The 2012 season is just about ready to start up and we’re back from offseason hibernation just in time. The rosters are coming out and Opening Day is just a day away. It’s time to preview the White Sox minor league season.
The format for the previews involves breaking down the rosters based on where the players were last year. In other words, players that are with the same affiliate as they finished last season are listed as repeats and players that moved up a level from last year are in a separate category.
Next up is Winston-Salem of the High-A Carolina League. The Opening Day ages of the players are in parentheses.
Winston-Salem (2011 record: 69-71, no playoffs)
Repeats: Ryan Buch (24), Justin Collop (23), Leroy Hunt (24), Jacob Petricka (23), Andre Rienzo (23)
Up a level: Spencer Arroyo (23), Jon Bachanov (23), Chris Bassitt (23), Paul Burnside (25), Matt Heidenreich (21), Nick McCully (23), Phil Negus (24)
Back from injury: Kyle Bellamy (24)
Petricka headlines a relatively experienced starting rotation. The 23-year-old made 13 starts for the Dash last season after a dominating start to 2011 with Kannapolis. His ERA went above four and his K rate (46 in 67.2 IP) dipped below one per inning for the first time as a pro.
After Petricka is Andre Rienzo. The Brazilian got a little wild (66 BB in 116 IP), but still maintained a good strikeout rate (118 K) and a reasonable ERA (3.41). Buch made 11 starts for the Dash last year and saw a dip in production, which could be due to an injury that limited him to 109 innings across three levels. Any of the those three could push for a first half promotion given their credentials.
Arroyo and Heidenreich were both workhorses for Kannapolis last year, making 27 starts each and round out what could/should be a deep and fairly strong rotation. Paul Burnside came on strong late last year for Kanny and gets forced to the bullpen, but will likely get some starts if someone goes down with an injury.
Former notable prospect Kyle Bellamy makes his return after missing all of 2011. He blew away the Carolina League in 2010 before earning a promotion to AA. If he’s 100% healthy and back to form, expect more of the same.
Repeats: Michael Blanke (23), Jake Oester (25), Daniel Wagner (23), Nick Ciolli (24), Brady Shoemaker (24)
Up a level: Miguel Gonzalez (21), Dan Black (24), Carlos Sanchez (19), Marcus Semien (21), Ross Wilson (23), Trayce Thompson (21)
Skipped a level: Michael Earley (24)
The Dash’s lineup has a few interesting faces, but also quite a few question marks. Former Indiana State teammates Nick Ciolli and Brady Shoemaker could anchor the offense, but the outfielder garnering the most attention will be Trayce Thompson. Thompson moves up after spending a pair of years in Kannapolis and is easily the best prospect in the lineup and arguably the entire team. After hitting 24 home runs for Kannapolis it’s scary to think what he can do at the hitters’ haven of BB&T Ballpark. Earley will be the fourth outfielder after spending the past two summers in Great Falls.
The catching platoon of Blanke and Gonzalez is interesting because both are relevant prospects despite poor 2011 seasons offensively. Blanke spent half of last year with the Dash and Gonzalez moves up after two years in Kanny. Like Thompson, Gonzalez is only 21 though.
The infield has the potential to be pretty good. Four players, Black, Wilson, Semien and Sanchez, move up from starting roles in Kannapolis. Black should fit in as a power bat in the middle of the lineup. Semien and Sanchez, the youngest player on the roster, are on their first April Opening Day rosters.
With a hitters’ park, quite a few power bats and a good amount of talent this offense could put up some big numbers for the Dash. Couple that with a good rotation and the Dash should be making a push for a first half division title.
Top 25 Prospects: Trayce Thompson (5th), Jacob Petricka (6th), Andre Rienzo (12th), Ryan Buch (24th), Michael Blanke (25th)
Sleepers: Kyle Bellamy, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien