Past and future Cape Leaguers in the college baseball ranks have been playing meaningful games for more than month. Their Big League counterparts are finally back to action today with MLB’s opening day. Some notes on the proceedings and what’s to come:
Five former Cape Leaguers will be Opening Day starters for their clubs, headed by reigning American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel for the Astros and Matt Harvey for the Mets in a World Series rematch with the Royals. Keuchel, a former Wareham standout, is coming off a fantastic season and will be looking to cement his place as one of the game’s best pitcher. As for Harvey, with the Opening Day nod, he officially leads the Mets’ stable of talented young arms. The other Cape Leaguers who will start things off for their teams are former Y-D star Chris Sale for the White Sox, Cotuit’s Garrett Richards with the Angels and Orleans’ Marcus Stroman with the Jays. Last season was supposed to be the fulfillment of the prospect hype for Stroman, but an injury derailed most of the year. When he came back for a brief stint at the end of the regular season, he was dominant, and it looks like the Jays have tabbed him as their ace for this season.
One of the Cape League’s newest alumni stars will have to wait a while to pick up where he left off. Arizona’s A.J. Pollock, who hit .315 with 20 home runs and 39 stolen bases last season, broke his elbow Friday in a headfirst slide during an exhibition game against the Royals. Surgery will keep him out for several months and potentially for the entire season.
Pollock’s Arizona teammate Nick Ahmed had a huge spring. The former Bourne Brave hit .419 and continues to fight for a playing time in a middle infield rotation for the Diamondbacks.
If you’re looking for the next Cape League breakout candidate, former Cotuit Kettleer C.J. Cron is being counted as a big part of the Angels’ plans. Cron is expected to be the everyday first baseman.
Cron and Nick Tropeano played on the same Cotuit team in the summer of 2010 and may both be in Anaheim this summer. While Cron spent limited time in Cotuit thanks to Team USA, Tropeano had a huge summer and credits it with being a turning point in his career. He will open the 2016 season in Triple A.
Matt Duffy made an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, getting the nod from the Astros and, in the process, securing another season with two Matt Duffys in the majors. Both are Cape League alumni, too. Houston’s Matt Duffy played for Chatham in 2009 and was a 20th round pick out of Tennessee. He played in eight games for the Astros last year. San Francisco’s Matt Duffy, a former Orleans Firebird, is looking for a big season after hitting .295 with 12 homers last season.
Former Bourne Brave and Cape League MVP Travis Jankowski has made the Padres’ Opening Day roster. The speedy Jankowski was rated San Diego’s seventh-best prospect this offseason.
David Ross had a fun spring embracing his status as the Cubs’ resident old man in what he has announced as his final season. He’ll also be happy to know that he’s one of the Cape League’s resident old-timers in the bigs. Ross played for Wareham in 1996, and is one of only two Cape Leaguers from that year – of any year before – on a MLB roster at this point. The other is Atlanta reliever Jason Grilli, who played for Brewster in ’96.
As for the other end of the spectrum, here are some prospects with Cape League ties who could make a splash this year, pending promotions to the bigs or opportunities if they’re already there: A.J. Reed (Houston), Brandon Finnegan (Cincinnati), Bradley Zimmer (Indians), Aaron Judge (Yankees) and Sean Manaea (Athletics).