Julio Urias gets loose during the Drillers first workout at ONEOK Field. (Photo by Rich Crimi)
The Tulsa Drillers roster for the opening of the 2015 Texas League season is beginning to take shape and will likely include the top two minor league prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. Corey Seager, rated the #1 prospect in the Los Angeles system by MLB.com, will begin the season as Tulsa's shortstop, while pitcher Julio Urias, rated the Number 2 prospect by MLB.com, will open the year in the Drillers' starting rotation.
Seager is rated as the seventh-best prospect in all of Minor League Baseball, while Urias is rated as the eighth-best.
The roster will also include a number of names that will be familiar to Tulsa baseball fans. Catcher Chris O'Brien, who attended Tulsa's Bishop Kelley High School, will open the season with the Drillers. He is the son of former big league catcher Charlie O'Brien.
Three players who previously played for the Drillers will also be back with the club. The trio includes pitchers Juan Gonzalez and Chin-hui Tsao and infielder Daniel Mayora. Gonzalez was 4-3 with a 2.19 ERA pitching out of the Tulsa bullpen in 2013.
Tsao was one of the top pitching prospects in the minors when he was with the Drillers during the 2003 season. The right-hander was 11-4 with a 2.46 ERA for Tulsa before receiving a big league call up in July by the Colorado Rockies.
Mayora played parts of two seasons for the Drillers in 2009 and 2010, earning mid-season All-Star honors during both seasons.
Mayora and Seager will likely cover the left side of the Tulsa infield to open the year. Seager split last season between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga, hitting a combined .349 with 50 doubles to lead Minor League Baseball in both categories. The shortstop is the brother of Seattle Mariners All-Star Kyle Seager.
Other infielders on the Drillers Opening Day roster include Luis Mateo, Lars Anderson, Nate Samson, Brandon Dixon, and Brian Burgamy.
Mateo has spent parts of the last two seasons in the Texas League with Springfield.
Anderson was originally a first round draft pick of Boston and has played in 30 games in the big leagues with the Red Sox. Last year, hit a combined .303 with Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee.
Samson hit .274 with Mobile in 2014 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks minor league system.
Dixon hit .262 in 92 games for Rancho Cucamonga, while Burgamy hit .276 with 23 homers for Double-A Binghamton in the New York Mets organization.
Two other catchers join O'Brien in Tulsa to start the season. One is Ali Solis. Solis played in the 2012 Texas League All-Star Game at ONEOK Field as a member of the San Antonio Missions. In 2014, he spent most of the season with Triple-A Durham but also played in six games in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The other catcher is Webster Rivas. He spent the entire 2014 season with Low-A Great Lakes, hitting .254 in 91 games.
There are currently four outfielders with the Drillers. For Travis Witherspoon, it is not his first visit to ONEOK Field. He was in the Texas League in 2012 and 2013 as a member of the Arkansas Travelers. Last year, he hit .252 with 15 home runs for Class-A High Desert in the Mariners organization.
Peter Lavin joins the Dodgers system after spending the first four years of his professional career in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system. In 2014, he hit .287 while splitting time between Class-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading.
Jeremy Hazelbaker split 2014 between Chattanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque, hitting a combined .244 with 21 stolen bases.
Jon Garcia will also fill an outfield role for the Drillers. He spent most of last season with Rancho Cucamonga, but he did play in nine games at the Double-A level.
Urias headlines the pitching staff for the Drillers. The lefthander is only 18 years of age and was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Mexico five days after he turned 16. He spent last season at Rancho Cucamonga, compiling a 2.36 ERA and limiting opposing hitters to only a .194 batting average.
Right-hander Chris Anderson is ranked as the sixth-best Dodgers prospect by MLB.com. He was drafted 18th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft. Anderson led the California League in strikeouts with 146 in just 134.1 innings pitched for Rancho Cucamonga in last season. He is slated to be Tulsa's opening night starter on Thursday, with Urias getting his first start the following night.
Joining Anderson and Urias in the rotation will be Deck McGuire, Jeremy Kehrt and Matt Shelton. McGuire moves to the Dodgers system this year after spending last season with Oakland's Triple A team in Sacramento. He was originally a first-round pick of Toronto in 2010.
Jeremy Kehrt, who was acquired by the Dodgers in a trade with Boston in August of last year, will fill the fourth starter's spot. The right-hander made a strong first impression with the Dodgers, amassing a 1.69 ERA over the final month of the season with Chattanooga.
Matt Shelton will complete the starting rotation. Shelton also split the 2014 season between Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga. The Sam Houston State product was chosen as the recipient of the Dodger Pride Award in April of 2014 as he posted a 1.76 ERA for the month.
The bullpen will include Gonzales, Tsao, Blake Smith, Chris Reed, Ralston Cash, Fabio Martinez, Mike Thomas, Ben Rowen and Jeremy Horst.
Smith was drafted by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of the University of California-Berkley. The Modesto, California native appeared in 48 games in 2014, earning eleven saves as he split time between Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga.
Reed is rated as the 11th-best prospect in the Dodgers organization going into the 2015 season. The native of London, England was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Stanford University. He moves to the bullpen after making 28 starts between Chattanooga and Albuquerque last year.
Cash is a native of Georgia and comes to Tulsa after splitting last season between Low-A Great Lakes and Double-A Chattanooga, going 3-1 with a combined 2.90 ERA. He was drafted in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft.
Martinez was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent in October, 2013 after spending time in the minor league system of the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels. He split 12 decisions last year with Albuquerque and Rancho Cucamonga.
Thomas spent the entire 2014 season with Chattanooga compiling a 2.73 ERA over 48 relief appearances.
The other pitching spots will be filled by hurlers who have seen time in the majors. Rowen made his big-league debut last year with the Texas Rangers, appearing in 8 games after being selected as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012. He signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in January of this offseason.
The left-handed Horst saw big league time with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011 and the Philadelphia Phillies from 2012-2013. He also signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in January of this offseason.
Texas League teams can carry 25 active players throughout the season.
The Drillers will open the 2015 regular season on Thursday night by hosting San Antonio at ONEOK Field. First pitch in downtown Tulsa is scheduled for 7:05PM.