The Carolina League opens the 2010 campaign Thursday. Here are 10 of the premier prospects the league will feature this season:
Noel Arguelles, LHP -- Wilmington Blue Rocks
Arguelles wasn't the most sought-after Cuban defector this offseason, but his explosive talent convinced the Royals to sign him to a five-year contract. General manager Dayton Moore predicts that Arguelles will be a top starter down the road, which is why he made the 20-year-old the highest paid amateur signing in team history.
Brad Boxberger, RHP -- Lynchburg Hillcats
Featuring one of the better fastballs in the Reds system, Boxberger may prove to be a steal when he was taken with the 43th overall pick in the 2009 Draft. If he can develop the necessary secondary pitches, the USC graduate could end the season at Double-A or higher in his first year of professional baseball.
Jon Gilmore, 3B -- Winston-Salem Dash
Acquired from the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade in 2008, Gilmore had a less-than-impressive .683 OPS in the South Atlantic League last season. The 33rd overall pick in the 2007 Draft will need to develop defensively to stay at third base. Fortunately, scouts still admire Gilmore's raw power.
Eric Hosmer, 1B -- Wilmington Blue Rocks
The third overall pick in the 2008 Draft, Hosmer received 97 at-bats in Wilmington last season but failed to impress. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound first baseman has the size and strength to improve on his .361 slugging percentage from a year ago. If that happens, expect a promotion to Double-A to follow.
Mike Montgomery, LHP -- Wilmington Blue Rocks
Selected 33 picks after Hosmer in 2008, Montgomery is a southpaw who relies primarily on his fastball. He had a 2.25 ERA in nine starts at Wilmington last season and was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week in early September.
Derek Norris, C -- Potomac Nationals
P-Nats' fans may have missed out on Stephen Strasburg, but they have every reason to watch Norris. The former fourth-round pick was an offensive machine at Class A Hagerstown last season as he posted a .926 OPS. If he can pick up some pointers from Nationals assistant GM Bob Boone, Norris could arrive in Washington sooner than expected.
Josh Phegley, C -- Winston-Salem Dash
The 38th overall pick in last year's Draft, Phegley is far from a finished product. But he hopes to improve quickly to overtake Chicago's other catching prospect, Tyler Flowers. Phegley debuted with a .685 OPS in the South Atlantic League last summer.
Stolmy Pimentel, P -- Salem Red Sox
Signed in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic, Pimentel was effective in the South Atlantic League last season. His ERA was 3.82, but opponents did bat .290 against him. He's still figuring out what will complement his 90-92 mph fastball. He's also worked on developing a curve and a cut fastball.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B -- Salem Red Sox
Rizzo hit a two-run homer off Tampa Bay closer Rafael Soriano in an exhibition game late in Spring Training. After missing most of 2008 with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Rizzo was named a South Atlantic midseason All-Star last season. He finished the year with an .828 OPS across two Minor League stops.
Alex White, RHP -- Kinston Indians
A graduate of nearby D.H. Conley High School, White is no stranger to Grainger Stadium. He was the 15th overall pick in last year's Draft, and some see him as having more potential out of the bullpen than as a starter. Regardless, he's set to make his first professional start Saturday.