By Steve Samek
Today the 2016 Florida State League champions the Bradenton Marauders begin their title defense. They do so with a loaded roster of prospects.
Starting with third ranked prospect and breakout hit of 2016 Mitch Keller. Keller started last year with West Virginia before a promotion. Keller then went on to pitch in three late season contests for the Marauders, including two in the playoffs. The most memorable of those games being an eight-shutout inning performance in game two of the finals series. Keller was then sent to the AFL to continue his development. I don’t think Keller will be here very long, especially if he dominates. Keller can be read about further in this post. https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/after-strong-season-mitch-keller-is-a-top-three-pirates-prospect/?frame-nonce=ff71ea4687
Gage Hinsz and Taylor Hern are the other big name arms to watch. Hinsz is the 11th ranked prospect in the system, while Hern is the 12th. Hern looks to show why he was traded for in the Mark Melancon deal.
The infield also carries some solid prospects. Ke’Bryan Hayes plays at third and is the fifth best in the Pirates top 30. Hayes was playing well at West Virginia before an injury last year. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=663647#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL. Number six prospect Cole Tucker comes back to Bradenton after playing in 65 games there last year. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=657061#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL
Will Craig last year’s first round draft pick also gets a look at high A. Craig is skipping over low a West Virginia Power after a season with the short-season West Virginia Black Bears. This to be a bit of an aggressive call up to me. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=643269#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL
The catching position doesn’t feature much to watch, not does the outfield. Though it may be worth noting Kevin Krause behind the dish and Casey Hughston in the outfield. Hughston struggled last season with both West Virginia clubs after being a third-round pick in 2015. I didn’t like this pick when it happened and in less he breaks out this season it may be shipping out time for him. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=641713#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL
The Marauders have a full lot of players ready to defend the title. Though a lot of it will depend on the pitching. Having a strong defense in the infield will help this staff out a lot. This is the team to watch if you want to get a glimpse of the future Pittsburgh infield. Mitch Keller should also jet up prospect boards and into double a if he looks sharp during the first half of play. Making this squad one to watch for sure.