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April 1, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Mercedes, Littrell make leap as Salem roster announced

The High A Salem Red Sox have released their initial 2014 roster. The defending Mills Cup Champions look to have a strong pitching staff, as lefty Brian Johnson is joined by a pair of prospects making the jump from Lowell: 2013 draftee Corey Littrell and fireballing right-hander Simon Mercedes (pictured).

Johnson, ranked the organizations number 18 prospect by SoxProspects.com, looks to continue his fine finish to the 2013 season. After missing five weeks with shoulder tendinitis, the 31st overall pick in the 2012 draft returned to Greenville in mid-July and posted a 1.45 ERA in six starts. He made his final two starts of the year with Salem, allowing two runs on nine hits in 11 innings. 

Twenty-two-year-olds Littrell and Mercedes, who both spent 2013 with the Spinners, will skip Low A Greenville. Littrell, a polished left-hander, was a fifth-round pick out of the University of Kentucky who dominated the New York-Penn League with a 1.74 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 31 innings. Mercedes got attention in spring training by reportedly hitting 100 mph with his fastball. He was a workhorse for Lowell last season, leading the team with 63 1/3 innings 

Pitchers Luis Diaz and William Cuevas will also be rejoining Salem. Diaz, like Johnson, received an August promotion after a strong stretch of pitching with Greenville. The 2013 SoxProspects All-Star delivered a stellar 1.96 ERA between the two levels. Cuevas spent all of 2013 with Salem after an aggressive placement had him skip Low A. He struggled initially with the level of competition but adjusted as the season progressed, with a 3.96 ERA and three-to-one K:BB ratio in his last 16 starts. Cuevas capped the year as the winning pitcher in the Mills Cup Final.

Reliever Kyle Martin joins fellow Littrell as a member of the 2013 draft class. The ninth-rounder out of Texas A&M was impressive at stops in Lowell and Greenville, with a 1.25 ERA and 0.806 WHIP in 19 appearances. 

The full Salem roster:

Cuevas, William
Diaz, Dayan
Diaz, Luis
Haley, Justin
Johnson, Brian
Kraus, Kyle
Littrell, Corey
Maddox, Austin
Martin, Kyle
Mercedes, Simon
Price, Mathew (DL)
Quevedo, Heri (DL)
Stroup, Kyle
Younginer, Madison
Blair, Carson
Escobar, Leonel
Hernandez, Jayson
Chester, David
Dent, Ryan
Gedman, Matt
Gragnani, Reed
Guerrero, Dreily
Johns, Bryan (DL)
Martinez, Mario
Vinicio, Jose
Heller, Kevin
Johnson, Matty
Roof, Jonathan
Tavarez, Aneury

Photo Credit: Simon Mercedes by Kelly O'Connor