Results tagged ‘ Baltimore Orioles ’

Carolina Countdown – Frederick Keys

It’s day two of our Carolina Countdown, and the Frederick Keys are up. For yesterday’s entry about the Carolina Mudcats, click here.

INTRODUCTION: The Frederick Keys have been members of the Carolina League since the franchise’s inception in 1989. An affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, the Keys play their home games just 50 miles away from the parent club. Frederick has won the Carolina League championship four times, most recently in 2011.

LAST SEASON: The Keys lagged behind the rest of the Northern Division in 2013, finishing in last place with a 61-78 overall record. They hovered around .500 during the first half of the season, going 34-35 before fading after the All-Star Break.

Catcher Michael Ohlman was the Keys’ offensive standout last season, leading the league in batting average (.313), while pacing the team in doubles (29), triples (4) and RBIs (53). He also tied for the Keys’ home run lead (13). On the mound, Zach Davies went 7-9 with a 3.69 ERA in 26 starts, striking out a team-leading 132 batters in 148.2 innings.

Albert Pujols' cousin Luis will guide the Keys in 2014 (photo via the AP).

Albert Pujols’ cousin Luis will guide the Keys in 2014 (photo via the AP).

MANAGER: Luis Pujols joins the Keys to manage the 2014 squad. The 58-year-old joined the Orioles’ organization in 2013, guiding the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 54-82 record. During his playing career, Pujols spent nine years in the Major Leagues as a catcher with Astros, Royals and Rangers from 1977-85. He replaces Ryan Minor, who spent one season at the helm. He will be joined in Frederick by pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and field coach Torre Tyson, both of whom were members of the Keys’ staff last season.

SYSTEM: The Orioles posted a second straight winning season in 2013, going 85-77, but trades helped thin what many experts and publications say is a rather shallow minor league system. However, the Orioles do boast some high-end pitching prospects.

One of those pitchers who could someday spend time in a Keys uniform is 19-year-old Hunter Harvey, the Orioles’ 2013 first-round draft pick out of Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C. Harvey made a combined eight appearances in the rookie Gulf Coast League and with the Short-A Aberdeen IronBirds, compiling a 1.78 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

Among position players, shortstop Adrian Marin is rated by Baseball America as the best defensive infielder in the Orioles’ farm system. The 20-year-old batted .265 with 4 home runs and 45 RBI in 108 games with Low-A Delmarva in 2013.

The O’s also boast two of the best pitching prospects in the minors–righties Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Both stormed through Frederick en route to the higher levels. Unfortunately, Bundy may need to make a quick stop back in Frederick after Tommy John Surgery, according to this article from MiLB.com.

Finding diamonds on the diamond in Frederick...

Finding diamonds on the diamond in Frederick…

BEST PROMOTION: On Friday, May 30, the Keys will host a “Diamond Dig,” where 30 lucky ladies will have a chance to dig for a diamond following their game against the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

FUN FACT: If Luis Pujols’ last name seems familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that. He is the cousin of Albert Pujols, the perennial All-Star first baseman. Luis’ cousin Albert will begin the 2014 season just eight home runs shy of 500 for his career.

KEYS IN WINSTON-SALEM: The Keys make their initial trek to BB&T Ballpark for a three-game series on April 15-17. The Dash will also host Frederick from May 15-18 and July 29-31.

- Dave

Johnson, Semien honored by Baseball America

Marcus Semien won the Southern League's MVP award in 2014 (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Marcus Semien won the Southern League’s MVP award in 2014 (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Most outlets believe the White Sox farm system has improved significantly over the last couple of years. Even though a system is not completely defined by its top few players, boasting multiple top-flight prospects goes a long way in public perception.

Baseball America released its Top 100 Prospect List in advance of the 2014 season, and the White Sox claimed four of the players on the list. A year ago, Chicago only had one Top 100 farmhand (Courtney Hawkins at 55).

This year, a pair of Dash alumni represented the White Sox. Righty Erik Johnson, who is a favorite to corral a rotation spot in The Show, checks in at 63, while fellow Cal product Marcus Semien, a versatile infielder who had a monster 2013 season, is at 91.

Two newly-acquired prospects rounded out Chicago’s representatives. Free agent signing Jose Abreu, who figures into Chicago’s big league plans this year, was the top-ranked White Sox product on the list by collecting the 29 slot. Matt Davidson, who came over from Arizona in the Addison Reed trade during the offseason, is at 72.

