The Blue Wahoos original affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds, which ended in 2018, has continued its impact five years later.
There were 31 former Blue Wahoos players, including 14 who played in Pensacola as Reds’ prospects, on the Opening Day rosters Thursday among Major League teams in the season-opening games throughout this weekend. It was the first time in the modern era that MLB has opened its season with all the teams playing on the same day.
It provided a day where games were televised from noon through midnight and ushered a new era of the sport with a pitch timing clock, wider bases and changes.
The 14 players with Reds connections are now scattered on 12 different teams. Four of those players were Opening Day starters Thursday on four different teams. Start with Reds’ centerfielder T.J. Friedl, then Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Jesse Winker and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Miguel Rojas, who was on the Blue Wahoos first team in 2012.
The Blue Wahoos made their franchise debut in April 2012 as the Southern League, Double-A affiliate of the Reds.
One of those former Reds' prospects, Luis Castillo, now with the Seattle Mariners, shined on Opening Day with a six-inning, 1-hit performance in the Mariners' eventual 3-0 victory against the Cleveland Guardians. Castillo made 14 starts for the Blue Wahoos in 2017 before his MLB debut with the Reds later that season.
In addition, three former Minnesota Twins prospects who played on the 2019 Blue Wahoos team – the only year as a Twins affiliate -- were in a starting lineup Thursday.
The group was led by Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez, the 2022 American League battling champion for the Twins, who was acquired by Marlins in an off-season trade. He batted leadoff in the Marlins opener against the New York Mets.
The Twins opened their season at Kansas City, where former Blue Wahoos’ Trevor Larnach (left field) and Jose Miranda (third base) were in the starting lineup.
An astonishing 19 former Blue Wahoos pitchers were part of MLB opening day rosters. Aside from Castillo, no one else started a game Thursday, but there were plenty of possibilities for action in the bullpens.
In Miami, Edward Cabrera, who pitched for the Blue Wahoos in 2021, then returned last season for a pair of injury rehab assignments, will make his 2023 start for the Marlins in Saturday's game against the New York Mets at Miami's loanDepot Park.
Joining Cabrera on the Marlins’ opening weekend roster is reliever Andrew Nardi, who impressed in spring training to gain a roster spot, along with catcher Nick Fortes, who made his MLB debut in 2021 following the Blue Wahoos season. Nardi appeared in 13 games last season for the Blue Wahoos as part of the 2022 Southern League championship team.
The Twins have six former Blue Wahoos as part of their pitching staff, including starting rotation member Tyler Mahle, the former Reds pitcher, who made Minor League Baseball history with Pensacola by throwing a perfect game in 2017 against the former Mobile BayBears while a rising Reds’ prospect.
It was only the second, nine-inning, perfect game thrown in Southern League history and first since 1970.
The other five former Blue Wahoos pitchers with the Twins have all remained in the organization. Griffin Jax, the first Air Force Academy graduate to play in the major leagues, is in the bullpen with Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Jovani Moran and Cole Sands.
That gives an indication of how strong that 2019 Blue Wahoos team was in terms of prospects. Another member of that 2019 team, first baseman/outfielder Alex Kirilloff, is on the Twins injured list, part part of the roster.
Also on the injured list is Marlins’ pitcher Max Meyer, who pitched for the Blue Wahoos in 2021 and is expected back in the second half of this season.
Beginning with the Blue Wahoos’ current affiliation, the Miami Marlins, here is a breakdown of former Blue Wahoos players on MLB Opening Day Rosters.
MIAMI MARLINS (Affiliate from 2021-Present)
2B – Luis Arraez – 2022 AL batting champion played in 38 games for the Blue Wahoos in the first half of 2019 season.
C – Nick Fortes – Played in 57 games for the Blue Wahoos in 2021 before making MLB debut in late September.
P – Andrew Nardi – Was part of the Blue Wahoos’ roster in 2022 as they won Southern League first half.
P – Edward Cabrera – Went 2-1 in five starts for Blue Wahoos in 2021; returned last year to pitch in 2 rehab starts.
MINNESOTA TWINS (Affiliate in 2019-2020, no season in 2020)
P – Jorge Alcala – Made 16 starts, 26 games for Blue Wahoos in 2019.
P – Jhoan Duran – Joined Blue Wahoos in second half of 2019 and started all seven games he pitched.
P – Griffin Jax – Made 20 starts for Blue Wahoos in 2019 with a 2.56 ERA.
P – Jovani Moran – Had 20 relief appearances for Blue Wahoos in 2019 with 2-2 record
P – Cole Sands – Joined the team late in 2019, made one appearance.
OF – Trevor Larnach – Was a first-round pick in 2018 out of Oregon State, played 43 games for Blue Wahoos in 2019.
C – Ryan Jeffers – Hit .287 for the Blue Wahoos in 2019, playing in 24 games.
OF – Alex Kirilloff – On injured list. Was the Twins’ first round pick in 2016 and played 94 games for Pensacola, batting .283
*CINCINNATI REDS (2012 season to 2018) *
OF – Nick Senzel -- The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, played 57 games for Blue Wahoos and batted .340
OF – T.J Freidl – Batted .276 in 67 games for Blue Wahoos in 2018.
OTHER MLB TEAMS
Pittsburgh Pirates – P – Robert Stevenson: Was the Reds first round pick in 2011. Pitched in 2013-14 for Blue Wahoos as a starter.
Los Angeles Angels – P- Jimmy Herget: Had a 2.73 ERA in 24 relief appearances in 2017 for Blue Wahoos.
Seattle Mariners – P-Luis Castillo – Once part of the Reds starting rotation, Castillo pitched in 2017 for Blue Wahoos.
Los Angeles Dodgers – P – Brusdar Graterol – Was part of Blue Wahoos 2019 starting rotation, then made into reliever with Twins and Dodgers
New York Yankees – P-Wandy Peralta – Former Reds prospect pitched in 29 games for Blue Wahoos in 2015.
New York Yankees – C-Ben Rortvedt – Is currently on injured list. Part of 2019 Blue Wahoos team.
Tampa Bay Rays – OF Jose Siri – Former Reds prospect played in 66 games for Blue Wahoos in 2018.
Atlanta Braves – P-Raisel Iglesias – While a Reds prospect in 2016, made three relief appearances for Blue Wahoos.
Philadelphia Phillies – P-Andrew Bellatti – Former Rays prospect, appeared in four games in 2021 while with Marlins organization and P Andrew Vasquez – Former Twins prospect made 14 relief appearances for Blue Wahoos in 2019.
Detroit Tigers – P-Michael Lorenzen – Was part of Blue Wahoos starting rotation for 24 games as Reds prospect in 2014 and returned in 2016.
Kansas City Royals – P-Amir Garrett – Former Reds starter was a Blue Wahoos starter in 2016 with 5-3 record, 1.75 ERA.