The Rock Cats rotation looks very solid on paper, as they return Nick Blackburn to their starting rotation. Blackburn has a proven track record at the Double-A level, and has even tasted Triple-A in his career. Errol Simonitsch also returns to the Cats rotation, and is rated as one of the top left-handed starting pitching prospects in the Twins organization. He will start the season on the disabled list.
Joining Blackburn and Simonitsch in the rotation will be top prospect Anthony Swarzak, who is getting his first taste of Double-A ball. Swarzak was one of the better starters in the Florida State League in 2006, and boasts one of the best arsenals in the Twins organization. Another top prospect in the rotation will be Brian Duensing, a top lefty starter who absolutely eats innings.
Rounding out the rotation will be newcomer Jesse Floyd and possibly Jose Mijares, who should get some starts until Simonitsch is back. Mijares is a member of the Twins 40-man roster, and throws gas for a guy of his stature. Floyd was picked up by the Twins in the Minor League portion of the Rule V draft.
The bullpen has some notables in it as well, including Tim Lahey, Danny Powers, and Jay Sawatski. Lahey had a lot of success in the Appalachian League, and Powers was a top reliever for the Beloit Snappers in 2006. Sawatski has some experience at the Double-A level, and should be counted on to be a top middle reliever for the team in 2007. Brian Forystek is a guy who is new to the Twins farm system, and will likely be in a middle relief role as well.
The closing duties could be shared by two prospects, including Jonathan Martinez. Martinez has had a lot of success coming out of the bullpen during his time with the Twins organization, and is considered a top closing prospect. Newcomer Brad Baker could also see some time in the closing role, as he was recently picked up by the Twins as a free agent.
Behind the plate for the Rock Cats will be Korey Feiner and Kyle Geiger. Geiger was a Florida State League All-Star in 2006, and is one of the better game-callers in the Twins organization. He will likely be in Rochester by the end of the season. Feiner has a very strong arm behind the plate, and could also see some time in the outfield.
The Rock Cats will have a lot of power coming out of their corner infield spots, as they boast two of the better power hitters in the Twins organization. Brock Peterson and David Winfree both have the ability to go deep at any time in a game, and they both drive in runs in bunches. Newcomer Brian Buscher will back up Winfree at third base, but could also see some time at first. Winfree may see time at first base as well this season.
The middle infield could be a spot that makes, or breaks the Rock Cats season. Top prospect Trevor Plouffe will be the team's shortstop, and he is looking to rebound after two sub-par seasons. He will be joined up the middle by incumbent starter Felix Molina, who is a fan favorite in New Britain. Plouffe looks to have added some weight to his frame this season, and all signs point to a big year from him.
Manning centerfield for the Rock Cats this season will be top prospect Brandon Roberts, giving the Rock Cats faithful a top centerfield prospect for the second straight season. Roberts is the ultimate table-setter at the top of the order, and should challenge for the organization lead in stolen bases in 2007. He has been electric since coming over from the Reds organization, and should provide quite a spark at the top of the Rock Cats order.
Joining Roberts in the outfield will be Garrett Guzman, Rashad Eldridge, and Matt Allegra. Guzman was the Twins Comeback Player of the Year in 2006, after he came back from a broken neck. Eldridge is new to the Twins organization, and Allegra is a corner outfielder with good power. After seeing Eldridge in Spring Training, he could be a guy who fits right into this Rock Cats lineup.
2007 New Britain Rock Cats Opening Day Roster:
Starting Rotation: Nick Blackburn, Errol Simonitsch (DL), Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, Jesse Floyd, Jose Mijares
Bullpen: Brad Baker, Jonathan Martinez, Tim Lahey, Danny Powers, Jay Sawatski, Brian Forystek
Catchers: Korey Feiner, Kyle Geiger
Infielders: Brock Peterson, Felix Molina, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, Gil Velazquez, David Winfree, Brian Buscher
Outfielders: Brandon Roberts, Garrett Guzman, Rashad Eldridge, Matt Allegra