Thanks to Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Examiner and the Isotopes themselves, we now know what the Opening Day roster for the 2011 AAA squad will look like. Keep in mind, of course, that Tim Wallach’s 2010 edition ran through approximately 287 players, so the crew you see today will hardly resemble what we see ending the season, thanks to injuries, promotions, and trades. They haven’t yet announced the actual roles of the pitchers, so I’m going to do my best guesses on that. Since it’s AAA in a high-offense environment, I won’t bag on them too badly for going with the dreaded 13-man staff.
How about that – each member of the 13-man staff has seen previous big-league time. That’s either a very good thing (experience) or very bad thing (no highly-touted young prospect coming up), depending on how you look at it. This collection might change before the season even starts, of course, if Redding or Ely need to start in place of Jon Garland in San Diego this weekend.
Hitters (11 + 1 DL)
C JD Closser
C Damaso Espino
C Keyter Collado (DL)
1B John Lindsey
2B Justin Sellers
SS Dee Gordon
3B Russ Mitchell
IF Juan Castro
LF Jerry Sands
CF Trayvon Robinson
RF Jamie Hoffmann
OF Trent Oeltjen
Only six of the eleven bats – Closser, Lindsey, Mitchell, Castro, Hoffmann, and Oeltjen – have MLB experience, though that’s likely to change by season’s end. I didn’t expect that Gordon would start off in AAA, but the idea of having him, Sands, and Robinson all in the lineup together is going to make me want to catch more than my share of Albuquerque baseball. This lineup is likely to change shortly as well, with Ivan DeJesus almost certainly headed back to AAA this week when Casey Blake returns.
As you may remember, a few days before Christmas I took a shot at predicting what the Opening Day roster might be. Of the eleven bats, I nailed eight: Closser, Lindsey, Sellers, Mitchell, Sands, Robinson, Hoffmann, and Oeltjen. I’m taking a mulligan on two others; DeJesus would be here if not for Blake’s injury and will be here anyway soon enough, and A.J. Ellis would be here if Dioner Navarro hadn’t hurt himself in the last week of spring. I whiffed on Castro not going to AAA and Gordon starting in AA, assuming that Eugenio Velez and Travis Denker or an NRI would be there instead.
On the pitching side, I successfully got eight: Ely, Eveland, Monasterios, Link, Elbert, Villareal, Schlichting, and Troncoso. Redding, Colon, Keisler, and Valdez all signed after my post. I’ll take it.
Overall, the Isotopes seem to have an interesting collection of experienced – though not that exciting – pitchers, and young – and very exciting – bats. So there’s plenty of reasons to watch the ‘topes this year, considering you can expect to see at least five of these pitchers as fill-ins in LA later in the season, you can gauge the progression of Sands, Robinson, Gordon, & DeJesus, and you can root for Juan Castro to strike out every time so no one is tempted to recall him back to the big club yet again. Should be a fun season.
Where’s Josh Lindblom? He’s not listed on the Isotope roster, nor does he appear on the AA roster of the Chattanooga Lookouts (which does feature Rubby De La Rosa and Chris Withrow, among others). He pitched just two innings in big league camp, though I don’t recall hearing about any injury. My guess, for the moment, is that he’s going to remain in Arizona getting some work in until a roster spot opens up with the Isotopes.
(Update: lovely blog commenter c.lo points out that Lindblom is indeed on the updated AA roster. That can mean one of two things; either that it’s a procedural thing, and he is just getting some extra work in Arizona without taking up an AAA roster spot, or that his 2010 – 6.54 ERA, 13.5 hits/9 – was so dreadful that he’s being demoted back to AA for the first time since 2008.)