03/31/2008 5:43 PM ET
Pacific Coast League preview
Rasmus, Headley highlight big names in talented league
By Shane Figueroa / Special to MLB.com
A hoard of baseball's best prospects will spend time in the PCL in 2008, from St. Louis' Colby Rasmus (No. 7 on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects ranking) to San Diego's Chase Headley (No. 29). While they won't begin the year at the Triple-A level, Marlins outfielder Cameron Maybin (No. 3) and Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw (No. 4) could be in line for short, cameo appearances in the coming months.
As is the norm, Thursdays will be a good day to quench a fan's thirst for $2, while Friday nights are made for fireworks. In terms of the more unique promotions, there will be pie-throwing games, diamond giveaways, celebrity softball, pro wrestling and more than one performance from the Grammy Award-winning Dave Matthews Band.
PCL teams will also honor mothers, fathers and cancer patients everywhere with special promotions to bring about the awareness of Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer on Mother's Day (May 11) and Father's Day (June 15).
Here's a team-by-team look at what you can expect in the Pacific Coast League in 2008:
2007 Results: 72-70
2008 Manager: Dean Treanor
Things to look forward to: The top prospect in the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers, Cameron Maybin, was optioned to Double-A Carolina in late March and could reach Albuquerque at some point. ... Former second-round Draft pick Dallas McPherson will be on the Opening Day roster. McPherson, who missed all of the 2007 season with a back injury, is a career .301 hitter in the Minors. ... Baseball America named the Isotopes the winner of the Bob Freitas Award honoring the top overall franchise in Triple-A baseball. The award embodies the high standards, stability, success, high attendance, creative promotions and involvement in the local community. ... On Aug. 17, the Isotopes will hold the largest giveaway in Albuquerque sports history when three lucky fans will win either a house, a new car, or $10,000 worth of furnishings.
Colorado Springs Sky Sox
2007 Results: 69-75
2008 Manager: Tom Runnells
Things to look forward to: 1B Joe Koshansky, he of the 21 home runs, 30 doubles and 99 RBIs, will be on the Sky Sox Opening Day roster. Koshansky is a former Texas League and South Atlantic League All-Star. ... The Rockies top overall pick in the 2006 Draft, Greg Reynolds, could find his way to Colorado Springs once he's given a clean bill of health after undergoing rotator cuff surgery last summer. The 6-foot-7 Reynolds, a Stanford product, went 4-1 with a 1.42 ERA last year with Double-A Tulsa. ... On Sunday, June 22, the Sky Sox will bring about cancer awareness with a special charity jersey auction giveaway. The players will wear alternative uniform tops and fans will be given the chance to bid on their favorite player's game-worn jersey... The Rockies and Sky Sox extended their Player Development Contract through the 2010 season.
2007 Results: 77-67
2008 Manager: Dan Rohn
Things to look forward to: In November, the Grizzlies unveiled a new logo, color scheme and uniforms, adding a more modern look to the 10-year-old franchise. ... hoping to create a "sea of orange" for Friday home games, the first 1,000 fans to arrive at Chukchansi Park will receive orange t-shirts to wear to that night's game, adding an interesting dynamic to the Grizzlies' home-field advantage. ... The Grizzlies will host five different theme jersey nights, and on July 18, the club will honor the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Fans will enjoy the opportunity to "bear arms" at the ballpark as the first 500 fans will receive foam Grizzlies claws for their "bare arms". ... July 19 will feature a Tim Lincecum bobblehead giveaway for the first 2,500 fans in attendance. Lincecum went 4-0 and allowed one run on 12 hits and 11 walks in five starts (31 innings) for the Grizzlies in 2007.
2007 Results: 78-65
2008 Manager: Pat Listach
Things to look forward to: Unique promotions abound in Iowa: On April 19, fans will be permitted to take batting practice against live pitching before the game; April 26 is "Halfway to Halloween" night, with live trick or treating for the kids; "Celebrity Pie in the Face" night is May 10 as fans will vote on which local celebrities Cubbie the mascot can maul with a pie; June 17 will feature a Geovany Soto statue giveaway; the mullet is back in style on Aug. 2, as the first 1,000 fans receive mullet wigs to honor the unique hair style; and on Sept. 1, one lucky fan can win the chance for the Iowa Cubs grounds crew to make over their home lawn. ... The club will honor Mother's Day (May 11) and Father's Day (June 15) and bring about cancer awareness with special bats and an auction. ... The Cubs extended their Player Development Contract with Iowa through the 2012 season. ... Former Notre Dame standout Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs fifth-round Draft pick in 2006, could advance to Iowa at some point after starting the season with Tennessee.
