The first pitch thrown at 7:05 pm on May 4th, will be the first by the Modesto Nuts in 610 days. We now know who will be on the field at JTF. Let’s meet your 2021 Opening Day roster.
Starting with the coaching staff, Sacramento native Eric Farris will make his managerial debut on May 4th. Drafted in 2004 then again in 2007, Eric spent parts of 9 seasons in the minor leagues before making it to the big leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 and 2012. Next to him in the dugout will be a Nuts legend, Nathan Bannister. Known as "Big Game Banni", Bannister was the game one starter during the Nuts 2017 California League Championship run and on May 4th, he will make his debut as the Nuts Pitching Coach. Rob Benjamin joins the staff as hitting coach. Rob joined the Seattle Mariners minor league system in 2019 as the hitting instructor for the DSL Mariners. The Mariners promoted him to hitting coach of the West Virginia Power prior to the shutdown of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Geoff Jimenez will make his Mariners system debut as bench coach after spending 2020 in the Phillies organization.
On the field, the Nuts sport five of the Mariners top 30 prospects entering the season, none bigger than the 19-year-old shortstop Noelvi Marte. He was one of the top ten international prospects available in 2018 when he was signed out of the Dominican Republic. 2021 will be just the second season of pro ball for Marte and his first full season assignment but he is already considered one of the ten best prospects in the Mariners’ system. As a 17-year-old in 2019, Marte shredded the Dominican Summer League with a .309 average and a .511 slugging percentage. The Mariners think so highly of him, they sent him to their Alternate Training Site in Tacoma during the pandemic shortened 2020 MLB season.
Marte’s childhood friend is the other top position player prospect opening 2021 in Modesto. OF Alberto Rodriguez will make his Mariners’ system debut on May 4th after coming from the Blue Jays in 2020’s Taijuan Walker trade. Rodriguez, also a Dominican Republic native, is just 20 years old. The outfielder’s assignment to Modesto is his first full season opportunity.
On the hill, there are three ranked pitching prospects. RHP Sam Carlson was a second round pick out of high school in Minnesota in 2017 but has thrown just three professional innings heading into 2021. Carlson was injured in 2017 and required Tommy John Surgery in 2018 which wiped out his 2019. Carlson was healthy and ready to go for the 2020 season but that did not go as planned.
RHP Connor Phillips will be making his professional debut when he gets his first opportunity to throw in a Nuts uniform. Ranked in the top 20 of the Mariners’ system, Phillips was drafted in the 2nd round of the abbreviated 2020 draft. The righty turned down an offer to go pro after high school and turned down a chance to pitch at LSU so that he could play junior college baseball in 2020 and be eligible for the draft again after just one year of college ball.
Finally, LHP Adam Macko is trying to become just the third Slovak to reach the Major Leagues. Mack was born in Slovakia, moved to Ireland and then Canada before being drafted in the 7th round of the 2019 draft. Macko, a raw athlete, taught himself to pitch by watching YouTube videos of dominant pitchers like David Price and Justin Verlander.
There are two California natives on the roster, a pair of college teams, a sidearmer, and a legacy player.
INF Cesar Izturis Jr. is the son of 13-year Big Leaguer Cesar Izturis and the nephew of 11-year Big Leaguer Macier Izturis.
RHP Nolan “The Hoff” Hoffman slings it in from the side and has a 1.89 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched during his short pro career. His college teammate RHP Stephen Kolek is in his first year with the Mariners organization. Both guys were drafted out of Texas A&M in the same 2018 draft.
RHP Taylor Dollard grew up in Sherman Oaks, CA and earned First-Team All-Big West Conference honors at Cal Poly before being selected in the fifth and final round of the 2020 draft. Finally, the 6-5 RHP Robert Winslow is from Santa Clarita and stayed home to pitch at The Master’s University. So far, Winslow has given up just four earned runs in 36 pro innings while racking up 49 strikeouts.
First pitch of the 2021 season is scheduled for 7:05 pm on May 4th against the Stockton Ports (Athletics). If you can’t make it to John Thurman Field, you can listen to the game online at www.ModestoNuts.com or by downloading the First Pitch app. There is a non-delay broadcast available inside the ballpark on 90.9 FM. All home games are available to watch with an MiLB.TV subscription.
To learn more about your 2021 Modesto Nuts, scroll down to get an interesting note about each player.
