Buckel is joined by a pitching staff of 13, including four returners from the 2011 roster. Hurlers Chad Bell, Zach Osborne, Jimmy Reyes and Ryan Rodebaugh all spent time with the Pelicans a season ago. Just 18 in his first full professional season, Buckel went 8-3 at Low-A Hickory last season. He was a Louisville Slugger All-American before being drafted in the second round out of Simi Valley High School in 2010.
Roman Mendez is another headlining name on the Pelicans staff. Baseball America's 19th rated prospect in the system, Mendez was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a 2010 trade also involving former Pelican Jarrod Saltalamacchia. After breaking out with a 9-1 record for Hickory in 2011, Mendez was added to the Rangers 40-man roster this offseason. Mendez is one of two 40-man roster members on the Pelicans, along with 21-year old Wilmer Font, who missed last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Pelicans pitching staff fills out with former Missouri star Nick Tepesch, former Dartmouth standout Kyle Hendricks, Francisco Mendoza, Randy Henry, sidewinder Ben Rowen and Joe Van Meter.
Villanueva is the Pelicans highest rated position prospect by Baseball America, checking in at No. 8 in the system. He is also Baseball America's 100th best prospect in all of baseball. The third baseman slugged 17 homeruns last season, his first full professional year. The young Mexican will be joined in the heart of the Pelicans order by Jake Skole, the 15th overall pick by the Rangers in 2010.
Overall, Myrtle Beach touts eight position players under the age of 22. Catcher Tomas Telis and second baseman Odubel Herrera, like Villanueva and Skole, fall on that list. The 25th ranked prospect in the organization by Baseball America, Telis batted .297 with 11 homeruns at Low-A Hickory in 2011. Herrera, slotted 27th by Baseball America, hit .306 with the Crawdads last year. He is a former volleyball star in his native Venezuela.
There are several familiar faces around the diamond as well. Andrew Clark, Santiago Chirino, Vinny DiFazio and Jared Hoying all return after spending time with the Birds in 2011. They're joined by catcher Yefry Castillo, infielder Edwin Garcia, and outfielders Teodoro Martinez and Josh Richmond, a college teammate of Clark at the University of Louisville.
The Pelicans entire coaching staff returns from last year's first half championship squad. Manager Jason Wood is joined by veteran hitting coach Julio Garcia, pitching coach Brad Holman, athletic trainer Jeff Bodenhamer and strength coach Ryan McNeal. The group benefits this season from the addition of Kenny Holmberg. Holmberg, the son of longtime minor league manager Dennis Holmberg, spent last year managing the Rangers' Dominican Summer League affiliate.
Pelicans single game tickets, season tickets, flex Books and mini-plans for the 2012 season are now on sale at the Pelicans Ballpark offices or by calling (843) 918-6000. Normal box office hours are Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and Saturday from 10am-2pm. Tickets are available anytime online at MyrtleBeachPelicans.com, powered by TicketReturn. The Pelicans open 2012 at home against the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Friday, April 6th, at 7:05 pm.