For comparison, here is how the White Sox stacked up to other big league clubs represented in the Carolina League on the Top 100 Prospect List:

Atlanta (Lynchburg) – 2
Baltimore (Frederick) – 3
Boston (Salem) – 8
Cleveland (Carolina) – 3
Kansas City (Wilmington) – 4
Texas (Myrtle Beach) – 5
Washington (Potomac) – 1

Outside of Boston’s significant lead, the White Sox are right there, especially when you consider Texas had two of the last four players on the list. Regardless, the reality is that Chicago’s system is on the upswing, and the talent that could come through Winston-Salem in 2014 is impressive, too. Fans should not be surprised to see even more newcomers on this list from the White Sox system in 2015.

- Brian

Plenty of 100s

WSSU's football stadium will look much different this week (photo via worldstadiums.com).

WSSU’s football stadium will look much different this week (photo via worldstadiums.com).

From 100 yards to 100 miles to 100 percent, we have plenty to discuss on the blog.

  • Winston-Salem State football will play for its third consecutive CIAA championship this weekend, and the 100 yards at Bowman Gray Stadium will have a different look for the game. Led by groundskeeper Doug Tanis, the Dash will give the grass, which is dormant (and, thus, brown), a green paint job in advance of the contest. The Dash did the same thing prior to the Rams’ national semifinal a year ago.
  • White Sox television play-by-play broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is a finalist for the Ford Frick Award, which is the highest honor for a baseball broadcaster. Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune wrote a great feature about Harrelson, who admits that he may have to wait his turn before becoming a legitimate contender.
  • The most fascinating part of this article? Hawk lives in South Bend, Ind., during the baseball season. Thus, he commutes approximately 100 miles to and from U.S. Cellular Field every day. Crazy stuff.
  • This year’s installment of the Arizona Fall League is two days away from being 100 percent over. The Glendale Desert Dogs features a handful of Dash alumni, but they will not be heading to the AFL title game on Saturday. We will have a full update on these alumni once the season concludes.
  • By the way, one ticket to that championship game is gone. The Surprise Saguaros, with prospects from the Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox, will play either Mesa or Salt River in three days, and the game will air on MLB Network.

It’s 15 days until the best holiday of the year (outside of Opening Day, of course!). Enjoy the rest of your day!

- Brian

2012 All-Star Game alums in The Show

Yesterday, the Boston Red Sox called up infield prospect Xander Bogaerts from their Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, making him the fourth player that played in the 2012 California-Carolina League All-Star Game at BB&T Ballpark to make it to The Show. Here are the four who have made it to the majors so far:

INF Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Xander Bogaerts is the most recent player from last year's ASG at BB&T Ballpark to make it to the majors (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash)/

Xander Bogaerts is the most recent player from last year’s All-Star Game at BB&T Ballpark to make it to the majors (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash)

Bogaerts had a very good first half of the season last year, posting a .293 average with nine home runs and 42 RBIs. Used primarily as a shortstop, he also shined on the defensive end to earn his spot as the starting shortstop for the Carolina League, one of three representatives of the Salem Red Sox to start for the CL. The Aruba native went 0-for-2 in the contest before he was replaced by Nick Ahmed, who is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system.

This year, Bogaerts played for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic before starting the season with Double-A Portland, where he ended 2012. The 20-year-old hit .311 in 56 games with the Sea Dogs of the Eastern League, proving he was ready to head to Pawtucket in mid-June.

At the big league level, Bogaerts is expected to add depth to the left side of Boston’s infield. Per MLB.com’s Ian Browne, he will play some at shortstop and some at third base, a position he has played a little bit in the minors and the World Baseball Classic.

OF Jackie Bradley, Jr., Boston Red Sox

Bradley, Jr., was one of the other two Salem Red Sox to start in last year’s All-Star Game for the Carolina League, playing the entire game in center field. He went hitless but did score a run and drive in another in the CL’s 9-1 mauling of the California League. Bradley, Jr., had a scorching first half for Salem, hitting .359 to earn his All-Star spot and then a call-up to Double-A after the break. We caught up with him right before the jump to Double-A.

The former University of South Carolina Gamecock finished his season there before impressing in spring training enough to begin this season as the Red Sox Opening Day left fielder. Bradley, Jr., struggled in his first taste of big league action and was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket after a few weeks. He has been back up to Boston a few times since, but has not stuck with the big club for a long period of time yet.

