BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A new year brings a new crop of big-league hopefuls to MGM Park. As he enters his third season managing the Biloxi Shuckers, Mike Guerrero says he's excited about this year's squad.
"It's really, I will say, impressive, for our organization and really important for our organization to have these guys and be successful at this level so they can move up quicker," Guerrero said.
Shuckers fans will have quite a few new faces to familiarize themselves with, but there are still plenty of big names for baseball fans on the Coast to get excited about. This year's roster boasts three former first round draft picks, including two starters in the outfield: Corey Ray (5th overall in 2016) and Trent Grisham (15th overall in 2015). Left-handed pitcher Kodi Medeiros, the 12th overall pick in 2014, rounds out the group.
"That was always a big thing, potential, potential, potential," Grisham said on playing with Ray previously with the Carolina Mudcats. "We did some good things last year, raised some eyebrows, and actually put some numbers on, kind of took it away from potential. It was skill. That's what we plan to do this year, build on that."
As for returnees, many will remember Luis Ortiz. After dealing with injuries for most of 2017 that saw him finish 4-7 with a 4.01 ERA, the Brewers' fifth-rated prospect plans to have a big season on the mound as the first option in the rotation.
"For me, it's staying healthy," said Ortiz, who missed time last season with a hamstring injury and a bout with hand-foot-and-mouth disease. "Pitching is what got me drafted, (it's) what I do, I'm talented. It's just mainly the skill level and meeting the requirements on that."
He'll be joined on the mound by fellow returnee Nick Ramirez. Pitching for the first time in six seasons, the Cal State Fullerton product went 7-4 with a 1.37 ERA in 2017, and now plans to round out his game even more.
"Obviously I have the feel back and the command and all that stuff," Ramirez said. "(But) this year we're gonna be having me play first more, hit more, so it's gonna be more of a legit two-way."
You can see Ortiz, Ramirez and all your favorite Shuckers get one final tune-up before starting the 2018 season, as they host William Carey in a charity exhibition game for the second straight season. Net proceeds go to the school's continued tornado relief.
First pitch from MGM Park set for Tuesday at 6:35 p.m., and then the Shuckers officially begin Southern League play Thursday when they visit Montgomery.