Bradenton Marauders | New group of major-league dreamers get their start

2013 Marauders ready for fourth season at McKechnie Field

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 3, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Trevor Gooby stood at a podium inside Pirate City's cafeteria Tuesday morning and dipped back into the past.

It was 2010. Gooby, the senior director of Florida operations for the Pittsburgh Pirates then and now, was on hand when the inaugural Bradenton Marauders were officially announced.

Among that group was an outfielder named Starling Marte and a left-handed pitcher named Jeff Locke.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Marte batted leadoff for the Pirates during their season opener against the Chicago Cubs. Locke was there, too, having won a spot in the rotation during spring training.

Surrounding Gooby on Tuesday afternoon were 25 guys clad in yellow jerseys

adorned with a cursive "B" on the left side. These are the 2013 Marauders, and they hope to follow in the steps of Marte and Locke, members of the 2010 team who are now Pittsburgh Pirates.

"These guys," Gooby said, "their goal is to play at PNC Park someday."

The high Single-A affiliate of the Pirates, the Marauders officially unveiled the roster during the Manatee Chamber of Commerce's breakfast at Pirate City. It marks the fourth year for the franchise, which opens the season Thursday at Fort Myers and plays its home opener at 6:30 p.m. Friday, also against the Miracle.

Of the 25 guys on the roster, 14 spent all of last season with the Pirates' low Single-A team in West Virginia. Included in that lot is outfielder Gregory Polanco, named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-4, 204-pound native of the Dominican Republic is ranked the 51st-best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America and 65th by mlb.com. A 21-year-old with five-tool potential, Polanco hit for average (.325) and power (16 home runs in 116 at-bats), flashed speed (40 stolen bases) and produced runs (driving in 85 and scoring 84) while committing three errors and totaling 12 assists in 98 games in center field last year in West Virginia.

Infielder Alen Hanson played his first three games last season with the Pirates' New York-Penn League team in State College before making a huge impact with the Power, pacing the South Atlantic League in triples (13), runs (99) and total bases (258).

Hanson is ranked 61st by Baseball America and 54th by mlb.com.

Infielders Dan Gamache (40 doubles, second in the SAL) and Eric Avila (26 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs in 53 games) also may add punch.

In other words, this year's Marauders may play the game a little differently than last year's team, which was 11th in the 12-team Florida State League in hits (1,099) and batting average (.245).

"It's a really good group of guys," manager Frank Kremblas said. "Good mixture. ... There are a couple of older guys. We'll get them out of here as soon as we can, get them up to Double-A."

Pitcher Nick Kingham, the Pirates' fourth-round pick in 2010, has already logged 201 professional innings, including 127 last year in a league-best 27 starts for the Power. And Robby Rowland, a third-round pick by Arizona who was acquired in a trade for former Marauder Brett Lorin, was 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA last year for West Virginia.

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