2006 Fort Myers Miracle Season Preview

The Fort Myers Miracle opened their 2006 campaign with a win on the road against Sarasota. Here is an inside look at the 2006 Miracle, and what you can expect to see from the Twins' High-A affiliate.

Handcuffing The Opposition: One look up and down the Fort Myers pitching staff and it is safe to say it is one of the best collections of arms in any league. They have the ability to trot out an ace every fifth day, and it will be what carries this team during the 2006 season. With guys like Anthony Swarzak, Matt Garza, Jay Rainville, Kevin Slowey, Kyle Aselton, and Jose Mijares starting games, Florida State League hitters better bring their A-game.

In addition, their bullpen features some lights out talent as well, and they should be able to hold the lead for the starters in 2006. Jannio Gutierrez, Julio DePaula, Tim Lahey, and Jonathan Martinez are just a few names that round out the bullpen. Look for the Miracle to rely heavily on their pitching staff, especially with the Florida State League being such a pitcher friendly league.

Pitching Staff:

Starters: Matt Garza, Anthony Swarzak, Jay Rainville, Kevin Slowey, Kyle Aselton, Jose Mijares. Relievers: Josh Hill, Jannio Gutierrez, ulio DePaula, Ryan Callahan, Alexander Farfan, Angel Garcia, Tim Lahey, John Thomas. Closer: Jonathan Martinez.

Position Players:

DH- Luke Hughes, C- Korey Feiner, 1B- Brock Peterson, 2B- Alexi Casilla, 3B- David Winfree, SS- Trevor Plouffe, OF- Garrett Guzman, Deacon Burns, Jeremy Pickrel. Bench- Johnny Woodard, Kyle Geiger, Javier Sanchez, Justin Arneson, Erold Andrus.

Stressing Defense: Last Season, Trevor Plouffe and David Winfree combined to commit over 70 errors while playing for the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League. In a league where runs are at a premium, they are going to need to play much better defense in order to give the Miracle a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Both are great talents, and are rated very high in their respective positions, so honing their defensive skills should be their number one priority. Plouffe still rates as the best defensive middle infield prospect, so hopefully last season was an aberration.

Welcome Back: The Miracle welcome back 9 familiar faces from the 2005 squad, with six of them being pitchers, and three being position players. The pitchers include DePaula, Swarzak, Rainville, Hill, Mijares, and Gutierrez, with DePaula being the only one who spent most of his season in the Florida State League in 2005. Swarzak and Rainville combined to make 19 starts, going a collective 7-7, and hill had a 6.97 ERA in seven appearances. Gutierrez had a 1.78 ERA in 15 appearances last season, and Mijares posted a 1.50 mark in five (one start). As for position players, Arneson (.199, 56 games), Geiger (.257, 81 games), and Peterson (.250, 119 games), are the only ones who spent most of their season in the FSL.

Big Bat: The big stick in the Miracle lineup this season should be David Winfree, who drove in 101 runs for Beloit a year ago. A big, slugging third baseman, Winfree has power to all fields, and is a timely hitter. With guys like Casilla and Burns hitting in front of him, he should have another solid year in 2006. Another guy to watch is Deacon Burns, who has proved to be an extra-base hit machine during his time in the Minor Leagues.

Ace of the Staff: Close your eyes, put your hand in the hat, and pull out a name. That is how good this Fort Myers starting rotation is, and it is almost scary. Anyone of these guys would be an ace on any other team, so it is hard for me to pick one. To be fair, I will probably go with Garza, just because I think he showed what he is made of during Major League camp this spring. That is not a knock on the other pitchers, I just feel he may be Major League ready in a year.

Opening Day: The Miracle took out the Sarasota Reds on Thursday, led by a strong pitching performance by Matt Garza. Luke Hughes provided a big three-run home run, and Alexi Casilla prove to be a huge off-season pick up. They open their home schedule on Saturday, against those same Sarasota Reds. Anthony Swarzak will take the ball for the Miracle on Friday against Sarasota on the road.

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