While the Winston-Salem Dash were the toast of the Carolina League in 2018, this year figures to be a little bit of a step back — especially after the first month.
The Dash do boast Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, but High-A is a conservative assignment for both, and so they could easily outproduce the competition by the end of the month if both players have put their hand problems past them.
(I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict two homers for Robert tonight. Don’t know why.)
After Robert and Madrigal, there isn’t a whole lot of on-paper excitement, unless Lincoln Henzman’s sinker or Alec Hansen’s reconstruction do it for you. They could get supplemented by Kannapolis prospects in short order, or maybe some third-day draft picks who surprise in their second year, but otherwise, the Dash are going to have to earn the plaudits this time around.
As long as the previously highest rated pitching prospect remains in the bullpen, Henzman leads the way here. His conversion from college closer to pro starter was successful in terms of building a workload. Now he’ll have to cut down on walks at High-A, and a few more whiffs wouldn’t hurt, too.
Battenfield (17th round) and Parke (21st round) return to Winston-Salem after earning promotions halfway through their first full pro seasons, and both felt the change in league and ballpark. Castillo is new to the organization, a 24-year-old lefty whom the Royals signed out of the Mexican League, but couldn’t get to stick at Double-A. Kubat is 26.
Hansen is starting the year in the bullpen, where he’ll try to get his mechanics in order under the watchful eye of pitching coach Matt Zaleski after a disastrous 2018. He’s reunited, both in team and role, with the fellow Sooner Elliott.
Everybody else in the bullpen is new to the Dash. Heuer has the highest stock as a sixth-round pick out of Wichita State who signed for $260,000. The righty was projected to be a reliever, and we’ll see if he advances faster on that track. The 33rd-rounder Lewis struck out 103 batters over 104 innings last year with a 2.60 ERA at Kannapolis last year. Ledo, Escorcia and Nin have bounced around the low minors over their five-plus years as pros, although Escorica did strike out 131 batters over 94 innings in his two years with Kannapolis.
Before the White Sox made their first-round selection last year, Perez was the contact king of the organization. He hit .290/.298/.395 for Kannapolis, which was good enough to earn a promotion to Winston-Salem despite the 1.4 percent walk rate. His strikeout rate jumped to 10.8 percent, but he also hiked his ISO over .100, which is a trade they can make. Gonzalez is an organizational soldier.
For however long he’s there, Madrigal will be the star of this show. He needs to show that he can pull Carolina League pitching when the opportunity presents itself after settling for opposite-field singles last year. Evaluators routinely used the word “fatigued” with regards to how he looked.
Blackman is the only other infielder with a semblance of upward trajectory, as the 13th-round pick hit .244/.344/.407 with 17 homers in his first full season with Kannapolis. Everybody else is returning to Winston-Salem, including Fisher, who should’ve been there last year. The Dash’s outfield logjam forced him to Birmingham, where he hit just .216/.321/.321. The fourth-round pick from 2016 returns to High-A as a first baseman. I keep thinking Yrizarri is going to convert to pitching one of these years.
Robert saw his power sapped by hand injuries, resulting in an unimpressive showing at Winston-Salem last year (.244/.317/.309, no homers). If his health doesn’t get in the way of the hype, he shouldn’t be with the Dash for long.
He’ll be joined by Dedelow and Frost, a pair of college bats who who belted 30 homers and struck out 257 times between them at Kannapolis last year. George is 26, and likely holding down the fort for Steele Walker.
How many homers will Yrizarri hit this year? He’s already past what I would expect out of him.
The blurb about the post draft change in Madrigal’s swing path was the most concerning bit in a very concerning FGraphs Sox prospects list.
I have high hopes for him this year.
Longenhagen and Kiley are both very high on him. Not sure why their comments would concern you. They seem to think his issues were more injury related and he’ll be fine.