The minor league season is underway!

In case you missed it, yesterday was Opening Day and I’m not talking about the White Sox home opener. The minor league season started yesterday, with Charlotte, Birmingham and Kannapolis kicking things off. We’ll have team previews coming next week, but for now let’s hit on the first impressions.

Some of the biggest storylines early in the minor league season is where players get assigned. Two of the top three prospects, according to our rankings, are with the White Sox (Chris Sale and Brent Morel). Three more from the top ten are repeating in Charlotte (Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers and Jordan Danks), but those aren’t the surprises.

The biggest surprise to me was Eduardo Escobar landing in AAA. The slick fielding shortstop played 49 games with the Barons last year and hit just .262 with an OPS south of .700. That said, he impressed Ozzie Guillen among others this spring.

Josh Phegley and Brandon Short will try to take a big step in their careers by surviving the AA jump, but another of their Dash teammates from last year, Jon Gilmore, is staring the year on the disabled list. All three register as prospects with moderate expectations, but a strong year could put any of them in future plans with the Sox.

Despite finishing last season with the Sox, Gregory Infante is back in AA. He didn’t pitch a lot there last year so this isn’t truly repeating the level. Nate Jones joins Infante in the bullpen after starting all of last year for Winston-Salem. Both threw two scoreless innings in the Barons’ opener.

There are few surprises on the A ball rosters, but Andy Wilkins did skip Kannapolis in his assignment to the Carolina League. All eyes will be on Jared Mitchell though. The former first round pick will return to action in the Dash’s opener tonight after missing all of 2010.

On the injury front, Tyler Saladino is out with a hand injury that could keep him out for a few weeks and Thomas Royse is expected to miss the entire season after having Tommy John Surgery.

The best of Thursday’s openers came from the pitchers. Dylan Axelrod (5 IP, 0 R, 8 K, BB, 2 H) and Ryan Buch (6 IP, R, 4 K, 0 BB, H) put in dominant openers. Buch is a FutureSox favorite, but Axelrod hasn’t really been on the radar.

Each of the affiliates is in action today with Jake Peavy going for the Barons and Terry Doyle opening up the season for the Dash.

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