Bridgewater, NJ- The Somerset Patriots have announced the rosters for the SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series.
The brand new, 12-game series is scheduled to begin Friday, July 17th and will feature two team: the Somerset Patriots and the New Jersey Blasters. The two teams will play against each other every Friday and Saturday night at TD Bank Ballpark from July 17th through Saturday, August 22nd.
The team with the best overall record at the end of the series will be presented with the Joe Torre Championship Trophy, while the circuit’s top pitcher will be awarded with the Sparky Lyle Award and the top batter with the Willie Randolph Award.
Both new rosters are composed primarily of baseball players from the state of New Jersey and immediate surrounding areas. The Somerset Patriots have hosted a number of workouts and one tryout to put together these two teams.
The rosters feature two players with service at the Major League level, eight former Somerset Patriots, 19 players with service in a major league organization, seven that have reached the Triple-A level and five players that were selected in the 11th round or higher in the MLB draft.
Earlier this week, the teams’ respective managers – Brett Jodie for the Somerset Patriots and Jon Hunton for the New Jersey Blasters – held a draft of all players that made themselves eligible. The results of that draft can be found below.
Brett Jodie will return as the Somerset Patriots’ manager for the SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series. Jodie has been the team’s skipper since 2013, when he took over for longtime manager Sparky Lyle. 2020 was supposed to mark the Jodie’s eighth year as manager and 17th overall season with the club. He carries a 556-405 (.579) record in his first seven seasons as manager, including a 2015 Atlantic League Championship. That same year, Jodie was named the league’s Manager of the Year.
There will be a number of familiar faces that join Jodie on this year’s Somerset Patriots roster. Six players on the team have previous service in Somerset, including right-handed pitchers David Kubiak, James Pugliese, Nate Roe and Taylor Wright along with infielder Scott Kelly and outfielder Justin Pacchioli.
Kubiak was arguably the top pitcher in the Atlantic League last year, posting a 7-1 record with a league-best 1.76 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 12 starts before his contract was purchased by Union Laguna (Mexico) in early July. Pugliese, a Hamilton, NJ native, was named a Mid-Season All-Star and carried a 3.62 ERA over 59.2 innings last year. Roe, a local favorite, has led the Somerset Patriots bullpen in each of the last two seasons before transitioning to a role in the team’s front office after the 2019 campaign ended. Wright was named the Frontier League’s Rookie of the Year last season and appeared in four games with the Somerset Patriots to end the year.
Those four returning pitchers will be joined by notable, local names including Major Leaguer Mark Leiter Jr. and Garden State standouts Billy Layne Jr. and Max Herrmann. Leiter Jr. earned three wins and struck out 84 batters over 27 appearances (11 starts) with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017 and split 20 appearances between the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays in 2018.
Layne Jr., an 11th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers out of Seton Hall University in 2018, has two years of service in the Rangers organization. He posted three wins and 36 strikeouts over 32.2 combined innings between Rookie level Rangers and Low-A Spokane in 2019. Herrmann, a Rutgers product, posted a 2.70 ERA over four appearances (two starts) with Triple-A Salt Lake (Los Angeles Angels) last year and has three seasons of service in the Angels organization.
Kelly and Pacchioli – who rank third and fourth in franchise history in stolen bases, respectively – both return to lead the Patriots’ lineup. The two fan favorites offer a combined nine years of service in Somerset and 226 combined stolen bases.
The rest of the Patriots’ position players are composed primarily of New Jersey natives. Jordan Jackson – who spent a brief amount of time with the Long Island Ducks in 2019 – and Matt O’Neill – a 20th round draft pick by the New York Mets in the 2019 MLB draft – will split time as the team’s two primary backstops.
Joey Rose, a 5th round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Toms River North High School in 2016, will be featured in an impressive infield alongside former Lancaster Barnstormer Carlos Garcia and West Windsor native Sid Kumar.
Pacchioli will be flanked in the outfield by Summit native Sean Guida and Piscataway local Adam Tricarico. Brick resident Dan Valerio will serve as a utilityman for the team.
New Jersey Blasters
The Blasters will be managed by current Somerset Patriots Pitching Coach / Director of Baseball Operations Jon Hunton. 2020 was set to be “Big Jon’s” ninth year with the team and third as pitching coach. The record-setting closer also began work as the team’s director of player personnel in 2014 before his promotion to director of baseball operations prior to the 2018 season. This will be his first crack as a professional manager.
The Blasters’ roster features one player with service at the Major League level, two New Jersey natives with experience at the Triple-A level, two more with service time in Double-A and overall 14 players that call the Garden State home.
Infielder Martin Figueroa was tabbed as the first overall pick for the Blasters roster. “Figgy” was named as a New York Penn League All-Star in 2019 after he slashed .282 with four home runs and 27 RBI over 35 games with the short-season State College Spikes (St. Louis Cardinals). The previous year, the 24 year-old hit .328 with five home runs, 50 RBI, 20 stolen bases and a .444 on-base percentage over 96 games with the Sussex County Miners (Can-Am League) and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
Former Patriot outfielder Zac Racusin leads the Blaster outfield. The Mendham native made his professional baseball debut with the Patriots in 2017 after finishing his college career at Georgetown. Racusin recorded four RBI and stole three bases over 17 games with the team before splitting his 2018 campaign between the Lake Erie Crushers (Frontier League) and Chicago Dogs (American Association). Racusin returned to Lake Erie in 2019 and hit .274 with 33 RBI and six steals over 93 games.
Luis Roman, with experience in Triple-A with the San Diego Padres organization, will work as the team’s primary catcher. He split last year between Single-A Fort Wayne and a pair of teams in the Frontier League, where he combined to hit .285 with two home runs over 48 games.
Infielder Sam Dexter spent two seasons in the Chicago White Sox organization and has enjoyed success in both the Can-Am League and the American Association in the last two seasons. Dexter hit .287 over 101 games with Trois-Rivieres in 2018 and played in 98 games with the Milwaukee Milkmen last year.
New Jersey natives Zach Lipshitz, Louie Martini, Tommy McCarthy and Derek Romberg round out the rest of the team’s infield. Three products Liam McArthur and Mark Shenloogian will join Racusin in the outfield.
Vin Mazzaro leads the Blasters pitching staff. The former Somerset Patriots righty owns a 24-23 record with a 4.79 ERA and one save over eight years of service in the big leagues. The East Rutherford native tossed six shutout innings with the Somerset Patriots over three appearances in 2017 and most recently posted 11 wins over 39 games with the Long Island Ducks in 2019.
Southpaws Sean Keselica and Brandon Leibrandt join Mazzaro on the strong Blasters staff. Keselica split his 2019 season in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, while Leibrandt spent both 2017 and 2018 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies organization. Leibrandt, a 6th round draft pick in 2014, posted a 4-1 record with a 1.42 ERA over 20 games (six starts) with the IronPigs in 2018.
The rest of the Blasters pitching staff includes players with experience in Major League organizations. Vin Aiello (last team – Double-A Jacksonville) and Alex Vargas (Double-A Tennessee) each most recently were two steps from the Majors while Michael LoPresti and Ryan Williamson both played at the Single-A level.
The Somerset Patriots are bringing professional baseball back to New Jersey from Friday, July 17th to Saturday, August 22nd. For more information about the Somerset Patriots and the SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series, please visit www.somersetpatriots.com, follow all of the team’s social media accounts, and download the Somerset Patriots Mobile App.