Photo by: Cheryl Pursell

The Lakewood BlueClaws have a strong Opening Day roster and should be a lot of fun to watch this Summer.

While a lot of the attention has been focused on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and their prospect loaded roster, the Lakewood BlueClaws may have the second most talented roster in the Phillies organization.

The Lakewood BlueClaws made it to the South Atlantic League Playoffs last season, and there's a better than average chance that they could make a return trip this season. Of course, in minor league baseball, there's always going to be player movement that disrupts the roster, but if the team is kept anywhere near intact, the 'Claws could have a pretty special team this Summer.

While everyone is focused on the inclusion of outfielder Mickey Moniak, the first overall pick in last year's draft, on the roster, there's a lot of other names to like. The pitching staff, for instance, could be a very special group of young arms.

Much of the staff is made up of guys who were members of the Williamsport Crosscutters staff last season, and that staff was strong, to say the least. The Crosscutters had a team ERA of 2.70, the second best in the New York-Penn League. The entire starting rotation comes east from Williamsport to join the BlueClaws this season.  Bailey FalterAdonis MedinaFelix Paulino and Ranger Suarez tied for the team lead in starts last season with 13 each, while JoJo Romero had 10 for the 'Cutters. Falter was the 38th best Phillies prospect on the list of the Philly Baseball Insider Top 50 Phillies Prospects, posting just a 1-6 record with Williamsport, but doing so with an ERA of just 3.17 on the season. In 59 2/3 innings, Falter struck out 59 batters, while walking just 17. Medina (ranked 18th) had an ERA of just 2.92, but did have some issues with control, walking 24 batters in 64 2/3 innings of work. Paulino, like Falter, had a sub-.500 record (3-4), but his 2.89 ERA was certainly legitimate. He finished second on the staff in innings pitched (71 2/3) and had a WHIP of just 1.09 for Williamsport, but will work out of the bullpen for Lakewood because of a glut of young starting pitchers. Suarez was the team leader in innings with 73 2/3 and had a 2.81 ERA in his 13 starts. Opponents hit just .223 against the 21-year old lefty. The best ERA of the starters belonged to Romero, who had a 2.56 ERA in his 10 starts, after being drafted in the fourth round of last year's draft. The five starters combined for a mark of 17-19 with a 2.88 ERA.

Lakewood will have a six-man rotation, with Sixto Sanchez making the jump from the Gulf Coast League. All Sanchez did there was post a 5-0 record with a ridiculous 0.50 ERA in 11 starts. Nick Fanti, who  made 11 appearances with the GCL Phillies, nine as a starter, going a perfect 7-0, 1.57 in the short-season rookie league.

Related: Premium members can get scouting reports on Harold ArauzBailey Falter, Arquimedes GamboaDarick Hall and Felix Paulino, Other scouting reports will be coming throughout the season.

The 'Claws also will have two 2016 alums of the Crosscutters bullpen in Jonathan Hennigan (1-0, 1.88) and Will Hibbs (3-4, 1.44, 4 saves). Mauricio Llovera (7-1, 1.87), who also was a starter in the GCL will convert to relieving and make the jump from the Gulf Coast League. Three pitchers from last year's staff at Lakewood return to the bullpen. Harold Arauz (6-6, 3.18 in 19 starts), Ismael Cabrera (2-1, 4.09) and Zach Morris (8-3, 2.57) are all on the staff to open the season. Morris tied with Jacob Waguespack for the team lead in appearances with 43. Waguespack will open the year in the Clearwater bullpen. Rounding out the 14-man pitching staff will be Trevor Bettencourt, who made two relief appearances with Williamsport last season after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2016 Draft.

Catching the talented staff will be Edgar Cabral (1-7-.203/.250/.266 at Lakewood) and Henri Lartigue (1-15-.212/.265/.291 at Williamsport).

Joining Moniak in the outfield Carlos Duran (2-25-.243/.293/.317 at Lakewood), David Martinelli (4-25-.235/.281/.327 at Williamsport) and Cord Sandberg (4-23-.230/.306/.315 at Clearwater). Moniak played in the GCL last season, posting a line of 1-28-.284/.340/.409 with the GCL Phillies.

The infield includes the highly heralded double-play combo Daniel Brito (2-25-.284/.355/.421 at GCL) and Arquimedes Gamboa (2-15-.200/.254/.292 at Williamsport). Both players are just 19 and are among the slickest fielders in the organization. Three other players - Brett Barbier (2-10-.282/.333/.427), Darick Hall (9-29-.282/.372/.518) and Lucas Williams (2-18-.220/.297/.301) - move up from Williamsport, and Danny Zardon (1-17-.260/.343/.407) arrives from the GCL. Alex Wojciechowski was drafted by the Phillies in the 15th round last June and will be making his pro debut with the 'Claws.

Lakewood gets a new manager this season in Marty Malloy, who joins the organization from the Houston system, where he managed the GCL Astros last season.

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