It is officially baseball season and there are 7 former Arkansas players on active rosters on opening day. While Dallas Keuchel continues to navigate free agency, and Logan Forsythe works to be called up from his minor league contract with the Rangers, here is a run down of who to look for on which teams.
I think you have to start with Boston outfielder Andrew Benintendi. When we last saw him on the diamond he was winning the final game of the MLB season and hoisting the World Series trophy. He will hold down left field in the formidable Red Sox outfield and bat leadoff or near the top of the order to begin the season.
After finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting last season with Miami, Brian Anderson will be a staple in the Marlins lineup. Able to play the infield and outfield, Anderson’s versatility will ensure that he plays through any slumps he may encounter throughout the season.
The two headed Razorback monster in Tampa of Ryne Stanek and Jalen Beeks will continue their roles as opener and starter/long reliever for the Rays this season. Last year Stanek was asked to adjust his closing role to pitch the first inning of many games he appeared in and then give way to a longer inning pitcher. That is where Beeks stepped in and made 12 appearances (no starts) and threw over 44 innings. It will be interesting to see how the Rays utilize these two talented arms this season.
Blake Parker has found a new home with the Twins this season and will join former Razorback pitching coach Wes Johnson who was hired away from Arkansas in the winter. Parker has had success as a relief pitcher for the Cubs and Angels, and now will try to improve Minnesota’s bullpen.
Serving as Detroit’s primary backstop the past four years, James McCann signed with the White Sox over the off season. One of the better defensive catchers in the league, McCann has also showed signs of production at the plate despite a low average. McCann will compete with Welington Castillo for time behind the plate.
One of the more interesting stories for Razorback baseball fans over the last couple of years has been Drew Smyly’s return from Tommy John surgery in June 2017. Smyly has not pitched in a major league game since 2016 with the Rays, and is trying to mount his return with his second team since that injury. The Rangers are giving him a chance this season as their fourth starter in the rotation.
As the season progresses and more players sign and begin minor league play there will be updates on more than just the 7 players detailed above. Here’s to a great opening day and a long anticipated MLB season full of Hogs!