"On paper, this looks like one of the best teams we've ever had in Fort Wayne," TinCaps team president Mike Nutter said. "We hope these guys can make the first season at Parkview Field a championship season."
Robertson leads a group of outfielders comprised of Carroll, Mercado, Robertson and Tekotte. Last year, Robertson hit .377 and broke the Short-Season Northwest League's single-season hits record with 114 in just 73 games. The record had stood since 1972. Carroll, a University of Kentucky product, and Tekotte, out of the University of Miami, were selected by the Padres with third-round picks in last year's draft. Mercado enters his third professional season and has been valuable as a utility player throughout his career.
On the infield, the TinCaps boast two power-hitting first basemen in Dykstra and Clark. Dykstra, a San Diego native, made his professional debut last season with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore and blasted a grand slam in his fifth career game. Clark helped ripped 28 home runs at Louisiana State University last year, tied for the most in the nation in NCAA Division I baseball. Cumberland, a shortstop, played 53 games last season for Fort Wayne, but missed the bulk of the season with a rib injury. Darnell was a second-round pick last year out of the University of South Carolina and hit .373 in limited action with Short-Season Eugene. Hansen signed with the Padres as an undrafted free agent from the University of San Diego and opened his career with a seven-game hitting streak. Valdez is the youngest player on the roster at age 19.
The TinCaps are also strong behind the plate with catchers Robert Lara and Adam Zornes. Lara, a 2008 Arizona League All-Star, belted a home run in his first professional at-bat and stayed hot, batting .344 for the season. Zornes played a short stint with Fort Wayne last season, batting .261 in 13 games. He led Rice University to the 2008 College World Series with 12 home runs.
The pitching staff is anchored by several of the Padres' top prospects including Schmidt, RHPs Castro and Bass and LHP Musgrave. Schmidt returns from Tommy John surgery which kept him on the shelf for all of the 2008 season. Castro was the Opening Day starter for Short-Season Eugene last season. Bass, a Wayne State (MI) University product, posted a dominant 2.10 ERA last year for Eugene. Musgrave was a First-Team All-America selection at Wichita State University and went 6-1 in his professional debut with Eugene. RHP Osuna had a breakout season in 2008; his seven wins were tied for the most in the Arizona League and he was a league All-Star.
Expected to fill out the bullpen are RHPs Brach, Erik Davis, Tom Davis, Gonzalez and Lara and LHPs Herr, Hynes and Watt. Brach blew away the competition in the Arizona League last year with a 33-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Erik Davis, a Stanford University product, was struck in the face by a line drive in 2006 yet made an amazing comeback to the mound less than six weeks later. Gonzalez was born and raised in the Spanish Canary Islands, just off the Atlantic coast of northern Africa. Watt was one of the "players to be named later" in the trade that sent RHP Greg Maddux from San Diego to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He was originally a second-round selection by the Dodgers in 2007.
Manager Doug Dascenzo returns to manage in Fort Wayne for the third consecutive season. He is accompanied by pitching coach Tom Bradley and hitting coach Tom Tornincasa. This will be Bradley's third season in Fort Wayne and Tornincasa's seventh. Athletic trainer Ernesto Vega, Jr. and strength and conditioning coach Mark Brennan comprise the rest of the TinCaps' field staff.