2018 Winston-Salem Dash Season Preview

The Winston-Salem Dash will open Carolina League play on Thursday, April 5th (today!) at 7:00 PM at Carolina. 24-year major league veteran and 3-time All Star Omar Vizquel takes the reigns as manager of the Dash in 2018. Over the past four seasons, the 11-time Gold Glove winner was a member of Brad Ausmus' staff with the Detroit Tigers. Vizquel will be joined by highly respected pitching coach Matt Zaleski and hitting coach Charlie Poe. The Dash will open BB&T Ballpark on Thursday April 12th against Carolina as well.

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 (2017 Record: 56-84; 5th Place)

Top 30 Prospects: Luis Robert (3rd), Dylan Cease (6th), Dane Dunning (7th), Blake Rutherford (9th), Micker Adolfo (10th), Gavin Sheets (12th), Luis Alexander Basabe (21st), Alex Call (27th), Bernardo Flores (30th)

Dane Dunning delivers a pitch for the Dash (James Geiser/Winston-Salem Dash)

Dane Dunning delivers a pitch for the Dash (James Geiser/Winston-Salem Dash)

Pitchers

Our 6th and 7th ranked prospects on the White Sox pre-season top 30 list headline the pitching staff in Winston-Salem to start the 2018 season. Cease and Dunning are featured prominently on publication top prospect lists. Cease is the #61 prospect in baseball according to mlbpipeline.com. The former over-slot 6th rounder of the Cubs has devastating swing and miss stuff and he's displayed it in his brief time in the White Sox organization. Cease posted a 2.71 FIP and averaged 12.2 K/9 in 41.1 innings for the Intimidators last year. The right-hander needs to pitch more innings and find more consistency with his 3rd pitch. The former Georgia high school product has excellent raw stuff and will be given every opportunity to become a top-of-the-rotation starter in the White Sox system. Dunning was the 29th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Florida. The 6'4", 200 pounder profiles as a mid-rotation starter and maybe more. Baseball America ranked Dunning as the #82 prospect in baseball before the season and mlbpipeline has him ranked as #92. The 23-year-old has an aggressive demeanor on the mound and he peppers the strike zone with plus offerings. He stands out for his excellent command and he threw 118 innings with 135 strikeouts for the Dash last season.

Former Phillies farmhand Ricardo Pinto will join the Dash after being acquired last week. Rick Hahn told James Fegan of The Athletic that Pinto's stay in High-A could be short-lived but he'll start there nonetheless. The 24-year-old righty is a fastball/slider guy that has an excellent changeup. The White Sox are attempting to turn him back into a starter after pitching in relief in the Philadelphia organization. The lone southpaw in the Winston-Salem rotation is 2016 7th round pick Bernardo Flores. The 6'3", 170-pounder struggled a bit in the Carolina League in 2017 and he returns this year. He has a really good changeup and we ranked him as the #30 prospect in the system currently. Lambert finishes up the rotation, looking to improve on his High-A showing last season.

Blake Hickman was signed as an over-slot 7th rounder out of the University of Iowa in 2015 prior to undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Right-hander Luis Martinez will return for another season as well, joining Hickman in the bullpen after both worked as starters last year. There isn't an obvious closer in the Winston-Salem bullpen but right-hander Jose Ruiz could be given high-leverage opportunities after being acquired from San Diego this off-season. 24-year-old righty Mike Morrison has closed out games in the past and 23-year-old right hander Matt Foster definitely possesses the raw stuff to close. 25-year-old southpaw Kyle Kubat joins the Dash bullpen from Birmingham and he's the only lefty in the pen. Danny Dopico, Matt Foster and Zach Thompson will round out the pen for the Winston-Salem Dash.

