"On paper, this looks like an exciting bunch," TinCaps president Mike Nutter said. "The San Diego Padres have been very happy with the way the club looked in Spring Training and we're looking forward to seeing them at Parkview Field."
Tate, the Padres' first-round selection in the 2009 draft, will make his full-season debut. He is rated the No. 8 prospect in the San Diego organization by Baseball America. Williams, drafted in the second round in 2009, will return to Fort Wayne for a second season and flank Tate in the outfield. The Padres drafted Cates in the third round last year; the converted catcher's fastball velocity touches the mid-90s.
Tate and Williams will be joined by 19-year-old Jose Dore in the outfield. Dore was the Padres' eighth-round selection last year. Oscar Garcia fills out the TinCaps' outfield after being drafted out of Northwestern (La.) State University last year.
Second baseman Chris Bisson, a fourth-round pick last year out of the University of Kentucky, anchors the infield. He paced the SEC with 32 stolen bases last year. Blackwood, 25, was named the independent Northern League's MVP in 2010, narrowly missing the league's Triple Crown. He hit .331 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs in 99 games with the Kansas City T-Bones last year. Blackwood signed with the Giants over the off-season, then was plucked by the Padres in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Wes Cunningham hit .290 with Short-A Eugene last year and is expected to man first base. Shortstop B.J. Guinn was named the top defensive player at the Padres' Fall Instructional Camp after being drafted out of Cal-Berkeley. Tommy Medica, a Santa Clara University product, led the West Coast Conference with 67 RBIs last year. Chris Tremblay rounds out the infield; he hit .308 with Short-A Eugene last season.
Catchers Rocky Gale and Emmanuel Quiles will handle the pitching staff in 2011. Gale was the WCC Defensive Player of the Year last year at the University of Portland (Ore.) while Quiles threw out a sparkling 46 percent of runners trying to steal at Short-A Eugene in 2010.
Cates will likely be joined in the starting pitching rotation by RHPs Adys Portillo, Keyvius Sampson and Matt Branham along with LHP Andrew Werner. Portillo and Sampson are listed among the top 30 prospects in the Padres' organization. Branham pitched a pair of scoreless innings in the playoffs last year for the TinCaps; Werner starred at the University of Indianapolis before pitching the last two seasons in independent leagues.
Hard-throwing RHP Chase Marona is expected to serve as the TinCaps' closer; he posted a 1.53 ERA and struck out more than a batter per inning last year with Short-A Eugene. Former TinCaps OF Yefri Carvajal will start his pitching career after playing five years as an outfielder in the Padres' organization. RHP Matt Jackson and LHP Noah Mull return from last year's roster. RHP Adam Dominick, a former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater standout, gets his first crack at affiliated baseball. LHP Mark Hardy and RHP Deiber Sanchez will make their Fort Wayne debuts out of the TinCaps' bullpen.
The entire coaching staff is new to Fort Wayne for 2011. Shawn Wooten makes his managerial debut. He served as the hitting coach at Short-A Eugene last season and won a World Series ring as a player for the Los Angeles Angels in 2002. Pitching coach Willie Blair gets his first coaching assignment in affiliated baseball; he pitched in the major leagues for parts of 12 seasons. Hitting coach Kory DeHaan played in the major leagues for two seasons and was the hitting coach for the Arizona Rookie League Padres last year. Trainer Dan Turner and strength coach Reed Wainwright complete the field staff.
TINCAPS' ROSTER BY THE NUMBERS
Seven of the 25 players on the TinCaps' roster have played in Fort Wayne previously: Branham, Carvajal, Jackson, Marona, Mull, Portillo and Williams.
Five TinCaps were among the San Diego Padres' top 30 prospects according to Baseball America: Tate (No. 8), Sampson (No. 20), Cates (No. 21), Portillo (No. 23) and Williams (No. 24).
Five countries are represented on the TinCaps' roster: the United States (15 different states plus Puerto Rico), Canada, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Colombia.
Of the 22 draft-eligible players on the roster, seven were selected in the 10th round or earlier: Tate (1st 2009), Williams (2nd 2009), Cates (3rd 2010), Bisson (4th 2010), Sampson (4th 2009), Quiles (6th 2007) and Dore (8th 2010).
The TinCaps open the season Thursday, April 7 at 7:05 p.m. against the South Bend Silver Hawks (Class-A Arizona Diamondbacks). Thirsty Thursday drink specials are in effect on Opening Night; featured events include 3D video board features and a post-game fireworks show. Tickets are still available for the season-opening four-game series, which runs through Sunday, April 10.
To order tickets, log on to the tickets page, call (260) 482-6400, or visit the Parkview Field ticket office.