Outfield prospect Starling Marte and Indiana-native Jake Fox headline the 2012 Opening Day roster of the Indianapolis Indians.
Marte, ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization by Baseball America , won the Eastern League batting title for Double-A Altoona in 2011 and leads a strong class of prospects with his potential game-changing speed and defense. He stole 24 bases last season and recorded and impressive 18 outfield assist while also hitting .332 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI.
Left-handed pitcher Jeff Locke is another top prospect who will be suiting up for the Tribe. Ranked No. 10 in the Pirates system by Baseball America, Locke won eight games across three levels in 2011, collecting one win and a 2.22 ERA in a short five-game stint with Indianapolis.
Fellow hurler Bryan Morris, ranked Pittsburgh’s No. 12 prospect by Baseball America, will make his Triple-A debut in 2012 after posting a 3.35 ERA and three saves out of Altoona’s bullpen last season.
Along with Locke and Morris, the Indians pitching staff will be anchored by returning starters Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson — who combined for 26 Tribe victories in 2011 — and reliever Tim Wood, who saved 23 games for Indianapolis last season.
Also returning to the Victory Field mound will be 2009 Tribe MVP Daniel McCutchen and southpaw specialist Daniel Moskos, who both spent significant time with Pittsburgh in 2011 and combined for six big league wins out of the Pirates bullpen.
Returning players also figure to be key for the Indians lineup in 2012, led by the double play combination of Jordy Mercer and Chase d’Arnaud. Mercer blasted a combined 19 homers in 2011 between Altoona and Indianapolis while the speedy d’Arnaud stole 22 bases and hit eight triples, splitting the season between the Indians and Pirates. The duo also combined for only 24 errors in 1,065 total chances in 2011.
Meanwhile, defensive specialist Gorkys Hernandez returns to Indy, joining Marte in the outfield. Hernandez racked up 11 outfield assists in 2011 and tied for the International League-lead with nine triples.
Other positional returners from the 2011 squad include infielders Jeff Clement and Brian Friday, outfielder Miles Durham and catchers Eric Fryer and Kris Watts.
Newcomers will also play a big role for the Tribe in 2012, including infielder Jake Fox, who was born in Greenfield, Ind., and graduated from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. Fox has seen major league playing time with the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles. Fox could see time at first base in an effort to fill the hole left by last season’s Tribe MVP Matt Hague, who broke camp with the Pirates after hitting at a torrid pace this spring.
Fox batted .275 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI with Triple-A Norfolk last season, adding two homers and six RBI in limited time for the Orioles.
Joining Fox in the infield mix are veterans Nick Evans and Anderson Hernandez, who both came to the Pirates organization as minor league free agents this offseason. Meanwhile, switch-hitting outfielder Brandon Boggs will provide a veteran presence in the young Indians outfield.
New arrivals on the pitching staff include MLB vets Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Slaten and Shairon Martis, who combined for 14 wins in 2011 while serving in a mixture of roles across several levels. Reliever Jose Diaz also joins the Indians bullpen after picking up 23 saves across two levels in the Baltimore system last season.
Indianapolis opens the 2012 season tomorrow, Friday, April 6, on the road against the division-rival Toledo Mud Hens at 5 p.m. The Indians will host the Mud Hens in their home opener on Friday, April 13, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m.