Thursday, April 6, 2017

Meet the 2017 Biscuits

A new season dawns with a fresh batch of Biscuits. There are quite a few holdovers from last year, about half the team is new to Montgomery.

Gone are several seasoned bench veterans and some prospects graduated, but taking their place is a talented mix of young players.

Brent Honeywell
Brent Honeywell, the Biscuits open the season with their top prospect on the bump - Honeywell, who just turned 22, returns to show he can dominate like he did in his nearly half season with the Skitz last year.

Tossing a screwball is impressive, but it is probably just his third best pitch, after his dominant heater and heavy sinker. Biscuit fans will be looking forward to every fifth day as #HoneyDay

Hunter Wood is the second starter but that doesn't necessarily mean he is second best. Wood was having very few problems with Southern League hitters last year when a comebacker derailed his season and a potential no-hitter, sending to the DL.

Wood gives the Biscuits a one-two punch at the top of the rotation that is as good as any in the league.
Hunter Wood
Yonny Chirinos
Yonny Chirinos returns to fill the third spot in the rotation, a solid innings-eater with a knack for getting the timely ground ball.

Chirinos had a nice season last year between the Biscuits, High-A Port Charlotte and Single-A Bowling Green to earn a combined 3.36 Era.

Greg Harris comes to Montgomery after posting a sparkling 3.12 ERA last year in Port Charlotte. Stingy on hits, the young righty is the son of former Major League pitcher Greg Harris, known for his ability to pitch with either arm - "an amphibious pitcher" as Yogi would say.

This Harris has excellent strikeouts numbers and doesn't like to give up hits. He tossed a pair of shutouts last year for the StoneCrabs.

Mike Franco
Mike Franco is the announced fifth starter, though the Texas native only started in three of his thirty-three appearances last year. Still, his numbers for the StoneCrabs are sterling, lots of strikeouts and held opponents to a paltry .189 batting average in his 71 innings pitched.

With the Biscuits, he has a chance to earn his keep in the rotation, at least until injured lefty Chris Kirsch returns from the DL and maybe even beyond that.

Pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein seemed really high on his bullpen this year, though he admitted there would probably be a period of adjustment for some of them. "Each one of these guys comes out throwing gas, 94-96mph and up. Except Harrison, who slings it sidearm from his shoetops, which is just as tough to hit!"

Brad Schreiber, the big righthander returns to the Skitz having earned his spot in the pen. He had rough outings last summer and had to prove himself in spring, but his velocity is up and the cheerful reliever seems set to return to form.

Watching Brad throw a bullpen in early spring was more than encouraging for pitching coach Lichtenstein who knew right away he was back on track, saying "When he's right, he unhittable. And he looks right."
Brad Schreiber

Kyle Winkler
Kyle Winkler seems to be a lefthander trapped in a right handed body - the Texan has a funky delivery but it has brought reliable relief into the game whenever he is called.

Entering his third year wearing the Biscuits uni, Winkler is ready to offer some shutdown innings and show he is up for the next challenge, success out of the Biscuits pen could lead to Winkler moving to Durham sooner rather than later.

Edwin Fierro was pitching at age 18 for Campeche and learned quickly about big games and competitive teams. Now Fierro comes to Montgomery with a talent for getting out of tight spots. His single-A stats don't pop off the page, just 17 strikeouts against 40 hits in 33 innings last year, but Edwin seems to be some sort of escape artist since his ERA was a tidy 3.78.
Edwin Fierro, left, and Ciuffo

Diego Castillo
Diego Castillo, hard throwing right hander cuts an imposing figure on the mound. Six foot four and 240, Castillo has worked his way up from the Dominican Summer League to double-A and has an excellent 3.20 career Era to show for it.

Advancing four levels in two seasons, plus a trip to the Arizona Fall League, the Rays have yet to find a challenge that Diego can't overcome.

Fernando Baez
Fernando Baez, signed as a catcher by the Cardinals, then converted to a pitcher, the righty suffered an injury that resulted in Tommy Juan surgery. Released by the Cards, the Rays picked him up and Baez rehabbed with Tampa and now has earned a shot at double-A.

His stats ARE eye-popping - 70 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched, only twenty hits allowed in his 24 appearances.

Jordan Harrison, lhp
Jordan Harrison returns to Montgomery, bringing his southpaw sidearm delivery for his third season as a Biscuit.

Stingy on allowing hits but occasionally prone to the base on balls, 'Arry kept hitters off balance and the bullpen guys loose with his sense of humor.

His numbers are fine, but he is due to give up a home run after not allowing a single long ball all last year.

Lhp Kyle Bird
Kyle Bird, a 35th round draft choice, joined the Skitz last year and proved he belonged with a solid 2.94 Era. Bird provided regular lefthanded relief, often pitching multiple innings and in save situations.

