RICHMOND, VA (WWBT/AP) - The Richmond Flying Squirrels, in conjunction with their parent affiliate, the San Francisco Giants, are excited to announce the preliminary player roster for the 2016 season. After establishing a club record with 21 returning players on last year's Opening Day roster, the Flying Squirrels could potentially match that number with 21 players arriving who've spent some time in the River City to start the season. The initial player list of arrivals include eight prospects who were ranked amongst the Top-30 in the Giants' organization by Baseball America, featuring the top two selections in shortstop Christian Arroyo and RHP Tyler Beede. The initial list also includes Richmond native and VMI product Matt Winn. The team has until noon on Thursday to submit the final 25 man roster to begin the season. The Squirrels official home opener is on April 14th with Jerome Bettis throwing out the first pitch.
Arroyo, 20, is the biggest name amongst the position players after being ranked in the Top 100 amongst all minor league prospects by Baseball America, ESPN, and MLB.com. The left side of the infield should also feature third baseman Ryder Jones, who will be making his Double-A debut after being selected in the 2nd round after Arroyo in the 2013 June draft. On the right side, 2015 Squirrels MVP Rando Moreno returns for his second season alongside lefty slugger Ricky Oropesa, who finished in the top five in the Eastern League with 17 home runs and 76 runs batted in a year ago. Myles Schroder will once again serve in his super-utility role, while Angel Villalona will look to salvage his status at first base after a rough showing in Richmond last season. Newcomer to the Giants organization is 26 year-old Ali Castillo, who signed as a free agent following a 2015 season in which he spent most of his time in the Yankees organization with Double-A Trenton.
"We are excited about the 2016 season and the players that are coming back, or coming here for the first time," said Flying Squirrels VP & COO Todd "Parney" Parnell. "The Giants have once again not only sent us young men with great baseball talent, but also great character and we are very excited about working with them."
In the outfield, Hunter Cole (#30 prospect) and Austin Slater are back after being called up from High-A San Jose last June. The pair of 2014 picks was one of the team's most pleasant surprises in 2015, with Cole (26th round) batting .292 with 23 extra-base hits in just 51 games. Slater, the eighth round pick out of Stanford, hit .296 in 54 games. Tyler Horan will also see a lot of time and will look to return to his 2014 form when he hit 25 home runs in A-ball before being added to the Flying Squirrels' postseason roster. Finally, old nemesis Carlos Moncrief brings a lot of Double-A experience after signing as a free agent during the offseason. A one-time All-Star with the Akron Aeros in 2013, he spent a full season with Triple-A Columbus in 2014 and was subsequently put on Cleveland's 40-man roster heading into last season.
Richmond's catching situation will feature a trio of familiar names in Jeff Arnold, Matt Winn and Eliezer Zambrano, who is the only player in franchise history to appear with the Flying Squirrels during each of their first six seasons. Richmond native Matt Winn, a J.R. Tucker High School product, was a 14th round pick out of VMI last June and also has a chance to surface in his hometown despite appearing in just 36 games after being drafted.
The pitching staff will be led by Beede, who was ranked second amongst Giants' prospects by Baseball America for the 2016 season. He made his Richmond debut on June 5 in New Hampshire and later pitched for the U.S. team at the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati during the Major League All-Star break. Lefthander Adalberto Mejia (#10 prospect) is back and could slot into the second spot in the rotation with Chase Johnson (#14 prospect) also factoring into the mix. Johnson was a late-August call-up and made three starts with Richmond to close out the year, winning his final start in Harrisburg to cap off a 129-strikeout season that led all Giants minor leaguers. In the bullpen, Ray Black (#13 prospect) will look to finally make his Double-A debut along with Jacob Smith (#22 prospect). Kyle Crick (#30 prospect) is a wild card and will be back for his third straight season with the Squirrels after splitting time between the rotation and bullpen last year.