Opening Day roster breakdown

Top prospect Courtney Hawkins will receive plenty of attention in 2013 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Top prospect Courtney Hawkins will receive plenty of attention in 2013 (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

One of the final steps before the Dash’s season can begin is the release of the Opening Day roster, which happened today. Dash fans know about some of these 25 players, while others will suit up for Winston-Salem for the first time Friday at Carolina. Let’s take a look at all of these players and how they fit within the roster.

The top prospect:
OF Courtney Hawkins

No White Sox prospect will draw as much attention as Hawkins will during the 2013 season. Chicago’s first-round pick 10 months ago, Hawkins hit three homers and drove in seven runs in 12 High-A games last season. He will likely get a longer look at this level while trying to live up to the billing of being the Sox top prospect and one of the top 100 players in the minors.

The other ranked farmhands:
RHP Chris Beck, INF Joey DeMichele & C Kevan Smith

In addition to Hawkins’ place atop Baseball America’s White Sox prospect rankings, three other players who will open the season with Winston-Salem found themselves on the publication’s Top 30 list. Beck (10th) makes the jump from short-season Great Falls, while DeMichele (24th) is a player that many believe can climb the minor league ladder quickly. Most Dash fans remember Smith (27th) and his big grand slam in the SDCS-clinching win over Myrtle Beach last season. He will likely receive the majority of the playing time available behind the plate.

The returning hurlers:
RHP J.R. Ballinger, RHP Chris Bassitt, RHP Bryan Blough, RHP Justin Collop, RHP Terance Marin, LHP Max Peterson & RHP Steven Upchurch

The Dash’s pitching staff was one of the best in the Carolina League last season, and more than half of the Dash’s Opening Day pitchers suited up for Winston-Salem at some point last season. Pitching coach J.R. Perdew also returns after the tremendous 2012 season. All seven of these pitchers have had success at this level, which bodes well for the Dash in 2013.

David Herbek shined following a midseason promotion to High-A (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

David Herbek shined following a midseason promotion to the Carolina League (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

The “prove it” player:
INF David Herbek

Herbek’s 2012 season was unique. He hit just .214 in 43 games with Low-A Kannapolis, but the White Sox moved him up to Winston-Salem in late June. The Virginia native responded by swinging at a .313 clip in 47 games. Herbek figures to see significant time with the Dash, so will he be closer to his Kannapolis form or his Winston-Salem self? You have to like his chances to be a scary hitter on this circuit like he was down the stretch a year ago.

The new White Sox:
RHP Jeremy Erben, OF Nick Giarraputo & INF Mark Tracy

Three men on the 25-man roster were not with the organization last season. The White Sox signed Erben in spring training, just a few days after Arizona released him. Giarraputo is back in affiliated baseball after three seasons on the independent circuit. Tracy joined the Sox organization following a trade with Colorado. Former Dash outfielder Kenny Williams, Jr., was shipped to the Rockies in that deal. This trio will be hungry to contribute early on as White Sox farmhands.

The acquaintances:
INF Chris Curley, OF Mark Haddow & OF Billy Rice

These three men all joined Winston-Salem at some point last season, but the threesome combined for only 11 regular season games with the Dash. Curley shined in the final week of the regular season before hitting .500 in the CL postseason, while Haddow and Rice struggled a bit in their limited at-bats after playing well for Low-A Kannapolis. How will these three swingers adjust to a prolonged stay in the Triad? That answer may dictate how effective the offense will be this season.

The Kannapolis kids:
INF Grant Buckner, LHP Jarrett Casey, INF Joe De Pinto & RHP Daniel Webb

These four players spent most or all of their 2012 seasons with Low-A Kannapolis. The jump from Low-A to High-A is not an easy one, but all four of these men will get the chance to do it following spring training.

How will the catching duties be split among Kevan Smith, Martin Medina and Brent Tanner? (Dan Barber/W-S Dash).

How will the catching duties be split among Kevan Smith, Martin Medina and Brent Tanner? (Dan Barber/W-S Dash).

The catching couple:
C Martin Medina & C Brent Tanner

With Smith in the fold, how will skipper Ryan Newman find playing time for these two backstops? Both Medina and Tanner have shown promise in the minors, but there is only so many at-bats to go around. Last season, the Dash rarely had three catchers on the roster, so this will be a challenge for Newman and hitting coach Rob Sasser.

The comeback candidate:
RHP Cody Winiarski

Winiarski missed all of last season with a back injury, and he only has 17 career minor league efforts under his belt. Last season, Kyle Bellamy returned from a season-long injury to shine with Winston before heading to Double-A. Winiarski will look to do the same for the Dash in 2013.

Hopefully this gives you some more insight on the first roster for the Dash in 2013. The season is three days away, and we will have plenty more coverage leading up to Friday’s season opener here on the Dash Board.

- Brian

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