CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Knights revealed their 2016 Opening Day roster Thursday.
Key returning veterans and the organization’s number one rated prospect -- 22-year-old Tim Anderson -- highlight the roster for the club’s All-Star Season at BB&T Ballpark.
The Knights, who will be managed by new skipper Julio Vinas, open the 2016 campaign Thursday at 6:05 p.m. in Durham against the Durham Bulls. Opening Knight at BB&T Ballpark in uptown is set for Thursday, April 14th at 7:05 p.m. against the Bulls.
Selected by the Chicago White Sox in first round (17th overall) of the 2013 First Year Player Draft, Anderson -- Chicago’s highly-touted prospect -- will make his Triple-A debut tonight with the Knights. Tabbed by Baseball America as the top-rated prospect and Best Athlete in the White Sox organization, Anderson compiled a .312 batting average with 12 triples, five home runs, 46 RBIs, and 49 stolen bases last season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons. A 2015 Southern League Mid-Season and Postseason All-Star, Anderson led the league in hits (160), runs scored (79), and stolen bases (49).
Joining Anderson in Charlotte’s lineup this season will be outfielder Jacob May, who is ranked by Baseball America as the fifth-best prospect in Chicago’s system. May, a product of Coastal Carolina University, hit .275 last year in 98 games for the Barons. The 24-year-old speedster -- who swiped 37 bags last year -- was originally selected by the White Sox in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. A third-generation player, May is the grandson of 18-year major league veteran Lee May, the son of Lee May Jr., and the nephew of former White Sox slugger Carlos May.
Along with Anderson and May, the roster also features 3B Matt Davidson, who led the International League in home runs last season with 23. Davidson, who returns for his third consecutive campaign with the Knights, was a 2015 International League All-Star. Solid at the plate and in-the-field, Baseball America named Davidson as the Best Defensive Third Baseman in the International League last year. He enters this season with 123 career minor league home runs. Outfielder Jason Coats, who hit .271 with 17 home runs and 81 RBIs last year, is also a key member back with the Knights this season.
In all, 12 players on Charlotte’s 2016 Opening Day roster have worn a Knights jersey before this season.
Slugger Travis Ishikawa, who appeared in 34 games with the Knights in 2013, is back with the team. The Seattle, WA native spent parts of the past two seasons with the San Francisco Giants and was a key contributor to San Francisco’s World Series winning team in 2014.
Speedster Leury Garcia, who hit .298 and swiped 30 bases with the Knights in 90 games last season, returns to the team for a second consecutive year. Garcia became just the 10th player in franchise history to steal at least 30 bases in a season last year. Venezuelan native Carlos Sanchez, who ranks fourth in franchise history in hits (287), returns to the Knights. The 23-year-old, who hit .344 in 29 games last season with the Knights, has spent parts of the past four season with Charlotte.
The starting rotation is anchored by 2015 International League Most Valuable Pitcher Erik Johnson, who posted an 11-8 record with a 2.37 ERA last season with the Knights. Johnson, 26, started the 2015 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game last season in Omaha, NE. The California native was promoted to Chicago last year (September 1) and appeared in six games with the White Sox (3-1, 3.34 ERA). Returnees RHP Chris Beck and RHP Scott Carroll will join Johnson to possess a formidable top of the rotation. Carroll, who went 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 16 starts with the Knights last season, will get the nod tonight for the Knights in Durham. Former first-round draft pick Jacob Turner, who was on the Miami Marlins Opening Day roster two seasons ago, will also be a key member of Charlotte’s rotation this season.
In the bullpen, familiar faces Terance Marin, Blake Smith, and Daniel Webb return for the 2016 campaign. RHPs Phillippe Aumont, Tommy Kahnle, and Chris Volstad, along with LHPs Will Lamb and Matt Purke round out an experienced Charlotte bullpen.
Catcher Kevan Smith is back with the Knights for a second straight year and will be joined behind the plate by catcher Hector Sanchez. Charlotte newcomers Daniel Fields, Danny Hayes, and Andy Parrino round out the team’s position players. Hayes, 25, was selected by the White Sox in the 13th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The Sacramento, CA native was rated by Baseball America as the Best Defensive First Baseman in the Southern League last season.
The Knights will be guided by Vinas, who led the Double-A Birmingham Barons to a 2013 Southern League Championship. The 2016 season will be the sixth in the Chicago White Sox organization for Vinas. The Miami, FL native managed Winston-Salem in 2011, Kannapolis in 2012, and Birmingham over the past three seasons (2013 to 2015). Vinas was rated by Baseball America as the Best Manager Prospect in the Southern League following the 2013 season. Hitting coach Andy Tomberlin and pitching coach Richard Dotson return to the staff, along with newcomer Tim Esmay (assistant coach).