Jose Alvarado
Jose Alvarado, pitching at two levels last summer, the Venezuelan lefty was a strikeout machine. 85 punchouts in just 37 games earns Jose a seat in Brady Williams bullpen.

One of just two Biscuit pitchers on the Rays 40 man roster, Alvarado could be on the fast track if he keeps striking out hitters at the same pace.

Nick Ciuffo, a top catching prospect, brings an excellent reputation for throwing out baserunners at an amazing 60% clip last season.
Also able to catch popcorn like a boss, Nick Ciuffo

Justin O'Conner returns to prove he is healthy and could easily be ready to retake his prospect label. One of the best arms in baseball from behind the plate, O'Conner is a threat to any baserunner and gives the Biscuits the most dangerous plate tenders in the league.
Justin O'Conner

The all new infield is raw and will experience a few "growing pains" but has as much talent as any squad in the league.

Joe McCarthy - No, not the senator at the center of the 1950s communist hearings. Also no to the HOF former manager of the Cubs, Yanks and BoSox. This Joe Mac is a lefty first baseman in the Mark Grace style, he won't hit 25 hr's but he will still post a tidy OPS over .800. McCarthy, a 5th round choice by the Rays in 2015, played more outfield for Port Charlotte than he did at first base, making over 30 starts in the outfield.

Michael Russell
Mike Russell, also a 5th round choice, taken in 2014. Russell is skipping a level, playing at Bowling Green last year. Like McCarthy, Russell is a high average, doubles machine.

A righthanded hitter, Michael appeared in nearly as many games at shortstop (38) as he did at first base (41) for the HotRods. He also made starts at third base and in left field, giving him a super utility factor.

Riley Unroe, a second round pick in 2013, Unroe's father Tim played for the Brewers, Braves and Angels. Riley, a New Orleans native, is a switch hitting middle infielder who could bring the team twenty steals. Unroe showed really well in the Australian League in 2015-16, offering timely hitting and fine defense.

Andrew Velasquez
Andrew Velasquez, drafted out of Fordham Prep in 2012, this Bronx native is a switch hitting shortstop who can also handle occasional duties at second or third base. With just one home run in his last two seasons, Velasquez looks more like a hit for average not for power infielder. 

Alec Sole, getting in just a handful of games with the Biscuits last year could earn the lefty hitting an edge in getting playing time early in the season. Sole brings a good eye to the plate and has nice speed, stealing 14 bags last summer.

Grant Kay is listed as a third baseman due to his 111 games there with Bowling Green in 2015, but last year with the StoneCrabs he played in nearly 80 games at first base and less than a dozen games at third. He also played a game or two at second base, shortstop, left field, fifteen games in right field, and even pitched twice.

Basically he is a baseball swiss army knife in the field. At the dish, the righthanded Kay has occasional pop and excellent speed.
Grant Kay

All four outfielders return from last year to form the heart of the Biscuits lineup for 2017. Fans will enjoy watching the outfielders showcase their speed in the field as well as their development as batsmen.

Granden Goetzman, sporting a blond mohawk is a highlight reel waiting to happen. Stealing twenty-six bases last year was impressive but this year he appears more refined and ready to have a break out season.

Primarily a left fielder, the right handed hitting Goetzman has just twenty milb career home runs but could surpass that mark this season after cutting down on his strikeouts over the past two seasons. 

Cade Gotta
Cade Gotta brings it, full speed and max effort. Hustle is a word too tame for Gotta. The Biscuits version of Hunter Pence returns to Riverwalk, perhaps now a little safer with nets to contain his foul balls. Gotta doesn't simply hit a pitch, he appears to be trying to mash the back side of the ball through the front side of the ball in an effort to turn the orb inside out.

Gotta stole 22 bases last year for Montgomery, plus seven in single-A before he got here to make a career high 29. Expect him to exceed that this year and for his batting average to improve in his return to the Skitz. Fielding? Just get out of his way!

Braxton Lee & Cade Gotta
Braxton Lee has a world of talent, but struggled to hit .200 last year, almost 80 points below his career average. He was the poster child for "having an off year". That he played in over 100 games with such a low average shows that manager Brady Williams had faith in the Picayune native.

Expect Lee to get back to being himself, likely playing a lot of center field to utilize his excellent speed and picking up plenty of infield hits.

Justin Williams, left, and Andrew Velasquez
Justin Williams is a joy to watch on a baseball field, the Houma, Louisiana native has a ton of raw ability and a positive attitude towards the game. A career .310 hitter, Justin was challenged by Southern League pitches last summer but at some point this season will make the adjustment to the cheers of Biscuits fans and tears of opposing hurlers.

The 6'2 lefthanded Williams cut his strikeouts nearly in half from 2015 to 2016 and has the look of a future impact player.

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