It’s Opening Day For the Florida State League
The 2018 season for the Florida State League gets underway on today, with all 10 of the 12 teams hoping to dethrone the 2017 Co-FSL Champions, from the North Division the Dunedin Blue Jays and from the South, the Palm Beach Cardinals. It was just the third time in the league’s history that a natural disaster cancelled the league title game, naming teams from both divisions as Co-Champs.
The Florida State League is one of the premier leagues in Class-A baseball, as many big names within the MLB organizations have showcased their skills in the league. The 2018 season will be no different as great baseball will be played again all over the state of Florida.
Here is a bit of information about all 12 teams:
Clearwater Threshers – Philadelphia Phillies
2017 Overall Record: 67-71 (3rd Place)
The Clearwater franchise have been an affiliate of the Phillies since 1985, but in 2004 became the Threshers. In the Threshers history, they have won a league title (2007) and one Division Crown (2007). Most notable stars to play on the Threshers have been Pedro Martinez, Tom Gordon, Cole Hamels, Mike Schmidt (MGR), Kyle Kendrick, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and Randy Wolf. This season they look to improve on their 3rd Place finish in 2017, with the hopes of competing for the league title.
Daytona Tortugas – Cincinnati Reds
2017 Overall Record: 53-80 (5th Place)
The Daytona franchise has been member of the Florida State League since 1993, but just recently in 2015, became the affiliate of the Reds. In that season, the Tortugas won the Division Title, winning 77 games, but failed to win the league crown. Since they have not made the playoffs and look towards 2018 as the season as a promising one for the Tortuga faithful.
Dunedin Blue Jays – Toronto Blue Jays
2017 Overall Record: 72-66 (2nd Place – Earned Playoff Berth)
The Blue Jays have been with the Florida State League since 1987 and have always been an affiliate of the parent club. In 2017, they were the Co-Champs of the Florida State League winning the North Division, but because of impending Hurricane Irma, the league title game was cancelled. Dunedin finished behind the Tampa Yankees in second place during the regular season, but beat them 2-1 in their playoff series, earning a share of the crown. Of the major league ball players to call Dunedin home during their minor league careers, here are a few notable ones, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Jeff Kent, Kevin Pillar, Alex Rios, Dave Stieb and Vernon Wells.
Florida Fire Frogs – Atlanta Braves
2017 Overall Record: 48-81 (6th Place)
The Fire Frogs had their inaugural season in 2017 and even though the team finished last in their division, they showcased some of the organizations great young talent, like #1 Prospect Ronald Acuna, C Alex Jackson, 1B Carlos Castro and OF Afernee Seymour. Entering their second season, the Fire Frogs look to turning their losses into wins with a successful 2018 campaign.
Braves Top Prospects on Roster – #2 Kyle Wright – RHP, #24 Bret Cumberland – C, #25 Afernee Seymour – OF
Lakeland Flying Tigers – Detroit Tigers
2017 Overall Record: 62-66 (4th Place)
The Flying Tigers have been a part of the Florida State League since 1960 and an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers since 1963. In their franchise history, they have won league titles in 1976, 1977, 1992 and last winning in 2012. Since becoming the Flying Tigers in 2007, some of the greats of the game have worn their uniform like Carlos Guillen, Andrew Miller, Rick Porcello, Gary Sheffield and Dontrelle Willis. The Flying Tigers will have seven of the organizations Top 30 Prospects, which can mean a very interesting season for the Lakeland faithful.
Tampa Tarpons – New York Yankees
2017 Overall Record: 85-50 (1st Place – Won Division Crown)
The 2017 Tampa Yankees won their Division Title with 85 games, but they failed to win two games in the postseason, losing to Dunedin, the North Champs. This season will be a first for the new Tarpons, as they have been the Tampa Yankees since 1994 when they joined the Florida State League. In their history they have won five league titles (last in 2010 and seven division crowns. Even though they changed the name, it doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees have had some of the greats of the game come through Tampa on their way to the impacting the majors. Most notably Derek Jeter, Tim Raines, Robinson Cano, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Mariano Rivera. The Tarpons will look to continue the winning ways.