Dylan Bundy represented Frederick in last year's ASG and was pitching for Baltimore by September Game (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Dylan Bundy represented Frederick in last year’s ASG and was pitching for Baltimore by September (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

RHP Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles

A first-round pick in 2011, Bundy started last year with Low-A Delmarva in the Baltimore system before quickly earning the bump up the to Orioles’ Carolina League affiliate in Frederick. The righty made just four starts for the Keys prior to the All-Star Game but was still selected and pitched a scoreless sixth inning in the game. Bundy was on the fast track and only made eight starts in the second half for Frederick before he was promoted to Double-A Bowie.

From there, Bundy logged just three appearances for the Baysox before he was called up to the majors, becoming the first player from the 2012 California-Carolina League All-Star Game to make his big league debut when he pitched against the Boston Red Sox on September 23, 2012. Unfortunately, the top pitching prospect in the Orioles’ organization hasn’t pitched in the majors or the minors at all this year due to injury. Bundy underwent Tommy John Surgery in late June and will not return until sometime in 2014.

INF Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

The lone California League All-Star from last year to have made it to The Show, Miller represented the High Desert Mavericks in last year’s game. A first-round pick in 2011 by the Mariners, Miller earned his way to Winston-Salem with a .326 first-half average to go with nine long balls and 34 RBIs. He came into the game as a substitute and had a double and a walk in his two plate appearances.

The former Clemson University product ended 2012 and began 2013 in Double-A Jackson, while he eventually jumped to Triple-A Tacoma. Miller lasted only 26 games in the Pacific Coast League, raking to the tune of .356 before the Mariners called him up in late June. Since his promotion, he has been playing just about everyday, with the majority of his time spent at shortstop. Of the four, he is the only one to have stuck in the big leagues so far and earn an everyday starting job. With all the talent that was in that game, he surely will not be the only one to do so.

After snapping their eight-game slide last night, the Dash will look to earn a split of their four-game set at Harry Grove Stadium against the Keys tonight. Check back later today for a preview of the final regular season meeting between the two clubs.

- Rob

Dash to a million: Notable players

Since it opened in April of 2010, there have been numerous great players to play on BB&T Ballpark’s field. Here we have compiled a list of the some of the greatest players to play here in the park’s short history:

Jackie Bradley, Jr.: A member of the 2012 Salem Red Sox and the 2012 Carolina League All-Star team, Bradley was the Opening Day left fielder for the Boston Red Sox this year.

Dylan Bundy represented the Frederick Keys at last year's All-Star Game (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Dylan Bundy represented the Frederick Keys at last year’s All-Star Game (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Dylan Bundy: The right-hander made 12 starts for the Frederick Keys last year, and tossed a scoreless inning for the Carolina League in last year’s All-Star Game. He came into 2013 as the number two rated prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America.

Adam Dunn: The slugger came with the White Sox when they played the Dash at BB&T Ballpark in an exhibition game prior to the 2011 season. Mostly a designated hitter the last several years, Dunn had a string of five consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs from 2004-2008 and is fifth among active players with 413 career home runs.

Billy Hamilton: The speedster represented the Bakersfield Blaze on the California League All-Star team last season and stole two bases in the first inning of the All-Star Game. Hamilton set a record for stolen bases in a minor league season in 2012 with 147 swipes.

Eric Hosmer: Now in his third season as the everyday first baseman for the Kansas City Royals, Hosmer played in the Carolina League with the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, he won the league’s batting title after posting a .354 average.

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Paul Konerko, who played against the Dash here in 2011, is one of the best hitters of his generation.

Paul Konerko: Now in his 17th season in the big leagues, Konerko was another member of that 2011 White Sox squad that played at BB&T Ballpark in March of that year. The first baseman has 1,352 RBIs in his career, ranking him fifth among all active players.

Manny Machado: A shortstop while coming through the Baltimore Orioles’ system, the 2011 Key alum made the big leagues late last season where he played down the stretch and in the playoffs at third base. Now in his first full season with the Orioles, Machado is the team’s regular third baseman.

Wil Myers: The 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, Myers applied his trade for a long time in the Kansas City system before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays this past off-season. Considered one of the best hitting prospects in the game, Myers hit .346 in 58 games for the Blue Rocks in 2010.

