WINSTON-SALEM, NC (APRIL 5, 2011) -
The Winston-Salem Dash will begin its quest for a record 12th Carolina League championship on Friday with a geographically diverse roster highlighted by four Baseball America Top 30 prospects. The players that make up the 2011 opening day roster hail from 18 different states and five countries. The Dash, which will be led by new manager Julio Vinas
, pitching coach Bobby Thigpen
, and hitting coach Rob Sasser
, starts the new season on Friday at Kinston.
Former first round draft pick Jared Mitchell leads a roster that looks to qualify for the postseason for the fourth straight year. A Louisiana native, Mitchell enters the season as the fourth-best prospect in the Chicago White Sox farm system according to Baseball America. Mitchell, an outfielder, topped the same list in 2010, but missed all of last year after suffering an ankle injury during major league spring training. He was the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 first-year player draft out of LSU, where he won national championships while playing for both the baseball and football teams.
Mitchell will be joined in the outfield by Nick Ciolli, who hit .303 with 13 home runs and 78 RBI last year, splitting time with the Dash (ten games) and Class-A Kannapolis (115 games). Jose Martinez returns to the Winston-Salem after spending most of the second half of 2010 with the Dash. Baseball America rated him with the best outfield arm in the White Sox system, as evidenced by his ten outfield assists in 100 minor league games last year. Former All-Big XII first team performer Kyle Colligan (.284-9-42 in 93 games) will also patrol the outfield at BB&T Ballpark this season.
The Dash's infield features a pair of sluggers at the corner positions. Andy Wilkins, rated the 19th best prospect in the Chicago system by Baseball America, starts his first full professional season in Winston-Salem after an excellent debut last year with Advanced Rookie Great Falls. Wilkins, who can play both first base and third base, hit .307 with six home runs and 40 RBI in 53 games after getting drafted in the fifth round last year out of Arkansas. Baseball America recognized Wilkins as the White Sox' best pure hitter and power hitter among their 2010 draftees. 1B/DH Ian Gac should also provide significant power after slugging 20 home runs and 34 doubles last year for Class-A Kannapolis. Austin Yount, the nephew of major league Hall of Famer Robin Yount, should also see some time at third base. Kyle Davis, Kannapolis, NC native Daniel Wagner, and former UNC Tar Heel Kyle Shelton fill out the rest of the Dash's infield.
A pair of familiar faces will guide the Dash's pitching staff from behind the plate. Jason Bour returns to the Twin City after a successful 41-game stint with the Dash in 2010. Bour hit .302 with 24 extra-base hits (six homers, 14 doubles, four triples) for Winston-Salem. Luis Sierra looks to build off a 2010 season in which he set stateside career highs in nearly every offensive category.
On the mound, the Dash boasts a pair of top 30 prospects in the starting rotation. Brazilian right-hander Andre Rienzo was one of Kannapolis' best starters last year, going 8-4 with a 3.65 ERA and holding opponents to two runs or fewer in each of his last ten starts. Rienzo is ranked by Baseball America as the 25th best prospect in the White Sox farm system. RHP Cameron Bayne was 29th on that list after finishing 2010 12-9 with a 3.60 ERA and 101 strikeouts last season for the Intimidators. Bayne and Rienzo should be joined in the rotation by RHP Terry Doyle, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Justin Collop, and possibly LHP Joe Serafin.
Winston's bullpen features a pair of hurlers who closed games last year for the Dash. RHP Tyson Corley and RHP Brandon Kloess combined to save 21 games for three different teams last year. Fireballing left-hander Santos Rodriguez will also pitch out of the bullpen along with RHP Ryan Kussmaul, RHP Orlando Santos, RHP Charlie Shirek, and RHP Taylor Thompson.
Fourteen players who suited up for the Dash in either 2009 or 2010 will return for another season in Winston-Salem: Bour, Ciolli, Corley, Doyle, Kloess, Kussmaul, Martinez, Rodriguez, Santiago, Serafin, Shelton, Shirek, Sierra, and Thompson.
The following states are represented by the 2011 Dash: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. The five countries represented are the United States, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.
The Dash's season begins on Friday, April 8 with a six-game road trip to Kinston and Potomac. The team opens its home slate on Friday, April 15 at BB&T Ballpark against the Kinston Indians.
The Winston-Salem Dash is the Class-A Advanced minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. To purchase tickets and for more information, please call 336-714-2287 or visit www.wsdash.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.