The Ogden Raptors begin their 9th season as a Dodger affiliate tonight, and will attempt to win their first Pioneer League title during that span. The Raptors have been a very fun team to watch over the past few years as they have had some solid prospects on their roster. Jerry Sands spent a good amount of time with Ogden in 2009, as did Brian Cavazos-Galvez, Angelo Songco, Blake Smith, and Steven Ames. The 2010 version of this team was highlighted by Garrett Gould, Jake Lemmerman, Jonathan Garcia, and Shawn Tolleson.
The 2011 team will be led by 3rd year manager Damon Berryhill, who has guided the club to an impressive 86 and 65 record over the past two seasons. Johnny Washington will return as the hitting coach, and newcomer Bill Simas will look over the pitching staff. Unlike the minor league previews I did earlier in the year, I will not be guessing the team's roster because it has already been announced. That being said, I'm sure there will be a lot of additions and turnover on this team since there are a lot of 2011 draftees who have yet to sign.
While I'm not going to list out the entire roster, I will highlight many of the names that will be appearing at each position. Also, the number in parenthesis after each name indicates where I ranked that player heading into this season. One other note is that the team's first series will be broadcast on milb.tv for those of you that have a subscription.
Before I discuss the starting pitchers who are on the team, I wanted to point out that 2010 2nd round pick Ralston Cash (ranked 16) will not be playing this season due to an injury. The team roster shows him as "Reserve" status, but I've heard that he is at home in Georgia rehabbing and will not be with the team. In terms of healthy pitchers, it looks like Gustavo Gomez (60) will be the opening day starter for the Raptors. Gomez made a brief appearance in Ogden last year, and actually threw 11.2 innings for the Loons earlier this season but with disastrous results. One of my favorite sleeper prospects Brandon Martinez (32) will also be in the starting rotation after spending the previous two seasons in the Arizona Rookie League. I'm really hoping that he'll break out this year. Raydel Sanchez, who I believe is a Cuban defector signed by the Dodgers, will be the #3 starter, and then the next two spots are still up in the air according to Raptors Radio Broadcaster Brandon Hart. The most likely candidates for the #4 and #5 starters are 2011 8th round pick Rick Anton, and Chris Handke (135). Anton is the lefty from Utah who doesn't throw real hard but has a solid 4 pitch mix, and Handke is a 6'11" right hander who the Dodgers are hoping will be a late bloomer due to his height.
I'll start with the closer, who will probably be 2011 5th round pick Scott McGough. The 21 year old was the part time closer for the Oregon Ducks this season, and has the stuff to get the job done with a mid 90's fastball and a wipeout slider. One of his setup men on the team will be Steven Matre (100), who signed late last year as a 39th round pick. He is a Tommy John survivor and had been putting up phenomenal college stats before his injury, so hopefully that will translate to success in professional ball. Carlos De Aza (94) had a rough season in 2010, and will look to bounce back with the Raptors. Joel Lima (88) made a brief appearance in AA earlier this season, but will now be back at a more appropriate level. Yimi Garcia (79), who won the April Pride award for his performance in extended spring training, will be one of the team's long relievers. Garcia struggled in his US debut last season with a 7.04 ERA in 30.2 innings, but his FIP was a much more impressive at 3.17. Finally, Japanese signee Kazuki Nishijima (86) will also be a long reliever on this team. I don't know much about 6'1" lefty, but as I wrote in my off-season rankings I heard he throws right around 90 mph and is pretty inconsistent.
The Ogden outfield looks like it will be the most exciting part of this team in 2011. 19 year old James Baldwin (14) will anchor center field for the Raptors, and will look to continue the momentum he had at the end of last season when he hit .357 in the month of August to go along with 15 RBI’s, 9 SB’s, and an .890 OPS. A lot of people thought that the Dodgers might push Scott Schebler (27) to the Midwest league in 2011, but instead he'll spend the season in Ogden. He has a good combination of power and speed, and is a real wildcard for me. 2011 16th round pick Jeff Schaus should be the team's other staring outfielder, but Baseball America has labeled him as an organizational player so I'm not all the excited about him. Devin Shines, the 38th round pick in the 2011 draft, will probably serve as a backup outfielder.
The Ogden roster lists 5 infielders on his active roster, and 4 of those players are labeled as 3rd baseman so I'm not exactly sure how the infield is going to shake out until more 2011 draft picks sign. My guess is that Jeff Hunt (57) will be the actual 3rd baseman of this team, and I'm excited to see what he can do over a full season since he's only played in 36 games since becoming a Dodgers in 2009. Matt Kirkland (59) will probably be bumped over to 1st base, even though he is supposed to be a plus defender at the hot corner. Kirkland has a lot of raw power, so he's another guy that might break out with a big season in Ogden. Alexis Aguilar (125) will probably play shortstop for the club, and although he doesn't have much of a bat he is still young enough to refine his hitting. The leaves 2nd base to David Iden (193), who is already 24 years old and as you can see was slotted toward the end of my preseason ranking. Finally, 2011 7th round pick Scott Woodward should get plenty of starts around in the infield, and he'll also play some outfield which is where he spent part of his college career.
The Dodgers selected 3 catchers in the first 20 rounds of the 2011 draft, so I'm sure that a few of them will be joining the Raptors once they sign. For the time being, however, the backstop duties will be shared by Jan Vazquez (84) and Andrew Edge (137). Vazquez was the Dodgers 6th round pick back in 2009, but the switch-hitter has struggled since turning pro two years ago. Hopefully a more friendly hitting environment will help jump-start his bat. Edge bombed 4 homers in his professional debut for the Arizona Dodgers in 2010 and had a .824 OPS, but he also struck out quite a bit and ended last year on a cold streak. In terms of the DH duties, I'm sure that role will rotate among most of the offense players mentioned above.