Fans' guide to 2010 MiLB Opening Day04/08/2010 9:00 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com
It's Opening Day in Minor League Baseball, an action-packed day of pomp, pageantry and prospects. With a whopping 120 teams kicking off their 2010 campaigns, there is plenty to keep an eye on.
Motivated by benevolent intentions and altruistic impulses, we here at MiLB.com have compiled the following Opening Day Guide. Read on in order to get a handle on some of the many Opening Day highlights in the Minor Leagues, including notable player debuts, franchise firsts and the current locations of some of the game's most heralded prospects.
Simply the best
MLB.com's Top 50 Prospect List was unleashed upon the world in January, a massive compendium featuring an overwhelming amount of info on baseball's most intriguing up-and-comers. Some of these individuals are already on Major League rosters (see Heyward, Jason), but most will be suiting up in the higher echelons of the Minors. Here's a look at the Opening Day locations of the game's most highly touted prospects.
Who: Pedro Alvarez, 3B (MLB club: Pittsburgh)
Game: Indianapolis at Columbus
When: 7:05 p.m. ET | Watch on MiLB.tv »
In brief: Alvarez was the second overall pick of the 2008 Draft, and he showed why last season. He spent the second half of the campaign with Double-A Altoona, where he hit .333 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs over just 60 ballgames. He'll be manning the hot corner this season in Indianapolis, biding his time until what many see as an inevitable promotion to the Steel City.
Who: Madison Bumgarner, LHP (San Francisco) and Buster Posey, C (San Francisco)
Game: Fresno at Reno
When: Thursday, 9:05 p.m. ET
In brief: The most hyped pitcher-catcher tandem in the Minors currently resides in Fresno, where two of the most highly regarded players in the Giants system are slated to kick off the season. 20-year-old southpaw Madison Bumgarner will serve as the undisputed ace of the Grizzlies staff, looking to duplicate the 1.93 ERA he posted in Double-A last season. Assuming the primary catching duties is Buster Posey, a well-rounded athlete with a mature approach at the plate. Both received the proverbial cup of coffee in San Francisco last season, and both are expected to return there in 2010. But, for now, this is one Triple-A battery that won't run out of power.
Who: Justin Smoak, 1B (Texas)
Game: Albuquerque at Oklahoma City
When: Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET | Watch on MiLB.tv »
In brief: The Rangers first-round selection in the 2008 Draft, Smoak ended last season in Oklahoma City despite missing substantial time due to a ribcage injury. He'll return to "Smoak"lahoma this season, looking to improve on the .244 average he posted there. Despite that mediocre mark, the South Carolina native got on base at a .363 clip thanks to tremendous patience at the plate and a highly evolved batting eye. He was also named MVP of Team USA's gold medal-winning World Cup squad in Italy in September.
Who: Mike Stanton, RF (Florida) and Dustin Ackley, 2B (Seattle)
Game: West Tenn at Jacksonville
When: Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET
In brief: The 20-year-old Stanton played 79 games for Jacksonville last season, displaying impressive power (16 homers) but poor plate discipline (99 strikeouts). He'll return to the Double-A locale to start 2010, eager to hone the five-tool talent that has put him on the fast track to Los Angeles.
This ballgame will also feature the professional debut of Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley. The second overall pick in last year's Draft, Ackley will man first base for West Tenn. The slugging lefty is now at full strength after undergoing Tommy John surgery while attending the University of North Carolina.
Who: Stephen Strasburg, RHP (Washington)
Game: Harrisburg at Altoona
When: Sunday, April 11, 2 p.m. ET
In brief: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Strasburg will be suiting up for the Harrisburg Senators to start the season. Fans clamoring to see the most hyped pitcher in the Minor Leagues will have to wait until Sunday, when Strasburg takes the mound in Altoona against the hometown Curve.
Welcome to the pros
In addition to the aforementioned Strasburg and Ackley, a number of 2009 first-round draft picks will be making their professional debuts during the opening series of the season. The following four have big expectations in 2010:
Who: Aaron Crow,, RHP (Kansas City)
Game: San Antonio at Northwest Arkansas (April 8-10)
In brief: The distance from Northwest Arkansas to Kansas City could be a short one depending on how the Crow flies. The hard-throwing righty was drafted by the Nationals in 2008 and did not sign, but he was able to avoid a similar fate with the Royals. Crow impressed in big league camp during Spring Training, and it is widely assumed that he'll be able to handle Double-A batsmen despite his relative lack of experience.
Who: Jacob Turner, RHP (Detroit)
Game: West Michigan at Lake County (April 8-10)
In brief: Although just 18 years old, Turner turned heads with his electrifying stuff at Spring Training and is already on the Tigers' 40-man roster. He'll begin what is widely assumed will be a rapid ascent as a member of the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit's Class A affiliate.
Who: Zach Wheeler, RHP (San Francisco)
Game: Augusta at Greensboro (April 8-11)
The aphorism that "you can't have too much pitching" even applies to San Francisco, who have Lincecum and Cain in the rotation and Bumgarner on the cusp. Right-hander Zach Wheeler will start his pro career in the starting rotation of the Augusta GreenJackets, ready to show all comers that he can dominate far outside the realm of high school ball.
Who: Alex White, RHP (Cleveland)
Game: Winston-Salem at Kinston (April 8-11)
In brief: White should feel right at home in Kinston, seeing as he was born in North Carolina and later attended -- and starred at -- UNC. The Indians have stated that White's future is in the bullpen, but he'll begin his pro career as the premier member of Kinston's starting rotation.
Out with the old, in with the new
Game: Memphis Redbirds at Omaha Royals (8:05 p.m. ET)
In brief: This will be the last home opener in the history of Omaha's venerable Rosenblatt facility, as the O-Royals will be relocating to nearby Sarpy County for the 2011 campaign. Rosenblatt, a 25,000-seat facility perhaps best known as the annual site of the College World Series, has hosted the Pacific Coast League club for the last four decades. The team will be paying homage to Rosenblatt throughout the season, including a replica seat giveaway during Sept. 2's season finale.
Game: Richmond Flying Squirrels at Bowie Baysox (7:05 p.m. ET)
In brief: A new era of Eastern League history begins on Thursday, as the Richmond Flying Squirrels play their first-ever regular-season contest. The club relocated from Norwich, Conn., following the 2009 campaign, and spent the entirety of the offseason developing and marketing the "Flying Squirrels" image. The colorfully-named club will play at The Diamond, a 25-year-old facility that previously hosted the International League's Richmond Braves. The home opener, sure to be a gala affair, is slated for April 15.