Thursday, April 9 was supposed to be the beginning of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats season with a road game against the Reading Fightin’ Phils. However, COVID-19 did not spare baseball in its quest to shut down most of the world.
Hopefully the season can start at some point this year when it becomes safe for the public. Until then, in the hopes of maintaining responsible social distancing practices while also sticking it to this disease and enjoying some baseball, Manchester Ink Link will be presenting special editions of our 400 Miles to Toronto series over the month of April with updates through a simulated 2020 New Hampshire Fisher Cats season using Out of the Park Baseball 2021.
The program, better known as OOTP, is one of the most renowned baseball simulation programs available. It doesn’t allow players to make roster moves if they choose a minor league team, with the computerized parent club taking over that role, like a human-led parent club does in reality.
So, without further ado, here is OOTP’s choices for the Opening Day roster of the 2020 New Hampshire Fisher Cats, with links to each player’s real-world Twitter account where applicable.
Michael Alescio: A New Jersey native, Alescio had a .302/.379/.411 slash line with 40 extra-base hits and 71 RBI in his 151-game career at Seton Hall.
In June 2018, he was an undrafted signing by the Milwaukee Brewers and played 25 games for the Brewers two Rookie League teams, going 15-for-72 but struck out 24 times against just four walks before being released in December 2018.
Alescio didn’t play professional baseball in 2019, heading back to New Jersey to begin a career as a paralegal.
This isn’t Michael’s first time playing in New Hampshire, returning after 23 games with the Winnepesaukee Muskrats of the New England College League in 2016.
Mac James: This 26-year-old is getting another shot, assigned to New Hampshire on March 22 in the real world after joining the Blue Jays on a minor league contract in February.
James was drafted in the 6th Round of the 2014 June Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays following a college career at the University of Oklahoma.
He’s had some flashes of brilliance, highlighted Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star appearance in 2016 and a platoon role with the International League’s Durham Bulls in 2019.
Alejandro Kirk: The presumptive starter behind the plate, the Blue Jays found Kirk in Mexico back in fall 2016 and he’s slowly made his way up the Blue Jays organization, putting up a .290/.403/.465 slash with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts and Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays over 92 games in 2019.
Christian Williams: The first returning Fisher Cat on the list, Williams came to New Hampshire last May and became an everyday player even if he couldn’t duplicate his torrid pace in Dunedin.
He went 0-for-2 during the 2020 Blue Jays Spring Training campaign and will start in a platoon at first with Noda.
According to OOTP, he likes to do crossword puzzles as well.
Deiferson Barreto: The 24-year-old Venezuelan is a utility infielder and one of the faster players on the roster. He part of the 2016 Northwest League Champion team, where he learned to speak English. Barreto missed the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to injury and was resigned by the Blue Jays after entering free agency last fall.
Cullen Large: A switch hitter, Large was promoted to New Hampshire last August and also appeared in 17 games in the Arizona Fall League. He hit over .300 during each of his three years of college ball with William and Mary.
Kevin Vicuña: Vicuña had three games with Triple-A Buffalo last year, but spent most of 2019 with Dunedin. He got two at-bats for Toronto during a pair of games in Spring Training this year and received invites for the past three years as well.
Kevin Smith: A fourth-round 2017 draft pick, Smith returns to Manchester after a 2019 campaign where he led the Fisher Cats in home runs and strikeouts.
Forest Wall – Wall actually isn’t the fastest player on the team according to OOTP, but he’s probably the best on the basepaths, ending each of the past five years with double digits in the stolen base column.
Wall was a first round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, and they traded him the Toronto organization in 2018.
Joshua Palacios – Palacios played 82 games for New Hampshire last year, with over a dozen multi-hit appearances and a .302 average at home.
According to OOTP, he also enjoys poker.
Brock Lundquist – Lundquist is equally comfortable in leftfield or rightfield, but last year in New Hampshire he played 86 of his 103 starts in left.
Chavez Young – A native of the Bahamas, Young had 24 stolen bases for Dunedin last year and 44 stolen bases for Lansing the year before that.
Griffin Conine – A former Duke Blue Devil, Griffin is the son of 17-year major leaguer Jeff Conine. He spent last year in Lansing, finishing with a .283/.371/.576 slash after serving a suspension using Ritalin without a Therapeutic Use Exemption.
