The Hudson Valley Renegades will start their 2012 campaign on Monday with plenty of new faces to Hudson Valley fans, but also many familiar ones to those who follow the MLB First-Year player draft. The 2012 Renegades squad features three first-round draft picks and nine players who were taken in the first 10 rounds.
"The Rays organization, with all of the picks they've had over the last couple years, we're going to have first round picks on many rosters," Renegades manager Jared Sandberg said. "It's definitely exciting, those are guys that have some money and have some tools as well; they're exciting players."
The main goal in short-season Single-A is to develop talent, and manager Jared Sandberg is well aware of that. But this level also serves as an opportunity to make a name for yourself and learn baseball the "Rays way."
"Number one goal is to get them better from the time they get here to the time they leave," the third year manager said. "Obviously we're going to come out here and compete every single day, we're going to try and win every single game, but the focus is not wins and losses. The focus is on development and getting these players to play the Rays way and getting them to the big leagues in a Rays uniform."
The Renegades will start with 15 pitchers on the squad, nine of which played for the Princeton Rays in 2011. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal's Sean McMann, Jeff Ames, a first-round pick in 2011 (42nd overall) will get the starting nod on Monday. Ames went 4-2 in Princeton in 2011, posting a 7.12 ERA and a 39-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 11 appearances. McMann reported that Ames will be followed by two high draft selections coming off of a year away from the game ready to make their professional baseball debuts, Jesse Hahn and Taylor Guerrieri. Hahn, 2010's sixth round pick out of Virginia Tech, missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Guerrieri was ranked 4th on the Rays Digest Tampa Bay Rays 2012 Top 50 Prospects list. The 20-year-old did not play last season after signing a contract late in the season.
"I'm ready to play," Guerrieri said. "It's nice. I'm ready to actually begin my professional career, and I'm looking forward to it."
Other former Princeton Rays arms on this year's Hudson Valley team include Shay Crawford, Brandon Henderson, Marcus Jensen, Ian Kendall, Reinaldo Lopez, Jose Molina, Eduar Quinonez and Matt Spann. Molina, a product of Bonao, Dominican Republic, recorded a 2.55 ERA in 42.1 innings with Princeton in 2011, while Spann led the team with 61 strikeouts in 63.1 innings, posting and ERA of 3.13.
The pitching staff also includes four First-Year Player 2012 draft choices of the Rays. Southpaw Sean Bierman, the 10th-rounder out of the University of Tampa, is joined by righties Dylan Floro (13th round, Cal State Fullerton), Ryan Garton (34th round, Florida Atlantic), and Rob Finneran (37th round, Bentley University). At Tampa, Bierman started 15 games, going 8-3 with an ERA of 2.27 while striking out 85 walking 11.
On the other side of the battery, Hudson Valley will start with a group of four catchers. Two picks from the 2010 draft, Justin O'Conner (first round) and Jake DePew (ninth round) have moved up from Princeton and will be joined by newcomers Luke Maile and Patrick Reardon. Sandberg said that O'Conner will mostly DH this season. Maile was the Rays' eighth-round selection in the 2012 draft after he hit .319/.426/.533 and led the Wildcats with 13 home runs. Reardon took a less-traveled road to end up in Hudson Valley, going undrafted and now getting offered a free agent contract by the Rays after a scout saw him play at an independent league tryout in Connecticut.
The rest of the infield includes the lone returner from last year's Hudson Valley team —Leonardo Reginatto, the Brazil native, who hit .198 in 63 games as a shortstop for the Renegades. Felix Gonzalez, a utility infielder, spent time in Hudson Valley in 2010 before hitting .289 in Princeton last season. The rest of the infield will be made up of 2012 draftees: Tommy Coyle (16th round) out of North Carolina, Ryan Dunn (17th round) from Oregon State and Luke Maile's former Kentucky teammate Michael Williams (30th round). For the Beavers, Dunn hit .286/.374/.464 with seven homers and 36 RBIs.
The Renegades outfield consists of two newcomers to the Rays' organization in addition to Joel Caminero and DeShun Dixon. Dixon, the 2010 10th-round draftee moves up from Princeton where he hit .211 with five home runs in Princeton in 2011. Caminero started the 2012 season with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, where he hit .209 in 134 at-bats. 2012 seventh-round selection Marty Gantt will add power and speed, after he hit .373/.483/.614 for the College of Charleston this past season while adding 11 homers and 29 stolen bases. Charles Epperson, an undrafted free agent from Jackson State, rounds out the Renegades' outfield.
Hudson Valley will begin its journey through the New York-Penn League with a 6:35 start time at Dutchess Stadium as the Renegades take on the Aberdeen IronBirds (Baltimore).
Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.
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