By Aaron Cheris (@AaronHowie)
It’s finally that time of year again. The time of year when two words can mean optimism, hope, and promise for a good season to come. Those two words:
For the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Opening Day is tonight on the road against the Memphis Redbirds. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. MT.
Manager Rick Sweet has a good mix of veteran players along with up and coming talent. Here is what his Opening Day lineup could look like tonight in Memphis.
1: Eric Young-LF
2: Orlando Arcia-SS
3: Will Middlebrooks-3B
4: Andy Wilkins-1B
5: Shane Peterson-CF
6: Michael Reed-RF
7: Manny Pina-C
8: Hernan Perez-2B
9: Zach Davies-P
Sweet has many options for his lineup, but here is why these nine could start in Memphis for Colorado Springs on Thursday.
1: Eric Young: Speed is Eric Young’s game. He is just what teams look for out of the leadoff spot, a guy with speed who can run his team to extra runs once he gets on base. Being a switch hitter also helps Young. In 2013, Young led the National League in stolen bases with 46. While in Colorado Springs in 2009, Young led the PCL with 58 steals an 118 runs. A career .292 Minor League hitter, Young could provide the Sky Sox with the speed threat they need at the top of their lineup.
2: Orlando Arcia: The Brewers top prospect will be playing at the Triple-A level for the first time in his career. In 2015, Arcia had his best year as a pro, batting .307 with a league high 37 doubles for Double-A Biloxi. He also stole 25 bases for the Shuckers. He may not hit for much power, but Arcia can hit the ball to the gaps with consistency. His glove is also top notch, as he earned a Minor League Gold Glove Award last season. Arcia is arguably the best all-around player on the Sky Sox current roster.
3: Will Middlebrooks: A solid hitter with decent power, Middlebrooks could be a good fit in the middle of the Sky Sox lineup. While in Boston, Middlebrooks reached 30 career homers faster than all but three players in Red Sox history. A career .271 minor league hitter, Middlebrooks brings a good glove at third base and a consistent bat to the Sky Sox lineup.
4. Andy Wilkins: Power is necessary to bat in the cleanup spot, and Andy Wilkins has all the power to fill that role. The hulking first baseman has hit at least 17 home runs in each of the past five minor league seasons and he led the International League with 30 in 2014. Wilkins could look to provide the pop in the middle of the Sky Sox lineup on Opening Day.
5. Shane Peterson: Last season, Shane Peterson batted in seven different spots in the Brewers lineup. That ability to fit anywhere in the starting nine could be a big asset for Peterson as he looks for a place in Rick Sweet’s lineup. In 2014, Peterson led the PCL in games played, at bats, hits, and doubles. Last season, Peterson hit .320 in 47 games for the Sky Sox. He could look to continue that pace in the middle of the Sky Sox lineup in 2016.
6. Michael Reed: After earning a trip to the Southern League All-Star team last season, Michael Reed got called up to Colorado Springs. In his first Triple-A action, Reed drove in 21 runs in 28 games. While Reed may not be hitting the ball out of the park consistently, he is patient at the plate and knows how to work the count. That skill helped earn him a cup of coffee with the Brewers last year. He will look to keep that trend going as he begins the season at Triple-A for the first time in his career.
7. Manny Pina: Manny Pina had a career year in 2015, batting .308 in 77 games fro Triple-A Toledo and earning a career highs in many offensive categories. The battle for the starting catcher’s job between Pina, Josmil Pinto, and Adam Weisenburger will be a tough one, and Pina is hoping to ride his recent string of strong play to the Sky Sox starting lineup.
8. Hernan Perez: Playing in Triple-A for the first time since early 2014, Hernan Perez could find himself at second base for the Sky Sox this season. Perez finished 2015 strong, batting .284 over his final 81 games of the season after starting the season batting .063 over his first 31 games. Perez has good power to the gaps and will look to start strong in Colorado Springs to hopefully earn a trip back to Milwaukee.
9. Zach Davies: Starting Opening Day on the mound for the Sky Sox will be Zach Davies. He will look to pick up right where he left off in 2015 with Milwaukee. Davies ended 2015 with a 15 inning scoreless streak and was named Brewers Pitcher of the Month for September/October. Davies’ changeup was rated as the best in the Brewers organization by Baseball America. Mix that up with his strong fastball and a decent curveball and hitters could be off balance trying to hit off Davies.
Disclaimer: This lineup is not official. The lineup could change at any time.