Baseball in south-central Kentucky is back this Thursday, and mid-day yesterday, the Bowling Green Hot Rods announced the roster that they’ll begin the 2014 season with in their sixth since moving from Columbus, Georgia.
Of the 28 names announced, only eight spent time in Bowling Green last year, and of those, three spent the entire season in the Bluegrass. Here is your Bowling Green Hot Rods roster.
Pitchers (18): Luis Cabrera, Jacob Faria, Aaron Griffin, Taylor Guerrieri†, Andrew Hanse, Jordan Harrison, Brandon Henderson*, Ian Kendall, Christopher Kirsch, German Marquez, Eduar Quinonez*, Colton Reavis, Brad Schreiber, Jamie Schultz*, Blake Snell, Stone Speer, Hunter Wood
Catchers (2): Armando Araiza, Oscar Hernandez
†=will begin the year on the restricted list
*=will begin the year on the DL
Returning from full 2013 stints are Blake Snell, Eduar Quinonez and Brandon Henderson. The trio, all pitchers, are headlined by Snell, who was the Rays’ first pick in the 2011 draft, and went 4-9 last year with a 4.27 ERA in 99.0 innings over 23 appearances in his first full season at the professional ranks. While some scouting reports note there is still plenty of room for improvement, there is a lot to like about his low-to-mid 90’s fastball, as well as a slider that gets a ton of swing and misses thanks to its late break. If Snell comes out of the gates hot and is able to find success in the first couple of months, a call up to Port Charlotte is not out of the question.
Other pitchers to watch will be Chris Kirsch and German Marquez. Kirsch, a left handed 14th round draft pick from 2012, split time last year between Hudson Valley and Charlotte, skipping Bowling Green altogether, and pitched very well, managing a 3.01 ERA in his 92.2 innings pitched. Kirsch’s bread and butter is his fastball, which can touch the mid 90’s, and will be a welcome arm that will boast some upper-level experience with him to begin the year. His secondary pitches also show potential. It’s well documented that the Rays are a pitching-rich franchise, and with the absence in 2014 of guys like Taylor Guerrieri and Kevin Brandt, Kirsch will be a welcome addition.
Marquez, meanwhile, burst onto the scene at Princeton last season, not with his numbers (4.05 ERA) as much as his stuff. Marquez, who just turned 19, shows a fastball touching 95 MPH to go along with an impressive curveball and developing changeup. This could be the year that Marquez establishes himself as a top prospect, and it is exciting to have him at Bowling Green.
Both catchers Armando Araiza and Oscar Hernandez will come back to the Hot Rods after playing a couple games with them at the end of last year. Between Hudson Valley and BG, Hernandez hit .227 with six homers and 34 RBI, while Araiza hit .279 with 10 RBI. The two will have large shoes to fill, as Luke Maile was a big offensive contributor to last years club, and Justin O’Conner has a laser arm, and is one of the best in the Midwest League at gunning guys down trying to steal. But Hernandez has emerged as an incredible defender in his own right and shows power potential in his own right, so the drop-off may not be so big after all.
The Hot Rods will be boasting an entirely new infield, and three of their four outfielders will be new as well (the only exception being Granden Goetzman, who spent time in Bowling Green before being demoted). Kean Wong will jump to Bowling Green at age 18 to begin the year after hitting .328 in the GCL while Darryl George hit .286 in Hudson Valley. Among the outfielders, the players to watch will be Araujo, the second-youngest player on the team and a former top international signing.
The biggest surprise on the announced Bowling Green Hot Rods roster, for me, is the absence of players like Kevin Brandt and O’Conner, who still have some work to do before the next level but have been called up to High-A Charlotte for now. With those two “veterans’ gone, the Hot Rods have a more unproven roster. Overall, the Hot Rods will tout some guys that need some extra work, and fans in Bowling Green might not see the same amount of success that they have in the past few seasons. Nevertheless, the talent is impressive, and if some of these prospects come together, 2014 could wind up being quite reminiscent of recent years.