New-look, new-name Toronto Nomads are hoping for a strong start against a similarly rebranded New York Dragons in their season opening series.
The Nomads will pit 2015 Rookie of the Year right-hander Knuckles Malone against the Dragons bats, which will include veteran 1B Setsuo Kimura, who was .324 with 20 home runs last season, 40-RBI man Tony Cruz, and solid contributor Victor Jimenez, none of whom have faced the knuckle-baller before.
The Nomads will field several rookies this year, some of whom will debut as starters in the opening game. Joseph Walker hit in the mid .200’s through spring, and had a .320 average at single-A last year, swiping 25 bases and eking out three triples in 69 games for the London Bluebirds, as the 2015 first round draft pick worked to prove himself. The Nomads feel he is ready to bring his contact and speed to the big leagues, and will play LF and bat in a lead-off role no less.
CF Steven Miller is another single-A outfielder making a start for the Nomads this year. In two years in the minors, he batted .233 and stole 26 bases, showing some promising speed but needing work in hitting. But he had a great spring training, finishing with a .385 average, including a 3-for-3 performance against Chicago in April.
Miller and Walker will join sophomore RF Victor Sarmiento in what could be the youngest outfield in the Bull League (the average age is just under 23 years of age). Sarmiento was an All-Star in his rookie year last season, improving on his solid Cow League numbers with a .311 average and a dozen home runs in 59 games with Toronto.
There are plenty of veterans in the Nomads lineup as well, with 1B Migeul Tafoya, Platinum Glove-winning C Gula Kareem, and 3B Alejandro Reyna providing for an experienced infield, in which 2nd-year 2B Omar Medina will continue to develop.
New York will likely put up RHP William Febres in the opening starter slot, one of the league’s best strikeout men, who can also work his elite-level fastball and changeup combo for an average ground out percentage of over 51% and who last year kept opposing batters to just a .166 batting average.
The Dragons have just one player under 25 on the projected opening day lineup, 1B Pedro Rosario, who scouts have called a solid long-baller who can hit with power to all fields, but who has struggled to break out at the top level, hitting just .216 in 26 games in 2015, and sinking to .198 last season with just 4 homers.
Game 1 of the opening Toronto-New York series will certainly be a low-scoring pitcher’s duel, but both lineups have the potential to break out with big runs, Dragons moreso than the Nomads. With Toronto’s speed on the bases, NY’s C Mokuo Kajioka will be challenged to throw out runners, and has only managed to do so 33.9% of the time in his career.
The Opening Day action will be played out during the live sim on May 9, available here.