Seven of the Arizona Diamondbacks' top 20 prospects begin the season on the Visalia Rawhide roster, and ten members of the opening day roster spent time with the Rawhide last season. The result is a roster that boasts a deep pitching staff and a lineup full of thunder.
Wheeler is more comfortable at first base, but played third in college and at instructs. His manning the hot corner this year will allow manager Audo Vicente to get both Wheeler and Goldschmidt's bats into the same lineup consistently. Kyle Greene will also see a lot of time at third base after leading the Rawhide in RBI last year.
Due to A.J. Pollock's injury, there is no natural centerfielder on the squad, and the centerfield duties will be split between the four outfielders on the roster. Josh Ford is a former catcher coming off consecutive Tommy John surgeries and figures to spend most of his time at the DH spot this season.
The rest of the up-the-middle defense should be great, however. Reynaldo Navarro is a spectacular defender while Brent Greer brings a shortstop's range and arm to the second base position. Rossmel Perez threw out 44% of attempted basestealers at Low-A South Bend last season, a number that led the Midwest League.
Brent Greer Rotation
The front four members of the Rawhide rotation are each legitimate prospects, and all five can work deep into games. This will keep the bullpen arms fresh and effective. Brett Moorhouse begins the year in the bullpen after throwing a lot of innings last year, but figures to move into the rotation at some point this summer.
T.J. Hose should get the first crack at the closer's role after being named the FutureBacks.com Pitcher of the Year for the organization last season. Justin Mace, Billy Spottiswood, and Bryan Woodall also have the talent to close. Victor Capellan and Taylor Sinclair are right-and left-handed specialists, respectively, although Sinclair could see spot starts at some point.
Left-hander Ryan Robowski had a 4.20 ERA with Missoula last year, but was nevertheless skipped over South Bend and begins the year in Hi-A. Similarly, Daniel Kaczrowski and Tim Sherlock skipped full-season Low-A after getting underwhelming results with Yakima last year. Their presence on the roster is partly due to the absence of Pollock.
Josh Collmenter and Patrick McAnaney return to Visalia after appearing among the California League leaders in strikeouts, innings pitched, and ERA last season. It's a little surprising that Bryan Shaw was promoted to Mobile before they were. Shaw was solid in his first season as a starting pitcher, but he understandably did not perform as well as Collmenter and McAnaney, who have more experience as starters.
Candidates for a Big Season
In addition to Collmenter and McAnaney, who should both dominate the California League and get called up to Mobile by June, Trevor Harden and T.J. Hose are pitchers who could put up great numbers this season. They both joined Visalia in the middle of the 2009 season and know what they are doing on the mound.
Even though Marc Krauss, Ryan Wheeler, and Paul Goldschmidt don't have a whole lot of professional experience, the California League is a great place to hit. These three giants are not only strong, but have great hitting acumen and could put up eye-popping numbers this year.
On paper, this is the strongest of the Diamondbacks' full season affiliates. The only question mark on the team is outfield defense due to the void left in centerfield by A.J. Pollock. This pitching staff is going to strike out a lot of batters, however, which diminishes the role of that outfield defense a bit. Furthermore, the murderer's row in the middle of the lineup should stack up enough runs to counteract a few balls falling in here and there. This is a playoff team, pure and simple.
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