With the Minor League season kicking off this Thursday, now seems like a good time to roll out the season previews. First up is the Kannapolis Intimidators. The Winston-Salem Dash will follow on Monday, then the Birmingham Barons Tuesday and finally the Charlotte Knights on Wednesday.
The Kannapolis Intimidators are the Low-A affiliate of the Chicago
White Sox and they compete in the South Atlantic League.
2009 in review:
The Intimidators led the SAL last year with a 82-57 record, largely fuelled
by their great second half to the season in which they went 45-24 (.652 WPCT).
They were a mid tier offense for the year posting a cumulative OPS of .694, so
as you can probably deduce, it was the pitching that led the way. Boasting a
rotation that was headlined by Charlie Leesman (13-5, 3.08 ERA), Stephen Sauer
(6-5, 3.36 ERA), and, pre-trade, Dexter Carter (6-2, 3.13 ERA), they finished 2nd
in the league in both ERA and WHIP.
Now that we have 2009 briefly recapped, let's take a look at the
2010 opening day roster to see if we can predict what kind of a season the
Intimidators are in for.
This is certainly not as strong a pitching staff as last years,
which featured Leesman, Sauer, Carter and Dan Hudson on the opeining day roster.
Joe Serafin performed extremely well after being drafted last year,
but as a 37th round pick, he will need to prove that he wasn't just
a flash in the pan.
Ryan Buch's role is still unknown, but whether starting or
relieving, he has the ability to be one of the stars of this pitching staff.
Justin Collop is one to keep an eye on. Drafted in the 6th
round out of Toledo last year, he throws a low 90's fastball with a good slider
and changeup. If he can keep his pitches over the plate, he could be in for a
Matthew Hopps is an older guy but he's still relatively new to
pitching. He features a low 90's fastball and two decent breaking balls.
Kyle Bellamy and Drew O'Neil should provide a good 1-2 punch from
the back of the bullpen, but don't expect them to stick around all year, particularly
Bellamy, who could move quickly through the system.
Garrett Johnson possesses great physical projection, but his
performances haven't been up to par. His career FIP (3.70), however, suggests
that he has been unlucky during his pro career. This could be the year he
finally breaks out.
Miguel Gonzalez is just about everyone's pick as the Sox' sleeper
prospect for 2010, and for good reason. The young Venezuelan catcher has plus
defensive abilities to go along with a good knowledge of the strike zone and
developing power. This should be a position of strength for the Intimidators.
Kevin Dubler was thought to have some potential after being drafted
in the 8th round of the 2008 draft, but it hasn't happened for him
so far, and now he's going to be stuck behind Miguel Gonzalez all year.
Juan Silverio aside, this is one uninspiring list of infielders.
Silverio's progress will be interesting to watch. He put up good numbers in the
DSL last year but his plate discipline remained weak.
Jose Vargas was a source of power for the Great Falls Voyagers last
year after being demoted from the Intimidators, hopefully he can make the step
up this year.
The trio of college outfielders drafted in 2009 should be a real
strength for the Intimidators in 2010. They may be the three best hitters on
Kyle Colligan has some contact issues, but he knows how to walk and
has good speed on the bases, making him a candidate to hit leadoff. He's an
athletic outfielder who should provide good defensive support for his pitchers
from center field.
Nick Ciolli has a good all around game with 5 average or better
tools. He may need time for his power to develop, but scouts believe it will
come. His speed is a tick above average, but it plays up in games because he
knows how to use it on the bases. Defensively he's fringe average in
centerfield, but a good defender in left with an average arm.
Brady Shoemaker was a 19th round selection and he tore up
the Appy League. He is a talented hitter with good opposite field power, but he
does need to watch the strikeouts. He has been described as having a "now
body", meaning there is not much projectability in his game. He won't provide
much defensive value so he needs to hit as he moves through the system, but he
has the ability to do it and he should be a key contributor to the
I think the Intimidators are a much better offensive team this year
as compared to last year. The infield may look weak, but it's not like they
were loaded with offensive stars there last season. Miguel Gonzalez will
hopefully be a big plus at catcher and they have three quality outfielders that
provide the threat of both speed and power. The pitching staff features some
interesting arms, but nothing like 2009's team. Ryan Buch is one of my favorite
arms in the system, so I will be watching him especially closely and Garrett
Johnson, with his 6'10", 205 lbs frame, provides plenty of intrigue.
I predict that the Intimidators will take a step back in 2010. I think they will finish with a record above .500, but I'm not expecting them to compete for the league championship.