Ogden Raptors open spring training; competition ‘going to be a dogfight’
OGDEN — The second year of the Ogden Raptors’ independent era is underway and the 2022 season is less than two weeks from first pitch.
Thursday, the Raptors opened what is likely the franchise’s largest, longest spring training for new manager Kash Beauchamp and his staff to evaluate players and set a roster before opening day on May 25.
Ogden has about 41 players signed or invited to participate in spring training who are vying for 25 roster spots.
“It’s going to be a dogfight. I don’t care where a guy’s coming from, if you’re here, you have a shot,” Beauchamp said.
Beauchamp is a former No. 1 overall pick (1982, Toronto Blue Jays) and has extensive minor-league managing experience — 10 years as an independent-league manager and a few stints on affiliated minor league staffs — since 1994. He has been an independent league scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2017.
It’s about 41 players in spring training because, even after one day, there were changes. Friday morning, the Raptors posted on social media that pitchers Dylan Burns and Logan Lyle had been signed away from them by the Chicago White Sox organization.
Top players from last year’s 54-42 team have signed to affiliated opportunities: outfielder Jakob Goldfarb and pitcher Mitchell Miller signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the winter, pitcher Jackson Sigman signed with the Seattle Mariners last month and, just a few days before camp opened this week, a Mexican League team purchased the contract of expected returning ace Nico Tellache.
Dean Stiles, last year’s manager, is now a pitching coach in the Detroit Tigers system, and assistant coach Jeff Lyle has defected to Pioneer League foe Missoula Paddleheads.
Former Chicago Cubs pitcher Les Lancaster is now Ogden’s pitching coach, and Ogden native Evan Parker returns to the coaching staff while also finishing rehabilitation to return to the field as a pitcher.
There are several more familiar faces in camp with Parker, chief among them outfielder Josh Broughton. He hit .405 last season and says he’s upped his speed and strength considerably. He’s a Pioneer League MVP-caliber player — if he sticks long enough before scouts finally take notice.
Returning outfielder Reese Alexiades is in camp, along with infielders Troy Dixon and Nick Michaels, and pitchers Kida De La Cruz, Chris Campbell, Dylan Pearce and Jackson Cunningham.
Ogden’s draft picks from last month’s professional tryout in Tucson, Arizona — infielders Fox Semones and Dane Tofteland — are also in camp.
There will be practice and drill staples at spring training, of course, but Beauchamp says he wants to evaluate players through intrasquad scrimmages as much as possible. They’ll pause for a local tryout this weekend but, otherwise, spring training and roster decisions may last up until opening day.
Beauchamp says he’ll balance that by releasing players when he has the feeling that they won’t make the team, allowing them to try to find another opportunity if possible.
“I want our spring training to be so good and talented that I could release somebody who comes back and beats our butt. That means I’ve brought the right type of guys in here,” he said. “If a kid’s in this camp and playing his butt off, but I have to release him, I’m going to wish nothing but the best for him. It’s about winning, but this is also about getting guys signed.”
Despite having seen photos and video, Beauchamp, an Oklahoma native, said he was still awestruck by the beauty of northern Utah when he arrived. When a player hails from somewhere drastically different from Utah, such as the Midwest or Florida, Beauchamp said the first thing he did when they reported to the stadium was take them onto the field to soak in Lindquist Field’s backdrop.
He says his managerial inspirations come from Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and Bobby Cox, as well as his father — after a 10-year MLB playing career, the late Jim Beauchamp managed in the minor leagues for 15 years before spending 10 seasons as an Atlanta Braves bench coach for Cox.
“I’m considered old-school, I believe in tough love … but I always try to remember what it was like to be a player,” said the younger Beauchamp. After his No. 1 overall selection in 1982, he began his career with Medicine Hat in the Pioneer League and eventually suffered a major injury just before the Blue Jays planned to call him up from Triple-A.
He later became the first-ever player to sign with a major league club directly from an independent league when he hit .367 in the Northern League and was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1993.
Beauchamp hopes to have many opportunities to pump up his players to scouts and get as many as possible signed into affiliated ball. Other coaches in his independent-league travels, he says, haven’t always done that — partially obscuring a player’s talents when speaking to scouts so they can keep a winning team intact, for instance.
“When I make a decision, it’s partially as a manager and partially as a player. I care about my players, I really do,” he said.
Beauchamp said he plans to use his old-school tendencies to take advantage of the way baseball is currently played.
“Speed, defense, pitching, timely hitting, put pressure on the defense. We want to have a great two-strike approach and be good situational hitters,” he said. “As baseball starts to revolutionize itself and change certain things, I think we can exploit those things with our own strategies that might seem old-school but are about exploiting the way other teams are playing.”
The Raptors open the season Wednesday, May 25, with a six-game home series against the Grand Junction Rockies at Lindquist Field.