MYRTLE BEACH, SC – The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class A Advanced affiliate of the American League champion Texas Rangers, have announced their Opening Day roster for the 2011 season. This year's club boasts eight players ranked in Baseball America's Top-30 Texas Rangers Prospects list including all five rotation members to kick off the campaign.
Highlighting a star-studded starting five pitchers is left-hander Robbie Erlin, the fourth-best overall prospect in the Texas system according to Baseball America and the second-best southpaw hurler. A 2009 third-round draft selection out of Scotts Valley (CA) High School, Erlin made the jump out of spring training to the Class A Hickory Crawdads for his first full professional season in 2010 and proceeded to lead the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.12) and strikeouts-to-walks ratio (7.4) at just 19 years old. Joining Erlin in the Pelicans' gem-laden starting staff are fellow lefty Robbie Ross (BA #19) and right-handers Joe Weiland (#22), Barret Loux (#24), and Neil Ramirez (#27) who saw action Tuesday night with the Texas squad in their historic exhibition game against Coastal Carolina University at BB&T Coastal Field. Left-hander Kasey Kiker, who Baseball America lists as the system's eighth-best lefty starter, will pair with Erlin to begin the season as he readies himself for an anticipated move to Double-A Frisco. The two will swap starts with one piggybacking off the other's starts in each ballgame.
Behind their front line, the Pelicans will open play with a relief corps of seven relievers including lefties Chad Bell, ranked as BA #7 among Rangers' southpaw starting pitchers, and Joseph Ortiz as well as right-handers Kennil Gomez, Trevor Hurley, Ryan Kelly, Tyler Tufts, and Johan Yan.
Myrtle Beach's position player depth is pronounced as well, and the Birds' inaugural 2011 bats are headlined by third baseman Mike Olt . The University of Connecticut product checks in at #7 in the Baseball America overall ledger and as the top hot corner prospect in the Texas ranks. Olt set UCONN career records with 44 home runs and 177 runs batted in and led the Huskies to the NCAA playoffs last year for the first time since 1994. In 69 games with the Short-Season A Spokane Indians, the 6'2", 215-lb third baseman batted .293 with nine home runs and 43 runs driven in. Fellow power prospect Chris McGuinness will hold down the opposite corner for the Pelicans as the top-rated first baseman in the Rangers' system along with first baseman/outfielder Jared Bolden. Joining that corners trio in the infield are second basemen Travis Adair and Santiago Chirino as well as shortstops Andres James and Leury Garcia (BA #15 overall). Behind the plate, the Pelicans' pitching staff is in the hands of backstops Vinny DiFazio and Zach Zaneski.
The BB&T Coastal Field pastures will be stocked as well in 2011 with a solid core group of young outfielders. Center fielder Jared Hoying leads the way in the outfield for the Birds in the new year. Baseball America's 25th overall prospect in the Texas system is the top man at his position for the Rangers and earned Northwest League MVP honors last year behind a blistering campaign in which he batted .325 with ten home runs, 51 runs batted in, and an impressive .921 OPS over the course of 62 games with Spokane. Hoying will be joined by Jared Prince and Ryan Strausborger.
With their affiliation change to the Texas Rangers for the 2011 season, the Pelicans also welcome in a brand new field staff led by manager Jason Wood. Along with hitting coach Julio Garcia and pitching coach Brad Holman, the 41-year-old former big leaguer Wood leads the Pelicans into a new era under the Texas banner in his first managerial job. Wood, who saw major league service time with the Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers, and Florida Marlins in a career that spanned five seasons over eleven years, spent last season as the hitting coach for the Rangers' previous Class A Advanced club the California League, the Bakersfield Blaze. Garcia, a 23-year coaching veteran, most recently piloted the AZL Reds in the Cincinnati system last season. Holman has worked with many of the Pelicans pitchers he'll mold this year during his last two seasons in the same role with Class A Hickory. The field staff will be joined by athletic trainer Jeff Bodenhamer who has made stops at Clinton (IA) and Bakersfield in his four years in the Rangers' system.
The Pelicans open their 2011 campaign on Friday, April 8 at BB&T Coastal Field, welcoming in the Wilmington Blue Rocks for the season's first game at 7:05 PM.