Inside the N.H. Fisher Cat roster

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 * RHP Casey Lawrence was the best starter at double-A New Hampshire last year … and he’s back to start the 2015 season. …. 

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Inside the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ 2015 Opening Day Roster
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Monday was a big day for Blue Jays from Away. We unveiled our 2015 Minor League Handbook as well as the Premium Content section for the website. I spent the afternoon watching the Blue Jays beat up on the Yankees and then listened to the “Jays Nest” live podcast featuring Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, Ben Wagner, Bob Lipman and Marshall Kelner, some of the radio voices for the Blue Jays’ minor league teams. I also published my thoughts on the preliminary roster for the Buffalo Bisons and now, I’ll give you my thoughts on the New Hampshire roster.

Starting Pitchers
John Anderson
Matt Boyd
Taylor Cole
Casey Lawrence
Mike Lee

The only real surprise in this group is Anderson. And not a surprise that he’s on the Fisher Cats. And not really a surprise that he’s starting (because I watched him start a spring training game). But it’s great to see that John’s getting another chance to start games at the Double-A level. He features three solid pitches and is another year removed from his arm woes.

After spending most of 2014 demolishing High-A in the Florida State League, there was almost no question at all that Matt Boyd and Taylor Cole would start this year in Double-A. Lipman reported that Boyd would be the opening day starter on Thursday.

Lawrence was the best pitcher in New Hampshire over the course of the entire season and Lee really impressed the Blue Jays’ brass when he pitched last year and was re-signed quickly after his contract expired.

The only omission that is surprising is Jayson Aquino who will start the year with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Aquino was acquired for Tyler Ybarra who appears to be headed for the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats to face off against the Fisher Cats on Thursday.

Ricky Romero starts on the DL for the Fisher Cats’ roster.

Relief Pitchers
Dustin Antolin
Danny Barnes
Greg Burke
Cory Burns
Blake McFarland
Luis Perez
Arik Sikula
Matt West

There are three names on this list that really jump out and they’re Burke, Burns and West. I thought those three were ticketed for Buffalo for sure but the log jam in the bullpen up in Buffalo obviously created some trickle down, which we’ll continue to see all the way down to the Lansing roster.

I’m glad to see Barnes get a shot at Double-A while I’m also glad that some other home grown guys like Antolin, McFarland and Sikula weren’t pushed down for another year. All three had great seasons in 2014 with significant success in Double-A and need to remain at the level.

Perez is obviously another feel-good pitcher as he returns from injury and we’ll see how he takes to his recovery.

The big question of “who is the closer?” is an interesting one for me. I think that West gets the job coming out of the gate. While Sikula was the closer in Dunedin last year, I think that West is the only member of this group with the kind of power arm that big league clubs like to have coming in at the end of a game. My gut feeling is that West gets the job to see how he deals with it.

Catchers
Jack Murphy
Pierce Rankin

With Derrick Chung starting the season on the DL with an oblique injury, Jack Murphy becomes and everyday catcher for the first time in years. Pierce Rankin will be the backup.

Infielders
Jon Berti
Andy Burns
Jorge Flores
Jake Fox
K.C. Hobson
Kevin Nolan
Shane Opitz

The real surprises are that Berti and co. are returning to New Hampshire. The Blue Jays’ tendency to sign a lot of infielders to play for Buffalo isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for these guys like Berti (the organization’s MVP of New Hampshire last year), Nolan, Hobson and Burns.

Flores (a.k.a., “Mighty Mouse”) is a great utility man and Shane Opitz will join him to give the regular infielders a bit of a rest. Opitz has been hitting really well when healthy and Double-A is going to give him a good test.

The biggest surprise was actually seeing Fox assigned to Double-A. Then again, he’s really been a journeyman (literally) and has sort of settled at the Double-A level. Still, Fox is going to add some pop from the right side to the lineup.

Where’s Andy Fermin? He hit fairly well playing at the Double-A level for the first time in his career last year.

Outfielders
Melky Mesa
Matt Newman
Ryan Schimpf
Dwight Smith, Jr.

And . . . no surprises here other than the fact that I was expecting Schimpf to start the season in Buffalo. He’s listed as an outfielder here (because that’s what it says on the roster that the Fisher Cats sent in their press release) but as an infielder on the Fisher Cats’ website. Still, Schimpf will add another power bat to the lineup in a ballpark that plays very well for left-handed hitters favouring him.

Smith could very well have a huge year if he shows the kind of power he did last year. It’s not uncommon for left-handed hitters to do better in New Hampshire than in Dunedin and Smith seems poised to do just that.

Newman and Mesa are holdovers from last year and should round out the outfield.

Who should have been on the Fisher Cats but was assigned to Dunedin? Stay tuned, Jays fans!

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