The Visalia Rawhide will begin their 65th anniversary season at Recreation Ballpark with a roster loaded with Major League potential.
Eight of the twenty-five players assigned to Visalia by the Arizona Diamondbacks are ranked among the D-backs' top prospects by Baseball America. Four are ranked in the top ten. And three of Visalia's starting infielders are supplemental 1st-round draft picks.
Bobby Borchering, a switch-hitting corner infielder described by Baseball America as having "all-star caliber raw power from both sides of the plate," will split time between third and first base. He will be joined at the hot corner by fellow supplemental-rounder Matt Davidson, who earned a promotion to Visalia at the end of 2010 despite being only 19 years old. Chris Owings, viewed by many scouts as Arizona's heir-apparent to Steven Drew, will anchor the Rawhide infield at shortstop, where he'll have ample opportunity to showcase his range and arm strength.
The Rawhide pitching staff will be anchored by standout prospect Tyler Skaggs, who was the key centerpiece of Arizona's Dan Haren trade with the Angels. A 19-year-old left-hander with a devastating curveball and pinpoint control, Skaggs is ranked as the #2 prospect in the entire Diamondbacks' system by Baseball America.
Visalia's outfield will be a fascinating mix of speed and experience; Adam Eaton, who hit a blistering .385 at short-season Missoula last year and has drawn comparisons to Brett Butler, will likely play center field. Justin Hilt, a fleet-footed catalyst at the top of a batting lineup, will provide excitement on the basepaths. Jon Mark Owings, a veteran professional, and Kyle Greene, who enters his third season in Visalia, round out the fly ball corps.
Behind the plate, Visalia fans will again be treated to Rossmel Perez' cannon arm and relentless energy.
Meanwhile, a number of players from last year's Rawhide squad will return to Tulare County. Chase Anderson and Eric Smith slot back into the starting rotation, while fireballing bullpen stopper Yonata Ortega also wears the scarlet, black, and tan for a second time.
Other returners include pitchers Cristian Beltre, Victor Capellan, Trevor Harden, and Taylor Sinclair, along with infielder Brent Greer.
The Rawhide will be managed by Jason Hardtke, who begins his first season in Visalia and his inaugural managerial year in the Dbacks' system. Former Major League all-star and Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek also makes his Visalia debut as Pitching Coach, while Andy Abad joins the staff as Hitting Coach.
With Opening Day set for this Thursday, the Rawhide are full of anticipation to begin what promises to be a thrilling season.
Full Rawhide 2011 Opening Day Roster:
Jon Mark Owings
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.