Major League Opening Day is behind us, but the minor league season still awaits. All four full season White Sox affiliates get started Thursday and we’ll have previews for each of those teams as quickly as possible.
Birmingham’s roster came out first because they played the big league club in an exhibition last week. As a result the Barons’ preview is first.
The Barons open Thursday at Montgomery. Regions Field’s second season is April 9 vs. Jacksonville.
The Opening Day ages of the players are in parentheses unless otherwise noted. For the hitters position is also listed.
Birmingham (2013 record: 77-63, Southern League champions)
Repeats: Chris Bassitt (25), Chris Beck (23), David Cales (26), Stephen McCray (26), Nick McCully (25), Nestor Molina (25), Scott Snodgress (24), Kevin Vance (23)
Up a level: Myles Jaye (22), Cody Winiarski (24)
New to organization: Frank De Los Santos (26), Terry Doyle (27), Parker Frazier (25), Nelvin Fuentes (25 on April 7)
This is an experienced pitching staff, although some of the players listed as repeats haven’t spent a full year in AA. Bassitt and Beck spent less than half a season with the Barons last season, but did contribute to the postseason run. Winiarski, a reliever, also got a brief taste of AA in 2013. Bassitt starts the season on the disabled list, but it’s supposedly a minor injury.
The rotation has four prospects with Beck, Bassitt, Snodgress and Jaye. Those right-handers all pitched for the Barons to some extent last year so hopefully they can hit the ground running this season.
Vance and Winiarski carry some intrigue in the bullpen, but overall it’s a veteran ‘pen. The average age of the entire pitching staff is nearly 25 years old. Despite the age, the pitching staff appears to be the strength of the team and has the ability to be among the best in the league.
Repeats: Miguel Gonzalez (C, 23), Luis Sierra (C, 26), Daniel Wagner (IF, 25), Michael Earley (OF, 26), Trayce Thompson (OF, 23), Keenyn Walker (OF, 23)
Up a level: Kevan Smith (C, 25), Chris Curley (IF, 26), Jeremy Farrell (3B, 27), Micah Johnson (2B, 23), Rangel Ravelo (1B, 22 on April 24), Joe De Pinto (OF, 25 tomorrow) Josh Richmond (OF, 24)
New to org.: Christian Marrero (1B, 27), Jaime Pedroza (SS, 27)
The lineup has plenty of intrigue with prospects in Johnson, Thompson, Ravelo and Walker. At catcher, Smith is interesting just to see how he handles the difficult jump to AA. Same goes for Johnson, who has drawn plenty of praise since having a breakout 2013, but his numbers in Winston-Salem were less than thrilling (.275/.309/.360).
Thompson and Walker are nearing make or break territory after really disappointing seasons in AA last season. The lineup looks like it can produce, but those two will be key to whether or not it actually will.
Top 25 Prospects: Chris Beck (7), Micah Johnson (9), Trayce Thompson (10), Scott Snodgress (16), Chris Bassitt (18), Rangel Ravelo (21), Myles Jaye (23)