MLB Pipeline Rankings
INF Noelvi Marte #7
RHP Connor Phillips #11
LHP Adam Macko #15
OF Alberto Rodriguez #17
RHP Sam Carlson #25
INF Noelvi Marte #5
LHP Adam Macko #14
RHP Connor Phillips #18
OF Alberto Rodriguez #26
RHP Sam Carlson #28
LHP Jorge Benitez – 6th Round (2017)
The 21 year old was drafted out of high school in 2017. Benitez last pitched with Everett out of the bullpen in 2019. His best performance came on 8/23/19 when he tossed five hitless innings out of the bullpen.
RHP Sam Carlson – 2nd Round (2017)
The 22 year old was drafted out of high school and has just three professional innings under his belt after dealing with injuries. He had Tommy John Surgery in 2018 and missed all of 2019. He was expected to have a full workload in 2020 before COVID-19 shut the season down. While injured the last three seasons, Carlson took business management classes at Arizona State University and has a junior standing.
RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs – 11th Round (2018)
The 21-year-old was drafted out of high school in 2018. He made one appearance for Modesto on April 11th, 2019 before spending a bulk of his summer with Everett where he was named to the Northwest League All-Star team.
RHP Luis Curvelo – Signed as amateur free agent out of Venezuela
Curvelo made his US debut in 2019 after pitching his first pro season in the Dominican Republic. He has primarily worked out of the bullpen.
RHP Josias De Los Santos – Signed as amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
De Los Santos pitched in 2019 with West Virginia where he started 17 games. It was an aggressive assignment for a 6-2 righty who was just 19 years old for most of that year. He improved as the season progressed and posted some of his best starts in July and August of 2019.
RHP Taylor Dollard – 5th Round (2020)
The Sherman Oaks, California native was the last pick by the Mariners in the pandemic shortened 2020 MLB Draft. Dollard pitched at Cal Poly where he earned First-Team All-Big West Conference honors as a sophomore while pitching out of the bullpen. Dollard picked up the nickname “Slider Goblin” in college.
RHP Nolan Hoffman – 5th Round (2018)
Known as “The Hoff,” Nolan is a sidearm reliever who pitched one season at Texas A&M after transferring out of junior college. Entering 2021, Hoffman has thrown 33.1 professional innings and has posted a 1.89 ERA.
RHP Leon Hunter – 35th Round (2019)
Hunter was traded from the Rangers to the Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations just before the start of the season on April 29th, 2021. Hunter pitched four seasons at North Carolina A&T primarily as a reliever. Hunter earned his degree in criminal justice and was a member of the All-MEAC academic team.
RHP Stephen Kolek – 11th Round (2018)
Kolek was drafted by the Dodgers out of Texas A&M. This is his first year in the Mariners system. Kolek’s brother Tyler was selected #2 overall by the Marlins in 2014.
LHP Adam Macko – 7th Round (2019)
Macko was born in Slovakia, grew up in Ireland, and graduated from high school in Alberta, Canada. he taught himself how to pitch by watching YouTube videos of David Price, Justin Verlander and other elite aces.
RHP Juan Mercedes – Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
The 21-year-old returns to Modesto where he made two appearances in 2019. The righty has allowed just one earned run in four California League innings.
RHP Kelvin Nunez – Singed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
The 21-year-old spent a bulk of his 2019 season in the starting rotation for the Everett Aquasox. The righty did make one spot appearance for the Nuts that season. He allowed one run in 1.2 innings pitched on three hits on June 8th.
LHP Brayan Perez – Signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela.
The 20-year-old has been a strikeout machine in his first two pro seasons. Perez is averaging nine strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
RHP Connor Phillips – 2nd Round (2020)
Phillips turned down an offer to go pro following high school when he was selected in the 35th round by the Blue Jays in 2019. Phillips then decided to forgo his offer to play at LSU and instead pitch a single season at a junior college in Texas. His first appearance in Modesto will be his professional debut.
LHP Max Roberts – 7th Round (2017)
Roberts pitched a single season of college baseball at Wabash Valley Community College before being selected by the Mariners. Roberts has not pitched since 2018 because an injury sidelined him for the 2019 season.
RHP Matthew Willrodt – 15th Round (2018)
The 6-4 Texan returns to Modesto, which is where he finished the 2019 season. During the Nuts failed last-season playoff push, Willrodt was dominant out of the Nuts bullpen. In the last of his two stints with Modesto, Willrodt worked 12 games with a 1.45 ERA over 25.2 innings from the end of July through the end of the season.
RHP Robert Winslow – Signed as a free agent after going undrafted in 2019
The Santa Clarita native pitched four seasons at The Master’s University – an NAIA school in Santa Clarita. Winslow doesn’t have much pro experience, but he has been effective. In 17 pro games, Winslow has allowed just four earned runs in 36 innings pitched with 49 strikeouts.