Demi Orimoloye – Oluwademilade Oluwadamilola “Demi” Orimoloye was born in Nigeria, but grew up in Ottawa and played on the Canadian junior national team as a 15-year-old.
He was drafted in the fourth round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015 and traded to the Blue Jays organization in 2018 in exchange for Curtis Granderson.
Anthony Kay – Kay was a first round pick of the Mets in 2016, he faced the Fisher Cats twice last April as a pitcher with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, losing one of those appearances. In July, he was traded to the Blue Jays organization along with Simeon Woods Richardson for Marcus Stroman.
Also, in real life Kay’s kinda doing what we’re doing, only with backyard baseball. He’s also making the most of his quarantine time by catching as many Pokemon as possible.
Andrew Sopko – Sopko became part of the Blue Jays organization in January 2019 as part of the Russel Martin trade with the Dodgers. He went 2-2 in six starts for the Fisher Cats last year, limiting Eastern League batters he faced to a .184 batting average.
Sean Reid-Foley – Reid-Foley is the only professional pitcher born in Guam, and a member of the Fisher Cats in 2018 and 2019. He has experience at the major league level, but has struggled at times.
Justin Dillon – He threw the first no-hitter in the history of Sacramento State before the Blue Jays nabbed him with a 10th round pick in 2017. He was a reliever and spot starter for New Hampshire in 2018 and 2019, cutting his ERA in half and almost doubling his strikeout total during his second Fisher Cats campaign.
Joey Murray – Murray got the call up to New Hampshire last July from Dunedin, capping his first professional season. He’s the second youngest member of the staff and he also does not believe in the concept of a runner’s high.
Louis Coleman – Coleman’s the oldest player on the team with over 250 relief appearances over seven big league seasons. In the real world, he was released from the Mets organization last July and hasn’t been picked up by anyone else yet. Here in the simulation, he was signed on April 4 to a minor league deal for what might be his last shot at the show. He’s also the only member of the F-Cats without any options left for what that’s worth.
Brett Cecil – Cecil’s not far behind Coleman in the age department and like Coleman, his real-life situation is slightly different than his situation here in OOTP. In reality, he opted for free agency from the Blue Jays in 2017 and signed a few days later with the Cardinals organization. He missed most of 2019 rehabilitating from carpal tunnel syndrome, but reality diverges from our simulation on April 6, when the Cardinals dropped him. The Blue Jays picked him up on a minor league deal on the morning of the Eastern League Opening Day.
Turner Larkins – Larkins appeared in one game for the Fisher Cats last season, a road contest against Reading on July 3. He may get a shot at the rotation at some point, he started 13 of his 23 appearances in Dunedin last year. For now, he’s a long reliever and spot starter. OOTP describes him as “a regular Joe.”
Chandler Shepherd – Here’s another “what if,” in reality Shepard’s currently in the Baltimore Orioles’ system and got a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Here in the simulation, the Orioles released him a day before Eastern League Opening Day and the Blue Jays scooped him up on a one-year minor league deal.
He’s Rule 5 eligible, but he’s been waived from the Cubs and the Red Sox organizations before anyway, so that is not probably not a significant concern. He allowed 14 earned runs in 19 innings at the big league level in 2019.
Graham Spraker – On paper, Spraker and Larkins might actually be the same person. They’re both 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds according to the MILB website. They were both born in 1995. They both spent most of 2019 in Dunedin as spot starters/long relievers. They both have three pitches (fastball, changeup, curveball)
Sean Wymer – Wymer is the youngest member of the staff at 23 years old, a few months younger than Murray. Last year was his first full professional season and he spent it with Lansing where he went 9-11 with a 5.43 ERA. Unlike Spraker and Larkins, all but two of his appearances last year were starts, but he can’t crack the rotation on the simulated roster here just yet.
Tristan Archer – Another “what-if” here, in reality Archer got a job as a salesman with an engineering firm in Tennessee last September after he was let go from the Reds’ organization in July. The simulated Blue Jays signed him for a one-year, $700,000 deal on April 1.
Alex Wimmers – One more departure from reality, Wimmers hasn’t played any professional ball since 2018 when he was released from the non-affilated Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters in 2018. He spent a few years at the Triple-A level and had a handful of games in the big leagues in 2016 and 2017. The simulated Blue Jays signed him to an undisclosed minor league deal on April 1.