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International League boasts top talent
Alvarez, Santana, Hellickson among circuit's elite prospects
04/05/2010 10:00 AM ET
Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 Draft, starts the year in Indianapolis.
Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 Draft, starts the year in Indianapolis. (Bodhi Hill/MiLB.com)
Another season in the International League means another chance to catch elite prospects in the Minors before they make it to the Majors. The league is about to begin its 126th season, and the talent assembled is as great as ever.

Though Braves outfielder Jason Heyward broke camp with the big club and Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will begin his professional career at Double-A, the IL remains stocked with prospects who broke out in the lower levels of the Minors last year along with players who just missed out on roster spots this spring.

Sluggers like Carlos Santana (Indians), Pedro Alvarez (Pirates) and Jesus Montero (Yankees) will square off against aces-in-the-making like Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Dan Hudson (White Sox) and Travis Wood (Reds).

Here's a team-by-team look at what you can expect in the International League in 2010:

Buffalo Bisons
2009 results: 56-87
2010 manager: Ken Oberkfell
What's on deck:
Shortstop prospect Ruben Tejada might not spend much time in Buffalo, depending on the health of Jose Reyes. ... OF Fernando Martinez and 1B Ike Davis both will open the season with the Bisons. ... OFs Nick Evans, Jason Pridie and RHP Tobi Stoner were assigned to Buffalo a couple of weeks before Opening Day. ... Returning manager Ken Oberkfell guided the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Republic to the Caribbean Series championship. ... Dwight Gooden is scheduled to appear for a bobble head night on Aug. 25.

Charlotte Knights
2009 results: 67-76
2010 manager: Chris Chambliss
What's on deck:
3B Dayan Viciedo will begin the season in Charlotte, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has said the Cuban prospect could be in the big leagues before long. ... Batterymates C Tyler Flowers and RHP Carlos Torres will work together for the Knights. ... OF Stefan Gartrell is set to return to the Knights. ... RHP Lucas Harrell will back up Torres in the rotation, while RHP Freddy Dolsi will anchor the bullpen. ... After Dan Hudson's incredible 2009 campaign, he'll start this year with the Knights and could get back to Chicago by midseason. ... RHP Clevelan Santeliz, who had a 0.96 ERA out of the bullpen at Double-A Birmingham last year, is ready to jump to Charlotte. ... Look for OF Jordan Danks and 2B C.J. Retherford to come up big for the Knights. ... RHPs Brian Omogrosso and Jhonny Nunez both spent time in Charlotte last year and will return.

Columbus Clippers
2009 results: 57-85
2010 manager: Mike Sarbaugh
What's on deck:
Reigning IL batting champion OF Jordan Brown was poised to earn a roster spot with Cleveland before tearing the meniscus in his right knee during outfield drills in Spring Training. ... C Carlos Santana, the reigning Eastern League MVP, is set to start 2010 with Columbus. ... Major League veteran 1B Russell Branyan will begin a rehab assignment in Columbus after being sidelined with a herniated disk in Spring Training. ... SS Jason Donald, who came over from Philadelphia in the Cliff Lee trade, will be back with the Clippers. ... Look for RHP Jeanmar Gomez, who pitched a perfect game for Double-A Akron last May. ... RHP Carlos Carrasco went 6-1 in the IL last season and almost secured a spot in the Indians' rotation this spring. ... The Dave Matthews Band performs at Huntington Park on June 22.

Durham Bulls
2009 results: 83-61; International League champions
2010 manager: Charlie Montoyo
What's on deck:
OF Desmond Jennings stole 52 bases across two Minor League levels last year, sprained his wrist in Spring Training and returns to Durham to start the season. ... RHP Jeremy Hellickson, one of the game's top pitching prospects, also is back with the Bulls after combining to go 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA at two levels in 2009. ... OF Justin Ruggiano, who knocked in 72 runs last year, is a victim of the Rays' crowded outfield and returns to Durham. ... RHP Winston Abreu went 3-1 with 15 saves and a 1.94 ERA in only 37 games last season.

Gwinnett Braves
2009 results: 81-63; Wild Card winner
2010 manager: Dave Brundage
What's on deck:
Many a Gwinnett fan may have shed tears upon learning MLB.com's No. 1 prospect, OF Jason Heyward, is headed directly to Atlanta for the start of the season. The G-Braves will still get another exciting outfield prospect, as CF Jordan Schafer comes back from offseason hand surgery around the end of April. ... 1B Freddie Freeman was expected to return to Double-A Mississippi but was assigned to Gwinnett after hitting .282 with eight homers and 58 RBIs across two levels in '09. ... OF Brent Clevlen, a veteran of the Tigers system, should patrol right field for the G-Braves. ... LHP Mike Dunn and RHP Jeff Lyman probably will work out of the bullpen. ... RHP Todd Redmond is back in Gwinnett after pitching 145 innings for the Braves in 2009.

Indianapolis Indians
2009 results: 70-73
2010 manager: Frank Kremblas
What's on deck:
Pedro Alvarez will open the season in Indianapolis, and it should be interesting to see how long MLB.com's No. 8 prospect stays there. ... Expect to see Minor League veteran Brian Myrow in an Indians uniform. ... Jose Tabata should return to Indianapolis for at least part of the season. ... Neil Walker broke through with the Pirates in 2009 but will be back at Victory Field to begin 2010. ... Former Rule 5 Draft pick LHP Donnie Veal saw limited action last year but was terrific in the Arizona Fall League. He'll anchor the rotation in Indianapolis. ... RHPs Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen competed for a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation, but the Pirates will have Hart work on his control in Indianapolis.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs
2009 results: 71-73
2010 manager: Dave Huppert
What's on deck:
The Phillies gave up a lot to get Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, but they also ended up with RHP Phillippe Aumont, RHP J.C. Ramirez and OF Tyson Gillies. Each could make a splash for Lehigh Valley, although it's unlikely any of them will get there before the All-Star break. ... LHPs Joe Savery and Yohan Flande, two of the organization's top pitching prospects, should get several starts for the IronPigs early this season. ... Barring injuries in Philadelphia, toolsy OF Domonic Brown will spend the bulk of the season in Lehigh Valley. ... The IronPigs host the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 14.

