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Minors' top lineups, league by league04/04/2013 6:00 AM ET
Here's a look, league by league, at the batting lineups baseball fans will be excited to follow in 2013:
International League -- Louisville Bats
The lineup: What we know about Hamilton makes the unknowns all the more intriguing. How will he possibly top his record-setting 2012 season? How will he handle Triple-A pitching? How will he adapt to his role in center field? The only sure thing is that every time he touches the diamond, excitement follows. He'll have a quality supporting cast too. Rodriguez is coming off a broken thumb in 2012, but should be able to take some pressure off Hamilton at the top or bottom of the lineup this season. Soto, who hit 31 homers in 2011, should be on a mission to return to form after a lackluster campaign for the Bats last season. Combined with veteran third baseman Mike Hessman (35 homers at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season), the pair could be what's needed to give Louisville the strong middle-of-the-order bats needed to send Hamilton careening around the bases again and again.
The series: The Bats will face the Durham Bulls, MiLB.com's best IL rotation, for the first time in a four-game set on June 8-11 at Louisville Slugger Field.
Pacific Coast League -- Round Rock Express
The lineup: It was always a long shot for baseball's top prospect Jurickson Profar to crack the Rangers Opening Day roster. Instead he will have to bide his time in Round Rock, some three hours south of Arlington. Shortstop Profar hit .281 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs in 126 Texas League games with Frisco last season before getting a cup of coffee with the Rangers as a September callup.
In Round Rock, he'll be playing alongside the organization's No. 2 prospect, Mike Olt, who also went from Double-A to the Majors 12 months ago. Blocked in Texas by Adrian Beltre, cleanup hitter Olt could also see time in the outfield to possibly speed up his journey back to "The Show."
Also on the Triple-A roster is left-handed slugger Chris McGuiness, who hit 23 homers in Frisco and 23-year-old outfielder Engel Beltre, who spent all of 2012 in Double-A and is one of three prospects opening the year on Texas' 40-man roster.
The series: The Express square off against the PCL's top rotation -- that of the Tacoma Rainiers -- just once, from Aug. 12-15 in Round Rock.
Eastern League -- Erie SeaWolves
Tyler Collins, LF
2. James McCann, C
3. Dan Fields, OF
4. Hernan Perez, 2B
The lineup: Erie's lineup features four of the Tigers' Top 20 prospects entering the season. Backstop James McCann, who reached Erie last year, was Detroit's second-round pick in 2011 and is rated as the organization's No. 12 prospect. Second baseman Hernan Perez, a MiLB.com All-Star last year, enters the season ranked as the Tigers' No. 13 prospect after finishing with 44 RBIs, 27 steals and a personal best in fielding percentage in 2012. Outfielder Tyler Collins moves up from Lakeland and is the highest-ranked Tigers prospect in the lineup (No. 6) while Daniel Fields, Detroit's No. 7 farmhand, returns to the Erie outfield after splitting 2012 at two levels.
The series: The SeaWolves will face the Bowie Baysox, MiLB.com's best EL rotation, for the first time in a three-game set starting April 15 at Prince George's Stadium.
Southern League -- Jacksonville Suns
The lineup: Few outfields in the Minors are likely to be as potent as that of the Suns, which will feature two top 100 propects in Yelich and Marisnick to go along with Ozuna, who led the Florida State League with 24 homers last season. Despite having never played above Class A, Yelich seriously contended for a big-league job this spring, batting .364/.451/.818 over 22 games. Marisnick, whom Miami acquired from Toronto in their blockbuster trade this offseason, is a speedster with plenty of raw talent who missed time after suffering a broken hand in Spring Training. All three will start the season on the DL, but then they'll join first baseman Mark Canha, who suffered a power outage last year after slugging 25 homers in 2011, but still reached base at a .382 clip.
The series: The Suns will be busy right away as they face Huntsville and the league's top rotation in a five-game road series starting April 10. The two clubs meet again in Jacksonville for a June 19-23 series.
Texas League -- Arkansas Travelers
The lineup: Forget just the Texas League -- does a better potential 1-5 combination exist in the Minors at large? Arkansas, which has been dynamic in recent years (Mike Trout anyone?), should be that way again under skipper Tim Bogar. Regardless of how he writes out his lineup card, Bogar's five studs -- five of the Angels' top eight prospects -- all complement each other well. Witherspoon brings speed (34 stolen bases in 2012), Lindsey controls the bat well (66 Ks in 547 at-bats), Cowart finds the gaps (54 extra-base hits) and Cron and Grichuk have pop (41 combined homers). Each should find the Texas League more difficult to handle than the Cal, as Witherspoon did in his brief stay last season. But there is power in numbers, and there's no denying this quintet will be fun to watch.
