Since moving into BB&T Ballpark, the Winston-Salem Dash have had a good run of success, but 2012 was the best year the club has seen in a while. The Dash posted the best regular season record (87-51) in full season minor league baseball, won their first and second half division titles and a playoff series.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to win the Carolina League. After beating Myrtle Beach 2-1 to advance to the championship series the Dash were ousted by Lynchburg 3-1 in the best-of-five series. Still, the team had a very successful season and a number of talented players improved their stock.
Trayce Thompson was the prospect with the Dash the longest. The slugging outfielder hit 22 homers and really found a groove in the second half of the season. His batting average spiked (although his K rate remained high) and he earned a promotion to Birmingham in August. Thompson’s strong 2012 makes it appear he might be reaching his potential.
Carlos Sanchez hit .315 before a promotion to AA where he set the Southern League on fire. Sanchez is easily the top infield prospect in the system and could be Major League ready in 2013, although finding that spot on the White Sox might not be realistic with Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham ahead of him.
Keenyn Walker joined the team in July and slumped after an initial hot streak. He stole 17 bases in 21 tries and drew 24 walks, but his 50 strikeouts led to a .238 batting average in 168 plate appearances and showed he still has raw contact skills.
Lower down the prospect rankings are catchers Kevan Smith and Mike Blanke. Both garnered some attention for being catchers that dominated rookie ball, but their numbers have dropped off in A ball. Smith, 24, posted a solid .807 OPS in 22 games with the Dash after coming up from Kannapolis and Blanke, 23, had a streaky season with a .702 OPS. Due to their age it would be nice to see the duo start 2013 in AA to see if they have value to the White Sox.
Brady Shoemaker, 25, dominated the Carolina League to the tune of a .971 OPS before joining the Barons. Dan Black, also 25, stuck around to win Carolina League MVP. Michael Earley, 24, had an .819 OPS to aid in the league’s best offense. Marcus Semien, who turns 22 in two days, is a better prospect and his .907 second half OPS could be a sign of a possible breakout 2013.
The Dash’s pitching staff was effective, mostly led by a strong bullpen. On the prospect front the Dash had three starters of note for a chunk of the season.
Jake Petricka showed a good strikeout rate, but no control (5.33 ERA, 84 K, 46 BB in 82.2 IP). Scott Snodgress (1.50 ERA, 44 K, 15 BB in 42 IP) and Erik Johnson (2.74 ERA, 48 K, 10 BB in 49.1 IP) are both 2011 draftees that joined in the second half and blew away the league upon promotion. Snodgress and Johnson are arguably the top two pitching prospects in the system right now.
In 2013 the Dash may not have as many prospects since most of Kannapolis’ talent already joined the Dash for the postseason run. However, Walker and Courtney Hawkins should give the outfield a pair of prospects worth following to start with.