The 2008 Texas League champion Travelers look to defend their title with a club that should feature one of the most dynamic offenses in the Texas League.
This year's Travs feature a number of returning players from last year's championship club.
Mark Trumbo returns to hold down first base for the Travs after leading all Angels minor league players with 32 home runs and 93 RBI in 2008. Ben Johnson also returns to play the outfield as well as catcher and first base. Johnson had the best season of his career posting a .262 batting average and 20 homers plus 77 RBI in 106 games at Arkansas.
Hainley Statia begins the season with the Travs at shortstop for the second year in a row. The slick-fielding Statia was limited to 59 games in 2008 due to hamstring injuries. Wilberto Ortiz, one of the Travs 2008 playoff heroes, will take over at third base. Ortiz batted .266 between Arkansas and Rancho Cucamonga, then collected a team-high 10 hits during the postseason.
Also returning to the Travs are outfielder Coby Smith (.275-2-16 in 61 games), utilityman Nate Sutton (.276-7-44) and catcher Flint Wipke. Gary Patchett will be the infield utilityman after spending the last two seasons at Salt Lake.
One of the top hitting prospects in baseball, Hank Conger is slated to be the everyday catcher. Conger recovered from a torn labrum to post a strong second half in 2008 (.303-13-75) at Rancho Cucamonga, then led the Travs in the playoffs with 13 RBI.
Second baseman Ryan Mount also put together a great second half after an injury at Rancho Cucamonga (.290-16-49).
The outfield is anchored by centerfielder Peter Bourjos, who led the California League with 50 stolen bases while posting a .295 batting average, 9 home runs, 51 RBI and 83 runs scored. Patrick Breen will be at one of the corner outfield spots after signing with the Angels in October as a free agent. Breen was named the 2008 Most Valuable Player of the independent Golden Baseball League when he hit .396 with 28 homers and 94 RBI.
On the mound the Travs feature two of the Angels' top starting pitching prospects with opening day starter Sean O'Sullivan and Jordan Walden. O'Sullivan led the California League in wins in 2008 (16-8, 4.73 ERA), whle Walden (9-8, 2.76 ERA between Rancho Cucamonga and Cedar Rapids) led all Angels farmhands with 141 strikeouts.
Midwest League All-Star LHP Mike Anton (13-9, 3.87 ERA between Rancho and CR) is the only lefty in the rotation. RHP Amalio Diaz (10-8, 4.32 ERA at Arkansas and RC) returns while RHP Trevor Bell (7-8, 3.91), the Angels' 2005 first round draft choice, rounds out the rotation.
In the bullpen, the Travs find RHP David Herndon as the probable closer. After a switch to relief midway through the 2008 season Herndon saved 17 games, second most in the Angels' system. Barret Browning returns to the Travs after a strong 2008 campaign where he struck out 73 batters in 65.1 innings. RHP Bobby Mosebach (9-12, 4.62 ERA) has made the switch to relief after leading the Texas League with 177.1 innings pitched. Mosebach was returned to the Angels in March after being selected by the Phillies in the Major League Rule draft.
Jeremy Hill is the elder statesman (31) on the club after posting 23 saves in the Mexican League in 2008. Hill also is the only member of the opening day roster with experience in the Major Leagues, pitching 11 games with the Royals in 2002 and 2003. RHP Marco Albano, RHP Chad Blackwell and RHP Bobby Cassevah round out the relief corps.
The regular season opens Thursday night against the Midland RockHounds with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m.