Addison Reed: Now the closer for the White Sox, the hard-throwing righty had a brief stint with the Dash during the 2011 season. Reed appeared in 15 games out of the Winston-Salem bullpen, posting a 1.59 ERA in 28.1 IP.

Anthony Rizzo: Now the proud owner of a new contract extension that will keep him with the Chicago Cubs through at least 2019, Rizzo was once a Red Sox farmhand. The first baseman played for Salem in 2009 and 2010 before being traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and eventually to the Cubs prior to 2012.

A record-setting crowd watched Chris Sale make his professional debut on July 2, 2010.

A record-setting crowd watched Chris Sale make his professional debut on July 2, 2010.

Chris Sale: On July 2, 2010 the southpaw made his professional debut here at BB&T Ballpark in front of what was then the highest attendance in the park’s history at 7,268. Sale would reach the big leagues later in the 2010 season, and is now the ace of the White Sox rotation. In his most recent outing, he nearly threw a perfect game against the Angels.

Andrelton Simmons: The shortstop hit .311 during the 2011 campaign as a Lynchburg Hillcat, and also did some damage as a Hillcat in the 2012 Carolina League Playoffs while on a rehab assignment. Simmons hit two home runs in the playoffs including one against the Dash in the Mills Cup Finals. He is now the regular starting shortstop for the Atlanta Braves.

Come join us tonight as we celebrate the one millionth fan in BB&T Ballpark’s history! One lucky fan will be randomly selected to play a game of chance to win either one million dollars, a two-year lease on a vehicle from Flow Auto, or two Dash tickets for life!

If you can’t make it to the park, join me here at 6:45 for the Pregame Dash with first pitch to follow at 7. Tonight’s game will also be broadcast on 600-AM WSJS in the Winston-Salem area. Talk to you then!

- Rob

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 (lakecounty-sentinel.com).

Francisco Lindor ranks among the best defensive infielders in the minors (lakecounty-sentinel.com).

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 (dallasnews.com).

Like Lindor, Sardinas is among the top defensive infielders in the minors (dallasnews.com).

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 (mwltraveler.com).

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

Carolina Countdown: Frederick Keys

Our look around the Carolina League continues with the Frederick Keys, who have won three championships since 2005. Let’s break down the future Orioles.

CAROLINA COUNTDOWN: Frederick Keys

Introduction: The Frederick Keys are affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, and Camden Yards is only 50 miles away from Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium.  The Keys have won the Carolina League title four times, most recently in 2011.

Last season: Frederick did not parlay their 2011 title into success in the standings a year ago. The Keys tumbled to a 27-43 first-half record and a last-place finish in the Northern Division.  Buoyed by the presence of top prospect Dylan Bundy, the Keys bounced back in the second half to record a 35-34 mark, falling just a game and a half shy of the top spot in the Northern Division’s second-half chase.

Minor was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, but chose baseball over basketball.

Minor was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers but chose baseball over basketball.

Manager: Ryan Minor will be at the helm for Frederick this year, his first as the Keys’ manager.  Minor comes to Frederick after spending three seasons managing the Orioles’ Low-A affiliate, the Delmarva Shorebirds. With the Shorebirds, Minor collected a record of 166-252. A basketball and baseball star at Oklahoma University, Minor was drafted by the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers with the 32nd pick of the 1996 NBA Draft. However, when the Orioles drafted him the same year in the 33rd round of the MLB Draft, he chose baseball over basketball.  While a member of the Orioles’ organization, Minor played in two games for the Keys back in 2000.  He would go on to play in parts of four seasons in the majors, including three with Baltimore.

System: Baseball America ranks the Orioles’ farm system 17th in baseball, but the duo of Bundy, a consensus top three prospect in all the minors, and fellow right-hander Kevin Gausman is one of the best in the minors. Bundy climbed all the way to Baltimore in his first professional season in 2012, while Gausman is projected to be a quick riser, too. Beyond the Bundy-Gausman connection, the Orioles are without many high-end prospects, per Baseball America. However, young players like Manny Machado and Matt Wieters have put the Orioles in a great spot at the big league level.

