The Fort Myers Miracle's opening day roster for the 2013 season is set, comprised of 12 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders, four outfielders and two on the disabled list.
They opened the season Thursday night at Hammond Stadium against the Bradenton Marauders.
Star prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario highlight a talented roster. Sano, the top-rated prospect in the Minnesota organization by Baseball America, begins his second full season in professional baseball with the Miracle. The 6-foot-4, 236-pound third baseman hit .258 in Beloit last year with 28 home runs, 28 doubles, 100 runs batted in and 75 runs scored in 129 games.
Rosario also makes the jump from the Midwest League after hitting .296 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI over 95 games in 2012. Continuing a defensive transition from 2012, Rosario will play second base for the Miracle. The 6-0, 170-pound native of Puerto Rico was a fourth-round selection by the Twins in 2010 and Baseball America ranks Rosario as the seventh-best prospect in the Minnesota organization.
Sano and Rosario lead a group of 11 players that will make their Miracle debuts in 2013.
The starting rotation blends experience and new faces. Returning starter Tom Stuifbergen started the opener Thusday, fresh off the World Baseball Classic staff with the Netherlands.
Joining Stuifbergen in the rotation are fellow returnees Madison Boer and Matt Summers along with newcomers Jason Wheeler and D.J. Baxendale. Wheeler led Beloit last year with 14 wins and 156 2/3 innings pitched. Baxendale struck out 31 in 18 2/3 innings with Elizabethton and Beloit in 2012 after being drafted in the 10th round out of the University of Arkansas.
In the bullpen, the Miracle welcome fresh arms Cole Johnson, Zach Jones, Chad Rodgers and Corey Williams alongside returnees Miguel Munoz, Ryan O'Rourke and Adrian Salcedo. Jones has been clocked with a 99-mph fastball and Johnson had a miniscule 1.71 earned run average over 42 innings last season in Beloit.
Handling the pitching staff are catchers Kyle Knudson and Matt Koch. Knudson spent time in Twins Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and Koch appeared in 89 games with Beloit in 2012 with a .253 batting average, eight home runs and 39 driven in.
Along with Sano and Rosario, the Miracle have an imposing infield. At first base, 6-6, 264-pound Michael Gonzales returns after ending last year on the disabled list. Gonzales hit six home runs and drove in 27 runs in 72 games with the Miracle in 2012. Splitting time with Gonzales is 6-5, 273-pound Kennys Vargas from Puerto Rico. The switch-hitting Vargas played for Beloit a year ago and hit .318 with 11 home runs and 36 runs batted in over 41 games.
Florida Gulf Coast alum Stephen Wickens will roam the middle infield for the Miracle along with A.J. Pettersen and utility man Andy Leer. Wickens made 204 starts for the Eagles in his NCAA career and was drafted in the 33rd round by Minnesota in 2011. Playing with Elizabethton and Beloit in 2012, Wickens hit .307 in 59 games. Pettersen was a .248 hitter with Beloit last season and Leer played six different positions with the Miracle in 2012.
In the outfield, the Miracle return three and host a newcomer to the Minnesota organization. Jhon Goncalves and Angel Morales each have played parts of multiple seasons with Fort Myers and Lance Ray led the Miracle in home runs and RBI a year ago. Michael Kvasnicka was traded to the Twins on March 26 from the Houston Astros and was originally selected by Minnesota in the 31st round in 2007, but did not sign.
Infielder Levi Michael and pitcher Jhon Garcia are currently on the disabled list.
The Miracle are managed by Doug Mientkiewicz in his first season. Jim Dwyer returns as the hitting coach, Ivan Arteaga joins the staff as the pitching coach and Alan Rail is the athletic trainer.
Fans can listen to all 140 games of the regular season presented by Square One Burgers & Bar at www.miraclebaseball.com with the "Voice of the Miracle" Brice Zimmerman and Adam MacDonald.