The Asheville Tourists will open up their season this week, and are poised to challenge for the South Atlantic League title. They have some good young arms to go along with some talented position players, some of whom were among the organizational leaders in 2006. The Tourists finished sixth in the Sally in 2006, and they also have one of the better middle infield prospects in the Rockies organization.
The pitching staff looks pretty solid, including a starting rotation that has an innings eater in Andrew Kreidermacher. Kreidermacher finished sixth in the organization in earned run average (3.65) in 2006, and was second in the Northwest League in innings (95.2). Fellow rotation mate Joshua Sullivan was second in the organization in ERA (2.71) in 2006, and is one of the top young arms in the organization.
Rounding out the rotation will be Andrew Graham, Keith Weiser, and Aneury Rodriguez, all of whom worked as starters in 2006. Rodriguez had some trouble with his command last season, finishing fourth in the NWL in walks, though he has some electric stuff. Weiser had a 3.79 earned run average in his 12 appearances, and Graham held opponents to a .213 batting average in 2006.
The bullpen also has some live arms, including Ethan Katz, who led the NWL in games appeared in during the 2006 season. Thomas Baumgardner could be used in a closer role, after saving two games, and striking out better than a batter per inning in 2006. James Burok, Zachary Simons, Simon Ferrer, Craig Baker, and Sean Jarrett will round out the bullpen, and Jarrett is coming off a year in which he posted a 2.78 earned run average in 27 appearances. Ferrer had a 2.15 ERA in his 15 NWL appearances in 2006, and Burok returns to the Tourists after appearing in 43 games for the club last season.
Assuming catching duties in 2007 will likely be Michael McKendry, who started 46 games behind the dish for Tri-City in 2006. Though he batted only .216, McKendry calls a good game, and should be able to handle this young pitching staff. He will be backed up by Jhaysson Agustin, who was the Casper Rockies starting catcher in 2006. For Casper, Agustin batted .222.
Michael Paulk returns to the Tourists, after starting 106 games for Asheville in 2006. He will likely man first base duties, after driving in 48 runs for the squad last season. Across from him in the infield will likely be Logan Wiens, who had seven home runs in 48 games for Casper in 2006. Geoff Strickland could also see time at the first/ third base slots, though he can play all four infield positions.
Up the middle should be solid, as top prospect Hector Gomez will team with Daniel Mayora at the middle infield positions. Mayora was seventh in the organization with a .304 batting average last year, and Gomez is one of the better middle infield prospects in the organization. Radames Nazario saw time at both second base and shortstop in 2006, and Spence Nagy is a utility guy who can spell at any of the infield positions.
The outfield will consist of some guys who really need to step it up at the plate in 2007. Jay Cox should be in left field to open the season, after hitting .242 for the Casper Rockies in 2006. In 44 games, Cox drove in 20, and had 36 hits. Bret Berglund had four triples in 2006, and will likely be the team’s right fielder. He batted only .217 overall in 2006, though he did swipe 11 bags. The centerfield job should belong to Anthony Jackson, who had 18 stolen bases last season, while playing a good centerfield. Victor Ferrante can play both corner outfield slots, and actually had the highest 2006 batting average (.254) of all four outfielders.
2007 Asheville Tourists Opening Day Roster
Starting Pitchers: Andrew Graham, Andrew Kreidermacher, Aneury Rodriguez, Joshua Sullivan, Keith Weiser
Bullpen: James Burok, Ethan Katz, Zachary Simons, Simon Ferrer, Craig Baker, Sean Jarrett, Thomas Baumgardner (Closer)
Catchers: Michael McKendry, Jhaysson Agustin
Infielders: Michael Paulk, Radames Nazario, Hector Gomez, Daniel Mayora, Spence Nagy, Geoff Strickland, Logan Wiens
Outfielders: Jay Cox, Anthony Jackson, Bret Berglund, Victor Ferrante