Crosscutters roster full of young, talented players

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Williamsport Crosscutter Nerluis Martinez, left,shares a laugh with his teammates at Crosscutters Media Day at Bowman Field on Wednesday.

Pat Borders’ eyes lit up at the mention of his middle infielders.

“Wow,” was the first word to escape the Williamsport Crosscutters’ fourth-year manager.

Jonathan Guzman and Brayan Gonzalez are each just 18-years-old, but they’ve already left an indelible impression on their manager during extended spring training. They’re just two of the 28 players who arrived at Bowman Field on Wednesday for the Cutters’ first public appearance at Media Day. But Borders’ reaction to the shortstop and second base combo is fitting for a roster which features 16 players age 20 or younger, including eight teenagers.

“They’ve very, very good,” Borders said of Guzman and Gonzalez. “Both of them have a lot of athleticism and they both have a good game clock and they know how long they can take. You’re going to see some inventive and innovative plays from those guys, Guzman especially, he’s got a very special talent.”

Guzman played six games with the Cutters at the start of last season as a 17-year-old before many of the players the Philadelphia Phillies selected in the MLB Draft arrived in Williamsport. But don’t expect him to go anywhere this year. He’s a wizard with the glove at shortstop and even posted an OPS over .600 for the GCL Phillies at just 17.

Gonzalez hit .269 for the GCL Phillies last year with an OPS over .700 at just 17. But what these two will do with the glove is what has Borders excited. He’s always believed in a strong foundation up the middle to building a good team, including the catcher and center fielder.

“I think it’s just genetic,” Borders said. “They’ve enhanced their ability by playing a little bit, but I don’t care how long you play, you can’t do some of the things Guzman does without natural ability.”

The construction of this Williamsport Crosscutters team is likely to change quite a bit over the course of the first five or six games of the season as the players from last week’s MLB Draft join the organization. But there was no hiding Wednesday the excitement the coaching staff has for the roster as it’s currently constructed.

The pitching staff is one of the deepest Borders and pitching coach Hector Berrios have had in their three years together. It has top-end talent in 18-year-old right-hander Francisco Morales, who is the 19th-ranked prospect in the Phillies system according to MLB Pipeline.

Manuel Silva (6-0, 2.60 ERA) and Jhordany Mezquita (3-0), 0.72 ERA) are live-armed left-handers who both impressed in the Gulf Coast League a year ago. Oscar Marcelino is a right-hander who has thrown as high as 98 mph this spring.

“We’ve had good pitching staffs in the past,” Borders said. “But this might rival anything we’ve had. From top to bottom, other teams are going to have their job cut out for them.”

“Morales is a young, young kid who is big and strong and who we see good projection from,” Berrios said. “I think we can project him for the top end of a rotation. But still, the work needs to be done for him to do all the little things correctly before that time comes.”

Morales may be the next in a line of highly-touted Latin pitchers who have played with the Crosscutters in recent years, including Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina, Ranger Suarez and Seranthony Dominguez. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he’s a mountain of a man already at 18.

One of the top pitchers coming out of Venezuela in the 2016 international class, Morales can run his fastball up to 96 mph with movement.

“He’s in that line,” Berrios said. “Tool-wise, he’s still learning the game, but he’s showing those flashes that he can be dominant. But the thing is, just like any young pitcher, he’s looking for the consistency from outing to outing. But when he’s on, he’s lights out.

Left-hander Ethan Lindow is scheduled to get the start in Friday night’s season-opener against the State College Spikes at Bowman Field. A fifth-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Lindow is looking forward just to being back playing under the lights again.

“Being under the lights is the best,” he said. “In the GCL, you’re playing at noon and it’s hot and nobody is there. Here, it’s a nicer field and people are going to be watching us. It’s going to be a big change and I can’t wait.”

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