Louisville Bats
2009 results: 84-58; West Division winner
2010 manager: Rick Sweet
What's on deck:
Travis Wood, who combined for a 1.77 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A last season, lost a battle with Mike Leake for the final spot in the Reds rotation and is back with the Bats. ... LHP Bill Bray made only three appearances last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. ... Highly touted LHP Aroldis Chapman will open the year in Louisville. ... 1B C Wilkin Castillo will begin the season at Triple-A along with OF Chris Heisey, RHP Jon Adkins and OF Josh Anderson. ... OF Todd Frazier and SS Zach Cozart could log some time with the Bats this year. ... C Devin Mesoraco will make his Triple-A debut this year. ... All eyes will be on Rick Sweet, who has a chance to become the first skipper to win three consecutive IL Manager of the Year awards.

Norfolk Tides
2009 results: 71-71
2010 manager: Gary Allenson
What's on deck:
The Tides start the season with a pitching staff likely to include RHPs Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta (who started 17 games for Norfolk last year), Brandon Erbe and LHP Troy Patton. ... If LHP Brian Matusz runs into trouble in what should be his first full season with the Orioles, he'll probably work out the kinks with Norfolk. ... 3B Josh Bell and 1B Brandon Snyder will open the season in Tides uniforms.

Pawtucket Red Sox
2009 results: 61-82
2010 manager: Torey Lovullo
What's on deck:
If he adjusts quickly to the Minors, Cuban-born SS Jose Iglesias could work his way to Pawtucket this season. ... OF Josh Reddick, who struggled in 18 Triple-A games last year, is likely to return for more at-bats. ... RHP Junichi Tazawa was ticketed for Pawtucket before undergoing Tommy John surgery. ... RHP Randor Bierd can start or pitch out of the bullpen. ... Minor League veteran LHP Fabio Castro is set to log some innings for the PawSox. ... INF Kevin Frandsen may ride the Pawtucket-Boston shuttle after coming over from San Francisco. ... C Luis Exposito and 1B Lars Anderson are likely to graduate to Triple-A.

Rochester Red Wings
2009 results: 70-74
2010 manager: Tom Nieto
What's on deck:
3B Danny Valencia, who played well in 71 Triple-A games last year, will be with the Red Wings again for the start of this year and will be joined in the infield by Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes. ... LHP Glen Perkins and C Wilson Ramos were assigned to Rochester just days before the start of the season. ... OF Ben Revere is slated to start the year at Double-A, but he may pass through Rochester at some point. ... 1B Brock Peterson is headed for another season with the Red Wings, as is RHP Anthony Slama, who was solid out of the bullpen after earning a promotion from New Britain last August. ... RHP Anthony Swarzak is expected to anchor the Rochester rotation.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
2009 results: 81-60; North Division winner
2010 manager: Dave Miley
What's on deck:
After getting the assignment during Spring Training, C Jesus Montero figures to see quality time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. ... LHP Kei Igawa is the winningest pitcher in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre history and will be joined in the rotation by LHP Wilkin De La Rosa. ... RHP Zach McAllister, who had a 2.23 ERA in 23 Double-A starts and notched a win in the Governors' Cup playoffs, opens the season here. ... RHP Ivan Nova, who made 12 starts for the Triple-A Yanks last year, also is back. ... After leading the Minors in rainouts in 2009, the Baby Bombers installed a new playing surface with improved drainage at PNC Park. More than $30,000 was spent in the offseason to remove mold and water damage from luxury suites. The stadium also has new bullpens. ... Manager Dave Miley begins the season needing 62 wins to reach 1,500.

Syracuse Chiefs
2009 results: 76-68
2010 manager: Trent Jewett
What's on deck:
The Chiefs celebrate their 50th season of community ownership. ... Some have assumed that Stephen Strasburg will spend time in Triple-A this year, but MLB.com's No. 2 prospect could jump right from Double-A Harrisburg to the Majors. ... Fellow 2009 first-rounder RHP Drew Storen also is ticketed to start in Harrisburg but could pitch out of the Chiefs bullpen at some point. ... Chiefs fans can definitely expect to see LHP Atahualpa Severino, who was 10-0 with a 2.62 ERA across two Minor League levels last year, and RHP J.D. Martin, who had a 2.66 ERA in 15 IL starts. ... Seth Bynum, who hit 19 homers for Syracuse last season, is set to return after the Nats signed Adam Kennedy. ... RHP Collin Balester is expected to return to the Syracuse rotation.

Toledo Mud Hens
2009 results: 72-70
2010 manager: Larry Parrish
What's on deck:
1B Ryan Strieby, OF Casper Wells and OF Brennan Boesch will get their first chances against Triple-A pitching this year. ... RHPs Armando Galarraga and Jay Sborz were assigned to Toledo during Spring Training -- Galarraga will have a rotation spot and Sborz will work out of the 'pen. ... RHP Alfredo Figaro, who logged a 3.60 ERA during a 6-3 season at Double-A Erie last year, is set to begin the new campaign with the Mud Hens.

Josh Jackson 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.
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