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Get to know the 2023 Modesto Nuts
Modesto Nuts
The Modesto Nuts’ 2023 opening day roster were together for the first time when players and coaches arrived for their annual media day on Monday morning (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

With a new baseball season comes a plethora of new faces at John Thurman Field as the Modesto Nuts have officially come to town ahead of the 2023 campaign.

The Nuts, who are the Single-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, saw their opening day roster report to the field for the very first time on Monday morning. This year’s squad will be led by first-year manager Zach Vincej, who is a former infielder with the Reds, Orioles and Mariners organizations.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I know this is a huge opportunity not just for me, but for our whole coaching staff and especially for the younger players, to help them and guide them, some of them in their first full professional season. I feel like we have a big responsibility on our hands to get them going in their careers,” Vincej said. “We need to teach these guys how to be a pro, how to go about their business every day, and learn how to compete because that’s what we do as a Seattle Mariner organization.”

Vincej was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 37th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Pepperdine University. After making his major league debut in 2017, he found himself with Seattle the following year. In the summer of 2018, he signed a minor league contract with the Orioles before having a second stint with the Mariners in 2021. Last year, after retiring from playing, Vincej joined the coaching staff for the Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate, before landing the head coaching gig for Modesto in January.

One of those players preparing for their first full season in the professional ranks is Cole Young, who is the #3 ranked prospect in the Mariners’ minor league system. The 19-year-old was Seattle’s first round draft pick in last year’s draft out of North Allegheny High School in Wexford, PA. He spent the last 10 games of the 2022 season making his pro debut with the Nuts.

“I was fortunate enough to play here two weeks last year, but looking forward to my first full season,” Young said. “It’s definitely cool to be a top prospect, but I’m mainly just focused on getting better each day, competing and trying to win. If we win every day, that’s all I care about. Most of the season, just take it day by day.”

2023 will be the fourth consecutive minor league season in which the Nuts will be home to a top five prospect in the Mariners’ farm system (#1 prospect Julio Rodriguez, 2019; #3 Noelvi Marte, 2021; #1 prospect Harry Ford, 2022). If the recent flow of top prospects are any indication of Young’s potential, there’s plenty to be excited for the young shortstop. Rodriguez wound up winning American League Rookie of the Year in 2022, Marte was the mainstay in the blockbuster trade that saw Luis Castillo be traded from the Reds to the Mariners last year, and Ford hit .308 with two home runs and four RBI for Great Britain in this spring’s World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Though Ford will start his 2023 season in Double-A Everett, there will still be plenty of WBC stories to share, particularly from pitcher Blake Townsend.

Townsend is a native of Traralgon, Australia and represented his country on the world stage last month. Team Australia was in Pool B and advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinal stage for the first time in history, playing each of their games at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Arguably the most significant game the Aussies played was against the home team and eventual champion, Team Japan in front of 41,000 people, an experience that Townsend believes will be hard to top.

 “It was crazy, but I love Japan. Pretty surreal. It was insane. I’ve never pitched in front of more people and probably never will. I definitely blacked out a while,” Townsend said.

Townsend spent a portion of last season with the Nuts before being promoted to Everett and Tacoma. After his trip across the Pacific, he’s back in Turlock to ramp up for the long haul. Regardless, competing in the tournament has given him the ultimate confidence boost.

“I was pretty lucky I got to face Shohei [Ohtani]. I walked him, but I still got to face him, so that was a lot of fun,” Townsend said. “I’ve pitched on as big of a stage as I could possibly pitch on now, so I think it’s only going to help me when I’m in those high situations on the mound… I’ve learned that I’m prepared and I’ll be able to overcome and information when I’m in it.

“I spent some time down here [in Modesto] last year and I actually really enjoyed it. I think the field is great, the clubhouse is awesome… I think it’s a lot of fun this year. Personally, I just want to pitch well and help the team win. That’s everyone’s goal at the end of the day. If we play well individually, then play well all together, there’s not a lot that can go wrong from there.”

One player who has recently excited those in the Mariners organization is outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez, who is the team’s #7 ranked prospect. Gonzalez, a 19-year-old, signed for $1.3 million out of Venezuela in 2021. After spending time in the Arizona Complex League last year, Gonzalez struggled adjusting once promoted to Modesto for the last month of the season. described him as an “average” athlete in the field, but Nuts second-year strength and conditioning coach Jose Alcantara Beas feels as if the Venezuelan prospect has turned a corner.

“One person in particular that sticks out to me is Gabriel Gonzalez,” he said. “He has worked hard in the weight room every single day, with his speed and agility programming, he’s a very responsive kid. It’s going to be his first affiliate season, and it’s going to pose some challenges… but I think he looks amazing.”

Believe it or not, Alcantara Beas is the longest tenured member of the Nuts coaching staff. Like Vincej, pitching coach Jake Witt and hitting coach Seth Mejias-Brean will assume responsibilities at their positions for the first time ever.

“Through the whole spring, it’s been great being I’m very lucky to have the guys that we have,” Vincej. “We have a really good connection, good relationships with each other, I love learning with them, and it just makes my job a lot easier. I’m thankful, very grateful for them.”

The Nuts kick off their season on Thursday when they travel to take on the Stockton Ports for the first of three games. The home opener at John Thurman Field will be Tuesday when they play the San Jose Giants at 7:05 p.m. The first 500 fans on opening night will receive an Ichiro Suzuki bobblehead commemorating the former outfielder being the Mariners all-time hit leader.

The full regular season schedule and this year’s promotions and events calendar can be found at