Online Staff Report
LOVES PARK, Ill. — The Rockford Aviators filled their final roster spot and then took advantage of their picks in the 2014 Frontier League Tryout Draft to solidify their roster for the 2014 season as they head into spring training.
Just one day before the Frontier League Tryout in Florence, Ky., the Aviators filled the 34th — and final — spot on their roster with the addition of former Kansas State standout Tanner Witt.
Witt is an infielder who earned All-Big XII Conference honors twice and ranked in the top five in the conference in several categories while playing for the Wildcats.
“Tanner was a super utility guy while at K-State,” said Aviators Manager James Frisbie. “The guy can do it all. He will play infield for us and maybe pitch a little bit this season.”
Witt boasts a career batting average of .295 during his four seasons at Kansas State. He also racked up 88 RBIs and swiped 43 bases at the collegiate level.
The addition of Witt put the Aviators at their maximum roster size they are allowed to bring in to spring training, but the team still had the opportunity to grab two more players from the Frontier League Tryout Draft. Under Frontier League rules, each team is required to take a minimum of two players from the draft. However, those two players don’t count against the maximum of 34 players that each team is allowed to bring into camp.
The Aviators took advantage of owning the second overall pick and the 16th overall pick as they added former Major League Baseball first-round draft pick Josh Smoker with their first pick and former University of Florida Gator Vickash Ramjit with their second — and final — pick. The Aviators passed on their remaining picks, as they had no more space on their spring training roster.
Smoker is a left-handed pitcher and former first-round draft pick from Calhoun, Ga. He was drafted out of high school as the 31st overall pick in the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Washington Nationals organization. He spent six seasons in the Nationals’ farm system, making it as high as Advanced-A.
“[Smoker] is an impact guy with a big left-handed arm,” said Frisbie. “I expect to put him in the bullpen and be a back-end guy for us.”
In six seasons with the Nationals organization, Smoker compiled a 15-20 record with a 4.90 ERA. Also, he has accumulated six saves in his career.
Ramjit is a shortstop who most recently played for the University of Florida. The Miami native spent one season at the University of Miami before finishing his college career in Gainesville, Fla., with the Gators.
“I expect Vickash to come in and compete hard for a utility infield position,” said Frisbie. “He is a very good athlete with a lot of baseball tools.”
Ramjit was a three-year letter-winner at the University of Florida, finishing his career with a .295 batting average, a .988 fielding percentage and 900 putouts.
The roster will have to be cut down to 24 from the current 36 prior to opening day.
The Aviators begin their season May 16 at home against the River City Rascals. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Central time. Single-game tickets are on sale. Purchase tickets by calling (815) 885-BALL or (815) 885-2255.
Fans are also encouraged to sign up for the Aviators Flight Club by texting “AVIATORS” to 63975. Members of the Aviators Flight Club will receive exclusive offers throughout the season.
Posted May 5, 2014