April 2, 2013 - Carolina League (CarL) - Salem Red Sox
Once again, the Boston Red Sox are sending many of their finest prospects to the Carolina League. In fact, nine players drafted in the top five rounds-including three first round picks-highlight Salem's 2013 Opening Day roster. Two prominent regulars from the 2012 club return, while a slew of young talent is ready for the challenge of the Advanced-A level as Salem seeks its first Mills Cup Trophy since 2001.
Shortstop Deven Marrero (24th overall pick, 2012), catcher Blake Swihart (26th overall, 2011), and lefthander Henry Owens (36th overall, 2011) are the trio of top round selections on their way to the Roanoke Valley. Marrero comes to Salem after receiving an invite and participating in Major League spring training, the only member of the Salem's 2013 club to hold that distinction. Swihart, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Wednesday, and Owens, who finished fourth in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts last year, both join the Red Sox after enjoying strong 2012 seasons with Greenville. Marrero, Swihart, and Owens all are among the top 10 Boston Red Sox prospects heading into the season according to Baseball America.
Third-baseman Garin Cecchini is also in Baseball America's top 10, pairing with Marrero to give Salem a splendid left side of the infield. Meanwhile, the right side of the infield likely will feature a pair of former third round selections in Sean Coyle and David Renfroe. Coyle, a second-baseman, spent the entire 2012 season in Salem, hitting .297 after the All-Star Break. Renfroe can play first and third, something Salem fans learned when he joined the club for the final two weeks of last year. Michael Flacco, the younger brother of Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, will make his Red Sox organization debut with Salem after spending the previous four years in the Orioles farm system. Jose Garcia and Nick Natoli add to Salem's infield depth, with Natoli bringing with him 24 games of Double-A experience.
The five outfielders on the Red Sox roster are Keury De La Cruz, Brandon Jacobs, Matty Johnson, Henry Ramos, and Felix Sanchez, with Ramos being the lone individual who will be making his Carolina League debut. Jacobs, Johnson, and Sanchez were all members of Salem's ballclub throughout most of 2012, while De La Cruz played six games for the Sox at the end of the summer, belting a home run at LewisGale Field on September 2 to reach the 20-homer plateau for the year.
The 12-man pitching staff includes many distinguished arms, including Miguel (Mickey) Pena, who tossed the first six innings of Greenville's first ever no-hitter last May. Noe Ramirez, a fourth round pick in the 2011 draft, moves to the bullpen at the beginning of 2013 after starting all of last year for the Drive. Other members of last year's Drive that join the Salem Sox are Michael McCarthy, Nefi Ogando, Matty Ott, and Nate Striz.
Righthanded starters Mike Augliera and William Cuevas both are making the leap over Greenville, jumping to Salem's roster after pitching the entirety of last season in the NYPL for the Lowell Spinners. Aguliera, who joins Marrero as the only 2012 draftees on Salem's Opening Day squad, struck out 43 in 38.2 innings last year, walking just three in the process. Cuevas, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, set a Spinners franchise record last year by tabulating a 1.40 ERA. Robby Scott also makes a hefty leap to Salem after dominating in the GCL last year with a 0.44 ERA (1 ER/20.1 IP). The final two members of Salem's staff are Heri Quevedo, a Dominican righty who will make his pro debut for the Sox in 2012, and Kyle Stroup, who missed the entire 2012 season after an ACL injury.
Along with Swihart, fellow catchers Carson Blair and Leonel Escobar will help handle the talented pitching staff.
Manager Billy McMillon is back for his second season in Salem, while Pitching Coach Kevin Walker returns for a third year. Nelson Paulino is Salem's new Hitting Coach after serving in the same role in Lowell in 2012.
The Salem Sox will kick off their season on Friday night in Frederick, while the home opener is set for Friday, April 12 with Myrtle Beach coming to town to commence the 70-game home slate at LewisGale Field.
NOTE: The list of 27 players is a tentative roster, with roster moves forthcoming before Opening Day.