Ty Duvall – Signed as a free agent after going undrafted in 2020
The Vanderbilt University alumni turned down an offer to go pro in 2019 when the Oakland Athletics drafted him in the 25th round. After returning for what ended up being a pandemic-shortened senior season, Duval went undrafted in 2020 as part of the abbreviated five-round draft. Duvall was rated as the #1 prep prospect coming out of Ohio before going to Vanderbilt. His first game with the Nuts in 2021 will be his pro debut.
Matt Scheffler -- Signed as a free agent after going undrafted in 2020
The Washington native played one season of junior college baseball before playing two seasons at Auburn University. Scheffler was off to a red-hot start in 2020 before COVID-19 shut everything down. In just 16 games during 2020, Scheffler was batting .412. Scheffler’s first game with the Nuts in 2021 will be his professional debut.
Cesar Izturis – Singed as amateur free agent out of Venezula
Izturis is the son of 13-year Big Leaguer Cesar Izturis and the nephew of 11-year Big Leaguer Macier Izturis. Cesar Izturis Jr. has played at every stop along the Mariners’ development ladder except Modesto. Izturis Jr. finished 2019 in Everett where he hit .321 in August.
Justin Lavey – Signed as a free agent after going undrafted in 2020.
The Kenosha, WI native turned down a pro opportunity in 2016 when the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the 39th round after his senior year of high school. Lavey played four season at Louisville and was named All-ACC in 2019. He closed his prep career as Kenosha Tremper’s career leader in hits (117), stolen bases (86), RBI (90), doubles (33) and triples (15).
Noelvi Marte – Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
At just 19 years old, Marte is already one of the elite prospects in all of baseball. He was one of the top 10 best international prospects available in 2018 when he signed as a 16-year-old. 2019 was his only professional season so far and the then 17-year-old hit .309 and slugged .511 over 65 games in the Dominican Summer League. Marte spent the 2020 summer at the Mariners Alternate Training Site in Tacoma.
Juan Querecuto – Signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela.
Querecuto was rated as the 21st best international prospect available in 2017, according to Baseball America, before signing with the Mariners. Querecuto suffered a torn meniscus early in 2019 and played just 23 games. His first game with Modesto will be his full season debut.
Brett Rodriguez – Signed as a free agent after going undrafted in 2020
After four years at Wofford, Rodriguez was set to transfer to play out his extra year of eligibility at Creighton University before the Mariners signed him following the shortened 2020 draft. Rodriguez holds the Wofford College record for career stolen bases with 85. He earned All-Southern Conference First Team honors in 2019.
Cade Marlowe – 20th Round (2019)
Marlowe played four seasons as the University of West Georgia (D2). His 20th round selection was the highest draft pick coming out of West Georgia since 1985. Marlowe was planning to go to medical school after earning a degree in Pre-Med/Biology with a 3.87 GPA.
Robert Perez – Signed as amateur free agent out Venezuela
Perez spent most of 2019 with Everett at short season A-ball. At just 18 years old, Perez had a very strong finish to the year where he hit .326 with four home runs in August.
Alberto Rodriguez – Signed as amateur free agent out of Dominican Republic
Traded by the Blue Jays to the Mariners on 8/27/2020 for Taijuan Walker. Rodriguez grew up with current Nuts teammate Noelvi Marte in the DR. At just 20 years old, Rodriguez has 108 pro games under his belt, with a .274 average. His first game in Modesto will be his full season debut.
Trent Tinglestad – 22nd Round (2019)
The Everett native played two season of junior college baseball before playing 2019 with the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Tinglestad grew up a Mariners fan. In his final year of college, Tinglestad hit .353 and slugged .585
New Low-A West Rules
-No playoffs. The 2021 California League Championship will be awarded to the best overall record.
-Step off rule
-Active roster size goes from 25 to 30.
-120 games instead of 140 games
-No Monday games.
-One six-game series per week.
-Lancaster is out. Fresno is in as North Division team. Visalia moves from North Division to South Division.
New Mariners MiLB Ladder
Tacoma Rainiers (AAA) - Triple-A West (Formerly Pacific Coast League)
Arkansas Travelers (AA) – Double A Central (Formerly Texas League)
Everett Aquasox (A+) -High-A West (Formerly the short-season A ball Northwest League)
Modesto Nuts (A) – Low-A West (Still the California League)
Arizona League Mariners (Rookie)
Dominican Summer League (Rookie)