
as a star pitcher for Ohio State, that one coming against rival
(R)-Had it not been
for a freak injury on the mound last season, the
Eastern League would likely be in Bromberg's rearview mirror. Bromberg
arrived in New Britain in 2010 after leading his league in strikeouts
2008 and 2009 and being named Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year
In 2010, Bromberg went 5-5 with a 3.62 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 17
the 'Cats. He also earned his first taste of Triple-A, posting a 1-4
with a 3.98 ERA in nine starts. Last season, he entered the season as
of the New Britain staff but suffered a broken forearm after being hit
line drive that caused him to be limited to 42 total innings. He makes
transition to a relief a role this season.
(R)- The last
player standing from the Johan Santana trade with the New
York Mets a few years back, Guerra is the Twins' last chance at
something from that move. Guerra brings plenty of talent to the mound -
including a change-up rated by Baseball America as the best in the
- but has struggled to put it all together. Still young - he will turn
23 on April
17 - he already has six professional seasons under his belt (42-54,
He spent parts of the 2009 and 2010 and a full 2011 season with the
Despite finishing last year with a hefty 5.59 ERA, it was a move to the
that resurrected his career. Once Guerra switched to a relief role, he
2.77 ERA and held opponents to a .191 average in 27 relief appearances.
(R)- The 25-year-old returns for
his second season with the Rock Cats. Originally selected by the
in the fourth round of the 2008 Draft, Jacobson had an impressive 2010
with Federick (High-A) - posting an 8-1 record with a 2.79 ERA and 67
strikeouts in 71 innings - before moving to the Minnesota organization
J.J. Hardy trade. In 2011, he split his time as a starter and reliever
'Cats, finishing with a 5-6 record and 4.56 ERA with 80 strikeouts and
in 100 2/3 innings in his Double-A debut.
(R)- The 24-year-old
Staten Island native returns for his third stint with
the Rock Cats. Lanigan was selected by the Twins in the third round of
Draft. He split the 2010 season between Ft. Myers and New Britain -
posting an impressive 2.15 ERA with a 41K/7BB ratio in 54 1/3 innings
Miracle - before spending the entire 2011 season with the Rock Cats. In
starts last season, he finished with a 4.45 ERA and 101 strikeouts.
makes the move to the bullpen this season.
(L)- After splitting
the past two seasons between Ft. Myers and New
Britain, the 25-year-old returns to the Hardware City. Martin had a
debut in 2010, finishing with an 8.10 ERA in 13 1/3 innings in eight
appearances. In 22 appearances with the Rock Cats last season, he
posted a 6.23
ERA while walking 58 compared to striking out just 45 in 60 2/3
(R)- The hard
throwing right hander, whose fastball is rated as the best in
the Twins' farm system, originally signed with Detroit as a 17-year-old
agent in 2005. Now the Venezuelan native, who will turn 24 in May, will
the mound for the first time in a Rock Cats uniform with Major League
experience on his resume. Last season, he pitched in 19 MLB games,
out of the Twins' bullpen, and posted a combined 4.64 ERA with 13
21 1/3 innings. Oliveros also has E.L. experience on his side, having
for Erie in 2010 and 2011, including going 2-0 with a sparkling 0.53
ERA with a
28K/4Bb ratio in 10 bullpen appearances with the SeaWolves last season.
spent the majority of 2011 season with Toledo before being traded to
on August 16.
Perdomo(R)- The 27-year-old
up with the Cleveland Indians and pitched in the E.L. for Akron in
He also pitched in the big leagues in 2009 and 2010 for the San Diego
(4.87. 55K/34BB, 61 IP). He has notched one win in 36 relief
the majors. Signed by the Twins as a free agent in off-season,
will work out of the Rock Cats bullpen.
(R)- Originally selected by the
San Francisco Giants in the 8th round of the
2007 Draft, the now
25-year-old arrives in New Britain with five professional seasons under
belt. Turpen has put in time with San Francisco, Boston, and Colorado,
a combined 18-16 record and 3.25 ERA in 204 minor league games. He
2011 season with Double-A Tulsa (Rockies), going 2-4 with a 4.83 ERA
saves in 48 appearances. He only managed 33 strikeouts while walking 35
The 24-year-old Herrmann
for his second season. Herrmann split the 2011 season between Ft. Myers
Britain, batting a combined .269 with eight homers and 62 RBI in 121
Originally selected by the Twins in the sixth round of the 2009 Draft,
provides the team with another outfield option as well.
product, spent parts of the past three seasons with New Britain,
batting .309 (17/55) in 20 games with the 'Cats last season. The
gives the Rock Cats a solid defensive catcher behind the plate.
1B: Chris Colabello, Nate Hanson
makes his Rock
Cats debut after spending the past seven season playing
independent ball for the Worcester Tornadoes. During his tenure, he
.317 mark in 583 games with the Tornadoes. He was named the Can-Am
last season after batting a career-high .348 with 20 home runs and 79
27-year-old spent most of his playing time at first base during his
ball days but also saw action at third base and in the outfield.
becomes the local boy of the team, having attended nearby Milford High
(Milford, MA) and Assumption College.
