2007 Preview: Lansing Lugnuts Roster

The Lansing Lugnuts, in conjunction with the Toronto Blue Jays, have announced the Opening Day roster for the 2007 season. The roster features the Blue Jays 2006 first round pick Travis Snider, as well as 10 players that spent time in Lansing last season.

Snider, 19, will make his full season debut by joining the Lugnuts after being selected with the 14th overall pick in last year's draft. He made an immediate impact in his first professional season last year by batting .325 with 11 homers and 41 RBI in just 54 games en route to being named the Appalachian League's Most Valuable Player. Before being drafted by the Blue Jays last year, Snider led his high school team to a 27-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking.

Joining Snider will be 10 players who spent either parts or all of last season in Lansing. The Lugnuts return last year's leading slugger Brian Pettway, who slammed 16 home runs during the season. Returning with Pettway are: infielders Josh Bell, Chris Gutierrez, and Sean Shoffit, outfielder Yuber Rodriguez, catcher Brian Bormaster, and pitchers Adrian Martin, Paul Phillips, Edward Rodriguez, and A.J. Wideman.

Starting Staff

Kyle Ginley, the Blue Jays 17th round pick in the 2006 draft, is the youngest starter for Lansing at age 20. Ginley will likely fit in the back end of the rotation, and after striking out 42 batters in 26 innings last year in the Appalachian League the Blue Jays felt it was time to challenge him with a full-season promotion. The 16th round pick in the 2006 draft, Chase Lirette, received a six-figure signing bonus with Ginley. The right-hander has a lot of promise in him, but struggled with his velocity and movement on his pitches during spring training. Lirette finished the year in the starting rotation in 2006 with Auburn, after pitching mostly as a closer in college. The right-hander feels he can perform both roles, but most scouts project him to be of most value in the bullpen. For now he will start every fifth day to build up his repertoire. Nate Starner, 23, impressed the Blue Jays with his mound presence during spring training and earned the starting role with Lansing to begin the year. He's the oldest of the five starters. Aaron Wideman (A.J.) returns to Lansing after battling injuries last season. Wideman is a finesse left-hander with a good fastball, and command of his pitches. Zack Dials, 21, rounds out the rotation for Lansing. Dials did not pitch much as a starter with Kentucy last year before getting drafted by Toronto, and is one candidate to rise up as an "unknown commodity."

Bullpen

Paul Phillips, Edward Rodriguez, and Julio Pinto are all capable to act as the clubs closer. That job will likely go to Phillips, who assumed that role during the first half of last season. Phillips has the potential to be a big time reliever at the big league level, but needs to work on his breaking pitch more. Rodriguez, features a low 90s fastball, and is expected to pitch in the 7th or 8th inning in tight games. Pinto was signed as a minor league free agent this off-season after pitching in the South Atlantic League last season. Ben Harrison, Adrian Martin, Chris Reddout, and side-armer Seth Overbey round out the bullpen.

Catchers

Brian Bormaster, Jonathan Jaspe and Matt Liuzza will share the catching duties for Lansing. Liuzza is the best hitter of the group, while Bormaster is by far the best receiver of the group. Liuzza is a power hitting catcher, while Jaspe is more of a line drive hitter.

Infield

The Blue Jays will also feature two more catchers in the infield. Matt Lane, who can play both corner infield positions, as well as catch, is expected to be the first baseman for Lansing. Josh Bell will occupy third base after working out their all of spring training. Bell is making the position switch after suffering a concussion in a collision last season. He still prefers to catch, and loves the position. Sean Shoffit and Scott Campbell will likely split time at second base. Shoffit has power, but need to improve his plate discipline. Jon Diaz is expected to be the starting shortstop and provide the Lansing fans with plenty of highlight-reel type plays.

Outfield

Travis Snider, the 2006 first round pick for Toronto, will lead the group in right field. Snider is expected to bat in the middle of the order and provide the heavy lumber in the lineup. Yuber Rodriguez, Chris Emanuele and Brian Pettway will round out the outfield group. Pettway and Emanuele can hit for power and the outfield group is expected to hit plenty of long balls this season.


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