San Antonio Missions 2011 Season Preview

Another good offensive team with a strong bullpen but question marks with its starters after Casey Kelly and Anthony Bass. Keep an eye on LF Jaff Decker and SS Drew Cumberland, two of the best position prospects in the organization.

Three Strikes with Randy Smith, Director of Player Development and International Scouting:

How has Jaff Decker looked this spring? Is he recovered from his hamstring and hand injuries?

Randy Smith: He's in the best shape of his life. I think Jaff has really matured in figuring out what is important. He looks great and has played left field really well. The other day he stole a base, so he's always trying to figure out a way to make himself better.

Casey Kelley struggled last year in Double-A with the Red Sox, but many believe it was the result of some nagging injuries. How has his health been and what improvement do you expect to see from him this year?

Randy Smith: I think going into his second full year is only going to help him, especially from a comfort level. He's got good stuff, great athlete and a good body. Right now, I think it's just a question of getting his innings in; but he's pretty refined in the way he pitches right now. Can't say enough to say how thrilled we are to have him.

Where is Dan Robertson going to be playing this season?

Randy Smith: Dan has always primarily been an outfielder and that is where we expect to see him play the majority of the time. He came in during the Instructs and during spring and played some second and it will be an option for Doug [Dascenzo, the Missions manager] for him to have.

2011 Projected Lineup:

1B Cody Decker SP Casey Kelly
2B Vince Belnome SP Anthony Bass
SS Drew Cumberland SP Rob Musgrave
3B James Darnell SP Juan Oramas*
C Kyle Phillips/Ali Solis SP Matt Buschmann*/Jorge Reyes
DH Sawyer Carroll   
RF Dan Robertson RP Eddie Kunz
CF Blake Tekotte RP Nick Vincent
LF Jaff Decker Closer Brad Brach

*LHP Nick Schmidt will start the season on the DL along with Juan Oramas, but Oramas is closer to being ready.

MadFriars.com's Top 20 Prospects in San Antonio: (6) (2) Casey Kelley, (3) Jaff Decker, (5) Drew Cumberland, (8) James Darnell, (14) Blake Tekotte and (18) Brad Brach.

Catch a Rising Star: Jaff Decker. Flat out the best hitter in the organization. He has a career .945 OPS in two and half season as a professional and he just turned 21. While people will notice the bat, he has a much more rounded game than many give him credit for with a solid arm in left.

Starting Pitching: Casey Kelley should be the star of the staff. This will only be his second full season as a pitcher; the athletic Kelly spent the first two shuttling between pitching and shortstop. If he's healthy, he should be a dominant force. Anthony Bass sneaks up on many but he throws three pitches down in the zone for strikes with velocity and has a better fastball than many would expect. Rob Musgrave bounced between the bullpen and the rotation all year and right now will be starting because of injuries. However he is someone to watch and was the Storm's best starter in the second half.

Pen: Closer Brad Brach may not get a lot of respect but then again he's saved 74 out of 77 games in the past two years and has struck out 189 batters in 151 innings with a 1.90 ERA. Also keep an eye on Nick Vincent and big Eddie Kunz, a former first round pick of the Mets.

Infield: If Cumberland can stay healthy he is someone to watch. The former FSU recruit has yet to play 80 games in a season with the organization, but when he's on the field, he can fly and has some pop in his left-handed line drive swing. Darnell returns to San Antonio after struggling with the injuries and the wind but seemed to figure it out in August hitting .349/.432/.547. Belnome played second in his first year with the organization and third last year. Last season he was one of three Storm members with over 200 total bases and also hit 16 home runs. 1B Cody Decker led the Storm in nearly every offensive category and has come a long way since being a 22nd round pick in 2009.

Outfield: Robertson, Tekotte and Decker have all played together for parts of the past two seasons, one of them being a 100-win championship season Low-A Fort Wayne. Decker is the best prospect but Tekotte has an intriguing skill set with some power, speed and very good defense returns after a half season with the Missions last year. The diminutive Robertson will emerge as a fan favorite with his hustling style of play and effusive personality. However he is a lot more than a mascot hitting .343 with runners in scoring position with two of the three home runs being grand slams. On the Spot: Nick Schmidt. The big left-hander was the first round pick in 2008 and has struggled with injuries since signing with the Padres. Its now his second year after Tommy John surgery and San Diego is looking for the dominant workhorse they drafted out of Arkansas.

Under the Radar: Cody Decker. In 2009, Cody Decker was the MVP of the Arizona League and last year he tied for the organization's lead in home runs with 28 forcing the Padres to deal former number one pick Allan Dykstra. This year, the stocky former UCLA Bruin will face his biggest challenge, hitting at Nelson Wolff Stadium, a place that kills right-handed hitters.

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