Hillcats Announce 2013 Opening Day Roster

From the Hillcats:

Lynchburg, VA - The Lynchburg Hillcats have released their Opening Day roster for the 2013 season. The initial group of players includes nine returning Hillcats, six of which were on the roster for the Hillcats' championship run last September. Starting the season in Lynchburg will also be four of Baseball America's top 30 Braves prospects.

Highlighting the roster will be 2010 supplemental first round pick, OF Matt Lipka (14th-rated prospect), and RHP Navery Moore (15th-rated prospect). Lipka hit .271 with 2 home runs and 12 stolen bases last year for the Hillcats, but injuries limited him to just 51 games. Baseball America also rated him as the Best Athlete in the Braves organization. Moore, a 14th round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2011, spent last season with Low Class A Rome. He went 8-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 26 games, 13 starts, and struck out 84 batters in 103 innings.

Returning the mound for Lynchburg will be RHP Caleb Brewer, LHP Matt Chaffee, LHP Ronan Pacheco, and RHP Ryan Weber. Brewer was first called up to Lynchburg at the end of the 2011 season, and spent all of 2012 with the club. Chaffee and Pacheco each got their first Advanced Single A experience last year with Lynchburg, and will be the only left-handers on the staff. Weber has spent the last two seasons playing with both Low-A Rome and Lynchburg.

The rest of the staff features 2012 draft picks RHP David Peterson (8th round) and RHP Nate Hyatt (15th round). Peterson gave up just 6 earned runs in 28 innings (1.93 ERA) for Rookie-level Danville last season. Meanwhile, Hyatt tossed 24.2 innings between Danville and Rome, allowing just 4 earned runs (1.46 ERA). Rounding out the staff will be RHP A.J. Holland, RHP James Hoyt, RHP Jarrett Miller, RHP Mark Pope, RHP Wilson Rivera, and RHP Ryan Woolley. The oldest member of the staff is the 26-year-old Hoyt, who will make his Braves system debut with Lynchburg. He has two years of professional baseball experience, spending 2011 and 2012 playing with independent teams and a team in the Mexican League.

Lipka will be joined by two other returners in the outfield,David Rohm and Robby Hefflinger, as well as newcomer Will Skinner. Rohm played 85 games with the Hillcats last season, missing some time on the disabled list. Hefflinger will start the season in Lynchburg for the third straight season. In 2011, he was sent down to Rome after just 12 games. Last year, he played 37 games with the Hillcats before heading back to Rome. Hefflinger enters 2013 as the 29th-best prospect in the organization and he has been given the title of "Best Outfield Arm" in the Braves system by Baseball America. Skinner spent all of last season with Rome, collecting 9 home runs and 49 RBI in 105 games.

On the infield will be 1B William Beckwith, 2B/SS Fernando De Los Santos, 2B Ross Heffley, 3B Kyle Kubitza, SS Elmer Reyes, and returning utility man Matt Weaver.

Beckwith, at 6'2" 220 lbs, will look to provide some power to the middle of the lineup. He has hit 26 home runs over his last two seasons (164 games). De Los Santos will add versatility to infield playing primarily up the middle, but he has also spent time at third and even the outfield. Kubitza, a third round pick out of Texas State University in 2011, is the 25th-ranked prospect in the organization. He played 90 games at third base for Rome last season, and turned in a .915 fielding percentage. Reyes, a former ranked prospect, signed with the Braves out of Nicaragua in 2009 as an 18-year-old. After spending part of 2011 and all of 2012 with Rome, he will get his first crack at Advanced-A ball in 2013. Finally, the resident veteran of the unit will be Weaver. He played in 12 games for the Hillcats in 2011 before a broken thumb sidelined him. Last year, he returned to the "Hill City" and played in 87 games, hitting 10 home runs. He played 15 or more games at 4 different positions, and saw time at 6 positions overall. Weaver also scored the game winning run in the clinching game of the Mills Cup Championship Game last season.

Handling the pitching staff will be catchers Cory Brownstenand Luis De La Cruz. Brownsten started the 2011 season with the Hillcats, but finished the year with Rome. He spent all of 2012 with Rome as well, and was named the Rome Braves Defensive Player of the Year and the South Atlantic League's Best Defensive Catcher. De La Cruz, at just 23 years old, brings 7 years of professional experience to the club. He was originally signed in 2006, just two weeks after turning 17, by the St. Louis Cardinals. This will be his first season in the Braves organization.

The defending champion Lynchburg Hillcats open up the 2013 season this Friday, April 5 on the road against the Potomac Nationals. Their home opener is Tuesday, April 9 when the Myrtle Beach Pelicans come to Lynchburg.