Results tagged ‘ Justin Upton ’

2016 Carolina Countdown – Carolina Mudcats

Believe it or not, the Dash’s season starts in just 17 days! To get you ready, we’ll be previewing every team in the Carolina League. Stay tuned over the next few days as we examine each of the Dash’s seven Carolina League foes. First up, the division-rival Carolina Mudcats!

Introduction: The Mudcats are now in their fifth season in the Carolina League and second as an affiliate with the Atlanta Braves. This comes after three years in the league with the Cleveland Indians. The franchise originated in 1978 as the Kinston Eagles and were known as the Kinston Indians from 1987-2011. The previous version of the Mudcats played in the Double-A Southern League from 1991-2011, most recently as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Last Season: Carolina was one of three teams in the Southern Division to finish with an overall record above .500, but at 71-68, the team fell short of a berth into the playoffs. After completing the first half of the season with a 34-35 record, the team picked things up in the second half and finished 37-33. Their late season surge was still not enough for a playoff berth though, as the Muddies were nine games back from Winston-Salem for the second-half division championship.

While they finished towards the bottom in most offensive categories, Carolina hit the second-most home runs in the league (72). First baseman/designated hitter Jacob Schrader smashed 15 dingers, tied for third in the Carolina League. He also finished in the top five among Carolina League batters in slugging percentage, RBIs and extra-base hits. Schrader, along with outfielder Connor Lien and shortstop Johan Camargo, were named Year-End CL All-Stars.

On the pitching side, Seth Webster led the Mudcats. He posted an 8-7 record with a 2.82 ERA in 130.2 innings and finished third in the Carolina League among starters in earned run average.

Manager: Ralph Norman “Rocket” Wheeler begins his first year as the skipper of the Mudcats in 2016. This will be his 14th overall season as a manager in the Braves system. Wheeler has previously managed the Gulf Coast League Braves, the Mississippi Braves, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the Rome Braves. The 61-year old earned Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year honors in 2008, after leading Myrtle Beach to a franchise-record 89 regular season wins. Before working for the Braves, Wheeler spent 26 seasons (1977-2002) in the Toronto Blue Jays system as a player, coach and manager. He will be joined in the dugout with pitching coach Derrick Lewis and hitting coach Carlos Mendez.

System: Since missing the playoffs in 2014, the Atlanta Braves have embarked on one of the most radical rebuilding jobs in baseball. Trying to recreate their dominant run in the 1990s and early 2000s, the team has dealt away established players for top-flight prospects, all in an effort to create a viable team for opening day at their brand-new ballpark in 2017. And while the Braves finished a mere 67-95 in 2015, things are starting to look up. They currently rank third on Baseball America’s list of best minor league systems.

The rebuilding project began last offseason when the team dealt away Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton. In return, Atlanta received six of their top 21 prospects, according to It was a good start, but the front office managed even better in 2015. Through trades, Atlanta netted two top-25 prospects and a top-60 prospect.

One transaction from this offseason sent shock waves throughout the baseball world. In a deal sending right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Braves received the 2015 No. 1 overall pick in Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, along with right-handed pitcher Aaron Blair. Swanson is now the Braves top ranked prospect (No. 8 overall) according to, and is seen as a possible franchise player. In 22 games at Short-Season Single-A last season, he finished with a battling line of .289/.394/.482. There’s a good chance he’ll see some time with the Mudcats in 2016. Blair, who is ranked the 56th best overall prospect according to, went 13-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 160.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015.

Atlanta also received left-handed flamethrower Sean Newcomb (rated the 21st overall prospect), when they traded shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the offseason. During the season, the Braves netted the No.41 overall pick in the 2015 Draft as part of a trade shipping Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the San Diego Padres. The team selected third baseman Austin Riley out of DeSota Central High School in Mississippi. He proceeded to smash a combined 12 home runs and .304/.389/.544 between the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League.

The Braves probably will not be good this year at the Major League level, but their future is starting to look bright.

Best Promotion: The Mudcats want you to channel your inner-geek during the middle of August at Five County Stadium. “Geekend” begins on Friday, August 12 with a special Star Trek 50th Anniversary celebration. Superhero Night returns on Saturday, August 13 with Batman themed game jersey (with an accompanying jersey auction) and a superhero cape giveaway for the first 1,000 14-and-under kids who come through the Stadium gates. The “Geekend” finishes on Sunday, August 14 with Revenge of the Nerds Day.

Fun Fact: The Swanson trade was the talk of baseball during the offseason, and for good reason. It was both unprecedented and historic.

Before 2015, MLB teams weren’t allowed to trade their draft picks until they’d been signed for a full year. The rule was changed in May, so that a draft pick could be traded once the World Series ended. Swanson is the first No.1 overall pick to get traded in the same calendar year as his draft.


Dansby Swanson is the first No. 1 overall pick to be traded within a calendar year of being drafted. He’s now a member of the Atlanta Braves farm system. (Photo: George Walker IV/ The Tennessean)

And before him, only two other No. 1 picks have been traded before their MLB debut. It last happened in 2003 when Adrian Gonzalez, the 2000 No. 1 pick, was traded to the Florida Marlins by the Texas Rangers. Before that, Shawn Abner, whom the New York Mets drafted number one overall in 1984, was traded to the Padres in 1986.

