2014 Preview: Brevard County Manatees (A+)

Catcher Cameron Garfield was named to the Florida State League All-Star team in 2013.  (Photo: Brad Krause)

Catcher Cameron Garfield was named to the Florida State League All-Star team in 2013. (Photo: Brad Krause)

The 2013 Brevard County Manatees finished two games below .500 at 66-68. The team went 37-30 in the first half of the season and 29-38 in the second half.

The Manatees were led by All-Stars Nick Ramirez, Cameron Garfield, David Goforth, Seth Harvey and Brooks Hall before Hall and Goforth both received mid-season promotions to Double-A Huntsville.

Unlike Nashville and Huntsville, Brevard should see plenty of new faces. Only nine players return to the Manatees from last year’s team. The remaining new members of the squad spent last season at either Low-A Wisconsin or Rookie League Helena.

Here is a look at the opening day roster for Brevard County.

Starting Rotation: The Manatees starting staff will be led by former first-round draft choice Jed Bradley, who returns for his third season in the Florida State League. Bradley will be joined by Jorge Lopez, Damien Magnifico, Tyler Wagner and Jacob Barnes in the Brevard County starting rotation.

Bullpen: Brevard’s bullpen features a trio of left-handed relievers, including Hobbs Johnson, Stephen Peterson and Mike Strong. They will share bullpen duties with fellow relief pitchers Chad Pierce, Tanner Poppe, Austin Ross, Tommy Toledo and Martin Viramontes. Toledo figures to once again serve as the Manatees closer after saving 20 games upon assuming closer duties following Harvey’s Tommy John surgery in 2013.

Catchers: Cameron Garfield returns for his second season as the Manatees catcher. Last year in 109 games, Garfield hit .250 with 20 doubles and 8 home runs. 24-year-old Parker Berberet will move up from Wisconsin to spell Garfield when needed.

Infielders: Brevard’s infield features a pair of slick-fielding shortstops in Yadiel Rivera and Orlando Arcia. Rivera spent all of last season with the Manatees, batting .241 in 129 games. Arcia, who won’t turn 20 until August, spent 2013 with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers where he hit .251 as the team’s every day shortstop. The Manatees infield will have plenty of versatility as Garrett Cooper, Mike Garza, Brandon Macias, Nathan Orf and Alfredo Rodriguez all have the ability to play multiple positions.

Outfielders: The Brevard County outfield should be a strength of the team as Tyrone Taylor, Victor Roache, Michael Reed and Jose Sermo all join the Manatees from Class-A Wisconsin. Taylor, one of the team’s top prospects, hit .274 with 33 doubles and 8 home runs for the T-Rats, while Roache tied the Rattlers team record for home runs in a season with 22 bombs after missing the first few weeks of the season.

Coaching Staff: Joe Ayrault returns for his third season as the skipper of the Manatees. Dave Chavarria and Ned Yost IV will also be back for their third seasons with the team. The staff will also feature newcomer Reggie Williams, who spent the past four seasons as the Brewers roving outfield and baserunning coordinator.

Prospect to watch: Tyrone Taylor – Taylor is ranked as the Brewers top prospect entering the season, and showed why last year at Wisconsin. He’s young, raw and athletic and should only continue to improve as he progresses through the minor leagues.

Keep an eye on: Cameron Garfield – It’s a bit surprising that Garfield returns to Brevard County for another season, especially after his monster spring. But Milwaukee wanted him to continue to work on his defense and have more success at the plate so they returned him to the Florida State League for further seasoning. With early success, Garfield may not be with the Manatees for long.

The Manatees kick off their 2014 season on Thursday night at 5:35 pm CST when they host the Dayton Cubs at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. Brevard County games can be heard online at manateesbaseball.com