I'm going to miss Clayton McCullough, Justin Mashore, and Dan McIntosh from last year, but this looks to be an excellent coaching staff this year. Burly and amiable Sal Fasano is going to make a fine first-year manager; I'm a fan of a Antonio Caceres, who returns as pitching coach; and I've heard good things about coach John Tamargo, Jr., from my friend Tim Calderwood, who worked with John in Traverse City last year.
Add in a trio of capable hands in Athletic Trainer James Gardiner, Strength & Conditioning Coach Elliott White, and Video Coordinator Coulson Barbiche, and you have yourself a splendid crew.
The team should be good, too.
For one thing, they're an older squad -- the youngest player is outfielder Kenny Wilson, who was here last year. The majority of the players are collegians, and collegians generally play well in the Midwest League.
The early look at the starting rotation should feature, in alphabetical order: Matt Fields, Chad Jenkins, Dave Sever, Ryan Shopshire, and Ryan Tepera. (I say alphabetical order because I fully expect Ryan Shopshire to be at or near the top of the rotation.)
I don't think I'm going out on too far of a limb when I say that much will be expected from these men. Shopshire's the veteran of the team at just 24 and pitched impressively at the end of last year. Jenkins was the Blue Jays' 1st round pick last year and #3 prospect in the system. Fields dominated the Gulf Coast League to the tune of a 1.22 ERA with 54 strikeouts compared to just six walks in 51 2/3 innings. Tepera was arguably better, limiting GCL batters to a staggering .150 average against him. Meanwhile, Sever was the ace of the Auburn Doubledays.
Good looking crew on paper, simply put.
The bullpen will feature Steve Turnbull and Brian Slover at the back end, two right-handers with great stuff. Turnbull's the closer, Slover the set-up man. We'll see how everything else shakes out before them. It's up in the air.
Tomorrow, a look at the offense!