FORT WAYNE, Ind. For the first time in team history, the Fort Wayne TinCaps will have a position player from the region as infielder Josh VanMeter, a 2013 graduate of Norwell High School, located in Ossian, Indiana, has been named to the team’s Opening Day 25-man roster.
The 19-year-old VanMeter won a Class 3A state baseball championship in June with Norwell, and was selected in the fifth round (148th overall) by San Diego in last summer’s draft. Last year VanMeter led the Arizona League Padres in runs (33) and walks (24), both of which were seventh-best in the league. He hit .278 in 44 games under Manager Michael Collins. VanMeter is ranked as the 31st-best prospect in San Diego’s farm system according to Baseball America. VanMeter becomes the fourth TinCaps player, and the first position player, to hail from the region, joining Leo’s Brandon Alger (2012), Bryan, Ohio’s Matt Wisler (2012) and Defiance, Ohio, native Justin Hancock (2012, 2013).
VanMeter will be joined on the infield by one of the top prospects in the Arizona League last year, Dominican-born 19-year-old Franchy Cordero. Cordero, who hit .333 with three home runs and 17 RBI in 35 AZL games, tied for the league lead in slugging percentage and was an AZL All-Star, while also being rated as the number three prospect in the league by Baseball America.
Also among that group of top-rated AZL prospects is a 2013 second-round selection of the Padres, Dustin Peterson. The Phoenix, Arizona, native chose a professional career over a scholarship to play baseball at Arizona State. Peterson was tabbed as the 15th-best prospect in the Arizona League by Baseball America after hitting .293 in 38 games. His brother, D.J., was selected 13th overall last year by the Seattle Mariners.
A returner on the infield is second-year TinCaps first-baseman Luis Tejada. Last season as a 20-year-old, Tejada played 111 games at first base for Fort Wayne, and was named a Midwest League All-Star under manager José Valentín. The remainder of the infield includes returner Reynaldo Bruguera, who played in 23 games with the TinCaps last year, and 2012 third-round selection Fernando Perez.
Both catchers, Ryan Miller and Dane Phillips, have TinCaps tenure. Phillips played in 58 games with Fort Wayne last year, and was a Midwest League All-Star selection. Miller, who began 2013 with short-season Eugene, took the field in three TinCaps games last season.
The outfield is highlighted by the return of the 2013 Midwest League leader in stolen bases, Mallex Smith. The Tallahassee, Florida, native nabbed 64 stolen bases in 110 games last season, falling one shy of the Fort Wayne franchise record for steals in a season. He’s joined by three international talents: Henry Charles, Franmil Reyes, and Jose Urena.
The 18-year-old Reyes, who already stands at 6’5”, 240 pounds, was rated after the 2013 season as having the “best power” in the San Diego farm system, according to Prospect Digest. He led the 2013 AZL Padres in hits (52), doubles (12), and finished second with 30 runs batted in.
Urena, who will be 19 for the duration of the 2014 campaign, led the Arizona League in home runs (9), and total bases (97). The Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, native was an AZL All-Star and Baseball America named him the number five prospect in the Arizona League.
The 13-man pitching staff consists of six former TinCaps — Erik Cabrera, Matt Chabot, Tayron Guerrero, Genison Reyes, Josh Richardson, and 2012 supplemental first-round pick Walker Weickel. Among players new to Fort Wayne, the highest-drafted is 2013 fourth-rounder Walker Lockett.
The roster features players from seven different states (Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia) and four different countries (Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, United States).
The 2014 TinCaps will be led by first-year Manager Michael Collins. Burt Hooton and Morgan Burkhart return as pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively. The athletic trainer, in his second season, is Ricky Huerta, and Dan Byrne enters his first year as strength and conditioning coach.
2014 Opening Day Roster (25 players):
Pitchers (13): Payton Baskette, Jimmi Brasoban, Erik Cabrera, Matt Chabot, Adrian De Horta, Tayron Guerrero, Pete Kelich, Walker Lockett, Nick Mutz, Genison Reyes, Josh Richardson, Tony Rizzotti, Walker Weickel
Catchers (2): Ryan Miller, Dane Phillips
Infielders (6): Reynaldo Bruguera, Franchy Cordero, Fernando Perez, Dustin Peterson, Luis Tejada, Josh VanMeter
Outfielders (4): Henry Charles, Franmil Reyes, Mallex Smith, Jose Urena