Hanson returns to the
Rock Cats for a second go-around. The University of
Minnesota product split the 2011 season between Ft. Myers and New
batting .267 with four homers and 29 RBI for the Miracle and .238/2/22
'Cats. He also has experience at third base.
2B: Estarlin De Los
Los Santos, 25, returns
to the Rock Cats for the first time since 2010, when he
spent 64 games in the Hardware City. The Dominican native struggled in
Eastern League debut, batting just .177 while committing 22 errors in
Last season, he was limited to just 27 games. The once highly-touted
looks to rebound from an injury-plagued 2011 season and breakout this
Mastroianni should sound
familiar to Rock Cats
fans, as the former New Hampshire slugger often feasted on Rock Cats'
throughout the 2009-11 seasons. He was a one-man wrecking crew in 2010,
.367 (33-90) with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers and 12 RBI against the
Cats. Mastroianni, who made his Major League debut with the
Jays last season, going 0-2 on August 24 vs Kansas City, was picked up
waivers by the Twins in the off-season. The speedster is making the
from outfield to infield and will play both second base and
SS: James Beresford, Pedro Florimon
Rock Cats will feature another Australian native, this season in the
the 23-year-old Beresford. He has
collected a career .282 average in five seasons, including a
with Beloit in 2010.
Florimon returns to the
Eastern League with four Major League games
and one big league hiot under his belt. The 25 year old played against
Cats the past few seasons as an Orioles prospect at Bowie.
3B: Deibinson Romero
provides the 'Cats with experience at the hot corner. The 25-year-old
for his second stint with New Britain after spending the entire 2011
with the Rock Cats. He looks to improve on a solid debut season (.256,
55 R, 27 2B, 58 RBI, 121 games) in which he committed 20 errors in 109
Evan Bigley, Aaron Hicks, Mark
for his third stint with the Rock Cats. The 10th
round draft pick by
the Twins back in 2008 made his E.L. debut in 2010, batting an
with four home runs and 15 RBi in 27 games to close out the season. In
spent the entire year with the 'Cats, hitting .253 with seven homers
and 56 RBI
in 133 games. He spent the majority of his time in right field,
put in time in all three outfield spots.
season, the Rock Cats seem to have at least one top prospect roaming
outfield. This year, that honor goes to Hicks
who is rated by Baseball America as
the fourth-best prospect in the Twins' system and 45th
in all of the
minor leagues. The former first round draft pick (15th
in 2008) has collected a .266 average with 21 homers and 60 stolen
bases in 349
career games (four seasons). Hicks, 22, is also ranked by BA as the
Defensive Outfielder and Best Outfield Arm in the Twins' system. The five-tool stud,
who brings blazing
speed to the outfield, has been compared to former Rock Cats outfielder
American League All-Star Torii Hunter.
The 27-year-old Dolenc provides the Rock Cats with a
seasoned veteran in the
outfield. Dolenc spent the past two full years in New Britain, turning
seasons both times. In six professional seasons, the Minnesota State
University-Mankato product has collected a .265 mark in 592 career
KEEP AN EYE ON:
These players may be a couple years
away from New Britain,
but remain exciting young talent to keep an eye on in the farm system:
Sano - Rated the
#1Twins' prospect by
Baseball America, the 18-year-old (he will turn 19 on May 11) Dominican
enters his third professional season. He has already collected a career
average with 27 home runs in 127 games. He is also ranked as the Best
Hitter in the organization.
Rosario - The
20-year-old is rated the
third-best prospect and Best Hitter for Average in the Twins'
Baseball America. The Twins selected the Puerto Rican native in the
round of the 2012 Draft. Since then he has batted .319 with 39 stolen
homers and 86 RBI in 118 career games. Last season, he hit .337 with 60
21 home runs in 67 games with the Elizabethton Twins.
OF Oswaldo Arcia - The
20-year-old Venezuelan has
successfully climbed through the Twins' system since being signed as a
non-drafted free agent in 2008. As a 19-year-old, he batted a
with 14 homers and 51 RBI in 64 games with Elizabethton. Last season,
the season between Beloit and Ft. Myers, batting a collective .312 with
homers and 51 RBI (including two games with the Gulf Coast League
- the #5 prospect in the Twins' organization - is the closest of the
up-and-coming prospects to making his Double-A debut. He will start the
in Ft. Myers.
Michael - Rated the
sixth-best prospect in the
Twins' organization, Michael was the Twins' first-round draft pick in
of the University of North Carolina.
P Hudson Boyd - The Twins
selected the 6-2/235-lb.
righthander with the 55th overall pick in the
2011 Draft. Baseball
America gave him the title of Best Curveball in the organization.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.