Kane County Cougars Roster Analysis

Opening Day for the Kane County Cougars is Thursday, April 5 on the road in Burlington. On Monday, the team released its Opening Day roster. We take a look at who will be donning the green and black to start what will be an All-Star season at Elfstrom Stadium.

Although there are a few familiar faces returning to Kane County in 2007, this season's roster has a decidedly new look to it. Twelve of the 25 men on the roster were drafted in last season's amateur draft and three more players will be making their Kane County debuts in 2007. The team has a lot of youth and includes a 19 year-old, two 20 year-olds and three 21 year-olds.

The Cougars were a good offensive team in 2006 and that should continue into 2007. Outfielders Matt Sulentic, Jermaine Mitchell and Toddric Johnson are offensive weapons, as are first baseman Greg Dowling, infielder Christian Vitters and catcher Jake Smith. In addition, infielder Isaac Omura returns to Kane County after a breakthrough offensive season in 2006 when he hit .296 and drove-in 47 runs for the Cougars.

The Cougars should be very solid defensively, especially up the middle. Smith was the Johnny Bench award winner as the nation's best catcher in 2006 and he has a reputation as being a strong defensive catcher. Vitters figures to team with Mike Affronti as the Cougars' double-play combination, with help from Omura, as well. In the outfield, the Cougars will be able to boast a number of plus fielders, as Mitchell, Johnson and returning Cougar Mike Massaro are all capable of playing a solid centerfield.

On the mound, the Cougars will feature a mix of young hurlers and seasoned veterans. Chicagoland native Joe Piekarz returns to the Cougars a year after posting a 3.26 ERA for Kane County as a swingman. Joe Newby, John Herrera and Ron Madej are also returning to the Cougars and they were important pieces of the Kane County bullpen in 2006. Newcomer Pat Currin and 2006 draft picks Branden Dewing and Scott Moore also figure to play prominent roles in the Cougars.

The focus of the Cougars pitching staff will be on the starting rotation, which will feature a number of promising arms. Chad Lee, the A's fourth round pick in 2006, is one of the hardest throwers in the A's system. He will be joined by 2005 draft pick Scott Deal, who was impressive as a 19 year old in Vancouver last season. Inoel Deaza is another promising 20 year old pitcher. 2006 draft pick Jason Fernandez could see some time in the rotation after pitching out of the bullpen last season in Vancouver. Veterans T.J. Franco and James Heuser also had starting experience in 2006.

To view the entire Kane County Opening Day roster, please click here.

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