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at Great Lakes
What: Season opener
When: 6:05 p.m. Thursday

’Caps roster loaded with top prospects

Pitching key as season approaches

Arms carried the 2012 TinCaps to within two wins of the Midwest League title last season. And if past is prologue, arms will again carry a fair share of the load in 2013.

In advance of the new season, the TinCaps released their preliminary roster Sunday, and it includes a pitching staff built around one familiar face – Defiance, Ohio, native Justin Hancock, a 2011 ninth-round selection who went 0-4 in 13 appearances with the TinCaps in 2012 – and four first-round or supplemental first-round picks. They include 2011 first-rounder Joe Ross, who was 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA in six starts for the TinCaps last season, and 2012 first-round picks Max Fried (7th overall), Zach Eflin (33rd) and Walker Weickel (55th).

The roster includes eight players who did stints in Fort Wayne last season, and five of the top 30 prospects in the San Diego farm system, according to Baseball America.

The players returning to Fort Wayne include brothers Erik Cabrera, a right-handed pitcher, and Felix Cabrera, an infielder; pitchers Hancock, Ross and Ruben Mejia; and outfielders Corey Adamson, Jeremy Baltz and Alberth Martinez.

Among the top prospects are Fried, 19, who turned down an offer to play at UCLA; Eflin, who’ll turn 19 on April 8; Weickel, 19, who went 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA in nine games in rookie ball last year; Ross; and outfielder Mallex Smith, 19, who batted .344 in rookie ball and .188 in 10 games with Eugene in short-season A ball.

Smith, 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, is a burner out of Tallahassee, Fla., who’s rated the fastest baserunner in the Padres’ system and who stole 17 bases in 21 attempts last season.

Also in town is reliever Roman Madrid, who put up a Northwest League-best 13 saves for Eugene last season, striking out 44 batters while walking only 11. Catcher Dane Phillips batted .226 and drove in 30 runs in 69 games in Eugene last year.

Infielder Maxx Tissenbaum, a college teammate of 2012 TinCap Travis Jankowski at Stony Brook University, batted .296 in 43 games at second base for Eugene last season.