The series: Arkansas battles in-state rival Northwest Arkansas and the league's top rotation on May 4-7, June 8-11, July 22-24, Aug. 24-26 at NWA and May 13-16, June 16-19, July 29-31, Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at home.
California League -- Modesto Nuts
The lineup: Featuring No. 3 Rockies prospect Trevor Story and Will Swanner (Rockies' No. 8) would make any lineup pretty formidable. When you add in Harold Riggins, who hit 19 homers in 87 games for Asheville, and David Kandilas, who posted a .360 on-base while swiping 19 bases in 83 games, you have a lineup capable of scoring runs in bunches. Fans in Modesto should watch out for the doubles as 43 of Story's 132 hits in 2012 were two-baggers, while Swanner smacked 24 in just 88 games.
The series: Modesto and San Jose, which boasts the circuit's top rotation, square off in six straight games from April 23-28, the first three in San Jose (23-25), the next three in Modesto (26-28).
Carolina League -- Salem Red Sox
The lineup: Salem's lineup will be loaded with advanced bats to begin the season. Swihart and Marrero represent Boston's last two first-round picks in the Draft, while Cecchini is a 2010 fourth-rounder who hit .305 with a .394 OBP in 118 games for Class A Greenville last year.
The outfield will feature Jacobs, the No. 11 Red Sox prospect, and Keury de la Cruz, the team's No. 15 prospect. Jacobs returns to Salem after hitting .252/.322/.410 in 114 games in the Carolina League last year, while de la Cruz carries high hopes that he'll build off his breakout 2012 season, in which he put together a .308/.352/.536 line for Greenville. Second baseman Sean Coyle, a 2010 third-round pick by the Red Sox out of Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania, is a young bat rising quickly through the system and warranting a close watch as well.
The series: Salem hosts the league's best rotation, Wilmington, in their first matchup of the year for a four-game set April 22-25.
Florida State League -- Daytona Cubs
The lineup: The Cubs' 1-2 punch of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler might be the most formidable prospect duo in all of the Minor Leagues. Baez dominated the Midwest League last year as a 19-year-old, but struggled in a 23-game stint in the FSL late in the year, while the Cuban-born Soler enters his first full Minor League season after signing a nine-year Major League deal early last year. The team also returns CF John Andreoli, who led the FSL in steals (55) and walks (75) a year ago while earning FSL postseason All-Star honors. 3B Stephen Bruno moves up after leading the Northwest League with a .361 batting average last year, while Zeke DeVoss led the Midwest League in walks (88).
The series: The Cubs will travel to take on the St. Lucie Mets, MiLB.com's best FSL rotation, for the first time during a four-game set starting May 5.
Midwest League -- Beloit Snappers
The lineup: Beloit's lineup won't boast the same star power of others in the league, with for example, Carlos Correa headlining in Quad Cities and Byron Buxton drawing attention to Cedar Rapids. What it will have, however, is remarkable depth, with three of the A's top 15 prospects -- Olson (No. 5), Nunez (8) and Maxwell (15) -- ensconced in the batting order, and a fourth, 2012 first-rounder Daniel Robertson (No. 7), joining them when he comes off the disabled list.
On top of that, Beloit also will see the contributions of highly regarded international signing Wilfredo Solano, a shortstop, center fielder Shipman, a third-rounder in 2010 and second baseman Christopher Bostick and outfielder Brett Vertigan, a 2011 44th-rounder and 2012 10th-rounder respectively, who both flashed intriguing skill sets last season in the short-season New York-Penn League.
It will be Olson, who slugged .521 in 50 games last year after being taken 47th overall in the 2012 Draft, and Nunez, a Venezuelan signed in 2010 by Oakland who hit .325/.403/.550 in 42 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, who provide the fireworks for the Snappers. This potent collection of youth and talent give Beloit the lineup with the most upside top-to-bottom in the league.
The series: The Snappers' bats will get acquainted with San Diego's collection of high-upside young arms when Beloit meets Fort Wayne for the first time in a three-game slate July 13-15.
South Atlantic League -- Lexington Legends
The lineup: "Raw" will be the buzzword as Royals prospects flood Lexington for the first time in 2013, but the skills are definitely there. Starling will make his long-awaited full-season debut, giving him his best chance yet to show off -- and simultaneously polish -- his bevy of skills at the plate and in the field. Mondesi, the son of former Major Leaguer Raul, could be the breakout prospect of the year if he can take the .290/.346/.386 slash line up a notch from last year when he was the youngest player in the Appalachian League. If former B-Royals Gallagher (.756 OPS) and Arteaga (.694) can continue their development at the dish, the Legends and Royals could have the start of a very happy relationship.
The series: The Legends will face the Rome Braves, MiLB.com's best SAL rotation, for the first time in a three-game set June 10-12 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.