Las Vegas Train Robbers manager Casey Dill says he expects to field a team with potential to win a Pecos League championship — and possibly land a few players in major league ballclubs down the line.
Of course, it’s easy to be optimistic during spring training. But Dill — who managed the now-defunct Las Cruces Vaqueros to the Pecos League finals in 2012 — does know something about baseball talent.
The Train Robbers are making their debut in the Meadow City this spring and summer, the latest addition to the independent minor league that has eight teams across New Mexico, southern Colorado and west Texas.
On Tuesday, the Train Robbers hosted several Pecos League teams in a daylong
“combine,” a part of the preseason that allows managers to see their players in game action as they narrow their rosters to the league-allowed maximum of 28 (25 active per game, plus three reserve spots).
It was an encouraging day, Dill said Wednesday afternoon, because several borderline players solidified their places on the team. And while wins weren’t at a premium with Tuesday’s exhibition-style competition, beating Raton 26-5 and faring well in a tight scrimmage with Taos was a nice plus.
“This is an opportunity for every team to see what they have,” Dill explained. “It’s a chance to put some guys out there who might be on the bubble.”
Dill said he expected to have the final roster nailed down before the end of the week.
Opening Day is Tuesday, May 14, when the Robbers open a road series in Roswell.
That means the latter part of the week will be the dreaded cut days, when managers inform players who won’t be making the roster. Dill said he tries to work with each player, especially if he sees potential in them.
“If I think a guy is good enough, I try to find the guy a place to play.”
Among those who’ll definitely be on board for the Train Robbers are pitcher Edison Alvarez, third baseman Chris Wilson, left fielder Will Walsh and centerfielder Matt Grosso.
Alvarez, who hails from the Dominican Republic, pitched for five years within the Minnesota Twins organization and is expected to be an ace.
Wilson (San Diego State), Walsh (Seton Hall) and Grosso (Notre Dame) come from baseball programs at Division I universities.
“The Red Sox called me about (Wilson),” Dill said.
“We have a championship-caliber team. A number of players will move up to the next level.”
Of particular interest to Las Vegans, two former New Mexico Highlands players — pitcher Greg Fowler and A.J. Alexander — are vying for roster spots. “Greg is probably our No. 2 or 3 starter if he can continue pitching like he has,” Dill said. Alexander is in competition for a shortstop job, though he can play in the outfield.