Stingers sign 3 for 2014
WILLMAR — The Willmar Stingers’ youth movement is in full swing.
The Stingers added two California prep stars and a Creighton first baseman Wednesday to put the 2014 roster at 14 — 11 of whom are sophomores or younger.
Coming by way of University of Southern California are freshman catcher Jeremy Martinez and freshman shortstop Frankie Rios, along with Creighton redshirt sophomore Reagan Fowler.
Martinez is the most highly-touted of the group. He was a 37th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2013 MLB draft out of baseball powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. But he opted to attend USC.
Prior to the draft, Baseball America ranked him No. 226 in their national Top 500 draft-eligible players.
According to BA’s scouting report, Martinez handles a pitching staff well and has a contact-oriented approach at the plate. He hit .395 for Mater Dei his senior season and played for Team USA’s 18-and-under team for two years, helping them to the gold medal at the 2011 Pan Am Championships in Colombia and another gold in 2012 at the 18U World Championship in South Korea. He was also a member of the Team USA 16U team in 2010.
The Team USA 18U team has seen many future major leaguers pass through, including Albert Belle, Billy Butler, Justin Upton, Michael Cuddyer, Scott Kazmir, Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Matt Holliday, Paul Konerko, Buster Posey, Alex Rodriguez, John Smoltz and Andrew McCutchen.
Shortstop Rios will join Martinez at USC, as part of Baseball America’s No. 24-ranked college recruiting class in the country for 2014.
Rios hit .406 his senior season at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High School and was named to a laundry list of All-League and All-Conference teams.
Creighton’s Fowler adds a solid corner infield bat on a Stingers’ roster already loaded with middle infielders. He played his redshirt freshman season last spring starting 44 games and hit .282 with a standout .432 on-base percentage. He didn’t show much power but racked up 32 walks with just 21 strikeouts.
Notes: 2012 Stingers’ shortstop and current Kansas City Royals prospect Hunter Dozier was ranked the No. 5 prospect in the Royals’ system by prospect expert John Sickels (www.minorleagueball.com).
2014 Willmar Stingers’ roster
Through Dec. 18
Brett Barbier — Cal Poly, redshirt freshman catcher
Max Dutto — Cal, sophomore SS
Reagan Fowler — Creighton, redshirt sophomore 1B
Alex Greene — West Florida, redshirt sophomore SS
Trent Higginbotham — Montevallo, freshman RHP
Max Kuhn — Kentucky, junior 3B
Troy Kuhn — Ohio State, sophomore 2B/3B
Sheldon Lee — San Francisco, redshirt junior RHP
Jeremy Martinez — USC, freshman catcher
AJ Puckett — Pepperdine, freshman RHP
Hutton Moyer — Pepperdine, sophomore 2B
Frankie Rios — USC, freshman SS
Jack Ross — Pepperdine, freshman OF
TJ Whidby — UT-Arlington, junior RHP