Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wilmington Blue Rocks 2014 Preview

LF - Terrance Gore*
CF - Bubba Starling*
RF - Daniel Rockett*
3B - Hunter Dozier*
SS - Raul A. Mondesi*
2B - Jack Lopez
1B - Cody Stubbs*
C - Zane Evans*

Miguel Almonte*
Christian Binford*
Sean Manaea*
Daniel Stumpf*
Jonathon Dziedzic*

C - Cam Gallagher*, C - Beau Maggi*, 1B - Mark Donato*, IF - Kenny Diekroeger, OF - Tyler Chism,      OF - Johermyn Chavez*

Mark Peterson, Kyle Bartsch*, John Walter*, Glenn Sparkman*, Matt Murray*, Yender Caramo*,  Aroni Nina*, Zeb Sneed*, Ali Williams

  • A prospect-heavy team, the Blue Rocks will be the affiliate to watch every day to begin the 2014 season.  Not only will this team be fun to watch, the roster is practically a fresh start for the Frawley Stadium faithful in Wilmington, Delaware.
  • Of the 28 players dawning the Blue Rocks uniform, 23 of them will be doing so for the very first time.
  • The rotation will consist of 5 brand new starters, including 3 in the Royals' Top 10 prospects according to Baseball America.  Miguel Almonte, ranked #5, joins the Blue Rocks after a stellar 2013 campaign with Lexington.  From various scouts/media, Almonte is considered far more advanced than most of the pitchers in the organization.  He showcases excellent command and possesses secondary pitches, including the best changeup in the Royals system, that assistant GM J.J. Picollo describes as "more advanced than Yordano Ventura at this stage".  Almonte could have made the jump to Double-A with no issues, but the Royals decided to give him some innings in the Carolina League before heading to Springdale, Arkansas.
  • Sean Manaea, ranked #6, will make his professional debut with Wilmington after being selected in the Supplemental Round of the 2013 MLB Draft.  Widely considered as one of the top players to go off the board early, some teams were worried about his health as he recovered from a torn labrum in his hip over the off-season, but good fortune was on the Royals side as they were able to take not only Manaea, but Hunter Dozier, as well.  Needless to say, the Royals drafted well.  For a detailed report on the 22 year old, here are some notes from Baseball Prospectus writer Jason Parks.
  • If having Almonte and Manaea in the rotation wasn't good enough, Christian Binford, ranked #10, will also join Wilmington for his 3rd professional season.  The 21 year old from Hagerstown, Maryland stands at 6 foot 6 inches, which helps give him a great downward plane to the plate and throws at a 3/4 arm slot.  Although his fastball sits in the very low 90's, there's time for his body to fill out more and possibly gain a little more velocity on his fastball.  Binford is ranked by Baseball America as having the best control in the system for the '14 season, which has been backed up by astounding BB/9 rates in his first 2 seasons (0.90 and 1.67, respectively).  His height, along with the movement of his pitches allow him to keep batted balls on the ground (49.2% last season), will only be to his advantage this year in the Carolina League.  
  • The left side of the infield looks down right nasty.  Those who visit Frawley Stadium better enjoy it while they're around.  Manning 3B and SS for the Blue Rocks will be Hunter Dozier (B.A. #7 ranking) and Raul A. Mondesi (B.A. #4 ranking).  In 313 plate appearances split between Idaho Falls and Lexington stints, Dozier already has a career line of .312/.403/.502 and is considered to have the best contact and strike-zone discipline in the system.  The 22 year old will show off an excellent arm and quick first step at third base, but is said to have enough athleticism to make a move to a corner OF spot, if the move is necessary.  Depending on Moustakas in Kansas City...who knows.  
  • Dozier's neighbor on the diamond, Mondesi, will open 2014 as the youngest player in the Carolina League at just 18 years old.  Raul, the son of former Major League OF Raul Mondesi, Sr., bats from both sides of the plate and is considered to have better plate appearances as a lefty.  After hitting .261 with 7 HR and 47 RBI, the offensive output will only get better down the road, as he's facing pitchers 4-6 years older than himself.  At shortstop, Mondesi has an outstanding glove with exceptional range thanks to his speed, along with a strong arm.  Nathan Stoltz did a nice piece on Mondesi last November that offers a more in-depth evaluation of the future Royal.
  • Two of the organization's top catching prospects will both be in Wilmington for 2014.  Cam Gallagher (B.A. #23 ranking) and Zane Evans (B.A. #24 ranking) will split time behind the plate as they enter their 4th and 2nd seasons, respectively.  

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