Several of these names will be in Washington soon I'm sure, starting with Detwiler and Balester after their fantastic spring. After reading through this list, I'm ready to take a trip to Syracuse! It couldn't be colder than Nationals Opening Day, right?
Syracuse, NY—The Syracuse Chiefs, Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, are pleased to announce their preliminary roster for the 2011 season. Syracuse will take the field for the first time this year on Thursday, April 7 in Buffalo at 3:05pm under first-year manager Randy Knorr.
Two-thirds of the players on the roster have worn a Syracuse jersey in one or both of the previous two years. Nine of those 16 returnees are pitchers, including third-year Chiefs hurler Collin Balester. Last season, his first as a reliever, Balester notched a 2-0 record out of the bullpen and finished with an ERA of 3.38 in his 30 relief outings.
Balester will be joined on the mound by four starting pitchers with previous experience in Syracuse: former first-round pick Ross Detwiler, 2009 International League mid-season All-Star J.D. Martin, Yunesky Maya and Garrett Mock, each of whom spent time in the Nationals’ starting rotation last year. Other pitchers making their return to Syracuse include setup man Josh Wilkie and closer Adam Carr, along with Matt Chico and Craig Stammen.
Newcomers Cole Kimball, ranked by Baseball America as the #7 prospect in the Washington organization; Tom Milone, the Nats’ 2010 organizational pitcher of the year as selected by MiLB.com; and Lee Hyde, who was claimed off waivers from Atlanta last week, round out the pitching staff.
Of the three catchers on the roster, Jesus Flores is the only player who has not spent time in Syracuse. However, Flores has totaled 198 big league games with Washington from 2007 to 2009 before missing all of last season with an injury. The other two receivers, Carlos Maldonado (2010) and Jhonatan Solano (2009) have both played in Syracuse since the Chiefs became the Nats’ top Minor League affiliate.
Seth Bynum, an ‘09 IL mid-season All-Star for the Chiefs, and Brian Bixler, who finished last season in Syracuse are among the six infielders on the roster. The infield will also include the youngest player on the roster, 22-year-old Chris Marrero, who will be making his Triple-A debut. Marrero led Double-A Harrisburg with 82 RBI last year and tied for the team lead with 18 home runs.
The infield is also dotted with three players who are in their first year in the Nats’ system. Michael Aubrey, the Cleveland Indians’ first round pick in 2003, will make the Chiefs his third IL team. Aubrey hit 22 home runs for Norfolk last season. Shortstop Chris McConnell is slated for his Triple-A debut after seven years in the Royals’ farm system and Alex Valdez, another Triple-A newcomer, hit a career-best 13 home runs for Double-A Midland in the Oakland chain in 2010.
The outfield will be led by Roger Bernadina and former Toledo Mud Hen Jeff Frazier. Bernadina, 26, played in 134 games with the Nationals last year. In 14 games with the Chiefs in 2010, Bernadina hit .377 and posted five extra-base hits along with eight RBI. Frazier is in his first season with the Nationals organization after a remarkable 2010 in Toledo. Frazier led the International League with 61 extra-base hits and tied for third in the league in home runs (25) and doubles (34) en route to a berth in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Elsewhere in the outfield, Boomer Whiting will return for his second season in Syracuse after finishing third in the IL with 36 stolen bases last year despite joining the team a month into the campaign. Corey Brown, a former first round pick of the Oakland A’s whom the Nationals acquired this past off-season, will round out the outfield. Brown is a two-time Texas League mid-season All-Star and was also named to the circuit’s post-season All-Star squad last year after batting .320 with 10 home runs in 90 games for Midland.
“We are very excited about the mix of veteran experience and young talent contained within this roster,” said Chiefs General Manager John Simone. “The Nationals have provided us two playoff-contending teams in the last two seasons and this group, on paper, should be no different.”
The Chiefs will begin the home portion of their 2011 schedule by hosting the Pawtucket Red Sox at 2:00pm on Wednesday, April 13, for the 15th Opening Day at Alliance Bank Stadium. Season tickets, the all-inclusive Rail Plan partial season ticket package, and single-game tickets for all home games are on sale now and can be purchased in person at the Chiefs Ticket Office at Alliance Bank Stadium, by calling 315-474-7833, or online at SyracuseChiefs.com.