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Bees manager Keith Johnson grew excited as spring training wound down in Arizona and the roster he'd have to work with this season became more clear.
He looked over the names that will populate the Bees' dugout when the season begins Thursday. There was youth and experience, and there was a collection of personalities well-suited to the rigors of a long baseball season.
And there was talent. Enough talent, in fact, that Johnson and his players are optimistic that another trip to the playoffs could await in September.
"We have a lot of guys on our roster who could be major league contributors," Johnson said during Bees media day Tuesday. "… It's one of the deepest rosters we've had since I've been here."
Highlights of that roster include players with strong Utah ties, in journeyman reliever Brandon Lyon, who played at Taylorsville High and Dixie State, and first baseman C.J. Cron, who has developed into a top prospect after an All-America career at the University of Utah.
Second baseman Taylor Lindsey, listed by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Los Angeles Angels organization, also is on the roster. And first baseman Efren Navarro, a Triple-A All-Star a year ago, is back for his fourth season with the Bees.
Johnson said the team is an eclectic mix, yet one that should strike the proper balance.
"We have enough guys in this group that are going to keep things loose," he said. "Then we have enough guys who are going to push each other, who are going to push guys to do the right thing, to play hard and win ballgames. I'm really excited about this group of guys."
Another aspect of the roster Johnson touts is the number of veterans who can provide tutelage for the youngsters. Several Bees have spent time in the major leagues, and many others have Triple-A experience, and learning from those players is crucial for up-and-coming prospects.
Navarro, for example, will be Lindsey's roommate and he'll share time at first base with Cron, who he's already grown close to. He's looking forward to taking both under his wing, something he remembers the veterans doing for him his first season with the Bees.
"They're young guys and hopefully I'll be able to teach them the ropes," Navarro said. "They're two of our big prospects and I want to help them out as much as I can."
Cron said he's grateful for players like Navarro, who have shown a willingness to help him move closer to acquiring everything he needs to get his call to the majors. After all, that's the goal of every minor league player, and the Bees are no different.
"They know what it takes to make it," he said. "I don't know the exact number, but we've got a bunch of guys who've played in the big leagues on this team. I'm just excited to see how they go about their business and what they do to get to that level."
Players to watch
C.J. Cron, 1B • All-American at the University of Utah
Brandon Lyon, P • Graduate of Taylorsville High
Taylor Lindsey, 2B • Angels' top prospect, according to Baseball America
Note • All at 6:35 p.m.
Thursday • Sacramento
Friday • Sacramento
Saturday • Sacramento
Sunday • Sacramento
Monday • Fresno
April 8 • Fresno
April 9 • Fresno
April 10 • Fresno