The New York Mets released an unofficial Opening Day roster for the 2016 Fireflies . The squad features four Mets prospects – as ranked by Baseball America and MLB.com – shortstop Milton Ramos (#11 MLB, #19 Baseball America), catcher Patrick Mazeika (#25 BA) and infielders David Thompson (#26 MLB) and Dash Winningham (#29 BA).
This unofficial roster consists of 28 players. It is still to be determined who will remain on the Fireflies roster before the season opener on Thursday, April 7, in Charleston, South Carolina. The final 25-man roster will be announced .
A year ago, Ramos, Mazeika, Winningham and outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski led the Mets’ advanced-rookie affiliate in Kingsport, Tennessee, to a division crown. Kaczmarski (.355) and Mazeika (.354) sat atop the Appalachian League in hitting and were both honored with the Sterling Award at the end of the year, given to the best player(s) at each level in the Mets minor league system. Winningham played his part as well, blasting 12 homers, which tied for the league lead.
Kaczmarksi is also labeled as the best defensive player in the 2015 Mets draft class by Baseball America.
Ramos and outfielder Ivan Wilson are the two highest-drafted players on the Fireflies roster. After growing up in Colombia (South America), Ramos moved to Florida at a young age, and was eventually taken in the third round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of American Heritage High School. Wilson is known for his power at the plate, and was also selected in the third round of the previous 2013 draft.
According to Baseball America, Thompson is the “Top Sleeper” in the Mets organization this year. The former Miami Hurricane star smacked 19 home runs as a junior last spring to lead the ACC. Interestingly enough, the infielder began his collegiate career as a two-sport athlete. He was a quarterback on the football team for one season before leaving to focus solely on baseball.
Columbia’s pitching staff features plenty of sharp arms, many of which pitched for the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets short-season A) last season. That team finished second in the New York-Penn League in total strikeouts. In fact, three pitchers on this season’s Fireflies roster finished with ERA’s below 1.00 in Brooklyn last year: Alex Palsha, P.J. Conlon andChristian Montgomery. Palsha notched 13 saves for the Cyclones in 2015 on his way to a Sterling Award.
As announced in January, Jose Leger (pronounced Leh-HAIR) – in his seventh season in the Mets organization – is the team’s manager. He’ll be joined by pitching coach Jonathan Hurst and hitting coach Joel (Yo-El) Fuentes in the dugout. Trainer Kiyoshi Tada and Strength and Conditioning Coach Alex Tavarez round out the Fireflies coaching staff.
While no players hail from the Palmetto State, Hurst is a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The former big leaguer went to Spartanburg High School and later saw much success playing collegiately for Spartanburg Methodist University. Right-handed pitcher Craig Missigman grew up in Charlotte, about 90 minutes from Columbia, and righty Tyler Bashlor – a Georgia native – played his high school ball at Calvary Day School in Savannah, Georgia.
The Fireflies arrived in Columbia night after traveling from St. Lucie, Florida, where the Mets hold Spring Training. The club begins its season night on the road against the Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees).
2016 Roster Breakdown
Pitchers (13): Tyler Badamo, Tyler Bashlor, Kevin Canelon, P.J. Conlon, Seth Davis, Witt Haggard, Chase Ingram, Johnny Magliozzi, Thomas McIlraith, Craig Missigman, Christian Montgomery, Alex Palsha, Joe Shaw
Catchers (4): Jose Garcia, Patrick Mazeika, Tyler Moore, Natanael Ramos
Infielders (6): Jeffrey Diehl, Milton Ramos, J.C. Rodriguez, Vincent Siena, David Thompson, Dash Winngham
Outfielders (5): Kevin Kaczmarski, Vicente Lupo, Tucker Tharp, Joe Tuschak, Ivan Wilson