A look at some of the guys who've graduated from the Carolina League over the past few years is enough to get any fan excited for the new crop coming in.
Last summer, Nationals prospect Tyler Moore broke out by belting 31 homers and 43 doubles in 129 games for Potomac. The year before that, Royals prospect Clint Robinson, who went on to win the Texas League Triple Crown in 2010, led the loop in hitting. The year before that, Jake Arrieta and Matt Wieters were the starting battery in the All-Star Game.
Here's a peek at this year's prospects who are likely to have incredible futures ahead of them.
Drake Britton, LHP -- Salem Red Sox
Britton, a hard-throwing lefty who fanned 78 over 75 2/3 innings in the South Atlantic League last year, will likely anchor the Salem rotation throughout 2011. Picked in the late rounds of the 2007 Draft, Britton required Tommy John surgery the next season, and this year should be the first in which he goes more than 100 innings.
Robbie Erlin, LHP -- Myrtle Beach Pelicans
A southpaw on the other end of the spectrum from Britton, Erlin's fastball never gets much faster than about 91 mph, and his remarkable control is the key to his success. In the entirety of 2010, he issued just 17 free passes, and he never walked more than two hitters -- which he did just twice -- in the same game. Add to that 125 strikeouts and his 2.12 ERA from last year, and it's clear he knows how to pitch like a winner.
Dan Klein, RHP -- Frederick Keys
The Orioles grabbed Klein out of UCLA in the third round of last year's Draft, and he came to a brief New York-Penn League stint with four pitches (fastball, changeup, curve, slider) he can throw well. He moves up to the Class A Advanced level for his first full season in the pros.
Jason Knapp, RHP -- Kinston Indians
Knapp came to the Indians from the Phillies in the 2009 Cliff Lee deal, and he had some bone chips removed from his throwing shoulder later that year. When he got back into action last summer in Class A Lake County, he could still hit the upper 90s with his fastball, whiffing 29 in 16 innings.
Jared Mitchell, OF -- Winston-Salem Dash
Mitchell, a 2009 first-rounder, missed last season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his ankle. He hit .296 in the 24 games he got into for Class A Kannapolis the season he was drafted, and although he struggled at the dish in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago, he was picked for the circuit's All-Star game.
Eury Perez, OF -- Potomac Nationals
After Eury Perez tore up the Dominican Summer League over 47 games in 2009, the Nats unleashed him on the Sally League in 2010. He hit .299, stole 64 bases and scored 88 runs there, and now he's ready to bring his quality pitch-selection skills and speedy legs to the Carolina League.
Drew Pomeranz, RHP -- Kinston Indians
The fifth overall pick from the 2010 Draft, Pomeranz is a big left-hander who throws in the mid-90s with ease and has a very tricky curve to go with it. He's yet to make his pro debut, but if he has the kind of success that Cleveland expects from him, it may not be long before he's promoted to Double-A Akron. Former Indians GM John Hart told the Plains-Dealer of Pomeranz: "He's a big-bodied left-hander with an out-pitch curveball and a fastball that's good enough" for big league success.
Sammy Solis, LHP -- Potomac Nationals
Solis is not on the P-Nats' Opening Day roster, but when he finishes recovering from a groin injury, he should be right along. After being drafted out of San Diego State in the second round last year, he didn't walk anybody while making two shutout appearances for Hagerstown. He went 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League after the regular season
Kolbrin Vitek, 3B -- Salem Red Sox
Vitek, who also played a fair amount of second base at Ball State, can steal bases and hit for a bit of power, and he also has a very strong arm. He also pitched in college, but he's too good a hitter to be relegated to the mound. The Boston organization looks forward to seeing what he does with his first full season, and fans in Salem should, too.
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP -- Lynchburg Hillcats
Vizcaino, whom the Yankees would like to forget they dealt to the Braves in the Javier Vazquez deal, steamrolled his way through the Sally League last year and held his own in three tough Carolina starts at the end of the season. He'll pick up where he left off and hunt for improved results. Likely, he'll get them -- Vizcaino surrendered two runs in his final big league Spring Training appearance, but he made three scoreless outings prior to that.