Best promotion: While bobblehead nights for Bundy and Machado may bring the most fans to Harry Grove Stadium this year, the Keys’ annual “Fredneck Night” on June 21st takes the best promotion award.  Fredneck Night, named for the nickname for Frederick locals, will feature WWE legend Sgt. Slaughter, who will be running a Fredneck Boot Camp throughout the game.

Minor was the man who ended Cal Ripken Jr.'s Ironman streak.

Minor was the man who ended Cal Ripken Jr.’s Ironman streak (Chicago Tribune).

Fun fact: While Keys’ Manager Ryan Minor didn’t have a very lengthy big league career, he will always be known for what he did on September 20, 1998.  On that day, Minor replaced Cal Ripken Jr. in the lineup, ending Ripken’s streak of 2,632 games played.  When Minor found out that he was replacing Ripken Jr. in the lineup, he asked, “Does he know?”

Keys in Winston-Salem: Frederick will makes three trips to BB&T Ballpark this season, two of which come in May.  The Keys will be here from May 6-8 and May 27-30, with their final visit from July 21-23.

Tomorrow: Check back tomorrow as the countdown continues with the reigning Mills Cup Champions–the Lynchburg Hillcats.

- Rob

2013 Carolina Countdown: Carolina Mudcats

The team arrives in Winston-Salem two weeks from today. In 18 days, the Dash will square off with the Carolina Mudcats in the season opener.

In other words, the 2013 season is almost here. Like last year, we want to break down the rest of the circuit through our “Carolina Countdown” feature. Over the next few days, we will tell you about the other seven squads in the Carolina League. Today, we begin with the Dash’s Opening Night opponent.

CAROLINA COUNTDOWN: Carolina Mudcats

Introduction: The Carolina Mudcats enter their second year in the Carolina League. Located in Zebulon, N.C., the Muddies joined the league from the Double-A Southern League in 2012 to replace the Kinston Indians. Carolina is affiliated with the Cleveland Indians after the K-Tribe enjoyed that role for 24 years (1987-2011).

Current Puerto Rico skipper Edwin Rodriguez led Carolina in 2012 (South Florida Sun-Sentinel).

Current Puerto Rico skipper Edwin Rodriguez led Carolina in 2012 (South Florida Sun-Sentinel).

Last Season: The Mudcats’ first season in the Carolina League did not go so well. The Mudcats finished last in the Southern Division with a 63-77 mark. Despite the poor overall record, Carolina had a few notable prospects play well for the club in 2012. Infielder Tony Wolters recovered from an April batting average of .130 to finish the season with a .260 mark, and the 20-year-old flashed some of the best infield defense in the league throughout the campaign. First baseman Jesus Aguilar played with the Mudcats for most of last season until a promotion to Double-A Akron. While with the Mudcats, Aguilar posted a .277 average to go along with 12 homers and 58 RBI.

Manager: David Wallace (no, not that David Wallace) takes over the managerial duties for the Mudcats in 2012. Wallace was with the Indians’ organization as a player from 2002 to 2008 before becoming a coach/manager. Wallace guided Low-A Lake County to a 71-68 record and a second half division championship last season. Edwin Rodriguez, the Muddies’ 2012 skipper and the topic of our fun fact a bit later in the piece, earned a promotion and will lead Double-A Akron this year.

System: Most publications and experts have ranked the Tribe’s minor league system near the bottom over the last two seasons. However, the Indians did add scrutinized yet talented right-hander Trevor Bauer this offseason. Bauer is considered one of the top 10 pitching prospects in the minors by most experts, but he will be nowhere near Carolina. He will either be in Triple-A Columbus or The Show in 2013.

However, the Indians do feature some solid talent at the lower levels of the minors, including shortstops Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino. Before the acquisition of Bauer, this infield duo was atop the Indians’ prospect rankings according to Baseball America. Cleveland does not boast many upper-level prospects, but there should be some good talent that goes through Zebulon.

It's a shame that Scooby Doo won't be back in Zebulon in 2013.

It’s a shame that Scooby Doo won’t be back in Zebulon in 2013.

Best Promotion: Last year, Scooby Doo made an appearance at Five County Stadium. This season’s best promotion takes place on May 10, when Ron, Amy, Krazy Dave and Johnny from the hit Tru TV show “Lizard Lick Towing and Recovery” will make a special appearance. Let’s hope Mudcats fans park where they are supposed to at this game!

