The minor league season is upon us! Just minutes from the scheduled posting of this final season preview, the minor league baseball season will be underway.
The Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A Carolina League affiliate of the White Sox, open at home against Wilmington with J.B. Wendelken taking the mound.
The Opening Day ages of the players are in parentheses unless otherwise noted. For the hitters position is also listed.
Winston-Salem (2013 record: 71-69, no playoffs)
Repeats: Bryan Blough (24), Jarrett Casey (26), Brandon Hardin (24), Terance Marin (24), Braulio Ortiz (22), Mike Recchia (25 as of yesterday, happy birthday)
Up a level: Tony Bucciferro (24), Brad Goldberg (24), Kyle Hansen (23 on April 20), Zach Isler (23), Euclides Leyer (21), Jefferson Olacio (20), J.B. Wendelken (21)
Most of the Dash pitching staff already has some experience in High-A. In addition to the six players listed as repeats, which saw at least a month in the Carolina League, guys like Goldberg and Wendelken also joined the Dash late last season.
Wendelken, Ortiz, Recchia, Bucciferro and Goldberg will make up the rotation. Wendelken came over in the Jake Peavy trade and is transitioning from the bullpen. Same goes for Goldberg, who dominated at Great Falls, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last summer after getting drafted.
Ortiz had a positive stint with Kannapolis in 2013 and earned a midseason promotion to the Dash, but his control became erratic once there.
Moving from starting to the bullpen are Hansen and Olacio. Both profiled in the bullpen with good fastballs and a lack of standout secondary stuff. However, both have good upside as relievers.
Repeats: Martin Medina (C, 24), Joey DeMichele (IF, 22), Grant Buckner (IF/OF, 26), Courtney Hawkins (OF, 20), Adam Heisler (OF, 25)
Up a level: Mike Marjama (C, 24), Tim Anderson (SS, 20), Keon Barnum (1B, 20), Nick Basto (IF, 20), Michael Johnson (IF, 25), Jason Coats (OF, 24), Jacob May (OF, 22)
Throwing in this lineup with the pitching staff and every player of the current roster was a part of the White Sox organization at the end of last season, which is a bit rare.
As a result of all the familiar names there are plenty of prospects to go around. Hawkins, May and Coats make for a potentially exciting outfield, although only May had a truly standout 2013. Hawkins will be fascinating to follow after his disastrous season a year ago. He returns to Winston-Salem and all eyes will be on him to see if he can show improvement.
May has the potential to be one of the fast risers both in terms of prospect status and within the minors. He finished 2013 on fire with Kannapolis and has big-time speed to boost his offensive game.
The infield, with Anderson and Barnum, also has some top prospects. Barnum hasn’t stayed healthy for a full season yet, but still has big power potential. Anderson has received a lot of positive buzz in the offseason and will have to live up to that after a pedestrian pro debut with Kannapolis (.277/.348/.363). Other guys like Basto and DeMichele will try to turn it around after rough seasons last year.
The lineup could be one of the best in the Carolina League and certainly has plenty of prospect name recognition.
Top 25 Prospects: Tim Anderson (5), Courtney Hawkins (6), Keon Barnum (13), Jacob May (14), Jefferson Olacio (24)