The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. The Rochester Red Wings are looking to build on their successful 2017 season. Finishing 80-62 tied with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Red Wings missed out on the playoffs in 2017. There will be a new manager at the controls in 2018 for Rochester. Joel Skinner takes over for Mike Quade who managed the Red Wings the past three seasons. Skinner has been in control an just about every level of professional baseball, including a stop with the Cleveland Indians back in 2002. He will have a much different roster than Quade had, but there is certainly plenty of talent still.
There are a few names that should be familiar from last season, but an influx of others should keep things interesting in 2018.
Well one pitcher that will be on the opening day roster for the Red Wings is kind of the odd man out. After the team acquired Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn, Adalberto Mejia had no place with the Twins and ended up back in Triple-A. Mejia made 21 starts in the big leagues last season with some success. His stint with the Red Wings was a good one appearing in six games going 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA. He doesn’t seem destined to last long in Triple-A this season but that all depends on the Twins.
A happy site for Red Wings fans must be the return of Aaron Slegers. Slegers was great last season in Rochester going 15-4 in 24 starts. His success earned him a promotion to the big leagues making his debut on August 17th against the Cleveland Indians.
Two of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects will begin the season in Rochester. The #2 prospect Fernando Romero has played for just about all of the Twins minor league teams stopping this season with the Red Wings. Overall in his professional career, Romero has pitched to a 23-16 record including 11 wins last season with Chattanooga. Another top pitching prospect making his way onto the Red Wings is #21 prospect John Curtiss. Just like Romero, Curtiss has made his way through the Twins system making it all the way to the big club. He had a tremendous 2017 and looks to build on that to get back to the show.
The pitch callers for Rochester are a bit different from 2017. Mitch Garver has moved on to the bigs and John Ryan Murphy has moved on. Coming to the team this season are crafty vet Bobby Wilson, former major league and independent league catcher Jordan Pachecho, and Willians Astudillo. The former might get a majority of the time behind the plate but that is unknown.
INFIELD and OUTFIELD
There are plenty of different names rounding out the remainder of the Red Wings roster. One player that impressed me last season that is returning is Zack Granite. Granite doesn’t have much on the power side of things, but he can sure hit. In 71 games last season he hit .338 and registered 96 hits in 313 at-bats. He had a knack of getting on base at a .392 clip and was really good in the field as well. Even though he made his major league debut last season with the Twins, Granite is still ranked #27 in Minnesota’s organization.
Designated for assignment by the New York Yankees, Jake Cave was acquired after by the Twins for a minor league pitcher. Cave was more a victim of circumstance after the Yankees acquired Neil Walker and Minnesota swooped in and grabbed him. He hit .324 with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in 2017 with 15 home runs. Cave gives Rochester some power and will slot in nicely in the batting order.
In a whirlwind of moves the Twins designated Kennys Vargas and ended up losing him the the Cincinnati Reds. In what seemed like 15 minutes later (actually two days) the Twins claimed Vargas back from the Reds and sent him to Rochester. Sort of like what Cave was to the Yankees, Vargas was to the Twins having no place for him after signing Logan Morrison. Vargas adds some more pop to the lineup and will serve mostly as the teams designated hitter.
Overall the look of the team is different but the results are expected to be the same. Rochester was close last season to making the playoffs and time will tell if the change of roster will get them over the hump.