Mudcats in Winston-Salem: Carolina doesn’t visit BB&T Ballpark until the Dash’s first homestand in June, a three-game series from June 1-3. Winston-Salem hosts the Muddies two times after the All-Star Break: first from August 9-11,then for the team’s last regular season homestand from August 26-28.

Our Carolina Countdown will continue tomorrow with the Frederick Keys. Check back with us in 24 hours.


Carolina Countdown – Carolina Mudcats

The Carolina Countdown previews the rest of the Carolina League in advance of the season. We will take a look at each club, both on and off the field. The countdown will progress alphabetically, and a new post will go up every weekday until it is over.

Introduction: The Mudcats are now in their fourth season in the Carolina League and, after three years under the Cleveland Indians’ umbrella, are beginning their first year of affiliation with the Atlanta Braves. The franchise originated in 1978 as the Kinston Eagles and relocated to Zebulon in 2012 after the original Mudcats relocated to Pensacola, Fla. The 2015 season is a big milestone for the franchise, as it represents their 25th anniversary playing at Five County Stadium in Zebulon.

Last season: With a 62-74 overall record, the Muddies struggled throughout the 2014 campaign, finishing in third place in the Carolina League Southern division, 19.0 games behind first-place Myrtle Beach. Carolina owned the worst record in the league during the first half of the season at 29-38. The Mudcats made things interesting in the second half of the season, but the Dash ousted them from postseason consideration during the final set of the half.

Ryan Merritt dominated on the mound for Carolina, going 13-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 25 starts en route to both Midseason and Year-End All-Star Team honors. Outfielder Anthony Gallas (.276/.331/.480, 21 2B, 8 HR, 31 RBI) and infielder Erik Gonzalez (.289/.336/.409, 14 2B, 7 3B, 3 HR, 46 RBI, 15 SB) also represented the Mudcats in the Midseason All-Star Game.

Luis Salazar (left) will once again manage the Braves' High-A club, which has moved from Lynchburg to Carolina (AP Photo/Don Petersen).

Luis Salazar (left) will once again manage the Braves’ High-A club, which has moved from Lynchburg to Carolina (AP Photo/Don Petersen).

Manager: After managing the former Braves’ High-A affiliate in Lynchburg the last four seasons, Luis Salazar will now the lead the ship in Carolina. Salazar, now in his fifth season with the Braves and his 13th as a minor league manager, has guided his teams to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. This included the Lynchburg club that won the 2012 Mills Cup Championship over the Dash. A 13-year major league veteran, Salazar will be joined in the dugout by pitching coach Derrick Lewis and hitting coach Carlos Mendez.

System: After winning 94 and 96 games, respectively, in 2012 and 2013, the Braves slumped to a 79-83 finish last year, causing the team to unload many veterans in an attempt to rebuild for a brand-new ballpark scheduled to open for the 2017 season. The offseason trades to dump Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton, in particular, netted Atlanta seven of their top 13 prospects as ranked by In addition to stocking up their farm system, the lineup teardown should put the Braves in position for a high draft pick in 2016.

Trying to replicate their 14-straight division title run of the franchise’s glory days in the mid-90s and early-2000s, Atlanta’s system is loaded with arms. In fact, of the team’s top 15 prospects by, 10 are pitchers. That being said, the Braves’ top prospect according to is middle infielder Jose Peraza (No. 39 overall), who batted .339/.364/.441 across both High-A and Double-A last season.

Rated as 78th-best prospect in baseball, Mike Foltynewicz (No. 79 overall) was acquired from Houston in the Gattis trade over the winter. The flame-throwing right-handed went 7-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 Triple-A outings (18 starts) last season. He fanned 102 batters in 102.2 innings. Atlanta also has two other prospects in the bottom of the’s rankings in catcher Christian Bethancourt (No. 94) and right-handed pitcher Lucas Sims (No. 95). Bethancourt batted .283/.308/.408 in 91 Triple-A games before getting a cup of coffee at the big league level to close out the 2014 season. Meanwhile, Sims posted an 8-11 record with a 4.20 ERA in 28 High-A starts spanning 156.1 frames.

Best Promotion: On the weekend of May 15-16, the Mudcats will wear specially-designed jerseys for “Strikeout Cancer Weekend.” Following Carolina’s Sunday game against Myrtle Beach, the team will hold a jersey auction giveaway with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to cancer research charities.

Fun Fact: Thirty-year-old catcher Yenier Bello appeared in eight games in High-A last season, and his path to get there was incredibly interesting. Bello was caught attempting to escape from Cuba in 2012 and was immediately suspended from baseball and had his passport revoked. In the spring of 2013, he retired from the game, eventually earned his passport back and traveled to Ecuador. From there, Bello went to Mexico, established residency and, come March of 2014, signed a minor league contract with Atlanta.

Mudcats in Winston-Salem: The Muddies visit BB&T Ballpark during the Dash’s first homestand of the season, a three-game series from April 20-22. From there, Carolina won’t come back to Winston-Salem until the second half of the season, returning from July 22-24 and then again from August 21-23 in the penultimate regular season homestand.

