Another one of the telltale signs that the season upon us: the Opening Day roster has arrived.
Consider this a preliminary Opening Day roster of sorts. That’s because a total of 26 players – one player above the Midwest League-mandated 25-man roster, is arriving at Kane County.
The team will arrive tomorrow (Saturday) evening and have a fairly low-key weekend before a busy week kicks off Monday morning. The team heads out to Davenport, Iowa on Thursday for the season opener, and will return next Monday, April 9 for Opening Day at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Without further ado, here’s your 2012 Kane County squad to open the 22nd season of Cougars baseball.
Pitchers – Scott Alexander, Aaron Brooks, Eric Cantrell, Edwin Carl, Jonathan Dooley, Santiago Garrido, Mike Giovenco, Nick Graffeo, Jason Mitchell, Kellen Moen, Brooks Pounders, Matt Ridings, Andrew Stueve
Catchers – Edul Escobar, Jin-Ho Shin
Infielders – Mike Antonio, Orlando Calixte, Yowill Espinal, Daniel Mateo, Henry Moreno, Justin Trapp, Murray Watts
Outfielders – Lane Adams, Jorge Bonifacio, Tim Ferguson, Alex Llanos
Cougars fans will recognize some of the above names as players who spent all or a portion of last season in Kane County. By my count, 9 of the 26 players are familiar faces.
Here’s some info that I included in our announcement this afternoon to Chicago media.
Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio spent a full season at Burlington in 2011, batting .284 with 7 home runs and 30 RBI. Bonifacio, the brother of big leaguer Emilio Bonifacio, is rated the 15th best prospect in the Royals system by Baseball America and is the youngest player on the Cougars roster at 18 years old. Orlando Calixte returns to Geneva after playing in 81 games as a Cougar last season. A slick-fielding shortstop, Calixte is ranked 20th by Baseball America in the aforementioned prospect list. Infielder Mike Antonio (ranked 24th by Baseball America) was the Royals’ third round pick in 2010 and batted .262 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI at Burlington last season. Another infielder, switch-hitting Daniel Mateo, finished fifth in the Pioneer League with a .348 average at Idaho Falls last season and is ranked 28th by Baseball America.
The Cougars will receive a pair of pitchers who were named Pitchers of the Year by two Kansas City affiliates in 2011. Pitcher Nick Graffeo was named Burlington Pitcher of the Year after posting a 4-2 record with a 2.04 ERA in 17 games. Edwin Carl, who briefly pitched with the Cougars at the end of last season, was named Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year as well as MiLB Short-Season Reliever of the Year award after going 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA in 21 games for the Chukars.
Pitcher Jason Mitchell returns to Kane County hoping to build off an impressive stretch as a Cougar last summer. Promoted to Kane County last July, Mitchell twirled a 2.11 ERA in 10 games, three of which were starts. Mitchell got the ball in Game 2 of last fall’s Western Division Championship Series against Quad Cities and pitched a three-hit shutout in seven innings of work.
With pitchers Mike Giovenco and Eric Cantrell on the Opening Day roster, the Cougars have fielded at least one Illinois-born player for each of the past four Opening Day rosters. Former Opening Day players from the Land of Lincoln in that time include Kenny Smalley (’09), Dusty Napoleon (’09), Ian Krol (’10) and Greg Billo (’11). Giovenco attended the University of Illinois-Chicago before transferring to North Park University as a collegian. The tall right-hander pitched in 13 games for the Cougars last season. Cantrell was born in Chicago, although he graduated from Oakton HS in Virginia and pitched collegiately at George Washington University.
Jin-Ho Shin is one of two catchers on the Cougars’ Opening Day roster. Shin, who played at Burlington last season, is the first Korean-born player in Royals franchise history.
Quite a few of the ’11 Cougars team will be with the ’11 Cougars manager at Class-A Advanced Wilmington. Vance Wilson will have familiar names such as Jason Adam, Yordano Ventura, Chase Boruff, Cheslor Cuthbert and Brian Fletcher.
And it appears that one player from last year’s Cougars team will open at Double-A Northwest Arkansas: catcher Ryan Jenkins. Justin Marks, a pitcher from the ’10 Cougars team who at the time, was an A’s prospect, will open there as well.
Thanks for reading! In a matter of days (literally), you’ll have the chance to see the ’12 Cougars team at the ballpark. We’re looking forward to seeing you on Opening Day: Monday, April 9 at 1 p.m.