clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 former Arizona baseball players make 2023 MLB Opening Day rosters

arizona-wildcats-baseball-mlb-2023-season-opening-day-rosters-salazar-ginkel-newman-nardi-refsnyder Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Five former Arizona Wildcats made their Major League debuts in 2022, resulting in 15 players with UA ties getting into a big-league game a year ago.

There will be at least one first-time ex-Wildcat in the bigs this season, as catcher Cesar Salazar made the Opening Day roster of the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.

Salazar, 27, was a 7th-round pick of the Astros in the 2018 MLB Draft after spending three seasons with the UA. As a freshman he was part of the team that reached the College World Series championship series, starting 153 games in his career and hitting .299.

A native of Mexico who graduated from Tucson’s Sahuaro High School, Salazar will become the 94th ex-UA player to make the majors according to Arizona’s sports information department. He is listed as Houston’s third catcher, so he’s unlikely to play in Thursday’s opener at home against the Chicago White Sox, but figures to get into a game within the first few days.

Another former Wildcat (and teammate of Salazar’s on the 2016 squad) who made his MLB debut last season with the Astros, JJ Matijevic, will start the season with their Triple-A team in Sugar Land, Texas. The 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder played in 32 games with Houston in 2022, hitting .209 with two home runs and five RBI.

Here are the other former UA players who will be on the Opening Day rosters when the 2023 MLB season begins Thursday, as well as some ex-Wildcats who figure to get called up during the course of the season:

Kevin Ginkel, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Year in majors: 5th

Ginkel, 29, may have benefitted from an injury to another former UA pitcher to get his roster spot. Veteran closer Mark Melancon, who is entering his 15th big-league season, is expected to be out for an extended period of time with a right shoulder strain. It also didn’t hurt that Ginkel had a 1.74 ERA with nine strikeouts in 10.1 innings over 11 Spring Training appearances.

The right-handed reliever has appeared in 106 games with the D’Backs since making his debut in 2019, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA and one save last season.

Andrew Nardi, RP, Miami Marlins

Year in majors: 2nd

The 24-year-old Nardi made his MLB debut last August, giving up three runs in 1.1 innings but earning a “hold” in the Marlins’ 4-3 win over eventual NLCS participant San Diego. He’d get into 12 more games and finish with a 9.82 ERA along with 24 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.

The left-hander, who was a 16th-round pick of the Marlins in 2019, struck out 10 in 8.1 innings of work this spring to earn the roster spot.

Kevin Newman, SS, Cincinnati Reds

Year in majors: 6th

After five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who picked him 19th overall in the 2015 draft, Newman was traded within the NL Central in November for reliever Dauri Moreta. The emergence of top prospect O’Neil Cruz put Newman’s future at shortstop, where he’d made 288 of 383 career starts, in jeopardy.

With the Reds, the 29-year-old Newman figures to be the everyday shortstop thanks to his defensive acumen. He was a Gold Glove Award finalist in 2021 and has committed only 26 errors in 2,500-plus innings in the field.

Rob Refsnyder, OF, Boston Red Sox

Year in majors: 8th

Refsnyder logged career highs in at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs and batting average last season with Boston, his sixth big-league club. The 32-year-old had three stints with the Red Sox in 2022, hitting .307 with six homers and 21 RBI.

This will mark the first time Refsnyder has made an Opening Day roster since the COVID-delayed 2020 season with the Texas Rangers, his first on the traditional Opening Day since 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Others who could get called up

  • OF Willie Calhoun, who began his college career with the UA before transferring to Yavapai College, will start the 2023 season with the New York Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton. The 28-year-old spent time last season with Texas and the San Francisco Giants and has 32 career homers.
  • 1B Bobby Dalbec got demoted to Triple-A Worcester last September and will begin this season down there after hitting .235 with two homers in Spring Training. The 27-year-old, another member of the 2016 CWS team, is a career .232 with 45 homers but also 313 strikeouts in 898 plate appearances.
  • LHP Rio Gomez will also start the year with the Red Sox’s Triple-A club, his first taste of that level of the minors. The 28-year-old spent most of the past two seasons at Double-A, and this spring was part of Colombia’s bullpen for the World Baseball Classic, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings.
  • IF Scott Kingery hit .340 in Spring Training but did not make the Opening Day roster for the Philadelphia Phillies, where he was a mainstay in 2018-19. The 28-year-old has only played in 52 big-league games since then because of injuries and ineffectiveness and figures to begin the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
  • RHP Tyler Megill was the New York Mets’ Opening Day starter a year ago, but he got hurt in June and when he returned in September was used out of the bullpen. Rather than have him be a reliever in the bigs to start out, the 27-year-old will be part of the rotation at Triple-A Syracuse.
  • 1B/OF Alfonso Rivas signed with the Padres in January after playing in 119 games with the Chicago Cubs the previous two seasons. The 26-year-old will likely begin at Triple-A El Paso.
  • SP Chase Silseth went from pitching in the College World Series to making his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Angels in less than a year after being an 11th-round pick in the 2021 draft. The 22-year-old made seven starts with the Angels, going 1-3 with a 6.59 ERA, and spent the rest of the season at Double-A but will begin 2023 at Triple-A Salt Lake.
  • Five other ex-Wildcats with MLB experience also could find their way back to the bigs the season: 1B/RF Ryan Aguilar (Angels), IF Andy Burns (free agent), IF/OF Brandon Dixon (Padres), OF Jared Oliva (Angels) and OF Cal Stevenson (Oakland Athletics).