By Jason Shetler
In 2016, the Bradenton Marauders accomplished something they had not done before, and that was capturing the Florida State League championship. With Michael Ryan now managing the Altoona Curve, the Marauders hired Gera Alvarez to be their skipper. Alvarez previously managed the Pirates Dominican Summer League club from 2012 to 2014.
Outfield: The Marauders outfield will consist of Casey Hughston, Jordan George and Logan Hill. All three were drafted by the Pirates in 2015.
Infield: Three of the Marauders infielders this season are currently Top 10 prospects in the Pirates system. Those prospects are Will Craig, the Pirates first round pick from a year ago, Cole Tucker, who was their first round selection in 2014, and Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Bucs first round compensation pick from 2015. With Hayes on Bradenton’s roster, there’s a good chance Craig will see a good amount of playing time at first base.
Behind the plate: The Marauders will carry a trio of catchers to begin the season, with Christian Kelley and John Bormann, each drafted by the Pirates in 2015, as well as 2014 draftee Kevin Krause.
Pitching: The ace of the staff this year will be Mitch Keller, who is currently the fifth best prospect in the organization, and was named the 2016 Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Marauders have two potential breakout arms in Gage Hinsz and Taylor Hearn. Hinsz was an 11th round pick of the Pirates in 2014, while Hearn was acquired from the Washington Nationals around last year’s trade deadline in the Mark Melancon deal. Another intriguing pitcher could be Jake Brentz, a hard-throwing lefty who was obtained from the Seattle Mariners in a trade for Arquimedes Caminero last September.