TAMPA, Fla. - Top prospects Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian highlight a list of 13 returning players while 2016 draftees Nick Solak (2nd RD), Taylor Widener (12th RD) and Mandy Alvarez (17th RD) are set to debut, as the Tampa Yankees released their 2017 Opening Day Roster on Wednesday.
The T-Yanks will boast a talented group looking to return to the Florida State League postseason after earning the North Division Championship a year ago. Among those on the roster will be 13 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.
Pitchers (13): Right-handers Domingo Acevedo, Colten Brewer, Cody Carroll, Hobie Harris, James Kaprielian, Zack Littell, Dillon McNamara, Jose Peña, Andrew Schwaab and Taylor Widener; Left-handers Ian Clarkin, Nestor Cortes and Josh Rogers.
Catchers (2): Sharif Othman and Jorge Sáez.
Infielders (6): Mandy Alvarez, Abiatal Avelino, Kyle Holder, Jorge Mateo, Matt Snyder and Nick Solak.
Outfielders (4): Trey Amburgey, Austin Aune, Jhalan Jackson and Tito Polo.
The roster features eight of the top-30 Yankees prospects, as ranked by MLB Pipeline: Jorge Mateo (5), James Kaprielian (6), Domingo Acevedo (14), Nick Solak (20), Ian Clarkin (21), Zack Littell (23), Kyle Holder (25) and Taylor Widener (30).
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
After being drafted in the first round (16th overall) in 2015, James Kaprielian made his full-season debut with Tampa last year. However, a strained right flexor tendon in his elbow limited the UCLA product to three games. The right-hander returned in time to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and earned an invite to Spring Training last month, flashing his high-90s fastball and four pitch mix. Should he stay healthy, New York's top pitching prospect is said to be on a fast track to the Majors.
Jorge Mateo will look for a breakout season and do so by adding a new position to his résumé. The middle-infielder, with top-of-the-scale speed, tried out centerfield during his time in the instructional league and will get more reps in the outfield with Tampa. After recording a .345 on-base percentage and leading the minors with 82 stolen bases in 2015, Mateo's totals dipped to a .306 OBP and 36 steals a year ago. The Dominican Republic native will look to improve on those numbers this season.
Fans in Tampa got to witness a high velocity fastball from Domingo Acevedo in the second half of last season. The right-hander sits comfortably in the mid-90s, but his heater has been clocked in the triple-digits. Acevedo split time between Single-A Charleston and Tampa, going 5-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 18 starts. The 6-foot, 7-inch tall hurler owns impressive command, tallying 102 strikeouts while walking only 22 batters in 93 innings. This season, Acevedo will look to fine-tune his off-speed pitches, including a slider and a changeup.
After helping the Louisville Cardinals reach the NCAA Super Regionals last season, the Yankees drafted second-baseman Nick Solak in the 2nd round. The 22-year-old made his debut with Short Season, Single-A Staten Island and batted .321 with a .412 on-base percentage in 64 games, including 22 multi-hit games. Solak now hurdles Charleston and reunites with his former college teammate, Josh Rogers, in his first full-season of professional baseball.
The Yankees transformed RHP Chance Adams from a college reliever into one of the best starting pitchers in minor league baseball in 2016. Taylor Widener may be on the same path. Last year, New York drafted Widener in the 12th round out of South Carolina. The right-hander dominated in his first pro season, going 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA and four saves in 13 games (two starts). Widener allowed only two earned runs (both on solo home runs) and tallied 59 strikeouts while walking only seven batters in 38 and a third innings, holding hitters to a .135 average. The former Gamecock owns a mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider and will look to improve his changeup as he joins the rotation.
Last season, the Yankees drafted Mandy Alvarez in the 17th round out of Eastern Kentucky. The Miami native turned a lot of heads when he hit safely in 24 of his first 25 professional games, including a 22-game hitting streak from June 21st with Staten Island till July 18th with Charleston. Alvarez hit .339 with 11 RBI in 13 games in the New York-Penn League before joining the RiverDogs. The third-baseman hit .273 with five home runs and 29 RBI in 53 games with Charleston and collected a pair of four-hit games in the final week of the regular season.
When New York traded LHP James Pazos to the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees received a highly touted right-hander in return. Zack Littell will join the T-Yanks' rotation a year after going 13-6 with a 2.66 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 165 and two-third innings in 28 games (27 starts) between a pair of Single-A teams. Littell offers a three-pitch mix, including a low 90s fastball and an above-average curveball. Originally an 11th round pick by Seattle in 2013, Littell has lowered his ERA every level he has climbed in the minor leagues.
Tampa begins the season on Thursday, April 6th, when the Yankees host the Lakeland Flying Tigers at the newly renovated George M. Steinbrenner Field. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. For ticket and promotional information, please call (813) 673-3055 or visit TYBaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.