Naturals Announce Preliminary 2012 Roster
14 players return from last year’s playoff team
SURPRISE, AZ – As the Northwest Arkansas Naturals prepare to break camp in Arizona in the coming days, the Naturals announce a preliminary roster as spring training draws to a close.
The roster includes 14 players who contributed to the Naturals’ playoff run in 2011. Joining those Double-A veterans are a group of talented players who finished 2011 with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Royals’ affiliate in the Advanced-A Carolina League, a catcher who spent last season with Class-A Kane County in the Midwest League, and two players who were in the San Francisco Giants organization this past season.
The roster will include six of the Royals’ top 20 prospects as ranked by Baseball America. This includes top outfield prospect Wil Myers, who is ranked as the third best prospect in the Royals system and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who is ranked fourth overall in the Royals system.
The other prospects ranking in the top 20 that are headed to Northwest Arkansas include starting pitchers Chris Dwyer (9th), Noel Arguelles (17th), Tim Melville (19th), and infielder Christian Colon (11th).
Dwyer and Odorizzi are the only two starters with experience at the Double-A level last season with the Naturals. Odorizzi was a key starter for the Naturals in their late season playoff run, going 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA in 12 starts last season. The rest of the rotation will likely feature southpaw Justin Marks, along with Melville, and Arguelles. Marks ranked second in the Royals organization in strikeouts last season with 140, while in Class-A Advanced Wilmington. Both Arguelles and Mellville were in last year’s Blue Rocks’ rotation as well.
The bullpen will feature a lot of players with experience in Northwest Arkansas, and three newcomers. The newcomers include Bryan Paukovits, Elisaul Pimentel, and Michael Mariot all of whom pitched for the Wilmington Blue Rocks last season. Patrick Keating, the Naturals’ franchise leader in saves highlights a group of returners that includes Buddy Baumann, Andrew Dobies, Blaine Hardy, Brendan Lafferty, and Kendal Volz.
A large portion of the Naturals’ catching duties will be split between Julio Rodriguez and Ben Theriot. Rodriguez comes as a highly touted defensive catcher, who the Royals acquired from the Tigers last season in the Wilson Betemit trade with the Tigers. Theriot hit .303 for the Naturals last season and will provide some left-handed power when in the lineup. The Naturals third catcher will be Ryan Jenkins. Jenkins was selected by the Royals in the 17th round of the 2010 draft out of Auburn and split last season between Rookie Level Surprise and Idaho Falls, before finishing the season with Class-A Kane County.
Colon will begin his second full season as the Naturals shortstop, although he did see some time at second base as well during the Arizona Fall League. Colon hit .299 in the Arizona Fall League following the regular season, and remains the top-rated infield prospect in the Royals organization.
Joining Colon in the infield is a group of veterans that includes a newcomer to the Texas League. Sharlon Schoop comes to the Texas League after being signed as a minor league free agent this past off season. Schoop played five different positions last season while with Double-A Richmond. Mario Lisson, Kurt Mertins, Rey Navarro, and John Whittleman will round out the infield for the Naturals. Whittleman is the only one of the group not to appear for the Naturals last season, but has spent time in the Texas League with Frisco from 2008-10.
Myers is going to be returning to the Naturals after putting up huge numbers in the Arizona Fall League following last season. He hit .360 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 23 games. Myers hit .254 while with the Naturals, while dealing with a knee injury.
Myers will be joined in the outfield by Yem Prades, Carlo Testa, and Terry Evans. Prades finished his first full season in the minor leagues last year while with Class-A Wilmington where he hit .289. Testa was also in Wilmington last season put up similar numbers, hitting .290 in 100 games and cranking five of his seven homers in the month of August. Evans was signed by the Royals on March 6th to add depth to the outfield. He split last season between Double-A Reading (Philadelphia Phillies) and Triple-A Fresno (San Francisco Giants). He also appeared in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Angels in 2007, 2009-10, and was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. Like Whittleman, he has Texas League experience with both the Springfield Cardinals and the Arkansas Travelers, both during the 2006 season.
Several former Naturals are also remaining in Arizona to rehab from injuries. The list includes Edgar Garcia, Edgar Osuna, Paulo Orlando, Nick Van Stratten, and John Lamb. These players could potentially see action with the Naturals in 2012.
This preliminary roster is subject to change, possibly more than once, before the Naturals’ season opening game in Corpus Christi on Thursday April 5th. The Naturals home opener is Thursday April 12th at Arvest Ballpark against the San Antonio Missions.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state of the art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. You can purchase season tickets and group outings with the Naturals by calling (479) 927-4900.