Prospecting for Carolina League prospects

With the season starting tomorrow night, it’s time to see who could make an impact on the seven other teams in the Carolina League. The prospect rankings used for this post are from Baseball America.

Francisco Lindor ranks among the best defensive infielders in the minors (

Francisco Lindor ranks among the best defensive infielders in the minors (

Carolina Mudcats: For the second straight season, shortstop Francisco Lindor is the top prospect in the Indians’ organization. The 2011 first-round pick spent all of 2012 with Low-A Lake County, where he was the youngest everyday player in the league at 18.

Scouts say Lindor has an above-average arm and great instincts and rate him as one of the best defensive infielders in the minors. Lindor was given some spring training action for the Indians, hitting .292 while appearing in 10 games. He won’t turn 20 until after the season, meaning his best days are surely ahead of him.

Others to watch for: Outfielder Tyler Naquin (#3 prospect), infielder Tony Wolters (#17), right-handed pitcher Cody Anderson (#29) and outfielder Jordan Smith (#30).

Frederick Keys: After spending all of 2012 with Low-A Delmarva, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez could be set to make an impact for the Keys this summer. In 2012, the southpaw pitched 107 innings for Delmarva and posted a 3.70 ERA.

Rodriguez, listed as Baltimore’s number five prospect, was signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela when he was 17. He will turn 20 during the Carolina League’s opening weekend, and the Orioles hope he will continue to climb toward his very ceiling in his age 20 season.

Others to watch for: Infielder Nick Delmonico (#4 prospect), left-handed pitcher Tim Berry (#11), outfielder Glynn Davis (#14), right-handed pitcher Devin Jones (#18), right-handed pitcher Zach Davies (#20), right-handed pitcher Tyler Wison (#26) and outfielder Brenden Webb (#27).

Lyncburg Hillcats: After his 2012 season was cut short by injuries, outfielder Matt Lipka will be back in Lynchburg to start 2013. The 14th-rated prospect in the Braves’ system, Lipka hit .271 in 51 games for the Hillcats before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

A former shortstop, Lipka was playing center field for the first time as a professional last year, and scouts say he showed good instincts. With his above-average speed, Lipka could turn into a very good defensive center fielder, but the Braves want him to prove he is healthy and continue to improve before giving him a shot at Double-A.

Others to watch for: Right-handed pitcher Navery Moore (#15 prospect), right-handed pitcher Juan Jaime (#20), third baseman Kyle Kubitza (#25), right-handed pitcher Nate Hyatt (#26) and outfielder Robby Hefflinger (#29).

Like Lindor, Sardinas is among the top defensive infielders in the minors (

Like Lindor, Sardinas is among the top defensive infielders in the minors (

Myrtle Beach Pelicans: On July 2, 2009, the Rangers signed two 16-year old shortstops from Venezuela. The first one, Jurickson Profar, is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and is close to breaking into the big league lineup. The other signing that day, Luis Sardinas, will be a member of the 2013 Pelicans.

While injuries slowed his progress at the start of his minor league career, Sardinas was mostly healthy last year while playing for Low-A Hickory. He hit .291 and stole 32 bases in 2012 while also showing off a strong arm and overall plus skills in the field. He played mostly shortstop last season, but with Profar ahead of him, he could move permanently to second base, where he played 14 games in 2012.

Others to watch for: Right-handed pitcher Luke Jackson (#6 prospect), infielder Rougned Odor (#11), infielder Drew Robinson (#21), outfielder Zach Cone (#24) and right-handed pitcher Nick Martinez (#27).

Potomac Nationals: After 109 games with Potomac, outfielder Michael Taylor earned himself the number 11 slot on the Nationals’ prospect list. Taylor was drafted as a shortstop, but was quickly moved to center field after turning pro. He is a very good defensive outfielder, but his bat trails behind his defensive skills.

Taylor hit just .242 last year and struck out more than 100 times for the second straight year, two big reasons why scouts believe he will repeat High-A this year. With improvements in his offensive game, though, Double-A should be within his reach before too long.

Others to watch for: Right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole (#4), right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan (#13), infielder Jason Martinson (#14), left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray (#18) and outfielder Billy Burns (#26).

Salem Red Sox: The Red Sox number five prospect, left-hander Henry Owens, won 12 games for Low-A Greenville in his first professional season last year. Armed with a fastball, changeup, and two different types of breaking ball, the 2011 first rounder led all Red Sox farmhands with those 12 wins and finished second in strikeouts with 130.

The southpaw’s walk numbers were high in 2012, but improved control could limit his time in Salem and quickly send him up to Double-A before all is said and done. If the Red Sox struggle again in 2013, a September call-up to the big leagues may not be out of the question to get Owens’ feet wet.

Others to watch for: Catcher Blake Swihart (#6 prospect), third baseman Garin Cecchini (#7), shortstop Deven Marrero (#10), outfielder Brandon Jacobs (#13), second baseman Sean Coyle (#24), outfielder Keury De La Cruz (#25) and left-handed pitcher Miguel Pena (#30).

Zimmer will start the season with Wilmington, but could elevate through the system quickly.

Zimmer will start the season with Wilmington but could elevate through the system quickly (

Wilmington Blue Rocks: The top prospect in the Kansas City organization after the big Wil Myers-James Shields trade is right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer. Last year’s fifth overall pick, Zimmer has been confirmed as a member of the Blue Rocks’ 2013 staff.

After a giving up just one run in 10 innings for the AZL Royals after signing, Zimmer was promoted to Low-A Kane County and made six starts. He pitched 30 innings for the Cougars, posting a 2.43 ERA. With a fastball that reached 99 mph in college, Zimmer may be on the fast track to the big leagues if he can build upon his strong professional debut.

Others to watch for: Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio (#4 prospect), left-handed pitcher Sam Selman (#6), third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert (#9), left-handed pitcher John Lamb (#11), right-handed pitcher Kyle Smith (#12), right-handed pitcher Angel Baez (#18), shortstop Jack Lopez (#19) and right-handed pitcher Robinson Yambati (#28).

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these players and other top prospects as they make their way to BB&T Ballpark this summer. The Carolina League is loaded in 2013.

– Rob


any idea where Dan Black and Nick Cioli are now?


Dan is with Double-A Birmingham, while Nick was released by the White Sox during the offseason.

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