With the Double-A season only a couple of days away, the Richmond Flying Squirrels released their official Opening Day roster.
The roster includes many players promoted from last year’s championship Eugene Emeralds squad, but also a few returning players from last season. The team includes one former first round pick, Will Wilson, who started in Eugene, but finished the season at Double-A.
Best Hitting Prospect: Will Wilson (ranked #16 by Giant Futures)
Will Wilson returns to Double-A after he was promoted to the level midseason, but finished the year batting .189/.281/.306 over 51 games, with eight doubles and five home runs. Wilson really had a disappointing year with the bat in general, but the team did not give him any breaks or send him down the way they did with other struggling players, so this is a big vote of confidence in Wilson’s abilities. Wilson played mostly at shortstop, but it’ll be interesting to follow what positions he’s put at this season, as he could be used all over the infield, and also played some center field in the Arizona Fall League.
Best Pitching Prospect: R.J. Dabovich (#18)
Small asterisk here, since the answer would’ve been Ryan Murphy had the pitcher not been put on the injured list with back spasms. Dabovich exploded onto the scene in his first pro season in 2021, with a 1.42 ERA in 11 games at Eugene, before getting promoted to Double-A. He posted a more human 3.66 ERA in 20 games at Richmond, but still kept batters to a .178 average allowed, and struck out 62 in 32.1 innings overall. He also battles some injuries while at Richmond last year. Dabovich could be a quick promotion up to Triple-A if his return to Richmond goes very well.
Most Interesting Player: Brett Auerbach (#22)
The team’s Barney Nugent award winner in Spring Training, Auerbach has made a name for himself because he will play anywhere on the diamond, including both center field and catcher, and most places in-between. He also did it while hitting .256 in High-A and 15 home runs in 53 games at the level. How he’s used, and how he reacts to the advanced pitching will be very, very interesting this season.
Question to Answer: Starter or Reliever?
Blake Rivera, the Giants 4th round pick in 2018, was noted for his hammer curveball. Many think he’ll end up as a reliever with that curve, but he’s been used mostly as a starter when he’s been on the diamond. Of course, he missed 2020, and much of 2021 he was injured, but even when he returned, he was mostly a starter once he was back at High-A. This year may be the determining season for where he ends up.
Best Sleeper: Pat Ruotolo
Ruotolo rarely gets any respect, but he’s performed at every level he’s been placed at. He’s surprisingly returning to Double-A, after posting a 2.68 ERA and working as the team’s part-time closer while Dabovich was injured. He has a career 1.82 ERA over five seasons. It’s honestly a surprise he’s returning to Double-A, and he’s old for a prospect at 27, but keep an eye on him.
Team Strength: Bullpen
Anchored by Dabovich, this bullpen has a lot of interesting names. Chris Wright (#32) had a breakout year, as did Ryan Walker. The returning Ruotolo should once again be a big part of the back end of the bullpen. And don’t sleep on Tyler Schimpf back there.
Brett Auerbach (Officially, he’s listed as a catcher)