Las Vegas 51s
2007 Results: 67-77
2008 Manager: Lorenzo Bundy
Things to look forward to: Blink and you might miss a start or two by the Dodgers prized pitching prospect, southpaw Clayton Kershaw, who's expected to start the season with Double-A Jacksonville and move up quickly. ... When finished rehabbing a torn ligament in his thumb, Andy LaRoche will likely be headed to the 51s. The 24-year-old third baseman slugged 18 homers, 18 doubles and 48 RBIs in 73 games with Las Vegas last year. ... Former 51s players Russell Martin and Takashi Saito will be immortalized with bobbleheads April 4 and July 11, respectively, while new Dodgers manager Joe Torre's bobblehead debuts in Dodger blue on May 24.
2007 Results: 56-87
2008 Manager: Chris Maloney
Things to look forward to: Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals top prospect, is poised for the Opening Day roster. Rasmus, a 21-year-old outfielder, smashed 29 homers, 37 doubles and 72 RBIs while scoring 93 runs for Double-A Springfield in 2007. ... Mitchell Boggs should join Blake Hawksworth and Mike Parisi in the starting rotation. ... The club will host "Military Appreciation" Nights on June 6 and June 26, with special admission for those serving in the armed forces. ... Wrestling fans can get their fill with some live in-ring action on July 26 during "Memphis Wrestling" Night. ... Willie Nelson will open for the Dave Matthews Band on Aug. 2 at AutoZone Park. The concert will help benefit the Redbirds RBI and STRIPES programs, designed to help "foster amateur sports, enhance education and teach life skills for the future" to children in and around the Memphis area.
2007 Results: 89-55; American North Division winner
2008 Manager: Frank Kremblas
Things to look forward to: Hernan Iribarren, a top infield prospect turned converted outfielder, has already been named to the Opening Day roster. Iribarren topped the Southern League with 12 triples as a second baseman in 2007 and also placed fifth in batting (.307), swiped 18 bases and stoked 39 extra-base hits. ... He'll be joined by Luis Pena, who went 5-4 with 18 saves and a 2.63 ERA between Class A Advanced Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville last year. ... Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher will hold his annual charity softball game on June 28 at Greer Stadium. A few NFL all-pros are sure to be on hand. ... Nashville will have 19 Fireworks Nights. The team has scheduled fireworks on back-to-back nights nine times during the season.
New Orleans Zephyrs
2007 Results: 75-69; American South Division winner; advanced to PCL Championship Series
2008 Manager: Ken Oberkfell
Things to look forward to: The Mets traded a bundle for Johan Santana, but didn't include top prospect OF Fernando Martinez, who batted .271 in an injury-shortened 60 games with Double A Binghamton. Martinez will start the season with Double-A Binghamton but could see time in the bayou. ... The club installed a new playing surface as part of a $1.27-million renovation plan for Zephyr Field. "Celebration" Bermuda hybrid grass and a clay infield will help keep bad hops to a minimum, and a new drainage system should help to shorten rain delays. ... On May 30, the Zephyrs will pay tribute to the long-running sitcom Scrubs with a "Salute to Scrubs" Night. ... The club will also offer "Jewish Faith Night," "Hispanic Heritage Night," "Military Appreciation Night," and "Jefferson Parish Night."
2007 Results: 71-72
2008 Manager: Bobby Jones
Things to look forward to: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the prized prospect acquired by the Rangers in the deal that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta, will begin the season with the RedHawks. The 22-year-old catcher, who batted .309 in the Minors last season, hit .266 with 13 doubles, 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 93 games with the Rangers. ... The RedHawks appointed former Class A Williamsport play-by-play announcer Adam Marco to their radio booth. He will join new tag team partner Jim Byers on April 3. ... The Dave Matthews Band, one of the top selling recording artists of all time, will perform live at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark on Aug. 13. ... The RedHawks will entertain a brand new promotion, "All You Can Eat Seat," allowing fans to pay for one seat to that day's game and eat as much food as possible. Fans can purchase one seat for $20, or bring a family of four for $65.
2007 Results: 73-71
2008 Manager: Mike Jirschele
Things to look forward to: The Royals will celebrate their 40th anniversary season with a tribute to the past. The club will give away replica stadium statuettes, retro baseball caps, and memorable player statues such as All-Star Carlos Beltran. On June 29, the players will wear replica throwback jerseys which will be auctioned after the game. ... The top overall pick of the 2006 player Draft, right-hander Luke Hochevar, will be on the Opening Day roster. He posted a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings with the big club in 2007. ... the team will open the "Home Run Porch" in straightaway center field at Rosenblatt Stadium, giving fans the chance to enjoy the game and an outdoor picnic at the same time... Also new at the park, a pair of flames will erupt from a sign above the left-center field bleachers every time a Royals player parks a home run.
