The South Atlantic League opens the 2010 campaign Thursday. Here are 10 of the premier prospects the league will feature this season:
Christian Bethancourt, C -- Rome Braves
The Panamanian backstop made his American debut at the age of 17 last year and held his own, batting .277 between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues. He'll make his full-season debut with Rome and already is considered by some the heir apparent to Brian McCann.
Sean Black, RHP -- Charleston RiverDogs
It's hard to ignore a pitcher who was perfect in his Minor League debut season. And that's just what Black did in 2009. Selected by the Yankees in the seventh round of the Draft out of Seton Hall, he went 6-0 in 10 starts with a 1.62 ERA that would have been good for second in the New York-Penn League had he pitched enough innings to qualify.
Jarred Cosart, RHP -- Lakewood BlueClaws
Selected by the Phillies in the 38th round of the 2008 Draft, Cosart made his Minor League debut last year. The 6-foot-3 right-hander posted a 2.22 ERA and struck 25 over 24 1/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League, flashing a mid-90s fastball.
Wilmer Flores, SS -- Savannah Sand Gnats
Flores' .264 average and three homers don't jump out until you realize he was a 17-year-old playing in Class A. He made great improvements defensively last season, posting a league-leading .974 fielding percentage, and participated in the Futures Game.
Miguel Gonzalez, C -- Kannapolis Intimidators
Gonzalez debut with Bristol last summer and hit .311 with four homers in 45 games. Signed by the White Sox as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, the 19-year-old earns praise for his throwing arm and potential power at the plate.
Matt Hobgood, RHP -- Delmarva Shorebirds
The fifth overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Hobgood scuffled a bit in his debut, posting a 4.73 ERA in eight starts for Rookie-level Bluefield. The 2008-09 Gatorade National Player of the Year still boasts three potentially plus pitches, including a low-90s fastball.
Jiwan James, OF -- Lakewood BlueClaws
A pitcher-turned-outfielder, James missed all of 2008 with a forearm injury but made up for it during his Minor League debut in 2009. The switch-hitter batted .264 and stole seven bases in 30 games for short-season Williamsport.
J.D. Martinez, OF -- Lexington Legends
A 20th-round pick in 2009, Martinez took two Minor League levels by storm. He won All-Star honors in the New York-Penn League while leading the league with a .326 average and .920 OPS. That was after he batted .403 with 23 RBIs in 19 games at Rookie-level Greeneville.
Jiovanni Mier, SS -- Lexington Legends
The Astros' first-round pick last year, Mier debuted in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and excelled, finishing eighth with an .864 OPS. He also drew 30 walks in 51 games for Greeneville.
Matthew Way, LHP -- Lakewood BlueClaws
The Phillies were aggressive with their 2009 fifth-round pick, promoting him to Lakewood after only eight starts in the New York-Penn League. The left-hander justified the organization's faith, going 4-1 with the BlueClaws while striking out more than a batter per inning. In two starts in the South Atlantic League playoffs, he was 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA.