Frisco RoughRiders Announce Opening Day Lineup

The 2015 Frisco RoughRiders, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, will be loaded with prospects and familiar faces when the club begins its 13th season on Thursday, April 9 at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Today the Rangers released the minor league rosters for the upcoming season, and first-year Frisco manager Joe Mikulik will lead a talent-laden squad that includes Texas’ consensus top prospect Joey Gallo.

The Rangers’ 2014 Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year, Gallo enters the season as the organization’s number one prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com. The 21-year-old slugger combined to hit .271 with 42 home runs and 106 RBI in 126 games with the RoughRiders and Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. The third baseman has hit 40 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons, becoming the first minor leaguer to accomplish the feat since Ron Kittle of the Chicago White Sox did it in 1981-82. Gallo was a postseason All-Star in both the Texas League and Carolina League and was named the CL MVP last season, winning the circuit’s home run title (he finished second in the TL).

Gallo will be one of nine players on the Frisco roster ranked by either Baseball America or MLB.com among the top 30 prospects in the Rangers farm system. The others are pitcher Jake Thompson (Baseball America’s #2, MLB.com’s #4), catcher Jorge Alfaro (3/2), outfielder Nomar Mazara (4/3), outfielder Nick Williams (5/7), pitcher Alec Asher (13/24), pitcher Andrew Faulkner (20/17), pitcher Jose Leclerc (21/23) and pitcher Jerad Eickhoff (MLB.com’s #21). Several RoughRiders were identified as possessing the “best tools” in the organization according to Baseball America, including Gallo (Best Power, Best Infield Arm), Asher (Best Control), Patrick Cantwell (Best Defensive Catcher), outfielder Chris Garia (Fastest Baserunner) and Thompson (Best Slider).

Other notes from this year’s Opening Day roster:

· Starting pitchers Asher, Eickhoff, Faulkner and Thompson last year combined to go 43-30 with a 3.47 ERA (221 ER/572.2 IP) and 529 strikeouts. Eickhoff led all Rangers farmhands with 144 strikeouts while Faulkner (second, 133) and Asher (fifth, 122) also ranked in the top five. Faulkner tied for the organizational lead in victories (12) in 2014 and was second among all starters in ERA (2.73).

· In addition to Gallo, other players recognized by the Rangers in previous seasons include Jake Skole (2013 Defender of the Year) and Cody Buckel (2012 Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year).

· The Riders roster includes three players who were 2014 postseason All-Stars: Gallo (Texas League and Carolina League), Garia (CL) and Williams (CL). The club has eight players honored as mid-season All-Stars last year: Alfaro (CL), Asher (TL), Royce Bolinger (CL), Faulkner (CL), Gallo (CL), Garia (CL), Guilder Rodriguez (TL) and Williams (CL).

· The average Opening Day age of this year’s team is 23.5 years old. The pitchers (23.7) are slightly older on average than the position players (23.3). Mazara (19) is the youngest player on the team while Rodriguez (31) is the oldest.

· The RoughRiders have 19 returning players on the squad: Alfaro, Asher, Chad Bell, Buckel, Cantwell, Eickhoff, Faulkner, Gallo, Will Lamb, Kyle Lotzkar, Mazara, Josh McElwee, Francisco Mendoza, Drew Robinson, Rodriguez, Skole, Thompson, Williams and J.T. Wise.

· The roster includes seven players who will be new to Frisco in 2015: Bolinger, Garia, Leclerc, Luis Mendez, Tyler Pastornicky, Victor Payano and Jesus Pirela.

· The 2015 RoughRiders hail from 11 different states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) and five countries (Canada, Curacao, Dominican Republic, United States of America and Venezuela). The two Texans on the team are Thompson (Rockwall) and Williams (Galveston).

· Two players on the roster have Major League experience: Rodriguez was a September call-up for the Rangers last year and Pastornicky has spent parts of the last three seasons playing the infield for the Atlanta Braves.

This will be Mikulik’s first season at the helm of the RoughRiders after leading the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to the postseason in 2014. The longtime minor league skipper and Keller, Texas resident will be joined on the coaching staff by pitching coach Jeff Andrews, hitting coach Jason Hart, assistant hitting coach James Vilade, athletic trainer Carlos Olivas and strength and conditioning coach Eric McMahon.

2015 Frisco RoughRiders Roster:

Pitchers (13): Alec Asher, Chad Bell, Cody Buckel, Jerad Eickhoff, Andrew Faulkner, Will Lamb, Jose Leclerc, Kyle Lotzkar, Josh McElwee, Francisco Mendoza, Victor Payano, Jesus Pirela, Jake Thompson.

Position Players (12 + 1 DL): Jorge Alfaro, Royce Bolinger, Patrick Cantwell, Joey Gallo, Chris Garia, Nomar Mazara, Luis Mendez, Tyler Pastornicky, Drew Robinson, Guilder Rodriguez (DL), Jake Skole, Nick Williams, J.T. Wise.

The 13th season of Frisco RoughRiders baseball begins on Thursday, April 9 at 7:05 p.m. when the Riders take on the Arkansas Travelers in what will mark the debut of the club’s new logo, uniforms and color scheme. Opening Day starts a six-game home stand and will be the season’s first Thirsty Thursday/Groovy Grubesday, as well as a “Dr Pepper 4 for $44 Night.” The first 3,500 fans to enter Dr Pepper Ballpark on Opening Day will receive a 2015 Riders schedule magnet, Texas Rangers mascot “Captain” will make a special appearance, and the game will be followed by a spectacular fireworks show set to baseball-themed music.

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