The Carolina Countdown will continue tomorrow with the Frederick Keys. Stay tuned!

– Scott

30 Days…

Camelback Ranch is almost open for business (Photo via

Camelback Ranch is almost open for business (Photo via

The Dash’s home opener countdown, which is available on Twitter and Instagram, has reached 78 days. If you want a smaller number for your baseball waiting game, try 30.

The White Sox first spring training game is in 30 days. Robin Ventura’s crew will suit up for the first time Saturday, February 23, at 3:05 p.m. EST against the Dodgers, their stadium-mates at Camelback Ranch.

As Winston-Salem prepares for another winter storm tomorrow, it is nice to know that baseball is within grasp, even if the first true taste will be more than 2,000 miles away from the Triad.

Here are a few more notes to appease your baseball craving:

  • BB&T Ballpark is the home of Winston-Salem State University baseball in 2013, so the first game at the stadium this season will be February 8. The Rams will play all 26 home games at BB&T Ballpark.
  • Winston-Salem will not have a chance to watch a former five-star football recruit play for the Dash in 2013. Mitch Mustain, who played college football for Arkansas and USC before trying out pitching, was released by the White Sox, that according to Baseball America. Mustain climbed as high as Low-A Kannapolis after Chicago inked him to a deal last February. Between his time with the Intimidators and rookie-level Bristol, the righty was 2-2 with a 4.63 earned run average in 19 relief appearances.
  • We all saw speedster Billy Hamilton in last year’s All-Star Game at BB&T Ballpark. Hamilton, who set the single-season stolen base record in minor league baseball, will start 2013 with Triple-A Louisville. If he is still in the International League, Hamilton will be in Charlotte to take on the White Sox Triple-A affiliate May 14-17.
  • The Braves traded for Arizona outfielder Justin Upton earlier today, and the Diamondbacks received 2012 Lynchburg shortstop Nick Ahmed. A midseason All-Star, Ahmed paced the Carolina League with 40 stolen bases.
  • Finally, some CL flavor is officially reaching the NBA. New Orleans will unveil its new Pelicans nickname, along with the logo and color scheme, at a press conference later today. How will Myrtle Beach respond?

The home opener is getting closer and closer! Can’t wait for baseball.

– Brian

Another Small Step

Like many baseball fans, I am thrilled when spring training begins. It is the first signal that baseball is almost back.

After a few weeks of “best shape of his life” stories and exhibition games that can end in ties, though, I’m ready for the real season to get going. These final 15 days before the season opener at Carolina, and these 22 days leading up to Opening Day at BB&T Ballpark, will be gone eventually, but they will take a little while.

One great event that helps kick off the real season is the Dash’s annual Coaches’ Luncheon. This year’s event takes place Wednesday, April 2, and tickets are only $10 each. You will get a delicious lunch, hear from new Dash skipper Tommy Thompson and learn about the 2012 roster. For more information or to learn about how you can secure your tickets, please click this link.

Here are a few notes this Thursday.


  • Once again, thanks to those who voted for Bolt in the Mascot Madness tournament. Bolt will face off with Webster University’s Gorlok next Tuesday in the “Elite Eight.” We will have a tale of the tape at some point this weekend for the matchup.

The White Sox pace the AL Central--in franchise value.

  • Forbes Magazine published a list ranking each MLB franchise’s current value, and the White Sox placed tenth. The Sox are worth $600 million, which is a 14 percent increase from last year. For what it’s worth, the White Sox rank ahead of all other American League Central organizations. The Twins are second in the A.L. Central in 14th, followed by Detroit (17th), Cleveland (26th) and Kansas City (27th).
  • If you only read one thing today (other than the Dash Board, of course), check out this Q&A with White Sox southpaw Will Ohman from Bruce Levine of The final question is the best, as Ohman had to go on a treasure hunt of sorts–for his car’s tires!
  • Today marks the beginning of the NCAA Tournament’s fourth round. did a bracket challenge with one representative from each team. Chicago’s Matt Thornton is 23rd, and while he still has his champion alive (Kentucky), Florida State’s loss to Cincinnati last weekend hurt him. He had FSU playing for the title in New Orleans.

Justin Upton is confident on the field and in a bracket pool (Phoenix New Times).

  • Arizona’s Justin Upton leads the way with 50 points, and he correctly predicted 13 of the 16 teams left standing, missing only Cincinnati, Ohio and Xavier. That’s very impressive.
  • I’m excited to head out to the St. John’s Lutheran School Annual Red and White event, honoring athletes from 4th to 8th grade. Former UNC basketball player Michael Copeland and I will be speaking to the group of around 50 athletes this evening.
  • Smack talk has officially begun around the office in advance of UNC’s battle with Ohio in the Sweet 16. Box office czar Zack Matthews and I are proud Green and White supporters, but we are outnumbered by more than a handful of Tar Heel fans. Tip time is in 29 hours. I can’t wait.

Enjoy the rest of your day. We’ll talk again tomorrow.

– Brian