Yankees Top Prospects on Roster – Has not Been announced yet
Bradenton Mauraders – Pittsburgh Pirates
2017 Overall Record: 70-62 (3rd Place)
The Mauraders, who joined the Florida State League in 2010 as an affiliate of the Pirates, won second half titles in 2010, 2011, and 2014, and their first FSL league title in 2016. There have been nearly 103 major league ball players that have called Bradenton their home for a period during their minor league careers, and the most notable ones were, Pedro Alvarez, A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, Jose Contreras, Francisco Liriano, Starling Marte, and Neil Walker.
Charlotte Stone Crabs – Tampa Bay Rays
Port Charlotte, FL
2017 Overall Record: 69-66 (4th Place)
The Charlotte franchise first started out in Vero Beach with the Dodgers and joined the Florida State League in 1980 and became an affiliate of the Tampa Rays in 2007 while still in Vero Beach. Then in 2009, the franchise moved over to Charlotte and became the Stone Crabs. Since the move, the Stone Crabs have won four Division crowns (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015) and one League title in 2015. Charlotte has had four current majors leaguers once on their roster, Alex Cobb, Jake McGee, Matt Moore and Stephen Vogt.
Fort Myers Miracle – Minnesota Twins
Fort Myers, FL
2017 Overall Record: 75-60 (1st Place – Won Division Crown)
The Fort Myers franchise has been in existence since 1926, but became an affiliate of the Twins in 1992 at their current location in Fort Myers. Since then the Miracle have won four 1st half titles (2003, 2008, 2009, 2014), four 2nd half titles (1995, 2000, 2006, 2009), three Division titles (1995, 2008, 2014, 2017), and one league title (2014). Last season after making the post season, they lost to the South Champs, the Palm Beach Cardinals. Since 1992, these major leaguers have called Fort Myers their home during their minor league stints, Rick Aguilera, Michael Cuddyer, Matt Garza, LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunter, Roberto Kelly, Matt Lawton, Francisco Liriano, Joe Mauer, Doug Mientkiewicz, Pat Neshek, David Ortiz, A.J. Pierzynski, Brad Radke, Miguel Sano, Denard Span, and Rondell White.
Twins Top Prospects on Roster – #10 Lewin Diaz – 1B, #14 Travis Blackenhorn – INF
Jupiter Hammerheads – Miami Marlins
2017 Overall Record: 67-68 (5th Place)
The Hammerheads have been an affiliate of the Marlins since the 1998 season and since have won a Division crown in 2012. Since their start, they have had many notable major league former and current on their roster, to name a few, Tim Raines, Miguel Cabrera, Jason Bay, Jose Fernandez, Rafael Furcal, Hanley Ramirez, Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett, Aaron Boone, A.J. Burnett, Dee Gordon, Brandon Phillips, and Giancarlo Stanton.
Palm Beach Cardinals – St. Louis Cardinals
2017 Overall Record: 74-60 (2nd Place – Earned Playoff Berth)
Palm Beach has been an affiliate of the Cardinals since their inception into the Florida State League in 2003. Since then, the franchise has won a Division Crown in 2015 and two league titles in 2005 and last season when they enjoyed a share of the championship with the Dunedin Blue Jays, due to the impending Hurricane Irma cancelling the league title game. The Cardinals will look to defend their crown and make a run at a repeat in 2018. In their history, the most notable alumni to grace the roster were, Allen Craig, Jason Motte, John Jay, Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Matt Carpenter.
St. Lucie Mets – New York Mets
Port St. Lucie, FL
2017 Overall Record: 63-75 (6th Place)
Port St. Lucie has been home for the Mets since the franchise became an affiliate of the parent club in 1988, while also joining the Florida State League during that season. Since they have won six Division crowns (1988, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2011) and five League titles (1988, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2006). The Mets have had many top major leaguers spend time on their roster during their minor league careers, most notably the late Gary Carter who was also their manager in 2006, Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, Moises Alou, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Yoenis Cespedes, Vince Coleman, David Cone, Jacob deGrom, Sid Fernandez, John Franco, Matt Harvey, Keith Hernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Daniel Murphy, Benito Santiago, Justin Turner, and the captain, David Wright.
Opening Day Games – April 5, 2018
Bradenton at St. Lucie – 6:30 PM ET
Jupiter at Palm Beach – 6:30 PM ET
Tampa at Lakeland – 6:30 PM ET
Charlotte at Fort Myers – 7:00 PM ET
Dunedin at Clearwater – 7:00 PM ET
Florida at Daytona – 7:00 PM ET