2014 Preview: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (A)

Catcher Clint Coulter returns to Wisconsin in 2014 after playing 33 games for the Timber Rattlers in 2013.  (Photo: Brad Krause)

Catcher Clint Coulter returns to Wisconsin in 2014 after playing 33 games for the Timber Rattlers in 2013. (Photo: Brad Krause)

Coming off a Midwest League championship in 2012, the 2013 Timber Rattlers finished with a record of 59-76, going 29-36 in the first half of the season and 30-40 in the second half.

The T-Rats were led by outfielders Michael Reed, Tyrone Taylor and Victor Roache. Reed led the Rattlers with a .286 average, and Roache belted a team high 22 home runs.

Wisconsin’s roster this season features a mix of both young and old, with 19-year-old first baseman David Denson being the youngest member of the Timber Rattlers, and 25-year-old catcher Rafael Neda being the oldest.

Here is a quick look at the 2014 Rattlers Opening Day roster.

Starting Rotation: Wisconsin’s rotation will be led by 2013 fourth round draft choice Taylor Williams. Williams is slated to get the opening day nod for the Rattlers after going 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA in 12 games at Helena last season. He will likely be joined in the rotation by righties Barrett Astin, Preston Gainey, and Zach Quintana and lefty Anthony Banda. The Brewers like to use tandems at times in the lower levels so other players may be in the mix for starting spots as well.

Bullpen: The Rattlers bullpen features a trio of lefties in Tyler Alexander, Tyler Linehan and Trevor Seidenberger. Joining them will be Tristan Archer, Victor Diaz, Rodolfo Fernandez, Harvey Martin, Chris Razo and Tyler Spurlin.

Catchers: The Wisconsin catching corps features a pair of familiar faces in Neda and 2012 first round draft choice Clint Coulter. Coulter began last season with the T-Rats before moving to Helena. He will be back for another go-round with the Rattlers. They will be joined by Paul Eshleman. The 23-year-old Eshleman spent last season in the AZL catching for the Brewers.

Infielders: Wisconsin’s infield is led by second baseman Chris McFarland,who returns for his second season with the Timber Rattlers and slugging first baseman Denson. Alongside them will be shortstop Angel Ortega, third baseman Taylor Brennan and utility men Steven Halcomb and Francisco Castillo.

Outfielders: The Rattlers outfield will feature both speed and power this season. Jose Pena and 2013 Pioneer League MVP Michael Ratterree should provide the power, and fleet-footed center fielders Johnny Davis and Omar Garcia should provide the speed. Davis and Garcia combined to steal 45 bases in 84 games last season.

Coaching Staff: Matt Erickson returns for his sixth season in Wisconsin with 2014 marking his fourth season as the team’s manager. He will be joined by pitching coach Elvin Nina and hitting coach Chuck Caufield. The Rattlers also announced the addition of Lance Roenicke to the coaching staff. Roenicke will serve in the role of player/coach for Wisconsin, with the emphasis on coaching.

Prospects to watch: Clint Coulter – The young catcher battled injuries last year in his first full season of work, but the Brewers expect big things from the former first round pick. Reports are that his defense has improved some, though there is still speculation that his long-term home may be at a corner spot.

Keep an eye on: David Denson – The Brewers decided to skip Denson over Helena and send him straight to Wisconsin to begin the 2014 season. He has a power-hitters build at first base and his home run potential will be exciting to see for Brewers fans in the Appleton area this season.

The Timber Rattlers will host the Peoria Chiefs on Thursday night at Fox Cities Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 pm CST.