2017 Winston-Salem Dash Season Preview

The Winston-Salem Dash opened play on Thursday, along with the other three full-season affiliates. 2005 World Series hero Willie Harris takes over as manager of the Dash after a stint as the hitting coach in Great Falls last year. He is joined by Charlie Poe as the Hitting Coach and Brian Drahman takes over as Pitching Coach. They open the season at BB&T Field with their home opener against Buies Creek.

Here is a look at how the Dash roster is constructed, who to watch, and what to expect from the club.

Opening Day ages of the players are listed in parentheses, along with position for non-pitchers. Players on the disabled list have an asterisk. 

Winston-Salem Dash (2016 Record: 56-83; 4th Place)

Top 30 Prospects: Zack Collins (5th), Luis Alexander Basabe (9th), Alex Call (12th), Luis Martinez (29th).

Pitchers

The Dash rotation features a couple returning starters in lefty Tanner Banks and righty Zach Thompson. Banks had a 3.99 E.R.A in 90 innings last season and Thompson threw 54 innings as a former 5th round pick of the White Sox. MLBpipeline.com lists the 6'7 Thompson as the 30th rated prospect in the system. They like his potential as a two-pitch reliever in the future but he will remain in the Winston-Salem rotation. Joining them in the rotation are right-handers Brannon Easterling, Max Beatty, and Aron McRee. Beatty and Easterling pitched in Kannapolis last season and McRee compiled a 2.16 E.R.A. in 66.2 innings in Great Falls. Luis Martinez begins the season on the 7 Day Disabled List but will join the rotation at some point. Martinez is the 21st ranked prospect in the White Sox system according to MLBPipeline.com and was Marco Paddy's first six figure international expenditure with the club. Martinez had a 2.79 E.R.A. over his last 14 starts for the Intimidators last season.

Kelvis Valerio, Yelmison Peralta, Drew Hasler, and lefty Ryan Riga are all returning to the Dash bullpen. Andre Wheeler is returning to Winston-Salem after struggling in Birmingham last season. Louie Lechich is converting to pitching and has gotten some positive reviews from late last year and in the AFL. Ian Hamilton also joins the Dash after 31 innings pitched for the Intimidators. Hamilton was an over-slot 11th round signing from the 2016 draft. The Washington State product could move quick as a two-pitch reliever and has the chance to be a high leverage ace according to Baseball America which has him ranked as the #28 prospect in the system. Aaron Bummer rounds out the Dash bullpen after rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery and pitching briefly across three affiliates late last season. MLBPipeline.com has Bummer ranked as the 25th prospect in the White Sox system. Bummer throws left-handed and reaches the high 90's with his 70 grade fastball. He was a Non-Roster Invitee to spring training and that shows the confidence that the White Sox have in him.

Position Players

Danny Mendick and Toby Thomas are returning to the Dash infield. Mendick is listed as a SS and Thomas at 2B, though supposedly they will move around. Ronald Bueno also joins the Winston-Salem infield as primarily a 2nd sacker, after playing in the Cincinnati system last season. Brady Conlan had a successful season in Great Falls last year and will be the new 3rd baseman in Winston-Salem. Johan Cruz battled through injuries in 2016 and should be the SS for the Dash. Cruz was given a $450,000.00 bonus in 2012 as an international signing. He is a good defender, has some power, and is only 21 years old. At first glance, it doesn't appear that Winston-Salem has a first baseman on their roster. Outfielder Louis Silverio returns to the Dash but he was the 1B on Opening Night. It will be curious if this trend continues once some of the DL situations become more clear.

The outfield at Winston-Salem will be filled by first-time members of the Dash and offers a lot of promise. Luis Alexander Basabe should be the primary CF and the switch-hitter has 5 tool potential. Basabe was the 3rd piece in the Chris Sale trade and spent most of last season at Low-A Greenville in the Red Sox organization. His speed, defense, base-running and power potential make him a really fun prospect to watch. Alex Call was a 3rd round pick out of Ball State in 2016. Call hit immediately as he entered the system. He had an .OPS of over .800 across 2 levels with Great Falls and Kannapolis and should provide excellent defense as the primary left-fielder for the Dash. Another 2016 draftee that impressed in his first season with the organization is 28th round pick Aaron Schnurbusch. He has plus power potential and a 6'5" 230 pound prototypical right-fielder frame. He was listed as the 22nd best prospect in the organization according to Baseball America and Hudson Belinsky called him a possible "late round steal". Jake Fincher will also be on the Dash roster as an outfielder after a campaign with the Intimidators last season.

The White Sox made Zack Collins the 10th overall pick of the 2016 draft out of the University of Miami (Florida). Collins should be the primary backstop with the Dash and brings with him an impressive resume. Some scouts don't believe in Collins' ability to remain behind the plate long-term but the White Sox are fully committed to him staying at catcher. He possesses big left-handed power, advanced on base skills, and draws comparisons to Brian McCann. He should produce plus power, average, and on-base ability as he excels at drawing walks. Collins should be a very exciting player to follow with his eventual path on the trajectory toward Chicago, likely not lasting the full season with the Dash. Wilfredo Gonzalez joins the Dash after spending last season in the Rockies organization but will start the season on the Disabled List along with fellow catcher Casey Schroeder. Daniel Gonzalez is repeating the level and will serve as the backup to Collins for the time being.

Overall Thoughts

The Dash should be an exciting team to watch in the Carolina League. The lineup packs some punch with top prospects and recent draftees. Collins, Basabe, Call, Schnurbusch, and Cruz should be interesting to follow throughout the season. Luis Martinez offers promise as a potential starting pitcher and Bummer and Hamilton could be impactful high-leverage relievers.

As fun as the Winston-Salem Dash appear to be, reinforcements could be headed their way in season via the Kannapolis Intimidators. Recent draft picks Alec Hansen (RHP), Bernardo Flores (LHP), and Jameson Fisher (OF) could see time in Winston-Salem at some point. They could be joined by right-handers Dane Dunning and Victor Diaz who were acquired in separate off-season deals, or former international signings Micker Adolfo and Antonio Rodriguez. The Dash should be an interesting team to watch from start to finish and should have legitimate major league prospects on the squad throughout the season.

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