With the 2021 Richmond Flying Squirrels season around the corner, the big leagues got rolling on Thursday. Sixteen Flying Squirrels alumni landed spots on Major League rosters to begin the 2021 season.
As expected, the Flying Squirrels’ parent club, the San Francisco Giants, feature several former Richmond players. Seven former Squirrels are active for the Giants for the first days of the new season.
Three position players, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Austin Slater, made the Giants’ roster. Crawford and Belt, who were both members of the inaugural Flying Squirrels team in 2010, are opening their 11th season together in San Francisco. The pair has been the most successful Richmond alumni to date, winning two World Series titles and combining for three National League All-Star selections.
A former Gold Glove Award winner, Crawford continues to hold his place as the Giants’ everyday shortstop. Belt is coming off one of the better seasons in his career during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, hitting .309 with nine homers and 30 RBIs over 51 games.
Slater, who played in Richmond in 2015 and 2016, had a strong start to the 2020 season, hitting .347 through August until hitting the injured list with a left groin strain. He was one of the Giants’ top offensive performers during Spring Training leading into the 2021 season.
Logan Webb, a member of the 2018 and 2019 Flying Squirrels, posted a 0.53 ERA in this year’s Cactus League action with 22 strikeouts over 17 innings in five starts. He climbed to the majors for the first time during the 2019 season and made 11 starts last season for the Giants.
Caleb Baragar soared through three levels of the Giants’ minor league system in 2019, mostly playing with the Flying Squirrels. His breakout year included earning a start on the mound in the 2019 Eastern League All-Star Game at The Diamond and he was on the hill for Sacramento as it won the Triple-A National Championship. He debuted with the Giants last year and settled in to throw 15 straight scoreless relief appearances to close out the year.
Reyes Moronta, a member of the 2017 Flying Squirrels, earned an Opening Day spot in the Giants’ bullpen after spending all of 2020 on the injured list. Tyler Rogers (2015-2016 Flying Squirrels) is also in the Giants’ season-opening bullpen after leading the team in relief appearances last year.
Infielder Joe Panik is back with the Toronto Blue Jays this year. An Eastern League All-Star with Richmond in 2013, Panik went on to help the Giants to a World Series title in 2014 before picking up an NL All-Star selection the following year and a Gold Glove Award in 2016. He will likely be playing a variety of positions for the Blue Jays in 2021.
Pitcher Chris Stratton, a member of the Flying Squirrels in 2014 and 2015, returns for a third season in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen. Last year, he had a 3.90 ERA over 27 appearances. He will soon be joined by fellow Pirates reliever Kyle Crick, who pitched with Richmond from 2014 to 2016, but he will not be on the team’s roster to begin the year while he is away on paternity leave.
2016 Flying Squirrels infielder Christian Arroyo returned to the Boston Red Sox for the 2021 season after a solid spring. After being traded from the Rays to the Indians, Arroyo finished the 2020 season in Boston, playing 14 games for the Red Sox.
Several former Flying Squirrels will have new homes this year. After spending the last two years in Atlanta, Charlie Culberson is now with the Texas Rangers. He will likely be playing several positions across the Rangers’ infield. Culberson played in Richmond in 2011.
After playing alongside Culberson in Atlanta the last few years, former Richmond standout Adam Duvall signed with the Miami Marlins for 2021. Duvall hit 16 homers in 57 games last year for the Braves.
2014 Flying Squirrels infielder Matt Duffy is now with the Chicago Cubs, likely to contribute as a utility infielder. After playing with the Giants and Rays from 2014 to 2019, he spent last year with the Yankees at their alternate site, but never got the call for game action. He will make his return to the majors and the National League with the start of this season.
Ehire Adrianza spent the last four years with the Minnesota Twins, but he is now a member of the Braves, where he projects to play a utility role for the reigning NL East champs. He spent time with Richmond in 2012 and 2013.
Former Flying Squirrels catcher Aramis Garcia opens 2021 as the Oakland Athletics’ back-up catcher. He played in Richmond in 2017 and 2018, reaching the majors with the Giants near the end of the 2018 season. He saw time in 37 games across two seasons with San Francisco, but missed 2020 with a hip injury. He was picked up by the Rangers and later traded to the Athletics over the offseason.
Reliever Sam Coonrod reached the majors in 2019 after pitching for the Flying Squirrels in 2016 and 2017. After posting a 9.82 ERA in 18 outings with the Giants last year, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies over the offseason. He made nine appearances this spring and earned a spot in the Philadelphia bullpen to begin the season.
Several other Flying Squirrels alumni with MLB experience will be in the mix to return to the majors as the season progresses. Conner Menez is on the Giants’ taxi squad to start the year. Joey Bart, Steven Duggar and Sam Selman will all open the year at the Giants’ alternate site. Former Flying Squirrels Tyler Cyr and Heliot Ramos have not yet debuted in the majors but are on the Giants’ alternate site roster.
Some other former Richmond players who will open the season at alternate sites or in the minors with other organizations include Ray Black (Brewers), Garrett Williams (Cardinals), Joe Biagini (Cubs), Mike Kickham (Dodgers), Steven Okert (Marlins), Johneshwy Fargas (Mets), Chris Shaw (Orioles), Chase Johnson (Padres), Andrew Susac (Pirates), Hunter Strickland (Rays), Caleb Simpson (Red Sox), Josh Osich (Reds), Heath Hembree (Reds), Derek Law (Twins) and Shaun Anderson (Twins).
The Flying Squirrels open the 2021 season at The Diamond on Tuesday, May 4. Ticket information for the upcoming season will be available soon at SquirrelsBaseball.com.