Mitch Canham, the 2017 California League Manager of the year, welcomes a plethora of talent to the Central Valley for the 2018 slate. Twenty-year old Joe Rizzo , MVP of the Championship series, headlines the five returning players from the Nuts' 2017 California League Championship season. Joining Rizzo in Modesto are six other prospects ranked in the top 30 of the Mariners organization according to Baseball America and MLB.com.
Rizzo, ranked as the sixth best prospect in the organization according to MLB.com, joined the Nuts in 2017 with just five games left in the regular season. After going 4-for-20 at the plate, the New Jersey native batted .421 in the postseason while driving in six runs. Returning with Rizzo to man the Nuts' infield are Donnie Walton and Kevin Santa . Walton only played in 67 regular season games last year due to injury but comes back to Modesto ranked as the 22nd best prospect in the system according to MLB.com. Bryson Brigman stands out among the new faces on the Nuts' 2018 infield. Brigman is ranked as the 27th best prospect in the system according to Baseball America and MLB.com. The San Jose native graduated from Valley Christian High School before attending the University of San Diego. Brigman was a third round pick in 2016 and spent all of last year with the Clinton LumberKings.
Logan Taylor is the lone returning outfielder. As he transitioned from third base to the outfield, Taylor ripped 26 doubles and eight home runs for the 2017 Nuts in an injury truncated season that saw him on the field for 82 games. Anthony Jimenez has arrived in Modesto as the 14th best prospect in the organization according to MLB.com. The 22-year-old made his full-season debut with the LumberKings in 2017 where he batted .298 and was named a Midseason All-Star before a hamstring injury slowed his second half.
Three ranked prospects will lockdown the Nuts' 2018 bullpen for returning pitching coach Pete Woodworth. Wyatt Mills is the tenth ranked prospect in the Mariners' system according to MLB.com. A third-round pick in 2017 from Gonzaga, Mills worked to a combined 1.77 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings at two levels in his pro debut. Seth Elledge is the 17th ranked prospect in the organization according to MLB.com. Elledge was picked in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and missed many at bats in his first professional season last year. Elledge fanned 42 hitters in just 25 innings while issuing only eight walks. Ranked as the number 30 prospect in the system, Kyle Wilcox joins Modesto after putting up bloated strikeout numbers last year as well. The former sixth-round pick struck out 52 batters in 33 1/3 innings out of the Clinton bullpen last season.
Experience highlights the Nuts' starting rotation. John Richy will make his Mariners' debut this year after reaching as high as AAA with the Phillies. Richy was originally picked by the Dodgers and pitched in the California League for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2015. Ljay Newsome is the youngest member of the rotation. The 21-year-old made 25 starts for the Clinton LumberKings last season and finished strongly with a 3.01 ERA over his final ten starts.
The Modesto Nuts start their 2018 campaign in Lancaster against the JetHawks. Their first home game at John Thurman Field is set for Thursday, April 12th at 7:05 p.m. against the Visalia Rawhide. Tickets for the home opener and any of the 70 home games this season are available for purchase online at www.modestonuts.com or by calling the Nuts' box office at 209-572-HITS (4487).