Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Northwest Arkansas Naturals Preview

Projected Lineup
CF - Brett Eibner
3B - Rey Navarro
SS - Orlando Calixte
1B - Matt Fields
C - Manny Pina
RF - Yem Prades
LF - Brian Fletcher
DH - Mitch Canham
2B - Alex McClure

Noel Arguelles
Jason Adam
Sugar Ray Marimon
Yordano Ventura
J.C. Sulbaran

C - Juan Graterol, IF Whit Merrifield, OF Roman Hernandez

Yeliar Castro, Sam Runion, John Keck, Edwin Carl, Andy Ferguson, Santiago Garrido, Brooks Pounders,
Matt Ridings, Nick Rogers, Cole White

Notes on your Northwest Arkansas Naturals:
  • The lineup is definitely a buzz-kill to begin the 2013 season.  There are a couple names to keep track of, but mainly, if you want to see a good hitting lineup, don't expect anything special.  Brett Eibner returns to his native homeland of Arkansas, which should excite the people of Springdale down to Fayetteville.  Last season with the Blue Rocks, Eibner was unsuccessful in hitting above the Mendoza-Line, hitting a depressing .196, but managed to smack 15 HR and bring in 53 RBI.  Since 2007, only 10 Royals minor leaguers have hit double-digit HR in Wilmington, so Brett obviously brings some pop.  Unfortunately, he has one more season before he's Rule V Draft eligible, and if he doesn't take drastic steps in improving his hitting, he could easily get claimed in the draft.
  • Infielders Rey Navarro and Orlando Calixte will be others to watch.  Rey, 23, returns to NW Arkansas for a 3rd consecutive season.  Navarro will not hit for power, but has the ability to make decent contact, as he's hit .250 and .271 the past 2 seasons, respectively.  His stint with Omaha in 2012 was a nice surprise as he hit .300 in 60 plate appearances.  Rey is known for the glove, and since Calixte has arrived, he will have to make a move, most likely to 3B.  Orlando Calixte, 21, cracks our Top 10 prospect list as a 21 year old SS.  In 2012 for Wilmington, he posted a line of .281/.326/.426.  Like Navarro, Calixte is known for his play at SS and has tremendous range, but committed 46 errors at short last season in 556 opportunities.  Orlando is athletic enough to make a move elsewhere in the field, and if the fielding doesn't improve, a change in position could be inevitable.
  • If you want to see some good pitching, you've come to the right place.  Joining the Naturals this year are Top Prospects Jason Adam and Yordano Ventura.  Adam threw for Wilmington last season and was a solid workhorse for the team, throwing 158 innings in 27 starts, posting a 3.53 era.  In his 2 professional seasons, Adam has proven he can go deep into games and give the pen a rest and along with his 6'4" athletic frame, Jason shouldn't have too many problems for the Naturals.  
  • Ventura, 22, is #3 on our prospect list, and rightfully deserved.  Yordano had a good spring while pitching in the Royals rotation, and was mentioned as a candidate for the final spot in the rotation, before getting sent down to NW Arkansas.  Ventura will excite fans this year with his electrifying fastball that has touched 102 mph.  If all goes well, "Ace" should spend about half the season in Springdale before moving up to Omaha.  Hypothetically speaking, if the Royals were in the hunt and needed another arm in the pen, Ventura would be an acceptable move, just to get him accustomed to the big leagues.

  • Noel Arguelles, the 23 year old Cuban defector, will be another familiar face to the Naturals fans as he returns to the rotation, and was named Opening Day starter.  Arguelles had a promising 2011 season with Wilmington coming off shoulder surgery.  Last season was a different story.  Going 4-14 with a 6.41 era in 25 starts doesn't look appealing on paper.  Although he has returned to normal velocity, which was low 90's, he showed great control last year, which is a baby step.  If velocity can return in Springdale, he could get back on track.  If it doesn't, our $7 million put into him goes down the drain.

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