TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma Rainiers today announced the club’s 2017 Opening Day roster in preparation for the Rainiers season-opening contest against the Sacramento River Cats at Raley Field on Thursday, April 6.
The 25-man roster features 12 returning players,13 newcomers, and includes top outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill, who will make his Triple-A debut when he first takes the field for Tacoma.
O’Neill enters the year ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization, and the No. 38 prospect across all of organized baseball, according to Baseball America. The 21-year-old Canadian was named the Southern League Most Valuable Player in 2016 after leading the circuit with 102 RBI, a .508 slugging percentage, and 54 extra base hits. O’Neill also earned Southern League Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star honors and led the Double-A Jackson Generals to a league championship last season.
Ben Gamel, the Mariners No. 20 ranked prospect by Baseball America, joins O’Neill in the Rainiers star-studded cast of outfielders. Gamel earned the International League Most Valuable Player award last season while leading the league with 80 runs scored. He was acquired by Seattle in a trade with the New York Yankees in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jio Orozco and right-handed pitcher Juan De Paula on Aug. 31, 2016.
The outfield is rounded out by a pair of returning players in James Ramsey and Dario Pizzano, who combined to log 104 games in Tacoma in 2016.
Dan Vogelbach and D.J. Peterson — Seattle’s No. 10 and No. 13 ranked prospects by Baseball America, respectively — are the focal points of the Rainiers infield. Across stints with the Rainiers and Triple-A Iowa last season, Vogelbach led the Pacific Coast League with 97 walks and finished third with 96 RBI, while Peterson collected 19 home runs and 78 RBI over time with Double-A Jackson and Tacoma.
Returning to patrol the Cheney Stadium infield in 2017 will be Mike Freeman, Tyler Smith, and Zach Shank. The Tacoma veteran trio is joined by newcomer Gordon Beckham, who played in 88 Major League games with the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants in 2016.
2016 Texas League Pitcher of the Year Chase De Jong, Christian Bergman, Sam Gaviglio, Chris Heston, and Dylan Unsworth — all right-handed pitchers — slot into the Tacoma starting rotation to open the season.
The Rainiers bullpen is set to feature eight relievers who have combined to post 768 games of Major League experience, led by right-hander Mark Lowe with 382 Major League relief outings. Joining Lowe are fellow right-handers Jean Machi — a two-time World Series Champion with the San Francisco Giants — Emilio Pagan, Ryan Weber, and Ryne Harper. Left-handers Dean Kiekhefer, Paul Fry, and Sumner High School product Nick Hagadone bolster the club’s relief efforts.
Right-handers Unsworth and Harper are the only two pitchers on the roster who have yet to play a game at the Triple-A level.
Catchers Steve Baron and Tuffy Gosewisch will work behind the plate for Tacoma and round out the Rainiers Opening Day roster.
The Rainiers open their season on the road at Sacramento on Thursday, April 6 and kick off their slate of 71 home games against the El Paso Chihuahuas at Cheney Stadium on Tuesday, April 11. Tacoma and El Paso reunite after squaring off last September in the 2016 PCL Pacific Conference Championship Series, which the Chihuahuas won, three games to one.
Single-game tickets, season ticket options, group outings, and suite packages for the club’s 2017 season are available now and can be purchased by calling the Tacoma Rainiers front office at (253) 752-7707, online at www.tacomarainiers.com, or in person at the Cheney Stadium Box Office. The most up-to-date news and notes about the Rainiers leading up to and throughout the 2017 season can be found by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand) and liking the team on Facebook.