2007 Results: 58-86
2008 Manager: Randy Ready
Things to look forward to: Chase Headley, ranked No. 29 on MiLB.com's list of the top 50 prospects, will be on the Opening Day roster. The 23-year-old converted outfielder hit .330 with 38 doubles, 20 homers and 78 RBIs with Double-A San Antonio. ... The club completely redesigned the Beavers logo, primary color scheme and on-field uniforms, the theme of which is a celebration of 90 years of baseball in Portland. ... The playing surface at PGE Park has been upgraded to the popular artificial FieldTurf, and the warning track was resurfaced and coated as well. The existing NeXturf surface will be donated to local area sports clubs. ... The club will host a series of youth baseball camps featuring Beavers players four times during the season, beginning May 31 through June 1. The other camp dates are scheduled for June 27-29, Aug. 1-3 and Aug. 22-24.
Round Rock Express
2007 Results: 61-81
2008 Manager: Dave Clark
Things to look forward to: Yordany Ramirez, rated as the best defensive outfield prospect in the Astros system, batted .315 with 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored over a 30-game stint in the PCL in 2007 and looks poised to make the Opening Day roster... Right-hander Jack Cassel, who's won 10 games with a sub 4.00 ERA for the Express over the last two seasons, could start on Opening Day. ... The club will honor Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan with five unique giveaways, four of which will feature the great hurler in each of four Major League uniforms he wore during his career. In addition, a special Nolan Ryan "Duster" Bobblehead will be released to fans in attendance on July 12... The Astros and Express extended their Player Development Contract through the 2010 season.
Sacramento River Cats
2007 Results: 84-60; Pacific South Division winner; PCL Champions
2008 Manager: Todd Steverson
Things to look forward to: The defending PCL champions announced that all of the team's 144 games, including the Triple-A All-Star Game -- held in Louisville on July 16 -- and all Cats postseason games, will be broadcast on KCCL 92.1 FM after the club reached an agreement with Results Radio of Sacramento, LLC. ... Left-handers Greg Smith and Gio Gonzalez are headed to the Opening Day Roster. Smith, 24, posted a 3.78 ERA in 10 games in the PCL last year, while Gonzalez, 22, whiffed 185 batters in 150 innings in the Southern League. ... Paley Field has been upgraded in several areas, including a new 30-foot "Matrix Board" in left-center field that will provide fans with more in-game information. Also, the concourse cuisine has added new items to many menus and the Coca-Cola Kids Corner has received a new inflatable obstacle course.
Salt Lake Bees
2007 Results: 74-69; Pacific North Division winner
2008 Manager: Bobby Mitchell
Things to look forward to: Provided he doesn't make the big club, 3B Brandon Wood, ranked No. 19 on MLB.com's list of the Top 50 Prospects, will be in the lineup on Opening Day. Wood crushed 23 homers with 77 RBIs and 73 runs scored for the Bees in 2007. ... The Angels appointed former Major Leaguer Bobby Mitchell, who was born in Salt Lake City and lived there for four years, to be the new manager. Mitchell has spent the past six seasons as a coach with the Angels. ... The club will host "Military Appreciation Night" on May 23 and "Fan Appreciation Night" on Aug. 23. ... Some of the new fan giveaways include fleece blankets (April 25), batting helmets (July 12) and duffel bags (Aug. 8).
2007 Results: 68-76
2008 Manager: Daren Brown
Things to look forward to: Yung-Chi Chen, a career .306 hitter in the Minors, was limited to five games with Tacoma in 2007 due to a shoulder injury. After batting .337 in the Arizona Fall League, he's poised to make the Opening Day roster. ... He'll be joined by outfielder Jeremy Reed, who batted .313 with 37 doubles for Tacoma in 2007, and catcher Jeff Clement, who belted 20 homers and 80 RBIs. ... The club will introduce the "Rainiers Fireworks Express" for Friday night home games. Fans can park at nearby Tacoma Community College and, for $1, ride the shuttle bus to Cheney Stadium, enjoying the game and that night's fireworks show.
2007 Results: 75-67
2008 Manager: Bill Plummer
Things to look forward to: The club's top pick in the 2006 player draft, Max Scherzer (6-4, 3.28 ERA between Class A Advanced Visalia and Double-A Mobile), will start the season in the Sidewinders rotation. ... Hampered by a nagging shoulder injury during the spring, the D-Backs Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Esmerling Vasquez, will head to Tucson once he receives a clean bill of health. The 24-year-old right-hander went 10-6 with a 2.99 ERA with Mobile last season. ... The club will welcome back its popular "Meatball Monday" promotion, featuring all you can eat spaghetti and meatballs for $7. ... The Sidewinders will also feature a Diamond necklace giveaway. Eight fans that enter will have their names announced as winners of a 1/4 carat diamond pendant after each of the first eight innings. After the game, one lucky fan will win a 1/2 carat pendant.
Shane Figueroa is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.