Among the highly touted prospects, most anticipated will be BA's 93rd-ranked minor league prospect in all of baseball, Arodys Vizcaino. Vizcaino, a right-handed pitcher from Yaguate, Dominican Republic, joined the Braves organization in 2009 as part of a trade that sent Javier Vasquez to the New York Yankees and brought Melky Cabrera to the Atlanta Braves. At the time, Vizcaino was the number one pitching prospect in the Yankees farm system. He is currently ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the Braves organization according to BA.
Joining Vizcaino on the Lynchburg staff will be fellow BA top-30 prospects, RHP David Hale (17) and LHP Dimasther Delgado (18). Hale, the 87th overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft to the Braves, spent 2010 with Class A Rome. In 21 relief appearances last season, Hale went 5-3 with a 2.16 ERA and converted five of six save chances. His two primary pitches are a 93-94 mph fastball that touches 96, and a hard slider clocked at 84-86 mph. Delgado, who missed all of 2010 after suffering a slew of injuries in a car accident in February of 2010, looks to pick up where he left off in 2009 when he started 17 games for Rome and finished a 3.61 ERA. He has excellent control to both sides of the plate (just 47 walks in 199 IP for his career) and devastates hitters with a changeup regarded as one of the best in the system.
Rounding out the staff will be right-handers Eliecer Cardenas, Yeliar Castro, Willie Kempf, Jason Lowey, Cory Rasmus, Chad Rodgers, Zeke Spruill, and Andrew Wilson; and lefties Matt Crim, Chris Masters, and Chad Rodgers. Wilson attended Liberty University and spent four years pitching for the Flames. Thomas Berryhill and Angelo Paulino, right-handed pitchers as well, will begin the season on the disabled list.
Handling the Hillcats staff will be catchers Cory Brownsten and Braeden Schlehuber. Brownsten was drafted in 15th round in 2010. After spending his first professional season at the Rookie-level between the GCL and Danville Braves, he will jump past Class A Rome and begin the season in Class A Advanced in Lynchburg. Schlehuber is the slightly more experience backstop, a fourth round selection in 2008 spent time with both Rome and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in 2010.
The infield will feature three of the top 30 prospects alluded to earlier in 2B Phil Gosselin (25), 3B Joe Leonard (23), and SS Andrelton Simmons (15). All three are entering their sophomore seasons, drafted in 2010. Simmons was the Braves second round selection. Regarded as the top defensive player in the 2010 draft, Simmons has great range and soft hands, although his greatest attribute is his arm. He has been clocked throwing 98 mph. Gosselin, a fifth round draft pick out of the University of Virginia, was named 1st team All-ACC after sophomore season. Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg (first base), Joe Terdoslavich (first base/third base), and Matt Weaver (second base/shortstop) will complete the infield.
Roaming the outfield will be Todd Cunningham, Robby Hefflinger, Adam Milligan, and L.V. Ware. Cunningham and Milligan were ranked 20th and 22nd on the BA's Braves prospect list respectively. Drafted primarily for his bat, the switch hitting Cunningham was also selected in the second round in 2010. He hit .359 in final collegiate season at Jacksonville State University and has an excellent approach at the plate making him a prime candidate to hit lead-off. Milligan, who originally committed to play football at Austin Peay State University before decided to play baseball at Walters State Community College in Tennessee, holds a career .308 average in two professional seasons.
Tickets are currently on sale for the 2011 season. The home opener is slated for April 15th at 6:05 p.m. when the Hillcats welcome the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to town. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (434) 528-1144 or online. Ticket purchases can also be made in person at the Lynchburg City Stadium Ticket Office (Mon.-Fri., 9AM- 5PM). Don't miss out on the excitement of the 2011 season as we turn the Hill City into Braves Country!