Micker Adolfo's stance in BP, at the hitter's mini camp in AZ, January 2018 (Kim Contreras / FutureSox)

Micker Adolfo's stance in BP, at the hitter's mini camp in AZ, January 2018 (Kim Contreras / FutureSox)

Position Players

Winston-Salem's theme in 2018 is "Dash City" but it could easily be "prospect city". The outfield alone is littered with legitimate prospects and potential difference makers. Cuban centerfielder Luis Robert will be the main attraction this summer but he begins the season on the disabled list while rehabbing a sprained thumb. The physical specimen and 3rd-ranked prospect in the system, is also the 28th ranked prospect in the sport according to mlbpipeline.com and his small sample of spring training did nothing to tarnish those thoughts. The 20-year-old has received rave reviews from any evaluator that has seen him to this point and fans in the Carolina League are in for a treat. Alex Call, Luis Alexander Basabe and Joel Booker will return to Winston-Salem in his absence. Call and Basabe battled multiple injuries last year and both are looking to bounce back. Basabe should see a lot of time in center for the time being. Luis has a big arm and is a power/speed prospect that impressed with the big league club in the spring. Call was a 3rd round pick out of Ball State in 2016 and he could earn an early promotion with a hot start.

Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo are joining the Dash from the Intimidators as well. Rutherford was the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of a Southern California High School. Blake was acquired in a mid-season trade with the Yankees last year and he's listed as the #99 prospect in the game according to Pipeline. He is oozing with talent and he needs to bounce back after struggling at the dish last year. He needs to find a way to tap into the power more often but at the age of 20, he has time to do so. Micker Adolfo had a breakout season in Kannapolis last year. The 6'3", 200 pound Dominican posted a 126 wRC+ to go along with 16 homers for the Intimidators. He will be used as the primary DH this year after injuring an elbow ligament this spring.

Winston-Salem will be a bit of a homecoming for 21-year-old slugger Gavin Sheets. Sheets spent the past three seasons playing at Wake Forest not too far from his new home. The former Demon Deacon was the 49th overall pick in the 2017 draft. The 6'4" slugger struggled to hit for power in his brief sample last year but power profiles as the main attribute of Gavin's game. He could be a power and on base force in the middle of the lineup and his first base only profile depends on it. We ranked Sheets as the #12 prospect in the White Sox system prior to the season. Ti'Quan Forbes, Mitch Roman, Zach Remillard and Yeyson Yrizarri will make up the rest of the infield for the Dash. Forbes and Yrizarri should get most of the work on the left-side of the infield and both players are returning to the Carolina League this year. The 6'3 180 pound Forbes is still young and was a 2nd round pick in 2014. Yrizarri was acquired from the Rangers last season and profiles as a shortstop with power. He needs to display more contact ability however. Roman and Remillard will vie for time at second base, and probably each get some time on the left side as well. We profiled ROman here in season last year. He's a solid defender and he accumulated 130 hits for the Intimidators including a red-hot start, but he fell back a bit as the year went on. 24-year-old Zach Remillard should also get some time at the hot corner because of the season-ending injury to 2017 1st rounder Jake Burger.

Nate Nolan will join the Dash from the Kannapolis Intimidators and will split the backstop duties with Rule-5 pick Yermin Mercedes. The 6'1", 210 pound Nolan was an 8th round pick in 2016. He's known for defensive ability but he did hit 7 home runs in Low-A last season. Mercedes is more of a bat first option behind the dish. The 25-year-old displays big power and hit 16 homers in 2016. He's 5'11" and 175 pounds and was plucked away from the Baltimore Orioles in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. It's uncommon to find quality players in this manner often but current White Sox backup catcher Omar Narvaez was previously acquired in the same manner.

Overall Thoughts

The Dash are a prospect factory this season. They should be an interesting follow in the Carolina League throughout the season. The lineup packs some thump with Adolfo and Sheets seeing regular time. Rutherford, Basabe, Call and the eventual arrival of uber prospect Luis Robert should keep prospect enthusiasts at ballparks all over the league. Right-handers Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease are both top 10 system prospects and lefty Bernardo Flores offers some upside as well. The Winston-Salem Dash should be exciting from beginning to end and some more members of the 2017 draft class could reach the Dash at some point as well.

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Comments

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  • I hate to see them pushing Rutherford up to High A after struggling in Low A last year. He's young enough that such a "do or die " approach is really unnecessary. Plus, there won't be nearly enough at bats for so many outfield prospects. Other than Dedelow and Gozalez, what other top outfield prospects are in Kannapolis?

  • I'll agree with you that it's definitely an interesting decision. I thought initially that Rutherford would be back in Low-A as well. Winston-Salem isn't as cavernous as Kannapolis is so that could have something to do with it possibly. Alex Destino, Logan Taylor and Tyler Frost are the other OF's in Kanny but your point is accurate.

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