Fun Fact: Before Edwin Rodriguez begins his first season with Double-A Akron, he will try to guide Puerto Rico to a World Baseball Classic title. So far, so good for the 2012 Carolina skipper, who led Puerto Rico to a victory over two-time defending champion Japan in the semifinals Sunday night. Rodriguez’s Puerto Rico squad will take on either The Netherlands or the Dominican Republic in the finals later this week.

Mudcats in Winston Salem: The Dash open up the 2013 home slate with a three-game set against the Muddies from April 12-14. Carolina will also invade BB&T Ballpark May 31-June 2 and July 24-27.

Tomorrow: The Frederick Keys, who have a new manager with quite a unique place in Orioles history.

- Erika

Weaver’s Ties To Winston-Salem

Earl Weaver while with the Winston-Salem Cardinals in 1950 (Bob Lemke).

Earl Weaver while with the Winston-Salem Cardinals in 1950 (Bob Lemke).

It is a somber Saturday morning in the baseball world. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver has passed away at the age of 82. According to the New York Daily News, Weaver died of an apparent heart attack early this morning on an Orioles fantasy cruise.

Weaver’s claim to fame is his tremendous success as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Weaver was 1480-1060 (.583) in 17 seasons, and he led the O’s to four American League pennants. The Hall of Famer led Baltimore to the 1970 World Series title.

A man who Tim Kurkjian called “one of the three greatest managers of all time” on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning, Weaver contributed to the greatest season in Winston-Salem history.

In 1950, the Winston-Salem Cardinals posted a Carolina League-record 106-47 (.693) mark and won the league’s title. Weaver was the club’s second baseman and hit .276 during the season.

Weaver never reached the big leagues as a player, so he began his managerial career in the minor leagues in 1956. The St. Louis native reached Baltimore as the skipper in the middle of the 1968 season, and he led the O’s to the Fall Classic in each of his first three full seasons.

We send our condolences to the Weaver family. Earl has a special place in baseball history and in Winston-Salem history.

- Brian

Dash Dominate Organization All-Stars

Trayce Thompson has “a chance to be a superstar if everything clicks.” (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

It’s still early, but the Dash are tied for an almost-unbeatable record.

Minor League Baseball is in the process of releasing its 2012 Organization All-Stars, and today was the White Sox turn. This All-Star team features 12 players (one player at each position in the lineup plus a right-handed starter, a southpaw starter and a reliever). Of those 12 players, 11 of them played in Winston-Salem during the 2012 campaign.

Only the Bowie Baysox, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, has also placed 11 players on their organization’s All-Star team. There are still 24 teams to go in the countdown, but it will be tough for a team to finish with a perfect 12-for-12. Quite frankly, I’m surprised there was another team with 11 already.

You can read about all 11 Dash representatives here. We won’t highlight all of them because Minor League Baseball does a great job of that in the article, but a few quotes from Nick Capra, the organization’s Director of Player Development, are worth noting.

On Carlos Sanchez, who shined with Winston-Salem during the season’s first half and held his own with Triple-A Charlotte during their run to the Governors’ Cup Finals:

“He’s going to be a special player. He has great instincts, can play both second and short and is a solid switch-hitter, with maybe a little more power from the right side.”

On Brady Shoemaker, who was the Dash’s MVP during the first half Southern Division title run and had some tough luck while with Double-A Birmingham in the second half:

“He really hit the ball on the nose there but had some bad luck with balls going right at people. He was one of the most consistent hitters we had in the organization this season.”

On Trayce Thompson, who led the Carolina League with 90 RBI before making his way to Triple-A Charlotte in the final few weeks of the season:

“He has a chance to be a superstar if everything clicks. He covers a lot of ground in the outfield and has an above-average arm. The strikeouts are a concern, but he’s still young and still making adjustments — and anyone in baseball will take a guy with that kind of talent and 25 homers and 90 RBIs.”

On Keenyn Walker, who showed some tremendous potential during his two-month stint in Winston at the end of the season:

“He’s another young guy who’s still making adjustments. He hasn’t played a ton of baseball and needs to learn to make contact and hit with two strikes, but honestly, he made about as much progress as anyone in the system this season.”

This system did not receive a ton of respect at the start of the season, but they earned plenty of it after a highly successful 2012 season. Much of that success either started or continued in Winston-Salem, which resulted in minor league baseball’s best record.

It was quite a season at BB&T Ballpark, and this All-Star team is yet another example.

- Brian

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