Oh the difference a year can make. The Phillies open up the 2016 season in Cincinnati with a drastically different look than they did a year ago. Gone are MOST of the familiar stalwarts from an historic era in Phillies baseball. Say goodbye to the likes of Pap and Kenny G. At the helm Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, and Pete Mackanin are the trio charged with moving the rebuild forward. Only 9 players from the 2015 Opening Day roster are on the Phillies 2016 roster (quick, name them). So needless to say when looking at the 2016 Opening Day roster, there are players that make even your more than casual phan say, "Who is that guy?"
So without further adieu, your Opening Day starting left fielder, Cedric Hunter:
Cedric Scott Hunter, 28, was signed to a minor league deal, with an invitation to spring training by the Phillies on January 4. Like many minor league deals, it was a move that went largely unnoticed.
Hunter was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 2006 MLB Draft. In 2009 Hunter was a highly touted prospect, scout.com ranking him #1 in the Padres organization. He made his first Opening Day roster with the Padres in 2011. Despite brief stints with the Cardinals, Indians, and most recently the Braves, today's Opening Day will mark Hunters first stint of big league action since 2011. He only has 4 career Major League at bats.
Cedric Hunter has gone from an unknown, purely depth signing, to the Phillies Opening Day starting left fielder. He finished a strong camp with a .262 average, .793 OPS, 5 doubles, 3 HRs, and 13 RBIs. Third on the team in RBIs to only Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf. Drawing high praise from skipper Pete Mackanin.
"I like the way he plays defense. Watching him hit, I think he’s given us quality at-bats the whole spring. He’s aggressive and he’s got enough pop.” Pete Mackanin
Cedric Hunter has been a minor league journey man. His spot on the Phillies 2016 Opening Day roster, and start in left field is a cinderella story worth cheering for. It is always fun to see guys like that get another crack at at the big league level. Hunter has earned that opportunity. He may never reclaim the praise that garnered him top billing in the Padres organization, but he has shown recent glimpses of success. Most notably in 2013 posting a .912 OPS with the Cleveland Indians AA affiliate. And hitting a career high 14 HRs with the Atlanta Braves AA team in 2014. He has earned a shot on a team that has plenty of room for players like Hunter. Plus its always fun rooting for a guy to succeed that you got to meet personally.
Hunter has spent a majority of his minor league career playing in center field but with an average arm is probably best suited in left field at the big league level. He certainly could platoon in center if needed. Mackanin describes him as a good defensive player with an aggressive approach at the plate.
We will get to see plenty of that today as the Phillies take on the Cincinatti Reds at the Great American Ballpark at 4:10. Happy Opening Day!!